In the days after the September 11th attacks on the United States and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban leader known as “Mullah Omar” fled the state he’d helped form after fighting to liberate it from the Soviet Union. The CIA believed he’d fled to Pakistan and the U.S. military issued a reward of $10 million for his capture.
His real hiding place was just three miles from the U.S.’ FOB Wolverine in Siuray. He was never more than 80 miles from Kandahar, the site he fled when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
The governing body of the Taliban operated out of Quetta, Pakistan after being forced out of Afghanistan in 2001. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry, the Pentagon, and the CIA all agreed that until his death in 2013, Mohammed Omar was there with them all. But what international intelligence agencies didn’t know about Omar could fill a warehouse. Very few photos of the man were ever taken, and he let very few people into his inner circle. Foreign intelligence services didn’t even know that Omar had died for two years following his death from Tuberculosis in 2013.
A new report from the Zomia Center, a think tank dedicated to studying ungoverned spaces, says that Omar died just three miles from FOB Wolverine, a base full of hundreds of American troops.
Omar in 1992.
Bette Dam, a Kabul-based journalist, working in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2014, traveled around the country trying to find a more complete picture of Omar. She spoke with friends, relatives, bodyguards, drivers, and other insurgent leaders, many of whom had fled and lived with Omar in the days following the U.S. invasion. Mullah Omar never left Afghanistan. The man who refused to give up Osama bin Laden renounced his leadership of the Taliban and then disappeared.
He found himself in two remote villages, each house close to an American military forward operating base. The first was in Qalat, near FOB Lagman. He hid there for four years, coming close to capture by U.S. troops only twice. The next village was Siuray, three miles from FOB Wolverine. Mullah Omar lived behind a larger family home in the traditional mud hut that is often found in rural Afghanistan. He lived there until his death in 2013.
Omar spent much of his time alone or with his bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, who provided journalist Bette Dam with much of the information she would later corroborate. The Taliban’s leader ate and prayed alone, and even cooked for himself much of the time. The two men were always afraid of being found out and took great pains to stay indoors and speak very softly, if at all. In the evenings, Omar would listen to BBC Pashto while his bodyguard listened to Voice of America’s Dari service on the radio.
Omar never mentioned Osama bin Laden or why he refused to hand the al-Qaeda leader over to the U.S. Even when bin Laden was killed in 2011, Omar didn’t say anything in response, he only ever criticized al-Qaeda’s view of Islam. When Omar died, his bodyguard buried him in the sand without a coffin, though he would later be dug up and given an Islamic funeral at a nondescript location. He died without appointing a successor to the Taliban movement and without leaving a message to his family or followers. He just died.
The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.
The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.
Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.
The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)
“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.
BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.
“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.
Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.
GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.
The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.
This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.
Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.
Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.
At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.
The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.
Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.
Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.
This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
Typically, the role of “Doc” in the convoy is as a passenger. While remaining alert and attentive, I also felt that I needed to keep my unit motivated and focused while they did their various jobs.
I took the task very seriously by acting as the Convoy DJ, playing the greatest hits for combat effectiveness!
Whether you cue up your own playlist for leaving the wire or DJ for the entire crew, stepping off is always better with an anthem.
Here are 8 tracks to help “kick the tires and light the fires.”
1. AC/DC — Highway to Hell
No convoy playlist is complete without a track from these rock Gods ripping through the airwaves. AC/DC has plenty of great hits to choose from, however, this song really says exactly how I felt about the roads we traveled in Iraq.
Perhaps it’s a little on the nose, but if you deployed to Iraq this song needs no explanation. All other lyrics aside, you can’t pass on a track with the refrain, “Bombs over Baghdad!” to really pump up that mission essential adrenaline.
You’ve got F/18s launching from an aircraft carrier, Navy SEALs on fast boats, guys jumping out of a helicopter into the surf — now add a wailing guitar riff and a pulsating drum beat and you have the ingredients for a Navy commercial that almost had me signing up for another 10 years.
