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The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
The USS Freedom, one of the littoral combat ships set to be equipped with over-the-horizon missiles. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans


The Navy is building and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a series of next-generation technologies — including an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was recently deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Guided-missile destroyer USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) test fires its five-inch gun on the bow of the ship during training. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
USS Jason Dunham DDG 109 | US Navy photo

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Delivering new ID cards is now a struggle for the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has suspended applications for its new veteran identification card program due to a large number of applicants, according to a notice on its website.


The new, free ID card was ordered by Congress in 2015 as a way to give veterans proof of service at businesses without carrying a copy of their DD-214 forms. The VA, a week ago, rolled out the online application for the card for all honorably discharged veterans, but the system appeared to immediately face technical problems.

Tests by at least two Military.com reporters accessing the site with their own VA logins and military service credentials encountered repeated errors. One was able to successfully complete the process despite multiple rejections and system timeouts.

Currently, however, veterans who look to apply for the card are instead told they need to come back later.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
(Courtesy photo illustration)

Thank you for your interest in the Veteran Identification Card! Currently, we are experiencing a high volume of traffic. We apologize, and want you to know we’re working to fix the problem,” the notice states. “In the meantime, please enter your email address and we’ll send an update when the Veteran Identification Card application is back online.

Officials with the VA did not respond to requests for information on when the application will be reopened, how many users successfully applied for the ID card before applications were suspended, or how many users started but did not complete the application process.

“We are aware some veterans have experienced issues with the application process, but leaders of VA’s Office of Information and Technology are actively engaged in fixing them,” Curtis Cashour, the agency’s press secretary, said in a statement.

Also Read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

“Still, many Veterans have successfully registered for the card since the program was announced, and we are excited finally to begin providing this resource to Veterans, fulfilling a promise that was made to them more than two years ago under the previous administration,” he added.

To apply for a card, users had to log in to the VA website using either a DS login or the ID.me system, provide a variety of personal information, and upload a copy of a government-issued ID. They also needed to provide a shoulders-up photo to be displayed on the ID card. VA officials said Nov. 29 that users could expect to receive their new ID cards within 60 days of application.

Some veterans, such as those who receive health benefits from the VA and military retirees, already have IDs that can provide proof of service. The new IDs will not qualify as official government-issued identification for air travel or other uses. The ID card program is voluntary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Need some inspiration? This military nonprofit wants to send it to you – in a box filled with goodies

The Inspire Up Foundation launched their Spark and Inspire boxes for 2021. There are 100 free boxes that are up for grabs, each filled with over $100 worth of items said to empower, uplift and encourage the recipient.

Eligibility for the box requires those who register to be a military member, veteran, first responder or be a spouse of one. Their title sponsor for the quarterly boxes is the Military Lending department of Caliber Home Loans, it’s thanks to them that the boxes increased from 50 to 100 for 2021. Previous boxes included items like $100 Lowe’s gift cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blessing bags to give to the homeless and books written by prominent military community members.

In each box the organization works hard to feature a veteran-based business and this next one is no exception. They’ve partnered with Black Rifle Coffee company to provide each recipient with a bag of their original and much loved grind for the winter Activate box.

Spark and inspire summer boxes
Spark and Inspire 2020 summer box

The reason behind the creation of the initiative was simple according to Inspire Up’s Chief Financial Officer and WATM writer, Jessica Manfre. “What initially prompted it was watching military spouses around us struggling during the pandemic,” she explained. After partnering with an Air Force spouse who teaches resiliency, the idea was born. “We know we can’t solve the world’s problems with a box of stuff, but it is our hope that it sparks and inspires the recipient to keep going and find joy even in the midst of hardship.”

Spark and Inspire is an initiative run by five military spouses, all affiliated with different branches of service. It was their hope that by continually creating conversation around empowerment, service to others and living a purpose-filled life – they could create a ripple of change.

“We recognize that the pandemic and all of the negative impacts it comes with is going to be around for a while. Our non-profit is committed to continually seeking out ways we can connect our communities with each other and help create spaces to come together,” Manfre said. Inspire Up has hosted a number of virtual opportunities for military spouses with partners like Military Families Magazine. Through these events they talk about the issues weighing on the military community and work on solutions together to target them.

