The Army doesn't want the Marines' latest squad weapon - We Are The Mighty
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The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

U.S. Army modernization officials on Feb. 7 briefed lawmakers on the service’s plan to equip soldiers with futuristic small arms that will ultimately replace the M4 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon.


Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for Army G8, testified with other Army modernization generals before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on the future of Army modernization.

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, wanted to know what the Army is doing about enemy body armor that the current 5.56mm round is unable to penetrate.

“There has been a proliferation of body armor, specifically Russian and Chinese, designed to defeat traditional 5.56mm NATO ammunition which is, of course, what our soldiers fire from their M4s,” Cotton said. “What are we doing to address what is a very serious issue for the soldier on the front lines?”

Last May, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
Sgt. Terrell Mazon and Spc. Thomas Pasqual from the 197th Fires Brigade, repair external damage to the ESAPI plates that go into the IOTV while troops are on RR. They ensure the gear is fit for duty to keep the troops in the fight properly protected. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Cooper-Williams)

The revelation launched an ad-hoc effort to acquire new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle, mainly for infantry units, but the idea quickly lost momentum.

Now the service has a two-phased approach, which starts with acquiring a standardized 7.62mm Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle, Murray said.

“That gives us the ability to penetrate the most advanced body armor in the world,” he said. “We are accelerating the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to 2018; we will start fielding that in 2018.”

The Army had hoped to start fielding the advanced 7.62mm armor-piercing round in 2018 as well, but that effort will take another year to complete, Murray said.

The SDMR “will still penetrate that body armor, but you can’t get that extended range that is possible with the next generation round,” Murray said.

Phase two of the effort will be the development of the Next Generation Squad Weapon.

“The first iteration will probably be an automatic rifle to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is also a 5.56mm,” Murray said.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
The M249 in action. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Byers)

The Army has decided, however, that it isn’t interested in following the Marine Corps’ adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

We have been pushed on the M27, which the Marine Corps has adopted, that is also a 5.56mm which doesn’t penetrate, so we are going to go down a path next generation squad weapon automatic rifle first to be closely followed, I’m hopeful, with either a rifle or a carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56mm.

“That is what we see as a replacement for the M4 in the future.”

Murray added that “It probably won’t be a 7.62mm; it will probably be something in between — case-telescoping round, probably polymer cased to reduce the weight of it.”

Also Read: Army confirms development of ‘next-generation’ rifle by 2022

Murray also confirmed that the Army already has a science and technology demonstration weapon, made by Textron System.

The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.

“It’s too big; it’s too heavy,” Murray said. “We have recently opened it up to commercial industry for them to come in with their ideas. We have offered them some money to come in a prototype it for us that type of weapon.”

Murray said that such as weapon “can achieve weights similar to the M4’s 5.56mm ammo — the weapon will probably weigh a little bit more, the ammo will weigh a little bit less and we can get penetration on the most advanced body armor in the world well out beyond even the max effective range of the current M4.”

The Army had planned on fielding the new Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2025-2026, but the service has now accelerated the effort to have some kind of initial capability by 2022 or 2023 at the latest, Army officials maintain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

GPS has become increasingly important to our lives. Not only do Waze, Uber, and many other applications heavily rely on global positioning system. Our cellular networks rely on GPS clocks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids all depend on GPS for precise time synchronization. In the finance sector, GPS-derived timing allows for ATM, credit cards transactions to be timestamped. Computer network synchronization, digital TV and radio, as well as IoT (Internet of Things) applications also rely on GPS-clock and geo-location services.

In an operational environment jamming GPS signals represents both a threat and an important capability. In addition to serving an important purpose in navigation on land, sea and in the air, GPS also provides targeting capability for precision weapons along with many other tactical and strategic purposes.


For this reason, the U.S. military frequently trains to deny or degrade GPS signals on a large-scale. In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demonstration of how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes.

