The F-22 production line debate continues - We Are The Mighty
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The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

The F-22 production line debate continues
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

The F-22 production line debate continues
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

The F-22 production line debate continues
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

The F-22 production line debate continues
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

The F-22 production line debate continues
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

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

Articles

This is the competition for special operations experts

Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.


Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.

So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?

The F-22 production line debate continues
Team Colombia, winners of Fuerzas Comando 2016, return the trophy to Paraguayan Brig. Gen. Hector Limenza at the opening ceremony for Fuerzas Comando 2017 in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay, on July 17, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christine Lorenz)

First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.

This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.

Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.

The F-22 production line debate continues
A member from Team Uruguay during the physical fitness test, which includes push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 4-mile run. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Colombian competitors sprint through the finish line of the obstacle course event, taking a step closer to securing the Fuerzas Comando 2017 championship, July 24, 2017 in Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Peruvian competitors run the 14-kilometer ruck march while picking up and moving various objects, ending with team marksmanship at a firing range. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Costa Rican competitors clear a room in a live-fire shoot house where they must clear a building and rescue a simulated hostage as efficiently as possible. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.

The F-22 production line debate continues
A Guyanese sniper loads a round into his rifle while his teammate scans the range for targets. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.

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A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)

Then there is concealment.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Competitors drag litters 100 meters then work together to haul them onto a platform. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Honduran, Colombian, and U.S. Soldiers commemorate a successful Fuerzas Comando on July 27, 2017, in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw)

This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?

Articles

The Air Force is celebrating its 70th birthday with these awesome posters

The United States Air Force launched its official birthday website in April in preparation for its 70th birthday. The website showcases airmen from different eras and generations through the service’s birthday on September 18th.


Posters from 1947 to 1960 made up the first batch of celebratory images. They featured Tuskegee Airman Roscoe C. Brown, who shot down a Nazi jet fighter during the closing days of World War II. Also included is a poster of the P-51 Mustang fighter (the kind Brown flew over Berlin in 1945) and the F-86 Sabre jet, the kind flown over MiG Alley in the Korean War.

The F-22 production line debate continues

The current era featured on the site is the 1960-1970 generation of airmen, from the earliest days of the Vietnam War. But you can still go back and check out the post-WWII and Korean War generation and its heroes.

Now Read: 10 Legendary Heroes of the U.S. Air Force

Legendary fighter ace Robin Olds (and his mustache) headlines the second trio of Air Force posters. Operation Bolo, his perfectly-planned victory over North Vietnam, graces his poster along with his last plane in the war, an F-4 Phantom named “Scat XXVII.” Also depicted in poster form are the SR-71 Blackbird, Maj. Edward White’s Gemini IV Spacewalk, and the high-altitude U-2 Spyplane.

Air Force Media also diagrammed an artistic rendition of the Minuteman III ICBM.

The F-22 production line debate continues
(Defense Media Activity)

Keep an eye on the Air Force Birthday website throughout its 70th birthday celebration, right up to the day on Sept. 18.

Articles

14 images that hilariously portray your first day on a field op

Heading out to the field to conduct a training operation sounds like a whole lot of fun when it’s your first time out. But as we all know, the majority of the time nothing happens as originally planned, and things tend to fall apart just as soon as they start.


Although tactical training is super important, field ops usually consist of nothing more than a lot of hiking, shooting some blanks and eating MREs.

No matter how many times you’ve gone out to the field in your career, you’ll always remember your first time above the rest.

Related: 17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

1. When you show up at the armory to draw your weapon, all motivated at 0500, and you’re the only one there.

Hello? (Images via Giphy)

2. What it feels like riding on a bumpy road in the back of a 7-ton heading out to the field.

Are we there yet? (Images via Giphy)

3. How you feel when you get out of that damned truck.

That’s not good. (Images via Giphy)

4. After you threw up, you told your squad you must have drunk way too much beer last night. They call you a …

No one believes you. (Images via Giphy)

5. Then you wait for the rest of the platoon to show up.

Come on people. (Images via Giphy)

6. They finally show up, but no one appears to be as motivated as you.

Let’s go! (Images via Giphy)

7. But then you just continue to wait some more.

What are we waiting for? (Images via Giphy)

8. Once the orders come down to start training, your squad is instructed capture and take control of a small MOUT town. Everyone now gets into position.

(Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

9. You’re told to take the training seriously as if you’re in a real war zone. But we never do, especially when you have to simulate clearing a room, shooting your weapon or tossing a grenade.

No bad guys here. (Images via Giphy) 

10. Then once you completed that evolution, you loaded your lip with dip or sparked up a smoke. Face it, you have nothing else to do… again.

I hope he doesn’t run out. (Images via Giphy)

11. When chow comes around, the MREs are passed out, and you get the one no one wants.

Yew! (Images via Giphy)

12. After a long day of waiting in the hot sun, it’s getting cold, and you realized you forgot to pack your sleeping bag.

What a boot mistake. (Images via Giphy)

13. After a few hours of lying down trying to catch some shut-eye, your fireteam leader wakes you to stand watch.

But we’re out in the field, Cpl. (Images via Giphy)

14. You arrive at your post watch, and you just stand there in the pitch black. Then it starts to rain, but at least you were prepared for that.

Only four more days left. (Images via Giphy)What was your first field op like? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

One of the highest-ever ranked defectors from North Korea said Feb. 14, 2018 that Kim Jong Un is now engaging in diplomacy with South Korea because he fears a US military strike on North Korea.


“Kim Jong Un is afraid that the US will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri Jong Ho, Yonhap News Agency reported. Ri, who worked for three decades in the North Korean office responsible for raising funds for Kim, was speaking at a Wilson Center Forum in Washington.

Also read: South Korea’s special ops wants to kill Kim Jong Un with suicide drones

According to Ri, not only are President Donald Trump’s threats of military action having an effect on North Korea, the US’s diplomatic efforts to lock Pyongyang out of international trade have also started to bite.

“Kim Jong Un is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front,” Ri said.

Ri, who defected in 2014, likely doesn’t know the current thinking in Pyongyang, but may have knowledge of the economic situation before the sanctions. Ri’s statements follow a handful of moves from the Trump administration that appeared to signal that they were on the verge of striking North Korea.

Related: South Koreans are not happy to be Olympic partners with the North

But Ri’s statements also conjured up one of the US’s worst fears in North Korea by suggesting that Kim did not legitimately want to pursue peace with South Korea, but rather that he wanted to use the ruse of diplomacy to buy time while he advances his nuclear program and continues to hold South Korean civilians at risk.

The F-22 production line debate continues
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said.

Ri’s thinking seems to agree with US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who recently assumed command of the US military’s Pacific and Asian theater of operation, PACOM.

Kim is “after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do,” Harris said, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

Read more: How Kim Jong Un became one of the world’s scariest dictators

But Kim’s end game is irrelevant at the present. There’s evidence that a US-led sanctions campaign has begun to work against the Kim regime, and North Korea could be hurting economically. Moves in Trump’s inner circle seem to heavily suggest he’s considering responding to future North Korean provocations with force.

No president before Trump has coordinated as great an international sanctions regime on North Korea, and none have so seriously offered up use of military force as an option.

In response, Kim has made the unprecedented move of agreeing to meet with a foreign head of state for the first time, and abandoned talk of preconditions beforehand, which some see as a concession.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine boot camp still struggling with abuse

The US Marine Corps continues to grapple with hazing at its storied recruit training center at Parris Island in South Carolina, where the service punished at least eight drill instructors and a number of officers for abusive behavior last year, the Washington Post reported May 15, 2019, citing multiple internal investigations.

The incidents uncovered by the Post involved female drill instructors in the 4th Recruit Training Battalion mistreating female recruits. Battalion drill instructors reportedly humiliated, physically assaulted, and even endangered recruits.

These incidents come despite the Corps’ best efforts to curb these unacceptable and dangerous practices.


In one situation, a drill instructor allegedly made a recruit put “feces soiled underwear” on her head.

