It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)
Troops working at base entrances or traffic control points inspect vehicles with great care. Troops search every inch of a vehicle to ensure that there aren’t any explosives or terrorists onboard. But there is one specific make, model, and color that will always trigger a more thorough search: a white Toyota HiLux. The truck is beloved by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Somali pirates, and, recently, ISIS.
In the manufacturer’s defense, Toyota strongly condemns the use of their vehicles in this manner. They have made strong efforts to stop terrorists from getting their hands on these vehicles, including limiting the number of vehicles and dealers in the Middle East region. Unfortunately, most terrorists aren’t waltzing into dealerships to get the vehicles.
Nearly all Toyota vehicles that end up in terrorist hands are stolen or are sold through third-party buyers until they end up in Syria. In Australia, where the truck is the best-selling model of any vehicle, theft is extremely common. Of the 834 HiLuxes that were stolen in New South Wales, Australia alone, nearly half of them were rediscovered in war zones.
The high praise for the vehicle is often attributed to the utility of a truck that was specifically made for off-roading in the desert. The HiLux is also very sturdy, as demonstrated by an experiment done by BBC’s Top Gear where they crashed it into a tree, submerged it in the ocean for five hours, dropped it 10 feet, crushed it under an RV, drove it into a building, hit it with a wrecking ball, set it on fire, and then placed it on top of a 23-story building that was demolished. After all that, all it took to get it running again was a hammer, some wrenches, WD-40 — no spare parts.
They are also easily adapted into “technicals” by mounting heavy weapons on the bed of the truck. These played a key role in the 1987 Chadian-Libyan conflict, now known appropriately as the Toyota War. Libya had Russia’s backing, giving them tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters. The Chadians had about 400 HiLuxes and Toyota Land Cruisers at their disposal along with some anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. Surprisingly enough, the Chadians won because they were more agile and able to easily maneuver the Saharan deserts.
Terrorists all over took notes, and the Toyota HiLux is still very common in war-torn regions.
Weight was the issue. The B-25B, carrying a full combat load, was just too heavy to takeoff from the deck of the USS Hornet.
While the nation was still reeling in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Army Air Force, assigned Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle to conduct a bombing mission on Tokyo to disrupt Japanese aggression and momentum and embolden the American public for the task ahead.
A seemingly impossible mission, as the United States had no aircraft with enough range to reach the Japanese home islands from any U.S. or allied nation’s runways.
The attack would have to be launched from the sea. However, carrier-based aircraft could only carry one or two small bombs each and had such short range that one of the U.S.’s precious few carriers would have to approach dangerously close to Japan, making it an easy target. The mission was seemingly over before it began.
Until the airmen examined the problem from a unique perspective – perhaps a longer range B-25B bomber, never designed to launch from an aircraft carrier, could be stripped of enough excess weight to launch at sea, bomb the target and then fly on to friendly airfields in China.
U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers launch from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942 to bomb the Japanese home islands in what came to be known as the Doolittle Raid.
On April 18, 1942 Doolittle’s Raiders did just that, launching off the deck of the Hornet, with wooden broomsticks in place of machine guns to save weight and extra fuel tanks to make the journey, and successfully completed their mission over Japan.
While bombers haven’t flown off a carrier since, the same spirit of innovation and trust in airmen that made the Doolittle raid possible is still alive and well in today’s Air Force.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein has challenged leaders across the force to take risks, trust their people and embrace failure as a way to learn and grow.
One unit, the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, welcomed this idea with open arms.
A mobile chase car driver pursues a U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft during its landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2015. Mobile chase car drivers act as a second pair of eyes and ears for U-2 pilots during their launch and landings, radioing adjustments to the aircraft to make up for the pilot’s limited sight of the runway. Pilots of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron have procured GPS-style aviation watches that aid pilots in communicating with ground chase crews and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)
“The path that we’re making for our new initiatives is actually modeled off the Doolittle Raider patch, and we actually look to that for inspiration,” said Capt. Syed, 99th RS pilot. “They achieved something in a moment of national crisis, and really lifted morale and mood of the nation by doing something everybody thought was impossible, and what we’re trying to do in our little squadron with a few people, is to change the make up and the culture, so that when people come into work they’re happy, they feel empowered, and the leadership has enabled that.”
