The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.
On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.
General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.
In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.
To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.
“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”
According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.
The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.
According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.
An epic military parade earlier this month showed off some of the Chinese military’s new toys, unveiling heavy vehicles in maritime camouflage as the country’s island-building in the South China Sea sits in US military planners’ minds.
So how does China stack up to other world powers when it comes to aircraft carriers, one of the biggest factors in air and sea dominance?
Take a look at the photos and graphics below to get an idea of China’s naval power:
This is China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Like much of China’s military hardware, the Liaoning is a reworking of an older Russian-made model.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, which the Liaoning is based on, is Russia’s sole aircraft carrier. The ships have the same size and speed, and they both feature the “ski jump” platform.
The Kuznetsov, like the Liaoning, lacks the catapults used by US vessels to launch heavier planes, but it carries offensive weapons of its own.
China’s southern neighbor India operates two smaller aircraft carriers, but they are much more reliable. In 2014, the Liaoning experienced unexpected power failures while at sea.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the US Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, is larger and carries more planes, and it features catapults to launch heavier planes, thus the flat runway.
The US leads the world in aircraft carriers by far, and it is developing an even larger class of aircraft carrier to replace aging members of the fleet.
To put things in perspective, this graphic shows the relative sizes of aircraft carriers from around the world.
You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.
So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?
During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.
The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.
It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.
This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.
The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.
“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”
MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.
Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”
“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”
In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.
It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.
“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.
Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”
That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.
And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.
“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”
According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.
These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.
“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .
Amid rising tensions between the US and China, a US ambassador visited Taiwan for the first time in 42 years. On Sunday, the US ambassador to Palau, John Hennessey-Niland, arrived on the self-governed island with a delegation from Palau. Although the ambassador was present as part of an official visit by the Palau government, it is significant — marking the first visit by such an official since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taipei during the Carter administration in 1979.
Palau is one of only 15 nations that officially recognize Taiwan as a country. China views the self-ruled democratic island as its own territory and has spoken for decades about one day “reunifying” Taipei with the government in Beijing.
Beijing spoke out against the visit, with the foreign ministry saying on Monday it opposed Hennessey-Niland’s trip.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei on Tuesday, Hennessey-Niland took the unusual step of referring to Taiwan as a country, reported Agence France-Press.
“I know that here in Taiwan people describe the relationship between the United States and Taiwan as real friends, real progress and I believe that description applies to the three countries — the United States, Taiwan and Palau,” he said.
While Washington has not formally recognized Taipei as a sovereign government, it has arguably been Taiwan’s most important unofficial ally and its leading arms supplier since 1979.
Additionally, Hennessey-Niland spoke strongly about China’s involvement in the region. Hennessey-Niland said American ambassadors have the responsibility to express their dissatisfaction with China for its economic and political threats against Taiwan’s allies. He also called on Washington to penalize Beijing for its “malicious behavior.”
Hennessey-Niland stated that the TAIPEI Act — which was signed into law by then President Donald Trump on March 26, 2020 — would make an important contribution to supporting diplomatic allies of Taiwan, such as Palau, noting that Taiwan is an important partner of the US, and together the US and Taiwan can do more to assist other Pacific island nations.
The significance of the visit is being acknowledged by the Taiwanese. Lin Ting-hui, deputy secretary-general of the Taiwanese Society of International Law, told reporters that the visit is “not trivial.”
Lin said it shows the US is “not shying away” from sending an ambassador to Taiwan. He said this demonstrates that American policy on Taiwan has changed to “a more positive orientation.” Lin suggested that the US is no longer limiting itself to the parameters of the Taiwan Relations Act.
“It no longer hides it as it did in the past,” Lin said. “Instead, it chooses to make it public.”