The DI acknowledged the incident but stressed that the dirty underwear, which the recruit reportedly left under her bed, did not contain any feces. “I was speaking hypothetically and failed to handle the situation with a clear mind through frustration,” the drill instructor said, according to documents obtained by the Post. “I was not trying to embarrass the recruit and more so wanted her to understand why and how it wasn’t acceptable.

The F-22 production line debate continues

Recruits stand in formation during their initial drill evaluation Feb. 10, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

That incident, which occurred in May 2018, sparked an investigation, one that came on the heels of another investigation following reports that a drill instructor had “roughed up,” as the Post described it, several recruits, even going so far as to threaten to break one of their necks.

Another reported case involved a drill instructor forcing female recruits to repeatedly suffer the effects of CS tear gas in a chamber. While the facility is normally used to introduce recruits to the effects tear gas, recruits are typically only required to enter the chamber once.

In total, the Post discovered more than 20 incidents of hazing and abuse at Parris Island and the Marine Corps’ West Coast recruit training center in California over the past seven years.

The F-22 production line debate continues

Marine recruits get gassed inside chamber during chemical defense training on Parris Island.

(U.S. Marine Coprs photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

By the far the most serious incident involved former Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after abusing recruits at Parris Island. He was accused of physically assaulting recruits, as well as targeting Muslims like 20-year-old Pakistani-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui, who fell to his death after Felix physically struck the young man in a 2016 altercation.

And abuse goes well beyond the scope of the recently uncovered investigations. In 2012, a recruit had to get skin grafts due to chemical burns suffered after a drill instructor forced him to train in unsafe conditions. The instructor, former Sgt. Jeffrey VanDyke, was sentenced to a year in military prison in 2014 for abusive behavior, cruelty, and mistreating recruits.

The senior officer in charge of Parris Island, Brig. Gen. James Glynn, stressed to the Post, that while problems do occur, there are more than 600 Marines serving as drill instructors and 98 percent of them do their jobs without incident.

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

Articles

Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

The F-22 production line debate continues
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

The F-22 production line debate continues
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

The F-22 production line debate continues
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

Articles

These 8 TV characters would never survive in the real military

Over the years Hollywood has shed both positive and negative light on the military experience. While the biographical examples might face severe scrutiny over matters of accuracy, here are 8 fictional military characters who inarguably wouldn’t cut it in the real deal:


1. Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker – “McHale’s Navy”

The F-22 production line debate continues

When the military is used as the basis for a sitcom, it’s inevitable that some of the troops won’t exactly be up to snuff. Ensign Parker brings that to another level, actively causing harm to U.S. and Allied Forces. (The show takes place during World War II.) He accidentally fires a depth charge in one episode, and in another accidentally shoots down an Allied aircraft. That’s a level of ineptitude the United States military wouldn’t and frankly couldn’t stand for.

2. Buster Bluth – “Arrested Development”

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Buster is enlists in “Army,” as he calls it, due to a dare a comedian makes to his mother. And lucky for him, he’s immediately honorably discharged after having his hand bit off by a seal. In season 4, he re-enlists to control drones in Iraq. Buster has a blast – until someone explains to him that what he’s doing is real, and he immediately has a panic attack. Then again, Buster once had a panic attack because a llama was near him. He might tell you he’s in Army, but he isn’t Army Strong.

3. Beetle Bailey – “Beetle Bailey”

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One thing you certainly can’t be in any branch of the military is lazy, and Beetle Bailey is perhaps the laziest of them all. He’ll do anything to get out of work, including putting his fellow soldiers, and commanding officers, at serious risks. Luckily, the characters at Camp Swampy don’t seem to face any particular risk of war being declared, and therefore will likely avoid any form of actual combat. If they did face an enemy attack, or were sent to fight someplace, chances are Beetle Bailey would be too lazy to even raise his arms.