Syed saw a need in the aging U2 and T-38 airframes around him that could be met by using off-the-shelf products. One was a GPS-style aviation watch that would aid pilots and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots and, in some instances, aid in safely returning an aircraft when mishaps occur.
“It wasn’t anything that I did, it was really what the culture and the environment of this organization allowed us to do,” Syed said. “We were able to go from thought to having it on our wrist in 100 days. And in other organizations of the Defense Department, I think that’s almost impossible.”
Discover the future: A simple but powerful charge put forth by Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th RS commander, has invigorated his squadron with the willingness and enthusiasm to seek out what is possible within the constraints of the DoD.
Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, fosters a command climate that encourages his airmen to start projects without being afraid of failing. Products of his command range from resourcing their own aviation watches to creating software applications built by 99th RS members that can benefit flying squadrons.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
“There’s those that value initiative, mission command, execution, freedom of maneuver, but there’s a law of physics, so to speak, a law of humanity that bureaucracy grows. In the U.S. military, and the Air Force in particular, that bureaucracy has grown, and slowed us down,” said Nussbaum.
The culture of innovation being developed at the 99th is driving change, agility and initiative while disempowering the bureaucracy and putting the power of decision-making and freedom of maneuver back in its member’s hands, says Nussbaum.
In many ways, the 99th RS is similar to most Air Force squadrons, but what makes it stand out is its quest for information and learning.
“Knowledge is the key to everything,” said Maj. Ray, 99th RS pilot. “For us, in the case of being able to self resource and self heal, we’ve gotten into different areas to which we aren’t familiar like U.S. code, the defense, federal and Air Force acquisition regulation, and all these different entities, and what we’re discovering is that knowledge gives you the freedom to maneuver.”
Members of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare Lt. Col. Jeff Klosky for a U-2 Dragon Lady mission, April 19, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf)
Ray and Syed credit their leadership with giving them the leniency and the freedom to be able to try and experiment, discover, learn and learn about learning. This symbiotic leader-follower relationship has allowed the team to progress rapidly.
“It’s a dynamic instability, F-16s are agile airplanes because they’re inherently unstable,” Ray said. “We’re not trying to destabilize command and control of the organization, what we’re trying to do is effect that same command and control at the user level – at the level of those who are out fighting and defending their nation. To resource them, and allow them to resource themselves, in ways people previously did not think was possible.”
Maj. Ray and Capt. Syed are 99th Reconnaissance Squadron who took initiative in learning the acquisitions process in order to make sure their squadron is equipped and ready to execute the mission.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
Freedom of maneuver isn’t without challenges, though. Some of the toughest challenges come from the individuals themselves and learning to work as a team.
Nussbaum cautions people who think the frozen middle is a place that exists in a certain group of people but instead that it is in all of us. A whole team approach is key to mission accomplishment and having the tolerance to let others try problem solving in their own way is vital. Allowing everyone to have a chance to participate and come up with solutions adds a sense of ownership and fun to the process.
Like Doolittle, the 99th and the Air Force face many challenges that require new approaches and open-mindedness. Untethering unit members to give freedom to explore all avenues of problem solving is a progressive way ahead and one the Air Force is taking seriously.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The Army is starting formal production of a new Self-Propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension, and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.
The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons.
As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new, larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.
“Right now we have the 39 caliber cannon we have had since the 80s. We are range limited and the Russians can outgun us and shoot farther,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, said last Fall at the service’s AUSA annual symposium. “If you had not replaced the chassis first, you would never be able to put that larger cannon on there.”
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS-guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago, its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology, and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks, and fast-growing attack drone fleet all point to a growing need for the U.S. to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft, and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance. Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch told Warrior the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats — and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.
For example, senior Pentagon leaders have told Warrior Maven that there is some ongoing deliberation about placing mobile land-based artillery — such as a Paladin — in areas of the South China Sea as a credible deterrent against Chinese ships and aircraft.
Building a higher-tech, more lethal Paladin
Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of onboard power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives, and projectile ramming systems.
Bassett described the A7 as a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.
“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” Bassett said.
Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle, and service extension — all aimed to improve logistics — the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
Improved onboard power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve — such as lasers or advanced ammunition.
The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.
One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.
The Army is also now working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.
Army Howitzers are now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon, an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality, and rangeability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
The railgun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.
“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters last year.
Second Lt. Ben Lacount knows that it’s never a good thing to run out of rounds during a firefight. And it’s certainly not a good thing to be surprised that you have.
