The Air Force has made a number of moves to reduce its shortage of active-duty pilots, including bringing on more retired pilots to administrative roles in order to keep qualified fliers in the air.
Now the service is looking to expand the number of pilots it draws in from the Air National Guard and Reserve to fill vacancies across the active-duty force.
On Oct. 1, the Total Force Aircrew Management — Assignment Augmentation Process grew from 10 positions to 30, in an effort to bring active reserve-component fighter pilots who are available and interested into the active-duty force for two to three years, according to an Air Force release.
“This is a growing total-force program,” said Maj. Walt Ehman, head of the TFAM-AAP. “It enables all air components to help fill pilot-assignment positions around the world.” (Positions are only open to fighter pilots and fighter-combat-systems officers, however.)
The TFAM-AAP, started in 2014, brings together the management of active-duty, Air Guard, and Reserve aircrew resources, whereas previously each component had its own office overseeing officers and career enlisted airmen.
“TFAM enables the use of a single agreed-upon model, in one office, to make training and resource decisions, provide policy guidance, and make integrated recommendations to solving problems like aircrew shortfalls,” Ehman said.
Boosting TFAM-AAP openings is one of many initiatives the Air Force is pursuing to improve retention, production, and absorption.
On the retention side, a number of quality-of-life improvements have been implemented, including reducing administrative duties for pilots and increasing pay and bonuses.
To boost production, the Air Force is considering outsourcing some aspects of training, like adversary-pilot duties, as well as partnering with external organizations to augment the training process.
The Air Force’s Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program is also open to up to 25 retired fliers from any pilot specialty code who elect to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions,” allowing active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.
An amended executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also allows the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 pilots to active duty for up to three years. However, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, director of the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, has said the service doesn’t intended to force anyone back into active duty.
Rather, he told Military.com, the executive order is an addendum to the VRRAD, giving the Air Force “more access to more retirees” for a longer period of time. Koscheski said the order opened the VRRAD program to personnel who could act as instructors.
The Air Force’s component forces are about 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 they are required to have. According to Koscheski, 1,300 of those absent are fighter pilots.
China and Japan are redefining the nature and purpose of the Coast Guard. Americans still think in terms of air-sea rescue or chasing drug smugglers when they think about their Coast Guard. China and Japan think about their Coast Guards in terms of realpolitik.
The two nominally civilian services are on the front lines of territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Both countries are adding to their coast guard fleets at a breakneck pace. One could almost call it a Coast Guard arms race, except that the vessels are lightly armed if armed at all.
Japan is reinforcing its Coast Guard contingent in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with 10 new 1,500-ton patrol craft and two new helicopter- equipped vessels. This is in addition to six other cutters already in the region. Tokyo will no longer have to borrow vessels from other Coast Guard districts allowing them to concentrate on routine Coast Guard duties such as rescuing ships in distress.
Tokyo is also overhauling its main operational base on the island of Ishikagi, the closest Japanese island to the Senkakus, with enlarged port facilities to handle the new vessels. It is close to another small island where Japan recently opened an army garrison to protect a new radar base (a well as asserting sovereignty in case China expands its designs on other islands in the Ryukyu chain.)
Both Japan and China assert their claims to the uninhabited Senkaku islands with coast guard cutters rather than ships of their regular navies. On an average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese Coast Guard vessels enter Japanese territorial waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard vessels regularly patrol the disputed waters ordering anyone inside the territorial zone to leave.
China is also expanding its fleet and building ports of call to maintain them. The growing fleet allows Beijing to assert its claim and support its interests over the entire South China Sea. At present, Coast Guard ships are stationed near the Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines; another routinely patrols the Laconia Reefs off the coast of Malaysia.
While it once depended on former naval frigates, China is now commissioning purpose-built cutters. It is currently commissioning two of the world’s largest Coast Guard cutters, ships that could alter the balance of power in the South and East China Seas (one ship is to be stationed in each sea).
Known only by their hull numbers, in this case Haijing 2901 and Haijing 3901 (the first digit denotes which sea it is to patrol). They displace 10,000 tons, possibly more when fully outfitted. That makes them larger than the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga- class cruisers and Japan’s 6,500-ton Shikishima- class Coast Guard cutters previously the largest in the world.
