The Army expects its new Joint Effects Targeting System — a handheld, portable device for target observation, location, and designation — to start arriving with forward-observation teams by mid-2018, according to Army Times.
JETS consists of a hand-held target location module, a precision azimuth and vertical angle module, and a laser marker module, which are mounted on a tripod. The system offers Army forward observers better targeting capabilities than current systems and can be used day or night in all weather conditions.
“It’s brand-new cutting-edge technology that is a paradigm shift” in how field artillery could be employed on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. JETS, he added, could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon “into a giant sniper rifle.”
“I’m dropping that round, with first-round effects, on target,” he said.
The system will also speed the measurement process, Frank said. “We don’t have to take anywhere from 15 to 18 to 20 minutes. We can get that target data to the guns and rounds out of the tube faster with JETS than without.”
The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for these purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS. It weighs approximately 35 pounds and is considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.
The system underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop testing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August, when soldiers put the system through several combat-equipment jumps and door-bundle jumps, evaluating its ability to function after hitting the ground.
After each drop, the forward observers testing the system assembled the equipment and started identifying and designating enemy personnel and vehicle targets in day and night conditions. The targets were set up on rolling terrain at distances from 800 meters to more than 2,500 meters.
That was followed in October by weeks of tests at the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.
There, forward-observation teams put the system through its paces using “operationally realistic approach[es] to detect, recognize, and identify targets in a tactical environment,” the Army said in a release.
Soldiers conducted the tests in mountainous Alaskan terrain at elevations between 1,000 and 2,500 meters at several different observation posts, using the system’s own self-location methods to establish their location at each observation point.
The Army is looking to finish its testing and evaluation, including inclement weather and airdrop tests, early this year and have the JETS in the hands of every forward-observation team starting in July 2018, according to Army Times.
He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.
But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.
“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”
Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.
During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.
“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”
“War, it’s a young man’s game.”
According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.
Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.
Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.
On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.
“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”
“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”
The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.
The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.
“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”
Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.
At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.
The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.
The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.
On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.
With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.
“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”
In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.
Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.
Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.
“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”
“They were truly our greatest generation”
Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.
Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.
“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”
Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.
GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART
“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”
Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.
“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”
Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”
Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.
Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.
“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.
It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.
The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.
“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”
Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.
Three KC-10 Extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying over 300 coalition paratroopers across the Pacific Ocean July 13.
Having received the gas they needed, the C-17s continued to Australia to successfully conduct Exercise Ultimate Reach, a strategic airdrop mission. The airdrop displayed US capabilities throughout the region, reassured allies, and improved combat readiness between joint and coalition personnel.
The aerial refueling also supported Exercise Talisman Saber, a month-long training exercise in Australia between US, Canadian, and Australian forces that began once paratroopers landed Down Under. The training focused on improving interoperability and relations between the three allies.
The KC-10s seamlessly refueled various aircraft over the Pacific Ocean supporting Talisman Saber. Some of those aircraft include Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and Air Force KC-10s, among others.
“This is the bread and butter of what we do in the KC-10 world,” said Lt. Col. Stew Welch, the 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander and the Ultimate Reach tanker mission commander. “We’re practicing mobility, air refueling, and interoperability. This is practice for how we go to war.”
Though participation in such a large and complex exercise may seem like a unique occurrence for the aircraft and their aircrews, in actuality, this is done every day, all over the world.
For members of the 6th and the 9th ARSs at Travis Air Force Base, California, the global mission of the KC-10 is evident each time they step onto the tanker. For the rest of the world, it was on full display at Talisman Saber.
Ultimate Reach was the most prominent piece of the KC-10’s efforts during Talisman Saber. Despite that demand, the crews continued a full schedule of refueling sorties after landing in Australia, allowing other participating aircraft to complete their missions.
While its primary mission is aerial refueling, the KC-10 can also carry up to 75 passengers and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo. This enables the aircraft to airlift personnel and equipment while refueling supporting aircraft along the way. Though it can go 4,400 miles on its own without refueling, its versatility allows it to mid-air refuel from other KC-10s and extend its range.
“With that endurance ability, we can go up first and come home last and give as much gas as everybody else,” said Maj. Peter Mallow, a 6th ARS pilot. “That’s our role is to go up and bat first and then bat last.”
The tanker’s combined six fuel tanks carry more than 356,000 pounds of fuel in-flight, allowing it to complete missions like Ultimate Reach where over 4,000 pounds of fuel was offloaded in a short time to the five waiting C-17s. The amount is almost twice as much as the KC-135 Stratotanker.
“KC-10s are critical to delivering fuel to our partners,” said Welch. “Not only can we get gas, but we have a huge cargo compartment capability as well. KC-10’s can bring everything mobility represents to the table.”
