US Marines arrived in Syria in March to support the effort to retake Raqqa with artillery fire.
The Marines, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, came with M-777 Howitzers that can fire powerful 155 mm shells. The 11th MEU returned to the US in May, turning the operations over to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said they recaptured the city in mid-October, and, according to Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the Howitzers burned out, making them unsafe to use.
Troxell, who is senior enlisted adviser to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said last week that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group.
A U.S. Marine artillery unit in Syria. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)
“What we have seen is the minute we take the pressure off of ISIS they regenerate and come back in a hurry,” Troxell said, according to Military Times. “They are a very resilient enemy.”
The M-777 Howitzer is 7,500 pounds — 9,000 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It is highly maneuverable, and can be towed by 7-ton trucks or carried by MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft or by CH-53E Super Stallion or CH-47 Chinook helicopters. It can be put in place and readied to fire in less than three minutes.
Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, but it can fire four rounds a minute for up to two minutes, according to its manufacturer, BAE Systems. While it’s not clear how many rounds the Marine M-777s fired or the period over which they fired them, burning out two barrels underscores the intensity of the bombardment used against ISIS in and around Raqqa.
“I’ve never heard of it ― normally your gun goes back to depot for full reset well before that happens,” a former Army artillery officer told Military Times. “That’s a s—load of rounds though.”
A US Marine fires an M-777A2 Howitzer in Syria, June 1, 2017.Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps
The M-777’s maximum range is 18.6 miles (though it can fire Excalibur rounds accurately up to 25 miles, according to Military.com). Video that emerged this summer showed Marines firing 155 mm artillery shells with XM1156 Precision Guidance Kits, according to The Washington Post.
The kit is a type of fuse that turns the shell in to a semi-precision-guided munition that, on average, will hit within 100 feet of the target when fired from the M-777’s maximum range. The XM1156 has only appeared in combat a few times.
The number of rounds it takes to burn out a howitzer barrel depends on the range to the target as well as the level of charge used, which can vary based on weight of the shell and the distance it needs to be fired.
If the howitzers were being fired closer to their target, “the tube life might actually be extended some,” the former Army officer told Military Times. Open-source imagery reviewed this summer indicated that Marines were at one point within 10 miles of Raqqa.
Marine Corps Systems Command just announced a contract award in its Squad Common Optic program to Trijicon. The Corps chose to outfit its Fleet Marine Force, basically all of its line units, with Trijicon’s VCOG 1-8x variable magnification optic.
According to Matt Gonzales at MARCORSYSCOM’s Office of Public Affairs:
Six months after seeking industry proposals, Marine Corps Systems Command awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract to Trijicon, Inc., of Wixom, Michigan, Feb. 21 to produce Squad Common Optic systems.
The contract has a maximum ceiling of million, and Trijicon is slated to produce approximately 19,000 units. The purchase also includes spare parts, training, nonfunctional units, interim contractor logistics support and refurbishment of test articles.
Fielding to Fleet Marine Forces will begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 and will be completed by fiscal year 2023.
In the military, everyone loves to compare their job with others as part of a pissing contest to see who has it worst. Some cite their terrible living conditions, others tell horror stories of intense training, and the rest point to the awful, boring tasks handed to them. But there’s only one clear winner of the Absolute Worst Job contest — and that goes to the U.S. Navy’s loblolly boy.
Now, we’re not saying this to discredit your terrible MOS or rating — we’re sure yours is perfectly horrible — but unless your job is centered almost entirely around handling the medical waste that accumulated out at sea in the 1700s, then you probably can’t compete.
If reading about medical waste makes you a bit squeamish, we wouldn’t blame you if you’d instead like to check out our article about cute animals greeting returning troops. No? Alright, weirdo — but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Which also involved a lot of cleaning. Pre-Industrial Era medicine wasn’t known for its cleanliness.
The loblolly boy was the junior-most enlisted surgeon’s assistant back in the day. While the average operating table on a vessel consisted of the surgeon and a surgeon’s mate or two, all of the work that was deemed “below the officer” was shoveled directly onto the loblolly boy.
