Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.
According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.
“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.
But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.
“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”
In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.
Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.
It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.
A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”
Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?
A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.
*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.
A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”
A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”
A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”
Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.
Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?
* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.
An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”
* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.
** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.
An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”
A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”
A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”
Nearly two decades before the Harrier jump jet would prove the efficacy of vertical take-off and landing platforms, the U.S. Navy considered taking another approach to fielding fighters without a runway.
In the years immediately following World War II, the United States found itself trying to adapt its newfound airpower to a world with nuclear weapons in it. America knew its monopoly on atomic bombs wouldn’t last forever, and by the mid 1940s, it seemed clear that the Soviet Union would eventually become the planet’s second nuclear power.
That day came sooner than many expected, when a nuclear detonation at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, ushered in an era of military competition between global powers. In just a few short decades, the combined nuclear weapon stockpile of the U.S. and Soviet Union exceeded 70,000. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to be discussed in terms of just the U.S. and Soviets these days, but with stockpiles that large, it was truly the world that hung in the balance as these two superpowers stared one another down from their respective hemispheres.
Nuclear war and the need for VTOL aircraft
For some time, nuclear war seemed not only possible, but even likely, as the two nations postured for territory and prestige. Within some defense circles, the question really wasn’t if a nuclear war would break out… but when.
The fact that just 21 years passed between the conclusion of World War I and the onset of World War II is an important piece of context to consider when looking back at the decades immediately following that second great conflict. Military leaders in both nations were largely old enough to have seen not one, but two world wars, each setting a new precedent for war’s horrific destructive capacity. World War III wasn’t a hypothetical concept for much of the world as it is today. World War III seemed like a very real and potentially likely scenario, and the one thing both sides were certain of was that the next global conflict would start the same way the last one had ended: With nuclear weapons.
While America’s politicians largely saw the concept of nuclear war as the end state of a diplomatic failure, America’s military leaders were stuck in the unenviable position of having to plan to fight and win such a war. That meant finding ways to stay in the fight after the first nukes made landfall, and one way that manifested in a number of military aircraft development programs was the concept of VTOL, or Vertical Take-Off and Landing.
Throughout World War II, the world saw an explosion of aviation infrastructure development, as landing strips popped up in every region of the fight. These airstrips throughout Europe and the Pacific would almost certainly be seen as an imposing threat to the Soviets in a new conflict, as they would provide America and its allies with ample opportunity to launch heavy payload bombers deep into Soviet territory.
As a result, Pentagon brass believed airstrips would be among the first targets of a Soviet nuclear attack. If they were right and the U.S. couldn’t count on having airstrips positioned around the globe to support combat operations, they needed a new fighter that could take off and land without the need for a well-manicured runway.
The U.S. Air Force considered the Canadian flying saucer known as the VZ-9 Avrocar. The U.S. Navy sought their own solution, and by 1950, they had received proposals from both Lockheed and Convair.
The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”
While the need for VTOL aircraft was seen all across the Pentagon, the Navy saw vertical take-off and landing platforms as an opportunity to deploy intercept fighters from non-aircraft carrier vessels. In fact, the Navy even considered launching VTOL fighters off of merchant ships in a new World War if necessary.
In June of 1951, Lockheed was awarded a Navy contract to build the XFV-1; a prototype fighter with traditional wings, a massive reinforced X-shaped tail, and a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine spinning a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers that made the aircraft look like the bastard child of a helicopter and a prop-driven fighter. Most unusual of all, the aircraft was designed to take off and land on its tail, with its nose pointed straight up in the air.
Lockheed called on famed aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson to design their VTOL XFV, and one could have argued at the time that the program couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Johnson was just coming off of the development of the P-38 Lightning and then America’s first jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. His long and storied career as an aeronautical engineer eventually included overseeing first of their kind platforms like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk.
For testing, the XFV-1 was fitted with an awkward-looking set of landing gear, which included mounting wheels on the bottom of the lower tail wings. In December of 1953, the XFV-1 got its first taste of the sky when Chief Test Pilot Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon managed to make the aircraft “hop” briefly during taxing tests. Less than a year later, in June of 1954, it would make it all the way into the sky for its first real flight.
Unfortunately, the Allison YT40-A-6 turboprop engine installed on the prototype was not powerful enough to manage actual vertical take-offs or landings. Instead, Lockheed planned to use the forthcoming (and more powerful) Allison T54 engine, which would produce 7,100 horsepower, but issues with the engine’s development meant the XFV’s desperately needed power plant would never arrive.
