The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 received three upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2017.


The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.

“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). This upgraded version of the Cobra is not yet available to the fleet. The helicopter features a larger engine and has two more blades than the Cobra’s original two, giving it more power and maneuverability. Wasp is conducting test flight operations and was chosen as the platform to evaluate the Limits and capabilities of newer models of Aircraft. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

More Firepower

The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.

“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”

Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Also Read: This is why the H-1 Huey has a special place in US military history

“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”

The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.

“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/USMC

Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.

“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”

Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.

“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon: Taliban keeps ‘close ties’ with Al-Qaeda affiliate

Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains “close ties” to the Taliban and has an “enduring interest” in attacking U.S. troops, the Pentagon says in a new report.

Under a February deal between the Taliban and the United States, the insurgents agreed to stop terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.


But in a report published on July 1, the Department of Defense said Taliban militants have continued to work with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

AQIS “routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” the department said in a semiannual security assessment compiled for Congress.

Citing Al-Qaeda statements, the report said the group’s regional affiliate also “assists local Taliban in some attacks.”

The Pentagon report, titled Enhancing Security And Stability In Afghanistan, said that despite “recent progress” in the peace process in Afghanistan, AQIS “maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.”

It said that any “core” Al-Qaeda members still in Afghanistan are focused mainly on survival, and have delegated regional leadership to AQIS.

“AQIS’s interest in attacking US forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing coalition [counterterrorism] pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban,” according to the report, which covers events during the period between December 1, 2019, to May 31 this year.

It comes after a United Nations report released a month ago said that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage.”

The UN report added that the Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and “offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties.”

However, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the findings, saying the report largely covered a period before the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

The deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.

Under the accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s new security law could turn the country into a war zone

Mexican senators on Dec. 13 approved an Internal Security Law, which would formalize the military’s role in the country’s domestic security.


Their votes came despite protests from their Senate counterparts, international organizations, and Mexican citizens. The bill faces further discussion but could get final approval by Dec. 15. It was first approved by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, during a contentious session on Nov. 30, and throughout deliberations, opponents inside and outside congress have railed against it.

Mexico’s constitution limits the military’s domestic actions during peacetime, but the armed forces have been deployed to combat drug trafficking and organized crime since the first days of 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent troops into his home state of Michoacan just a few weeks after taking office.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
President George W. Bush exchanges handshakes with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, as they met for a bilateral discussion during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Montebello, Canada. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The bill — proposed by members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — would create a legal framework for the public-security functions the military has been carrying out on an ad hoc basis for more than a decade, like manning highway checkpoints and pursuing and arresting suspects.

Supporters say it would address legal issues around those deployments. The bill would set guidelines for the president’s ability to authorize military action, but critics have said it makes it too easy to send the armed forces into the streets and opens the possibility they could be used against protests. They’ve also said the bill could allow deployments to be extended indefinitely.

A new initiative proposed by the bill would have the military provide intelligence to the government and its security agencies. The measure would also establish a group of government officials who would make decisions about the implementation of new measures the president could then, if needed, invoke to restore “internal order.”

Also Read: These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

“The thing that I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Yeah, but aren’t they already doing it? And isn’t this just sort of bringing that under code of law?’ And that’s a reasonable point,” Everard Meade, the director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider.

“Creating some more law and clarifying the legal framework is not a terrible idea, even if you think, as I do … that it’s not a good idea,” Meade said. “The broader point is they’re already doing it, and they’re often doing it under really shady jurisdiction.”

‘Mexico without war!’

Criticism has come from all sides. Opposition legislators have called for calm, detailed discussion about the bill, rather than the previous fast push through the Chamber of Deputies that apparently left no time to read or debate it.

Lawmakers and civil-society groups inside and outside of Mexico have also charged the bill gives the military too much leeway in its domestic actions. Legislators have also criticized measures within the bill regarding the use of force as “cosmetic” and said that changes made by Senate committees are “insufficient” or “superficial.”

