The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself.
At Lockheed Martin’s 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the “blueprint for affordability,” or the defense giant’s plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.
But therein lies a problem.
With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can’t offset the strong dollar.
Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar’s high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, “I think it is.”
“We’ve had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys,” said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.
“We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35,” said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35’s price down, period.
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 18, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)
“What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it’s affordable,” Babione said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for affordability was “just ok,” and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron fires flares as it performs anti-aircraft fire tests during exercise Carpathian on May 9, 2016, in Romania. The 37th AS, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, began participating in off-station training deployments with Romania as early as 1996, allowing the U.S. Air Force to work with NATO allies to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.
Phase technicians from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on an F-16C Fighting Falcon during routine phase maintenance at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 18, 2016. Phase inspections are performed on aircraft every 300 flight hours and involve procedural maintenance actions that require robust attention to detail.
A 2d Squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment infantryman suppresses opposing forces with a M240B machine gun during Exercise Spring Storm in Voru, Estonia, May 14, 2016. Approximately 6,000 military personnel from the U.S., Finland, German Bundeswehr, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’sHM Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Forces participated in the annual Estonian Army Land Defense Forces training exercise.
Soldiers assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, move to their battle position in a M1 Abrams during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) at 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 11, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (May 17, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Michael Allen, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), directs an AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 on the ship’s flight deck. America is an aviation centric amphibious assault ship that supports small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war. The ship is currently conducting maritime training operations off the coast of California.
GUAM (May 17, 2016) U. S. Navy Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 land and retrieve their parachutes in Guam after a high altitude-low opening parachute jump. EODMU5 conducted counter improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards and disarms underwater explosives.
A Marine attending the Military Police Basic Course, runs to cover during a field training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., May 11, 2016. The purpose of the course is to provide entry level pipeline and lateral move Marines the knowledge and skills to become disciplined, motivated and capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of military occupational specialty 5811, Military Police.
Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) provide security while other Marines conduct fast-rope inserts from a UH-1Y Huey with HMLA-267, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 9. 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (1st Anglico), I MEF, facilitated a helicopter rope and suspension technique training package for U.S. Marines and Royal British Commandos.
My name is 1/c Kevin Alvarez and I will be taking you through the events that occur during commencement week leading up to graduation for the class of 2016! Pictured above is the sunset regimental review that took place last night in honor of Rear Admiral Rendon, Superintendent, United States Coast Guard Academy.
Step 1 of 3: 186 First Class Cadets line up and make their way to Cadet Memorial Field where they will soon be handed their diplomas and be commissioned as officers.
Vets get their first rounds in THC Design’s training program
After a career in the military, veterans are equipped with numerous skills that make them an easy hire for thousands of civilian jobs. At first glance, the cannabis industry might not seem like the most ideal fit for veterans, but it’s shaping up to be a fruitful union.
U.S. Army Cavalry Patrol In Kandahar Province
(Chris Hondros/ Getty Images)
It’s no secret that many soldiers have found solace from military-related ailments with medical marijuana: everything from PTSD to slipped discs, to insomnia, have been eased with aide from the versatile plant. In fact, according to a recent study by American Legion, a vast majority of veterans support both marijuana legalization and further research. That kind of support for cannabis extends past personal use and into the job market, where veterans are finding themselves increasingly more involved in the industry.
The most direct translation of military skills is into the cannabis security sector. There are many federal restrictions on the young industry, leading to the reluctance of financial institutions to open accounts for cannabis-centric companies. This means that a plethora of cannabis companies rely on a strictly cash-only basis. This, in turn, leads to a demand for a security detail to convoy alongside both the product and the money.
This demand has formed a reliable network of security companies that hire hundreds of veterans to simply accompany shipments, or post up outside of brick-and-mortar stores like armed bouncers.
Dispensaries are no stranger to security detail
However, the military contributions to the cannabis industry reach much further than security. A growing number of veterans are beginning to get involved in, not only the retail side of the cannabis industry, but the cultivation side as well. According to “The Cannabist” the president of OrganaBrands (a Denver-based company that sells cannabis), Chris Driessen, says about 10% of his total workforce are veterans.
