That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter - We Are The Mighty
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That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Back in the 1980s, when it still existed, the Soviet Union maintained a number of “friendly” relationships with a variety of African and Asian nations, mostly for the purposes of selling military hardware to counter the West.


One such nation was Libya, which opted to arm and equip its military with a variety of Soviet products, including MiG and Sukhoi fighters for its air force.

At the time, the USSR was also in the process of shopping around its Mil Mi-25 Hind-D, the export variant of the Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The Hind was a fairly unique vehicle at the time, as it was built from the ground up as a heavily-armed attack gunship with the ability to accommodate a maximum of eight fully-armed soldiers in an extremely cramped bay directly behind the cockpit. The Hind could therefore deliver special forces teams to the battlefield and remain in the area of operations for air support, or function solely as a very well-armed gunship, akin to the role the two-seater AH-1 Cobra played for American ground forces during the Vietnam conflict.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
The abandoned Hind.

In contrast, the U.S. primarily used helicopters like the UH-1 Huey to deliver (and extract) troops from the battlefield, and they were moderately armed at best (in comparison to the Hind) with door-mounted machine guns serving as defensive weaponry more so than in the offensive role.

Now, around the time of the Hind’s introduction into service in the late 70s, the Central Intelligence Agency, along with British intelligence services, sought to learn more about this big Soviet helicopter. Interest heightened when word broke that Ethiopia pressed an export Hind into combat successfully. The Hind then quickly made an appearance in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s controversial involvement there, operating to great effect against mujaheddin fighters towards the beginning of the conflict.

Western intelligence needed to get a better look at the Hind and its heavily-armored airframe, especially for the purposes of determining whether or not an American equivalent needed to be designed, built, and fielded as a counter to the Hind’s capabilities.

An opportunity for such a look finally presented itself in the form of the discovery of a Libyan Mi-25 left behind in Chadian territory in 1987.

Historically, Libya and Chad weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Their strained relationship was mostly the result of repeated attempts from Libyan-backed rebel groups to usurp the Chadian government. Constant Libyan attempts to occupy sovereign territory belonging to the Republic of Chad didn’t do much to help their situation either.

Also Read: This deadly Russian attack helicopter is known as ‘the flying tank’

When Chadian troops were finally able to fully expel Libyan forces from their borders in 1987, the retreating Libyans abandoned a considerable amount military hardware that would have otherwise bogged down and hindered their egress. Among the treasure trove of armored vehicles, guns, and light artillery stranded in the desert was a Hind-D in relatively good condition, parked on an old airfield ramp at Ouadi Doum.

The CIA, after confirming that such a helicopter did indeed exist at that particular location, quickly set its sights on recovering the helicopter, or at least as much of it as possible, before the Libyans knew about their missing gunship.

All this would have to be done through a covert operation. After negotiating with (and eventually gaining permission from) the Chadian government through diplomatic channels, the CIA enlisted the Department of Defense’s help, and both began planning the extraction of the abandoned helicopter to American-controlled facilities, where it would be taken apart and analyzed in details.

There’s a saying in the military that goes along the lines of: “Gear adrift is a gift”. Christmas was about to come very early for a bunch of CIA analysts and military technical experts.

Mount Hope III was the name bestowed upon the operation. The very first order of business was wrangling up a group of pilots skilled (and crazy) enough to perform the mission to perfection.

Who better to ask than the aviators of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group, the legendary Night Stalkers?

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A crew member from the C/4-160th SOAR (Night Stalkers) collects a rappel rope used by the Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing, 125th Special Tactics Squadron in Alternate Insertion Extraction training from a UH-60 Blackhawk, March 19, 2017, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel.

The preparation phase, creatively code-named Mount Hope II, began in April of 1987 in New Mexico. The dry, desert conditions would add a layer of realism to the training. CH-47 Chinooks from the 160th’s Echo Company were modified to bear the weight of the Hind-D, judged to be somewhere in the ballpark range of 17,000 to 18,000 pounds.

Chinooks are already able to sling-load different pieces of military equipment, including the Humvee utility vehicle. But there’s a huge difference between a four-wheeled Humvee and an oversized Mil-25. Load-bearing hooks needed to be reinforced, the engines and transmissions needed to be checked and tuned, and the relatively ideal placement of the carcass of the Hind underneath the Chinook needed to be determined.

