Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.
A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.
The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.
U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.
A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Johnson was struck as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, according to the U.S. officials, who said he was firing back as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape.
All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded.
The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson’s remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy.
According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack.
The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested.
A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command’s chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier’s report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month.
The officials familiar with the report’s conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety.
The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform.
As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in rescue teams to search for Johnson, not making his status public in the hope he might have gotten away and was still alive and hiding. The Pentagon only acknowledged that he was missing after his body was located two days later by local forces.
The Pentagon has declined to release details about the exact mission of the commando team. U.S. officials have previously said that the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State member, who also had former ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen, and collect intelligence.
After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village for a short time to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military believes someone in the village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandoes and Nigerien forces in the area, setting in motion the ambush.
U.S. special operations forces have been routinely working with Niger’s forces, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists in the region. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.
The three other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. Black and Wright were Army Special Forces. Johnson and Johnson were not commandos.
Johnson’s combat death led to a political squabble between President Donald Trump and a Democratic congresswoman from Florida after Trump told Johnson’s pregnant widow in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Frederica Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. The spat grew to include Trump’s chief of staff, who called Wilson an “empty barrel” making noise.
North Korea is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Feb. 19, 2018.
In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table.
“It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.
Using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the article also said, “the DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” and that it would be “naive and foolhardy” for the US to “hurt” North Korea.
The statement came shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told 60 Minutes he would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until that first bomb drops.”
“We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said on Feb. 18, adding that the US will keep up its policy of maximum pressure until Pyongyang tells him they are ready to talk.
Tillerson’s messaging reiterated that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told The Washington Post the US approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”
North Korea’s latest statement seemed to be directly responding to these two interviews, saying the vice president and secretary of state are “vying with each other to build a world of public opinion.”
Pyongyang also seemed particularly aggrieved by the US State Department’s change to its travel advisory January 2018. Travelers to North Korea are now warned to draft a will, designate a power of attorney and discuss funeral plans with loved ones before their visit.
“The Trump group spouted jargons that tourists should write a will before making a trip to the DPRK. If the U.S. dares to ignite a war against the DPRK, there will be left no one to keep a written will and bury a coffin,” KCNA said.
Retired Marine Johnny “Joey” Jones, who lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while deployed, was asked to exit a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia; since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets and sparked a heated conversation.
The Washington Post reported that Jones was “concerned with the way the park’s policy was presented to him” and that “the policy is too restrictive to accommodate people with disabilities.”
But there’s a good reason for roller coaster parks to be restrictive.
Hackemer had been wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead that caused the loss of his left leg and most of his right. He, like Jones, wore prosthetic limbs. After an investigation, a reportedly seven-figure settlement was reached between the lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and Hackemer’s family.
Jones didn’t see the handicapped sign for the ride when he climbed in with his 8 year-old son — but the ride operator noticed Jones’ prosthetics. Jones told The Washington Post that he wasn’t upset about being asked to leave the ride, but rather that the employees didn’t seem trained to properly accommodate his condition.
“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” Six Flags said in a statement to Fox News. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act. Our policies are customized by ride and developed for the safety of all our guests. Our policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure we continue to accommodate the needs of our guests while simultaneously maintaining a safe environment for everyone.”
Nonetheless, Jones took to Twitter to call out the park:
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(The featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.
Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of “explosive” spray adhesive. “Lid’s off!” replaces the usual “Pin’s out!” referring to the flash-bang’s safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.
In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of “spooge” rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)
(A typical Flash-Bang grenade used by Law Enforcement; no fragmentation, just loud extreme loud noise and flash. Flash-Bangs are categorized as non-lethal riot control devices.)
“Spooge” somehow became the nickname for the cans of spray adhesive we used to stick paper targets, bull’s eyes, and the like to a target stake downrange. It simply was the quickest and most convenient way to stick paper to cardboard and get on to the business of sending maximum rounds down range on a near-daily basis.