Executive orders to bar the entry of refugees from several Middle Eastern nations caused quite a stir over the weekend. The order restricts immigration from seven countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and bans all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
A few prominent corporate brands got creamed when their responses to the ban didn’t meet the expectations of the outraged protesters who poured into airport terminals all over the country. Others accidentally tapped the anger of the social media conservatives. One of the latter is the coffee giant Starbucks.
Anger at Starbucks Coffee boiled over when CEO Howard Schultz announced they would hire 10,000 refugees in countries where the company operates. Schultz sweetened the deal by adding that their first priority would be to hire those refugees who served as interpreters for American troops on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations,” Schultz wrote in a company-wide letter to the coffee chain’s employees. “And we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. And we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support.”
Conservatives on Twitter and Facebook accuse the company of being steeped in liberal ideology. This isn’t the first time Starbucks found itself in hot water with the #TCOT. Starbuck’s holiday cup designs drew ire in 2015 on the grounds that it filtered out typical Christmas imagery (like snowflakes and snowmen) in its design.
The next year, Starbuck released green cups to promote unity during a divisive 2016 election season. The company was accusing of liberal brainwashing. Each time a half-hearted boycott movement percolated around the brand on social media but didn’t reflect in the stores’ sales.
The chain’s dedication to hiring refugees who served with U.S. troops is consistent with the brand’s dedication to hiring American military veterans and assisting in the transition of military personnel into civilian life. The company dedicated its Starbucks College Achievement Plan to allow employee veterans (and their spouses) to earn a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University online with full tuition reimbursement.
The bazooka was World War II’s answer to the American soldier’s need for portable firepower that could inflict serious damage on the enemy.
Simple enough for use by rifle squads, powerful enough to shoot high-explosive rounds into bunkers and pillboxes, the bazooka put more bang farther away on the battlefield than the average G.I. could throw in the form of a grenade.
True, Gen. George Patton praised the M-1 Garand rifle as the greatest battle implement ever made. But Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ranked the humble bazooka with the atom bomb, the jeep, and the C-47 transport and cargo plane as one of the four “Tools of Victory” that allowed the Allies to prevail over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
“The bazooka is one of those weapons that has become iconic in spite of its limitations and problems,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even today, most people recognize the name and the weapon.”
Rockets on the battlefield are nothing new. History is full of examples of militaries harnessing explosive force to rocket power with many kinds of results.
The 13th Century Chinese fired rockets at their enemies. The Star-Spangled Banner mentions the “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” – Congreve rockets fired at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 in an effort to burn the fort to the ground.
American space pioneer Dr. Robert Goddard, inventor of the liquid-fuel rocket, even developed a prototype recoilless rocket launcher that he demonstrated to the U.S. Army in November 1918. Unfortunately for Goddard, the Great War ground to a halt just a few days later and the U.S. military lost interest in rocket-powered weapons for a while.
But when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the only anti-tank weapons in its arsenal were the guns on its tanks and specific kinds of anti-tank artillery. That was a problem considering the U.S. Army faced an enemy in North Africa, later Europe, who relied heavily on Panzer divisions.
U.S. Army Ordnance innovators Capt. Leslie Skinner and Lt. David Uhl experimented with shaped-charge grenades that packed an armor-piercing punch but were too heavy for soldiers to throw. One day, Uhl apparently spied a steel tube on a scrap pile and decided a smooth-bore launch tube was the perfect companion to the grenade/rocket combination he recently developed.
Tube, fin-stabilized rocket, grenade: By May 1942, the combination became known as “Launcher, Rocket, 2.36 inch, Anti-Tank, M-1.”
But nobody called it that – the contraption looked like one of the novelty musical instruments of Bob Burns, a popular comedian of the era. Burns called his tubular noisemaker a “bazooka” – from Dutch slang for “loudmouth” – and the name for the joke instrument became the name of the weapon.
Optimally, the bazooka needed two men for proper use: a gunner who aimed and fired the rocket-propelled rounds and a loader who carried the rounds in a cloth bandoleer before loading the bazooka through the back end of the launcher’s tube.