Practice commenced in dark, low-light conditions. Six large blivets of water weighing roughly the same as the Hind were strapped to the underside of a Chinook. The Night Stalkers flying the Chinook were then supposed to fly to a “Forward Support Base” (or FSB for short) after stopping twice to refuel.

Also Read: The definitive guide to US special ops

The first dry run went off without a hitch, so the next test was to strap an actual airframe similar to that of the Hind in terms of size and weight and perform the test run once again under the same conditions. The Night Stalkers once again proved themselves and their aircraft and in good time, Mount Hope II was completed, meeting or exceeding the expectations of the CIA and Department of Defense’s overseeing officers.

They were now ready for the real thing.

On May 21, the order to execute Mount Hope III was handed down from the Oval Office, and the Night Stalkers immediately geared up, loading two Chinooks aboard a C-5 Galaxy heavy airlift jet, departing for Germany first, and later on to the Ndjamena airfield in southern Chad.

The Army was to temporarily deploy an ADVON (advanced echelon) scouting and reconnaissance team to the location for around two weeks to keep an eye out for enemy forces, who weren’t all that far away from the airfield.

The French government added their support to the mission by sending over a contingent of soldiers to cover the operation on the ground and a set of Mirage F.1 fighter jets to provide top cover for all aircraft involved. A C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter would land at one of the Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) to provide fuel for the Chinooks on their way back to the FSB during the mission.

After arriving at Ndjamena on June 10, Night Stalker pilots and crew unloaded their Chinooks from the gargantuan Galaxy.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman)

On June 11th, they proceeded with the mission as they had previously planned. The mission would see the Night Stalkers fly over 500 nautical miles under the cover of darkness, and would then pick up the abandoned Hind right at daybreak. An advance team (Chalk 1) flew to Ouadi Doum to ensure that the site was relatively secured for the incoming Chalk 2 Chinook and to prep the Hind for removal.

As I mentioned earlier, a large element of Libyan military forces were still highly active in the area, even after most had been expelled from Chad’s borders during the previous year’s conflict.

The slightest hint of military action nearby would have likely sparked a firefight and a subsequent international incident if it was discovered that the United States was actively trying to remove Libyan military hardware from the desert, even though the Hind was abandoned in Chadian sovereign territory.

The ADVON team had reported back with a detailed threat analysis, highlighting the fact that the Libyans were definitely still in the region.

Chalk 1, having been inserted at Ouadi Doum, cleared the location and quickly rigged the Hind for extraction while the Chalk 2 Chinook hovered close above, allowing for the team to sling-load the airframe to the waiting helicopter. Chalk 2 then left the area to return to Ndjamena. After covering Chalk 2’s extraction, Chalk 1 loaded up and got the hell out of Dodge.

The Libyans were totally clueless of what was happening just miles away from their positions.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A Chinook helicopter unloading from a C-5 Galaxy. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Chalk 2 stopped twice to refuel, at one point on a French Foreign Legion airfield, rendezvousing with the Air Force C-130s at each location.

However, not long after stopping at FARP 2, the mission hit a slight snag in the form of an unanticipated 3000 ft sand storm. The Chinook bearing the weight of the Hind was now only 45 minutes out of home base.

Hauling ass, Chalk 2 reached Ndjamena just ahead of the storm, flying through near-zero visibility and setting down with little time to spare. Waiting a little over 20 minutes in their helicopters for the storm to move onward, the Night Stalkers finally loaded their aircraft and their newly-acquired prize into the Galaxy they arrived in, and within 36 hours were back on American soil.

After 67 hours in-country, the mission was completed; an unmitigated success. Mount Hope III was also the very first major operation where the Night Stalkers used their CH-47s.

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Articles

11 Things new soldiers complain about during basic training

Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.


Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:

“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Army

New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.

“This food is terrible.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell

Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.

“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.

“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Department of Defense by Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.

“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Army

It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.

“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shaw Jr.

Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.

“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Army by Vince Little

They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.

“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Desiree N. Palacios

The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.

“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”

“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.