You’ve also got an epic anthem to keep the troops pumped on those exceptionally long convoys.
(GodsmackVEVO | YouTube)Even if you’re no longer jocking up and taking the wheel of some Mad Max-esque war machine to go spread freedom and democracy around the world, you can still rock out to these amazing songs.
Every convoy needs some musical motivation. Whether you’re taking the kiddos to school, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive or simply heading into the office for another day of crushing it, cue up this playlist and have an epic journey.
With millions of boats and ships plying the waves, it’s easy to forget that mankind isn’t made to survive in the ocean — and the dangers inherent to the sea are compounded when you’re trapped a few decks below the waterline in a huge iron bubble filled with ammunition and fuel that’s on fire as it sinks into icy waters.
A ship goes down, circa 1943.
(John Atherton, CC BY-SA 2.5)
For sailors, attempting to save their vessel and then, if necessary, abandoning it while trying to survive is a real process that they must be prepared to complete. Based on testimony from those who have survived torpedo hits and other attacks that doom a ship, the experience is even more nightmarish than most would imagine.
“The steamer appeared to be close to us and looked colossal. I saw the captain walking on his bridge, a small whistle in his mouth. I saw the crew cleaning the deck forward, and I saw, with surprise and a slight shudder, long rows of wooden partitions right along all decks, from which gleamed the shining black and brown backs of horses. ‘Oh heavens, horses! What a pity, those lovely beasts!’ ….
“The death-bringing shot was a true one, and the torpedo ran towards the doomed ship at high speed. I could follow its course exactly by the light streak of bubbles which was left in its wake….
“I saw that the bubble-track of the torpedo had been discovered on the bridge of the steamer, as frightened arms pointed towards the water and the captain put his hands in front of his eyes and waited resignedly. Then a frightful explosion followed, and we were all thrown against one another by the concussion, and then, like Vulcan, huge and majestic, a column of water two hundred metres high and fifty metres broad, terrible in its beauty and power, shot up to the heavens.”
For men not on the deck, the end of the ship can come as even more of a surprise.
“I awoke. I was in the air. I saw a bright light before I felt the concussion of the explosion that threw me up in the air almost to the overhead. A torpedo had detonated under my room. I hit the edge of the bunk, hit the deck, and stood up. Then the second explosion knocked me down again. As I landed on the deck I thought, ‘I’ve got to get the hell out of here!’ I grabbed my life jacket and started to go out the door. My room was already on fire.”
The German battleship Admiral Graf Spee in flames after being scuttled in the River Plate Estuary off Montevideo, Uruguay.
(Imperial War Museums)
For men on sinking ships, fire is a real hazard despite the water rushing to fill the ship. The water is the greatest threat to the ship floating for the moment, but fire can quickly kill all life aboard and cause explosions or melt bulkheads, disabling pumps or allowing even more water in.
Damage control parties move through the ship, attempting to patch holes, pump out flooded compartments, and douse fires. But if they can’t get the damage under control, the ship’s captain has to make one of the hardest decisions: to abandon ship.
Sometimes, it’s the only way to save the crew, giving them the chance to fight another day or to return to their families, but it consigns thousands of tons of American steel and aluminum to the sea, along with the remains of any sailors already dead or too injured or trapped to escape.
The rest of the crew heads for the lifeboats, helping each other through listing decks and smoke-filled compartments that are often without power and light.
But there’s not always room enough for everyone in the lifeboat. This is extremely dangerous, even when the water is warm. The water is often filled with oil and diesel, and the sinking ship is drawing literal tons of water towards itself, creating a situation where even the strongest swimmer can get slowly pulled under and drown.
The HMS Legion, at left, rescues survivors from the slowly sinking HMS Ark Royal near the coast of Gibraltar.