The prototype XFV-1 did make a total of 32 brief flights and even managed to hover with its nose up for a short period of time, but never accomplished a single vertical take-off or landing.
The Convair XFY Pogo
Convair’s take on the vertical take-off and landing premise shared a number of similarities with Lockheed’s. Like the XFV, Convair’s XFY Pogo was designed to sit upright on its tail so it could leverage its pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers to take off like a helicopter. Then, once in the air, the aircraft would re-orient itself to fly forward like a traditionally prop-driven plane.
For its purposes, the Pogo was more successful than Lockheed’s outing. The first outdoor test flights began in August of 1954, and a series of 70 successful vertical take-off and landing drills following shortly thereafter. By November of that year, the team at Convair with test pilot and Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel James F. “Skeets” Coleman at the stick, achieved their first successful transition from vertical flight to horizontal. In order to make the transition easier, the pilot’s seat within the cockpit was mounted on gimbals that oriented the pilot at 45 degrees in vertical flight mode and 90 degrees when flying horizontally.
Despite its successes, subsequent test flights began to reveal problems with the VTOL upright fighter’s very premise. While flying, the Pogo lacked airbrakes or spoilers to help it slow down after high-speed flight, but more troubling was just how difficult landing the unusual aircraft could be. Pilots had to look over their shoulder and back to the ground as they slowly lowered the fighter down onto its tail. Eventually, a low-power radar system was installed that would help the pilot gauge their altitude with a series of lights, but landing was still risky. It quickly became apparent that the Navy’s plan to put these fighters on a wide variety of non-carrier vessels just wouldn’t work, because only the best pilots in the force had a chance at landing the plane.
Further damning the concept were jet fighters of the era that were reaching speeds as high as Mach 2, while the prop-driven vertical take-off fighters the Navy was testing couldn’t even break the sound barrier. Ultimately, the concept was scrapped, damning both the Lockheed and Convair vertical take-off fighters to life in museums by the end of 1956.
Ultimately, the U.S. Navy would invest heavily into fixed-wing and sweep-wing carrier-based fighters like the F9F Panther, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F/A-18 Hornet. However, vertical or short take-off fighters did still find their way into America’s arsenal. The U.S. Marines began flying the AV-8A Harrier in 1971, and today, Marines are experimenting with using amphibious assault ships to launch sorties of the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the meeting of more than 70 chiefs of defense at the Counter-Violent Extremist Organization Conference was a historic occasion.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted the meeting so the chiefs could chart the progress in the struggle against violent extremists and look at ways to improve the strategies in the long war against the terrorists.
Dunford; Brett McGurk, the president’s special envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS; and Australian Army Col. David Kelly, an exchange officer on assignment to the Joint Staff, spoke to the press following the conference.
During the meeting, the senior leaders from every part of the globe looked at the threats posed by extremist groups and examined strategies and tactics to combat them, the chairman said. The chiefs concluded “that we are dealing with a transregional threat and it is going to require more effective collective action by nations that are affected,” Dunford said.
He noted that in Iraq and Syria the coalition saw more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 different countries. The chairman added that figure describes the range of the threat in a nutshell.
The chiefs spoke mostly about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Dunford said, because they regard ISIS as the most virulent example of violent extremism in the world today. Still, he added, they envision the military network that has been built to combat ISIS will also deal with other transregional extremist threats as they arise.
The key takeaway from the conference is that “the most effective action against these groups is local action, but local action has to be informed by the nature of the trans-regional aspect and so cooperation globally is important,” the chairman said. But, he noted, global actions must be informed by local actions.
Violent extremists are connected by three things that Dunford calls the “connective tissue” of terrorism: foreign fighters, finances, and the narrative. Cutting the connectivity between these groups is key to defeating them, the general said. Doing this will enable local forces to deal with the challenges posed by these groups, he said.
One example is the five-month battle for Marawi in the Philippines, which the chiefs were briefed about yesterday, Dunford said. About 30 foreign fighters returned to the Mindanao region after fighting with ISIS and persuaded local extremist groups to pledge to ISIS and launch attacks in the city. “Small numbers of ISIS leaders are attempting to leverage local insurgencies,” the chairman said.