The U.S.S. Forth Worth, a Littoral Combat ship based in Singapore, which has undertaken Freedom of Navigation patrols in the Spratly islands, displaces a mere 1,200 tons. A warship like the Fort Worth could, of course, defend itself from a Chinese maritime enforcement vessel on a collision course, but it would mean firing the first shot.
This may be a coast guard “arms race” except that the competing vessels are not heavily armed. The new Japanese cutters are armed with 20 mm cannons and water cannons. The new Chinese super cutters are not necessarily heavily armed either. Pictures that have been published so far show that they lack gun turrets. It is not armaments that make these two Coast Guard Dreadnaughts so formidable; it is their sheer size.
The military version of the People’s Daily, the press organ of the Chinese Communist Party, boasted that these powerful new ships could ram and possibly sink a 9,000-ton vessel without damaging itself. That makes them a potential threat to regular naval vessels of the U.S. and Japanese navies.
Ramming has been a tactic in territorial disputes in both the East and South China Seas, harkening back to the days of the Romans and Carthaginians. A large Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter near the Senkakus in 2011. Earlier this year another Chinese Coast Guard vessel rammed one of its own fishing trawlers that had been taken into custody by Indonesian authorities for allegedly illegally fishing in Jakarta’s 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
Retired USN Captain James Fanell, formerly chief of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, calls the Chinese Coast Guard, “A fulltime marine harassment organization. Unlike the U.S, Coast Guard, the Chinese service has no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s extravagant claims,” he says.
Fanell notes that China is building new Coast Guard vessels, like the two super cutters, at “an astonishing rate.”
The regular navies of Japan and China generally stay in the background, but Tokyo is also suspicious about the recent activities of the regular Chinese Navy in waters near the disputed islands. A contingent of Chinese frigates now hovers about 70 km away from the Senkaku, close enough to come to the aid of any of its coast guard vessels that gets in trouble.
For its part, the Japanese government recently made public what the cabinet had decided earlier in the year, that Japanese naval vessels might intervene should the Coast Guard be unable to do its normal “policing” duties. “If it becomes difficult for the police and the Japan Coast Guard, then the Maritime Self Defense Force (navy) could respond,” said defense minister Gen Nakatani. That could happen if Chinese navy ships actually entered Senkaku waters.
The use of “white hulls,” mostly unarmed or lightly armed Coast Guard cutters, rather than “gray hulls,” has been a stabilizing element in the numerous territorial encounters of the past few years. But the recent remarks suggest that Tokyo expects to see more gray hulls than white hulls in the coming year.
When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.
Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.
The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.
That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.
“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.
Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”
Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.
Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.
“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”
Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.
Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.
As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.
On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”
For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.
Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.
Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”
Four days, seven challenges, several dozen competitors, but only two may become champions.
Marines from far and wide accept this annual challenge, and there is no exception this year at the 2019 High Intensity Tactical Training Championship aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 9 through Sept. 12, 2019.
The championship has been hosted by Marine Corps HITT and Semper Fit for the past five years, and has evolved with every passing year. The HITT program’s primary mission is to enhance operational fitness and optimize combat readiness for Marines. The program emphasizes superior speed, power, strength and endurance while reducing the likelihood of injury.
“1-2 instructors have been pulled from major Marine Corps installations,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Atkins, a force fitness instructor for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. HITT centers. “We all came together to brainstorm what the Marines would be doing for the athletic events.”
Sgt. Miguel Aguirre, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)
The events for the championship are drafted by HITT instructors and confirmed by a board of various Marine Corps fitness specialists.
“It’s a grind, straight grit,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Frank, a competitor from MCB Camp Pendleton. “You can’t just be good at one thing.”
“You have to be well rounded physically and mentally.”
The seven events for the 2019 HITT Championship included a marksmanship simulator, combat fitness test, weighted run, combat swimmer challenge, obstacle course, pugil stick fight, BeaverFit assault rig, live-fire fitness challenge, and HITT combine.
“We run through it ourselves so we can understand what they are going through too,” said Atkins.
A U.S. Marine competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)
The intensity and nature of the challenges, create a risk of injury. To mitigate an ambulance is always on site and numerous medical personnel were present. The Marines are also being monitored closely by high-tech equipment that records their heart rates, core temperature and other vital information, which gives an in-depth idea of their overall health provided by Western Virginia University.
“The tactical drill was my probably my favorite because it included live-fire, and it was awesome to see how your body reacts to being under physical and mental duress,” said 1st Lt. Frances Moore, a competitor from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.