(Royal Navy photo by Lt. S.J. Beadell)
From Dr. Haynes’ account of the Indianapolis sinking:
“I slowly walked down the side of the ship. Another kid came and said he didn’t have a jacket. I had an extra jacket and he put it on. We both jumped into the water which was covered with fuel oil. I wasn’t alone in the water. The hull was covered with people climbing down.
“I didn’t want to get sucked down with the ship so I kicked my feet to get away. And then the ship rose up high. I thought it was going to come down and crush me. The ship kept leaning out away from me, the aft end rising up and leaning over as it stood up on its nose. The ship was still going forward at probably 3 or 4 knots. When it finally sank, it was over a hundred yards from me. Most of the survivors were strung out anywhere from half a mile to a mile behind the ship.
“Suddenly, the ship was gone and it was very quiet. It had only been 12 minutes since the torpedoes hit. We started to gather together. Being in the water wasn’t an unpleasant experience except that the black fuel oil got in your nose and eyes. We all looked the same, black oil all over — white eyes and red mouths. You couldn’t tell the doctor from the boot seamen. Soon everyone had swallowed fuel oil and gotten sick. Then everyone began vomiting.”
USS Indianapolis survivors are moved to the hospital in August 1945.
Best case scenario, the sailors are now safely in the water, attempting to tend to wounds and keep people afloat while awaiting rescue. But, they may still be under attack or could be captured by enemy forces. In the case of the Indianapolis, the crew was returning from the top-secret mission to deliver the atomic bomb to Allied forces for use against Japan.
No one knew where the ship was, and the men were left at sea for four days in shark-infested waters. The crew had 1,195 members when it went down in 1945. 300 men are thought to have gone down with the ship, and nearly 600 more died in the water while waiting for rescue. Only 316 survived.
Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.
A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.
The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.
U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.
A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Johnson was struck as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, according to the U.S. officials, who said he was firing back as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape.
All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded.
The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson’s remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy.
According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack.
The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested.
A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command’s chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier’s report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month.
The officials familiar with the report’s conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety.
The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform.
As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in rescue teams to search for Johnson, not making his status public in the hope he might have gotten away and was still alive and hiding. The Pentagon only acknowledged that he was missing after his body was located two days later by local forces.
The Pentagon has declined to release details about the exact mission of the commando team. U.S. officials have previously said that the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State member, who also had former ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen, and collect intelligence.
After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village for a short time to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military believes someone in the village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandoes and Nigerien forces in the area, setting in motion the ambush.
U.S. special operations forces have been routinely working with Niger’s forces, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists in the region. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.
The three other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. Black and Wright were Army Special Forces. Johnson and Johnson were not commandos.
Johnson’s combat death led to a political squabble between President Donald Trump and a Democratic congresswoman from Florida after Trump told Johnson’s pregnant widow in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Frederica Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. The spat grew to include Trump’s chief of staff, who called Wilson an “empty barrel” making noise.
A U.S. Navy pilot was shot down after making bombing runs over the tiny island of Chichijima during WWII. He and nine fellow naval aviators had to evade their Japanese enemy. Only one managed to successfully avoid capture — and even then, it was all by luck.
For his book Flyboys, James Bradley tracked down and researched official files and records from war crimes tribunals after the war. The fate of the other eight pilots, as he discovered, was absolutely horrifying.
Bush and his wingmen encountered intense anti-aircraft fire over their targets. Bush’s airplane was hit by flak before catching fire. He dropped his bomb load over the target, but was forced to abandon his Avenger Torpedo Bomber.
Like many prisoners of the Japanese, the captured men were tortured and killed using sharpened bamboo or bayonets. Many were beheaded. Unlike many prisoners of the Japanese, however, four of the Navy pilots were slaughtered by their captors, who then had surgeons cut out their livers and thigh muscles — and then prepare the meat for Japanese officers.
Surgeons removed a four-inch by 12-inch piece of thigh, weighing six pounds. According to those Japanese survivors who were on the island, it was prepared with soy sauce and vegetables, then washed down with hot sake.