“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Photo: Army Pfc. Kirby Rider

For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)

Articles

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

A Marine Corps F-35B used its on-board sensors to function for the first time as a broad-area aerial relay node in an integrated fire-control weapons system designed to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles from distances beyond-the-horizon, service officials announced.


A Navy “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. designed to replicate maritime conditions, used ship-based radar to connect the F-35B sensors to detect enemy missiles at long ranges and fire an SM-6 interceptor to destroy the approaching threat.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

The emerging fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was deployed last year on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior, last year.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
An F-35 Lightning II flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. | U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

“This test was a great opportunity to assess the Navy’s ability to take unrelated technologies and successfully close the fire control loop as well as merge anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons,” Anant Patel, major program manager for future combat systems in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, said in a written statement.

The test was a collaborative effort across the Navy and Marine Corps, White Sands Missile Range and industry partners leveraging a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System

“This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer in charge.

A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
The F-35B conducts a vertical landing on the USS Wasp. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

NIFC-CA Upgrade

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles. In particular, NIFC-CA is the kind of technology which, in tandem with other sensors and ship-based weapons, could enable a larger carrier to defend against the much-discussed Chinese DF-21D “carrier-killer” missile. The emerging DF-21D is reportedly able to strike targets as far as 900 nautical miles off shore.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and Mattis go ‘good cop, bad cop’ on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

“President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine,” Trump said.


Trump also said it’s “possible” he could meet with Putin summer 2018.

This followed comments Trump made at the recent G7 summit in Canada in which he called for Russia to be readmitted to the group. Moscow was booted from the group (then the G8) due to its annexation of Crimea.

“Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said at the time. “And in the G7, which used to be the G8 — they threw Russia out — they should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Comparatively, as Trump called for America’s allies to rekindle relations with Russia despite its aggression in Ukraine, Mattis ripped into Putin at a graduation ceremony at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority, his actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” Mattis said.

Trump and his top advisers have often spoken of Russia and Putin in decidedly different terms, and he has been widely criticized for praising the Russian leader at various times in the past.

Moreover, the president has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even as his senior advisers have continuously warned that Moscow will meddle in future US elections.

At a conference in Normandy, France June 15, 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, “We continue to see Russian targeting of American society in ways that could affect our midterm elections.”

Coats also said Russia had launched an “unprecedented influence campaign to interfere in the U.S. electoral and political process” in 2016.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A New York hospital needed more beds and providers. They called in Special Forces.

Fred Wellman, a West Point graduate and retired public affairs officer, was at home in Richmond, Virginia when he got a call from his friend Kate Kemplin, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing in Ontario, Canada, who was driving to New York.

“She said, ‘we’re building a hospital and we need your network in New York City,'” Wellman, who holds a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, told We Are The Mighty.


Kemplin was referencing what would become the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field, a temporary hospital created to care for COVID-19 patients.

“She needed someone to handle the administrative aspects — things like admin work, bed tracking systems, logistics, not a hospital person, but someone intimately familiar with processes,” Wellman explained. “I was telling my girlfriend about all of this later on and she looked right at me and said, ‘You know that’s you, right?'”

Wellman, the founder and CEO of public relations and research firm ScoutComms, talked to his senior staff and family and called Kemplin back.

“It sounds like you need me,” he told her.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Wellman pauses for a selfie in what would become The Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field.

Courtesy of Fred Wellman

Wellman drove to New York City, where he has been working for a week in his new role as chief of staff at the field hospital, where the staff is composed entirely of former military.

“We put the SOS out to the Special Forces community for medics, and said we need you in New York within a day or two,” Wellman said. “We were able to bring in Special Forces medics as healthcare providers under doctor supervision. It’s never been done in a stateside setting, to use former medics as providers. They’re putting on PPE and taking care of patients. That’s what’s so revolutionary about this. These are former special operations community medics and healthcare workers who have come together on a week’s notice. It’s never been done. Using medics this way is unheard of.”

On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital opened.

Melissa Givens, a retired Army colonel, serves as the hospital’s medical director with over 20 years of experience in emergency and special operations medicine and disaster operation.