The competitors are awarded points based on each timed event. The goal at the end of the competition is to have the most points. The championship culminates at the end of day four, when the scores have been determined and the male and female champions are awarded.
“They come in and train every single day and get coaching advice from all the staff,” said Frank. “Then I get to come here and actually see them put all that effort into the competition.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Each year, like clockwork, hurricane season strikes America’s southeastern states. Right now, another hurricane is knocking on the East Coast’s door and, coincidentally, many installations of the Armed Forces stand in the way of the storm’s projected path. While most people are busy either evacuating or hunkering down, the troops from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and everywhere between aren’t simply waiting out the storm — they’re rushing into it.
And the action isn’t reserved exclusively for each state’s National Guard. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Florence, make for some of the few times when active duty troops from every branch directly help their community. They’re springing into action now, helping locals prepare, and they’ll be around afterward, helping the affected recover.
A simple meal and a smile goes a long way for people afraid of what’s coming.
(National Guard photo by Spc. Hamiel Irizarry)
It all begins with making proper preparations. Troops begin by stockpiling whatever resources may be useful for civilians, including blankets, MREs, and gasoline, to name a few. Then, they get out there and provide the locals with the essentials.
It may seem like a simple gesture, but being wrapped in a warm, dry military blanket and receiving a hot meal helps repair morale and lets those affected by the disaster know that everything is going to be okay.
If there’s one thing soldiers know how to do, it’s fill sandbags…
(Georgia Army National Guard photo by Capt. William Carraway)
Next, manpower is put towards barricading specific locations that either serve as excellent shelters or hold significance to the community. This process often involves having troops fill countless sandbags to keep flood waters from reaching the people behind them.
But the Air Force and NOAA are responsible for one of the most important — and dangerous — tasks. They’re called “Hurricane Hunters.” Their mission is to fly directly into the hurricane to monitor weather patterns and determine the storm’s course from the inside.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Coast Guard use their vessels to have hospitals and emergency centers on standby for the moment the hurricane makes landfall.
It’s one of the most beautiful and selfless things most troops will do stateside. BZ, guys. You’re making this country proud.
(Louisiana National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone)
As much as lower enlisted troops may bemoan the process, they’re typically evacuated at the last possible moment. This ensures everything is in proper order and it gives civilians a head-start, allowing them to get out of town without being blocked in by clutter created by large military vehicles.
The troops who haven’t evacuated will shelter in place until the storm passes. Then, the rebuilding process begins…
The Navy’s new stealthy high-tech destroyer has begun “Acceptance Trials” to assess, refine and further develop its many technologies including navigation, propulsion, auxiliary systems, fire protection and damage control capabilities, service officials said.
The ship, called the DDG 100 or USS Zumwalt, departed Bath, Maine, with a crew of assessment professionals on board called the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey, or INSURV.
“This underway period is specifically scheduled to demonstrate ship systems to the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey and the ship will return to port upon conclusion of the demonstrations,” Navy spokesman Matthew Leonard told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
The USS Zumwalt, the first in a series of three next-generation destroyers planned for the fleet, is slated to be operational by 2019, he added. The new ship will formally deliver to the Navy later this year.
“DDG 1000 delivery is expected after successful Acceptance Trials and will include fully capable Hull Maintenance and Electrical (HME) systems. Following HME delivery, and a brief crew certification period at Bath Iron Works, the ship will sail to Baltimore for commissioning (which is scheduled for Oct. 15) and then transit to its homeport in San Diego where Mission Systems Activation will occur,” Leonard added.
Before beginning Acceptance Trials, the DDG 1000 went through a process known as “Builder Trials” during which the contract building the ship, Bath Iron Works, tests the ship’s systems and technologies.
New Ship Technologies
Once operational, the Navy’s first high-tech Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer will pioneer a handful of yet-to-be seen destroyer ship technologies, service officials have explained.
Not only does the ship have a new electric drive system for propulsion as opposed to diesel or steam –but the ship is configured with sonar, sensors, electronics, computing technology and weapons systems which have not previously been engineered into a Navy destroyer or comparable ship, said Raytheon officials said.
The Zumwalt-class destroyers will have unprecedented mine-detecting sonar technologies for destroyer through utilization of what’s called an integrated undersea warfare system, or IUW; IUW is a dual-band sonar technology which uses both medium and high-frequency detection, Raytheon developers explained.
