The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters - We Are The Mighty
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The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The Navy recently added $108 million to the budget for MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter drones, bringing the total buy to 29. The MQ-8C is an autonomous version of the Bell 407 and features a maritime radar for finding enemy surface combatants at sea as well as a rangefinder that allows it to pinpoint target them, according to a June article by IHS Jane’s 360. This targeting data can then be fed to friendly ships who can target the enemy with missiles or jet sorties.


The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
An MQ-8C lands aboard the USS Jason Dunham during sea trials in 2014. (Photo courtesy Northrop Grumman)

In the future, the MQ-8C could also be a forward observer for the Navy’s highest tech, long range weapons like the electromagnetic railgun and laser systems.

Currently, the Fire Scout boasts no weapons of its own.

The drone is slated to for testing aboard ships in 2017 but the Navy did test it on the USS Jason Dunham in 2014 where it successfully took off and landed 22 times.

Video: YouTube/Northrop Grumman

The Navy also posted promising reviews of the drone’s performance in land-based tests at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. The Fire Scout C-model demonstrated a range of over 150 nautical miles and the ability to remain in flight for approximately 12 hours.

“The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Navy Capt. Jeffrey Dodge, the program manager for Fire Scout, said in a 2015 press release.

The MQ-8B, the predecessor model to the MQ-8C, has flown over 16,000 hours and has participated in flights with manned helicopters at sea without serious incident.

(h/t Investopedia)

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Our 8 most shared articles of 2016

Now that 2016 is coming to a close, we wanted to recap the year with the most shared articles. From the deaths of notable veterans to the weapon that shoots 1 million rounds per minute, here are the posts that flew around your social media feeds:


1. Marine who raised first flag on Iwo Jima dies at 94

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Raising the First Flag on Iwo Jima by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC, is the most widely circulated photograph of the first flag flown on Mt. Suribachi.Marine Corps Maj. John Keith Wells, who as a first lieutenant led the platoon that helped take Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and which raised the first American flag from the mountain’s summit, died in February.

He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima after he continued leading his men up the mountain despite grievous wounds.

2. That day a lone Gurkha took out 30 Taliban using every weapon within reach

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

British Royal Gurkha Rifle Sgt. Dipprasad Pun was pulling guard on top of a two-story outpost in Afghanistan when he investigated a noise and found two insurgents burying an IED.

As he went to engage them, the Taliban triggered a complex attack that Pun beat off by expending all of his ammo, throwing some grenades and mines, and hurling a machine gun tripod at the enemy.

3. 11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

A funny look at the differences between military buddies, who would check out your rash or save you in a firefight, and your civilian buddies, who might help you put together furniture or something.

4. How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
(Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

What would happen if the militaries of the entire rest of the world attacked the U.S. all at once? Not just our enemies, but our traditional allies like France and Britain as well? We’d stomp them. Here’s how.

5. Oldest American WWII veteran dies at 110

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Photo: www.Facebook.com/MrOvertonDoc

Frank Levingston was 110, making him the oldest American and the oldest World War II veteran, when he died in May. He was known for his colorful commentary.

6. The Metal Storm gun can fire at 1 million rounds per minute

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
(Photo: YouTube)

This weapon features rounds stacked inside dozens of barrels and electric charges can fire all the rounds stored in the weapon at once or in multiple volleys. At its maximum fire rate, this equates to 1 million rounds per minute.

7. Here’s how a little girl who lost her Marine dad taught the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the full cost of war

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Lizzy Yaggy greets Gen. Dempsey during TAPS Good Grief Camp. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Most general officers struggle with the deaths caused by their decisions in war, but all that came home like it never had before for Army Gen. Martin Dempsey when he met the then-four-year-old Lizzy Yaggy, the daughter of a Marine aviator lost in a plane crash.

The two became close friends and Dempsey even asked Yaggy to introduce him at his retirement ceremony.

8. CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Image: NASA Lewis Research Center Hangar and OV-10 Airplane

As the world struggled with the rapid and surprising rise of the Islamic State, an old airplane was quietly pressed back into combat service, the OV-10 Bronco.

These small planes served in combat from Vietnam to Desert Storm with the U.S. Marines before they were retired in 1995. But the plane flew over 100 sorties against ISIS, including 120 combat missions.

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This World War I battle footage lets you go ‘over the top’

The 1916 Battle of the Ancre was a weeklong British offensive against German positions on the Ancre River in France. It was part of the first Battle of the Somme, and it was one of the first times a tank was filmed in battle.


That’s because the Battle of the Ancre from Nov. 13-19, 1916, was one of the better-documented fights in the war. A film crew was on hand for much of the fighting and put together an over hour-long movie of their footage.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The filmmakers captured everything from a tank crew taking their cat mascot into the steel belly with them to horses drawing artillery into position to men going over the top to attack enemy trenches.

This footage later made it into theaters around the world, allowing Americans to see conditions on the front months before the U.S. entry into the war in 1917.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

Unfortunately for the film crew and worse for the British soldiers, the rainy conditions made the terrain too muddy for the tanks and slowed down assaults by infantry, giving a huge advantage to the German defenders.

The British and French troops were able to inflict heavy losses on the Germans, but they failed to take their terrain objectives before Winter weather forced the end to the offensive on Nov. 19.

An excerpt from the film is available below. Amazon Prime members can watch a 62-minute version of the film here.

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You’re gonna want to ride this Hellhound

When the Army asked industry about three years ago if they could come up with a new, lightweight scout vehicle that could move in and out of enemy territory quickly but carry a deadly bite if backed into a corner, several companies answered the call.


But one of the most badass options offered up to Army commanders was the Northrop Grumman Hellhound.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby. (Photo from Northtrop Grumman)

Just looking at the thing makes you say “hooah,” and it was the star of the show at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington.

With a top speed of 70 mph and a crew compartment that fits six fully-equipped soldiers, the Hellhound is still small enough to fit in the belly of a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter. The vehicle is designed with enough power and room inside the crew compartment to accommodate a remote control weapon system and a host of high-tech defense and protective equipment, the company says.

It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby.

“The high performance, highly mobile Hellhound is designed to allow users to easily gain access to highly restrictive terrain and capable of operating worldwide on primary and secondary roads, as well as trails and cross country in weather extremes,” the company says. “The Hellhound also introduces the capability of providing expeditionary power generation as well as an unparalleled capacity for powering on-board equipment.”

The Hellhound features a roof-mounted M230LF 30mm cannon, and designers also showed off a high-energy laser equipped one on the AUSA show floor. The cannon stows inside the vehicle for transport and the suspension can be lowered and raised based on terrain.

It is unclear whether the Army will ever buy the Hellhound, but clearly the company has pushed the envelope for all-terrain capabilities with a heck of a ballistic punch.

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI Chief vows to keep working to discover ex-agent’s fate in Iran

FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.

In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”


The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.

Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.

“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.

Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.

He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China says new radar can spot US stealth fighters at incredible distances

China has reportedly developed an over-the-horizon maritime early warning radar system that its creator claims can detect stealth aircraft far beyond visual range, an advanced capability that could threaten US fifth-generation fighters operating in the area.

Liu Yongtan, the team leader for the radar project, told Chinese media his high-frequency surface wave radar emits “high frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams” that travel along the surface of the sea, the Global Times reported June 10, 2019, citing a recent interview with Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.

The radar system, part of China’s ongoing efforts to prevent a sneak attack by enemy stealth assets, can purportedly detect enemy air and naval threats hundreds of kilometers away in any weather condition.


The 83-year-old creator says the radar is also “immune” to anti-radiation missiles, which track the point of origin for electromagnetic waves.