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has said the law is vague and doesn’t include objective definitions of “internal security” and opens the possibility for it to be applied in “any” situation.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the premise of the law, saying it provides no exit strategy for the military and is “ill-conceived.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
The Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations (United Nations Office at Geneva). (Photo by MadGeographer)

The UN’s high commissioner for human rights said formalizing the military’s role in domestic security was “not the answer” and that doing so reduces incentives for civilian authorities to act in their traditional roles.

The Washington Office on Latin America — which noted that the military was still operating in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states a decade after its first “temporary” deployment — has cautioned that the measure as is would likely lead to more abuses and hinder transparency.

Mexican protesters took to the streets of Mexico City during the Senate’s deliberations on Dec. 13, chanting “Mexico without war!” and calling for the law to be rejected.

‘We still need the army in the streets’

The PRI and parties allied with it have touted the necessity of the bill, dismissing international criticism and stressing the importance of a legal framework for the military’s domestic operations.

“The issue of human rights is covered, and covered well” in the law, PRI congressman Cesar Dominguez said at the end of November. “But we cannot guarantee liberties and the full exercise of rights if there isn’t a climate of public safety and peace.”

“Blah, blah, blah. The truth is you always vote against everything,” said Arturo Alvarez, a congressman from the Green Party, a PRI ally. “The fact is we still need the army in the streets.”

The military’s activities “have been limited by the lack of a normative framework that regulates actions they can perform during times of peace,” Cristina Diaz, a PRI senator who heads the Senate’s governance commission, said Dec. 13.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
Mexican army soldier at the Independence Day Parade, September 16, 2013 in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com)

The continuing threat posed by powerful criminal organizations and their often more violent offspring undergirds many arguments in favor of the bill. But most admit the military’s training is incompatible with policing.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, called the measure a “double-edge sword,” because while the military had the capability to confront heavily armed criminal groups, it is not trained or equipped to carry out law-enforcement jobs, like gathering evidence or interrogating suspects.

“If you use the military, the allegations and the issues of human-rights violations are probably going to continue,” Vigil told Business Insider. “But at the same time, if you don’t use them, then Mexico is really sticking its neck out in terms of being able to provide nationwide security against these complex drug-trafficking consortiums.”

David Shirk, the director of the Justice in Mexico program at the University of San Diego, differed, saying that lack of investigative capacity was disqualifying.

The military “can’t identify, track, and … they don’t have the necessary intelligence and, importantly, the evidentiary basis on which to bring people to justice that a part of a vast criminal conspiracy,” Shirk told Business Insider. “The problem is neither does the Mexican police force.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
A soldier carries out surveillance in the municipality of San Fernando in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. (EFE photo by Miguel Sierra)

Shirk noted that the Mexican military has been involved in domestic operations for decades, with some arguing its role extends back the middle of the 20th century. By 1995, he said, there were calls to include the armed forces on the national public safety council.

But the expanded deployment in 2007 — rising from 20,000 to 50,000 soldiers — was intended as a short-term solution until criminal groups could be suppressed and police forces could be better trained.

Those troops are still in the streets. In places like Guerrero, riven by drug-related violence, they remain deployed to augment or replace local police. Tamaulipas, the northeast Mexican state that is the home turf of the Gulf and Zetas cartels, depends entirely on the military for order, after all the state’s city and town police forces were dissolved because officers were linked to cartels fighting in the state.

Mexico’s military remains one of the country’s most trusted institutions, and the army is its most trusted security branch. But many see these prolonged deployments as directly responsible for more human-rights abuses and for increased violence throughout Mexico.

Shirk, citing a 2012 Justice in Mexico report, noted that allegations of rights abuses by the military increased as their deployments increased in 2007 and 2008. There continue to be over 1,000 complaints annually.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
(Image from the University of San Diego)

The Washington Office on Latin America found that, between 2012 and 2016, there have been 505 criminal investigations by the Mexican attorney general into crimes and abuses by soldiers but just 16 convictions.