“We’re able to let veterans do what they love to do and that’s run at the sound of gunfire, and the gunfire is coronavirus. Here we come and we’re here to help,” Givens, who left her work as a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, D.C. area to aid in NYC, said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.

The temporary hospital, named after Navy SEAL medic Ryan Larkin who died in April 2017, has the capacity to treat 216 COVID-19 patients, as well as staff a 47-bed emergency department outpost.

“Many beds are being taken up at local hospitals by people who are recovering and we need those beds for sicker people,” Wellman said. “Hospitals are using their waiting rooms, cafeterias, as bed space. We have treated a couple dozen patients [here], and that’s growing quickly. Our hope is to get our system working really well and to get sicker patients into the proper hospitals where they belong.”

Despite the enormous physical and mental strain of the work being done, Wellman admits that the military’s ingrained sense of camaraderie has helped.

“We all understand the gravity of what we are doing and why we are here,” he said. “[But] seeing the way all these veterans, from different branches of service, with different experiences, and completely different ranks, just fell right into a unit from day one.”

Speaking through a mask as the interview ended and Wellman headed back inside the bubble, he likened his experience to his former life as an executive military officer.

“I went to Iraq three times and Desert Storm before that. That first deployment, you didn’t know what to expect; it’s planned, you know what you’re going to do, but once you cross that border, all bets are off. Yeah we have systems and processes, but this virus gets to vote, too.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

For combat medics, success is all about keeping up with formations and providing expert and timely medical care at the point of injury. So it makes sense that their competitions for top bragging rights include everything from administering medical aid and triage to land navigation and calling for fire.


In fact, an Army-wide Best Medic competition is held annually and has evolved out of the Best Ranger competition. This contest pits 34 two-person teams against one another in a 72-hour competition. During this three-day event, docs are challenged by events like rifle ranges, stress shoots, obstacle courses, a 12-mile ruck march, an urban assault lane, and combat medic lanes.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

U.S. Army Spc. Charles Hines from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), fires an M4 during a stress shoot at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The medics in the competition are always tested on some sort of basic soldiering skills — rifle marksmanship usually makes the list. In this photo from a competition in Alaska, we get a look at medics competing in stress shoots.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), jumps up from pushups during a stress shoot July 25, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Stress shoots are events wherein a shooter’s body is put under duress by physical exercise — in this case, push-ups — before having to fire their weapons as accurately as possible. The event tests a competitor’s ability to perform as they would in combat where moving around in armor causes accuracy-reducing fatigue.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Spc. Aaron Tolson of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, administers an IV to a simulated casualty during a best medic competition in Fort Bragg, N.C., July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Of course, Best Medic competitions still center around medical knowledge and the ability to assess, treat, and transport casualties.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Pvt. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), administers a nasopharyngeal airway intervention on a dummy patient July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The simulated patients are presented with injuries and illnesses common on battlefields as well as injuries that are challenging to diagnose and treat, pushing medics’ skills to the limit.

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Spc. Steven Gildersleeve from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), pulls the quick-release cord from body armor on a simulated casualty July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Casualties are often covered in protective gear as they would be in a real fight. This can include everything from MOPP gear, used in chemical, biological, and nuclear environments, to body armors and helmets used nearly everywhere, both in training and combat.

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An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), decontaminates himself during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Of course, if you’re testing medics on how to treat patients in a chemical environment, you also have to test their ability to operate in a chemical environment. This means medics must not just ensuring the medic takes the right steps to protect their patient, but they must also make sure to protect themselves properly.

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An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), configures a radio during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Other tasks that medics are tested on include radio communications. After all, their patients can’t make it off of the battlefield in a timely manner, let alone within the “Golden Hour” that’s critical to saving lives in combat, if the medics and battlefield leaders can’t get the radios up and call for medevac and fire support.

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Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, completes the monkey bars during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Similarly, the medics have to prove that they can get to the fight and move around on the battlefield like the soldiers they support. To test this, medics are put through a number of obstacles.

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Cpt. Brian Calandra, physical therapist with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, does the low crawl during the obstacle course portion of the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

These obstacle courses can include everything commonly tested during basic training, airborne, and air assault schools, as well hazards from other military competitions, like Best Ranger.