The coalition is seeing something similar in Africa, he said, where a number of local insurgencies rebranded themselves and pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The chiefs discussed the movement of these individuals and the need for intelligence- and information-sharing within the coalition to stop them, Dunford said.
Global Effort, Global Approach
McGurk helps coordinate the whole-of-government approach to the campaign against violent extremism. He said the chiefs spoke a great deal during the meeting about all the efforts against ISIS, including the stabilization and humanitarian programs that are included in every military campaign. He also said foreign fighters trying to get into or out of Iraq and Syria has come to a near halt. “We believe we’ve cut their revenue down to the lowest level ever,” he said.
“Most interestingly today, we did a little walk around the globe, because it is not just about Iraq and Syria,” McGurk said. “We had very detailed presentations of operations against ISIS in Marawi, in the Sahel, we talked about how we are tracking foreign fighters around the world … and we had a very good presentation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about the leading efforts that they have taken on to counter the narrative and leading the counter-messaging campaign in that part of the world.”
The chairman said the campaign against ISIS is at an “inflection point” and that all the chiefs discussed what’s next. “One of the points that was made several times today is the need for the coalition to stay focused on Iraq and Syria for an enduring period of time,” Dunford said.
Defeating the narrative of the terror groups is one of the toughest nuts to crack, he said, but progress is being made. “I’m not complacent, but I am encouraged by how the success on the ground in translated into undermining the credibility of the narrative,” the chairman said. “There have been some studies of young people who are radicalized and those numbers seem to go down. There are certainly indicators that fewer young people are being radicalized, and that’s as a result of us being able to demonstrate what ISIS is. They can only behead so many people and treat people they way they did in Mosul and Raqqa before those stories came out.”
The Saudi counter-ISIS messaging effort now has 41 nations involved. “Clearly, credible Islamic voices are going to be the ones that matter most in countering the narrative of ISIS, and countering it and discrediting it for what it is,” he said.
With 75 nations and entities such as NATO and the African Union Mission in Somalia, there are some who think the coalition is too big, Kelly said. But the coalition thrives on the diversity of views the coalition offers, he noted.
“What I bring to the Joint Staff, I feel, is a diversity of perspective,” the colonel said. “It’s that diversity of perspective that we are looking for in our planning. Can [the coalition] become too big? I don’t think so. I think the price of admission is wanting to be a part of solving the problem.”
The coalition is not a formal alliance, nor does any nation want it to be one, Dunford said. It all comes down to helping local and regional forces handle their security problems, and sharing information and intelligence to sever the connective tissue and defeat the narrative. “The bigger the coalition is, the better,” the chairman said.
GE just completed its initial test runs of the first full-scale XA100 three-stream adaptive combat engine–an entirely new fighter power plant that promises to give the United States a distinct advantage in the skies of the 21st century. Fighters have always had to maintain a tightrope walk between unleashing the power of their engines and saving enough fuel to be effective in a fight. With GE’s XA100, that’ll get a whole lot easier.
The first full-scale XA100 is one of two technology demonstrators contracted to GE through the U.S. Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), with elements of development handled through both the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) and the Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) programs.
This first demonstrator was intended to not just offer an incredible amount of power, but a huge improvement in engine efficiency that can grant greater fuel range and longer loiter times than ever before.
“The goal for the Air Force was to develop the next-generation fighter engine architecture and technologies to provide a generational step-change in combat propulsion capability,” David Tweedie, GE Edison Works’ General Manager of Advanced Combat Engines, told Sandboxx News.
“GE has worked hard to achieve the challenging objectives the Air Force has set out, and we believe we are delivering on what they’ve asked us to do.”
And deliver they did. GE tested their XA100 at their high altitude test cell in Evendale, Ohio over the span of more than three months, starting at the tail end of 2020, and according to their reports, the engine actually exceeded their performance targets. Chief among their goals was successfully demonstrating the engine’s ability to operate in both a high-thrust mode that delivers unparalleled power in combat and a low-burn mode that allows for covering greater distances or remaining airborne for extended periods of time.
“We hit all of our primary test objectives,” Tweedie told Aviation Week. “The engine behaved right along with our pre-test predictions and was very consistent with the program goals. We were able to demonstrate the two different modes of the engine and the ability to seamlessly transition between those two modes.”
The aim of GE’s XA100 engine was to increase thrust by 10% and fuel efficiency by 25%, but in testing, the engine did even better than that.