Liu’s radar system, which won him the country’s highest scientific award, has been named China’s “first line of defense.”

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Does it actually work?

Western experts argue that this type of radar, which is not new technology, offers the defending country a chance against incoming stealth assets, but there are limitations that prevent it from being the death of a fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

“Because of its very long wavelengths, it can detect objects like stealthy aircraft,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider, explaining that stealthy aircraft are designed to be less detectable to shortwave radar.

Major drawbacks, however, include the low resolution and lack of a real-time target-grade track. “It will tell you there’s something there, but you can’t characterize it,” Harrison explained, adding that the radar “can’t get a precise enough fix on a position to target it.”

Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that “China might be better informed about where American stealth fighters are operating in the battle space, but still unable to use those radar systems to cue in missiles to actually kill them.”

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

F-35 Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

But, the over-the-horizon radar does have the ability to cue other types of radar systems to narrow their field of view and concentrate their radar energy on the position where an object was detected. “You have a better chance of finding it” with the over-the-horizon radar, Harrison explained.

Another big problem with the powerful Chinese radar, though, is that it is vulnerable to attack, meaning they might only be useful in the early stages of a fight.

While they may be immune to counter-radar anti-radiation missiles, these systems are large, can be easily seen from space, and could be targeted with a GPS-guided missile. “It will help you in the initial stages of conflict, but the US will probably put a missile on the antenna sites and take it out of commission pretty quickly,” Harrison said.

The Chinese radar system is also presumably vulnerable to jamming and electronic warfare attacks, a high-end capability provided by US fifth-gen fighters.

China’s new radar system is not perfect, but it does provide early warning capabilities that could alert the country to the presence of incoming stealth assets, strengthening its defenses and potentially giving it a shot.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how servicewomen honor those who’ve fallen

Nearly 40 Air and Army National Guard women gathered at the Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 21 with hundreds of active duty, retired, and reserve service members from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


Honoring US Military Women

The memorial honors all women who have defended America throughout history. The gathering featured a weekend filled with remembrance, honor, service, leadership, mentorship, and inspiration.

“It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making,” said Army Col. Cynthia Tinkham, the Oklahoma National Guard’s director of personnel. Tinkham is one of five of the event attendees with the Oklahoma Guard who were present at the memorial’s dedication 20 years ago.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Men and women participate in a half-mile honor walk through Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, Oct. 21, 2017. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

The memorial here serves as a 4.2-acre ceremonial entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial honors the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the US military since the American Revolution.

Also Read: The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

The group arrived here Oct. 20, touring the memorial’s long arching hall of memorabilia that covers the history of US women in military service.

“I’ve learned a lot about women’s history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, a member of the Air National Guard.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Women toss rose petals into the reflecting pool of the Women in Military Service for America memorial during a ceremony that honored the 15 fallen women of the US Armed Forces since 2012, Oct. 21, 2017, in Washington DC. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary Ceremony

Major events throughout the weekend included a celebration dinner, WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary ceremony, an honor walk, and an after-dark service of remembrance. Attendees ranged from women World War II veterans to those currently serving in all branches of the US military.

The keynote speaker of the morning’s ceremony, retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who’s also the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in Services chair, compared her experience at the dedication in 1997 to the 20th anniversary ceremony this year, emphasizing that each year there are more “firsts” to celebrate — the first woman to serve in a particular branch, in a particular career field, and the first to die while serving.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Former Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger speaks about sustaining the force at the 2013 Air Force Association’s 2013 Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 16, 2013. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes.

“There are so many firsts that the memorial represents,” Wolfenbarger said. “But, the real objective is that there are no more firsts.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan emphasized the importance of honoring the past later that evening as attendees held candles honoring the lives of the 167 women who have fallen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Related: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all,” said Ryan, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the women killed in action.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Women from the National Guard hold candlelights during a remembrance ceremony for all the women servicemembers who have died in the line of duty, Oct. 21, 2017, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetary in Washington D.C. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps

“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” he added.