The name comes directly from the English slang term ‘lob,’ which meant ‘bubbling’ or ‘boiling,’ and ‘lolly,’ which was a soup or broth. This is in regards to one of the more lighthearted tasks assigned to these troops: to feed soup or stew to the injured sailors and Marines.
But since they were the lowest-ranking member of the medical team, they also had to handle the other tasks associated with nursing the wounded, like cleaning chamber pots, organizing medical supplies, cleaning medical instruments, and, of course, assisting in surgery.
We’re not talking the cleanest of working environments here, but at least they tried their best.
Back in the 18th century, amputation was a go-to answer for a lot of dire medical situations. Wound too bad? Amputation. Infection looks like it’s spreading? Amputation. Bone shattered too much? Amputation. Skin starting to turn green after you ignored a simple scrape? Amputation. It’s a pretty grim solution, but there’s no denying its effectiveness when the alternative was often death.
This was also long before anesthetics or analgesics, so the operations had to be done quickly — because, you know, that was the most “humane” way to cut someone’s leg off. They’d have the loblolly boy hold them down while Doc sawed it off. Problem is, the loblolly boy was often just a kid or young adult, which made restraining a fully grown Marine who’s getting parts cut off a significant challenge.
Old Victorian English surgeons in a hospital got the process down to 30 seconds flat. Civil War surgeons in the midst of a battle would clock in at around the same time, but the process was a whole lot messier. The loblolly boy, of course, had to clean up the inevitable splatters before the next patient came in. Disposing of amputated limbs was one of the primary duties of the loblolly boy.
If you’re a corpsman, now you know you can always win the debate of how’s job has been historically worse.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The job wasn’t the most glamorous, but it did open the doors for loblolly boys to work their way up in the medical field. This gave an opportunity to those who would otherwise not have it — for social, economical, or racial reasons. Many of the first African American surgeons got their start in the military as loblolly boys.
Ann Bradford Stokes, an escaped slave, was taken aboard the USS Red Rover during the Civil War and became both one of the first women to enlist and one of the first African Americans to enlist in the United States Navy. Though she could not read or write during her time of service, she did her job dutifully for years and became the very first woman in U.S. history to receive a military pension.
This terrible job evolved throughout the years, later known as surgeon’s steward, apothecary, and bayman, before becoming what we today know: the hospital corpsmen.
White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as rumors and calls for his ouster circulated throughout political circles.
Sources familiar with the situation explained to Vanity Fair that consideration for Kelly as VA secretary gained traction after Trump’s previous nominee, US Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, decided to withdraw his candidacy on April 26, 2018.
“They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican source told Vanity Fair.
Military service is not a requirement to lead the VA, but Kelly’s background as a former Marine Corps four-star general may give him an head start. As the second largest agency in the US government, the VA serves over nine million veterans for their medical and educational needs every year.
The VA’s sheer complexity has previously led to calls for the agency to be privatized for the sake of efficiency.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Kelly has some experience leading large institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security and US Southern Command, but the VA could prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Scandals related to accusations of inadequate care have plagued the department, and numerous secretaries have been forced out over the years.
A White House spokesperson denied that Kelly was being considered for VA secretary, according to Vanity Fair.
Rumors surrounding Kelly’s fate have intensified lately. And his role in the White House seemed to shrink as Trump reportedly takes more license to govern his own daily agenda.
Outside advisers to Trump have floated the idea of removing the chief of staff role completely, according to CNN.
Despite Trump’s initial praise for Kelly when he was brought on in July 2017, Kelly has reportedly fallen out of favor with Trump. Kelly was hired to establish order in Trump’s chaotic West Wing, which has shifted and buckled under multiple scandals and high-profile staff departures.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.
“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”
Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.
The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.
The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.
Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.
In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.
If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.
But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.
That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.
What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.
Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.
The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.
The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.
So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.
There are also examples of Chinese military systems looking suspiciously like US systems — the F-22 and the MQ-9 Reaper drone among them. Other elements of those Chinese systems — the software, technology, and manpower used to operate them — aren’t on par with the US military yet.
Esper told attendees that he had cautioned European allies against allowing Chinese companies to build 5G cyber networks in their countries, warning that to do so would risk sensitive national security information.