“The veteran community pairs so well (with our business), regardless of the branch of armed forces you’re in. (As a veteran) you learned systems, you learned processes, you learned chain of command,” he continued. “The fact that we don’t have to train people on some of those things — about work ethic and respect and doing what you say you’re going to do… is a huge benefit for any company, and of course ours as well… [they] set themselves apart in the interview. A lot of these folks are, on their own merit, heads and shoulders above their competition.”
(Veteran’s Cannabis Coalition blog)
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t training involved for veterans in the industry. One company, THC Design, actually has a paid internship and mentorship program exclusively for veterans. The course is 12 weeks long and gives veterans a tangible, hands-on, experience with every aspect of cultivation. According to co-founder Ryan Jennemann, the work ethic and problem-solving ability of military veterans makes them the perfect candidate for cannabis.
“What I was hiring for was not experience,” he told The Cannabist. “I was hiring for a work ethic, an ability to handle adversity, an ability to solve problems.” The program is both open source and available online as well, making it accessible for veterans looking to see if the cannabis industry is right for them.
As the legalization of marijuana spreads (Illinois just joined 10 other states as of January 1st), the stigma surrounding the cannabis industry begins to lessen. It’s no secret that marijuana has been a functional part of treatment for veterans returning from overseas, but now veterans are becoming a functional part of the cultivation and distribution of the cannabis industry itself.
“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” he said, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, DC.
“So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific,” he added.
The increase between December and now may be attributable to stepped-up campaigns in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, but body counts are generally considered a dubious metric for a number of reasons.
In the case of ISIS, it’s difficult to first assess just how many fighters the terrorist group has.
According to Military.com, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in 2014 that ISIS had 100,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, while the Pentagon said in summer 2016 that there were just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in those two countries.
Complicating matters is the UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon’s estimate of the number of ISIS slain. “More than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed,” Fallon said in December.
Differing assessments of ISIS’ manpower are likely to make it more difficult for the Trump administration and its allies to develop an effective strategy to counter the terrorist group.
Body-count assessments also have a bad reputation as a relic of the Vietnam War, when rosy estimates, often made by officers angling for promotions, earned scorn.
During the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government reversed its policy on body counts more than once.
A body-count figure released by the Obama administration in mid-2015 was undercut several times.
“These are the types of numbers that novices apply,” a US military adviser told The Daily Beast at the time.
Chuck Hagel — who served as US defense secretary prior to Ash Carter — has also recently dismissed the policy of keeping body counts.
“My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in December. “Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?”
“References to enemy killed are estimates, not precise figures,” Christopher Sherwood, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told CNN. “While the number of enemy killed is one measure of military success, the coalition does not use this as a measure of effectiveness in the campaign to defeat ISIS.”
Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.
The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.
To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.
This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:
The U.S. Army destroyed a flying drone target with a Hellfire missile fired from a truck-mounted launcher designed to protect ground troops from enemy rockets, mortars, artillery fire, cruise missiles and aircraft, service officials explained.
The live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a Multi-Mission Launcher shot the Hellfire out of one of 15 rotating launch tubes mounted onto a mobile tactical truck.
“The MML is mounted on a medium tactical vehicle. The launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0 to 90 degrees. It consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors,” an Army statement said.
With ISIS rocket fire killing a U.S. Marine at a firebase in Iraq recently, this emerging ground-based troop protection is the kind of system which could quickly make and operational difference for forces in combat situations.
The firing represents an adaptation of the Hellfire missile, a 100-pound tank-killing weapons typically fired from aircraft such as Gray Eagle, Predator and Reaper drones and Apache attack helicopters, among others.
The Hellfire was fired as part of a development force protection technology called “Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I).” The live fire exercise demonstrated the ability to fire a second interceptor type because the Multi-Mission launcher has also fired a ground-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a AIM-9X missile, an air-to-air attack weapon adapted for ground-fire troop protection.