4. Gareth Keenan – “The Office” (BBC version)

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There’s no real reason to doubt Gareth Keenan when he claims he was a Lieutenant in the Territorial Army before joining Wernam-Hogg, aside from how utterly clueless he seems to be when Tim and Dawn quiz him about tactical strategy. Gareth talks a big game, always being prepared to take a man from behind, give a man a lethal blow, or even discharge with rapid speed if enemies should uncover and enter his hole — you know, find out where he’s hiding. The fact Gareth never seems to understand the double entendres behind his own boasts kind of makes him look foolish, perhaps too foolish to actually achieve any kind of rank.

5. Zapp Brannigan – “Futurama”

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Zapp may be a 25-Star General in the Year 3000, buts its impossible to imagine he’d last a single day in any branch of the U.S. military. No part of Brannigan’s success makes sense. Although Brannigan’s Law is named after him, he openly admits he doesn’t understand it in the slightest. In fact, most of Brannigan’s successes are subjugating and annihilating weak and defenseless aliens, which, while smart satire, isn’t something that would actually be tolerated in the military.

6. Don Draper – “Mad Men”

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Don’s a special case on this list, in that his whole story is that he quite literally couldn’t make it in the military. As fans now know, Draper’s mystery actually began with him as Dick Whitman, but things dramatically changed during the Korean War. Terrible things happen during war, and its hard to say how any individual would react when faced with the horrors Whitman and his Lieutenant, the real Don Draper, faced. But what’s clear is Whitman’s reaction is highly illegal and wouldn’t be tolerated in any military.

7. Homer Simpson – “The Simpsons”

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Homer Simpson has had over 100 jobs, and he’s been terrible at nearly every one of them. His time in the service still manages to rank among his most inept. Homer actually joined the service twice—first as a member of the Navy Reserve in Season 9, then in Season 18 he enlisted in the Army. As a member of the Navy Reserve, Homer nearly caused a nuclear war with Russia, and in the Army he turned a training exercise into a city-wide explosive event. The military always welcomes recruits, but Homer should probably stick to his hundreds of other jobs.

8. Dave Titus – “Titus”

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Everyone in the Titus family seems to think it would be a great idea for Dave to join the Army. It could teach him responsibility and get him to stop doing drugs and being lazy. However, his brother Christopher sees it a different way: the Army isn’t going to bring Dave up; Dave’s going to bring the Army down. Fearing “Private Dave” could somehow cause nuclear destruction, Christopher gives Dave some pot to smoke on the way to recruitment, hoping this story will find a less destructive end.

Articles

Russia giving Assad Regime advanced strike aircraft

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Russian SU-24M2. (Photo: Toshi Aoki)


The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.

The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.

The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)

The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.

Articles

Exclusive with Joe Cardona: Super Bowl Champion and Navy LT on Memorial Day, Patriots and of course – Army/Navy football

Joe Cardona is no stranger to being a leader both in the fleet and on the field. Joe is a two-time Super Bowl Champion who plays for the New England Patriots. He was drafted as a long snapper, which doesn’t happen often and established himself as one of the most consistent snappers in the NFL. He also has set an example as a leader in the Pats’ locker room. How was he able to do that? A lot had to do with his college experience: Joe is a Naval Academy graduate. 

Cardona played for the Midshipmen and had a perfect career as a snapper which drew the eyes of plenty of NFL scouts. Playing in the NFL is tough, but Cardona also serves as a Lieutenant in the Navy. 

Joe is partnering with USAA, during this Memorial Day to bring awareness to USAA’s digital tribute PoppyInMemory.com where people can pay homage to a lost service member.  We got a chance to sit down with Cardona and talk about honoring those who lost their lives, his career and a little football. 

Tell me about this partnership with USAA and what it means to you?

It’s an honor to work with USAA to do a lot for service members. I am a member myself and it’s funny how that comes full circle. Poppyinmemory.com is pretty cool because it really highlights this history of remembrance with the red poppy that dates back to WWI. But now, as we enter the digital age, they have an opportunity to dedicate a poppy to a service member who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

It’s an opportunity to highlight a loved one, whether it is a family member or friend, who made the sacrifice for our freedom. 