An electric charge from a dry-cell battery ignited the powder charge in the rocket, which sent the round hurtling out of the tube and on its way to the target.
However, early models of the weapon could be downright dangerous. Occasionally, the rocket would fire but get stuck in the tube, leaving the soldier with a live bomb in his shoulder-mounted launcher.
All models of the bazooka produced significant “back-blast”– discharge from the firing rocket that streamed out of the rear-end of the tube – and an obvious smoke trail that often gave away the position of the shooter.
However, improvements to the weapon produced the far-more reliable M-9. It had a light warhead, but it was capable of destroying many armored vehicles because the round could penetrate five-inch armor.
Although intended as an anti-tank weapon, the bazooka could also fire white phosphorous and incendiary warheads for anti-personnel and anti-material use.
For example, Wilbur “Bill” Brunger was an engineer with the U.S. Army during World War II when he received orders in 1945 to demolish three underpasses on the Autobahn near Dortmund, Germany, so the rubble would block any advancing enemy vehicles.
Brunger was with a squad of men trying to take control of those underpasses when they encountered German half-tracks coming their way.
His squad had an M-9 and Brunger fired a round at one of the half-tracks. The round was so efficient he got more than he bargained for.
“It must have had ammunition because it blew, I’d say, a hundred feet in the air,” Brunger said in an 2004 oral history prepared by the Douglas County History Research Center, Colorado. “But it blew up. I was glad we weren’t any closer than we were.”
In fact, the weapon was so effective the bazooka received the sincerest form of flattery: The Nazis copied captured bazookas and also created their Panzerschreck anti-tank rocket launcher using the American bazooka’s basic design.
Although it went through different variants, the bazooka remained in use through the early stages of the Vietnam War. Then, the M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon) eclipsed the bazooka and became the rocket-weapon of choice among infantrymen.
However, the bazooka has one remaining cultural influence in American history. According to some sources, Bazooka bubble gum (first introduced to the gum-chewing public in 1947) owes its ordnance-inspired name to the World War II weapon that made a big bang.
Let’s face it, with more women than ever serving in the military, not to mention in combat positions, there’s still a lack of acknowledgment for female veteran service (and quite often this comes from our own brothers-in-arms). Female veterans are in a unique position; the military tends to be associated with the high-and-tight haircut on, well, a man, but modern technology and shifting mindsets mean there are more women serving than ever before.
Still, we all look different, have different grooming habits while out of uniform, and remain subject to stereotypes.
Most of us still encounter the look of surprise when someone realizes we served. Usually, people thank us for our service or ask questions about military life, but inevitably, we also get judgment and assumptions. Here are a few of the worst:
4. Assuming a woman could never have been in the military based on her appearance
The problem female veterans face, during service and when they get out of the military, is that people automatically judge a woman based on appearance.
The reality is veterans come in all shapes, sizes, and genders, but when women decide to reclaim some femininity, they are looked down upon or disregarded as vets. It’s a lose-lose situation when lipstick and colored hair are equated with loss of veteran credibility.
3. Assuming anything about a woman’s mental health status based on gender or career field AFSC/MOS
We all know career fields in the military are not created equal as far as physical stress or deployment tempos go. People may assume that administrative careers in the military, and anything other than combat positions, don’t get exposed to trauma. This simply isn’t true. First of all, you don’t have to go beyond the wire to be attacked, but more importantly, trauma is experienced in many forms — a veteran’s experience is between them and their doctor.
Women of all career fields deploy, and many come home with PTSD from traumatic events they experience during their time overseas — just like men. According to the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “among women Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost 20 of every 100 (or 20%) have been diagnosed with PTSD.”
What these numbers don’t reflect are the women who have not sought help and been diagnosed for their PTSD. Also, these are just the statistics for Iraq and Afghanistan — they don’t mention every other conflict that women served in. Women work, fight, come home, and live with what they experience, exactly like their male counterparts.