That’s why he invented the “Lacounter” with help from Navy engineers and a 3D printer that allowed him to cut prototyping time down to a fraction. The device allows shooters to see how many rounds they’ve expended while pulling the trigger so that they’re not in a bind when they do.
The Lacounter even works with belt fed weapons like the M249 and M2 .50cal.
Lacount’s prototype takes advantage of a process known as “additive manufacturing,” and it’s one that could change the face of military logistics forever.
U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Ben Lacount presents his winning entry from the Marine Corps Innovation Challenge during a showcase at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Md., Aug. 15, 2017. Lacount created an expended rounds counter for the M16 rifle in the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Laboratory, Carderock™s additive manufacturing collaborative space. (U.S. Navy photo by Dustin Q. Diaz/Released)
Captain Kyle McCarley helped come up with a new way to carry the “Bangalore torpedo,” an explosive device used to blow up obstacles like barbed wire. While they are very useful, they are bulky, and take up space. But McCarley used a 3D printer to make a quiver-like pack with elastic straps for the devices that can attack to a normal assault pack.
Then there was Staff Sgt. Daniel Diep, an artilleryman. After noticing that the cable for the Chief of Section Display got damaged from debris that got stuck in the cable – something that took a week and $3,000 to fix – he designed a 3D-printed cable head that cost $10 to make.
“The neat thing about this cable cap is the cable heads themselves can be additively manufactured, and Marines like myself can take all the old cables, cut them down, and we can put new heads on them after 3-D printing,” Diep said.
But the neatest trick of all is getting the 3D printers closer to the grunts. Captain Tony Molnar and Master Sgt. Gage Conduto have worked that out – not only by bringing the printers to units at FOBs, but also a processing center to recycle plastic, like water bottles often delivered to troops on deployment. This will be a huge boon for explosive ordnance techs like Conduto.
“I can’t walk down to the Marine Corps machinist with a stinger missile in my hand and say, ‘I need a set of tools made, can you get these back to me next week?'” he said.
But the tech could go even further, than just helping come up with new tools. In fact, it could be a huge game-changer for any forward-deployed unit.
“This container will benefit the Marine expeditionary units and the Marine Corps and DOD because it can do two things: One, it enhances the expeditionary readiness of forward-deployed units by being able to print parts locally on site using recycled materials, and second, it helps those combat units forward by providing stuff that they can’t do, as well as printing stuff for the local populous during humanitarian disaster relief that we couldn’t normally do and that we’d have to pay someone to do,” Molnar told the Navy News Service.
Marine grunts getting inventive — that’s a very frightening thought … for America’s enemies.
There are a lot of ways to get your day started, give yourself and early-evening boost, or even just shake off “that 2:30 feeling.” Maybe sticking to coffee or B-vitamins, proven effective over hundreds of years, would be best. Given the history of revitalizing energy drinks, you might be getting more than your money’s worth.
But Pepsi should have paid us to drink Josta.
Anyone who’s served in the military for at least twenty minutes after basic training discovered fairly quickly that American troops love certain things – and many of those things are legal stimulants. Anything from preworkout to dip to, of course, energy drinks. And everything from Monster to Rip-Its is what probably sustains half of the U.S. military force around the world (don’t check on those numbers, that’s just what it seems like).
Things like guarana, taurine, mentira, and yerba mate are all so common in energy drinks nowadays that we barely even think about them. We think about the ingredients of energy drinks so little that I made up one of those ingredients and it’s unlikely anyone would have checked on it. Even in the early days of these newfangled beverages, people seemed more concerned with flavor and the consequences of mixing them with alcohol than anything else.
But it turns out blindly accepting any drink as safe is foolish. That goes double for energy drinks.
Energy drinks always seem to be about catching the latest fad, “unleashing the power” of guarana, or cherries, or green tea, or ketones, or radium, or BCAA or – wait what?
Radium: the radioactive isotope that had all the world in a rage. In the early 20th Century, radium was hailed as a miracle, and its unique elemental properties could be seen with the naked eye. It seemed like everyone was in love with radium’s pretty blue glow. No one knew it was more radioactive than uranium, however, and no one understood just how dangerous that was. For nearly 30 years, radium could be found in a surprising array of products from fertilizers to cigarettes to energy drinks.
One of those was a beverage called Radithor – certified radioactive water.