Researchers have found that between 2007 and 2010, there was “a causal effect between the deployment of joint military operations and the rise in the murder rate” in states where those joint operations took place, with data indicating there could have been nearly 7,000 fewer homicides in 2008 and 2009 had the military not been deployed.

The military has been implicated in abuses in recent years, like the killing of 22 suspects in central Mexico in 2014 and the disappearance of 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, also in 2014. Between 2015 and September 2017, the Mexican government reportedly paid out more than $6 million in compensation for human-rights violations by federal authorities, including defense forces.

“So to me, it’s absolutely clear that if we see this government or another government that comes next turn to even more military involvement or start deploying the military more, we’re going to see more people get hurt,” Shirk told Business Insider.

‘A very long-term project’

The Mexican military currently operates domestically under a vague clause allowing it to “aid” civilian law enforcement when asked to do so.

Military leaders have expressed “unease” about domestic operations, and the Mexican government has taken steps to hold military personnel accountable for abuses committed while acting in a public-security capacity.

Under a law approved in 2014, soldiers accused of violating civilians’ rights are tried in civilian courts.

Also Read: The 50 most violent cities in the world

“That’s a big deal” and an important part of making sure abuses are dealt with transparently, Shirk said, though he doubted there had been enough time to assess whether that policy was being used well and had been effective in protecting against violations. (The Washington Office on Latin America has said that reform has not been fully implemented.)

Mexico has made little progress in reforming and reconstituting local and state police forces, which were often ineffective or infiltrated by criminal elements, and has shown little interest in doing so. Critics of the bill have charged that it removes incentives to carry out those reforms, but even a sincere effort to effect them would “be a very long-term project,” Vigil said.

“It’s going to take decades before they’re up to speed,” he told Business Insider, “and in the meantime they’re going to have to use … the military to conduct a lot of those [law-enforcement] operations.”

Articles

The infamous hacker who exposed Clinton’s email server is going to prison for 4 years

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
NBC News screenshot


The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” has been sentenced to 52 months in prison for a string of high-profile hacks he carried out against people including former Secretary of State Colin Powell to family and friends of former President George W. Bush.

He also exposed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after he gained access to the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidant.

The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, gained unauthorized access to personal email and social media accounts of roughly 100 Americans over a two-year period, according to the Department of Justice.

Many of those hacks led to the release of financial information, embarrassing correspondence, or personal photographs. For example, an email break-in of a Bush family member led to the release of artwork created by the president, and leaked emails between Secretary of State Colin Powell and a European Parliament member led Powell to deny an affair.

Lazar was extradited from Romania after being arrested in January 2014. He pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization and aggravated identity theft.

As The New York Times has noted, Lazar was not a computer expert. He operated on a cheap laptop and a cellphone, and used tools readily available on the web. Many of his “hacks” were the result of social engineering skill and months of guessing security questions until he got in.

“He was not really a hacker but just a smart guy who was very patient and persistent,” Viorel Badea, the Romanian prosecutor who directed the case against him, told The Times.

He claimed in May that he accessed Clinton’s private email server twice — a charge the Clinton campaign has denied and that has not been verified by the FBI, which investigated the use of the server — but found the contents “not interesting” at the time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Raiders receive valor awards for secret gunfight in Africa

Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle in 2017 with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Aug. 15, 2018.

While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities” — the Marine Special Operations Team on Feb. 28, 2017, became engaged in a “fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as “Raiders.”


The two award citations for the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with “V” distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.

While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.

Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to “return fire in self-defense.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

United States Military Achievement Medals.

According to one citation, the Raiders’ communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.

The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.

The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter’s M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which “[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner,” the citation said.

“He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” the citation added.

The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and “assessed two enemies were killed,” Reho told Task Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.

The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The Oct. 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.

