The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader's death is priceless - We Are The Mighty
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The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

A Pentagon spokesman said July 11 that he hopes reports of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are true and advised the terror group to develop a “strong succession plan.”


In response to a query from Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland about the alleged death of Baghdadi, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort against ISIS, said the US cannot confirm reports of his demise, but added that the Pentagon “hope[s] it is true.”

“We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed,” the spokesman continued.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A monitoring group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Newsweek on July 11 that it had confirmed Baghdadi is dead based on information received from the second in line for ISIS leadership.

“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. “We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how.”

Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. (DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.)

Reports of Baghdadi’s death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.

Since 2014, Baghdadi has been reported dead numerous times. The State Department has placed a $25 million dollar bounty for any information leading to his capture.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are US troops overpaid?

A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?

Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.

But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,” the report’s author wrote.


Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”

The report, which Military Times first wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)

“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.

In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.

Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.

Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.

As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.

“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.

Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.

“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”

The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”

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

Articles

This is how the Marines groom their top operators

An average of 11 months of grueling training and the mastery of seven weapons are just some of the hurdles to join the elite tier of the Corps’.


After serving three years as a Marine, MARSOC candidates arrive at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the best shape of their lives.

Some of the physical assessments include a 300 yard swim in cammies and a brutal 12-mile timed rucksack run carrying 45 pounds of gear.

Come along to MARSOC and see what the training is like.

MARSOC training begins with Phase One, a 10 week long course that focuses on basic skills that all operators will need to master.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Sgt. Kyle McNally | U.S. Marine Corps

These skills include general fitness …

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Cpl. Thomas Provost | U.S. Marine Corps

… And significantly more advanced swimming skills.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Cpl. Steven Fox | U.S. Marine Corps

All Marines must also master survival skills such as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Sgt. Larry Carpenter | U.S. Marine Corps

After a successful completion of Phase One, Marines enter into 8 weeks of Small Unit Tactics in Phase Two.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Cpl. Steven Fox | U.S. Marine Corps

This second phase involves small boat operations and information collection.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Staff Sgt. Robert Storm | Wikimedia Commons

Urban and rural reconnaissance is also a focus of this phase.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Sgt. Kyle McNally | U.S. Marine Corps

After completion of Phase Two, successful Marines enter into 5 weeks of Close Quarters Battles training.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
U.S. Marine Corps

Phase Three focuses on the necessary martial skills that all MARSOC operators must master to survive during their missions.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter | U.S. Air Force

This includes rifle and pistol marksmanship lessons …

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
GySgt. Josh Higgins | U.S. Marine Corps

… As well as learning the tactics and techniques required for successfully conducting raids on urban, rural, and maritime objects.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Gunnery Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

Phase Four is the final section of the course and lasts seven weeks.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
YouTube

This phase, dubbed Irregular Warfare, requires that Marines demonstrate a complete mastery of all preceding skills.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Staff Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

In the fourth phase, operators will pair with soldiers from a participating partner nation.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Gunnery Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

MARSOC operators are required to then train, advise, and successfully operate with the partner nation forces. MARSOC has operated in more than 40 countries.

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‘Squad’ drops you right back into anti-terror combat (in a good way)

“Squad” is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.


Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.

These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”

All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.

This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.

The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s massive Air Force is a joke

North Korea has a massive air force that outnumbers the South Korean and US jets it’s meant to counter mostly with Russian-made fighters and bombers, but in reality the force is basically a joke.

According to a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report on North Korea’s conventional military, the air force has 110,000 officers and enlisted personnel taking care of approximately 1,650 aircraft. That force includes about 820 combat aircraft, 30 reconnaissance aircraft, and 330 transport aircraft.

“During wartime, the force likely has the capability to conduct a limited, short-term strategic and tactical bombing offensive and to launch a surprise attack,” IISS assesses.

Because the jets are spread out across a wide swath of the country, North Korea is most likely able to “conduct strike missions against command and-control facilities, air-defence assets, and industrial facilities without rearranging or relocating its aircraft,” the report says.


The IISS says North Korea’s best jets are its MiG-29 fighters, which it probably only has a few dozen of, its 46 MiG-23 fighters, and its roughly 30 Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. “The remaining aircraft are older, and less capable MiG-15s, MiG-17/J-5s, MiG-19/J-6s, MiG-21/J-7 fighters and Il-28/H-5 light bombers,” the report says.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
A MiG-29 of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence.
(Photo by Srđan Popović)

But all of those planes are from the 1980s, and IISS says they can’t hang in today’s environment of electronic warfare.

This is something the US would be sure to exploit, as almost all of its jets have jamming capabilities and its aircraft carriers can transport specialty electronic-warfare planes.

Additionally, the US and South Korea’s abilities to monitor North Korean planes via satellite and recon drones severely blunts any surprise attacks they could pull off.

Even worse for North Korea than the age of its planes, however, could be its pilots’ lack of training. Because North Korea relies on China for almost all of its jet fuel, and that item has long been under sanction, it has to preserve the precious little fuel it does have.

This means less flight time for pilots and less time training in the real world, and it almost certainly precludes realistic training against adversarial jets.