The future President Bush was further from the island when he bailed out of his aircraft. Floating in the water for four hours, he was protected from Japanese boats by American planes before being rescued by the USS Finback, a submarine that surfaced right in front of him.
While aboard the Finback, he assisted in the rescue of other downed pilots. He was aboard for a month before returning to his berthing on the USS San Jacinto. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation during his WWII service.
Bush, now 93, is the longest-living ex-President of the United States ever.
Next-generation fighter jets, simulated aerial combat, and some of the best pilots from the US, British, and French air forces – no, this isn’t a scene from the next Hollywood blockbuster. It’s the latest combined exercise testing pilots’ ability to operate, communicate and dominate in a combat environment.
Called “Atlantic Trident,” this month-long exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, focused on anti-access and aerial-denial missions, which were meant to place the US, British, and French pilots in situations that tested their limits and capabilities.
“This exercise is great because it brings our best and some of our allies best fighters together to train and learn from each other in a very challenging environment,” said Col. Pete Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander. “It’s also a great way to test the capabilities of these advanced aircraft.”
The advanced aircraft participating included the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Dassault Rafale – all of which bring a lot of capabilities to the fight. The aircraft were supported by USAF Air Combat Command E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft and Air Mobility Command KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft.
According to Lockheed Martin, the Raptor’s unique combination of advanced stealth, supercruise, advanced maneuverability, and integrated avionics allow it to “kick down the door,” and then follow up with 24-hour stealth operations and freedom of movement for all follow-on forces – fully leveraging the Raptor’s technological advantages.
The F-35, meanwhile, is no slouch, either. The F-35 combines fifth generation fighter aircraft characteristics — advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support — with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. This means the Lightning II can collect and share battlespace data with other friendly aircraft and commanders on the ground and at sea.
“The F-35 brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability to joint and combined operations,” said Maj. Mike Krestyn, an F-35 pilot with the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Pilots of both the F-22 and F-35 refer to their jets as aerial “quarterbacks,” capable of controlling an airspace by locating, identifying and sharing the location of enemy threats within a battlespace.
Then, allied aircraft like the Typhoon and Rafale can use their advanced weaponry to eliminate these threats.
All of these advanced aircraft provide lethality never before seen in aerial combat, and their pilots training and flying together enhances tactics, ensures coalition teams are on the same page and strengthens relationships.
“The Air Force and our partners must seek opportunities to develop, expand and sustain relationships wherever possible,” said Heidi Grant, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. “This enables us to amplify our collective strengths and improves our ability to confront shared challenges.”
From the pilots’ viewpoint, this is also a matter of “training like we fight.”
“We won’t go to war without our allies,” said Capt. Nichole Stilwell, a T-38 pilot with the 71st Fighter Training Squadron. “So we have to train together to make sure we get the most out of our capabilities.”
The Human Element
But, none of these capabilities mean anything without one crucial component.
“People,” Fesler said. “It doesn’t matter how advanced an aircraft is if we don’t have quality people flying and fixing them.”
It’s easy to get distracted by the sleek aircraft and their state-of-the-art capabilities, but this shouldn’t take away from how important the human element still is to air operations, he added.
“There is so much more to this than simply flying an advanced jet and shooting stuff,” Fesler said. “There are people on the ground making sure these planes fly, people in support functions making sure missions happen and go smoothly, and there are people making sure pilots receive the training they need to be effective.”
So, exercises like this are really all about people – training them, developing them, testing them – and relationship building, he added.
Throughout the exercise, US, British and French pilots planned, flew and evaluated missions together, working side-by-side to develop tactics and talk about lessons learned from each day’s flights.
“This type of training is invaluable,” said Royal Air Force Wing Cmdr. Chris Hoyle, 1 (Fighter) Squadron. “It really places a premium on people and relationships, which both are very important to our success as allies.”
These bonds and friendships made at Atlantic Trident can also carry over into other operations.