This article originally appeared on Task Purpose. Follow @Taskandpurpose on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to get one of the Army’s surplus M1911 pistols

After writing about the potential mass sale of the Army’s surplus .45 ACP M1911 pistols through the government-chartered Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), I received a f*ck-ton of emails over the course of my Thanksgiving travel that broke down into two main categories:


  1. It’s Medal of Honor, not “Congressional” Medal of Honor (I’m a civilian and moron, so thank you for correcting me!)
  2. When and where can I grab one of these bad boys!?

At the moment, details are scarce. The $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the transfer of weapons “no longer actively issued for military service,” including thousands of M1911 and M1911A1 pistols, to the CMP is currently sitting on President Donald Trump’s desk. And according to the military surplus pipeline, “the limited number and the exceedingly high demand” for the sidearm has sparked congressional scrutiny that’s prompted the board of directors to reexamine how it handles future sales.

It’s tricky to speculate on legislation that hasn’t even passed and what will likely become a brand new sale process, but given the excitement over the sidearm that’s accompanied American troops into every conflict zone for more than a century, we can’t help but attempt to read the tea leaves on the future of the legendary pistol.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force fires an M1911 .45-caliber pistol at a range in Jordan June 9, 2013, during Eager Lion 2013. Eager Lion is a U.S. Central Command-directed exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Jordan.

How many M1911 pistols are going to be available?

The DoD doesn’t publically post arsenal inventories for obvious reasons, but thank God for Rep. Mike Rogers. In 2015, the Alabama Republican introduced a similar transfer amendment to the NDAA, stating that the Pentagon spends “about $2 per year to store 100,000 Model 1911s that are surplus to the Army’s needs.” President Barack Obama later signed an NDAA that included a measure to transfer 10,000 pistols to the CMP, although Guns.com notesthat only around 8,300 have been shelled out in recent years, mostly to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program.

So that’s, what, around 90,000 M1911s up for grabs in the long run?

Why is 90,000 a “limited number”?

This year’s NDAA amendment regarding the weapons transfers stipulates that only between 8,000 and 10,000 M1911 pistols will go to the CMP each year, and only for the next two years — which means collectors may have to fight over a scant 16,000 bad boys.

Well, let’s take the worst-case scenario: that only 8,000 M1911 pistols ship to the CMP annually. That shakes out to a little more than a decade of releases assuming the measure passes consistently every two years, which seems likely given its inclusion in the 2015 and 2017 NDAAs.

On the downside, this means competition will be fierce — but on the upside, you’ll have multiple chances to grab an M1911 should you miss your first shot.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Oh sh*t! So when can I grab one?

Well, this annual sale thing assumes that the actual transfer goes smoothly — which it won’t because, you know, logistics. Guns.com smartly notes that all military surplus firearms that originate from the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama go through a rigorous inspection and testing process to assess the condition of each firearm. Given that most of the Army’s M1911 stockpile was manufactured before 1945, a significant portion will require repairs or simply end up as scrap due to missing parts.

This doesn’t just whittle down the available pool of M1911 pistols for eager collectors but slows the actual distribution and sale process to a crawl. “The odds of finding a mint-in-the-box specimen that has escaped 70-years of Army life without being issued will be slim,” as Chris Eger put it, “but even those guns will have to be checked and certified.”

Read Also: This is why the M1911 was America’s favorite pistol

Great, so that’s the “what” and the “when.” Now: How do I get one?

First of all, you’ll need to satisfy the general federal and state-level restrictions (age, background check, etc.) around firearms. But more importantly, you need a membership with a CMP-affiliated club — and luckily for you, the organization has a handy search engine to help you find your nearest favorite new hangout, where membership tends to run around $25 annually.

HOWEVER: If you’re a veteran or a member of one of CMP’s “special affiliates” — congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, professional organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, or an active-duty service member, reservist, National Guardsman, or retiree — you’re essentially good to go.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
US Patent 984,519, also known as the Browning. (Image US Patent Office)

Okay, cool, but how do I GET one?

You’ll need to provide proof of American citizenship, through a birth certificate, passport, or another official document. You’ll also need a copy of your official CMP club membership card (duh) or a Club Member Certification Form. (An odd side note: Apparently this means you can only use your military ID as proof of citizenship if you’re E-5 or above? What’s the deal with that? Get at me if you know why.)

