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The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.


According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Textron AirLand’s Armed Scorpion | Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.

The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”

By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.

The Scorpion features a tandem cockpit and a composite airframe in order to keep its weight and costs down. In addition to its twin turbofan engines that are able to achieve a flight speed up to 517 mph, it houses an internal payload bay that’s capable of holding 3,000 pounds.

“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Courtesy of Textron AirLand

From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.

“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.

However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Award-winning songwriters, veterans, and service members will come together to share music at the Songwriting With Soldiers concert on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

The concert will feature musicians performing original songs shared by nonprofit organization Songwriting With Soldiers. Performers include Bonnie Bishop, Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Radney Foster, Mary Gauthier, James House, Will Kimbrough, Georgia Middleman, Gary Nicholson, Maia Sharp and Darden Smith.

Their songs have been recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Emmylou Harris, Fleetwood Mac, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, John Prine and Ringo Starr.


This performance shines a light on two important things – the power of music to help us connect, and the need to listen to today’s veterans and military families. These are the war stories of our times, and they have much to teach us,” said Songwriting With Soldiers co-founder Mary Judd.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Photo courtesy of Stacy Powell.

Many veterans struggle with reintegration. Songwriting With Soldiers holds weekend retreats across the country, pairing service members with professional songwriters to craft songs about their experiences in combat and coming home. The creative songwriting process is life-changing for participants as it offers a unique outlet to tell their stories, rebuild trust, release pain and forge new bonds.

The one-hour television special, “Songwriting With Soldiers,” will premiere nationally in prime time on PBS on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, at 10 p.m. (check local listings).

The program, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will be taped for national broadcast on PBS this fall.

Tickets are on sale now for to the general public and are free to active military, veterans and their families. Tickets are available only at www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/pbsconcert/.

This collaboration of Songwriting With Soldiers, PBS and WCTE Upper Cumberland PBS is produced by Todd Jarrell Productions and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional underwriting from Sweetwater Music Instruments and Pro Audio.

The information contained on this page is provided only as general information. The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information, services, products, or providers.

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

Articles

4 urban myths with military roots

Urban legends, old wives tales, myths, and folklore all come from somewhere. In the 20th century, the military was an important facet in the lives of many, especially during WWII and the Cold War years. Some of the lore was bound to find its way into civilian life, here are just a few you may have heard:


1. Carrots help your night vision

While it’s true carrots are good for your eyes, because they’re loaded with beta carotene and thus vitamin A. That’s where the ocular benefits end. In the thousands of admonished children and thousands of unfinished dinner plates between WWII and today, the idea of carrots being good for you morphed into a super power where you gain the ability to see at night.

The myth started in WWII, as German bombers struck British targets at night during the Blitz. British authorities ordered city wide blackouts in an attempt to lead the bombers off course or hope they would strike off target. The British fought off the German Blitz because of a new technology which allowed them to see the bombers coming from far off. It wasn’t carrots, it was radar.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
But cabbage will still totally clean you out.

The radar RAF fighter pilots had on their planes allowed them to detect bombers before they crossed the English Channel. One pilot, John Cunningham, racked up and impressive 19 kills at night.In an effort to keep the radar technology under wraps, the British Ministry of Defence told reporters pilots like Cunningham ate a lot of carrots.

The British public ate it hook, line, and sinker. Victory gardens began producing carrots to augment food supplies and alleviate shipping issues. BBC radio would broadcast carrot dessert recipes (this is why carrot cake is a thing, when it definitely should not be) to get the public behind carrots as a sweetener substitute.

2. You lose most of your body heat through your head

Your mother never let you out of the house on a cold day without warning you to wear a hat, but this old wives’ tale comes from an experiment the military conducted on body heat loss. They put people in arctic survival suits and put them in Arctic conditions. The survival suits only covered the people from the neck down, so there was nowhere for the heat to escape, except up through the head (You try explaining this to your mom).

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
MOM, I swear to god it comes out of my feet.

The amount of heat loss from your body depends on the temperature outside, how much surface area your skin has and how much skin you have exposed to the elements.

3. The military puts saltpeter in food to curb sex drives

This one even made it to the lore of boarding schools and colleges. You had no problems before you went to boot camp or boarding school. Now it seems like your libido took a vacation. What changed? It must be the food!

The logic for this is astounding. If there really is saltpeter in the food at basic training, then this must mean Taco Bell is an aphrodisiac (pro tip: it’s not, though the food quality standards are probably similar). The problem has less to do with the food and more to do with the campaign hat. It’s your drill sergeant is stressing you out.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Even if the services put saltpeter in the food, the medical truth is saltpeter doesn’t even suppress sex. It doesn’t help your libido either. Saltpeter is an ingredient in gunpowder and in that way it helps things go bang but it will never help or hurt your ability to go bang.