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Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, climbs over an obstacle during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Even better, obstacle courses can be combined with medical training to create the medical equivalent of a stress shoot. Medics capable of serving patients while under fire on the battlefield should be able to treat patients immediately after completing obstacles.

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Spc. Juan Villegas, a combat medic with 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, goes through the log jump portion of the obstacle course during the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

And, of course, the photos look cool. It’s way easier to recruit prospective soldiers into the medical fields when they think they’ll look like a computer wallpaper every once in a while as they do their jobs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China could join the ranks of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenals

The Chinese military is moving toward fielding a nuclear triad, the Pentagon warns in a new report.

China appears to be close to completing its triad, meaning it will have the ability to launch nukes from land, air, and sea. A developmental air-launched ballistic missile could complete the triangle, the Department of Defense reports.

A true nuclear triad is about more than just the possessing the platforms and weapons, though.

“To have a true triad involves doctrine, it involves training, a lot of things,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver explained. But, he added, the Chinese military is “heading in that direction, toward having capable delivery systems in those three domains.”

Here’s what a complete Chinese “nuclear triad” might look like.


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Chinese DF-31 ICBMs.

On land, China has intercontinental missiles capable of striking the continental US.

China has approximately 90 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in its nuclear arsenal, according to the Pentagon.

These include the silo-based DF-5s, the road-mobile DF-31s, and roll-out-to-launch DF-4s. China is also developing the DF-41, a powerful new road-mobile ICBM capable of carrying multiple independent warheads.

China also has a number of nuclear-capable medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21 and DF-26. While the ICBMs with their greater range could be used to target points in the US, these weapons could be used against US targets across the Pacific.

These assets are under the control of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.

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Chinese H-6K bomber.

In the air, China has bombers capable of carrying nuclear missiles.

In its 2018 report on China’s military, the Department of Defense revealed that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force had been re-assigned a nuclear mission.

“The PLA is upgrading its aircraft with two new air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may include a nuclear payload,” the Pentagon explained in its 2019 report. “Its deployment and integration would, for the first time, provide China with a viable nuclear ‘triad’ of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air forces.”

The Diplomat reports that this new ALBM is a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 km designated by US intelligence as CH-AS-X-13. The weapon has been tested aboard a modified H-6K bomber identified as H6X1/H-6N.

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Type 094B Jin-class ballistic missile submarine.

At sea, Chinese submarines are capable of carrying nuclear missiles.

China has four operational Type 094 Jin-class submarines, with another two being outfitted at Huludao Shipyard, the Department of Defense reports. These boats are armed with JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, what the Pentagon calls China’s “first viable sea-based nuclear deterrent.”

China has already started testing new, longer-range JL-3 SLBMs that will arm the next-generation Type 096 submarines.

It is unclear if Chinese ballistic missile submarines conduct deterrence patrols, but the Pentagon operates on the assumption that they do. These assets are under the control of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force flew this awesome A-10 over Normandy this D-Day

The Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron flew a specially painted A-10C Warthog over the beaches of Normandy on June 5, 2018, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

D-Day is one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history, with 156,000 allied troops landing on five beaches and about 13,000 paratroopers dropping behind German lines.

And the 107th, which took part in the invasion, flew a pair of A-10s, multiple C-130 Hercules and even dropped paratroopers over the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the historical event.

It was the first time the 107th was assigned a mission in France since World War II.

Check out the photos below:


Here’s the specially painted A-10 Warthog, which was actually painted in 2017, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 107th squadron.

Here's the specially painted A-10 Warthog, which was actually painted last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 107th squadron.


Source: The Aviationist

The paint job was inspired by the 107th’s P-51 Mustangs, which took part in the D-Day invasion.

The paint job was inspired by the 107th's P-51 Mustangs, which took part in the D-Day invasion.

Here’s a close-up. The emblem on the side is for the 107th’s nickname, the Red Devils.

Here's a close-up. The emblem on the side is for the 107th's nickname, the Red Devils.


Source: The Aviationist

And it flew with another A-10 over Normandy on June 5, 2018.

And it flew with another A-10 over Normandy on Tuesday.

Here’s a close-up of the emblem.

Here's a close-up of the emblem.