For instance, the U.S. Navy’s CSG-4, that “mentors, trains and assesses Atlantic Fleet combat forces to forward deploy in support and defense of national interests”, is currently conducting GPS Interference testing in the East Coast area. As an FAA NOTAM (Notice To Airmen), issued for airspace in eight of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers, warns, GPS could be degraded from Caribbean and Florida north to Pennsylvania west to the eastern Louisiana, while the tests are conducted Feb. 6 – 10, 2019, at different hours.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

The area affected by GPS interference operations.

(FAA NOTAM)

GPS-based services including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the Ground Based Augmentation System, and the Wide Area Augmentation System, could be unreliable or lost in a radius extending several hundred miles from the offshore operation’s center, the FAA said.

In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demo from member of the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527th SAS) who showed us how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes: in only a few seconds members of the 527th SAS used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment to jam local GPS reception making many public services unavailable.

This is not the first time such GPS-denial operations take place. It has already happened on the West Coast in 2016 and, more recently, on the East Coast, at the end of August 2018:

As happened in all the previous operations, we really don’t know which kind of system is being used to jam GPS. However, it must be an embarked system, considered that the source of the jamming is a location off the coast of Georgia, centered at 313339N0793740W or the CHS (Charleston AFB) VOR 173 degree radial at 83NM (Nautical Miles).

As mentioned, not only the military is so heavily reliant on GPS.

AOPA estimates that more than 2,000 airports — home bases to more than 28,600 aircraft — are located within the area’s lowest airspace contour. The East Coast test is “unacceptably widespread and potentially hazardous,” said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic and aviation security, in an article on AOPA website.

Here’s another interesting excerpt from the same article that provides examples of how the GPS testing has affected general aviation:

A safety panel held in September 2018 ended with the FAA deadlocked on a path forward. In November 2018, AOPA reported on instances of aircraft losing GPS navigation signals during testing—and in several cases, veering off course. Instances have been documented in which air traffic control temporarily lost the tracks of ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft.

In a vivid example of direct hazard to aircraft control in April 2016, an Embraer Phenom 300 business jet entered a Dutch roll and an emergency descent after its yaw damper disengaged; the aircraft’s dual attitude and heading reference systems had reacted differently to the GPS signal outage. This issue was subsequently corrected for this aircraft.

AOPA is aware of hundreds of reports of interference to aircraft during events for which notams were issued, and the FAA has collected many more in the last year. In one example that came to AOPA’s attention, an aircraft lost navigation capability and did not regain it until after landing. During a GPS-interference event in Alaska, an aircraft departed an airport under IFR and lost GPS on the initial climb. Other reports have highlighted aircraft veering off course and heading toward active military airspace. The wide range of reports makes clear that interference affects aircraft differently, and recovery may not occur immediately after the aircraft exits the jammed area.

Pilot concern is mounting. In a January 2019 AOPA survey, more than 64 percent of 1,239 pilots who responded noted concern about the impact of interference on their use of GPS and ADS-B. (In some cases, pilots who reported experiencing signal degradation said ATC had been unaware the jamming was occurring.)

Interestingly, “stop buzzer” is the code word, pilots may radio to the ATC when testing affects GPS navigation or causes flight control issues:

Pilots who encounter hazardous interruption of GPS navigation or who have flight-control issues should be aware that they can say the phrase “Stop buzzer” to air traffic control, which initiates the process of interrupting the testing to restore navigation signal reception, Duke said.

During previous GPS-interference events, pilots declared emergencies, but the jamming continued because ATC did not understand that the emergency was related to the GPS interference. According to the Pilot/Controller Glossary, “stop buzzer” is a term used by ATC to request suspension of “electronic attack activity.” Pilots should only use the phrase when communicating with ATC, or over the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz, if a safety-of-flight issue is encountered during a known GPS interference event. Using this unique phrase when experiencing an unsafe condition related to GPS interference will ensure that ATC and the military react appropriately by stopping the jamming, Duke said.

“Pilots should only say ‘stop buzzer’ when something unsafe is occurring that warrants declaring an emergency. They should make sure ATC knows that the emergency is GPS-related and that halting the GPS interference will resolve the emergency,” he said.