Medium sonar frequency is engineered to detect ships and submarines, whereas high-frequency sonar adds the ability to avoid sea-mines, they added.
It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.
The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.
The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.
The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.
The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.
Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.
Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns.
The ship is also built with a new kind of vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship. Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage. Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.
In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.
The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added. The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.
As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer gets ready for delivery to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway. The DDG 1001 is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002 is already underway, Navy officials said.
Having served as a Navy SEAL for almost a decade, Mike Donnelly, founder of The CBD Path, knows what it means to put mileage on your body. Passionate about fitness recovery and the veteran community, Donnelly was motivated to start a wellness brand with a mission to offer superior quality CBD products that assist others on their journey to a happier and healthier life.
For Donnelly, the choice to explore owning a CBD business just made sense.
“I’ve met a lot of veterans who have a lot of issues from the last 20 years of war. I started hearing that a lot of the guys had started taking CBD, and were seeing really good results,” he said.
So he and his wife Claudia, co-founder of The CBD Path, spent the better part of a year researching CBD, how it interacts with the body, and whether it might be effective against some of the issues veterans experience.
“We talked with veterans who were taking it routinely, and every one of them said that it improved their quality of life. I have a friend who had part of his leg cut off and was in a really bad place. He swears the day he got on CBD, it saved his life,” Donnelly said.
(Military Families Magazine)
What is CBD?
Recently, CBD has seen a surge in research regarding its potential use in several neuropsychiatric conditions. CBD is a non-psychotomimetic cannabinoid that’s found in cannabis plants. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production, sale, and consumption of hemp and hemp-derived compounds like CBD provided the plant is tested by a third party and is proven to contain under 0.3% THC.
The research from JACM is the first of its kind to study the clinical benefits of CBD for patients who have PTSD. Eleven adult patients participated in the study. CBD was given in a flexible dosing regimen to patients diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed mental healthcare worker. The study lasted eight weeks, and PTSD symptom severity was assessed every four weeks by patient-completed PTSD checklist questionnaires, compiled from the current DSM-5.
From the total sample of 11 patients, 91% saw a decrease in their PTSD symptom severity. This was evidenced by a lower DMS-5 score at eight weeks compared to baseline scores. The mean total score decreased by 28% after eight consecutive weeks of treatment with CBD.
What about VA benefits?
Since the research surrounding CBD is still so new, the knowledge base about its benefits remains murky. Veterans like Donnelly find themselves increasingly frustrated with the legal hurdles surrounding CBD and medical marijuana, even as bipartisan support for legalizing the drug continues to grow.
Federal jobs become off-limits for veterans who use CBD, even if they reside in one of the 34 states that have an active, legal medical marijuana program. Currently, the VA maintains that veterans will not be denied benefits because of marijuana use, including their disability payments.
The Donnellys hope that will change soon. In addition to reaching out to several veteran organizations to collaborate with them to get the word out about CBD, The CBD Path also has a plethora of educational information linked on the site.
“Veterans need a lot of education and guidance about CBD, so we try to show them how and when to take our products. We have a quiz to help them understand what’s the best product for them,” Claudia, who manages the site’s social media presence, said.
IAVA is a non-partisan advocacy group that works to ensure post-9/11 veterans have their voices heard. Travis Horr, director of Government Affairs for IAVA, said that the organization is very aware of the issues and questions veterans have concerning CBD. In fact, 88% of IAVA members support additional research into cannabis and CBD, and 81% support the legalization of medical cannabis, according to Horr.
The organization’s official stance supports the use of CBD and medical cannabis by veterans where it is legal.
“Many veterans suffer from chronic pain and mental health injuries. We believe more research should be done into treating those injuries with cannabis and CBD,” Horr said.
IAVA supports the Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S.179/H.R. 712) to ensure that research happens at Veterans Affairs. Legislation passed out of the House VA Committee in March. More information regarding IAVA’s Policy Agency can be found here.
As the federal government continues to explore how CBD might be helpful, Donnelly and his team at The CBD Path are confident that, eventually, the VA will catch up to what many veterans already know.
“We believe it’s just like any other vitamin, a supplement to add to your toolbox, to manage stress, level off anxiety, and maintain good sleep patterns,” Donnelly said.
In late February 2018, amid a marked thaw in tensions between North Korea and South Korea during which the prospect of diplomacy looked brighter than ever, Bolton wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”
In the article, Bolton argued that North Korea had given the US no choice and must be attacked before it perfected its fleet of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. In his article, Bolton never mentioned South Korea, which is in range of North Korea’s massive installation of hidden artillery guns.