The website itself is a great resource to honor members from every conflict back to WWI. Its pretty awesome and I am glad to be a part of it. 

Memorial Day means a lot to many of us veterans. Is there something specific about Memorial Day, like a person or part of history that really symbolized what Memorial Day means?

Most of us have someone close to us who has passed.  Whether it’s a teammate, mentor or friend we all lost someone. I had a buddy who died in an aviation accident, Lt Caleb King. I just reflect about him and his family and how much he and them sacrificed so much for all of us. And for others who have died in conflicts, even if it’s not in the forefront of our mind all the time. 

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LT Caleb King/Naval Academy

I hope people will take time before you kick off a celebratory weekend to go to that veteran’s memorial or park. Stop by the memorial you walk by every single day, read the names on the memorial and reflect about them on a day like this. 

Let’s talk about you a little bit. You’re a Naval Academy Grad, you were drafted right into the NFL as a long snapper. That doesn’t happen quite often. The USNA prepares you for military service and going into battle. Is there anything the academy did to prepare you for life in the NFL? 

They are really good at preparing people to be excellent and every graduate wants to carry that tradition as an officer in the Navy or Marines. 

They answer the call to serve but we all do it differently; in different paths both in and out of the service. 

For me, having this opportunity that I never thought I would get, playing in the NFL provides that. I know I have to come every day and prove myself. But I also know I have to earn the privilege of leadership. 

You have to earn it at the Academy, and you have to earn it with your teammates, and it comes into play in high pressure moments. There are a lot of parallels between football and military service when it comes to that. 

You were promoted on the 75th anniversary of D-Day and got your Super Bowl ring the same day. How surreal was that? That has to be one heck of an experience!

Being promoted to LT is something I will never forget. I got to do it in front of my teammates and coaches who invest a lot of time in me and with peers who I served with, were there as well.  For me it was awesome because it was both of my worlds coming together.  The celebration that followed was pretty great, getting presented a Super Bowl ring and all, so I can’t complain about that. But it was a good moment to bring together my two worlds of football and service.  

Last question.  We asked this of David Robinson who went to the Naval Academy and Steve Cannon of the Falcons organization who went to West Point, so we have to ask you too. Who wins next year, Army or Navy and what does Navy need to do to get back into this fight?

I think Army-Navy this year, we are going to see a completely different set of circumstances. Navy had a down year, but they are hungry right now. They had a good spring camp. It reminds me of after my freshman year at the Academy and we were excited to go hit people so hopefully it’s the same for them.  

This past year, Army got us on their home turf. But it will be a neutral site this year, so I hope we can go kick their ass. 

In observance of Memorial Day this year, USAA is leading an effort to encourage Americans to offer a digital tribute to fallen military members by visiting PoppyInMemory.com.

  • Visitors to the site can: 
    1. Learn about lives lost in military conflicts since World War I
    2. See how to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen military member and learn about the significance of the red poppy flower
    3. Get involved with the conversation on social media using #HonorThroughAction

On Memorial Day, America remembers those who gave their lives in military conflicts to protect the freedoms we enjoy. Since World War I, the red poppy flower has been a symbol of remembrance for the ultimate sacrifice made by more than 645,000 heroic men and women. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s newest spacecraft is ready to launch

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the launch of the company’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight, which will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station. The launch, as well as other activities leading up to the launch, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.


The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station at approximately 5:55 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 2019.

This will be the first uncrewed flight test of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

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A SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight, which will fly NASA astronauts to the space station, is targeted to launch in July 2019.

Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible. After completion of all test flights, NASA will continue its review of the systems and flight data for certification ahead of the start of regular crewed flights to the space station.