“This is a great foundation for us to build on,” Hoyle said. “Some of the US or French people I’ve met, or some my guys have met, can really create great opportunities in the future. If I need something, I can pick up the phone and call … and then the relationships we started here can really pay off down the road.”
Still, as pilots of each aircraft are quick to point out, a conversation about people can’t happen without talking about maintainers.
“We simply borrow the jets for a little while, the maintainers own them,” said Krestyn. “They fix them and care for them and then they let us use them.” This sentiment is echoed by Hoyle.
“As pilots, we have the easy part,” he said. “We fly the plane, but it’s the maintainers and support personnel who make everything happen. It doesn’t matter how advanced a jet is, if no one fixes it or makes sure it’s able to take off and accomplish the mission, then it’s a useless piece of equipment.”
Sharpening the Sword
Once these advanced fighters do get in the air, testing them and their pilots is still important. This is where the adversary squadrons come in.
Made up of T-38s from Langley and F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, these “adversaries” acted as enemy combatants during the exercise to test friendly force’s air-to-air abilities.
Flying outdated, past-their-prime trainer jets against the most technologically superior fighters in the world may seem futile, but the adversary pilots have a different outlook.
“I think of it as our sword is very sharp, we just help make it sharper,” Stilwell said. “We make pilots adapt their tactics, we make them think and we try to test them as much as possible.”
At the end of the day, though, exercises like Atlantic Trident do more than give pilots time behind the stick. These exercises are providing relevant, realistic training so that when pilots do experience stressful combat situations for the first time, they are prepared.
“Air superiority is not an American birthright,” said Gen. David Goldfien, Air Force Chief of Staff. “It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
Air superiority doesn’t just mean having the most technologically sophisticated aircraft in the world. It also means having highly trained and experienced pilots to fly them.
Working together also helps each of the players learn to speak the same language – that of winning.
“Really, the goal of exercises like this is to train and learn together so that on day one of a future conflict, we dominate,” Fesler said.
The US Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force left its base in Romania for training in Bulgaria this month, carrying out exercises that are another sign the US military is preparing for a kind of conflict that’s different from what it has faced in recent decades.
A Marine Forces Europe and Africa release issued earlier in July said units from the rotational force were headed to Bulgaria’s Novo Selo training area, “where they would be able to take advantage of the rough, verdurous terrain for multiple training events.”
“We deployed from the place where we’re stationed at in Romania to this training area in Bulgaria. That way we can utilize the training areas out here that are a little better suited for the training that we’re trying to accomplish,” an unidentified Marine said in a video released this week by the command, first spotted by Marine Corps Times.
The Marines carried out a number of exercises focused on combined-arms proficiency and on building operational capacity.
Marines perform high-angle fire training with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
“During this training event we had snipers conducting everything from unknown distance ranges to live-fire stalks,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Kult, a combined anti-armor team (CAAT) platoon commander. “We also had our 81 mm mortar platoon conducting dismounted and mounted live-fire operations, both day and night.”
“We have our combined-anti-armor platoon conducting high-angle Mark-19 fire, which is a new thing for us,” the Marine said in the video. “It’s not really done in the Marine Corps anymore.”
High-angle fire with the Mark 19, an automatic grenade launcher that can fire up to 60 40mm grenades a minute, could come in handy if Marines engaged enemy personnel behind walls or other barriers, Marine Corps machine-gunners told the Times. Such fire could also be useful against Russian armor or other vehicles.
The gunners said that with skilled observers and good communications, high-angle fire — a skill taught at the Corps’ advanced machine-gunner course — from Mark 19s could quickly be walked onto a target.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
According to the release, platoons from Weapons Company from the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, typically work independently, making the joint exercises at Novo Selo a valuable opportunity.
“We don’t always get together as a company and do these combined training events, so as a whole, it improves our unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Benjamin Lepla, a forward observer. “Now we know how long it takes for every section to set up their equipment and assault the objective from different positions.”