While this may all be virtually – for now – the organization hopes to expand to in-person mini events later in 2021. The boxes of “joy” as Manfre called it, is just the beginning for what the team hopes to accomplish.

So how do you get your hands on one of these for yourself or someone you know? It’s simple, click here to visit their website and simply follow their social media channels @inspireupfdtn to look for your chances to win.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman under investigation after homophobic rant on YouTube

The Air Force is investigating an airman after he posted a video on YouTube rife with homophobic slurs and insults.

A man in an Air Force uniform, identified only by the YouTube username “Baptist Dave 1611” ranted in a recent video, calling gay people “sodomites,” “vermin scum,” and “roaches” among other slurs, according to Air Force Times, which first reported the story June 26, 2019.

“The specifics of the situation are being reviewed by the airman’s command team,” said service spokesman Maj Nick Mercurio, confirming the incident. Mercurio did not provide any identifying details about the airman.


A screenshot from the video posted on Air Force Times showed the airman in his Airman Battle Uniform. The account has since been removed from the website.

“When you get these perverts on their own, they flee like cockroaches, like the roaches they are, the vermin scum, the pedophiles that they are,” the airman said in the video, as reported by Air Force Times.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

Unidentified airman, “Baptist Dave 1611.”

(Screenshot from YouTube)

In the video, “Baptist Dave” also said he was influenced by Grayson Fritts, the Tennessee Knox County Sheriff’s Office detective who recently advocated for the arrest and execution of LGBTQ people. Fritts is also a pastor of All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville. During a sermon on June 2, 2019, Fritts said LGBTQ individuals “are worthy of death.” The video, originally released by the church, went viral on social media.

The Air Force on June 26, 2019, stressed inclusivity.

“The Air Force considers diversity to be one of our greatest assets,” Mercurio said in a statement to Military.com. “Therefore, airmen are expected to treat one another with dignity and respect. We do not tolerate behavior that is contrary to those values.”

Mercurio cited Air Force Instruction 1-1 which outlines the service’s culture standards that all airmen must comply with.

“Our core values demand that Airmen treat others with genuine dignity, fairness, and respect at all times,” the AFI states under its code of conduct.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

(Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger)

“Each Airman is entitled to fair, scrupulous, and unbiased treatment, and each Airman has the obligation to care for, teach, and lead others. We must also maintain loyalty to the Air Force’s core values and standards and maintain professionalism and respect for others regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation. This respect for others not only involves personal interaction, but also extends to communications and interactions in social media and cyberspace,” it says.

Last year, the Pentagon introduced a new policy to deter misconduct and harassment among service members, defining harassment to include offensive jokes, stereotyping, violence, and discrimination.

Under direction from then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Defense Department in February 2019 unveiled DoD Instruction 1020.03, Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces, which immediately superseded any past department policies on sexual harassment and unacceptable behavior for service members.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The 23-page comprehensive policy updates the department’s definitions of harassment and proper response to attacks on individuals via social media, as well as misconduct on bases.

DoD says that harassment may include “offensive jokes, epithets, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, displays of offensive objects or imagery, stereotyping, intimidating acts, veiled threats of violence, threatening or provoking remarks, racial or other slurs, derogatory remarks about a person’s accent, or displays of racially offensive symbols.”

Discriminatory harassment — which is based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity), national origin, or sexual orientation — is addressed under the policy.

The reported YouTube video marks the latest in a string of incidents under investigation by the Air Force involving alleged inappropriate conduct by airmen.

In April 2019, the service said it was looking into Master Sgt. Cory Reeves of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base Colorado after the group Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists accused Reeves of being a member of white nationalist organization Identity Evropa in an online post.

Weeks earlier, the Office of Special Investigations at the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, began investigating Airman First Class Dannion Phillips, who was identified in a Huffington Post report as being involved with Identity Evropa.

The Air Force did not have additional information on the status of these investigations by press time.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bride divides internet when she asks Marine in uniform to leave

A bride has divided the internet after explaining how she kicked a guest out of her wedding for turning up in military uniform.

Writing on Reddit’s “Am I The A——” forum, the newlywed said she “felt kind of bad” for asking him to leave, “but it just didn’t feel right for him to be there like that.”