Among the fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Army Spc. Sarina Butcher, who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.

“These women represent a bridge to those that came before them,” said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of fallen women. “To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories.”

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This is how Patton smashed his way out of Normandy

When Allied troops landed in Normandy, Gen. George Patton had two jobs. One had been to lead the fictional First United States Army Group, a part of Operation Fortitude, to deceive the Germans as to the Allies’ actual intentions against Normandy. His second was training his real unit, Third Army.


Once the Allies had secured a beachhead, Patton took Third Army to Northern France where it became operational on August 1, 1944. By the time Third Army went into action, the Allies had spent nearly two months fighting for a breakout to no avail.

The thick Norman hedgerows and stiff German resistance had slowed progress to a crawl. Patton had other ideas.

Following on the heels of Operation Cobra opening a path, Patton turned Third Army “east, west, and south behind the German lines and went looking for trouble.”

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

As Third Army broke free of the restrictive hedgerows, Patton showed that he was truly a master of maneuver warfare and combined arms tactics.

Patton would use armored reconnaissance scouts to range ahead of his forces to find the enemy. Once found, he used his armored divisions to spearhead the attacks. Armored infantry, supported by tanks and self-propelled artillery, would attack in force.

Every breach in German lines was exploited by more armor which kept the Germans from being able to effectively regroup.

Patton also pioneered the use of tactical air support, now known as close air support, by having tactical fighter-bombers flying cover over his advancing columns. This technique is known as armored column cover and used three to four P-51s or P-47s, coordinated by a forward air controller riding in one of the tanks on the ground.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
P-51 fighters. Photo from DoD.

Patton’s Third Army headquarters also had more staff dedicated to tactical air support and conducting air strikes against the enemy than any other formations in Europe.

Making the best of these new techniques, much like the Germans had with the Blitz, Patton’s first moves were to drive south and west to cut off the Germans in Brittany and open more ports on the coast to Allied shipping.

Using speed and aggression, Third Army had reached the coast in less than two weeks.

Those forces then turned around 180 degrees and raced east across France.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
The 28th Infantry Division on the Champs Élysées in the “Victory Day” parade on 29 August 1944. Photo under public domain.

Patton’s forces moved so fast that normal tactics were insufficient.

Light aircraft that normally served as artillery spotters were pressed into the airborne reconnaissance role.

To keep up with his troops, the 4th Armored Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Wood, would often task one of his aerial artillery observers, “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter, to fly ahead to his armored columns so he could personally deliver orders.

Carpenter was famous for mounting bazooka’s on his light aircraft and attacking German armor – just the kind of fighting man Patton wanted in his army.

As Patton’s troops pushed east, they continued to drive the Germans back. Along with actions by the Canadians and Poles to the north, they were beginning to form a pocket around the German Army Group B.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
General Eisenhower reviews damage (including a wrecked Tiger II) in the pocket at Chambois. Photo under public domain.

The neck of the pocket was closing at Falaise, which was held by the Canadians. Patton was driving his men hard to effect a link-up and trap Germans attempting to retreat from Normandy.

Much to Patton’s dismay, Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelve US Army Group, called him off. Due to the fact that his forces were fighting the Germans all over Northern France, Patton could only commit four divisions to blocking German escape to the south. Bradley was worried that stretching Patton’s line further could lead to him being overrun by German forces desperate to escape the trap.

As Bradley would put it later, “I much preferred a solid shoulder at Argentan to the possibility of a broken neck at Falaise.”

Undeterred, Patton consolidated his forces and continued his drive out of Normandy.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, and Major General Manton S. Eddy being shown a map by one of Patton’s armored battalion commanders during a tour near Metz, France, November 13, 1944.

With the Germans retreating from the area, Patton set his Third Army to give chase.

Depleted German units were easily overcome.

The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, recalled to England the month before, lamented that Patton continually overran their drop zones and kept them out of the action.