Experts estimate that thousands would die in Seoul, South Korea, the capital of a democratic, loyal US ally, for every hour of fighting with North Korea.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton said to conclude his article.
After South Korean diplomats said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had expressed willingness to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, Bolton dismissed it as a trick.
“The only thing North Korea is serious about is getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” he told Fox News. Bolton frequently appears on Fox, Trump’s favorite news station, to talk about North Korea in his characteristically hawkish way.
Bolton’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of reminders of links between North Korea’s weapons programs and those in Syria and Iran.
Bolton believes, not without evidence, that North Korea could become an exporter of dangerous technologies that could threaten US lives.
Trump already had a North Korea hawk — Bolton is a super hawk
McMaster isn’t exactly a dove on North Korea. McMaster is believed to have pushed the idea of striking North Korea, though perhaps in ways designed to prevent all-out war.
In November and December 2017, persistent reports came out that Trump’s inner circle was weighing such a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea. But by the new year, military and administration officials had started to pour cold water on the notion.
Air Force pilots attached to deployable squadrons have started dropping real bombs off of their F-35s during training missions, according to a report posted at CNN.com.
“This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Lt. Col. George Watkins said in an Air Force statement.
The inert precision guided bombs were dropped from airplanes based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, could use whatever good publicity it can manage at this point. The test program has been plagued with failures at every turn, from wrestling with the millions of lines of code needed to make the cockpit suite communicate with the $500,000 helmet the pilot is supposed to wear to having to redesign the tailhook so the airplane will actually catch the wire across the flight deck and stop when trying to land on an aircraft carrier.
The program’s original “initial operational capability” or “IOC” date was in 2012, but that goal was missed due to setbacks. The overall program cost is currently at $400 billion, and that’s expected to go up to more than $1 trillion over the life of the airplane.
F-35 supporters marvel at the fighter’s “fifth generation” capability, which includes radar-evading stealth technology and data sharing between airplanes. Critics say the Joint Strike Fighter is a procurement nightmare that can’t match the A-10 as a close air support asset or the F-16 as a dogfighter.
But Mattis, a retired Marine general, is not the only US military officer who has supplemented his martial knowledge with academic achievement.
In that spirit, the US Army has distributed reading recommendations so soldiers and civilians alike are able “to sharpen their knowledge of the Army’s long and distinguished history, as well as the decisive role played by landpower in conflicts across the centuries.”
Below are some of the books recommended by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to help better understand the world’s current strategic environment, along with his explanations for their inclusion.
“Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amazing array of individuals, [Singer] shows how technology is changing not just in how wars are fought, but also in the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself.”
“Contending that states throughout history have been driven to acquire greater power and influence as a means of guaranteeing their own security, [Mearsheimer] concludes that current efforts at engagement and seeking harmonious relations between states will ultimately fail and predicts that the U.S. security competition with a rising China will inevitably intensify.”
Kennedy’s “far-ranging survey explores the relationship between economics, strategy, technology, and military power. He argues for the primacy of economic factors to explain why some states achieved great power status. By the same token, nations stumbled and declined when their financial resources could no longer support their military ambitions and commitments.”
“Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. … Today, that preeminence is in decline as China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers rise. Kupchan considers how those principles associated with the West — democracy, capitalism, and secular nationalism — will continue to endure as new states outside the Western world gain greater economic and political prominence.”
O’Hanlon “wonders where large-scale conflicts or other catastrophes are most plausible. Which of these could be important enough to require the option of a U.S. military response? And which of these could, in turn, demand significant numbers of American ground forces for their resolution?”
“He is not predicting or advocating big American roles in such operations — only cautioning against overconfidence that the United States can and will avoid them.”
“Zeihan examines how the hard rules of geography are eroding the American commitment to free trade; how much of the planet is aging into a mass retirement that will enervate markets and capital supplies; and how, against all odds, it is the ever-ravenous American economy that — alone among the developed nations — is rapidly approaching energy independence.”
“He concludes that geography will matter more than ever in a deglobalizing world and that America’s geography is simply sublime.”
“In this masterful study of urban warfare, DiMarco explains what it takes to seize and hold a city literally block by block and provides lessons for today’s tacticians that they neglect at their own peril.”