Furthermore, it doesn’t take a deployment to be affected by the life-and-death stress situations the military demands.
2. Assuming female veterans are lesbians
Now, this is almost a joke to even mention because it seems so far-fetched, but it is more common than one would think! There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian or any other sexuality, for that matter, but for some reason, when women tell people that they are veterans, many are then met with assumptions about their sexual orientation. Well, I guess since it needs to be said: not all women who serve are attracted to other women.
It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that military service and sexual orientation are unrelated. Yes, women who have served and are serving need to be able to throw femininity to the side regularly to get the job done, but that doesn’t mean sexuality changes as soon as it’s time to get our hands dirty.
Women can be feminine and brave at the same time, and neither of these things has to do with who they’re attracted to.
1. Assuming a woman is the spouse of a veteran and not a veteran herself
Statistically, this at least has a little merit. Nevertheless, showing up to a VA appointment and being asked, “Who’s your husband?” is frustrating. It doesn’t just happen at the VA, but also at Veteran Resource Centers, American Legions, and anywhere where there is an abundance of veterans present.
It might not seem like this is such a big deal, but the assumption behind the question is that women don’t serve in the military — or worse, that we can’t serve. Plus, it gets exhausting trying to explain why we joined and how we fared “in a man’s world.”
Military recruiters have to convince normal people that their best option for the future is signing a multi-year contract for a job with workplace hazards like bombs, bullets, and artillery. And since many people aren’t eligible to serve, the service branches need a lot of people coming into recruiting offices.
To make recruiters’ jobs a little easier, each branch has an advertising budget. Here are some of the most iconic commercials from that effort.
1. “The Climb” (2001)
With arguably the best uniforms, awesome traditions, and swords, it’s no surprise that some of the best commercials come out of the Marine Corps. “The Climb” reminded prospective recruits that yes, becoming a Marine will be hard, but it’s worth it.
2. “Rite of Passage” (1998)
Some commercials stop making sense after the era they were written in. The idea of climbing into a coliseum to fight a bad-CGI lava monster may seem like an odd advertising angle now, but it was rumored to be pretty effective at the time.
3. “America’s Marines” (2008)
Some videos target adventure nuts, while some go after aspiring professionals. This one targeted people who wanted to be part of a long-standing tradition. It also reminded people that Marines get to wear some awesome uniforms.
4. “Army Strong” (2006)
“Army Strong” was an inspiring series of advertisements, though it opened the Army to a lot of jokes (“I wanted to be a Marine, but I was only Army Strong”).
5. “Army of One” (2001)
“Legions” was part of the “Army of One” campaign. Though “Army of One” brought recruits into the Army during the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it never quite made sense to professional soldiers. In the Army, soldiers are schooled daily in the importance of teamwork and selfless service. During basic, they’re even required to be with another recruit at all times, so what is an “Army of One”?
6. “Be All That You Can Be” (1982)
The slogan “Be all that you can be,” sometimes written as, “Be all you can be,” was one of the Army’s longest-running slogans and most iconic campaigns. The jingle is as dated as the video technology in the video, but some soldiers went from their enlistment to their retirement in the Army under this slogan.
7. “Footprints” (2006)
One of the Navy’s best ads focused on some of the world’s best warriors. “Footprints” manages to highlight how awesome Navy SEALs are without showing a single person or piece of equipment.
8. “A Global Force for Good” (2009)
Though popular with recruits, the slogan for this recruiting drive ended up being unpopular with the Navy itself. Much like the Army with its “Army of One” slogan, the Navy dropped “Global Force for Good” after only a few years.
9. “Accelerate Your Life” (early 2000s)
“Accelerate Your Life” commercials were always full of sexy imagery. From fighter jets, helicopters, fast boats, automatic weapons, and camouflage, just about everything was tossed in. Like the commercial Air Force campaign “We have been waiting for you” below, dating the commercial to an exact year is tough, but the campaign began in 2001.