“We are fully integrated with AIM-9X and Longbow (Hellfire). This is a monumental effort by our PEO family,” Col. Terrence Howard, Project Manager, Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, PEO Missiles and Space told Scout Warrior.
The Multi-Mission launcher works in tandem with radar and fire-control software to identify, track, pinpoint and destroy approaching enemy air threats with an interceptor missile.
IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, an Army statement said.
“This is a capability that, when fully matured and fielded, will match and counter a very wide variety of sophisticated airborne threats. MML will greatly help protect our ground troops from harm’s way under the most stressing battlespace operating conditions,” James Lackey, Director of AMRDEC, told Scout Warrior in a statement.
The IFPC Inc 2-I System will use a technology called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System for its command and control along with a Sentinel radar system to provide 360-degree protection with the ability to engage simultaneous threats arriving from different angles of attack, Army officials said.
“MML (Multi-Mission Launcher) gives me confidence we can do more of these types of efforts when it comes to future prototyping,” Lackey added.
The live-fire demonstration involved Army subject matter experts, industry participants and international partners interested in the systems’ development.
“This is a marked achievement that proves the open systems architecture of the IFPC capability works as designed. We have demonstrated the ability to offer a multiple interceptor solution to defeat multiple threats. True multi-mission capability” Lt. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Product Manager.
Weapons development experts are now using telemetry and data collection systems to assess the results of the live fire with a mind to quickly preparing the system for combat use. The weapon should be ready for combat within three to five years.
The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.
With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.
Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.
“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.
“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”
The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.
The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.
The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”
Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb
Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.
The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.
“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.
Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’
The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.
“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.
In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”
Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”
‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’
During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.
After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.
Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.
“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.
‘We Can Bring More’
Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.
“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.
Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”
When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”
The Russian Defense Ministry warned the US military on Feb. 1, 2018 to either stop flying near its borders or to “agree on their rules,” according to state-owned media TASS.
“If the realization of this fact by American pilots causes depression and phobias, we recommend that the American side either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights,” the Russian Defense Ministry also said, according to RT.
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa accused Russia on Jan. 29, 2018 of an unsafe intercept over the Black Sea near Crimea, saying that an Su-27 flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft. Video appeared to show the Russian fighter jet noticeably close to the US plane.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes,” the US Navy said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the incident earlier in the week was “absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane.”
The US has released several videos of the intercept, showing the Su-27 buzzing and hovering near the US spy plane.
Russia said that the incident was an escort — not an intercept.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to Business Insider’s emails asking why such maneuvers were necessary for an escort, and what “agree to their rules” meant.
Moscow also called out the US commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet, saying, “We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet Bill Ellis with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia,” Tass reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that NATO planes have maneuvered in similar ways in the past, but they “cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews.”
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
New details have emerged about the Jan. 28 raid on a compound used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and the loss of an MV-22 Osprey.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the raid had been intended to nab Yemeni tribal leaders and get intelligence on their ties with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The snatch operation turned into a firefight when terrorists launched a counter-attack.
Among the militants firing at the SEALs were women, an several were believed to have been among the 14 terrorists killed in the raid. The SEALs were forced to call in air support from AH-1Z Cobras and AV-8B+ Harriers based on the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) as the firefight went on, the Post report says.
Additionally, officials with Central Command said Feb. 1 that investigators are looking into allegations that among the dead were civilians in the compound targeted by the SEALs. Officials said in a release that civilians were “likely” killed and “may include children.”
“The ongoing credibility assessment seeks to determine whether any still-undetected civilian casualties took place in the ferocious firefight,” CENTCOM said. “The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides, including from houses and other buildings.”
To get the SEALs out, elements of what the report called “an elite Special Operations air regiment,” likely referring to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also called the Nightstalkers. After retrieving the SEALs, the Nightstalkers intended to meet up with a Marine quick reaction force on MV-22 Ospreys to transfer the SEALs to the Makin Island, where the wounded could receive medical treatment.
That meet-up went wrong. One of the V-22s made a “hard landing” – more akin to a crash – which ended up leaving three Marines injured.