The two A-10s flew with multiple C-130s over Normandy as well.

The two A-10s flew with multiple C-130s over Normandy as well.

The C-130s even dropped paratroopers in commemoration of the D-Day anniversary.

The C-130s even dropped paratroopers in commemoration of the D-Day anniversary.

During World War II, the 107th operated L-4, L-5, A-20 and Spitfire aircraft, and was later fielded with F-6As, the reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang.

During World War II, the 107th operated L-4, L-5, A-20 and Spitfire aircraft, and was later fielded with F-6As, the reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang.


Source: US Air Force

In the lead-up to D-Day, the 107th flew 384 missions between December 1943 and June 1944 to photographically map the French coast before the invasion.

In the lead-up to D-Day, the 107th flew 384 missions between December 1943 and June 1944 to photographically map the French coast before the invasion.

The 107th lost one aircraft during the recon mission. Lt. Donald E. Colton was killed in action near Roven, France, on May 9.

Source: US Air Force, Michigan Veterans Affairs

The 107th flew more than 1,800 after May 1944, participated in four campaigns after Normandy, and even received the Presidential Unit Citation.

The 107th flew more than 1,800 after May 1944, participated in four campaigns after Normandy, and even received the Presidential Unit Citation.


Source: US Air Force, Michigan Veterans Affairs

US Air National Guard photos

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 college scholarships for military children

If you have a high school senior graduating in 2019, then it’s the perfect time to start thinking about college.

If you haven’t planned on using the GI BILL for them, there are many scholarships for military children that they can apply for.

I’ve done some digging and have come up with 10 that you can consider. They range from offering $1000 a year for 4 years to a total award of $10,000 covering housing, tuition, and academic expenses.


1. AMVETS Scholarship

00 is awarded annually for 4yrs to those awarded with this scholarship. It’s specifically for children AND grandchildren of Veterans, Active Duty members and Guard/Reserves. Students also must currently be High School seniors. The next cycle for this scholarship will start in January 2019.

2. Scholarships for Military Children

This scholarship is awarded by the Commissary and funded by its contributors. It is currently closed for the 2018 year but will reopen between December 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

3. Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund

This scholarship will open for applicants in January 2019. Be prepared to apply. All children of active duty, retired or reserve Chief Petty Officers are eligible rather they are natural born, adopted or step children.

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Chief petty officers from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gulianna Mandigo)

4. Frederick C. Branch Scholarship Program

Named after the Marine Corps’ first black officer, this NROTC scholarship is awarded to military children who plan on attending one of 17 black historical colleges. You can find the list here for more information!

5. Hero’s Legacy Scholarship

This is specific to children of a parent who has fallen in battle or have100% disability compensation. The Hero’s Legacy application process will open in mid-December.

6. Society of Daughters of United States Army Scholarship Program

Daughters AND granddaughters of US Army Officer’s (career or commissioned) are eligible for this scholarship. There is a small window to apply which only lasts from March 15th-March 31st.

7. Bonsai Finance Veterans Scholarship

Students will be rewarded with a one time 00 payment if chosen. Application consists of submitting a short essay in response to their questions. Applications are due September 28th.

8. Memorial Foundation Scholarship

The Enlisted Association Memorial Foundations Scholarship Program can be awarded to those children or grandchildren of good standing members of TREA (The Retired Enlisted Association). Applicants must submit a 300 word essay on a question posed by the organization.

9. VA Mortgage Center Scholarship

Recipients of this scholarship will be rewarded with id=”listicle-2631535261″,500 bi-yearly in May and November for five years. It’s a part of their Military Education Scholarship Program. For more information call their Scholarship Director at 800-973-4954.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon is making up to 5 million masks available for the coronavirus fight

To support ongoing domestic efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, the US military will provide millions of masks to support civilian public health agencies and other responders, Pentagon leadership said Tuesday.


“The Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from our own strategic reserves to Health and Human Services for distribution,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.

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“The first 1 million masks will be made available immediately,” he added.

“The Pentagon will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to aid in our whole of America Coronavirus response. This critical equipment will keep our health care providers safe as they care for patients,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter.

