The Air Force's new tanker is going to be delayed again - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Boeing missed a self-imposed deadline to deliver the first new KC-46 tanker to the Air Force by the end of 2017, and now the Air Force believes the company may miss its expected delivery window in spring 2018, instead presenting the first tanker late 2018, according to Aviation Week.


The Air Force came to that conclusion after a recent joint schedule risk assessment. Boeing is obligated to give the Air Force 18 of the new tankers by October 2018. Missing that deadline will likely bring additional financial penalties.

The firm has already been hit with about $2.9 billion in pretax costs under the tanker contract, which holds the planemaker responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment.

Also read: Why Boeing may stop building fighter planes

Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Aviation Week that the force will continue working with Boeing “to develop schedule mitigations” as needed and to expedite the program. “These potential delays will not result in additional program cost to the taxpayer,” she added.

The tanker program has been hindered by a few persistent problems in recent months.

The most severe — a “category 1 deficiency” — is the tanker’s rigid refueling boom scraping against the plane it is refueling. Such contact can compromise the special stealth coating on aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. And a tanker with a contaminated boom may also have to be grounded.

Air Force and private-sector personnel are reviewing flight data to determine the nature of such incidents and compare them to international norms, Aviation Week previously reported. That investigation will also inform a decision about replacing the remote camera used during the refueling process.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing/John D. Parker)

Two other issues, which have been lowered to category II, involve the tanker’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the aircraft broadcast and can cause sparks and fires. The Air Force wants assurances those radios will never broadcast while fuel is flowing and expects a long-term fix from Boeing. The force also expects a Boeing software update in 2018 to address the deficiency in which the refueling boom would extend on its own when disconnecting from a refueling aircraft.

Related: Report blames Boeing mechanics for Air Force One oxygen problems

In December 2017, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certification for the 767-2C, which is the tanker derivative of the 767 commercial plane. But the firm is yet to receive the supplemental type certification that signs off on all the military and aerial-refueling modifications that turn a 767-2C into a KC-46.

Air Force Materials Command also told Air Force Times that the tanker still needs to get the Air Force’s military type certification, which will signify the safety and airworthiness of those systems and equipment.

Early 2018, a Pentagon testing and evaluation office report indicated the KC-46’s most important systems — including its ability to transfer fuel — had been uninstalled or deactivated during testing under electromagnetic-pulse conditions. It recommended retesting “operationally representative” conditions.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
A KC-46 Pegasus takes its first flight at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, September 25, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jet Fabara)

However, the Air Force said in February 2018 it was working with the testing and evaluation office to reconcile those concerns but had no plans to change the overall tanker program or its testing timelines.

Officials from Air Force Materials Command told Air Force Times that the EMP testing was intended to evaluate mission-critical systems — like takeoff, flight, landing, aircraft control, voice communications, and use of the refueling boom and centerline drogue system.

More: Boeing’s SR-71 Blackbird replacement totally looks like a UFO

“The systems that were uninstalled or deactivated were not flight-critical or required for aerial refueling operations,” according to the officials. After the EMP tests, they said, those critical or required systems were still operational.

The Air Force has two nuclear-threat-related tests planned for fiscal year 2018, which began in October 2017 and ends in September 2018. One will evaluate the KC-46’s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base. The other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects. The tests are slated for the second half of the fiscal year.

The Air Force currently plans to buy 179 of the KC-46, which is being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 fleet, the members of which are, on average, 55 years old.

MIGHTY MONEY

This meditation company is giving away free downloads to veterans

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Deployed Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coalition partners and civilians go relax as they finish the largest Yoga session to take place in Qatar history July 11, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.


A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.

Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.

In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:

Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace. As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.

The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.

The meditations offered by Meditation Studios are Self Care and Relax and Energize.

An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”

A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.

The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.

Humor

The 13 funniest Veterans Day memes for 2017

Last week was a special week. The Marines had a birthday and we all stuffed our faces at the tactical thanksgiving America’s restaurant chains offer veterans every Veterans Day.


Let’s start Monday off with some fun by rounding up the best of this year’s Veterans Day memes.

You’re welcome for our service.

1. “Mom, I’ll take the trash out after I get back from Denny’s.” (via Decelerate Your Life)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Walter White has seen some shit.

Also Read: These ax murders along the DMZ almost started another Korean War

2. Veterans haven’t been this vigilant since their last day in the military. (via Pop Smoke)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

3. If he walks out on the bill, it’s not that much of a loss.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Hopefully you can’t get abducted by the Taliban at Applebee’s.

4. Keep fighting the good fight. (via The Salty Soldier)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
The mission continues.

5. “Who wants to volunteer to be on duty during the Marine Corps Ball?”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Guess which one of these guys asked Alexis Texas to the ball on YouTube.

6. Rolling into Hooters like:

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

7. Don’t they know I’m a veteran? (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

8. Oh Wait, Marine Corps birthday came first.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
A meal that sticks to your ribs.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

9.  Where did he steal that book from? (via ASMDSS)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
It’s not like there are pictures in it.

10. Don’t forget about other generations of veterans.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Bert doesn’t want to talk about it.

