The US Marine Corps wants to add another title in front of some of its officers’ ranks: Doctor.
The service is establishing two pilot programs to offer qualified majors through lieutenant colonels with a doctorate-level education on the Corps’ dime, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.
The program’s goal is to develop a “cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders capable of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security … to achieve the innovative thinking desired by the Marine Corps,” according to the announcement August 3.
“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”
The pilot will likely be competitive, since only four officers will ultimately be picked; two will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, while two others will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus.
Applicants will be required to already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.
The Corps wants officers to get technical degrees in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science, the announcement says. Strategy degrees should be geared toward national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.
Applications are being accepted until the end of August 2017.
When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.
There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.
According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.
Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.
The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.
The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.
The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.
The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.
Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.
The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.
The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.
This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.
A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.
David Eubank, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.
“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.
According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians that were attempting to flee. Wearing only a t-shirt, bulletproof vest, and helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards where he picks up the girl and brings her back safely behind a tank.
Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.
Remains believed to be of a Revolutionary War hero buried at West Point don’t belong to a woman known as “Captain Molly” after all, but to an unknown man.
The U.S. Military Academy said Dec. 5 the discovery stems from a study of skeletal remains conducted after Margaret Corbin’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by excavators building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Tests by a forensic anthropologist revealed the remains were likely those of a middle-aged man who lived between the Colonial period and 19th century.
Corbin was known for bravely stepping in to fire a cannon in 1776 during a battle in New York City after her husband was killed. She was severely wounded during the Battle of Fort Washington, but lived another 24 years. She became the nation’s first woman to receive a pension for military service.
The location of Corbin’s remains is a mystery. Ground-penetrating radar around the gravesite failed to turn up any signs.
The Daughters of the American Revolution received approval in 1926 to move Corbin’s remains from nearby Highland Falls to the hallowed ground of West Point’s cemetery. The leafy lot near the Hudson River is the resting place for thousands, including Gulf War commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Vietnam Gen. William Westmoreland, and Lt. Col. George Custer.
The DAR used records and local accounts from the community to locate the remains believed to be Corbin, according to the Army.
“The remains were verified back in 1926. And you have to consider the gap between 1926 and today. Technology has changed tremendously,” said Col.Madalyn Gainey, spokeswoman for Army National Military Cemeteries.
The remains of the unknown man were reinterred at West Point’s cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for May.
“Nearly 250 years after the Battle of Fort Washington, her bravery and legacy to American history as one of the first women to serve in combat in the defense of our nation continues to transcend and inspire women in military service today,” said ANMC Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.
Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.
(U.S. Army Military History Institute)
World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.
“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.
(United States Army Air Forces)
The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.
(U.K. National Archives)
This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:
We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.
(U.K. National Archives)
England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.
The race to get the contract for the US Navy’s first carrier-based drone is heating up.
All three competitors — Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin — have released images of what their drones look like, and the announcement of the winner is expected sometime between August and October 2018.
The program, officially known as the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, or CBARS, is an attempt by the Navy to increase the operational range of carrier-based aircraft with a drone that can perform aerial refueling duties.
The program was originally called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, and was intended to field a carrier-based drone that could conduct air strikes and perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, known as ISR.
But after delays over the main focus of the MQ-25’s role (strike or ISR), the Pentagon decided to repurpose the program to aerial refueling, in order to help deal with its shortage of pilots and the rise of longer range anti-ship defenses.
Northrup Grumman, once considered the most likely to be awarded the contract because of the success of its X-47B demonstrator, announced that it was pulling out from the competition in October 2017, leaving Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin as the only competitors.
Here’s what you need to know about each submission:
(Lockheed Martin photo)
Lockheed Martin’s design is loosely based on its RQ-170 Sentinel and the overall design does not appear much different from Lockheed Martin’s UCLASS offer, the Sea Ghost. That drone was supposed to feature stealth technology to help it conduct strike and ISR missions.
But when the Pentagon shifted the program to aerial refueling, the stealth requirements were dropped. Despite this, Lockheed Martin has decided to keep its flying wing design.
A flying wing design is aerodynamically efficient because it requires less thrust and fuel to fly, and its spot factor is small when its wingtips are folded up.
A flying wing design for a tanker also has the added benefit of having more space than conventional designs, which allows it to carry more fuel. The Navy wants its new drone to be able to hold over 14,000 lbs of fuel.
From a mechanical standpoint, flying wing aircraft are considered slightly easier to maintain as well because they tend to have a lower number of parts.
The drone will also be equipped with sensors and cameras that enable it to carry out limited ISR missions.
Boeing’s design is based on its Phantom Ray stealth UAV demonstrator. Boeing has the most experience in aerial refueling, as well as naval aviation as a whole — the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler dominate the current naval air fleet.
Like Lockheed Martin’s design, the drone has a massive fuel tank, meaning it will have no difficulty meeting the Navy’s 14,000lbs of fuel and 500 nautical mile range requirements.
Boeing’s design is the only one that has a working prototype, though it has not yet flown. The drone has been tested in St. Louis on Lambert Field.
The drone was operating on a painted outline of an aircraft carrier flight deck to test if it could function well in the limited space.
Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing, said that they had “successfully controlled the aircraft through all of the most challenging flight deck scenarios, including day and night operations,” in tests that were “designed to show how the aircraft can be taxied and operated within the tight confines of the carrier flight deck.”
Boeing’s candidate was also adapted from the original UCLASS program.
(General Atomics photo)
General Atomics’ design is based on their Sea Avenger, a carrier-based version of their Avenger UAV, a strike aircraft that was intended to succeed its MQ-9 Reaper.
The Sea Avenger was re-adapted for refueling operations after the Pentagon cancelled the UCLASS program.
General Atomics and Boeing are working on the proposal together, and this drone would be among the largest projects General Atomics has pursued.
The drone will be equipped with electromagnetic technology that will enable it to fit in seamlessly with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System on board Ford-class carriers.
It will also be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW815 turbofan engines, one of the most efficient and modern engines currently used.
The design is still heavily based on the Avenger, which was designed for strike and ISR missions.
The company has already announced that it will not build a flyable prototype, choosing instead to use its Avenger prototypes for things like ground tests. General Atomics provides the US military with more drones than any other company.
Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.
Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.
In these conditions, snipers are “an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops,” the analysis said.
When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.
“Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines” were using bolt-action rifles that “fire three times farther than the SVD rifles.”
Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.
Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.
If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.
In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.
What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.
We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.
‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’
Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.
The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.
The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.
We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.
Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.
A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.
NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’
In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.
Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.
All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.
Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”
‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF
Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.
Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.
For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.
Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.
At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.
Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.
A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.
Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.
If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.
DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.
MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.
This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.
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The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.
After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.
The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.
Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.
The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.
This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.
A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.
The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.
At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.
The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.
Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.
On July 4th, 2015 two separate instances of Russian long-range bombers closing on U.S. airspace prompted interceptions by U.S. Air Force F-22 and F-15 fighter aircraft off the coasts of California and Alaska. The bombers, Tupolev TU-95 “Bear” bombers, were intercepted at 10:30 and 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
The bombers did not enter U.S. airspace, and an interception does not mean the destruction of the intercepted aircraft. Around the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama to wish him a happy Independence Day.
Russian bombers did the same thing on July 4, 2013.
In January of this year, two Russian nuclear-capable bombers found their way into air defense zones near Alaska, but were not intercepted. That same month, A Russian Bear bomber was intercepted in the English Channel, flying without its transponder (making it invisible to civilian aircraft) prompting the UK government to summon the Russian Ambassador. In February, Russian Bear bombers were intercepted by an RAF Typhoon near Cornwall, England. Russian media released a video of bomber interceptions from the Russian point of view, featuring British Typhoons, a French Mirage, and a German Eurofighter.
In May, two Russian Tupolev Tu-22Ms were intercepted by Swedish fighters over the Gulf of Finland, “provocatively close” to Swedish airspace. While Sweden is not a NATO ally, it is still in the Western sphere of influence, a sphere President Putin considers weak and decadent while Sweden and Finland are warming up to the idea of joining the alliance. This is the latest in a string of incidents between Russia and Sweden, the others occurring in March 2015 and September 2014. The Russians were similarly intercepted by Latvia, Norway, Turkey, and Portugal.
Displays of bomber capability are not uncommon, even from the U.S., which recently flew B-52 bombers from Nebraska to Australia and back to demonstrate the long range capability of the aircraft. What is uncommon is Russia’s constant provocation of approaching air defense zones.
In 2013, Canadian and American fighters scrambled to meet the Russians six times, with ten more sightings of Russian bombers in air defense zones. NATO says allied fighters scrambled more than 400 times in 2014 (100 times in the UK alone) to intercept Russian military planes. The U.S. Air Force reported 50 air-to-air intercepts by the U.S. since 2006.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
Over the last few decades female service members have been allowed to join (or attempt to join) a number of warfare specialties that were once only available to men. Some would like to credit the political winds in the wake of the Tailhook Scandal in ’91 or the DoD Sexual Harassment Report a couple of years ago, but — as with most things in the Free World — the biggest influence to shaping attitudes about a woman’s ability to serve is how she is represented on the Silver Screen.
Here are seven of the most iconic and groundbreaking portrayals of the military female experience in the history of cinema:
1. PATRICIA NEAL as Lieutenant Maggie Hayes in “In Harm’s Way” (1965)
Patricia Neal’s reading of Lt. Maggie Hayes is pitch-perfect. She’s tough but understanding as the head Navy nurse at a Pearl Harbor installation during the high optempo days of World War II. She’s also a great girlfriend to Capt. “Rock” Torrey (played by John Wayne in maximum swagger mode) and presents a model of how to navigate the fine (and potentially messy) lines of work-life blending and differences in rank.