“The KC-10 is essential to the Air Force because we can transport any piece of cargo, equipment, and personnel to anywhere in the world… any continent, any country,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Cook, a 6th ARS instructor boom operator. “We’re able to refuel those jets who have to go answer the mission whatever it may be, or (engage in) humanitarian response.”
Additionally, the tanker’s ability to switch between using an advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system allows it to refuel a variety of US and allied military aircraft interchangeably, as it demonstrated during Talisman Saber.
“KC-10s were able to provide force-extending air refueling,” said Mallow. “We were able to provide the capability to the C-17s that other platforms can’t. Because we can carry so much gas, we have more flexibility simply because we can provide the same amount of gas over multiple receivers. That inherently is the KC-10’s duty.”
“When we refueled the C-17s, it helped them get to their location and drop those paratroopers so the world can see them flying out of the aircraft and see those angels coming down,” said Cook. “It’s a good feeling, knowing the KC-10 is a part of that.”
Ultimate Reach and Talisman Saber highlighted the KC-10 fleet as a fighting force, demonstrating the aircraft’s unique warfighting capabilities over a wide-array of locations, receivers, and flying patterns.
“Not only does this kind of exercise demonstrate what we can do, it demonstrates how we do it,” said Welch. “Our own interoperability — not just with the Air Force and the Army but with our coalition partners as well — sends a great message to our allies and those who are not our allies that we can get troops on the ground where and when we please.”
The tankers’ performance during the exercise proved its unwavering support to combatant commanders and allies. It showed versatility in meeting unique mission requirements and reassured people around the world that the Air Force will always have a presence in the sky.
“Maybe one of those kids seeing a paratrooper come down will take an interest and maybe become the next Technical Sergeant Cook,” mused Cook.
President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.
In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.
Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.
“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.
While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.
China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.
Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.
In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”
Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.
On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.
“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”
An excerpt of Xi’s speech:
“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.
We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.
We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.
We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.
And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”
Osama bin Laden is dead. ISIS has been disbursed to the winds. Al-Baghdadi saw the wrong side of Army Special Forces. That means it’s open season on terrorists’ most-wanted leaders. Since no one usually wants to carry this mantle, the United States government sometimes has to decide for them. In the weeks following the death of ISIS’ first caliph, the State Department announced a $10 million reward for two members of our old enemy, al-Qaeda.
If you’re looking for a cool couple of million and have some spare time…
Michael Evanoff, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told reporters that the State Department was announcing a reward for two senior members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s offering million for information on Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki and up to million for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi. The United States alleges the two terror group members have encouraged its membership to make attacks against the United States and its citizens.
Al-Qosi is a Sudanese national who was Osama bin Laden’s driver and cook from 2006 to 2010. He was captured by American forces and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, where he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The former driver and cook was released to Sudan in July 2012 in exchange for his cooperation. Al-Awlaki is a senior commander for AQAP who was also a field commander for AQAP fighting the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.
Which means he’s probably as good at war as the Saudis.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi is not any kind of field commander or operative, at least not that the United States has released. The Supreme Court has since ruled material support for terrorism is not a war crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted under the Guantanamo military tribunals, but he has not challenged his previous convictions. Instead, he turned to advocating support for attacks on American nationals and American military forces worldwide, which put him in the State Department crosshairs.
At the Second Battle of Mukalla in 2015, Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki was a field commander who led troops against the Saudi coalition. American troops were stationed near Mukalla, but not much is known about the interactions between U.S. and AQAP forces during the battle. AQAP was forced to abandon the town.
In episode 157, we spoke with Army veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week’s Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.
The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory — also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest — is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps veterans to do just that.
The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.
A YouTube feature designed to stop the spread of misinformation became a major source of confusion on April 15. Multiple YouTube viewers tracking the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reported that live streams and news videos were displaying an information panel related to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
YouTube’s algorithm automatically determines when a subject is trending news and attaches an information panel automatically. The information panel feature is available only in the US and South Korea, and it is meant to provide news from verified sources and counter videos that share conspiracy theories and false narratives.
There have been no reports of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire being a terrorist attack, so it’s unclear why YouTube would link the two events.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.
“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”
“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”
But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.
“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”
“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.
Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.
“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.
“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.
Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.
DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:
The Hornet’s Nest
A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.
A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.
A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.
Hell and Back Again
Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.
This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.
The War Tapes
Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.
Taxi to the Dark Side
An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.
No End In Sight
Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.
The Ground Truth
“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.
A lost photo may shed new light on the mysterious death of famous aviator Amelia Earhart.