The man in question was the son of one of the groom’s family friends.

He arrived at the wedding in his Marines’ dress blues, complete with all his medals, and it did not go down well with the bride.


“Now, I have nothing against anyone in the military but this was a black tie optional wedding and frankly it felt very out of place and it seemed like he was just trying to show off,” the bride wrote.

“My wedding had over 300 guests and nobody else felt the need to wear something to make them stand out.”

The woman admits that he acted perfectly politely at the ceremony, and “graciously agreed” to have his photo taken with some of the female teenage guests who were excited to see him.

But the bride was not thrilled about how he was drawing attention.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

(Flickr photo by Thai Chu)

“Many people were thanking him for his service, and frankly it just felt like the only reason he wore that was to be in the spotlight and make it about him, which I don’t think you are supposed to do at someone else’s wedding,” she said.

“If he wants to wear that to his own wedding then fine, but the whole point of having a dress code at a wedding is so that no one guest will stand out too much.

“I felt that he should have known this, since the whole point of uniforms in the military is so that you don’t stand out from everyone else!”

People in the forum were divided over whose side to take.

Some people pointed out that the marines formal uniform “looks classy and black tie,” but others argued it was “extremely disrespectful.”

The majority agreed that both the bride and the guest behaved badly.

As a former army sergeant pointed out: “Wearing formal military wear at formal civilian events is allowed per regulations (Army is AR 670-1, no clue for marines), but you have to be a special kind of a—— to wear it to a non-military wedding without specific permission of the couple.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

Marines assigned to The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon)

“The reason for this is the same as wearing white to a wedding — this puts you in competition with the bride. He should have dressed in civilian-wear, or at very least, checked with the couple getting married.”

As for the bride’s decision to ask him to leave, the former sergeant said that “kicking him out of the wedding was a bit much.”

“It’s your special day, but you shouldn’t forget that you play dual roles — you are both the host and the one fêted. Don’t forget that former role.

“You probably should have grimaced and just gone with it along with other faux pas such as Uncle Larry puking in the bushes and cousin Jenny making out with the DJ. With 300 guests, one person in uniform isn’t going to kill your day.”

This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Articles

Russians buzz USS Porter multiple times in the Black Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.


The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean during a 2007 deployment. The Porter was conducting Maritime Operations (MO) in the 5th Fleet area of operations with the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). (US Navy photo)

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Fencers carried out a similar buzzing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.

Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)

In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.

In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.

Articles

Jordan soldier to be charged for killing American trainers

A government official says a Jordanian soldier faces murder charges in the shooting deaths of three US military trainers at a Jordanian air base.


He says the soldier will be tried by a military court, starting June 7th. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

The US Army Green Berets were killed November 4 at the Al-Jafr air base in southern Jordan. They came under fire as their convoy entered the base.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
US Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery

Jordanian officials initially said the trainers sparked the shooting by disobeying orders from Jordanian soldiers.

The slain Americans were 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, of Kirksville, Missouri; 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe of Tucson, Arizona; and 27-year-old Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX’s new ‘Endeavour’ spaceship just made history by docking to the International Space Station with 2 NASA astronauts inside

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.

After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.


On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.

The two men then spent a few minutes manually controlling the ship’s thrusters through touchscreens while connected to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.

Behnken and Hurley then turned Endeavour’s autopilot back on, and the spacecraft ever-so-carefully flew itself toward a docking port called Node 2, located at the forward end of the space station.

The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.

‘A new chapter in human space exploration’

SpaceX’s docking at the ISS is thefirst by a privately developed spaceship with a crew on board.

The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.

“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”

Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.

NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.

“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”

“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.

An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest

After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.

The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.

“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.

“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”

Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.

Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.

The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.

“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.

Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.

“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”

The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.

The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.

If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.

SpaceX, meanwhile, will gain the ability to fly private astronauts to space — even including Tom Cruise, who hopes to film a movie aboard his planned stay on the ISS.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

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Watch the ongoing Demo-2 mission live on NASA TV:

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

US & Canadian jets scrambled to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers

U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian nuclear-capable bombers away from the North American coastline in the Arctic region, military officials say.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on Jan. 26, 2019, said two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers were identified entering an area patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force on Jan. 25, 2019.