Radithor was giving people cancer before Red Bull gave them wings.
Radithor was a solution of radioactive radium salts and distilled water, advertising itself as “perpetual sunshine,” and a “cure for the living dead.” Its creator charged the modern-day equivalent of for every bottle and claimed it could cure impotence and mend broken bones, which would be ironic for one Radithor drinker, Pittsburgh businessman Eben Byers.
Byers began taking the drink to help heal a broken arm but continued drinking it long after it was “necessary.” His habit was soon as many as three bottles of the stuff every day. It was this habit, of course, that killed him. The radium deposited in his new bone tissue and, after a few years, was pretty much a part of his skeleton. Holes soon formed in his skull and his jaw fell off. Even though Byers had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin, his death led to the end of the radium-based health craze.
It would be decades before another energy drink craze hit the streets, this time based on simple B-vitamins. Stick to the safe stuff.
There have been countless pre-mission plans that state the proclaimed time outside the wire will only last a few hours. Then, after a few hours outside the wire, you learn you’re going to be outside until right before nightfall. Then, you receive notice you’re going to stay in the field and conduct an overnight ambush.
The words “holy sh*t” pass through your mind because you didn’t bring enough MRE crackers and peanut butter to feed yourself.
2. Write down the mission and patrol route
During a hectic firefight, it’s easy to lose your train of thought. Writing as much information down before stepping out on patrol can lower your chances of panicking and forgetting what you’re supposed to do while under fire. It happens.
3. Continuously “prep and check your trash”
Trash doesn’t refer to the empty bag of MMs from your MRE — it refers to your gear. Grunts continuously move their gear around for better access during their movement. This practice helps to keep your sling from getting all freaking tangled when you need to put rounds down range.
4. Don’t leave important personal sh*t behind
Sadly, not everyone returns to the FOB after the patrol. Some ground pounders get hurt and get medevac to the “rear” for treatment. There are times where unique personal belongings are left at the FOB like IDs, pictures, and religious items that don’t reconnect with their owners.
5. Pre-staging your tourniquets
No one wants to think about getting hit, but it’s a real possibility when manning the front lines. When I was deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, we pre-staged our tourniquets on our legs with 550 cords since the IED threat level was so freakin’ high.
In the sad event we stepped on one, the grunt would tighten the pre-staged himself to avoid losing any additional blood before the Corpsman or medic arrive.
If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.
And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.
The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.
Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.
That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.
In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.
Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.
Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.
The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.
A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.
The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.
Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”
“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.
Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.
Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.
According to the indictment:
Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.
A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.
(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
A naval aviator who earned the Medal of Honor during the Korean War was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, April 4, 2018.
Family and friends of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., as well as a number of service members, attended the ceremony which began at the Old Post Chapel on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Va.
Rear Adm. William Galinis, Program Executive Officer, Ships presented the flag that draped Hudner’s casket to his wife, Georgea Hudner. Also in attendance was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, (Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command, and Cmdr. Nathan Scherry, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
Full military honors were rendered by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the Old Post Chapel and at the final interment site at ANC. In addition, the ceremony also included a missing man formation flyover by Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32), the same squadron Hudner was assigned to when he earned the Medal of Honor. VFA-32 flew out of Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. During a mission, one of his fellow pilots, the Navy’s first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was hit by anti-aircraft fire damaging a fuel line and causing him to crash. After it became clear Brown was seriously injured and unable to free himself, Hudner proceeded to purposefully crash his own aircraft to join Brown and provide aid. Hudner injured his own back during his crash landing, but stayed with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and the rescue pilot worked in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an unsuccessful attempt to free Brown from the smoking wreckage. Although the effort to save Brown was not successful, Hudner was recognized for the heroic attempt.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
“A hero the day he tried to rescue Jesse, a hero when he served our community, and a hero when he passed,” said Scherry. “Whenever I spoke to him, he always talked of Jesse and Jesse’s family. He never spoke of himself, or anything he did. It was never about Tom… We will, as the first crew of his ship, carry forward his legacy and his values of family, life, equality, and service every day of our lives.”
Hudner was the last living Navy recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Korean War.
After receiving recognition for his heroism, Hudner remained on active duty, completing an additional 22 years of naval service during which his accomplishments include flying 27 combat missions in the Korean War and serving as the executive officer aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) during the Vietnam War.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mikelle D. Smith)
PCU Hudner is expected to be commissioned in Boston later this year and will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to join the fleet.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. is the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He handles installation and mission support, discovery and development, test and evaluation, life cycle management services and sustainment of every major Air Force weapon system. The command employs approximately 80,000 people and manages $60 billion of budget authority.