On August 25, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division, a lead element of Patton’s Third Army, arrived at the outskirts of Paris. Allowing the French 2nd Armored Division to take the lead in the liberation of their capital, the division moved into the city.

Just five days later, Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Northern France, was declared over.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Operation Overlord in full swing on the beaches of Normandy. Photo under public domain.

Patton, however, was not done. He had his eyes set on Germany and continued to push his forces.

As Third Army drove hard towards the French province of Lorraine, they finally outran their supply lines. On August 31, Patton’s drive ground to a halt. Patton assumed that he would be given priority for supplies due to the success of his offensive, but was dismayed to learn that this was not the case.

Eisenhower favored a broad front approach and allocated more incoming supplies to Montgomery for his bold plan – Operation Market Garden.

Despite their success in defeating German units all across France and driving further than any other force, the men of Third Army would have to wait for their chance to drill into Germany.

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This military working dog was just recognized for actions that cost her a leg

“Lucky” Lucca is a Marine Corps working dog who successfully led about 400 patrols through combat zones without once allowing a service member under her care to be injured by IEDs, even on the day she lost her leg to a secondary IED after finding the primary. She received the Dickin Medal, an award for animal valor, Apr. 5, 2016.


Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham was her first handler. He deployed to Iraq with Lucca two times.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“She could see when I was getting kitted up for a mission, you could see her energy increase because she knew what time it was,” Willingham said. “I put the searching harness on Luca and she knew it was game on.”

Willingham later deployed with Lucca to Afghanistan and led 30 working dog and handler teams. When Willingham was sent to a new duty station, he asked one of his handlers, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, to take over as Lucca’s handler.

It was on Lucca and Rodriguez’s second deployment to Afghanistan that Lucca lost her leg. She had indicated the presence of one IED and Rodriguez showed the explosive ordnance team where it was. Lucca was looking for more IEDs when Rodriguez heard a loud boom and saw dust erupt under Lucca. Lucca immediately tried to return to Rodriguez.

“I see Lucca trying to get up and attempting to run towards me,” Rodriguez said. “At this point I took the same path she already had cleared and ran towards Lucca. I picked her up and started running towards the treeline.”

Rodriguez placed a tourniquet on Lucca and the pair were medevacced out. Lucca had lost her paw at the blast site. Doctors later had to amputate the rest of her leg. It didn’t keep her down for long.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“As soon as she woke up, she wanted to get up,” Rodriguez said.

“She was so quick to adapt to having three legs that in a few days she was walking on her own.”

Willingham adopted Lucca under Robbie’s Law which gives handlers the first chance to adopt retired working dogs. When it came time to decide who would escort Lucca to where Willingham lived in Helsinki, Finland, Willingham immediately asked for Rodriguez.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
GIF: YouTube/PDSA

In retirement, Lucca has experienced snow for the first time and gotten to play on the beach with the Willingham family. See Lucca in action and hear the full story from Willingham and Rodriguez in this video:

Lucca received the Dickin Medal, known as the animal version of the Victoria Cross. The  Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for valor, the equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Honor.

Previous American recipients of the Dickin Medal include G.I. Joe, a pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and prevented the accidental bombing of American troops, and Salty and Roselle, two guide dogs for the blind who got their humans out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)


Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)

Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.

On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.

“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”

The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander, 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. (Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

This operation would have looked different in 1992.

Challenge accepted

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.

At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.

“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.

“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”

After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.

Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
U.S. Air Force pilot and co-pilot from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron (Photo by: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.

But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.

Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.

“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”

Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.

“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”

Each person defines success differently.

Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.

“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”

Paying it forward

“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.

Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.

After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.

Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.

“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.

When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.

“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”

A new generation

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.

This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
1st Lt. Margaret Courtney (Photo by: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.

But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.

After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.

“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.

After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?

“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”

The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”

Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.

“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”

Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.

“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”

When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.