“Every Chinese company has the potential to be an accomplice in Beijing’s state-sponsored campaign to steal technology,” he said, highlighting China’s integration of civil and military technology, an area in which Beijing surpasses the US.
“China has systematically sought to acquire US technology both through traditional espionage means, as well as through legal investments in companies,” Daniel Kliman, director of the the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Insider.
“The United States very much still retains a military technological edge, but it’s clear that edge is eroding,” Kliman said.
Read on to see how China’s carbon copies stack up to US weapons systems.
Chinese air force J-20 stealth fighters.
The PLA’s J-20 looks extremely similar to the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.
Su Bin, a Chinese national and aerospace entrepreneur, pleaded guilty to cyber espionage in 2016. He and coconspirators spied on US plans for the C-17 Globemaster, the F-35, and the F-22.
But while the J-20 looks like the F-22, it’s not quite in the same league.
Michael Kofman, a senior research analyst at the CNA think tank, told Insider last year that he suspected “the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, Chinese low-observation aircraft designs like J-31 are flying on older Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.”
Kofman also expressed doubt about the J-20’s stealth capability.
“It’s got so many surfaces, and a lot of them look pretty reflective from the sides too. I’m pretty skeptical of the stealth on that aircraft,” he said.
A Chinese Shenyang J-31.
The Chinese Shenyang J-31 is strikingly similar to the US F-35.
The Shenyang J-31 is still under development but will likely replace the J-15 fighter, at least on aircraft carriers. The J-15 has been plagued with issues, including multiple fatal crashes and problems with its engine, the South China Morning Post reported last year.
The J-31 is the People’s Liberation Army’s second stealth aircraft and was first seen in 2014. There is widespread speculation that the J-31 is based on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 plans, although China has denied those claims.
The J-31 is lighter and has a shorter range than the F-35 but may beat it with maximum speed of Mach 1.8 to the F-35’s Mach 1.6, Popular Science reported in 2017.
The question of how well these aircraft actually match up to their US competitors remains, and, Kliman said, appearances are only part of the equation.
“Sometimes superficially the designs do look similar — it could be, in part, from some of the attempts China’s made to acquire good technology, but I would just caution that at the end of the day, it’s hard to know how similar it is or not,” he told Insider.
An MQ-Reaper over Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, June 25, 2015.
The Caihong-class unmanned aerial vehicle, including the CH-4 and CH-5, look unmistakably like US MQ-9 Reaper drones.
While there’s no concrete evidence that the Chinese design is the result of espionage or theft, the visual similarities are unmistakable — nose-mounted cameras on the CH-4B, as well as locations for external munitions are just like those on the Reaper, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, calling the two aircraft “identical.”
Breaking Defense reported in 2015 that, in addition to the same domed nose and V-shaped tail, the UAVs both have 66-foot wingspans.
Drone designer Shi Wen, of the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told China Daily three years ago that the CH-5 model “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency.”
But again, Chinese technology and specifications likely don’t match up to US counterparts.
For starters, the Reaper can carry roughly double the munitions of the CH-5. And while the CH-5 can travel farther, with a range of about 1,200 miles, its flight ceiling is about 23,000 feet, compared to the Reaper’s nearly 50,000-foot ceiling, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ China Power project.
The Reaper also has a heavier maximum takeoff weight and can travel at twice the speed of the CH-5, due to persistent challenges with Chinese-made engines.
The Chinese air force’s Y-20 transport aircraft has design similarities to the US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III.
Su Bin pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring to steal technical data related to the C-17 from Boeing and the US Air Force.
That data likely was used to build the Xian Y-20, China’s large transport aircraft, nicknamed the “Chubby Girl.” As Garrett M. Graff notes in Wired, Su helped pilfer about 630,000 files related to the C-17.
Whether China used information about the C-17 to build the Y-20 is unclear — Beijing has denied stealing US technology for its weapons systems — but the similarities are apparent, from the nose to the tail stabilizer, as Kyle Mizokami points out in Popular Mechanics.
The Y-20 has a smaller empty weight and payload than the C-17, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, but the Y-20 is the largest transport aircraft in production. The Chinese military lacked a large transport carrier prior to the development of the Y-20, making it difficult to quickly mobilize large numbers of supplies and troops to battlefields or disaster areas, Wired reported in 2012.