10. “Air Force: I Knew One Day” (2014)
“I Knew One Day” is an odd title for this commercial, but it’s not bad as a whole. It puts a face on the airmen who crew the AC-130, perform surgeries, or pilot Ospreys, and it tells recent high school and college graduates that they can become the next face of these jobs as well.
11. “We Have Been Waiting For You” (early 2000s)
With the tagline “We have been waiting for you,” the Air Force aimed to bring in recruits for all the jobs in the Air Force that weren’t about flying. Since two of the ads they released starred pilots, it seems like they weren’t trying that hard. While it’s hard to pin down the exact year this commercial was released, the “We’ve been waiting for you,” line began showing up in 2001.
12. “Science Fiction” (2011)
The Air Force is proud of its technological advantages on the battlefield, and it made a series of commercials comparing themselves to science fiction. The commercials were critiqued for including a lot of things Air Force technology couldn’t do, but they did highlight actual missions the Air Force does using technology similar to, though not as advanced as, what is featured in the commercial.
So, what might make it into a Trump defense budget? Will some weapons make it that might have been on the chopping block? Will we see larger production runs of other systems? Here’s a look to see what will happen.
1. Long-Range Land Attack Projectile
While recently cancelled, this GPS-guided round could easily make a comeback with sequestration off the table. The round’s price tag jumped to $800,000, largely because the Zumwalt buy was cut from 32 to three. That said, LRLAP may very well face competition from OTO Melara’s Vulcano round, which is far more versatile (offering GPS, IR, and laser guidance options) and which is available in 76mm and 127mm as well as 155mm.
Figure, though, that a guided round will be on the table.
2. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Zumwalt-class destroyers, Freedom-class littoral combat ships, Independence-class littoral combat ships, and Small Surface Combatants
While the Obama Administration re-started production of these ships, the fleet total is at 272 ships as of this writing. On his campaign website, Trump is pushing for a Navy of 350 ships.
One way to get these additional ships is to increase the current and planned building programs. The Navy has five such programs underway or in RD – and all could readily see more production as Trump looks to make up a 78-ship gap between his goal and the present Navy.
Expect the Coast Guard to get in on the largesse as well. Of course, if they just bought the Freedom-class LCS as their new Offshore Patrol Cutter, they could probably get a lot more hulls in the water. Licensing some foreign designs might help, too.
3. F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Trump has promised to build 1,200 fighters for the Air Force alone, and the Navy and Marines need planes too.
The F-22’s production was halted at 187 airframes in 2009, but Congress recently ordered the Pentagon to look into re-starting production of the Raptor. A restarted F-22 program (maybe with some of the avionics from the F-35) wouldn’t be a surprise, given the China’s J-20 has taken to the air.
You can also expect that the F-35 and F/A-18E/F will be produced in larger numbers. This will help address the airframe shortfall that lead the Marines to raid the boneyard to get enough airframes after they had to call timeout to address a rash of crashes.
4. XM1296 Dragoon
The Army bought 81 of the recently-unveiled Dragoons to help face off against the Russians. That said, Europe may not be the only place we need these vehicles – and we may need a lot more than 81. It may be that the XM1296 could push the M1126 versions to second-line roles currently held by the M113 armored personnel carrier.
5. V-280 Valor and SB-1 Defiant
The Army is looking to move its rotary-wing fleet into the next generation. The Trump White House will probably make a decision of one or the other option – but Trump may decide to boost manufacturing by going with both airframe options (like the Navy did with the Littoral Combat Ship).
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle met the budget axe at the hands of Robert Gates in January 2011. With Trump’s promise to increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, it may not be a bad idea to bring this baby back.
Since most of the RD on this vehicle has already been done, it might make sense to give the Corps a new amphibious fighting vehicle — and it will save time and money.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”