In an interview with reporters Feb. 1, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. John Davis said officials are still investigating what went wrong with the Osprey, adding his suspicion was that brown-out conditions might have played a role.
“They were going into a firefight at night. … But what’s the good news? A lot of people don’t walk away from hard landings, and everybody walked away from this one,” Davis said. “There’s a Marine who kind of bumped his head, but everyone walked away.”
After evacuating the wounded, the inoperable tilt-rotor was destroyed by an AV-8B using a Joint Direct Attack Munition, according to officials who spoke with the Post. During that time, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died from his wounds.
A Department of Defense release noted that the operation was “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qa’ida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts.”
According to a report by FoxNews.com, President Trump attended the return of the remains of Chief Owens and had a private meeting with the fallen SEAL’s family during a two-hour visit.
A convoy used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has become a death trap for fighters with the radical Islamic terrorist group. American planes have carried out a number of air strikes on ISIS forces while largely avoiding civilian casualties.
According to multiple reports and Pentagon spokesmen, the convoy consisted of 17 buses that were departing an ISIS-held enclave after striking a deal with the radical Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah and the Syrian army. However, the United States scrambled assets to attack the convoy, and cratered the road ahead of the busses.
While six of the vehicles turned back towards the city of Palmyra, the other 11 have been stranded for at least 10 days. Since then, they have become almost irresistible bait for the terrorist group. Over 85 terrorists have been hit by coalition air strikes since the convoy was stranded. This has saved the United States and the rest of the anti-ISIS coalition the time and effort of hunting them down.
The U.S.-lead anti-ISIS coalition has allowed deliveries of food and water to the convoy, to which ISIS fighters have been drawn to “[l]ike moths to the flame,” according to comments by DOD spokesman Ryan Dillon, an Army colonel.
“We were able to exploit it and take advantage,” he said, noting that over 40 vehicles, from technicals to a tank, have been hit trying to aid the convoy. “We were able to continue to just observe and pick them off one at a time,” Col. Dillon added.
The experienced ISIS troops have also apparently grown frustrated during the siege. During one of the deliveries, an internal squabble broke out.
“You could clearly tell they were going to fisticuffs,” Dillon said. There was no word on whether the internal fighting among the ISIS terrorists saved the coalition additional trouble.
Dr. Robert Kraft and his staff in California have pressed an experimental treatment, transcranial laser treatments, into tackling PTSD and TBI, and they’re already getting great results with veterans and victims of sexual trauma. Now, they want to spread the word and hopefully get the treatment adopted across a wider area, allowing more vets and PTSD sufferers to benefit.
Using lasers to treat pain is a relatively new practice, and when Dr. Kraft first heard about it, he wanted to know more.
“So, I’m basically a traditionally trained anesthesiologist,” he said, “and I never believed that laser could penetrate anything, and initially, I was exposed to the laser because it claimed to treat pain, and I investigated. The scientific research is very strong, but there are not a lot of controlled trials on the pain side, but the science is actually very strong.“
Turns out, some lasers can penetrate human flesh and bone, but they expend a lot of energy doing so. And so when Dr. Kraft started reviewing the medical literature, he started to think doctors could get better results with a higher dose.
“There’s a certain frequency,” he explained, “it’s just outside of the red light zone called near-infrared, and it’s between 800 and 1,100 nanometers, and that frequency, those colors are basically the only ones in the entire spectrum that can penetrate the body, and by penetrate, what I mean is that they lose about 80% of their power every centimeter, so [in US standard units], then that’s 90% every inch.”
But when that energy reaches the patient’s brain, it can have great benefits.
“Cells that absorb the laser will secrete nerve growth factor, so that obviously can help some neurons, nerve cells regrow.”
Basically, the light hits the nerves, the nerves use that energy to release chemicals that help brain cells heal and regrow, and the brain can actually repair some damage to itself, whether the original trauma was emotional or physical. It could help heal damage from both PTSD and TBI.