4.  Civilians tie yellow ribbons to support the troops

At least it didn’t start out that way. There was a John Wayne film produced in 1949 called “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” in which the female lead actually did wear a yellow ribbon for her cavalry officer lover. But the real custom of tying a yellow ribbons around things came from the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
That’s not the tying I meant.

In 1972, Tony Orlando and Dawn produced a song called Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, which was pretty popular. by 1979 the symbolic act resurfaced en masse as the hostages were held for 444 days. The practice came around again in 1991 during Desert Storm and was associated with deployed U.S. troops ever since.

 

 

NOW: The 6 craziest military myths

OR: The 4 biggest myths Marines keep telling themselves

MIGHTY TRENDING

If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

The Air Force has laid out plans to welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions.


The service, through the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, or VRRAD, is encouraging pilots who held a job in the 11X career field to apply before Dec. 31, 2018, officials said in a release this week.

In an effort to address the increasing pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last July signed off on the program, which aims to fill flight staff positions with those who have prior pilot experience and expertise, thus allowing active-duty pilots to focus on training and missions.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

Returning retirees will not be eligible for aviation bonuses, the release said. They will deploy only if they volunteer.

Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major, or lieutenant colonel can apply for VRRAD, according to the service’s criteria for the program.

While the Air Force select candidates on a first-come, first-served basis, officials said, applicants are required to be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical; must have served in a rated staff position within the past 10 years; or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within five years of application.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Officers who retired following, or in lieu of, a Selective Early Retirement Board, and officers who retired for a physical disability are not eligible to apply, the release said.

“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding.

“They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments,” Jarding, who works at the Air Force Personnel Center, said in the release.

The Air Force is looking to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
A pilot flies a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Aug. 22, 2017. The F-22 is a component of the Global Strike Task Force, supporting U.S. and Coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who has been a military pilot, and [we] would like to be able to keep our pilots who are current in the aircraft in the aircraft and try to fill some of these vital flight slots,” Wilson said in August.

Should those positions remain unfilled through 2018, the Air Force will keep the program open for additional applicants, the release said.

Former airmen can apply for the program, which began Aug. 11, through the Air Force Personnel Center via the myPers website. Those without a myPers account must establish one via http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK will not block death penalty for ISIS fighters

The British government will not block the potential use of the death penalty in the case of two captured fighters of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) who could face trial in the United States, news reports say.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are suspected of being the final two members of a IS foursome labelled “The Beatles” due to their British accents.

The two men, who were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018, were reportedly wanted for allegedly imprisoning, torturing and killing hostages.


They were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018.

Britain, which opposes the death penalty, has been in discussions with the United States about how and where the pair should face justice.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was seen by the Daily Telegraph, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said London will not seek “assurances” that the pair will not be executed.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” Javid wrote in June 2018, according to a transcript of the letter published by the newspaper on July 23, 2018.

Amnesty International said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”

“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter…marks a huge backward step,” Amnesty International UK’s head of advocacy Allan Hogarth said.

A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents.

Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” became the most notorious of the four after appearing in videos showing the murder of Western and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

He is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.

Featured image: British Home Secretary Sajid Javid

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

Articles

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”


Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.

One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
China’s Chengdu J-20. | CDD

In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.

Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at Australia Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the “J-20 is [a] fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35.”

Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.

Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Without tanker planes to refuel, US jets like the F-35 have a severely limited range. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.

“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”

What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.

Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.

“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.

In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”

Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.

“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.

Articles

These Are The Most Incredible Photos The Air Force Took In 2014

The past year was a busy time for the US Air Force.


Aside from coordinating and carrying out airstrikes against ISIS and other militant groups around the world, the branch also had to maintain its typically high level of readiness. The branch compiled a year in review, showcasing the US Air Force in action.

These are some of the most striking images the branch captured over the past year.