(In all its glory, the 3M Super 77CA Multipurpose spray adhesive can)
Spray adhesive was for paper on cardboard. For attaching cardboard to a wooden target, slat roofing tacks were used. Roofing tacks are a short nail with a very wide and flat head. It happened that when our Delta brother, Cuz, was hurriedly attaching a fresh target paper he noted his target backing was pulling apart from the wooden target slat.
Not wanting to lose the time to run the 150 meters back to the target shed to retrieve a proper hammer, Cuz decided that the spooge can already in his hand possessed sufficient merit to serve to pound in the tack. Within a few smacks on the roof tack with the bottom edge of the can it burst, completely engulfing his head and face.
Cuz’s ballistic eye protection was glued to his face, and his hair was covered. He staggered around blindly and calling out:
“Little help… a little help over here — we have a situation!”
We quickly engage in the attempt to pull his eye protection away from his face so he could see again, a ponderous and painful process.
“Well guys… that’s why we wear this safety equipment, you know?” he recited flatly, mimicking a certain redundant preaching that was certain to result from the incident.
“Cuz, I think you better just head on straight home from here and see about getting that spooge out of your hair; there’s not much else you can accomplish here… unless you want to finish hammering that nail with a fresh can…” our Troop Sergeant joked.
As fortune would have it, Cuz’s Mrs. was a hairdresser and knew just how to work the glue from out of Cuz’s hair and off his face. She did a remarkable job; when Cuz returned to work the next day, there was not so much of a hint of the adhesive in his hair, a vision that I found truly extraordinary.
For sure I endured the nagging and pining need for a cartoon to portray the event. As bizarre as it was, it was sure to be a cinch to find the humor…the humor in a can of target spooge that blew up in Cuz’s face like a… a flash-bang grenade. There it was; the vision in my head of spooge cans replacing bangers in a tactical building entry, the bad guys glued to the walls, floors, and fixtures. I stuck a fork in it *cuz* it was done.
Soon enough, I felt Cuz’s eye on me for a time, then he finally approached me when I was alone; I felt I already knew what was coming and was right:
“Yo Geo… this isn’t going to find its way into the cartoon book, is it?”
Oh, the shame! Yet again a man was missing the glory of being immortalized in the Unit cartoon book. I had to remind him; I had to remind them all that they WANTED to be in the cartoon book for the balance of time, though it might not be a thing they recognized immediately. I had to explain to Cuz the same way I had to explain it to every candidate:
Just because you got hurt or injured or humiliated due to an unfortunate blunder committed while on the job… do NOT think you should get a pass for that from the unit Cartoonist. That will not happen — if you dance you’re going to have to pay the band, and if you have to pay the band you might as well make sure it plays your favorite tune!
“Recall if you will that the cartoonist has a measure of reputation to maintain with his public. The fact that you make the cartoon book is purely a business decision, one entirely devoid of any emotion or sympathy… a cold, impersonal, heartless business decision. I am the cartoonist; I AM THE BAND!
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.
A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.
Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Infections Could Be Higher
Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.
In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.
The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.
The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.
Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.
The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
I didn’t know this needed to be said in an official military statement, but apparently, troops have to be told not to use CBD oil that they found on the internet because it will almost certainly make them pop hot on a piss test for marijuana use.
In case you aren’t aware, CBD oil, or cannabidiol oil, is derived from marijuana plants and put into various products. Even the products that label themselves as having no THC are either flat-out lying (because the lack of FDA approval and zero government oversight won’t get the BBB’s attention) or still contain enough trace amounts to fail a urinalysis.
And look. I’m not trying to discredit the value of CBD oil. Whatever floats your boat. I got my DD-214 and give no f*cks for what you do with your life. I’m just saying: if you’re still in the military and use a product that says it can treat all of the same things as prescription weed, is made from weed, and, depending on the product, gives the effects of being high on weed… Don’t try to play dumb when the commander says they found weed in your pee.
Besides, the military is already under the control of a miracle cure-all drug monopoly. It’s called Motrin. Anyways, here are some memes.
The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.
Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.
The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.
Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.
Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.
A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.
A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.
Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.
The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.
It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments for a young specialist or sergeant hoping to move up in the ranks: stepping in front of the promotion board. In preparation, troops feel compelled to study and memorize every last question that the battalion’s first sergeants and sergeant major could possibly ask.
Throughout the process, each first sergeant will ask you questions that they believe to be paramount to both your role in particular and to NCOs in general. The subjects span the gamut, ranging from something like handling medical emergencies to spouting off regulations verbatim. And there’s no clear way of knowing what they’ll ask, so it’s best to study everything.
With that being said, you don’t have to go insane trying to fit every last regulation number in your head right before stepping into the board. You should still study and if you say that you didn’t because of an article you read on We Are The Mighty, you will be laughed by your chain of command — and me, as I hold my DD-214. Okay, especially by me, who may or may not screencap the conversation and send it to US Army WTF Moments. I digress.
Passing the board is about much more than your ability to parrot off semi-relevant information to higher ranking NCOs. It’s about your chain of command gauging your competency and potential to lead.
If your squad leader didn’t have faith in you, they never would have put you on that list.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)
Long before your name even appears on any kind of candidate list, your first sergeant will consult your first line supervisor. If they think you’re ready, they will have a quick chat and your squad leader or platoon sergeant will argue for your promotion. If not, they aren’t even going to raise your hopes.
Your squad leader is (or should) always going to fight for you to advance your career. The moment your first sergeant is convinced that you’re ready for the next level of responsibility, you’ve successfully persuaded one-fifth of the board members.
It’s the big moment. Don’t lose your cool or else you’ll get rejected and have to come back again when they think you’re ready.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)
Then it comes time to actually study. Your squad leader can’t cheat for you and give you the answers, but they can find out which topics each first sergeant might ask about. This means you should definitely take their advice if they advise you to study certain areas.
Next, we arrive at the big day: the promotion board. Keep as level of a head as you can. I don’t know if this will help you or stress you out further, but in the time between the previous person walking out and you showing up, they’re discussing you among themselves. It could be nothing more than a simple nod and a “I like this guy” but, make no mistake, they are talking about you.
Something as small as that nod of approval could seal your fate before you march in. The rest of the proceedings are just to convince anyone still on the fence.
Another bit of advice, try to take the board while you’re deployed. The questions tend to be easier (since your deployment is proving your worth to the Army) and you don’t need to get your Blues in perfect order.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)
You’re sitting in the chair now and the first sergeants are hitting you with questions. You find yourself stumped. There are two old tricks I’ve heard from NCOs but, as always, read your audience and choose wisely.
Some say you should give an answer and be confident about it, even if you’re not sure that it’s right.This shows that you’ll stick to your guns — but it could also make you seem like a complete dumbass.
Others say you should be humble, and respond with a respectful, “first sergeant, I do not know the answer to that question at this time.” If you admit you don’t know, it shows that you are honest — but it could also mean you’re unprepared if it was an easy question.
Both are technically good responses, but they could bite you in the ass. It all depends on the board members.
The first sergeants may drop some heavy-hitters on you, but the heaviest of all will come from the sergeant major. Impress him and you’re as good as gold.
Every unit and promotion board is different but, generally speaking, the sergeant major will ask you situational questions to determine your worth as an NCO. One question that stuck out for me was as follows:
You and a friend are drinking heavily by the lake. Your friend gets seriously injured and needs to get to the hospital. It’s fifteen minutes away on a path that no one takes, including law enforcement. Your cell phones are both out of service but you know the park ranger will make their rounds in one hour. Do you take the risk and drive there drunk? Or do you wait it out and risk them bleeding out?
It’s a trick question. You should answer in a way that demonstrates your understanding of military bearing and being an NCO. The only correct answers are, “I would never put myself in a position where myself and a passenger get drunk without having a legal way home” or “I would stabilize their wound then get to a point with better reception.”
Then again, I’ve also heard of a sergeant major asking a quiet and shy specialist to sing the National Anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going on in a sergeant major’s head.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.
The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.