11. In case you don’t know what to say:

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Most civilians are never face to face with greatness.

12. “Feel free to watch your step.”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Clean like the day America was born.

Totally unrelated but still cool: If the battle of Thermopylae was fought today with 300 Marines

13. “To TGI Friday’s I will go.”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Articles

One of America’s oldest vets just turned 111

One of the nation’s oldest veterans has been celebrated by his Texas hometown on his 111th birthday.


Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared Thursday Richard Overton Day in the city and also gave the street he has lived on for the past 45 years the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue.

While Overton concedes that 111 is “pretty old,” he tells KVUE-TV he still feels good. Overton mentioned that the secret to a long life is smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, two things he continues to indulge in today.

Overton was already in his 30s when he volunteered and served in the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Bobby Blackhat Walters

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.


The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
From left to right: Bobby Blackhat Walters (USCG) and guitarist Tom Euler

After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.

“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s everything that went down at the Korean peace talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.

April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.


Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.

Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.

The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”

Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.

“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Moon echoed the sentiment.

“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.

Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.

“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.

Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.

How the two Koreas got here

The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.

In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.

But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.

The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.

And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Moon (center, in the gray suit) talks with Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, in Seoul in February 2018.
(Government of South Korea photo)

The North warms up to its neighbors and the US

The aggressive posture didn’t last.

Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.

North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.

Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.

In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”

“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”

In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.

Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.

“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Search and Rescue saves the day once again

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued an injured hiker at Deception Pass State Park on Oct. 21.


The SAR crew took off from NAS Whidbey Island around 5 p.m. Due to the injured hiker’s location and surrounding terrain, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue was unable to reach the man.

Upon arrival, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Siedler, a search and rescue medical technician, hoisted down to the scene and prepared the injured man for immediate extraction. The patient was transported to Island Hospital where he was delivered to a higher level of care.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Deception Pass State Park, Washington. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Tobias Haase.

This was the 35th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and 15 Medical Evacuation missions this year, totaling 64 lives delivered to a higher level of care.

The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Back to the basics: SEAL teams invest in underwater operations

After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.

SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.


But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.

SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).

Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.

Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.

Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).

The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.

“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.

To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.

“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.

Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.

Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

This is why the US is concerned about China’s first overseas military base

Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.


China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.

The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.

“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ship PLA(N) Peace Ark (T-AH 866). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe.

Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”

State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”

The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Sailors aboard the Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao. (Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush.)

Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.

US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.

Related: China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Chinese navy multirole ship Hengshui. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.

India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.

Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Members of a visit, board, search and seizure team from the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin keep watch over the crew of a suspected pirate dhow. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Scott Taylor.

“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”

“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.

Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.

Also read: Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.

China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”

Articles

F-35 trains with A-10s, F-15s & Navy SEALs

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
We wanted to put Navy SEALs into this image too, but it looked weird since they can’t fly (yet). | USAF/WATM


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, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

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

“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.”

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

“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.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
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

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s anti-missile launch just worsened problematic space-trash

On March 27, 2019, India launched a missile toward space, struck an Earth-orbiting satellite, and destroyed the spacecraft.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a televised address shortly after the launch to declare the anti-satellite, or ASAT, test a success. He praised the maneuver, called “Mission Shakti,” as “an unprecedented achievement” that registers India as “a space power.” Modi also clarified that the satellite was one of India’s own, according to Reuters.

“Our scientists shot down a live satellite. They achieved it in just three minutes,” he said during the broadcast, adding: “Until now, only US, Russia, and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”


While Modi and his supporters may hail the event as an epic achievement, India’s ASAT test represents an escalation toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to crucial regions of the space around Earth.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


That’s because destroying the satellite created debris that’s now floating in space. Those pieces have the potential to collide with, damage, and possibly destroy other spacecraft.

The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles above Earth. That’s about 65 miles higher than the 185-mile altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.

Two astronauts are scheduled to conduct a spacewalk on March 29, 2019, (it was going to be the first all-female spacewalk, but that’s no longer the case) to make upgrades to the orbiting laboratory’s batteries. Spokespeople at NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for information about the risk posed by this new debris field.

Regardless of what happens next, tracking the debris is essential.

“The Department of Defense is aware of the Indian ASAT launch,” a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and catalogs objects in space, told Business Insider in an email. “US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is actively tracking and monitoring the situation.”

The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites only scratches the surface of larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.

Space debris begets more space debris

Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph. That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.

At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT explosives.

This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

A space-debris hit to the space shuttle Endeavour’s radiator found after one of its missions. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large.

(NASA)

The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. In such a situation, one collision in space would create a cloud of debris that leads to other collisions, which in turn would generate even more debris, leading to a runaway effect called a “collision cascade.”

So much high-speed space junk could surround Earth, Kessler calculated, that it might make it too risky for anyone to attempt launching spacecraft until most of the garbage slowed down in the outer fringes of our planet’s atmosphere, fell toward the ground, and burned up.

“The orbital-debris problem is a classic tragedy of the commons problem, but on a global scale,” Kessler said in a 2012 mini-documentary.

Given the thousands of satellites in space today, a collision cascade could play out over hundreds of years and get increasingly worse over time, perhaps indefinitely, unless technologies are developed to vaporize or deorbit space junk.