“Burrows examines recent trends to forecast tectonic shifts that will drive us to 2030. A staggering amount of wholesale change is happening — from unprecedented and widespread aging to rampant urbanization and growth in a global middle class to an eastward shift in economic power and a growing number of disruptive technologies.”
“In an era of high technology and instant communication, the role of geography in the formation of strategy and politics can be undervalued. … In a series of case studies, Grygiel, a political scientist, highlights the importance of incorporating geography into grand strategy. He argues that states can increase and maintain their position of power by pursuing a geostrategy that focuses on control of resources and lines of communications.”
A training camp used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, was destroyed by a pair of stealth bombers today.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, two B-2A Spirit bombers attacked the training camp about 30 miles from Sirte. At least 85 members of the terrorist group are believed to have been killed in the mission, which involved the bombers dropping a total of 108 500-pound bombs. Unmanned aerial vehicles also took part in the attack, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to kill surviving terrorists.
FoxNews.com noted that the bombers were refueled five times as they flew to and from Whiteman Air Force Base.
“This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement released after the attack. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”
The use of B-2 bombers might come as a surprise as F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base had been used in the past. The Navy had the guided missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the region as well. Last year, Marine Cobras from a Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in operations against ISIS in the country.
FoxNews.com reported that this was the first action the B-2s had seen since 2011. One possible reason was the presence of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier reportedly hosted a Libyan warlord who the Russians are backing to run the war-torn country. The carrier and its escorts, including a Kirov-class battlecruiser, have substantial air-defense assets, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29K fighters, and SA-N-6 surface-to-air missiles.
As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide the best mental health care access possible, VA is reminding veterans that it offers all veterans same-day access to emergency mental health care at any VA health care facility across the country.
“Providing same-day 24/7 access to mental health crisis intervention and support for veterans, service members and their families is our top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.”
VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the national leader in making high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources available to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.
Additionally, VA has developed the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which reflects the department’s vision for a coordinated effort to prevent suicide among all service members and veterans. This strategy maintains VA’s focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also adopting a broad public health approach to suicide prevention.
VA has supported numerous veterans and has the capacity to assist more. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, 1.7 million veterans received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health services. These patients received more than 84,000 psychiatric hospital stays, about 41,700 residential stays and more than 21 million outpatient encounters.
Nationally, in the first quarter of FY 2019, 90% of new patients completed an appointment in a mental health clinic within 30 days of scheduling an appointment, and 96.8% of established patients completed a mental health appointment within 30 days of the day they requested. For FY 2018, 48% of initial, in-person Primary Care — Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter. During the first quarter of FY 2019, 51% of initial, in-person PC-MHI encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter.
Veterans in crisis – or those concerned about one – should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers that the emerging Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system, established for Poland and Romania, could also now possibly help protect U.S. Pacific theater assets and allies from possible Chinese or North Korean attacks.
“We are looking at Aegis Ashore to protect our Pacific areas,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee, suggesting a fixed site could augment existing BMD-capable Navy ships on patrol in the region.
Aegis Ashore technology builds upon the success of Aegis missile defense at-sea by establishing land sites that can detect and destroy incoming enemy ballistic missile attacks. An Aegis Ashore site became operational in Romania in 2015, and another is slated to stand up in Poland sometime later this year. The system uses Aegis radar in tandem with SM-3 interceptor missiles to track and destroy ballistic missile attacks.
Adding a land-based Aegis BMD technology brings a potential range and target envelope advantage, as it could defend areas less reachable to Navy ships. While ship-fired Aegis BMD does have quite a range and is able to destroy approaching threats from beyond the earth’s atmosphere, a land site could naturally, in some circumstances, preclude a need for Aegis BMD capable ships from needing to patrol certain areas at certain times.
Thus far, going back to the Pentagon’s previously established European Phased Adaptive Approach Aegis Ashore has primarily been oriented toward protecting the European continent from potential future ballistic missile threats such as Russia and Iran, among others. Secretary Mattis is now suggesting the shore-based SM-3 interceptors could migrate to Aegis as a compliment to the existing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon now protecting the region.
The prospect for Aegis Ashore in the Pacific emerged during a HASC hearing on the Pentagon’s newly released Nuclear Posture Review when Guam Congresswoman Rep. Madeleine Bordallo asked Mattis about plans to protect assets based in Guam such as B-2, B-52 and B-1 bombers.