“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”

Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.

“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.

“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”

Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.

“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”

NOW: ‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

OR: This ill-fated PR flight kept the B-70 Valkyrie from changing Air Force history

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 benefits of being a military brat

In most cases, the term “brat” is one of a put-down. But when it comes to military affiliation, it’s almost a term of endearment. Possibly an acronym dating back hundreds of years — short for British Regiment Attached Traveler — it’s a word that refers to military children and all that comes with it: frequent moves and a military lifestyle for much, if not all, of their childhood years.


Being a brat is often a badge of honor. Here are four benefits of growing up on the move:

Military kids are great with change

Moving? Making new friends? Adapting to a new climate and culture? Military kids can do it all. They might not like it, but they’re more than equipped to do so. Brats know how to settle in somewhere new, and how to ultimately fit in.

Kids (even adults) who have remained in one place their entire lives are lacking in these areas. Whether or not brats realize it at the time, frequent moves are creating important life skills in confidence, adaptability, social abilities, and more.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

Military brats are more open-minded

If you’ve never lived anywhere new, it’s hard to understand how others think, let alone put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But when you’ve lived in different states, possibly even different countries, all before adulthood, that closed-mindedness simply doesn’t exist.

Because they grew up hearing different thoughts, trying new foods, and meeting new folks, military brats automatically learn to be more well-rounded individuals.

They don’t focus on “stuff”

Every decluttering program can rejoice in the lack of things that come from military moves. If you don’t need it, it’s got to go! This is a great way for kids to avoid becoming materialistic and instead, to focus on what’s important in life. With less focus on “stuff,” it frees up time to look at other things — activities, people, quality time with family, and more.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

Brats are better communicators

Being a military brat means talking with grandma and grandpa through FaceTime. It means writing letters or sending gifts in the mail. It means learning how to talk with others from a distance. While it’s not ideal having family that’s so far away, one perk is that it teaches young kids to hold conversations and how to stay in touch, even from a young age.

Military brats can benefit from a lifestyle that keeps them moving. What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen as a family?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman completes 75 miles of Tough Mudder, comes in 2nd

An Air Force officer who only began obstacle course racing in 2016, ran right straight into her 75-mile goal, placing second place in one of the toughest obstacle course races.

“I honestly never considered placing, it didn’t seem like something that was within reach for me this year,” said Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander.

In a “bracket breaking moment,” Rost earned 2nd place out of 231 females and ranked 18 of more than 1,206 participants in her first World’s Toughest Mudder held November 2018.


The Air Force Academy graduate entered the obstacle course race noon on Nov. 10, 2018, a frigid winter day in Fairburn, Georgia. She would repeat the grueling five-mile lap with more than 20 mud-drenched obstacles until she met her goal of 75 miles.

“On lap 11, it was still dark,” she said. “My body was literally freezing and for the first time I had tears in my eyes. In that moment, a poem that helped me endure military training and other tough times in my life showed up to help me once again.”

She would repeat Invictus by William Erest Henley in her mind throughout the pitch black, sometimes lonely, night.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander, poses for a photo at the finish line of the World’s Toughest Mudder, Nov. 10-11, 2018.

Her experience and spirits were uplifted when she started hearing from others that she had a chance to place.

“Around 8:30 a.m., after completing lap 12 (60 miles), I found out I had a chance for third place but the fourth place woman was close behind,” said Rost. “This motivated me to run faster the next two laps.”

Her cheering fans, mother and boyfriend, encouraged her to move faster because no one knew how close the competitor behind her was. They reminded her of her goals, kept her fed and hydrated and pushed her forward.

“When I returned to the pit after completing 65 miles, I was informed that I had improved my lap time by nearly 30 minutes,” said Rost. “There was about three hours remaining and I was two laps away from my goal and based on my lap splits, I knew it was possible.”

Next, a reporter from a podcast seeking to interview her said that if she completed this final lap she would earn second place because the current second place female concluded her race earlier that morning with 14 laps.