A launch in the wrong direction

An ASAT test that China conducted in January 2007 showed how much of a headache the debris from these shoot downs can become.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

An illustration of the space-debris cloud created by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

(CSSI)

As with India’s test, China launched a missile armed with a “kinetic kill vehicle” on top. The kill vehicle — essentially a giant bullet-like slug — pulverized a 1,650-pound weather satellite, in the process creating a cloud of more than 2,300 trackable chunks of debris the size of golf balls or larger. It also left behind 35,000 pieces larger than a fingernail and perhaps 150,000 bits smaller than that, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) and BBC.

The CSSI called the test “the largest debris-generating event in history, far surpassing the previous record set in 1996.”

Years later, satellite operators and NASA are still dodging the fallout with their spacecraft.

Even without missiles, plenty of space debris is created regularly. Each launch of a rocket deposits some trash up there, and older satellites that have no deorbiting systems or aren’t “parked” in a safe orbit can collide with other satellites.

Such a crash happened on Feb. 10, 2009: A deactivated Russian communications satellite slammed into a US communications satellite at a combined speed of about 26,000 mph. The collision created thousands of pieces of new debris, many of which are still in orbit.

There are more productive ways to use rockets

To be clear, India’s Mission Shakti test likely was not as dangerous as these other debris-creating events.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

However, the forces involved a space-based crash can accelerate debris into higher and different orbits. So obliterating any satellite is not a step in the right direction. Nor is creating a capability that could one day, either intentionally or accidentally, spark a Kessler syndrome event.

Much like the idea of deterrence with nuclear weapons — “if you attack me, I’ll attack you with more devastating force” — deterrence with anti-satellite weapons is extremely risky. With either, an accident or miscalculation could lead to devastating and lasting problems that would harm the entire world for generations.

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Image made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

As a global society, it’d behoove us not to cheer the achievement of a weapons capability that edges the world closer to a frightening brink. Instead, we should rebuke such tests and instead demand from our leaders peaceful cooperation in space, including the development of means to control our already spiraling space-debris problem.

“If we don’t change the way we operate in space,” Kessler said in 2012, we are facing down an “exponentially increasing amount of debris, until all objects are reduced to a cloud of orbiting fragments.”

Rather than individual countries investing in missile-based weaponry, perhaps we should call on our leaders to spend that human and financial capital on our world’s most dire and pressing problems — or even work toward returning people to the moon and rocketing the first crews to Mars.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s ‘proof’ of the US helping ISIS is from a video game

Moscow has for months been accusing the US of aiding ISIS in Syria, and on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense finally tweeted out “irrefutible evidence” of the collusion.


But it turns out the evidence was just screenshots of a video game and old videos from Iraq, according to Bellingcat.

“#Russian_Mod shows irrefutable evidence that #US are actually covering ISIS combat units to recover their combat capabilities, redeploy, and use them to promote American interests in Middle East,” the Russian Ministry of Defense tweeted, in a now-deleted tweet.

One of the pictures in the tweet of the US supposedly covering an ISIS convoy leaving the Abu Kamal region was actually a screenshot from an AC-130 gunship simulator video game, Bellingcat reported.

Below is a side by side screenshot provided by Bellingcat of the Russian screenshot and the video game screenshot:

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again
Russian Ministry of Defense’s “irrefutable evidence (left) and video game simulator (right). Screenshot/Bellingcat

The other three images were also not what Russia claimed, but instead from videos shot in Iraq in 2016.

 

Russian citizens themselves even called out their Ministry of Defense for the mistake, accordingto Newsweek.

“Do not humiliate yourselves and do not humiliate Russia,” one Russian tweeted at the Ministry of Defense.

“Won’t you comment on how a screenshot from a game appeared in your evidence file connecting the U.S. with ISIS,” another Russian tweeted.

On Tuesday, Russian state-owned media outlet TASS blamed the ordeal on a “civil service employee.”

Read More: Russia claims US is actually helping ISIS in Syria

“The Russian Defense Ministry is investigating its civil service employee who erroneously attached wrong photo illustrations to its statement on interaction between the US-led international coalition and Islamic State militants near Abu Kamal, Syria,” the ministry said, according to TASS.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has since deleted the tweets of the false images. However, some images are still up, including the one below, which is actually pinned to their page.

 

But Michael Kofman, a senior research analyst at CNA, told Business Insider that while the images still up are not from the video game or old videos from Iraq, “they are really blurry and incredibly difficult to verify.””It’s impossible to tell, but I suspect none of this footage is real,” Kofman said, adding that even if they were images of ISIS convoys in Syria, it doesn’t prove that the US is aiding the terrorist group in any way.

“The claim itself is actually ridiculous,” Kofman said, with a laugh.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 rarely seen photos from World War I

“The Great War” was named for its size, not the experience of fighting it. Troops lived and slept in the mud and rubble, they fought through heavy machine gun fire and poison gas to roll back Imperial Germany’s occupation of France. About 2.8 million American men and women would serve overseas before the war ended. Here’s a quick peek at what life was like for them:


The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

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