“Any cell that absorbs it and give it more energy, and that could mean that cells, including the helper cells, in the brain, which is really the white matter of the brain, if it’s been injured, for instance in the case of TBI, those cells will get more energy to heal, and then the third thing is that for almost— there’s no scientific paper about this, but if you were to talk to these people every day like we do during the treatment, new neural circuits are formed, and I think that’s the key item. The laser increases what’s called neuroplasticity, which obviously means that the brain becomes able to reconnect and forms new circuits.”
An Air Force veteran undergoes transcranial laser pain relief.
(Screenshot courtesy LaserMD Pain Relief)
After reading the literature, Dr. Kraft decided to see if the claims of other laser practitioners stood up to the hype.
“I decided to start treating PTSD patients myself to see if it was really as good as they claimed,” he said, “and I’ve treated 10 adults and two kids, and I’m using doses that are about three times higher than they published the report at, and indeed, it is a phenomenal treatment. It’s not a perfect treatment of PTSD. The patient I’ve treated who’s been the oldest patient is a female … So this one patient I treated, she’s about 12 months since her last treatment, and she has retained 95% improvement in all of her symptoms.”
Dr. Kraft says that 60 percent of his patients experience improvement during treatment.
“I opened up a pain clinic, and I actually have the most laser pain experience in the country, probably in the world,” he said. “In terms of treating pain, the laser is an unbelievable treatment. Unbelievable meaning that 60 percent of people get some relief. It’s not 100 percent, but compared to conventional pain treatments, injections and pills, it’s far superior.”
A notable shortcoming of the treatment is that, in Kraft’s experience, it gives little relief to children. Kraft has two patients that he classifies as children, and neither has seen a massive improvement with laser therapy. He’s also reluctant to try the therapy with any patient with a history of seizures, worried that adding energy to the brain could trigger a seizure.
Still, for PTSD and TBI patients as a whole and veterans, in particular, treatments that help adults are a great start. So, if the treatment got positive results in the 10-patient study, and Dr. Kraft’s 10 adult patients are doing so well, what’s stopping this treatment from going on tour and helping vets and other PTSD sufferers around the country?
Well, there are few things. First and most importantly, much more study is needed to ensure the treatments work, work long term, and have no unidentified side effects (in Dr. Kraft’s patients so far, the sensation of heat and of “brain fog” that dissipates within a day has been reported). But if a foundation or corporation with deep enough pockets were to get the treatment through the regulatory hurdles, there’s little reason why the treatment couldn’t be rolled out quickly.
TLT Transcranial Laser Therapy, New Hope for PTSD & TBI
Logistically, conducting the treatment is very easy. The laser system is fairly easy to operate and just needs a good power source. Dr. Kraft even said the system could be rolled out on a mobile platform.
“The long-term goal is to deploy this to the VA and DOD,” he said, “and actually if this treatment were fully developed, you could actually essentially have a medic in a Winnebago, go around even to rural areas, to treat people rather [than bringing them into clinics]. Because a lot of the vets can’t make it into the big medical center in big cities.”
“I think that in five to ten years, it’s going to be considered the gold standard of PTSD treatments.”
On May 23, 1967, the M16 went under fire for letting troops down in Vietnam.
The Army began to issue M16s to infantry units in 1965, but the rifle routinely failed when troops needed it most. The crisis gained national attention when Congressman James J. Howard went to the floor of the House of Representatives to read a letter from a Marine in Vietnam.
The letter claimed that many of the casualties suffered during the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions of the M16 rifle.
The resulting controversy spurred a Congressional investigation. The Army soon found many of the rifles were delivered without cleaning kits and that soldiers and Marines were told that the rifle was “self-cleaning.” The rifle had also received new powder in its 5.56mm cartridges that also caused problems.
Troops hated the M16 so much, they started calling it the Mattel 16 “because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”
“We hated it,” added Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
The M16A1 fixed the problems with a chrome-plated chamber among other improvements. The new rifles were even shipped with a comic-book style manual by legendary graphic novelist Will Eisner.
The improved model proved incredibly reliable, and the M16A4 is in service with our troops today.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.