Despite the complaints from the civilian side, dominating the GPS “domain” is crucial to win. Consequently, along with the periodic testing like the one underway in the U.S. southeastern coast, GPS jamming has become a common operation of the most recent Red Flag exercises that include simulated scenarios where warfighters train to operate in an environment where electronic and cyber-attacks may disable GPS capability.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.


“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
Artist’s impression of how Mars may have looked four billion years ago

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

Seasonal Methane Releases

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.

“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”

Finding Organic Molecules

To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.

For video and images of the findings, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mediaresources

Information on NASA’s Mars activities is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

Female Army aviator bringing vet voice to media

To say that Amber Smith comes from a military family is an understatement. Her great-grandfather was in World War I, her grandfather was in World War II, and her father was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Both of her parents were pilots. Both of her sisters are military pilots.


The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Her parents’ love of flying sparked her interest, and she started flying private planes at a young age. As she got older she started considering a career in aviation, specifically military aviation. Then in 2003, she was introduced to a future she didn’t know was possible.

“I talked to the Marines, I talked to the Air Force, and I talked to the Navy because I didn’t even know the Army had aviation,” Smith says. “I grew up in fixed wings. Never once did the thought of helicopters cross my mind.”

The other three branches told her the same thing: get a college degree and then come talk. But Smith just wanted to join the military as an aviator. When she spoke to the Army they told her could still be a pilot, just flying helicopters instead of planes. Smith’s experience as a civilian pilot allowed her to join before finishing her degree through the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

While still in college and before joining the Army, Smith met her parents at an air show where helicopter rides were offered. She hopped in to see if a helicopter was really something she wanted.

“I went on this helicopter flight and I was immediately hooked,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘this is for me. I love it!’ I didn’t even want planes anymore, give me a helicopter.”

After basic training and Warrant Officer Candidate School, she went to flight school where she met her bird: the OH58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior is a light attack reconnaissance helicopter; a two-seater carrying a fifty cal machine gun and 7-shot 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra-70 rocket pods, configurable for Hellfire missiles.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

“I loved my time flying the Kiowa,” Smith recalls. “I knew that was the best and most bad ass flying I would ever do in my life.”

Her mission was direct support for ground forces, looking for IEDs, providing aerial security for convoys, and responding to troops in combat (TICs). Smith deployed with her unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to Iraq from 2005, where she made Pilot in Command. She went to Afghanistan in 2008, where she made Air Mission Commander, seeing combat in a combat arms role years before the ban on women in combat ended.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

“Before they lifted the restriction, aviation was the only branch within what was called Combat Arms – now it’s maneuvers, fire, and effects – but it was the only Combat Arms branch that allowed women,” Smith says.

Her views on women in combat is simple: there needs to be a mission standard, not a gender standard.

“As long as the standards remain the exact same as today, I think women should be given the opportunity to try it,” Smith says. “I don’t believe in quotas or lowering standards but I don’t think it should matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you can do the job and contribute to the mission that’s what matters.”

The Army’s proposed integration plan includes first adding female officers to leadership roles within combat units. Amber Smith think it’s a smart move but the plan for and acceptance of women in combat jobs will take time.

“Reducing the standards creates resentment,” she says. “When I got to my unit in 2004, women were very rare in the Kiowa Warrior community. I worked very hard to do my job and contribute to the mission. As soon as they realized that, I was a part of the team.”

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Smith left the military in 2010, but while she was in, she completed a Bachelor’s in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After transitioning, she earned her Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with a specialization in Homeland Security from Eastern Kentucky University.

While in graduate school, she noticed that too often the media lacked a credible veteran’s point of view.

“It’s important the American people need to hear the perspective of people who have been on the operational side of national security,” she says. “People who have been to war and have seen the enemy everyone talks about on TV every day.”

Smith started a blog and got published wherever she could. Within three months, the calls for television appearances started. Her career just took off from there. She just completed her first book, Danger Close: One’s Woman’s Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“2015 was the year of my book,” Smith says. “I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter or anything. I wanted to preserve my voice. The Kiowa Warrior is an incredibly effective tool on the battlefield, essential in the two theaters of war. Nobody knows about it, all anybody knows about is the Apache. So I want people to know who we are and what we did.”

Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Senior Military Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. She is also a writer and television commentator on national security issues, foreign policy, and military operations. She regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC.

Her book is due out in September and is available for preorder on Amazon.

Follow Amber Smith on Twitter

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.


In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.

The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.

The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.

The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.

Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.

Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.

The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.

Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”

Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”

Also Read: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.

Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.

The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.

Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.

In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.

“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
ISIS in Syria.

Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.

“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”

Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.

Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.

McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia resets a space station computer after malfunction

Russia has rebooted one of three computers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after a malfunction was detected.

Dmitry Rogozinthe head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, wrote on Twitter on Nov. 8, 2018, that the computer’s operations had been restored.

“At 12:04:50 Moscow time, the central computer on the ISS was rebooted. The three-channel configuration was restored,” Rogozin tweeted.


On Nov. 6, 2018, Roskosmos said that one of the three computers on the station’s Russian module malfunctioned, but gave assurance that the defect had no impact on the safety of the crew aboard the ISS — American Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev, and German Alexander Gerst.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Dmitry Rogozinthe head of Russian space agency Roskosmos.

The malfunction followed last month’s aborted launch of a new station crew. U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin landed safely after their Russian booster rocket failed two minutes into the Oct. 11, 2018 flight.

The next crew, Oleg Kononenko (Russia), Anne Charlotte McClain (United States), and David Saint-Jacques (Canada), was initially scheduled to be sent to the ISS in late December 2018, but that launch was rescheduled after the Oct. 11, 2018 accident.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Trump says he would impose tariffs on oil imports if Russia, Saudi Arabia fail to cut

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said he would “absolutely” impose tariffs on oil imports if Russia and Saudi Arabia cannot reach an agreement to cut crude oil production.

“If they don’t get along, I would do that. Very substantial tariffs. I would absolutely do that,” Trump said on April 5 during a press conference, adding that he wanted to protect the U.S. oil industry, the world’s largest by production.


The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Tariffs would hurt Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are among the largest exporters of oil to the United States.

Global oil demand has fallen by about 20 million barrels a day, or one-fifth, due to the coronavirus pandemic, sending oil prices to their lowest in nearly 20 years.

The sharp price decline threatens to bankrupt higher-cost U.S. oil producers and wipe away thousands of American jobs tied to the industry, officials and analysts have said.

Trump has been seeking to broker a production cut agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the second- and third-largest oil producers, following their fallout last month.

Riyadh announced on March 7 that it would ramp up oil production by about a fifth to slightly more than 12 million barrels a day after Moscow rejected its offer to have OPEC+ cut output by 1.5 million barrels a day.

OPEC+, an alliance of 23 oil production nations, is led by Saudi Arabia and Moscow.

The price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia added to pressure on the oil market caused by the unprecedented destruction in global demand resulting from nations around the world imposing quarantines.

Trump tweeted on April 2 following calls with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia that the two nations would cut production by at least 10 million barrels a day. Trump was likely referring to cuts by OPEC+, not just the two nations, analysts have said.

Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Saudi Arabia called for an extraordinary meeting of OPEC+ members for April 6. However, after Riyadh and Moscow exchanged barbs over who caused the price war, the meeting was pushed back to April 9.

Russia has said it is willing to cut 1 million barrels a day as part of a global production-cut agreement that includes the United States.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Unlike Russia and Saudi Arabia, whose oil industries are largely state-owned, the U.S. industry is comprised of private companies and Washington has little power over output.

However, the glut is threatening infrastructure as storage capacity in the United States quickly fills up. Texas, which accounts for 40 percent of U.S. production, will hold a hearing about possible output cuts on April 14 to deal with the crisis in the state.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Before his death, Bush did a final, touching favor for Pence’s son

Vice President Mike Pence recalled Dec. 3, 2018, how he asked a last favor from an ailing George H.W. Bush in August 2018 on behalf of his son, Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence — never expecting that the former president would be able to comply.