It said two U.S. F-22 and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets flew to the location and escorted the Russian bombers out of the zone. The U.S. jets flew out of a base in the U.S. state of Alaska, the military said.


The reports did not specify the exact location of the encounter. The military monitors air traffic in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends 320 kilometers off Alaska.

Russian state-run TASS news agency on Jan. 27, 2019, cited U.S. officials as saying the Russian jets did not enter “sovereign territory.”

It quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two strategic bombers “completed a scheduled flight over neutral waters of the Arctic Ocean [and] practiced refueling” during a 15-hour flight.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter jet.

There were no reports of conflict between the Russian and the U.S. and Canadian warplanes.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement.

“Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace.”

NORAD, a combined U.S.-Canadian command, uses radar, satellites, and aircraft to monitor aircraft entering U.S. or Canadian airspace.

U.S. officials have reported several incidents of U.S. and Canadian jets scrambling to intercept Russian warplanes and escorting them from the region.

In September 2018, the Pentagon issued a protest after U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace west of Alaska.

In that incident, the jets followed the Russian craft until they left the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.

In April 2017, Russian warplanes flew near Alaska and Canada several times, prompting air defense forces to scramble jets after a two-year lull in such activity.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident, saying the bombers were performing “scheduled flights over neutral waters” when they were escorted by the U.S. F-22 warplanes.

Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes in various parts of the world have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.

Moscow said it scrambled a jet in June 2017 to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States moves to block its oil exports, the Foreign Ministry says.

“If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the government news agency IRNA on July 24, 2018.

The United States has told countries that they must stop buying Iranian oil or face consequences.



The warning came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

The deal with six world powers provided Iran with some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rohani’s suggestion that Iran may block oil exports from the Persian Gulf if its own exports are stopped.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

President Hassan Rohani

Tensions have increased between the two countries in past days.

Trump warned Rohani on Twitter earlier this week to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The tweet appeared to be in response to Rohani saying any conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”

Tehran dismissed Trump’s warning on Twitter, which he wrote in capital letters.

Mimicking Trump’s tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied, “UNIMPRESSED … We’ve been around for millennia seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Speaking on July 24, 2018, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump’s tweet did not deserve a response, saying his comments were “undiplomatic and demagogic.”

“The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Larijani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

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

Articles

Admiral George Dewey: the US Navy’s most average hero

In May 1898, Admiral George Dewey’s name carried almost as much weight as that of George Washington among Americans. His feats were compared to other homegrown legends of the sea such as John Paul Jones, Oliver Hazard Perry, and David Farragut. Thousands of ribbons, bowls, dishes, celluloid buttons, canes, paperweights, and spoons were produced depicting his distinguishing features – his white hair and matching walrus mustache. He was avowed as an American folk hero for his victory at Manila Bay against the Spanish, and his popularity almost launched him into the presidency as it did Zachary Taylor in 1850.


But today, the mention of his name to most Americans would be met with blank stares.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Despite his memorabilia.

Dewey was not a remarkable man. He was neither brilliant nor did he possess any identifiable characteristics that demonstrated an above average ability. While attending the United States Naval Academy, he earned 113 demerits in his first year due to a number of infractions and his never-ending fixation with practical jokes. (Two hundred demerits would have led to a midshipman being expelled.)

No one is really sure how he got the nickname “Shang,” but it stuck. His career was lifeless leading up to 1898. By then, he was more than sixty years old and had not seen active duty in over thirty years.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Rear Admiral George Dewey with staff and ship’s officers, on board USS Olympia, 1898.

The legendary Admiral David Farragut (of “Damn the torpedoes!” fame) was his role model. Dewey cherished the memory of serving alongside Farragut during the American Civil War. He declared of his idol that, “Farragut has always been my ideal of the Naval Officer; urbane, decisive, indomitable. Valuable as the training at Annapolis was, it was poor schooling beside that of serving under Farragut in time of war.” Even on the eve of the Battle of Manila Bay, Dewey asked himself “What would Farragut do?” He made a point to exemplify the characteristics he learned from Farragut for the remainder of his life.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War

Dr. Ronald H. Spector, author of Admiral of the New Empire: The Life and Career of George Dewey, wrote that the years between the 1860s and the 1890s were years of pain, frustration, tedium, and stagnation for Dewey. His wife Susie died in 1872, five days after giving birth to a son. He always carried a gold pocket watch with an image of her declaring to one individual, “My wife goes with me always.” With the exception of the death of his wife, these years were the most monotonous of his life. But in 1898, life drastically changed for Dewey.