“Not only are we meeting that, we’re actually exceeding that pretty much everywhere in the flight envelope—and in a few places—up to 20% [more thrust],” Tweedie said. “We are very happy with where we are from thrust in terms of over-delivering versus the program requirement.”
“When you translate that to what it means to the platform, it’s 30% more range or 50% more loiter time depending on how you want to utilize that fuel burn improvement. It’s a significant increase in acceleration and combat capability with the increased thrust,” he added.
American combat aircraft are already renowned for their powerful and efficient engines. China and Russia both have new fifth-generation (stealth) fighters in service, but both nations continue to struggle with fielding engines that are adequate to meet the performance needs of top-tier fighters in the 21st century. However, China claims to be nearing development on their WS-15 engines that were specifically designed to bring their Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter on par with America’s F-22, threatening to erode that advantage.
GE’s new XA100 can produce a whopping 45,000 pounds of thrust, edging out the Pratt and Whitney’s F-135-PW-100 that currently powers America’s single-engine F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and making it a viable option for the conventional-runway iteration of the jet, the F-35A. This news comes amid ongoing concerns about F-35 engine availability and maintenance issues that could threaten as many as 20% of F-35s if a resolution isn’t found soon. While GE’s XA100 would not enter service in time to address these shortfalls, the new engine shines a light on the concept’s promising future, as well as other potential applications for this engine that span three fighter generations.
“The ADVENT, AETD, and AETP programs were set up to mature the technologies from both a design and manufacturing perspective and to burn down program risk to enable multiple low-risk Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) programs that could be applied to legacy, current production, and future fighter aircraft platforms,” Tweedie explained to Sandboxx News.
That part about “legacy, current production, and future fighter aircraft programs” is particularly important as the United States Air Force continues to hash out how best to approach the problem of airpower in this new era of near-peer competition. The F-35, once intended to serve as the backbone of the U.S. Air Force for decades to come, now faces renewed criticism over operational costs that threaten the program’s supremacy on the Air Force’s budgetary priority list.
Meanwhile, older fighters like the F-15 have returned to prominence through significant upgrades, with the F-15EX Eagle II making its way into service. And like the Air Force, the U.S. Navy is also doubling down on their legacy fourth-generation platforms, taking deliveries on the first new Block III Super Hornets last summer.
Not to keep too much focus on the past and present, however, the Air Force and Navy are also continuing their hushed development on the NGAD fighter program that promises to yield America’s next air superiority platform, which some believe will be the first of a sixth-generation of fighters. All told, that means the United States will likely be operating three different generations of fighters simultaneously within the coming twenty years. While fifth and sixth-generation platforms will offer the greatest survivability in highly contested airspace, fourth-generation jets would also benefit from an increase in power and efficiency, making the world’s most capable 4th-gen birds even more capable.
Importantly, however, that additional capability won’t come with extra stuff for the pilot to keep track of. In recent years, the Pentagon has devoted huge swaths of funding to limiting the cognitive load on fighter pilots during combat operations, streamlining their interface with the aircraft’s controls, and fusing data to offer pertinent information in the pilot’s line of sight. In keeping with this concept, GE’s XA100 handles the transition between modes without any need for pilot input.
“The mode transition is seamless to the pilot, and they won’t even know when it happens,” Tweedie told Sandboxx News.
“They will control engine power using the throttle the way they always have, and the engine schedule will determine the appropriate operational mode.”
But the XA100 isn’t just a big deal because of its fuel efficiency and power. While this new engine’s ability to seamlessly transition between tearing through the sky like a top fuel dragster and minding the fuel gauge like a Toyota Prius might catch the attention of aviation enthusiasts, it might be the engine’s thermal management and use of advanced component technologies that really make the XA100 a leap forward in fighter engines.
According to Tweedie, the XA100’s “three-stream architecture” enables a doubling of thermal management capacity, or in other words, a real reduction in the heat created by the engine’s operation. That heat reduction is essential as modern aircraft shift away from traditional metal airframes and fuselages and toward more advanced composite materials. Heat is currently a limiting factor in power production, but that will no longer be the case with this new generation of powerplant.
“We see a significant increase in capability there [with] up to two times mission systems growth enabled by the [improved] thermal management,” Tweedie said.