The young Pence had just made his first tailhook carrier landing on the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, earning his wings as a Marine pilot. Could the former president please autograph a photo for his son?


Pence said Bush’s staff replied that he was no longer signing autographs, so he thought that was the end of it. But within a week, a handwritten letter and a signed photo from Bush arrived.

“Congratulations on receiving your wings of gold,” Bush wrote to Pence’s son. “Though we have not met, I wish you many days of CAVU ahead” — a reference to the Navy acronym meaning “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited” that he adopted as his motto in public service.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

U.S. service members walk the casket of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, towards the hearse, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Dec. 03, 2018.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)

Pence told the story upon the arrival of Bush’s casket at the Capitol as an example of the former president’s basic decency and humility. Even in death, Bush performed another public service in the form of a brief respite from the partisan infighting and mudslinging of the warring factions of the White House and Congress.

As Bush’s flag-draped casket was borne to the Capitol’s Rotunda to lie in state, President Donald Trump and Congress were nearing a tentative agreement to put off a battle on the budget and the funding of the border wall that could have led to a partial government shutdown.

The House and Senate also postponed what would have been a contentious series of hearings on veterans and military issues.

In their remarks in the Rotunda, Congressional leaders and Pence made clear that the usual partisanship would have been unseemly while paying tribute to the 41st president, known for his inability to bear a grudge.

As James Baker, Bush’s secretary of state and chief of staff, has often said, Bush got to be president by “being nice to people.”

A siren-blaring cortege led the hearse bearing Bush’s casket down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol on a crisp and clear evening in Washington, D.C., with enough breeze to give a steady ripple to the flags at half-staff in mourning.

At the East Front of the Capitol, honor units from all the services snapped to attention and then to “Present Arms” as military bearers took the casket from the hearse and then up the steps of the East Front to the Rotunda.

Ceremonial cannon boomed a 21-gun salute, and a military band played “Hail to the Chief” in a somber rhythm.

At the top of the steps, former President George W. Bush, the corners of his mouth sharply downturned, waited with former first lady Laura Bush, their hands on their hearts.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

President George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura Bush, arrive at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Dec. 03, 2018. Military and civilian personnel assigned to Joint Task Force-National Capital Region provided ceremonial and civil affairs support during President George H.W. Bush’s state funeral.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Katelyn Strange)

Also waiting was the rest of the late president’s immediate family — his children, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil, Marvin and Doro; and the Bush grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The military bearers placed Bush’s flag-draped casket with great care on the catafalque that once bore the body of Abraham Lincoln.

In folding chairs arranged around the casket sat the Joint Chiefs, the justices of the Supreme Court, and members of the House and Senate, along with former Cabinet members who served under the late president, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In his invocation, Rev. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the House, gave thanks to God for granting the blessing of Bush’s “example of service to all Americans, indeed to all the world.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that honoring Bush had brought Congress together “on democracy’s front porch” in the Rotunda, “a good place to talk as neighbors and friends.”

“Here lies a great man,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. He called Bush “a great leader and a good man, a gentle soul of firm resolve. His memory will belong to glory.”

Trump and first lady Melania Trump did not attend the arrival of Bush’s casket but were expected to pay their respects later Dec. 3, 2018 evening.

Bush will lie in state at the Capitol until Dec. 5, 2018, when a funeral will be held at Washington National Cathedral. His casket will then return to Houston for interment.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.


It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.

The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.

Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.

Also read: Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.

The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
A front view of the Bridgeport Commissary’s produce section. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.

Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.

Related: Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.

Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.

“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”

Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.

“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”

Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
Energy efficient ice cream freezers inside of a Commissary. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.

One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.

Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.

Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.

“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.

Also read: House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”

Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.

“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”

In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.

Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.

More: Slump at ‘The Stumps:’ Commissary closes because of rat infestation

“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.

He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, commander, Navy Exchange Service Command, greets a local Djiboutian Navy Exchange employee at the Navy Exchange at Camp Lemonier during a visit to the camp to assess the progress of the facilities under his area of responsibility. Camp Lemonier, located in the Horn of Africa, is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle)

“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.

Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.

“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”

Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.