No more forms, idiot — HOW DO I GET ONE?

Once the 2018 NDAA passes, the CMP will likely make an announcement on their site regarding sales. And when they do: Holy Ordering Form, Batman!

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Investigators release details of deadly WC-130 crash

The Air Force WC-130H aircraft veered to the left on the runway, almost rolling into the grass before the crew was able to get it airborne.

The pilot quickly made the decision to return to the Georgia airfield they had just departed. The pilot directed the shutdown of engine one, operating on the remaining three.

“Coming back,” the pilot repeated five times over the next 30 seconds.

Investigators said that within those few seconds the pilot improperly applied nine more degrees with the left rudder, “which resulted in a subsequent skid below three-engine minimum controllable airspeed, a left-wing stall, and the [mishap aircraft’s] departure from controlled flight.”


No other “meaningful direction” was given to the crew other than an order to “brace” just before impact.

The plane was airborne for two minutes overall before it crashed down into Georgia State Highway 21 roughly 1.5 miles northeast of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, killing all aboard.

A newly released mishap report determined that the WC-130 crash that claimed the lives of nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 2018 was largely due to pilot error. But troubling engine and maintenance issues documented in the aging aircraft raise more questions about the cause of the catastrophic May 2, 2018 mishap.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

C-130J Hercules and WC-130J Hercules fly in formation during an Operation Surge Capacity exercise April, 5, 2014, over the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone)

The WC-130, which belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing, Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, had recurring issues with its first engine, according to the Aircraft Accident Investigation

Board Report released Nov. 9, 2018. The issues were documented a month before the aircraft’s final flight, as well as the day of the deadly crash.

The report, authored by Brig. Gen. John C. Millard, ultimately concluded that the aircraft crashed due to pilot error.

The crew should have more closely followed emergency procedure and called for immediate action after discovering one of the aircraft’s engines was malfunctioning, Millard said. Instead, the malfunction led to loss of control of the plane, causing it to crash, the report found.

Experts who spoke with Military.com, however, pointed out that lapses in maintenance deeply disadvantaged the crew even before the aircraft left the runway. The plane, which had been in service more than 50 years, was on its final journey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona when it went down.

“The engine malfunction is most definitely large factor and I would say the catalyst for the events that unfolded,” said an Air Force instructor pilot who flies a mobility aircraft and agreed to speak to Military.com on background about the report’s findings. “It appears the [report] narrowed in on a particular piece of the engine (the valve housing assembly) which had intermittent issues with [revolutions per minute] over its lifetime with multiple different engines.”

Nine died in the crash: Maj. José R. Román Rosado, the pilot; Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, the navigator; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, loadmaster; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, crew member; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, crew member; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, crew member.

The Air Force ordered an immediate investigation into the accident. Days later, after Military Times published an in-depth report showing that military aviation accidents have increased over the last five years, the service directed its wing commanders to hold a one-day pause in order to conduct a safety review with airmen, assessing trends and criteria that may have led to the recent rash of crashes.

Unsolved maintenance problems

The newly released investigation shows that the plane was cleared for flight even though the recorded oscillation data of the plane’s outermost left engine did not match its intended performance.

The WC-130 made its ferry flight from Puerto Rico to Savannah, Georgia, on April 9, 2018. And the flight crew operating the [mishap aircraft] “experienced an RPM issue with engine one, and reported the incident for troubleshooting and repair,” the report said.

While the crew found a fix, maintainers struggled to replicate both the in-flight operations and the solution the pilots used to better understand the what went wrong. They found they couldn’t recreate the crew’s original solution, which was to switch “on the propeller governor control to mechanical governing,” to see if that rectified the issue, it said.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules (s/n 64-0510) from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, prepares to take off from Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 29, 2004.

According to post-mishap interviews, during a second maintenance engine run, the “mishap maintainers observed engine one produced 99% revolutions per minute,” the report said.