Full Demo-1 coverage is as follows. All times are EST:

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019:

  • (no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Astronaut Office representative

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:

  • TBD – Pre-launch briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Saturday, March 2, 2019:

  • 2 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for the 2:48 a.m. liftoff
  • 5 a.m. – Post-launch news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, NASA launch manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Sunday, March 3, 2019:

  • 3:30 a.m. – Rendezvous and docking coverage
  • 8:45 a.m. – Hatch opening coverage
  • 10:30 a.m. – Station crew welcoming ceremony

Friday, March 8, 2019:

  • 12:15 a.m. – Hatch closing coverage begins
  • 2:30 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
  • TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • International Space Station Program representative
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

For more information on event coverage, got to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

MIGHTY TRENDING

Have a look at Earth from 94 million miles away

Capturing images of our home planet from the perspective of faraway spacecraft has become a tradition at NASA, ever since Voyager, 28 years ago, displayed our “pale blue dot” in the vastness of space.


But the view of Earth from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is quite something else.

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This Kepler image of Earth was recently beamed back home. Captured on Dec. 10, 2017, after the spacecraft adjusted its telescope to a new field of view, Earth’s reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

Also read: You can boldly go with this NASA mission to ‘touch the sun’

At 94 million miles away, Kepler’s interpretation of Earth as a bright flashlight in a dark sea of stars demonstrates the capabilities of its highly sensitive photometer, which is designed to pick up the faint dips in brightness of planets crossing distant stars. Some stars in this image are hundreds of light years away.

The scientific community celebrated Earth’s transit across Kepler’s field of view by using #WaveAtKepler on social media. As Kepler only takes pictures in black and white, some in the science community have taken the data and used color to highlight details in grayscale images.

Related: 21 of the most stunning images of our planet NASA ever took

The mission marks its nine-year anniversary in space on March 7, 2018. More than 2,500 planets have been found in the Kepler data so far, as well as many other discoveries about stars, supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena. The mission is in its second extended operating phase and is known to have a limited lifetime. Its scientific success in discovering distant planets has paved the way for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is launching on April 16. TESS will monitor more than 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars outside our solar system for transiting planets.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Navy football uniforms are all about the Goat

Every year, the cadets at West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis meet to put on one of the most patriotic games of the year: the Army-Navy game. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines all cheer on their respective branch as future officers fight for bragging rights on the football field.

And while most troops are watching from the sidelines or the chow hall, gritting their teeth and waiting to see who comes out on top, there’s a secondary, unofficial contest going on — which team has the best uniform. Each year, both teams bust out a special uniform, just for this game.

This time around, West Point chose to honor the 1st Infantry Division on the centennial anniversary of the WWI armistice. The midshipmen, on the other hand, are going with a design that honors their own treasured history by showcasing Bill the Goat.

On the surface, it may seem simplistic, but in actuality, it’s steeped in Navy and Naval Academy lore.


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Could it have been the gifted football players that gave their all on the field that day? Or could it have been the spirit of the goat, channeled through two goofy ensigns who did pretty much the opposite of what they were told to do? The world will never know.

(U.S. Naval Academy)

Navy’s uniform, produced by their sponsor, Under Armor, features the Navy’s traditional white, blue, and gold color scheme. Emblazoned on the right side of the helmet is Annapolis’ mascot, Bill the Goat, with the player’s number on the left — a nod to classic football helmets.

Bill the Goat, for those who don’t already know, became the Naval Academy’s mascot entirely because of the Army-Navy Game. Legend has it, two ensigns were tasked with taking the body of their ship’s beloved goat to the taxidermist. They got “lost” on their way and ended up at the Army-Navy game.

During halftime, one of the ensigns took the goat skin, wore it as a cape, and ran around the sidelines to thunderous applause from the sailors and midshipmen in attendance. The Naval Academy — and presumably the ensigns’ commander — never took disciplinary action against them because it’s believed Bill the Goat was responsible for the Midshipmen winning that day.

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(Under Armour)

Each uniform also has the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” embroidered on the bottom. This was the famous battle cry (and last words) of Capt. James Lawrence as he fell to small arms fire sustained during the War of 1812. It has since become the rallying cry of all sailors as they head into battle.

The pants of the uniforms sport a stripe with six dashes. These six dashes are a reference to the Navy’s first six frigates, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the USS Constellation, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, and the USS Congress.

Check out the unveil video below. Go Navy! Beat Army!

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