A video in 2015 showed North Korean pilots walking around with toy planes in front of Kim Jong Un, who observed their training. Another shot shows the pilots at flight simulators, a tool commonly used by air forces around the world.

For this reason, North Korea relies heavily on building hardened, bomb-resistant ground structures for its jets and using surface-to-air missiles to fight any prospective air wars.

North Korea’s air force actually has modest capability impressive for a country of its size and income, but it simply could not contend with South Korean and US jets.

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

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

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

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Vet congresswoman wants Air Force to put down tubas and pick up guns

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
We’re headed for the rifle range right after we finish this whacky jam session, we promise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)


Representative Martha McSally, R-Az., an Air Force veteran, launched into the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in the Capitol after they testified that manning levels were too low and budget cuts were too high. According to a story posted at Air Force Times, McSally called their logic the “newest excuse” for prematurely retiring the venerable A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, and she questioned if it wouldn’t be wiser to cut non-essential personnel like “the hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet.”

“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said during the hearing. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
Then Lt.Col. McSally about to get her BRRRRTTT! on. (USAF photo)

“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally said.

“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, CJCS, replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”

“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.

McSally knows a thing or two about the topic of military aviation. She graduated from the Air Force Academy and then spent 22 years serving as an attack pilot, including commanding an A-10 squadron. In 2001 she famously sued DoD over the policy of making female service members wear veils while stationed in Saudi Arabia. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and spent a year as a college professor in Germany before running for Congress. She lost a close race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and then won a close race two years later.

And, for the record, the Air Force says it currently has about 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers assigned to band billets.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

The US dispatched the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to a tour of Middle East on April 11, 2018, as tensions between the US, Russia, and Syria reach a boiling point over a pending US strike.

“The strike group, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, USS Normandy (CG-60), several destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), is scheduled to conduct operations in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility,” a US Navy statement read.


Though the specifics of the deployment haven’t been revealed, the presence of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets will pose a massive challenge to Russia and Syria.

Rear Adm. Eugene Black said at the ship’s departure, “We’re ready for any mission, anywhere, any time … The president can send us wherever he wants, with whatever mission he’s got, and we’re ready to go.”

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
USS Harry S. Truman
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)

The US previously used navy destroyers when it struck Syria in April 2017. This time, experts expect the strike to be bigger. Russia has threatened to shoot down US missiles and the ships that fire them, but the US has a massive advantage over Russia’s forces, should they try to fight back.

Once the Truman carrier strike group arrives, “the US will be able to clean up the eastern Mediterranean in a conventional fight any day,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, previously told Business Insider.

Russia, for its part, has not left its navy dormant, and mobilized 11 ships for fear for its safety as the threat of Trump’s strike looms.

The Truman’s strike group should arrive in the region by early May 2018.

In the video below see how the US Navy sailors in Norfolk, Virginia set off the Truman:


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MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 66 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
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MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

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Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

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Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

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

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Today in military history: US Senate repeals Tonkin Gulf Resolution

On June 24, 1970, the U.S. Senate repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was the catalyst for the escalation of American action in Vietnam. It refers to two incidents in August 1964. On Aug. 2, the destroyer USS Maddox was shelled by NVA torpedo boats. The Maddox responded by firing over 280 rounds in return. There was no official response from the Johnson Administration.

The pressure mounted however, with members of the military, both in and out of uniform, implying Johnson was a coward. On Aug. 4, the second incident was said to have happened, but Secretary McNamara admitted in Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War the second attack never occurred. The Pentagon Papers even implied that Maddox fired first in an effort to keep the Communists a certain distance away.

The resulting Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the U.S. Congress gave President Johnson – and subsequently, Nixon – the authority to strike back in southeast Asia against Communist aggression, even without a declaration of war from the Senate.

On June 24, 1970, the Senate voted to repeal the resolution as part of an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act. However, the Nixon Administration continued to fight the war on the legal grounds that Nixon had the inherent authority as Commander-in-Chief, until the United States withdrew in 1973.

The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).

The facts not in dispute by either side are just as harrowing: Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 wounded, not to mention the emotional toll the war took on American culture. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.

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Robot soldiers are coming! Robot soldiers are coming!

Boston Dynamics has come out with a new version of its Atlas robot that is more mobile, more agile, lighter, quieter, and doesn’t require a power tether.


The new robot was introduced in a YouTube video this morning where it was shown escaping a building and marching through the snow:

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GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Then it stacked boxes like some sort of Robo-POG:

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Like other POGs, the Atlas was bullied pretty harshly on the job:

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

The new generation Atlas weighs only 180 pounds, approximately half the weight of its 330-pound predecessor. It is powered by onboard batteries and can navigate obstacles that tripped up earlier Atlas robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Boston Dynamics has withdrawn from the DARPA challenge to focus on building commercially-viable robots, meaning they might try to sell the robot to the military or other buyers within the next few years.

Still, the Atlas is far from reaching the battlefield. The new improvements could get it ready to serve behind the lines, but it’s about as noisy as the BigDog robot which was shelved by the Marine Corps for being too loud. And there are no signs that it’s ready to carry its own weapon.

For now, developers will probably continue to target disaster response and similar missions.

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