AFMC delivers war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through development and transition of technology, professional acquisition management, exacting test and evaluation and world-class sustainment of all Air Force weapon systems.
There are eight AFMC host bases: Arnold AFB, Tennessee; Edwards AFB, California; Eglin AFB, Florida; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Robins AFB, Georgia; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In addition, the command operates associate units on several non-AFMC bases.
During an interview with Airman magazine, Bunch discussed AFMC’s mission and responsibilities and the roles of science, technology and innovation in increasing Air Force readiness.
Airman magazine: Air Force Materiel Command is a large and diverse command which a lot of Airmen may not understand. Can you talk about the mission of the command?
Gen. Bunch: I would say we are the most diverse (major command) that there is in the Air Force. When you consider the demographics, we are very diverse. AFMC has huge mission diversity as well. What I want to tell the Airmen is, we touch everything that they touch on a day-to-day basis. When a system comes into the Air Force, we do a lot of the (science and technology) research upfront and early. That work is done through the research lab. We do a lot of the acquisition planning either through the Nuclear Weapons Center or through the Life Cycle Management Center and that starts the acquisition process. We test systems and we do all the activities to get it into the Air Force. Then we sustain the system for the long term through the sustainment center, all the way to the point that we get rid of it or retire it and put it at (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) in some cases.
So, from the beginning all the way to the end of any system we have within the Air Force, AFMC plays a key role. Underlying all that and at the foundation is the work the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
The AFIMSC takes care of all facilities modernization and restoration. They also take care of contracting, security forces, housing privatization, dormitories and military construction. They take care of these things on our installations day-to-day to make sure that our facilities are up to date so that we can project power anywhere in the world.
So our mission diversity ranges from every mission system across the Air Force that we create, develop, test and maintain from the very beginning of the program all the way to the very end of a program’s life to support for the nuclear enterprise, and installation and mission support.. AFMC is involved in all of it, so it’s a very diverse mission.
Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, talks with members of the 412th Medical Group during his visit to Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)
Airman magazine: You talk about the importance of AFMC people. What is AFMC doing to attract top talent, develop and keep the workforce?
Gen. Bunch: Our Airmen, and when I use Airmen, I’m talking about military and civilian. I don’t distinguish within this command. We, more than any other command with (more than) 60,000 civilians, we are Airmen all focused on the Air Force mission. They are our most valuable resource and they are what make this organization tick. They’re the ones that get it done every day and execute their wartime mission each day.
We are trying to speed up the process of bringing the right people in and who we can recruit. We’ve actually taken some steps to speed that process up, to make it go quicker. We’re also doing some unique things where we’re doing job fairs to try to get at the right people. We’re using acquisition workforce development funds to pay off student loans to attract high quality, high caliber people in the skill sets we need. And what I’ve asked the team to start looking at is how do we communicate this so that we can keep people?
We had a lady who worked in the Air Force Test Center in May who retired after 68 years of service. We have 21 or 22 year-old young men and women coming in and I’ve got folks that have worked in the organization for 68 years. How you communicate across that diverse spectrum and how you motivate them all to keep going forward and how do you reward and award. Those are the things that we’re asking our people to take a look at and to help us drive our retention numbers the way we need them to go.
Since October of last year, we’ve seen about an 11% drop in the time to hire civilians. We’re not where we want to be, we’ve got to get better, but it’s a step in the right direction and something that I feel comfortable saying to the workforce. We know we’ve got to do better and we’re working at it.
Congress has been very helpful by giving us some additional authorities and we’re utilizing those authorities to try to go faster.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein congratulates Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr. after assuming command of Air Force Materiel Command commander, shake hands during an assumption of command ceremony inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, May 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)
Airman magazine: The (Former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson) and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein) have called out the “Air Force We Need.” Can you please describe the “AFMC We Need” initiative? What are some focus areas and objectives?
Gen. Bunch: We have the National Defense Strategy that came out that everyone’s focused on and (the Air Force) came out with the “Air Force We Need.” When I came into the job, what I wanted to do was define what do we, as AFMC, need to be to support the National Defense Strategy and to support where the chief and secretary want to go with the “Air Force We Need.”