But the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) said otherwise.

The DFDR indicated “engine one never reached sustained RPM above 96.8% and had significant oscillations between 95% and 98%,” it said.

The Air Force investigators said that when performing an engine run, the [technical order] requires a range “of 99.8% to 100.02% RPM, as displayed on a precision tachometer, to verify an engine is operating properly at 100%.2.”

The maintainers, who failed to use a precision instrument, missed a chance to diagnose a fluctuating, weaker engine.

“Good enough” mentality

The maintainers should have noted these red flags, the instructor pilot who spoke with Military.com said.

“The maintainers… failed to properly conduct the inspection of the engine,” the instructor pilot said. “The crew likely would have never stepped to the aircraft that day, at least not without the engine being verified to have reached the required power threshold, versus over 2 percent lower than the minimum.”

In the report, maintainers are faulted for having a “good enough” mentality about the aircraft’s condition.

Twitter user @MikeBlack114, a self-identified Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, also faulted the “good enough” mentality as a reason mistakes were made in a tweet thread. Furthermore, leadership should have paid better attention, he said.

“I’ll let someone with wings address the aircrew piece, but the mx [maintenance] portion is almost unfathomable,” Black said in a Twitter thread. “If you’re in a leadership position of an organization involved with flying and you aren’t uncovering the skeletons (believe me, they’re there, just a question of how severe they are) you aren’t looking hard enough.”

Another problem, according to the report, was the maintainers observing the aircraft did not use a tachometer to justify the data.

The report noted that they had conducted the engine test runs without the instrument because the compatible adapter plug to connect the precision tachometer to the aircraft was not available.

“During the engine runs and without the use of a precision tachometer, [mishap maintainer one] and [mishap maintainer two] knew that 100% RPM was the speed the engine should operate at, but believed 99% was sufficient to conclude their maintenance because of the wider gauge range provided in the [technical order],” the report said. “Thus, the mishap maintainers never corrected the engine one discrepancy and did not resolve the RPM issue.”

On May 2, 2018, engine one’s RPMs once again revealed an anomaly.

During takeoff, engine one’s RPMs fluctuated and couldn’t be stabilized when the first mishap pilot “advanced the throttle lever into the flight range,” according to the report.

“Engine one RPM and torque significantly decayed, which substantially lowered thrust,” investigators added.

While the banked turn the pilots made into the failed engine “was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft, the [mishap aircraft] did still have enough airspeed to maintain flight,” the report said.

“The crew put the aircraft in a disadvantageous energy state by rotating (lifting off) 5 knots early and failing to accelerate as required by the procedures,” the instructor pilot said. “Unfortunately, this was not an unrecoverable situation by any means, and one crews in all airframes train to regularly.”

The reason for the initial flight in April 2018 was to conduct routine in-tank fuel cell maintenance in Georgia. The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base had the means to do this, unlike the Puerto Rico Guard’s 156th Wing.

Puerto Rico’s facilities sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Maria and could not offer the maintenance at home station, the report said.

Transparency needed

Although Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, the commanding officer of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said at the time of the crash the aircraft was more than 60 years old and one of the oldest C-130s in the fleet, its history and maintenance record say otherwise.

The aircraft, tail number 65-0968, rolled off the assembly line in 1965 as a standard C-130E, its records show.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

Aircraft 65-0968.

“Sometime in the early 1970’s, it was converted to a WC-130H for use in weather reconnaissance (the “W” designation indicates the weather modifications),” the report said.

The engines were also “upgraded from T56-A-7 to the T56-A-15 at that time (which changed the “E” designation to “H”),” it said.

The aging aircraft life was extended because the wing had been expected to change missions. But that transition never came.

The fiscal 2016 budget “initially divested the six WC-130H aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard “and provided direction to move the 156th Airlift Wing to the RC-26, a manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform,” the report said. “However, this direction did not prove viable, as there was no requirement for a manned ISR mission in the United States Northern Command Theater.”