The photo, which will be featured in a new History channel special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was discovered in the National Archives more than 80 years after her death. In it, a woman who appears to be Earhart sits on a dock in the Marshall Islands near to a man who resembles her navigator Fred Noonan.
Photo from US National Archives
After becoming the first female pilot to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart set off to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937. Her plane vanished without a trace during the flight and, by 1939, both Earhart and Noonan were declared dead.
But the new photo, which shows figures that appear like Earhart and Noonan, could challenge the common theory that the plane crashed somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Photo from US National Archives
Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI, told NBC News that he’s confident the photo is legitimate and pictures Earhart sitting on the dock.
“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” said Henry. Her plane appears to be on a barge in the background being towed by a large ship.
Photo from US National Archives
According to NBC News, the team that uncovered the photo believes that the photo demonstrates that Earhart and Noonan were blown off course. The latest photo could suggest that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, experts told NBC News.
While current Japanese authorities told the news outlet that they had no record of Earhart ever being in their custody, American investigators insisted that the photo strongly suggests that Earhart survived the crash and was taken into captivity.
“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer behind the History project.
Russia claims to be developing an unstoppable nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon with roots in technology the US considered too expensive, too complicated, too dangerous, and too unnecessary to pursue.
Little is known about Russia’s doomsday weapon, as it has been described, but the missile has links to systems the Americans and Soviets looked at during the Cold War, systems that both sides eventually gave up on.
During the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union “were looking at every possible idea for how to solve this problem of assured destruction,” John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.org, told Insider, explaining that they pursued ideas that while theoretically possible sometimes failed to close the important gap between possible and militarily useful.
In a time of renewed great power competition, the US and Russia, as nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote recently, “seem to be drifting into a new arms race, either out of some bizarre nostalgia or because no one can think of anything better to do.”
Last year, Putin revealed a handful of weapons, some of which have been described as “doomsday weapons.” Among them was the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. The Russian president has stated that the aim is to defeat American missile defense systems.
“A nuclear-powered cruise missile is an outrageous idea, one the United States long ago considered and rejected as a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare,” Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, wrote in an article for Foreign Policy.
In the 1960s, the US looked at developing its own nuclear-powered cruise missiles, but Project Pluto, as the program was called, was ultimately abandoned. “It’s a bad idea,” Pike, a leading expert on defense, space, and intelligence policy, said. “It’s a stupid idea,” he added, further explaining that traditional ICBMs, like the Minuteman, were a “much simpler, much cheaper, and much more effective way to incinerate” an adversary.
Pike, who is deeply skeptical of Russia’s claims, characterized a nuclear-powered cruise missile as “an act of desperation.”
‘Expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary.’
Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Task Purpose recently that the US gave up on developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile because “it was too difficult, too dangerous, and too expensive.”
The Americans and the Soviets also looked at the development of nuclear-powered aircraft in hopes of fielding bombers with unprecedented endurance, but these projects never panned out. For the US, these planes were going to be the Air Force equivalent of a ballistic missile submarine, Pike explained, noting that “these things could be on continuous patrol.”
In the 1950s, the US tested the NB-36H Crusader that carried an onboard nuclear reactor, but decided against this technology.
(US Air Force)
The problem was that nuclear-powered aircraft, like nuclear-powered cruise missiles, were “expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary,” Pike said, calling such technology “hazardous.” He told Insider that mid-air refueling eventually made this project pointless.
Yet, here Russia is purportedly trying to revive this troubled idea to threaten the US. “A lot of technology has developed,” Kristensen told TP. “It could be some of what the Russian technicians are taking advantage of, but so far it seems like they’re not doing a good job.”
Indeed, testing hasn’t gone very well. There have been around a dozen tests, and in each case the weapon has not worked as intended. A recent explosion at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range that killed a handful of people is suspected to be linked to the Burevestnik, although Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details of what exactly happened.
Russia has indicated that it was working with new weapons, and recently-released data on the cloud of inert radioactive gases created by the blast suggests that a nuclear reactor was likely involved, giving support to the theory that this may have been part of testing for a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
As for Russia’s Skyfall, expert observers suspect that Russia is either bluffing and that the weapon’s stated development is a deception or that Russia is covering up its failings as it tries to get a Cold War-era bad idea to fly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots, and fire the most advanced weapons in the world — all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?
Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms.
“I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough…with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature.
Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained.
Soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise with M1A2 Abrams tanks.
(Army photo by Gertrud Zach)
While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that there are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology.
“Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) — that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said.
A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called “M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow,” reinforces Schirmer’s point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006.