“Just because something looks somewhat similar doesn’t mean it has equivalent capabilities,” Kliman cautioned, particularly where human capability is concerned.
“It’s not the technology alone. It’s the quality of the pilots in a fighter airplane. It’s the quality of the systems that are feeding the aircraft information,” Kilman said.
China hasn’t fought a foreign war since the brief Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. US service members and systems have much more battlefield experience than Chinese forces.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] has made a long-term effort to improve its human capital, including through training but also through education … but at this point, the US, our pilots, our operators get, certainly, the real-world experience,” Kilman said.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
Where does China go from here?
If Esper and retired Navy Adm. William McRaven are to be believed, China is rapidly closing the technology and defense gap with the US, through both legal and illegal means.
Whether China is pouring money into research and development or committing outright intellectual-property theft, US officials have cause for concern about the future.
In August, Chinese national Pengyi Li was arrested on his way to Hong Kong after an undercover investigation by the Department of Homeland Security into the smuggling of components for missiles and surveillance satellites from the US to China, Tim Fernholz and Justin Rohrlich reported in Quartz.
Chinese nationals have also been found guilty of trying to smuggle accelerometers, which are necessary for guided missiles and spacecraft.
In terms of hypersonic technology, which “does seem pretty game-changing,” China is ahead of the US, said Kliman, who stressed that it’s important not to be alarmist.
“I think those statements are certainly well-intended and grounded in reality,” he said, referring to Esper and McRaven’s warnings.
Outside of military technology, Kliman said, China certainly is a leader in information technology. But when it comes to systems, allies, and people, the US still has a leg up on the competition — for now.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer was arguably one of the greatest actors post-WWII. Beginning his career in 1946, Plummer remained an active thespian throughout his life. He is best known for his role as Captain George von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Plummer was also a go-to actor to play historical figures like Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in Waterloo, Emperor Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception. On February 5, 2021, Plummer died at the age of 91.
Born in Toronto, Ontario on December 13, 1929, Plummer was a direct descendant of Sir John Abbott, Canada’s third Prime Minister. He was inspired to take up acting after watching Laurence Olivier’s Henry V and became an apprentice at the Montreal Repertory Theatre where William Shatner also acted. In 1946, Plummer performed his first role as Mr. Darcy in a school production of Pride and Prejudice.
In 1953, he appeared on television, both Canadian and American, and Broadway. Plummer acted mainly on stage and did not appear on screen for six years after 1958. His return to film was as Emperor Commodus in 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. The next year, Plummer would see his film career soar to new heights with The Sound of Music.
Despite it being his best-known role, Plummer once described The Sound of Music as “so awful and sentimental and gooey.” Aside from working with Julie Andrews, Plummer recounted that he found all aspects of making the film to be unpleasant, going so far as to nickname it “The Sound of Mucus.” Still, he acknowledged the film’s importance in retrospect. “But it was a very well-made movie,” he said in a 2009 interview , “and it’s a family movie and we haven’t seen a family movie, I don’t think, on that scale for ages.”
Classic military film enthusiasts will be most familiar with Plummer for his roles in the war epics Battle of Britain from 1969 and Waterloo the following year. In Battle of Britain, Plummer plays Canadian pilot Squadron Leader Colin Harvey, one of the first allied characters audiences are introduced to. In Waterloo, he takes on the role of the legendary British hero, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley who ended the Napoleonic Wars by defeating the French Emperor in the titular battle.
Christopher Plummer went on to act through the century and right up to his death. One of his last on-screen appearances was in a 2020 episode of Jeopardy! as a clue presenter. His final movie role is as a voice actor in the yet-to-be-released animated film Heroes of the Golden Masks.
Plummer died peacefully in his home with his wife by his side from complications following a fall. “The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend,” said The Sound of Music costar Julie Andrews. “I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humor and fun we shared through the years.” Plummer’s legacy is immortalized on screen in over 100 films and in the hearts and minds of his fans around the world.