Millard, the investigator, said in the report there were no outstanding time compliance technical orders that would have restricted the plane from from flying.

Still, there should have been more transparency, the instructor pilot said.

“As an aircraft commander, there’s a ‘trust but verify’ mentality with the maintenance crews, but our knowledge is limited. So when a crew chief hands me the signed forms,” he said, “I have to trust those procedures and previous discrepancies have been fixed in accordance with the maintenance technical orders.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.

Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).


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The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.

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I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to watch coverage of NASA’s Space Station crew launch this week

Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.


The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.

About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, 2019, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December 2018.

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NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain.

Coverage of the Expedition 59 crew’s launch and docking activities are as follows (all times EDT):

Thursday, March 14, 2019:

  • 2 p.m. – Soyuz MS-12 launch coverage (launch at 3:14 p.m.)
  • 8:45 p.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 9:07 p.m.)
  • 10:30 p.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage

A full complement of video of the crew’s pre-launch activities in Baikonur will air on NASA TV in the days preceding launch.

The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.

McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, 2019, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29, 2019 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8, 2019 spacewalk.

Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, 2019, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December 2018. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.

Check out the full NASA TV schedule and video streaming information at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at: http://www.nasa.gov/station

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter at: http://instagram.com/iss

Articles

How to get a defense industry job without a clearance

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
A Navy contractor explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel. Gonzalo Bastidas, from Navy Munitions Command CONUS West Division, Unit Seal Beach, explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel at the Standard Missile shop at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. The missile shop visit is part of a familiarization tour for members of the International Standard Missile Users Group. The Standard is the Navy’s primary area air defense missile and is also used by many allied navies around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin)


The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.

The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you’re already game, or maybe you have one but it’s not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.

If you aren’t the proud owner of a clearance, don’t despair: It’s an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you’re in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don’t require a clearance.

How, you ask?

With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.

Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.

Contracts:

Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.

Recruitment:

With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company’s promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.

Human Resources:

Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.

Maybe you aren’t interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don’t necessarily need to currently hold one.

Here’s some options:

Apply to Directly:

Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.

Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.

Education Programs:

Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.

So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don’t require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.

You got this.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

The top Marine Corps general is officially putting an end to the long-standing tradition of toughing out the rain without an umbrella, which has become a point of pride for the amphibious service.

“Umbrellas are good to go,” Gen. David Berger told reporters at the Pentagon — at least when Marines are wearing their service or dress uniforms.

Berger will make the move official in a new Marine Corps-wide administrative message to be released this week. Effective immediately, all Marines are authorized to use small, black umbrellas under certain conditions.


“Marines may carry an all-black, plain, standard or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather with the service and dress uniforms,” the commandant’s message to Marines states.

Raw: Marines Come to Obama’s Aid in the Rain

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Leathernecks in camouflage combat utility uniforms will still need to brave the rainfall.

The change follows an April survey on the matter from the Marine Corps’ uniform board. Officials declined to say how many Marines who answered the survey viewed the addition of umbrellas to the uniform lineup favorably.

When the survey was announced in April, some readers said umbrellas weren’t necessary since Marines are already issued raincoats and covers. Others argued that dress and service uniform items are too expensive to ruin in the rain, especially for lesser-paid junior Marines.

For others, the move came down to common sense.

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“Using an umbrella looks more civilized and professional than standing outside getting drenched,” one reader said.

Until now, only female Marines have been allowed to use umbrellas in service and dress uniforms. They must carry the umbrellas in their left hands, so they can still salute.

Male Marines have for decades been some of the only service members barred from using umbrellas when in uniform.

The policy made headlines in 2013 when President Barack Obama was giving a speech in the rain outside the White House. Marines standing next to Obama and the Turkish president held umbrellas for the two men while they stood in the rain.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are 5 ways to earn and learn through a VA career

Juggling the demands of school, work, and life can take a toll. At VA, learning is central to delivering top-notch care to veterans. That’s why, with a VA career, it’s easier for you to advance your education and skills without burning out.