“I realized at this point, as long as I finished this final lap before 1:30 p.m., I would get second place,” she said. “It was very surreal. It brings me back to military training when you are really challenged but overcome. When you push yourself and succeed, there is nothing like the reminder of that to renew your spirit.”

At this point in the race, she recalled she had been awake for 36 hours, racing nonstop for 25 of those hours and worried about being alone through the last obstacles. She witnessed others lose motivation during the course of the night, when temperatures dropped to 20 degrees. Obstacles started freezing and other competitors began feeling waterlogged.

Wingmen were essential in the final stretch more than ever. Some of the obstacles are designed to require teamwork. One of them required competitors to physically step on another person to reach the top of a wall, without another person there it was nearly impossible to get up the wall.

“You meet interesting people along the way,” Rost said. “It is great to be around such an encouraging and supportive community.”

Along the path she met an Army green beret and a financial analyst who takes time away from Hollywood-like celebrity engagements to run. These interactions kept the race interesting and passed the time.

She completed the race at 1:10 p.m. in second place, with 20 minutes to spare feeling like a true “bracket buster.”

#136 – Erin Rost – 2018 World’s Toughest Mudder 2nd Place Female

www.youtube.com

“While I’m super proud of how I placed, I am even more proud of getting my goal mileage because it reminds me why I love OCR so much,” Rost said. “It is not about what place you get, it is about pushing yourself to and beyond your limits. It is about doing your best each race and believing that with hard work, a good attitude and a little bit of grit, anything is possible.”

Resiliency, physical strength, mental stamina, persistence, and willpower are things serious runners all have in common, according to Rost.

“This is also specifically what my military brethren do,” she said. “We encourage others that they can do it too. If you work hard and have a good attitude, you can do anything.”

Her squadron witnesses this in her performance daily.

“Capt. Rost sets the example for everyone around her,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cory Frommer, 319th RCS superintendent. “You can’t help but to be inspired by her tenacity and winning mindset. She doesn’t know how to quit. When other members of the squadron or base community work with her, they are left no choice but to push their own boundaries just to try to keep up with her. As for the recruiting mission, her incredible performance demonstrates what the Air Force is all about, and when people see airmen like her, they are inspired to be a part of that world.”

She believes her limited experience in the OCR community coupled with her recent winning of the coveted World’s Toughest Mudder silver bib, are a good role model for those who may wonder if they could do a run like that.

“I played competitive soccer growing up and for a period of time in college before getting into bodybuilding,” said Rost. “OCRs combine a little bit of everything, as opposed to being great at just one thing such as running, lifting, grip strength, etc. You have to be good at a little bit of everything.”

What she reminds her audience is that her simple daily personal goals brought her to this point.

“I knew improving my running endurance would need to be a focus area,” said Rost. “I set mileage goals every week and started finding local half, full and ultramarathons. I also started rock climbing to improve my grip strength, participated in crossfit to improve muscular endurance and boxed as a crosstraining workout. As the race got closer, I worked up to three workouts a day.”

Her goal was to do at least one race a month while slowly increasing her monthly mileage goals. After completing her first Tough Mudder in 2016, she did four more in 2017. In 2018 she expanded her OCR experience to include two Spartan races, two half marathons, a full marathon and two ultramarathons.

“I wanted to start seriously competing in OCRs and figured if I can do one of the most difficult OCR formats in the world, than I can do anything,” said Rost.

Editor’s note: Tune in to CBS at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 to watch the full coverage of the World’s Toughest Mudder Capt. Rost participated in.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Chinese aircraft carrier stacks up against US ships

China is trying to transform its first aircraft carrier, currently a training vessel, into a combat ship ready to wage war, a senior officer has revealed.