The Pentagon is aggressively implementing major provisions of its recently completed Electronic Warfare (EW) strategy by working closely with the military services to accelerate development of a wide range of EW weapons and technologies designed to meet fast-emerging, near-peer threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Emphasizing both offensive and defensive applications of EW, Pentagon officials familiar with the new strategy point to the Air Force’s Electronic Warfare and Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority effort, the Army’s growing investments in Multi-Function EW, and various Navy plans to advance the Next-Generation Jammer, among other things.
“While the air, land, and sea domains each have their unique features, all threat investments in A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) capabilities require long-range sensors, long-range guidance, very capable missile seekers, and long-range communication capabilities. Each of these threat capabilities depends upon the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum continues to grow in importance each year,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told Warrior in a statement.
This DOD electronic warfare strategy took on new urgency following Russia’s successful use of advanced EW technologies in Ukraine and the pace of global technological progress in the area of EW systems, according to industry and government sources.
Electronic weapons can be used for an increasingly wide range of combat activities – from detecting and defending IED attacks to jamming enemy communications or even taking over control of enemy drones.
“Hardening the kill-chain,” for example, uses EW tactics to prevent an armed U.S. drone from being “hacked,” “jammed,” or taken over by an enemy. Also, EW defenses can better secure radar signals, protect weapons guidance technologies and thwart attacks on larger platforms such as ships, fighter jets, and tanks.
The strategy also identifies cross-geographical boundary radiated energy technologies designed to strengthen U.S. platforms and allied operations, DOD officials said.
The concept is to use less-expensive electromagnetic weapons to destroy, intercept or jam approaching enemy missiles, drones, rockets, or aircraft. An electronic weapon is much less expensive than firing an interceptor missile, such as a ship-fired Rolling Airframe Missile or Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. This tactic prods enemies to spend money on expensive weapons while decreasing the offensive and defensive weaponry costs to the U.S.
Improving electronic warfare modeling and simulation to better prepare for emerging weapons systems is also a key element of the strategy. This can help anticipate or train against future weapons threats which may not exist yet but nevertheless pose an emerging threat.
Authors of the new Electronic Warfare strategy have worked closely with the Pentagon Electronic Warfare Executive Committee, which was created in August 2015 to translate electromagnetic experimentation into actual capabilities for deployment.
The Air Force is revving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.
Earlier this year, Boeing secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the service said.
Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades, Air Force officials said. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is also integrated with an AESA radar.
The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology, called the Next-Generation Jammer, designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.
The Next-Generation Jammer, or NGJ, consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.
The NGJ departs from existing EW systems in that it can jam multiple frequencies at one time, increasing the scope and effectiveness of attacks. This better enables U.S. aircraft to elude or “jam” more Russian-built air defenses able to detect aircraft on a wide range of frequencies, such as X-band, VHF, and UHF. Russian-built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world.
Radar technology sends an electromagnetic ping forward, bouncing it off objects before analyzing the return signal to determine a target’s location, size, shape, and speed. However, if the electromagnetic signal is interfered with, thwarted or “jammed” in some way, the system is then unable to detect the objects or targets.
Baldanza told Warrior the Navy plans multiple technology development contracts for NGJ Inc 2. “The program will address the mission need for a robust low band radar and communications jamming capability from an airborne platform that will require capabilities beyond the currently deployed system,” she said.
The emerging system also uses AESA. It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod in DoD. The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft. The new jammer is designed to interfere with ground-and-air based threats, such as enemy fighter jets trying to get a missile “lock” on a target, developers explained.
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the emergence of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or roadside bomb as a major threat, the Army has fielded a host of technologies to thwart or “jam” the incoming signal from a Radio-Controlled IED (RCIED), thus delaying or preventing detonation and potential injury to soldiers.
The majority of existing EW systems used by the Army, such as the vehicle-mounted DUKE v3, soldier portable Thor III, and GATOR V2 tower use standard RF jamming techniques; many of these, industry experts explain, are effective in thwarting detonation signals but often emit a larger, more-detectable signal themselves. A key emphasis when it comes to next-gen EW, is more targeted or pinpointed electromagnetic spectrum attacks to better obscure a point of origin from enemy detection.
The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, which works on near-term requirements to fast-track available combat technologies to the theater, has an interim solution and COTS focus. At the same time, REF leaders say, they often find that existing Army development programs have near-term, deployable solutions which can be brought forward.