A soldier conducts a jump from a C-130 during the Japanese-American Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Senior Airman Michael Washburn/USAF

In September, soldiers also executed jumps out of a C-130 at the Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Osakabe Yasuo/USAF

 

During 2014, the long-delayed F-35 next-generation fighter was moved to its new home at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona. Here is one F-35 being escorted by an F-16.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Jim Hazeltine/USAF

The Air Force helped Marines load cargo during the closure of bases throughout Afghanistan during the past year, as the US-led combat mission in the country wrapped up.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bocock/USAF

Drone operators were also constantly called upon throughout 2014. An MQ-1B Predator, left, and an MQ-9 Reaper taxi to the runway in preparation for takeoff at Creech Air Force Base, in Nevada.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/USAF

 

In November, the Air Force carried out training operations alongside the Army and the Marines in Idaho.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Roy Lynch/USAF

Training took several forms throughout the year. Here, Air Force ROTC cadets observed the refueling of a B-2 over New Jersey as part of an orientation flight program.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Master Sgt. Mark C. Osen/USAF

Here, a C-17 is guided into an aerial refueling mission during a training flight.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez/USAF

Beyond airframes, personnel train in a variety of other combat-related skills. Here, Staff Sgt. Michael Sheehan fires a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer, or MAST, at Saylor Creek Range at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Tech. Sgt. JT May III/USAF

 

Dedicated personnel within the Air Force train to be firefighters capable of responding to a range of emergencies at a moment’s notice. Here, an airman puts on his helmet as part of training in ventilation techniques.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Senior Airman Christopher Callaway/USAF

Members of the 334th Training Squadron combat controllers and the 335th Training Squadron special operations weather team ready themselves for a physical training session.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Kemberly Grouel/USAF

Here, Air Force service members take part in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which is open to all service members.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Austin Knox/USAF

Of course, just like in every service branch, the Air Force puts a premium on discipline. At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Tech. Sgt. Chananyah Stuart unsparingly reminds a trainee of the procedures for entering the dining facility.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

 

2014 also included integration exercises for the various service branches — such as Exercise Valiant Shield, which was held in Guam in September.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh/USAF

After a practice demonstration over Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, aircraft from the Thunderbirds, one of the Air Force’s demonstration squads, wait for clearance to land.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./USAF

Here, an F-22 performs aerial demonstrations at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Joseph Araiza/USAF

The Air Force also lent some of its older aircraft out as memorials during 2014. Here, airmen tow an F-15 to the Warner Robins, Georgia city hall for a memorial display.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Regina Young/USAF

 

The Air Force deployed a vast range of aircraft in 2014. Here, a T-38 Talon flies in formation with a B-2 during a training mission.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/USAF

In April, a host of C-130Js and WC-130Js flew in formation over the Gulf Coast during Operation Surge Capacity, a training mission.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone/USAF

Here, U-2 pilots prepare to land in a TU-2S, a trainer aircraft for pilots before they undertake actual missions in the U-2.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings/USAF

Members of the 101st Rescue Squadron also practiced a simulated rescue and tested the defensive capabilities of a HH-60 Pavehawk.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: Senior Airman Christopher S. Muncy

 

The US Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs at Mount Rushmore. Between the rise of ISIS and fears of Russian aggression in eastern Europe, 2014 presented the US Air Force with a range of challenges that it continues to try to meet head-on.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Photo: 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin/USAF

Also from Business Insider:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones & detonations: How Sri Lanka is responding to the attacks

Sri Lanka has banned drones and is detonating suspicious items around its capital city in the aftermath of a series of deadly bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 359 people.

In a statement, Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said it was banning drones and unmanned aircraft because of the “existing security situation in the country,” The Associated Press reported.The ban will remain in place until further notice, Sri Lankan authorities said.

Investigators were searching for other possible explosive devices and stopping to search people and vehicles in Colombo on April 25, 2019, AP reported, four days after blasts ripped through hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.


Few people were outside in parts of the city while authorities searched locations near where the bombs went off, according to the AP. Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. local time.

Sri Lanka Bombings: What the Scale of the Attacks Tells Us | NYT News

www.youtube.com

Drones carrying explosives have previously been used by militant groups such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks.

But ISIS’ links to the attacks have not been proven, and authorities have blamed National Towheed Jamaat, a local extremist group that has not taken public responsibility. A high-level intelligence official told CNN that the group was planning another round of attacks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities said they believe an international network of extremists could have helped the group carry out the attacks.

Almost 60 people have been detained in relation to the bombings, while two brothers who are believed to have been involved in the bombings, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, were members of one of the city’s wealthiest families.

Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister said on April 24, 2019, that the country believes one of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Photos from the US military’s major training exercise with Australia and New Zealand

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
An Australian Army soldier from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, moves across the ‘battlefield’ in the early hours of the morning during Exercise Hamel 2016, in Cultana training area, South Australia, on 6 July 2016. | Commonwealth of Australia


It’s summer and it seems like the perfect season for nations to begin training their troops with major operations. Australia is no exception as it launches its annual Army training, Exercise Hamel.