“The most important event that we’re doing out here is the combined attack utilizing the entire company,” Kult said. “It’s a unique opportunity because normally we’re all away from each other, either supporting other companies, or in direct support of the battalion.”
NATO forces have
increased their presence in Eastern Europe in the years since Russia began its incursion in Ukraine in 2014, and US military units in Europe have been boosting their capabilities.
Earlier this year, the Army’s Ironhorse Brigade arrived for a rotation in Eastern Europe — but instead of sailing to Germany, the unit disembarked in Belgium
for the first time in decades to practice traveling across the continent by road, rail, and barge.
The US military has been shifting its attention to preparations for a potential conflict with near-peer competitors like China or Russia — a change outlined in the
National Defense Strategy released earlier this year.
Marine lubricates the interior of a Mark 19 grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
Such a conflict would be different from the fights of the recent past, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said.
“I don’t think the next fight is going to be a stability op/counterinsurgency: It’s going to be a violent, violent fight,” Neller said in mid-2017, according to Marine Corps Times.
For the Marines, it also likely means a change in operational focus, away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and northern and eastern Europe, Neller told Marines in Norway late last year.
He stressed that amid that shift, Marines should remain ready for a potential conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon, according to Military.com.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” he told the Marines in Norway, who are part of a new rotational force meant to expand training and boost readiness. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Capt. Colin Kelly, Jr. was set to fly over Taiwan in his B-17 Flying Fortress in one of the first American counter attacks of World War II. Kelly was stationed on Luzon, in the Philippines and survived the massive Japanese attack on that island nation as well. Kelly died after attacking a Japanese heavy cruiser, one of the first casualties of the Pacific War and the first graduate of the United States Military Academy to die in combat.
He was also one of the first heroes of the Army Air Corps in World War II – and President Roosevelt would not forget him.
Instead of Taiwan, the 26-year-old pilot dropped a bomb load on the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Ashigara as it supported the landing invasion forces on Luzon. He was immediately swarmed by Japanese Zeros. The B-17 pilot never had a chance. Before he could bail out, the plane exploded with Kelly inside. He stayed at the controls so his crew could bail out.
This painting of Colin Kelly, Jr. hangs in the Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“Out of ammunition, I flew alongside the B-17 and saw the pilot trying to save the burning aircraft after allowing his crew to escape,” a Japanese pilot who was over Luzon that day remembered. “I have tremendous respect for him.” Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Americans responded to the news of Colin Kelly’s death by setting up a fund for his son’s education, once he reached college age. But one person in particular wanted to make sure the son of America’s first World War II hero had the chance to do whatever he wanted in life.
That person was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When watching a movie like Saving Private Ryan for the first time, I scoffed at the idea that someone so high up in the government would be able to watch a situation like World War II from the ivory tower of the White House and have such a granular effect on the individuals affected by the war. And maybe President Roosevelt didn’t have time for everyone, but for Colin Kelly III, Capt. Kelly’s son, he sure did.
Roosevelt penned a letter to the future, specifically, to the future President of the United States in 1956. That would be the year Colin Kelly III would start looking for a university and Roosevelt want to ensure he did everything he could for the boy.
I am writing this letter as an act of faith in the destiny of our country. I desire to make a request which I make in full confidence that we shall achieve a glorious victory in the war we now are waging to preserve our democratic way of life.
My request is that you consider the merits of a young American youth of goodly heritage—Colin P. Kelly, III—for appointment as a Cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point. I make this appeal in behalf of this youth as a token of the Nation’s appreciation of the heroic services of his father, who met death in line of duty at the very outset of the struggle which was thrust upon us by the perfidy of a professed friend.
In the conviction that the service and example of Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr., will be long remembered, I ask for this consideration in behalf of Colin P. Kelly, III.
1956 just so happened to be Ike’s re-election year.
“Most people in my parents’ generation or a bit older or younger seem readily to remember being deeply touched by what President Roosevelt did for the infant son of the young pilot killed in the Pacific,” Colin Kelly III later wrote for theNew York Times. “It was one of the first actions of F.D.R. as the wartime President, a special White House ceremony in which he personally signed the papers appointing me to the Academy.”