Overall, particularly in light of Russia’s use of EW in Ukraine and fast-evolving EW technologies around the world, the U.S. Army realizes it needs to think differently about EW to position itself for potential near-peer adversaries.
“As an Army, we have fallen behind because of where we have been the last 10 to 15 years. How do we close the gap? We are changing how we look at EW, including doctrine, organization and other things,” REF director Col. John Lanier Ward told Warrior in an interview earlier this year.
Ward explained that more EW capability can, in the near term, come to fruition by a simple move to use a stronger, better antenna, improved software or more powerful amplifiers. Additional means of integration or application, also, can expand EW capability. The REF, Ward explained, is now advancing a program called EW TV, electronic warfare for tactical vehicles where cutting-edge functional weapons are placed on military vehicles.
Some of the jammers fielded during the initial years of the war, such as the vehicle-mounted Duke V2 and Warlock jammers, were the basis for subsequent upgrades designed to defeat a greater range of threat signals. For instance, the Duke V3 vehicle-mounted jammer, now fielded on thousands of vehicles in theater, represents a technological improvement in capability compared to prior systems.
The Thor III is a soldier-portable counter RCIED “jamming” device designed to provide a protective envelope for dismounted units on patrol. The device is configured with transceivers mounted on a back-pack-like structure that can identify and “jam” RF signals operating in a range of frequencies. Thousands of Thor III systems, which in effect create an electromagnetic protective “bubble” for small units on-the-move, continue to protect soldiers in theater.
GATOR V2 is a 107-foot retrofitted surveillance tower equipped with transmit-and-receive antennas designed to identify, detect and disrupt electronic signals. The GATOR V2 establishes a direction or “line of bearing” on an electronic signal and can use software, digital mapping technology, and computer algorithms to “geo-locate” the origin or location of electronic signals within the battlespace.
Baldanza said the Army is growing its investment in Multi-Function Electronic Warfare from $4 million to $24 million from 2017 to 2018.
Overall, the new strategy could be described as two-fold; it will work to sustain an open architecture approach in order to upgrade existing EW technologies, often by adding software upgrades to hardware. Also, the effort is expected to emphasize the exploration of a wide range of emerging technologies, such as the utilization of more SIGINT platforms, directional antennas and use of a greater number of frequencies simultaneously.
When you think “military beverage,” three things typically come to mind: coffee, beer, and energy drinks. But did you know that around the turn of the century, grape juice was the drink of choice among troops? That’s right. For roughly twenty years, everyone from sailors to soldiers to Marines couldn’t get enough of the purple stuff.
Grape juice reigned supreme during the times of the temperance movement and Prohibition, but it wasn’t just because troops couldn’t drink booze. There were plenty of other reasons for troops to reach for the good stuff.
Welch’s grape juice first came about in 1869 when the American physician and dentist, Thomas Bramwell Welch, invented a method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt the fermentation process, preventing it from turning into wine. The result was non-alcoholic and more suitable for church services. Then, it caught on with the temperance movement crowd — long before Prohibition took effect.
On June 1st, 1914, General Order 99 — which banned alcohol on all Navy vessels and installations — was instituted and, as you might expect, sailors lost their minds. They were left with two options: coffee or juice.
From that moment on, sailors referred to their coffee as “cups of Joe,” named after the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. The slang was adapted as an insult to the man who took away their booze. But sailors couldn’t just constantly chug java — they needed something rich in much-needed vitamins, and fruit juice was the answer.
Welch’s caught on to the trend and doubled down in lending support to the troops. It was a massive success. The sailors loved grape juice and it quickly became a coveted commodity aboard naval vessels.
A few years later, during World War I, Welch’s turned their Concord grapes into a jam called “Grapelade” and sent it to the troops overseas. Once again, the delicious, fruity goodness was a smash hit among the troops. When the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution was put in place in 1919, effectively disallowing booze across all branches of service, troops took a page from the Navy’s playbook and turned to grape juice.
But troops weren’t just drinking it for the taste — it provided a number of health benefits, too!
You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.
The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.
Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.
If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old
Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.
PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.
10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:
the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
family responsibilities; and
employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.
The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.
What Happens If You Are Recalled?
You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.
If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.
Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.