If you plan to work while you pursue a degree or credential, here are five ways to earn and learn through a VA career:


1. Apply for a scholarship

If costs threaten to derail your dreams of a degree, a VA scholarship can help put things back on track. We offer several scholarships — like the Employee Incentive Scholarship (EISP) Program and the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI) — that can help you continue your healthcare education without piling up debt.

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The VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) even pays your full salary and up to ,117 toward the cost of higher education.

“This generous scholarship paid a majority share of my tuition,” says Isaac Womack, a Registered Nurse at the VA Portland Healthcare System in Oregon. “It also matched my regular income, allowing me to focus on school, work and other professional pursuits.”

2. Explore repayment and reimbursement options

Student loans make it difficult to get ahead. Through VA’s Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP), providers hired for mission-critical positions can receive up to 0,000 over a five-year period in reimbursements for tuition, books, supplies and lab costs.

“I still have a very large amount of medical school debt to service,” says Dr. Stephen Gau, a board-certified emergency medicine physician at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System in California. “The EDRP program helps to accelerate the pay off dramatically.”

Because VA is a federal government entity, you can also tackle school debt with the national Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

3. Gain valuable experience through a residency program

If you’re looking to gain real-world experience while pursuing your education, the VA Learning Opportunities Residency program offers nursing, pharmacy and medical technology students the chance to work alongside VA professionals at a local facility. If you’ve completed your junior year in an accredited clinical program, you can earn up to 800 hours of salary dollars while applying your skills to help veterans.

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4. Ask about a flexible schedule or remote work

Not every job comes with flex time and telework options. But many VA careers offer options other than the traditional 9-to-5 workweek and can accommodate your school schedule. Options might include varying arrival and departure times, working longer but fewer days or even teleworking on a regular or ad-hoc basis with a formal agreement.

5. Enroll in continuing education

VA employees can check to see if your VA medical center pays for courses from nearby colleges and universities. And be sure to advance your skills through the VA Talent Management System, which provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and VA-required training through a web-based portal. Track your progress through the system’s official training record.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Northern Iraq looks to ‘dark tourism’ for cash

In an October 2013, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, then the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United Kingdom, outlined sectors of the economy then being developed in Iraqi Kurdistan.


She discussed relevant prospects in the autonomous region’s oil and gas sector, as well as its tourism industry.

One particular area she outlined was referred to as “sites of conscience,” or “dark tourism.”

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch
Sgt. Nolan Heanu, a mechanic with HHS, TF 2-11 FA, stops to check out a display portraying the 1988 gas attack inside the memorial in Iraq. The casing of the bomb sticking out of the ground came from an actual bomb used in the attack 16 years ago. (Sgt. Sean Kimmons)

“I’m sure you know people visit Auschwitz as a way of discovering the history of the Nazis and what happened the Jewish community,” Rahman said. “This is apparently a sector of tourism worldwide that does very well.

“We want the world to know our story and what happened in Kurdistan, both positive and negative,” she added. “We want the world to know about the genocide, the chemical weapon bombardments, the torture, the executions.”

Rahman was referring to the Anfal, the genocidal campaign waged by the Saddam Hussein regime against Kurdistan in the late 1980s which killed 182,000 Kurds. One notably infamous incident of that period was the gassing and killing of 5,000 Kurdish civilians in a single day in the town of Halabja on the Iranian border.

The sites of these atrocities still exist. Amna Suraka, for example, was a headquarters of Iraqi intelligence during Saddam’s rule, where his regime applied the most brutal forms of torture against his Kurdish victims and “disappeared” many. It is now a museum.

Rather than destroy the site, which was known as Saddam’s ” House of Horrors,” the Kurdish authorities decided that preserving it as museum would commemorate those who were killed there, and as a stark reminder of the regime’s brutality against the Kurds.

A hall of mirrors in the complex consists of a staggering 182,000 shards of glass, one for each victim of the Anfal. Also in Halabja there is a memorial and museum to the gas attack.

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