“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.
F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”
Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.
Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.
“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”
The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.
The “Night Wolves” have come to Slovakia and the locals are not happy about it. Also known in Eastern Europe as “Putin’s Angels,” the group is a biker gang with ties to the Kremlin. Their arrival in the country is not a welcome sight, as their presence foretells a potentially devastating future.
And seeing as Slovakia is a member of NATO, it could even spark a third world war.
Their favorites include Vladimir Putin, pictured here with “The Surgeon,” and Joseph Stalin, who is still dead.
In 2014, the group helped the Russian military annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and continue to assist pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s bloody, ongoing civil war. The gang’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov (aka “The Surgeon”) offers his gang’s assistance to Russian Special Forces in what Slovak President Andrej Kiska calls violations of international law. The group even operates a training center just a few miles away from the fighting in Ukraine.
“The Surgeon,” named for his history in dentistry, has risen to prominence in Russia during a time when the Soviet Union evokes nostalgia among many. Zaldostanov is Russian nationalism’s brightest rising star. He, like many others, yearns for the days when Russian power meant something and decries the country’s enemies, mainly NATO and the United States.
During the Russian takeover of Ukraine, the Night Wolves operated roadblocks and stormed Ukrainian naval facilities, even going so far as to seize weapons from Ukrainian government facilities. They even received medals for their work in Sevastopol and greater Ukraine before the Russians moved in, and a medal for patriotism in the wake of the Sevastopol bike show, which was attended by Vladimir Putin himself.
In Slovakia, the gang built a compound from which to base their activities, which, in the past, have included anti-NATO rallies and three-day long protests against the Slovakian government. The building is just 60 kilometers from the Slovak capital of Bratislava.
The compound houses old tanks and armored military vehicles for a group that bills itself as a group of “harmless motorcycle lovers.”
The arrival of the Night Wolves was met by calls for the Slovakian government to forcibly remove the gang. This is in stark contrast to other visits but not for the same reasons.
When the biker gang rolled into Bosnia (without bikes – it was too cold for bikes) the locals did little more than giggle. Roughly half of that country is represented by the breakaway region known as Republika Srpska, an area that wants its independence from Bosnia and would look to Russia as a potential patron. Instead of money or arms, Putin sent the Night Wolves.
“They looked pathetic; even I am taller than they are,” ethnic Serb psychologist Srdjan Puhalo told the New York Times. He still posed with the bikers for photos in Banja Luka, the most pro-Russia city in Bosnia. Other countries have not been so receptive to the Night Wolves.
President Kiska is among those in Slovakia who want the Night Wolves’ base removed and the bikers sent packing, but it’s not the President’s call to make. The local authorities in the country insist the gang has done nothing wrong (in Slovakia, at least).
The Pentagon is throwing $700 million at a rapidly progressing program to combat the threat of commercial drone use by the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.
The program has commissioned U.S. defense contractors to begin attempting to find solutions to the drone threat, including using lasers to shoot them out of the sky. The technology is in its infancy and has yet to yield any significant results. ISIS has pioneered the use of relatively cheap commercial drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, for surveillance, and propaganda purposes.
The Pentagon program comes as it increases the number of U.S. troops in Syria to assist training for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon reportedly worries that its bases could be vulnerable to ISIS drone attacks, and it sees the broader trend in warfare.
The terrorist group used some commercial drones to drop cheap IED’s on the Iraq Security Forces during the Battle for Mosul. ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict “a new source of horror for the apostates.” The terrorist group said the new unit killed nearly 40 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.
The threat may not just be limited to the battlefield. Georgetown terrorism expert Dr. Bruce Hoffman recently warned that drone “swarms” could become a facet of western terrorist attacks. Hoffman outlined one such scenario, telling readers, “picture Paris on November 13, 2015 [the night when people were slaughtered at a rock concert and in sidewalk cafés] with drone attacks superimposed on top of it. Authorities would have been completely overwhelmed. This elevates our greatest fear, which is simultaneous urban attacks—now with swarming on top of them.”