Therefore, GD and Army developers continue to upgrade the Abrams and pursue innovations which will enable the Abrams to address these kinds of evolving threats — such as the long-range kinetic energy penetrator rods Schirmer mentioned; one of the key areas of emphasis for this would be to develop a more expansive Active Protection System able to knock out a much wider range of attack possibilities — beyond RPGs and certain Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.
The essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank bring unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate.
Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors, and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. Many Abrams tanks are already equipped with a system known as “Trophy” which tracks and knocks out incoming enemy fire.
A next-gen APS technology that can take out the most sophisticated enemy threats could enable the Army to engineer a much lighter weight tank, while still maintaining the requisite protection.
For these and other reasons, the combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform. Furthermore, the current Abrams is almost an entirely new platform these days — in light of how much it has been upgraded to address modern combat challenges.
U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
In short, regardless which future path is arrived upon by the Army — the Abrams is not going anywhere for many years to come. In fact, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have already engineered and delivered a new, massively improved, M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams. Concurrently, service and industry developers are progressing with an even more advanced v4 model — featuring a massive “lethality upgrade.”
All this being the case, when it comes to a future tank platform — all options are still on the table.
“Abrams will be out there for some time. We are funded from the v3 through the v4, but there is a thought in mind that we may need to shift gears,” David Marck, Program manager for the Main Battle Tank, told a small group of reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. “I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”
Accordingly, some of the details, technologies, and applications intended for the v4, are still in flux.
“The Army has some decisions to make. Will the v4 be an improved v3 with 3rd-Gen FLIR, or will the Army remove the turret and build in an autoloader — reduce the crew size?” Michael Peck, Director, Enterprise Business Development, GD, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Also, ongoing work on NGCV could, to a large extent, be integrated with Abrams v4 exploration, Peck explained. GD is preparing options to present to the Army for input — such as options using a common lighter-weight chassis with interchangeable elements such as different turrets or an auto-loader, depending upon the threat.
“There are some things that we think we would do to make the current chassis lighter more nimble when it comes to crew size and electronics — eventually it may go on a 55-ton platform. We have a couple different interchangeable turrets, which we could swap as needed,” Peck asked.
Despite the speed, mobility and transportable power challenges known to encumber the current Abrams, the vehicle continues to be impactful in combat circumstances — and developers have sought to retain the technical sophistication designed to outmatch or counter adversaries.
“Today’s tank is so different than the tanks that took Baghdad. They were not digitized, did not have 1st-Gen FLIR and did not have commander’s independent viewers,” Marck said.
Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The massive acceleration of the Army future armored platform — the Next Generation Combat Vehicle — is also informing the fast-moving calculus regarding future tank possibilities.
Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat, told Warrior Maven in an interview the Army developers are working on both near-term and longer term plans; he said it was entirely possible that a future tank or tank-like combat vehicle could emerge out of the NGCV program.
“We want to get as much capability as quickly as we can, to stay above parity with our adversaries,” Cummings said.
The program, which has now been moved forward by nearly a decade, could likely evolve into a family of vehicles and will definitely have unmanned technology.
“Right now we are trying to get the replacement for the Bradley to be the first optionally manned fighting vehicle. As we get that capability we may look at technology that we are getting in the future and insert them into current platforms,” Cummings said.
Any new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people, and ammunition. Also, as computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control
Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions.
General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin III.
However, while clearly emphasizing the importance of unmanned technology, Schirmer did say there was still room for growth and technological advanced necessary to replicate or come close to many human functions.
“It is not impossible — but it is a long way away,” Schirmer said.
The most advanced algorithms enabling autonomy are, certain in the nearer term, are likely to succeed in performing procedural functions able to ease the “cognitive burden” of manned crews who would then be freed up to focus on more pressing combat-oriented tasks. Essentially, the ability of human cognition to make dynamic decisions amid fast-changing variable, and make more subjective determinations less calculable by computer technology. Nonetheless, autonomy, particularly when enabled by AI, can condense and organize combat-essential data such as sensor information, targeting technology or certain crucial maintenance functions.
“Typically a vehicle commander is still looking through multiple soda straws. If no one has their screen turned to that view, that information is not of use to the crew, AI can process all those streams of ones and zeroes and bring the crews’ attention to threats they may not otherwise see,” Schirmer said.
Abrams v3 and v4 upgrades
Meanwhile, the Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank — an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons, and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Warrior Maven.
The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, which includes a massive electronics, mobility and sensor upgrades, was delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems in 2017.
“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” an Army official told Warrior.
The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.
This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system, GDLS developers said.
In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, were replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules. This includes a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.
Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware, and software systems can efficiently be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.