Lu Qianqiang, the Liaoning’s executive officer, told state-run broadcaster CCTV that ship is currently being upgraded to serve in a combat role, making it more than just a training tool as China strives to become a world-class naval power with a modern carrier force, the Global Times reported.

The Liaoning, China’s only operational carrier, is a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that China purchased and refitted. It was officially commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. Beijing is believed to be close to commissioning its first domestically produced carrier, and a third flat top is apparently in the works.


The first Chinese carrier was used to design the country’s second carrier — which resembles the Liaoning and is designated Type 001A, though it has no official name — and was expected to serve as a training vessel for carrier operations.

The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

Liaoning during refurbishment in Dalian Shipyard

(Photo by CEphoto)

Now China wants to turn the Liaoning, which was technically declared “combat ready” in 2016, into a combat vessel.

Lu Qiangqiang, an executive officer aboard the Liaoning, told Chinese media that the PLAN had upgraded the arresting cables and arresting nets, improved the anti-jamming capabilities of the superstructure, enlarged the flight control tower, optimized the propulsion and power systems, and made changes to the flight deck.

“These changes will definitely help us make the best of the ship, improve our training protocols and boost our combat capability even further,” Lu explained. “The Liaoning is shifting from a training and test ship to a combat ship. I believe this process is going faster and faster, and we will achieve our goal very soon.”

This would be a big change for the Liaoning. Here is how the Chinese ship compares with US carriers.

  • The Liaoning, originally known as the Varyag, is about 1,000 feet long and displaces about 60,000 tons fully loaded. It is the sister ship of Russia’s disappointing Admiral Kuznetsov carrier.
  • The US Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers are over 1,000 feet long and displace roughly 100,000 tons.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The USS Carl Vinson underway in the Persian Gulf.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King)

  • The Liaoning is diesel-powered, and the diesel-fueled steam turbine power plants are inefficient and reduce the speed and service life of the carrier. Its top speed is believed to be somewhere between 20 knots and 30 knots. The range is apparently limited to a few thousand miles.
  • The US Navy’s aircraft carriers are powered by onboard nuclear reactors. These ships have speeds in excess of 30 knots and an unlimited range.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The USS Enterprise underway with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)

  • The Liaoning uses ski jump-assisted short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are harder on the aircraft and can only launch planes running at about 60,000 pounds. That means increased strain on the aircraft, reduced sorties, less fuel, reduced operational range, fewer armaments, and reduced combat capability.
  • US carriers use more effective steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems designed to launch much heavier aircraft.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

F/A-18 Hornets over the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez)

  • The Liaoning has an air wing consisting of 24 Sheyang J-15 fighter jets. There is the possibility that China may replace the fourth-generation J-15s with fifth-generation J-31s in the future.
  • The US Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers can carry a larger air wing consisting of as many as 55 fixed-wing aircraft. The primary fighter is the F/A-18, but the US is in the process of arming carriers with the new fifth-generation F-35Cs.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147, launches off the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren K. Jennings)

  • The Liaoning is armed with a 3D air/surface search radar over the main mast, four multifunctional active-phased array radar panels, a FL-3000 naval missile system, a Type 1030 close-in weapons system, and anti-submarine warfare rocket launchers.
  • US carriers have a number of advanced radar systems, RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Missiles, Phalanx close-in weapons systems, and Rolling Airframe Missiles.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln launches a Rolling Airframe Missile during combat system ship qualification trials.

(U.S. Navy photo)

  • The Liaoning does not appear to have any special armor or protective covering, although it is difficult to know for sure.
  • US carriers have Kevlar covering vital spaces, like critical machinery and weapons-storage areas. In addition to extra armoring, US carriers are compartmentalized and have redundant systems to ensure they can take a hit.
The Navy adds $108 million to budget for drone helicopters

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean during a routine patrol.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ricardo R. Guzman)

  • “If you put the two side by side, obviously the US has huge advantages,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. But Chinese carriers are rapidly improving with each new ship.

Aircraft on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

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