Advanced component technologies including additive and Ceramic Matrix Composites leveraged in the XA100’s design also play an important role in what makes this new engine stand head and shoulders above previous power plants. Not only does this reduce the overall weight of the engine, it also increases its durability over previous designs.
The result combination of power, fuel efficiency, heat management, and resilient but lightweight construction make the XA100 the physical embodiment of a fighter engine wish-list. While any of these improvements in capability would be welcome in most fighter designs, the collection of them in a single system could well make for a power plant that is even greater than the sum of its parts.
And with nations all over the world hurriedly developing new fifth and sixth-generation fighters, the United States will need every advantage it can muster to retain the competitive edge.
There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.
Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.
Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.
Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.
This stone is, truly, timeless.
The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.
(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)
Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.
In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.
The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.
For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.
Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..
Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.
If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.
A U.S. Navy commander was sentenced Dec. 1 to 18 months in prison for his role in a fraud and bribery scheme that cost the government about $35 million.
Cmdr. Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Va., was the latest person to be sentenced in connection with a decade-long scam linked to a Singapore defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” Francis.
Francis bribed Navy officials to help him over-bill the Navy for fuel, food, and other services his company provided to ships docked in Asian ports, according to prosecutors. The bribes allegedly ranged from cash and prostitutes to Cuban cigars and Spanish suckling pigs.
Pitts pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges that alleged he tried to obstruct a federal investigation while in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore.
In handing down the sentence against Pitts, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino told him that he had “betrayed the Navy and betrayed the country,” prosecutors said in a news release.
“Pitts deliberately and methodically undermined government operations and in doing so, diverted his allegiance from his country and colleagues to a foreign defense contractor, and for that, he is paying a high price,” said Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego.
In addition to his prison sentence, Pitts was also ordered to pay $22,500 in fines and restitution.
Sitting across the table from Remi Adeleke is a pretty powerful experience. This is a man who exudes charisma and excellence.
You’d never know that he was born into African royalty, lost his father and everything his family owned, relocated to the Bronx, got caught up in illegal and dangerous activities, and found his way out not just in the military but as a United States Navy SEAL — one of the most elite military programs in the world.
Now, he gives back, helping at-risk youths the same way he was once helped: by believing in them.
“If you’re not uncomfortable when you’re training, you’re not training.”
(Photo courtesy of Remi Adeleke)
In his new book Transformed, Adeleke details his unlikely journey where he is both unflinching while admitting his mistakes and unsparing while reflecting on the people who helped him. As we spoke, he observed that many of the critical guides in his life were women — starting with his mother and his military recruiter.
In his book he details how Petty Officer Tiana Reyes managed to help a poor kid from the Bronx — with a record and an outstanding warrant for his arrest — qualify for the Navy SEALs. I don’t mean to spoil one of my favorite moments, but Reyes personally accompanied Adeleke to multiple court hearings to advocate for him.
“She knew that no one would take a chance on a kid from the Bronx,” he told me when I asked why she did it. It turned out that Reyes was from the Bronx, too, and she knew the obstacles facing families there. He promised her that he wouldn’t let her down and that promise guided him through boot camp, into BUD/S, and beyond.
The assistance she gave him would also inspire him to return to inner cities to help others.
“Strategic mentorship is how we can improve inner city environments. If military veterans, doctors, or successful actors came to the inner cities to mentor children, we could change their lives,” he said when I asked how we can make a difference for at risk youths.
Behind-the-scenes on ‘Transformers: The Last Knight.’
(Photo courtesy of Remi Adeleke)
Taking on a broken system — one kid at a time
“Honor, courage, and commitment were instilled into me by the Navy, as well as excellence. In SEAL training, just meeting the standard wasn’t enough. Now, my character is built on excellence: keeping my word, being on time, and pushing myself.” After his military career, Adeleke pursued writing, speaking, and acting, notably including a role in Transformers: The Last Knight.
He has climbed high but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“If make a mistake as a youth, you get marked,” he noted, adding that African American males who grow up in single-parent households are nine times more likely to drop out of high school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison than any other demographic. This becomes a cycle for these families — but it doesn’t have to be.
Now, the message he gives to inner-city youths is that they can be whatever they want to be — if they do the work. He tells them his own story, sharing the deficiencies he had to overcome. “You have to do the extra hard work. You have to. And if you do that, you really can be anything you want to become.”