The Stinger missile is America’s premier short-range air defense weapon, featuring in-flight guidance and an almost 7-pound warhead that sends shrapnel ripping through planes, helicopters, and pretty much anything else flying low. It can even be shot against ground vehicles when necessary.
Recently, the missile’s manufacturer has created a new proximity fuse for the weapon — and it just passed qualification testing with flying colors.
U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Kiser, assigned to the USS Bataan (LHD 5), practices target tracking with a Stinger missile training system aboard the Bataan, May 8, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)
The Stinger is a hit-to-kill weapon, meaning it always tries to physically impact the enemy target before it goes off. That turns the skin of the targeted aircraft into shrapnel that rips through the rest of the aircraft, maximizing damage to engines, fuel tanks, and even the pilots. It usually ends up near the engine, since the weapon uses heat to track targets.
But making contact with the target isn’t always necessary, as the missile itself creates some shrapnel that will tear through the target’s skin. So, if it were to explode nearby its target, it’s still likely to damage or destroy the craft.
Now, the missile is being outfitted with a better proximity fuse that achieved a 100-percent hit rate during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
That’s great news for Stinger missile shooters. The weapon can be carried by ground troops or mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, but firing the weapon is risky, especially against ground-support jets or helicopters.
If the Stinger crew fires the weapon and misses, whether because of a malfunction, shooter error, or the target’s defenses, they’re potentially in for a world of hurt. That’s because it always takes time to fire a second missile, especially for ground troops firing the MANPADS, which is a tube with a single missile in it.
That means a very pissed off and scared pilot is going to turn around and follow the smoke plume back it its source, and the pilot is likely going to hit the missile source with everything they have available to drop and fire.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua L. Field, a low altitude air defense (LAAD) gunner, with 2nd LAAD Battalion fires an FIM- 92 Stinger missile during a live fire training exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
But with a proximity fuse, a missile that would otherwise be a near-miss will still go off, generating as much damage and shrapnel as it can. That means the helicopter that would be pivoting to attack is now suffering from damage. Hopefully, the damage is in the cockpit, control surfaces, or engine. A proximity detonation might even still be enough to destroy the target outright.
If not, then at least the crew on the ground has some breathing room as the air crew tries to get an idea of how damaged they are. This could be enough time for troops on the ground to get under cover or concealment or even to get off another shot.
This is especially useful against drones which typically don’t require as much damage to be completely destroyed. And, considering just how much more prevalent drones are becoming, that could be key for future air defenders trying to maintain an air defense umbrella as Chinese or Russian forces test their defenses. All four Department of Defense branches carry the missile in combat.
Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, speaks with Avenger team leader, Army Sgt. Jesse Thomas, and Avenger team member Army Spc. Dillion Whitlock with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, South Carolina National Guard, during an air-defense live-fire exercise in Shabla, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores)
Currently, the weapon is most widely deployed in single-shot missile tubes and carried by air defense squads on the ground. There’s even an Army air defense battery that can jump these tubes into combat with other airborne troops. There’s also the Avenger system, a modified Humvee with eight missiles mounted on it.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma hosted the 2019 Okinawa Futenma Bike Race for the local and military community July 14, 2019, on MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
The starting line was crowded with cyclists on edge and eager to hear the crack of a starting pistol. The blank round was fired, the timer started, and the cyclists took off. Friends and families cheered on their loved ones as they departed from the start line to negotiate their way through Futenma’s runways.
175 participants; a mix of Status of Forces Agreement personnel and Okinawan community members participated in the 2019 Futenma bike race.
Participants competing on road bikes took a 44 kilometer route, whereas participants on mountain bikes took on a 22 kilometer route.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
The airfield was closed for a 24-hour period to allow competitors to test the runways surface. Marine Corps aviation technologies were displayed for all participants to enjoy as they continued throughout the race’s route.
Every rider that made their way past the finish line was greeted with applause and cheers from the audience that awaited their finish.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
I think this a great opportunity to host people aboard the air station to get people out and exercise. — Col. David Steele, dedicated tri-athlete, commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, and competitor in the race
“Friendship through sport is a big part of what Marine Corps Community Services and Futenma wants to do”
The event was hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, a comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.