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Dewey took command of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron anchored north of Hong Kong in January of 1898. Even though well past his youth, Dewey was still lean and possessed a decisive frame of mind. Then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt favored the old naval officer and proclaimed, “Here was a man who could be relied upon to prepare in advance and to act fearlessly and on his own responsibility when the emergency aroused.” Dewey received orders from his government to crush the Spanish Pacific fleet anchored in the vicinity of Manila Bay, Philippines.

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Commodore George Dewey and Admiral Patricio Montojo, Battle of Manila Bay, Spanish-American War, 1 May 1898. Educational card, late 19th or early 20th century.

Under the cover of darkness, Dewey’s fleet (coated with gray paint to cover their glistering white frames) snuck into Manila Bay. The vessels passed single file through the Spanish channel with Dewey in the lead on his flagship, the Olympia, followed by the Baltimore, Boston, Raleigh, Concord, and Petrel. One officer feared Spanish mines in the channel might endanger the life of Dewey, voicing his concern to his commander. Dewey wanted to hear none of it and declared, “I have waited sixty years for this opportunity. Mines or no mines, I am leading the squadron myself.”

When the Olympia drifted to within 5,500 yards of the Spanish Pacific fleet around 5:40 a.m. on May 1, it unleashed the first salvo as the lead American vessel. Dewey led his vessels to and fro in front of the Spanish fleet, until they were finally within the close proximity of 1,800 yards. The whole time Dewey sat with composure on the bridge of the Olympia while his guns roared, sporting an ivory uniform and matching golf cap. By 12:50 p.m., all seven Spanish vessels were sunk or set on fire and scuttled, with the heavy loss of 400 killed and wounded. Dewey lost neither a ship nor man (8 men were wounded).

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon
Spanish warship Reina Christina, Admiral Montojo’s flagship – completely destroyed by Dewey, Cavite, May 1st, 1898.

One of the most flawless U.S. naval victories in history was conducted by a man of mediocre ability, but who rose to the occasion and snatched a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. His grit, decisiveness, and courage made up for his shortage of brilliance. Dewey’s victory allowed for the U.S. occupation of Manila and contributed to ending the war. Sometimes the most prosperous men in war are the most ordinary men during peacetime.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Anonymous missile strike hits Syrian town with Russian base

Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, which hosts a large Russian naval base and military presence, has come under attack from an unclaimed missile strike that Syria attributes to Israel.

“Air defenses have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them,” Syrian state-run media said, according to Reuters.

Syrian officials blamed Israel for the strike, but Israel rarely takes credit for its air raids in Syria and has frequently fired missiles from outside of Syrian airspace before.


The strikes followed Israel releasing satellite images of Damascus International Airport and the palace where Syrian President Bashar Assad lives in a possible threat. Syria also blames Israel for a Sept. 16, 2018 strike on the airport.

Syria and Israel have fought wars against each other in the past and Israel has taken military measures to resist Iran’s influence and ability to transfer arms in southern Syria near Israel’s borders.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles targeted ammunition depots of the technical industry institution in the eastern outskirts of Latakia, according to Reuters.

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Russian protection?

Unlike the semi-regular strikes that hit Iranians-aligned forces in southern Syria, this strike hit an area rich with Russian forces and missile defenses. In past US-led strikes, Syria has shown little proof that its air defense can actually fend off large-scale naval cruise missile strikes.

Russia recently concluded naval exercises in the Mediterranean near Latakia and maintains a consistent naval presence in the region.

So far nothing indicates Russian military bases have been targeted, but Syria-based correspondents have reported Russian air defenses operating.

Russia has, since 2015, stationed warships at Latakia and operated some of the world’s top missile defenses near Latakia. Video and photos claiming to show the air battle over Latakia show what look like massive surface to air fires with missiles streaking overhead, indicating a state military rather than a rebel or terror group.

Featured image: A video claims to show a massive missile strike in Latakia.

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

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