I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what we wanted it to be. I wanted to tap into our most valuable resource, our Airmen. They’re the ones that are executing the mission each day. So we wanted to, as Gen. Goldfein says, “squint with our ears” and listen to our men and women about what’s impeding their ability to get the mission done and what do they think it means to speed things up, go at the speed of relevance. So, we formed a team. We sent them out. They did a lot of surveys. We got a lot of results back in and a lot of great ideas that we’re now trying to review and see how we want to implement the suggestions or what we can put in place to move forward.
One of the books I’ve read about leadership is “Primal Leadership.” In the book there is a quote about, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” So, what I wanted to do was capture the essence of what the men and women believe in the organization and then glean through those comments to figure out what we need to get after. So we’re excited about going forward.
Airman magazine: The “AFMC We Need” addressed broad areas across the command. What are some of the challenges identified?
Gen. Bunch: We did do some external interviews and I would say they’re kind of consistent. One of the things is we’ve got to do a better job of communicating our impact and what our mission is. Some of our folks didn’t understand what we do, internally and externally, so we’ve got to do a better job at communicating some of that. A couple other challenges identified were facilities, infrastructure and information technology.
We’re telling people they’re coming to work in this remarkable organization, but they’re having tremendous impacts on a day-to-day basis with how our information technology systems work and it’s causing limitations. So those will be some of the initial challenges that we are going to focus on.
Another challenge we are going to focus on and we are starting to take some actions in is leadership training. Our people want their supervisors to be better leaders.
Last month, we had a senior leader conference where we talked about that with all our center and installation commanders. One of the things we’re trying to find out is who are the “no” people. The goal is to stop some of those noes and see what we can do to get to “yes” to move forward as an organization so we’re better prepared to support the future.
One of the installation commanders gave me a sign and I’ve got it in the office. I asked everybody at the senior leader conference to sign it. It says, “Find out where no lives and kill it.”
Capt. Joshua Lee talks with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Air Force Materiel Command commander, about unmanned aerial systems Oct. 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The commander visited Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate’s newest networking test and design facility during an early stop on his two-day tour of the base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Airman magazine: You have stated the AFMC has to be better at anticipating Air Force needs. How will AFMC do this?
Gen. Bunch: We have to think forward. We have to think about the future. We can’t get caught up in what is Air Combat Command or Air Mobility Command or Global Strike Command asking for today. We need to focus our science and technology to go forward. (The Air Force) put out the Science and Technology 2030 strategy. We’re building an implementation plan to get after that. How do we create a competitive environment with what we’re doing within the research laboratory so that we are pushing ourselves and we’re scanning that horizon for what’s out there for the future. That’s one way that we can do that.
We also need to capitalize on a lot of what’s going on with commercial industry to get innovative ideas from outside that we may not have thought of. So we’re supporting the pitch days that (Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics) implemented in small business innovative research.
We’re supporting the stand-up of consortiums so that we can get good ideas in and see what people can do. So, there are a lot of activities we as AFMC need to work on. We need to continue to look at industry strategies for how they’re doing business and how they develop software. We need to look at how can we do those things in a more responsive manner and change how we hire the workforce and how we recruit and retain them.
We’ve got to get a more operational tie and more linkage with what we’re doing across AFMC, and with the other major commands. How are they employing some of their aircraft? How are they doing their communication? What do we need to do? What can we glean from within to find answers? We need to make our ties stronger.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, left, and Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, center, discuss the April 20 TechStars Autonomous Technology Accelerator for the Air Force Demo Day at the Westin Hotel in Boston with John Beatty, right, executive director of the Massachusetts Military Task Force. Ten startup companies pitched their ideas to potential investors and Air Force senior leaders during the event, which is a partnership between Techstars and AFWERX.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
Airman magazine: How is AFMC utilizing partnerships with commercial tech companies and academia to have a better understanding and mine those advanced capabilities that may be on the horizon?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a couple of different areas that I’ll focus on. We’re working right now and we’ve got some good partnerships with Delta, Tech Ops, and Georgia Tech Research Institute on what we’re doing for condition based maintenance. We’re looking at what the commercial industry is applying in managing their large fleets of aircraft. Also what can we do with machine learning or artificial intelligence so that we can be more predictive for when some of our systems may be going to fail and help us keep the supply lines primed with repair parts. To me, we have great partnerships with a lot of great ideas that we can employ and we’re working down that path together, so that’s good.