“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Listen to the cockpit audio of the Navy’s infamous ‘sky penis’ flight

After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.

“You should totally try to draw a penis.”


It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.

They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.

“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”

While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:

  • “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
  • “Which way is the shaft going?”
  • “It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
  • “I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”

While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.

The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.

More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.

Articles

5 basic things you should know about the thrift savings plan

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon


Retirement planning can be stressful, but figuring out how to finance it takes a great deal of the stress away. Enter the government’s Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. The first step in understanding TSPs is answering five basic questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Who: The thrift savings plan is available to federal employees and members of the uniformed services. It is managed by BlackRock, a financial planning and investment firm headquartered in New York City.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

What: TSP is a retirement savings plan similar to a private sector 401(k). Federal employees and military personnel can contribute up to a certain percentage of their base pay to their TSP. BlackRock assigns a broker to manage TSP accounts. Brokers are not held to the same standards as fiduciaries in that a broker has no vested interest in your funds; rather a broker’s only job is to invest money in suitable securities.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

When: If you are a federal employee who joined your agency after 2010, you’re automatically enrolled in TSP with 3 percent of your base pay sent to your TSP; your agency matches this contribution automatically. If you joined your agency before 2010, an automatic 1 percent of your base pay is sent to TSP; your agency matches your additional contributions above the 1 percent. Military members must set up their own contributions and there is no matching contribution from the military.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Where: Military members can set up contributions to TSP through MyPay. Which type of funds you decide to invest in will determine when you can access the funds from that investment. There are L Funds, which are “lifestyle funds” that you can withdraw from at a predetermined time. Then there are G, F, S, C, and I funds, which rely on you to make your own investment decisions with a broker, according to the government’s TSP summary.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

Why: A thrift savings plan gives you the ability to participate in a long-term retirement savings and investment plan. Additionally, you can choose between a regular TSP and a Roth TSP. Traditional TSP is tax free as you contribute, but you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. A Roth TSP allows you to pay taxes upon investment, and withdraw at a later date tax free. The upside to utilizing the government’s TSP is that you won’t pay fees to invest, and you’ll have a broker to manage the funds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.


The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)

During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”

Also read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.

“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon

She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.

“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.

During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.

Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.

That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.

Further reading: The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
An A-10 Thunderbolt II returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.

“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.

With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.

How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.

Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.

“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.

On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”

Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.

Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”

Related: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.

But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.

“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.

More BRRRRRT: Here’s what’s next for the A-10

— Editor’s note: This story was updated to add comments from the Boeing spokeswoman beginning in the sixth paragraph.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at Oriana0214.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female Marines have arrived at the Combat Training Battalion

For the first time in Marine Corps history, women are attending a previously male-only combat training course in California.


Marine Capt. Joshua Pena said 40 female Marine students checked-in March 6, 2018, to the Marine Combat Training Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

The move comes at least seven months after senior Marine leaders said they were considering the change, amid criticism that much of the early training excludes women.

Also read: 5 things you didn’t know about the first female Marines

The entry-level course is for Marines who’ve finished boot camp and aren’t assigned to infantry jobs. It lasts about a month and involves basic combat training, including patrol and convoy operations, marksmanship, and the use of grenade launchers and machine guns.

The Army doesn’t want the Marines’ latest squad weapon
U.S. Marine Corps recruits run 800 meters during an initial Combat Fitness Test on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., May 13, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

Pena said the female Marines will be fully integrated with the men, and that their inclusion triggered no changes to the course instruction. He said that, eventually, as many as 1,700 women would go through the combat training there each year.

Currently, Marine boot camp on the West Coast is only for male recruits. Women attend boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been critical of that policy, and the Corps has been reviewing it.

Related: Some Marines say first female infantry officer will face backlash in fleet

Until now, half of the Marine Corps’ male recruits would go through their initial training on the West Coast where they had no female colleagues. A key reason for the limits is the shortage of female recruits. Women make up just 8.7 percent of the Corps.

But Marine leaders have been eyeing changes with the belief that giving the men greater exposure to women recruits during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time.

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