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BxQf9p-HkTt/ expand=1]Remi Adeleke on Instagram: ““M-J, Him J, Fade-away, Perfect.” All my #hiphop heads know where that line is from. . My @cityhopenow boys challenged your boy to a 3 on…”
“Everything that happens in our lives leads us to where we are today.”
He began with the drive to help and he hasn’t stopped.
“Ten years ago, I was living in San Diego and I decided to go find kids who needed help. I went to ministries and non-profits and asked if there were kids who needed to hear my message.” Now, Adeleke partners with non-profits like La Mesa City Hope, continuing to serve after his service.
His book details his incredible journey, but ultimately, it is about overcoming the odds — any odds, for anyone, anywhere. He has embodied that message and now he encourages others to do the same.
If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.
Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.
A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.
Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.
A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.
The 1981 film “Stripes” featured what is probably the worst group of movie soldiers ever to join the Army (that was kinda the point of the film). Bill Murray’s John Winger is a New York cab driver who loses his job, apartment, and girlfriend and decides to join the Army as a way to avoid being a total failure in life. He convinces his best friend Russell Ziskey (played by the late Harold Ramis) to join with him. Their drill sergeant, Sgt. Hulka (played by the late Warren Oates), is injured during mortar practice and the group has to finish basic training without instruction (suspend your disbelief for this comedy, troops).
In an effort to stay in the Army and graduate from Basic Training, Winger and his platoon stay up for an entire night (the whole night!) in order to put on the unconventional yet highly produced and coordinated routine. Uniform violations are everywhere, so if that’s the kind of thing that gives you seizures, try not to look too closely:
Scenes from the movie, including those on post and those in Czechoslovakia, were filmed on Fort Knox, so the film is close to hearts of the Fort Knox, Kentucky community. The movie celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016. To help that celebration, an honor guard from the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command performed the entire Stripes “Razzle Dazzle” graduation routine at Fort Knox (complete with uniform violations).
One of the biggest threats North Korea poses is not measured in a few nukes on a few dozen ballistic missiles. We get it that nukes can do a lot of bad stuff, and the consequences of their use can be downright horrific. But they aren’t the only game in town.
In fact, one of North Korea’s deadliest threats are regular old howitzers.
To be honest, we’re talking lots and lots of howitzers. A veritable horde of howitzers, in fact. Try close to 8,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org. However, South Korea has not been idle in the howitzer field.
According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the South Korean military has been using the K9 self-propelled howitzer. This vehicle carries a 155mm howitzer that has a range of about 25 miles that can fire up to eight rounds a minute, including a burst of three rounds in 15 seconds.
But the firepower isn’t all this is about. The K9 is also able to scoot – able to dash at just under 42 miles per hour and go as far as 223 miles on one tank of gas. The crew of five is able to start shooting within 30 seconds, and they have 48 rounds on board. The vehicle can be quickly resupplied by the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle, which can reload the K9 in just under 18 minutes.
It can take punishment, too. Its armor protects the crew from 14.5mm machine gun fire and fragments from 152mm artillery shells. According to GlobalSecurity.org, over 1,100 of these self-propelled guns are in South Korean service.
The K9 has also secured an export buyer in Turkey, which is acquiring 300 of these guns. In short, this gun will potentially see action on both sides of the continent of Asia.
In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras fought a war that lasted for 100 hours and left over 3,000 dead. This brutal conflict was called the “Soccer War,” but the three highly contentious soccer games were not the cause of the war, but probably the spark that set off a growing powderkeg of tensions that had been building up between the two Central American countries for a while.
With those growing tensions building and building over the ongoing displacement of Salvadoran squatters, the three-game qualifier for the 1970 World Cup really was the last straw. The heated series ended on June 26, 1969 with a 3-2 victory by El Salvador. After that win, El Salvador cut off diplomatic relations with Honduras within hours of the deciding game.
However, the Hondurans managed to hit Salvadoran fuel supplies – at the same time, the Organization of American States worked on the diplomatic front. On July 18, there was a ceasefire. By August 2, 1969, all Salvadoran troops had left Honduras. By that point, not only had over 3,000 people died, but tens of thousands were displaced.
A full peace treaty was not signed until 1980. The International Court of Justice resolved the Gulf of Fonseca dispute in 1992. Even then, it took 14 more years for Honduras and El Salvador to finally resolve the last of the border disputes.
Oh, and about the soccer. El Salvador made it to the 1970 World Cup, but was quickly defeated by the Soviet team.