This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Using a moving digital map display, JBCP shows blue and red icons, indicating where friendly and enemy forces are operating in relation to the surrounding battle space and terrain. JBCP also include an intelligence database, called TIGR, which contains essential information about threats and prior incidents in specific combat ares.
Current GD development deals also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond.
The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
SEPv4 upgrades include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
A Russian T-14 Armata.
Interestingly, when asked about specific US Army concerns regarding the much-hyped high-tech Russian T-14 Armata, Schirmer said the Army would pursue its current modernization plan regardless of the existence of the Armata. That being said, it is certainly a safe assumption to recognize that the US Army is acutely aware, to the best of its ability, of the most advanced tanks in existence.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Warrior.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.
Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations
A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
The Institute for Defense Analysis report also makes the case for the continued relevance and combat necessity for a main battle tank. The Abrams tank proven effective both as a deterrent in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, waged war with great success in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 — but it has also expanded it sphere of operational utility by proving valuable in counterinsurgency operations as well.
The IDA essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank brings unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate and conduct attacks.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Several soldiers and a Navy SEAL testified Oct. 25 about the risky, all-out efforts to find Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier’s 2009 disappearance in Afghanistan. Troops and commanders went without sleep. Shirts and socks disintegrated on soldiers during weeks-long patrols. And several service members were seriously wounded — including the Navy commando whose career was ended by AK-47 fire.
The testimony came at a sentencing hearing for Bergdahl, who walked away from a remote post in Afghanistan and was held by Taliban allies for five years. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy last week and faces a maximum of life in prison.
The wounded SEAL, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, said his team’s helicopters came under fire as they landed in an area near the Pakistan border where they had information on Bergdahl’s possible whereabouts. He said the mission in the days after Bergdahl disappeared was hastily planned, and their only objective was the Bergdahl search.
A military dog leading them through a field located two enemy fighters that the team had seen at a distance. Hatch said the fighters sprayed AK-47 bullets at them, killing the dog. He was hit in the leg.
“I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad … I thought I was dead,” said Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a limp and a service dog.
Hatch said he believes he would have died if a comrade hadn’t quickly applied a tourniquet. Hatch has subsequently had 18 surgeries.
He was largely stoic and spoke in measured tones except for several times when he talked about the slain military dog, Remco. Hatch said the dog helped protect his team by locating enemy fighters after the SEALs lost sight of them.
As the hearing got underway, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance, said he was still considering a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense has argued that President Donald Trump’s comments about Bergdahl prevent him from having a fair sentencing hearing.
Other soldiers who testified described an exhausting and dangerous around-the-clock effort to find the soldier in the weeks after his disappearance.
Army Col. Clinton Baker, who commanded Bergdahl’s battalion at the time, said one unit on patrol for nearly 40 days straight had their clothing start to disintegrate on their bodies.
“We had to fly socks and T-shirts to them because they had literally just rotted off them,” he said. “We were all doing the best we could.”
Evan Buetow, who served as a sergeant in Bergdahl’s platoon, said he was among three soldiers who were left behind for 10 days to guard the outpost that Bergdahl walked away from near the Afghan town of Mest. The rest of the platoon embarked on a frantic search in the nearby areas.
Sitting in a fortified bunker, Buetow and another soldier suffered stomach flu-like symptoms while trying to stay awake and be vigilant.
“Every single day I think about it,” he said of the heat and ever-present dung beetles. “It was miserable.”
Buetow, who rejoined his platoon on subsequent search missions, broke down in tears when a prosecutor asked him why the guard duty and searches were important.
“I mean, my guy was gone,” he said before reaching for a tissue.
Several more days of testimony are expected.
Prosecutors made no deal to cap Bergdahl’s punishment, so the judge has wide leeway to consider their words in deciding Bergdahl’s sentence.
The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, has said he was caged by his captors, kept in darkness, and beaten, and tried to escape more than a dozen times before President Barack Obama brought Bergdahl home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Nance said Oct. 23 that he would be fair and hasn’t been influenced by Trump, but that he does have concerns that the president’s comments are affecting public perceptions.
While campaigning for president, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he be shot or thrown from a plane without a parachute. Nance ruled in February that those comments didn’t constitute unlawful command influence, noting that Trump was a civilian candidate for president at the time. The defense argued that Trump revived his campaign comments the day of Bergdahl’s plea hearing, by saying at a news conference that he thinks people are aware of what he said before.
Also Oct. 25, the defense said they plan to present evidence that Bergdahl’s mental health should be a mitigating factor in his sentence. He washed out of the Coast Guard after panic attack-like symptoms before enlisting in 2008 in the Army. In July 2015, after his return from captivity, Army evaluators concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan.