In a push to build its modernization budget and invest in new technologies, the Marine Corps has hauled at least one program of record to the curb — and is looking for more to cut.
The Corps has already divested of the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System to make way for other capabilities, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told Military.com in an interview.
The EFSS, fielded in the early 2000s, was designed to be extremely portable, small enough to be towed by an all-terrain vehicle that fits easily inside an MV-22 Osprey.
Made by General Dynamics, the full system weighs roughly 18 pounds and can fire high-explosive, smoke and illumination rounds. The system was fired in combat for the first time in 2011.
The news that the Marine Corps is cutting ties with the program is something of a surprise, considering the service was in the process of acquiring a new round: the Raytheon-made GPS-guided precision extended range munition, or PERM, expected to increase the accuracy of the system and extend its range from roughly five miles to 10.
In 2015, Raytheon inked a $98 million contract with the Corps for the delivery of PERM; the round was to have been fielded to Marine units next year.
But Walsh said the Marine Corps is working to extend the range of its artillery arsenal, particularly its M777 howitzer. With its limited range, the EFSS may not be well suited to what Marine leaders perceive as the Corps’ future mission.
“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh said. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”
Walsh said the Marine Corps wants to see a boost of about 5 percent in its modernization budget. The just-passed Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act included a modest bump in procurement, with much of the additional money earmarked for investment in ground vehicles.
As the Corps plans for 2020 and beyond, Walsh said the service is looking inside the organization to find savings and “investment trade-offs” in order to get the money it needs.
While Walsh said he could not yet identify other Marine Corps programs that had been marked for divestiture, he noted that operations and maintenance funding may also be examined in order to move more money into modernization.
“The commandant has told us … I wouldn’t say that he has modernization over readiness — readiness is important — but he’s told us to look real hard at our ops and maintenance accounts that aren’t tied specifically to unit readiness,” he said.
“We can look … to determine across the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] where we can find money and move it into the modernization area to get that slope up higher within the Marine Corps,” Walsh said.
Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.
Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.
This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry reacted to Trump’s move by calling it a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.
Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli forces during the 1973 Middle East war, but their surprise assault was repelled.
In 1981, Israel extended its laws to the region, effectively annexing it, in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Trump’s move was unlawful and could lead to renewed tensions in the Middle East. “This could lead to a new wave of tensions…such things, they are outside the law for they ignore all international efforts…unfortunately, they can only aggravate the situation,” she told Russian radio.
Trump announced on Twitter on March 21, 2019, that the United States intended to “fully” recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the 1,800-square-kilometer territory — a decision that breaks with long-standing U.S. policy and international consensus.
Trump’s proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights comes less than a month before general elections in Israel in which Netanyahu is facing a stiff challenge from former military chief Benny Gantz, the head of a centrist party.
Former military chief Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington on March 24, 2019, for what was meant to be a three-day visit that included an appearance at the annual convention of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
But he announced on March 25, 2019, that he was cutting short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack from Gaza early on March 25, 2019, destroyed a residential home and injured several Israelis in the farming community of Mishmeret, north of the city of Kfar Saba.
Israel’s military said the rocket attack was conducted by militants from Gaza’s ruling Hamas. It also quickly mobilized troops and called up reserve forces, setting up the possibility of a major military operation ahead of the Israeli elections.
Netanyahu pledged to retaliate and return to Israel immediately after his meeting with Trump to manage the crisis.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the AIPAC gathering that that rocket attack “proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace.”
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, and the United States will never negotiate with terrorist Hamas,” Pence said.
Leaders from Greece and Macedonia say they will meet in Switzerland this week as they continue to seek a solution to a nearly three-decade-old name dispute.
A Greek government spokesman said on Jan. 22 that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.
Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.
Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 have complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.
Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.
U.N.-mediated talks between the two countries’ chief negotiators in New York on Jan. 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.
Greece wants Macedonia to change its name — adding a modifier like “New” or “North” — to clarify that it has no claim on the neighboring Greek province of Macedonia.
However, many Greeks disagree with such a solution.
On the heels of a widely praised 2015 decision to issue the more maneuverable M4 carbine in lieu of the M16A4 to Marines in infantry battalions, the Marine Corps may be on the cusp of another major weapons decision.
The Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, the California-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, has been conducting pre-deployment exercises with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to evaluate it as the new service rifle for infantry battalions, the commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue told Military.com Thursday.
The battalion is set to deploy aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this spring. As part of its workup and deployment, it has been charged with testing and evaluating a host of technologies and concepts ranging from teaming operations with unmanned systems and robotics to experiments with differently sized squads.
“When they take the IAR and they’re training out there with all the ranges we do with the M4, they’re going to look at the tactics of it. They’ll look at the firepower, and they’ll do every bit of training, and then they’ll deploy with that weapon, and we’ll take the feedback to the Marine Corps to judge,” O’Donohue said.
Marines in 3/5 used the IAR as their service rifle during the 28-day Integrated Training Exercise held this month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California. The exercise, also known as ITX, is the largest pre-deployment workup for deploying battalions, and typically one of the last exercises they’ll complete. O’Donohue said the ubiquity of ITX would give evaluators ample data as they contrasted results with the different weapons.
“All you have to do is compare this battalion to the other battalions going through ITX,” he said.
The M4 carbine and the M27 IAR handle very similarly as they share a number of features. However, the M27 has a slightly longer effective range — 550 meters compared to the M4’s 500 — and elements that allow for more accurate targeting. It has a free-floating barrel, which keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory. It also has a proprietary gas piston system that makes the weapon more reliable and reduces wear and tear.
And the the IAR can fire in fully automatic mode, while the standard M4 has single shot, semi-automatic and three-round burst options.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with a single IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“I think the fundamental is the accuracy of the weapon, the idea that you’re going to use it for suppressive fires. And at first contact you have the overwhelming superiority of fire from which all the tactics evolve,” O’Donohue said. “So it starts with the fire team and the squad, if you give them a better weapon with better fire superiority, you’ll just put that vicious harmony of violence on the enemy.”
But officials do see some potential drawbacks to equipping every infantry Marine with the weapon.
“One of the things we’re looking at is the rate of fire,” O’Donohue said. “You can burn off too much ammo, potentially, with the IAR. We have a selector, a regulator [showing] how many rounds the Marines shoot. So that’s one area we’re examining with experimentation.”
Another variable is cost.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.
“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.
O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, O’Donohue said.
If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
Sgt. Trey Troney credits training he received from his unit’s medics for helping him save a man’s life after an accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troney, 20, was on his way home to Raleigh, Mississippi, a small town about 1,085 miles east of Fort Bliss, for Christmas when he saw the accident at about 2 p.m. and pulled over.
Seeing Jeff Udger, of Longview, Texas, slumped over the steering wheel of his truck, Troney asked two other men to help him pry open the door. Udger had a bad gash on his head, and Troney took off his brand new “Salute to Service” New Orleans Saints hoodie and wrapped it around Udger’s head to help stop the bleeding.
At this point, Udger was still conscious enough to make a joke about it, Troney said.
“Well, this is Cowboy country, so I don’t know how I feel about you wrapping me up in a Saints hoodie,” Udger told Troney.
Soon after, however, Troney noticed that the left side of Udger’s chest wasn’t moving, and he realized Udger had a collapsed lung. Troney ran back to his Jeep, hoping he still had some first aid supplies left from the brigade’s recent rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Sure enough, he had a Needle Chest Compression, or NCD, and an Individual First Aid Kit, or IFAK, so he grabbed them and ran back to Udger.
The scene of the accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas.
While his training made the use of the NCD second nature for Troney, he had to think fast after the NCD needle was too small to reach into Udger’s collapsed lung and relieve pressure.
Finding a ballpoint pen, he had an idea. He tore off the ends of the pen and took out the ink so it was just a hollow tube.
“I took the NCD and put it right in the hole and kind of wiggled (the pen) in with my hand in between the ribs and you just started to see the bubbles come out of the tip, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re good,'” said Troney.
The state trooper who had just arrived asked, “Did you just put an ink pen between his ribs?”
“I was like, ‘I did,'” Troney said. “And [the state trooper] was like, ‘he’s on no pain meds,’ and I said, ‘oh, he felt it, but he’s unconscious. He lost consciousness as I was running back to my Jeep because he had lost a lot of blood.'”
When the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later, the paramedics credited Troney with saving Udger’s life, and the state trooper bought him food at the truck stop up the road. Still, Troney said he was afraid Udger might try to seek legal action if he had made any mistakes. To the contrary, Udger, as soon as he recovered enough to respond, has been contacting government officials, the media and Troney’s chain of command — all the way up to his brigade commander, Col. Michael Trotter — and telling them how thankful he is for Troney’s actions.
“In an urgent situation [Troney] showed amazing patience and continuous care,” said Udger in an email. “He kept talking to me and acted as if the situation was no pressure at all.”
In a phone interview, Udger said he is glad Troney left behind his email address so he could contact him, and he has offered to replace Troney’s hoodie. Troney said the loss of the hoodie means nothing to him and there is no need for Udger to replace it.
Doctors expect him to make a full recovery, said Udger.
Troney, a field artillery cannon crewmember assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said the medics made sure soldiers knew the basics of combat medicine, and often reinforced and extended that training in between Howitzer fires in the field. Also, in El Paso’s 100-degree heat in the field, they would trade coveted DripDrop hydration packets for demonstrated knowledge of combat medicine.
Soldier Uses Ballpoint Pen, Football Sweatshirt To Save Man’s Life After Car Accident
“We train over and over; it’s like muscle memory. Not to sound biased, but at 2-3 … they’re some of the best combat medics that I’ve ever met,” said Troney.
Capt. Angel Alegre, commander, Btry. C, 2nd Bn., 3rd FA Regt., 1st SBCT, 1st AD, said he has worked with Troney for about a year and recently became his battery commander. Knowing Troney, his actions at the accident scene do not surprise him, he said.
“Put simply, he is a man of action and excels in times of adversity. It’s what he does best,” Alegre said. “Sgt. Troney is very attentive and places great emphasis on all Army training. To be available when needed as a Combat Lifesaver [Course] qualified [noncommissioned officer], and especially to have the IFAK readily available sitting in his vehicle, many could say is nothing short of a miracle.”
Troney has set the example and represented the battery, the battalion and the brigade very well, Alegre said.
“I will speak for all when I say we are very proud of one of our own, one of our best and brightest, being ready and able to answer when called upon to help someone in need,” Alegre said.
Troney said he has been in the Army for about three years and the incident taught him how his training can help others outside the Army.
“I was in a pair of jogging pants and a T-shirt on the side of a highway and somebody’s life depended on me slightly knowing a little bit [about emergency medical care],” Troney said. “It wasn’t anything crazy [that I knew], but to [Udger], it was his world.”
Troney said one of the things Udger told him in an email will always mean a lot to him: “Young man, you will always be my hero. Continue to give back to this world and the people in it. You truly will never know when you will make a life-changing impact to someone.”
Troney said he learned from the incident that you never know what a person might need.
“You’re just there and you might have what they need,” said Troney. “He needed an ink pen to the ribs. Luckily I had an ink pen.”
The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.
And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.
The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.
“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”
The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.
But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.
The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.
Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.
The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.
US competition in the region and around the world put on notice
“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.
“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”
As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.
China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.
North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.
Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:
BRUSSELS — EU monitors have identified a “trilateral convergence of disinformation narratives” being promoted by China, Iran, and Russia on the coronavirus pandemic and say they are being “multiplied” in a coordinated manner, according to an internal document seen by RFE/RL.
The document, which is dated 20 April, says common themes are that the coronavirus is a biological weapon created in the United States to bring down opponents and that China, Iran, and Russia “are doing much better than the West” in fighting the epidemic.
It also states that Iranian leaders — amplified by Russian media — continue calling for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran, claiming that they are undermining the country’s humanitarian and medical response to COVID-19.
The document says this is part of a wider Russian, Iranian, and Chinese “convergence” calling for a lifting of sanctions on Russia, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela — all countries that have seen U.S. economic sanctions against them increase under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
In the case of Syria, the COVID-19 disinformation is used “to reinforce an anti-EU narrative that claims the bloc is perpetrating an “economic war” on the Middle Eastern country.
The 25-page document was written by the strategic communications division of the European diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS).
It is a follow-up to an April report stating that Russia and China are deploying a campaign of disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic that could have “harmful consequences” for public health around the world.
The new report says Russia and to a lesser extent China continue to amplify “conspiracy narratives” aimed at both public audiences in the EU and the wider neighborhood. It further notes that official Russian sources and state media continue running a coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the EU and its crisis response and at sowing confusion about the health implications of COVID-19.
The document also states that most of the content identified by the EEAS continues to proliferate widely on social-media services such as Twitter and Facebook. It alleges that Google and other services that deliver advertisements “continue to monetise and incentivise harmful health disinformation by hosting paid ads on respective websites.”
Representatives of those companies did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment.
According to analysis by the team, disinformation about the virus is going particularly viral in smaller media markets both inside and outside the EU in which technology giants “face lower incentives to take adequate countermeasures.”
It adds that false or highly misleading content in languages such as Czech, Russian, and Ukrainian continues to go viral even when it has been flagged by local fact-checkers.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.
“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
The Air Force’s new F-35A multi-role, stealth Joint Strike Fighter brings an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground and beam battlefield images across the force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior in a special interview.
The stealth fighter makes it much easier for pilots to locate, track and destroy enemy targets across a wide range of combat circumstances — including attacks from farther ranges than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.
Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” feature on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide range of new technologies including advanced sensors, radar, weapons for attack and next-generation computers.
Although he serves now as Chief, Operations Division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned to know the F-35’s margins of difference because he has spent thousands of hours flying legacy aircraft such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.
“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest airplane to fly. I can now focus on employment and winning the battle at hand as opposed to looking at disparate information and trying to handle the airplane,” Canterbury told Scout Warrior.
Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system which places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single integrated screen for pilots to view. As a result, pilots can rely upon computer algorithms to see a “fused” picture of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens for targeting coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds or incoming data from a radar warning receiver.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is an aiming cross on my helmet, an aiming symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will swivel over to the point on the ground I have designated,” Canterbury described.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
“I can look through the airplane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision,” Canterbury said.
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.
The F-35’s software packages are being developed in increments; the Marine Corps declared their Short-Take-off-and-Vertical-Landing F-35B with software increment or “drop” 2B.
Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.
The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
Canterbury also talked about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress building a computer library in the aircraft called the Mission Data Files.
“Experts are working feverishly to catalog all of the threats we might face,” he said.
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive onboard 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, he explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts the world. The files are being worked on at reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials have said.
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 accommodate new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system might one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force leaders say the service has launched some small mini-deployments within the US to prepare the platform for deployment.
Apart from its individual technologies, weapons, sensors and systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions from close-air support and air-to-ground attack to air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.
The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft can, giving it a “drone-like” ability to gather and disseminate surveillance information. As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially engineered data-link to communicate in real-time with other F-35s and other aircraft and fighter jets.
“With the datalink’s network interoperability, we can talk to each other and talk to fourth-generation aircraft as well,” Canterbury explained.
The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air fighter, air-to-ground fighter or stealth aircraft engineered to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.
“While stealth is important in the early phases of warfare to knock out integrated air defenses and allow fourth-generation fighters to fly in, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an adversary well before he sees me.”
For instance, the F-35A is well-suited to loiter over an area and provide fire support to units on the ground in a close-in fight. In order to execute these kinds of missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling Gun mounted on top of the aircraft operational by 2017.
The F-35 has 11 weapons stations, which includes seven external weapons stations for bombs or fuel.
“If we don’t need stealth, I can load this up with weapons and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.
Eventually, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.
By 2021, Amazon has pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. military veterans across all of its operations. More than that, they are also dedicated to hiring veterans reservists, spouses, and family members – regardless of rank or military specialty. These “Amazon Warriors” as the company calls them, come to Amazon through a number of programs, each focused on a different aspect of veterans’ lives. This includes wounded warriors, active and transitioning veterans, student vets, and more.
You can catch Amazon and its employees active in all area of veteran culture, from the Old Glory Relay to RED Fridays and even doing 22 pushups every day. Amazon even partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs to create certification programs for vets with no costs.
One of Amazon’s best programs is an employment plan for wounded vets designed to fill skill gaps due to service-related wounds, injuries, and illnesses. Through education, advocacy, and training for wounded warriors, this one-of-a-kind program seeks America’s wounded vets to show the world the possibilities and potential these prior-service workers still have.
Amazon also launched the Amazon Military Leaders Program in an effort to find innovative, experienced talent to transition from military service and into the senior leadership at Amazon. It just makes sense – in order to fill the most necessary roles at the top of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies, Amazon wants to look for those people who volunteered for some of the most dangerous and critical jobs out there.
This company also goes above and beyond for National Guardsmen and Reservists who are activated or called away to training. Not only does the company ensure the member has job when they come back, as required by law, Amazon seeks to place the employee in a role they would have worked if they had never left their Amazon job at all. What’s more, if the pay the military member receives from serving is significantly less than their Amazon pay, Amazon will make up the difference.
“There are veterans and active duty service members from the Guard and Reserve at every level of the company,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon Web Services’ Vice-President of Talent Acquisition, who also happens to be a former Army officer. “That population, that community, makes it really easy for us to not only do the right thing but also do what we say we will do.”
When Amazon isn’t hiring veterans and preparing service members for their post-military careers, they are supporting other organizations with the same intent, mission, and drive. Amazon is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day business development and networking event that brings together non-profit startup accelerators geared toward vet-owned businesses, successful veteran entrepreneurs, and like-minded veterans who are looking to change their lives by starting their own enterprises.
To learn more about what Amazon is doing for veterans in terms of training and employment, check out Amazon’s military page. To learn more about the Military Influencer Conference, check out the speakers list, or find a Military Influencer Conference close to you, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com and take a look around. It could be the first step to an entrepreneurial career.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.
“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”
Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.
The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.
“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”
The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.
Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.
The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.
While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.
“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”
“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.
While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.
“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.
“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”
With its unmatched precision, Lockheed Martin’s THAAD can equalize tensions around the world with its mobility and strategic battery-unit placement.
In order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region, the Pentagon deployed a THAAD battery toGuam in April 2013.
However, after the rogue regime’s most recent launch, the US has reportedly agreed to deploy the THAAD to South Korea — which would counter almost all incoming missiles from the North.
The pressure to deploy THAAD is rapidly mounting, as US defense officials have cited North Korean missile developments.
In October, Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, assessed that North Korean has “the capability to reach the [US] homeland with a nuclear weapon from a rocket,” The Guardian reported.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the United States Forces Korea, a sub-unified command of the US Pacific Command, told a forum in 2014 that placing THAAD in the country is a “US initiative.”
Discussions to equip South Korea with THAAD were held during South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s visit to the White House last October.
THAAD’s ‘hit to kill’ lethal effects
The THAAD missile does not carry a warhead. Instead, the interceptor missile uses pure kinetic energy to deliver “hit to kill” strikes to incoming ballistic threats inside or outside the atmosphere.
Each launcher carries up to eight missiles and can send multiple kill vehicles at once, depending on the severity of the threat.
Lockheed’s missile launcher is just one element of the antimissile system.
The graphic below, from Raytheon, shows the rest of the equipment needed for each enemy-target interception.
How THAAD works
Five minutes after an enemy missile takes off, a truck-mounted THAAD interceptor missile launches in pursuit of its target.
This is a close shot of what the THAAD missile looks like when launched:
And here’s what the launch looks like from far away:
THAAD’s missile hunts for its target, then obliterates it in the sky.
The following infrared imagery shows THAAD demolishing the target:
By the end of 2016, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is scheduled to deliver an additional 48 THAAD interceptors to the US military, bringing the total up to 155, according to a statement from MDA director Vice Admiral J.D. Syring before the House Armed Service Committee.
According to the US Missile Defense Agency, there are more than 6,300 ballistic missiles outside of US, NATO, Russian, and Chinese control.
Other US partners around the globe are interested in purchasing THAAD.
The United Arab Emirates has become the first foreign buyer after signing a deal with the Department of Defense for $3.4 billion. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have “expressed interest,” according to Richard McDaniel, vice president of Patriot Advanced Capability programs at Lockheed Martin. “We expect deals,” he added.
The UAE seems like a particularly appropriate buyer: In September, 45 of its troops deployed near Yemen were killed when an enemy missile struck an arms depot, a reminder of the strategic challenge of ballistic missiles falling into the wrong hands.