Named after The Battle of Hamel at France in 1918, the exercise takes its roots from its successful attack on German positions by Australian forces in conjunction with American units — paving the way for an allied victory of World War I.

Keeping up with this spirit, the Australians will host over 8,000 troops during its trilateral exercise in South Australia — including US Marines and soldiers, and the New Zealand Army.

Check out the photos of what went down down-under.

US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia. Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

An Australian Army soldier moves across the mock battlefield in the early hours of the morning.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

A platoon sergeant looks at a map of Cultana Training Area in order to complete his objective.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marine officers pass information by radio.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

Marines press forward for patrol.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

Troops found themselves moving in and out of rocky trenches.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A rifleman scans the area outside of the objective.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A US anti-tank missileman looks for activity from the trenches.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marines clear trenches in the harsh terrain of South Australia.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A New Zealand Army soldier drags a “wounded” enemy soldier to safety during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia, as part of Exercise Hamel.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

A New Zealand Army infantry soldier patrols the perimeter of an internally displaced persons camp.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

A Combined Anti-Armor Team HMMWV moves into a screening position in the foliage.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

Australian Army soldiers identify mock enemy positions during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

Australian Army soldiers push forward through the town using cover.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

A United States Army soldier engages the enemy forces scattered throughout the town.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

An Australian Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter takes off from the Battlegroup Griffin position at Port Pirie, South Australia.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Commonwealth of Australia

US Marines set a 360 degree security for a simulated aircraft wreck site.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

US Marines prepare for a possible attack in the cover of darkness.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

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

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Here is how the Lancer stops Russia in the Baltics

When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.


So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
(U.S. Navy Photo by Michael Larsen)

Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.

That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group 41-6265 identifiable. (U.S. Army Air Force Photo)

Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.

The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.

While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.

Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.

That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.

The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.

In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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Here’s why the maker of the Army’s new handgun is suddenly playing defense

The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.


About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)

The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.

WATM friend Eric Graves at Soldier Systems Daily reports that there are five known incidents of an accidental discharged from a dropped P320 among the over 500,000 sold on the commercial market.

While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.

“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”

Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.

That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.

“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.

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3 Marines face charges in Parris Island hazing scandal

Three Marines will stand trial on charges of hazing and mistreating recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, and a fourth may also face charges, Marine officials announced Tuesday.


Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez and Sgt. Riley Gress face charges of violation of a lawful general order and false official statement. Bacchus and Gress were also charged with cruelty and maltreatment. They all will receive special courts-martial, an intermediate-level trial for those facing sentences of 12 months’ confinement or less.

Also read: This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

Another staff sergeant, who has not been named, faces an Article 32 investigative hearing for alleged false official statement, cruelty and maltreatment, and failure to obey a lawful order. The result of that hearing will determine whether he will face charges. The news was first reported Tuesday by Marine Corps Times.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

The charges for the three Marines are the result of a year-long probe revealing a pattern of hazing and abuse at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that ultimately was found to have contributed to the March suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui.

Marine Corps Training and Education Command spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said in a release Tuesday that the charges and allegations against the four Marines were not associated with Siddiqui’s death, however. This may indicate that more charges have yet to be finalized; in all, 20 Marine drill instructors and officers with oversight of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion were identified for possible legal and administrative action in light of the hazing.

The investigation into Siddiqui’s death led to more investigations, revealing, among other things, that a drill instructor had hazed another Muslim recruit by repeatedly throwing him into an industrial dryer and turning it on; and that drill instructors had attempted to cover up recruits’ hazing-related cases of muscle breakdown, or rhabdomyolysis, which forced them to drop out of training.

Service records for the three Marines being charged show they were all experienced and decorated troops.

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet
The title Marine and the coveted Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem is earned only by those who are imbued with the Corps’ core values. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Vanessa Austin)

Bacchus, a fixed-wing aircraft mechanic by trade, had previously deployed to Afghanistan and had earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.

Lucena-Martinez, a food service specialist, had deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in the relief effort for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He had also received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.

Gress, a motor vehicle operator, deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and also had been awarded a NAM and two Good Conduct Medals, according to his records.

“From the beginning, we have taken these allegations of misconduct very seriously,” Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general of Training and Education Command, said in a statement.

“As proceedings move forward, we will continue to maintain the integrity of the legal process while remaining transparent,” Lukeman added. “The Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego transform the best of our nation’s young men and women into U.S. Marines. The safety of our recruits and the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program remain our priority.”

To date, no hearings or arraignments for the Marines have been scheduled, officials said.

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