In 1956, that future President was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike received FDR’s letter, read it, and honored the request of his Presidential predecessor – but Colin Kelly III didn’t accept the appointment, he decided to earn his place at West Point, competing with the other potential plebes and graduating in the class of 1963.
The younger Kelly spent his time in the Army as a tank commander in West Germany. After his time in the service was up, he left and went to divinity school, only to return to the U.S. Army as a chaplain, saying
“The Lord called me when I was 14, but I believed I was called to complete my West Point opportunity first.”
Like father, like son. West Point graduates and U.S. Army Captains Colin P. Kelly.
Kelly was too young to remember his heroic father, but his memory lived on through the people that knew him best: neighbors, relatives, and close friends. Over the years, Colin Kelly got to know his father through their eyes while making his own way through life, still following in his father’s footsteps.
In a speech at the Air Force Association’s air-warfare symposium in Florida in late February 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said it was, “time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”
It’s not the first time Air Force leadership has underscored the importance of space.
Goldfein outlined the Air Force’s preparations for space operations in a February 2017 op-ed. In October 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized the interests the US has in space and stressed the Air Force’s obligation to prepare for conflict there.
“We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars,” she said at an event in Washington, DC. “We need to normalize space from a national-security perspective. We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”
US national-security officials have said space will become a venue for a range of state and non-state actors with the continued expansion of the space industry and increased availability of technology, private-sector investment, and proliferation of international partnerships for shared production and operations.
“All actors will increasingly have access to space-derived information services, such as imagery, weather, communications, and positioning, navigation, and timing for intelligence, military, scientific, or business purposes,” Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said in a Worldwide Threat Assessment delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee early 2018.
“As if we don’t have enough threats here on Earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” Coats told the committee.
In his February 2018 speech, Goldfein said the question was not if, but when the US will be fighting outside Earth’s atmosphere.
“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” he said, according to Space News. “And we are the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new, contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”
Goldfein has been a proponent of multi-domain operations, which draw on air, cyber, ground, sea, and space to provide a full picture of the battlefield. Fighting outside the earth’s atmosphere will require new training as well as investment in new technologies, he said.
“We must build a joint, smart space force and space-smart joint force,” he told the audience in Florida.
Asked March 2018 about congressional concerns over the Air Force’s preparations for operations in space, Wilson outlined specific moves the force is making to ready itself.
“I think it’s harder for people to understand [space] because it’s not where we normally breathe and live, but for the Air Force it is an area of tremendous emphasis — just look at the budgets,” she said at the Heritage Foundation.
The fiscal year 2018 budget had a 20% increase in funding for space programs, Wilson said, and the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal — which requests $8.5 billion for space programs — added more than 7% on top of that.
“We have shifted to next-generation missile warning — so a rapid change there to cancel two planned satellites and shift to a defendable missile-warning architecture. Jam-resistant GPS, so GPS III, is in this budget,” Wilson said, referring to the next set of satellites needed to keep the global positioning system operational.
The “National Space Defense Center is now set up and established so that we have a common operating picture of what’s going on in space, because unless you known what’s going on you can’t defend it,” she added. “Our budget also includes simulators and war-gaming to train space operators to operate in a contested environment. So there is a lot in this budget.”
In the next five years, the Air Force plans to put $44.3 billion toward space systems, according to Space News — about an 18% increase over the five-year plan submitted in 2017. The new total includes $31.5 billion for research and development and $12.8 billion for procurement.
“The top-line numbers, I think, tell a story,” Wilson said at the Heritage Foundation. “But I think when you get down into the programs, there’s a real recognition that space will be a contested domain and that we are developing the capability to deter and prevail should anyone seek to deny the United States operations in space.”
It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.
Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.
This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.
Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.
The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)
Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.
If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.