COVID-19 has spread to more than 5,800 people and killed nearly 100 people in the US. As the illness spreads domestically, masks and other protective equipment are becoming harder to find.

Additional support measures include providing up to 2,000 deployable ventilators to HHS and making 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DoD personnel. “We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.

He added that the Pentagon is also looking at the activation of National Guard and Reserve units to assist states as needed. The National Guard is already assisting in 22 states.

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USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk after a five-month deployment, November 15, 2019.

US Navy

The military is preparing its hospital ships for possible deployment to assist during the crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The US Navy has two hospital ships available, the USNS Comfort in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USNS Mercy in San Diego.

“The Comfort is undergoing maintenance, and the Mercy is at port.” Esper told reporters Tuesday, revealing that the Department of Defense has already given Navy orders “to lean forward in terms of getting them ready to deploy.”

The defense secretary explained that US military assets like hospital ships and field hospitals are designed for trauma response rather than matters like infectious diseases, so these assets would likely be used to take the pressure off civilian medical facilities with regard to trauma care.

Esper also said that the Army Corps of Engineers could be made available to assist states in need but suggested there might be more effective options.

The secretary stressed to reporters that “if we can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus over the next 15 days, together we can help restore public health and the economy and hasten a return to our normal way of life.”

Update: This post has been updated to include the vice president’s tweet, as well as clarify that the masks are going to HHS to support civilian public health agencies and other responders.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

Watch what happens when paratroopers jump with a GoPro

The GoPro Camera has provided us with a ton of awesome videos. But what do you think happens when paratroopers get a hold of one? Yeah, they take it on a jump.


Probably one of the best descriptors of the ethos of the paratroopers is the “Rule of the LGOPs.” The rule describes a fascinating effect that when, in battle, an Airbone plan dissolves, you’re left with something truly fearsome: Small groups of 19-year-olds who are willing to jump from a plane, armed to the teeth and lacking serious adult supervision and…well, you get the idea.

 

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Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. (Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.)

But in peacetime, if these same paratroopers want to remain fearsome, they need to keep their training up. This means lots of practice jumps from aircraft. This not only helps the paratroopers, it helps the crews.

Luckily for us, the 173rd Airborne Brigade brought a GoPro on one of these practice jumps, joined by Serbian Army paratroopers from the 63rd Parachute Brigade.

These paratroopers used a pair of C-130 transport planes during an exercise code-named Double Eagle. A C-130 can carry as many as 64 paratroopers on board, according to an Air Force fact sheet. A version known as the C-130J-30 can carry as many as 92.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

The 173rd Airborne Brigade was part of the 87th Infantry Division in World War I, and saw some action in World War II when its headquarters company as designated the 87th Reconnaissance Troop. In 1963, it was activated, and eventually saw action in Vietnam before being inactivated. In 2000, it was reactivated, and has remained part of the active Army as a quick-reaction force based in Italy. The 173rd has generations of experience under its belt; let’s watch them put that experience to the test.

Take a look at the video below to see a first-person perspective of a parachute jump.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened to Argentina’s lost submarine

The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.


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ARA San Juan pierside.

(Photo by Martin Otero)

It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”

The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.

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USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).

(U.S. Navy)

In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.

In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.

Articles

Air Force F-35A will likely deploy within 2 years

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U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth


Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.

“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While the Marine Corps has publically said it plans to deploy its Short-Take-off-and-Landing F-35B aboard an amphibious assault ship by 2017, the Air Force has been reluctant thus far to specify a deployment date for its F-35A variant.

However, Harrigian did say the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to recent mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations.

“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.

During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.

The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.

A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”

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U.S. Air Force photo

“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.

F-35A “Sensor Fusion”

The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.

Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.

“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane.  You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.

Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.

“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

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An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment

The Air Force plans to announce what’s called Initial Operational Capability, or IOC, of its F-35A at some point between August and December of this year; seven F-35As are preparing for this at Hill AFB, Utah.

There is an operational unit at Hill AFB which, this coming June, is slated to go to Mountain Home for its training and preparation. They are the 34th Fighter Squadron

“All of this is part of a robust schedule of activities,” Harrigian added.

Following this development, the F-35A will be ready for deployment, Harrigian explained.

Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.

Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.

“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.

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