“Guam holds vital strategic bases to aid our defense, and in your strategy, you call for investment in layered missile defense,” Bordallo said.
Bordallo’s concern resonates alongside of the consistently discussed threat that North Korean short and intermediate range ballistic missiles pose to the region; it is often cited as a reason to hesitate about striking North Korea given the knowledge that the North would be expected to immediately fire its arsenal of missiles toward South Korea and Guam.
It was in response to this that Mattis raised the prospect of bringing Aegis Ashore to the Pacific to, along with THAAD and Navy Aegis BMD ships, provide the layered defense system Bordallo referred to.
Missile Defense Agency developers explain that the Aegis Ashore program, which has been successful thus far, is preparing to fire a longer-range and more advanced SM-3 IIA missile for the first time in coming months.
A follow on to the SM-3, the SM-3 IIA is a larger and more high-tech interceptor missile able to destroy threatening targets at longer ranges; the weapon, being developed as part of a cooperative arrangement between the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Japan, is designed to work in tandem with Aegis radar systems to track and destroy approaching enemy missiles – by knocking them out of the sky.
Aegis radar works by sending electromagnetic “pings” into space to identify the location and trajectory of an approaching missile threat – and then works with an integrated fire control system to guide the SM-3 interceptor to its target, with the intent of destroying it or knocking it out of the sky.
At sea, integrated technologies and electronics on the ship, including fire control systems, link information from the Aegis radar with a ship’s vertical launch tubes able to fire out SM-3 interceptor missiles.
In existence since 2004, Aegis BMD is now operating on 28 Navy ships and with a number of allied nations. U.S. allies with Aegis capability include the Japan Self Defense Forces, Spanish Navy, the South Korean Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Italy, Denmark and others, MDA officials said.
Using various guidance technologies, the SM-3 flies up into space to destroy approaching ballistic missile threats. The SM-3 missile uses an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and an upgraded steering and propulsion capability, Raytheon weapons developers have told Warrior Maven. These technologies use short bursts of precision propulsion to direct the missile toward incoming targets, they added.
A Missile Defense Agency official told Warrior Maven that “the SM-3 Block IIA missile is a larger version of the SM-3 IB in terms of boosters and the kinetic warhead, which allows for increased operating time. The second and third stage boosters on the SM-IIA are 21″ in diameter, allowing for longer flight times and engagements of threats higher in the exo-atmosphere.”
The Pentagon is hoping to increase production quantities of the SM-3 IIA as well; they are waiting to see whether Congress succeeds in allocating additional funding for the missiles.
SM-3 IIA Technology
Now that it is being prepared for Aegis Ashore, it seems clear that a longer-range SM-3 IIA weapon could prove relevant in any defense against North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attacks. The Missile Defense Agency and Raytheon have configured the emerging SM-3 IIA missile with a more “sensitive” seeker and software designed to accommodate new threat information.
Amy Cohen, SM-3 Program Director, told Warrior Maven in an interview a few weeks ago that the SM-3 IIA program is on track.
“We’ve also brought in some capability advancements into our kinetic warhead, so we now have higher sensitivity,” Cohen explained.
By adding new software, industry developers create the technical framework necessary to upgrade or “reprogram” new threat information into the missile over time, Cohen explained.
“We can improve the performance through software algorithms. We are not only able to increase the threat space but bring in new threats as they emerge through software upgrades,” Cohen added. “We work with the MDA to define how we’re going to make improvements and what threats we want to incorporate.”
The SM-3 IIA also incorporates sensor technology improvements designed to enable the missile to see or detect targets farther into space, developers explained.
The SM-3 is a kinetic energy warhead able to travel at more than 600 miles per hour; it carries no explosive, but instead relies on the sheer force of impact and collision to destroy an enemy target. While many details of the advanced seeker are not available, Cohen did say it includes infrared technology.
“We can see a threat that we are engaging much sooner. As soon as we open our eyes, we can see threats much earlier and we have the ability to track them. This helps us with how we need to maneuver the kinetic warhead to ensure that we have a kinetic engagement with the threats that we are flying against,” Cohen added.
The Aegis ashore deckhouse in Romania was engineered with Aegis BMD Weapons System 5.0 — an integrated suite of technologies which provide multi-mission signal processing capability, Lockheed officials said.
For instance, the multi-mode signal processor provides the ability to simultaneously track air and cruise missile threats as well as ballistic missile threats, officials added.