2. DEMI MOORE as Lieutenant Jordan O’Neill in “G.I. Jane” (1997)
The powers-that-be are thinking of opening up Navy SEAL training to women these days? Thank Demi Moore. Her portrayal of never-say-quit Lt. O’Neill is gritty and honest. And she also delivers a classic line where she tells one of her instructors to do something to her that’s anatomically impossible. HOO-YAH, bitches!
3. DEMI MOORE as Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway in “A Few Good Men” (1992)
Demi Moore tackles the part of Lcdr. JoAnne Galloway with gusto, and in the process she emerges as a role model for female officers stuck in prosaic support specialties like Navy JAG. She handles the ever-whiney Lt. Dan Kaffee (played by the ever-whiney Tom Cruise) with aplomb and only cries a few times over the course of their time together. Her sense of justice is laudable. Her choice of hairstyles is less so, but let’s blame director Rob Reiner for that. Actually, skip that. He got that absolutely right.
4. GOLDIE HAWN as Private Judy Benjamin in “Private Benjamin” (1980)
Although it’s a comedy, Goldie Hawn’s reading of her character is really a procedural for using the U.S. military as a means of getting your shit together, female-style. Benjamin is a spoiled rich girl who becomes a widow at a young age and is tricked (you know how they do) by a recruiter into joining the Army. She weathers sexual harassment at the hands of her lesbian DI as well as her special ops CO (Col. Thornbush), but ultimately (after a tour at SHAPE and great Paris RR) she emerges stronger and more courageous than before she donned the uniform. (And how about those veteran’s benefits?)
5. Kelly McGillis as Charlie in “Top Gun” (1986)
Hey, in case you haven’t noticed, contractors are a big part of the military, and no actress has ever represented those proud patriots as well as Kelly McGillis does while holding down the role of Charlie in the all-time military classic “Top Gun.” As with Demi Moore in “A Few Good Men,” McGillis gets points for playing opposite whiney Tom Cruise, this time whining into an oxygen mask a lot of the time, but beyond that she exudes strength (the government gave her a top secret clearance, lieutenant) and sweet surrender (everybody: *take my breath awaaaaaayyyy*).
6. CARRIE FISHER as Princess Leia in “Return of the Jedi” (1983)
Because she had the strength to outlast the ick of lusting after her brother for all that time and because she’s a princess, which must make her the commander-in-chief of the rebel forces (or something) and therefore a military person. *Hand salute*
7. SIGOURNEY WEAVER as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley in “Alien” (1979)
Few characters, male or female, in the history of cinema have jumped off the screen with as much moxie and brio as Sigourney Weaver managed while playing Ripley in the sci-fi epic “Alien.” The movie is basically a one-act play where Weaver’s character has every chance to freak the hell out but doesn’t, and therefore she survives (because if she hadn’t there wouldn’t have been a sequel). Ripley is a model of strength and calm under pressure, and her BS meter is way dialed in.
The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.
“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”
Carr published the video, called Hawg (above), on his blog’s YouTube page and hit more than 935,000 views since it went live on September 4. Its popularity is related to how much the A-10 is beloved by airmen who work and fly the airframe, as well as troops on the ground who need it for close air support. It’s also a really good documentary about the A-10’s combat role. So why would the Air Force not release it?
He suspected the USAF tried to suppress the documentary for political reasons, chiefly the effort by the Air Force to mothball the A-10 in favor of developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He tried to get a statement from the Air Force before releasing it, but received none. After its release, he received a statement from a USAF spokesman explaining the role of Combat Camera and uses of its imagery:
“The documentation was captured by Combat Camera. The primary intent of Combat Camera missions [is] to ensure documentation of military activities during wartime operations, worldwide crises, and contingencies. The foundational mission of Combat Camera was achieved. The documentation aided mission assessment. However, the video in your possession never entered the security and policy review process because it was not finalized for any other purpose.”
Carr found another video, a more polished version of Hawg, called Grunts in the Sky,which contained graphics, music, and credits, which Carr believes is evidence of editorial discretion to get the video through an approval process. That the Hawg video includes unblurred faces of USAF JTAC operators and doesn’t have name titles of the A-10 pilots interviewed there might be some truth to the official statement, as far as COMCAM is concerned. Carr recently learned from sources inside the Air Force the video was approved through its normal process but once it hit a certain staff level, was shot down.
Officers close to the situation said that the wing commander at Bagram threatened UCMJ action against anyone who leaked the video, going so far as invoking the word “mutiny” in his warning.
The Air Force Public Affairs website describes Combat Camera’s mission: “COMCAM imagery serves a visual record of an operation and is of immeasurable value to decision makers in the OSD, Joint Staff, and combatant commands. COMCAM imagery is also significant for public affairs, public diplomacy and psychological operations.“
Combat Camera imagery is painstakingly reviewed and released (or not) by Public Affairs Officers while in the field and then back at their home units when other products are created from existing imagery. The Hawg video would have to have been reviewed before its release, including each clip used in its final form.