We’ve got to get rapid. That’s all part of the Rapid Sustainment Office that we stood up with Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry as the program executive officer. The RSO team is looking at condition based maintenance, additive manufacturing or 3D printing and are there technologies out there we can use and capitalize on. We’re starting to make grounds in those areas. So those are a few of the ideas that are coming from the commercial end that we can utilize.
Airman magazine: You’ve said our peer adversaries are developing new capabilities modernizing existing capabilities, eroding our tech advantage. Please describe how AFMC is responding to the need for speed?
Gen. Bunch: There are a lot of different things we can do to get at that need for speed. But what we also want to make sure of is while we’re speeding, we’re doing it with discipline. We need to go fast, but we also need to put the disciplines in place so that we’re thinking our way through some of those systems and some of the decisions we’re making so that we are looking long term as well as immediate. We’re looking at, can I get a technology to the field faster? That means a viable product that we would evolve over time versus going for the solution that would take 10 years and a lot more effort. Can I give you something that gets me on that path in two years that you would be able to utilize in the field and be able to move out with.
So that’s one area that we’re looking at. Can I turn things faster and build over time? Another one that we’re continuing to focus on is open mission systems. If we can get open mission systems architecture into our weapons systems and into our designs, we can then bring in new technologies as technology evolves or the threat changes, because those are two things that are never going to slow down. They’re going to change. But by having open mission system architecture, we can piecemeal in parts over time as the technology and the threat changes so that we can adapt more quickly. We shouldn’t have to test systems as long. We should be able to be cyber secure. Those are a couple examples of things that we can immediately get after.
A good example of that is R-EGI, our Resilient Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System. That’s a program that we’re running out of the Life Cycle Management Center and it’s to get after having a resilient position navigation and timing solution over time. If that becomes threatened, what we have is an enhanced GPS/INS, most folks know. We fly it in all of our aircraft. It’s common with us, the Navy, the Army; it’s in all platforms. It’s something that’s almost universal. What we’re doing in this effort is trying to build open mission system architecture design so if I needed to inject new software or I needed to add a new component, I could evolve that over time as the threat changes and we could be more resilient.
Another good example is we’re using and trying to push to digital engineering and a digital enterprise. Right now, the ground based strategic deterrent team is doing a good job with some model-based systems engineering. We want to digitize and become a more digital enterprise with what we’re doing within AFMC. In digital we can change things in a more rapid manner and do things on a computer and look at options and look into digital areas before we ever start doing some of the other advances. It should eliminate some of our trial and error.
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s AgilePod is shown mounted on the wing of the Textron Aviation Defense’s Scorpion Light Attack/ISR jet. The AgilePod is an Air Force-trademarked, multi-intelligence reconfigurable pod that enables flight-line operators to customize sensor packages based on specific mission needs. A fit check in late December 2017 provided an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the pod to rapidly integrate onto a new platform with short notice, highlighting the benefits of Sensor Open Systems Architecture.
(U.S. Air Force photo by David Dixon)
Airman magazine: In fall of 2017, the secretary challenged us to develop a new Air Force ST Strategy for 2030. That document is now published. From your perspective, what are a few of the key takeaways?
Gen. Bunch: Really, it’s about competition and how do I create competition within what we do, within our research laboratory and our ST so that we’re continuing to push the bounds. I think that’s one of the key ingredients. How do we as an enterprise capitalize on the various basic research activities that may be out there so that we’re pushing the envelope and we’re looking at things and going, “That has great promise, I need to continue to work in that area.” Or, “That’s not making the progress I need. I need to off ramp that and I need to go another way.” So I think that one is really important.
The other one is we have science and technology dollars and how do I, over time, take those and shrink the investments so that they’re more focused in game changer technologies that I’m going to put out in the field. How do we capitalize on that knowledge base and how do we drive to where we’re transitioning game-changing technologies and we’re getting them into the field and capitalizing on that transition. I think those are two of the key things that we’re really looking at.
Airman magazine: How are AFMC and AFRL going to support the execution of the strategy?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of activities already underway. Right now, we’re working with AFWIC, Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability, and we’re working with Dr. Roper’s team to come up with an implementation strategy. So that’s in the works. We are also trying to make some changes so that we can handle our money with a little more flexibility, so that we can shift and put our focus where the dollars need to be for those bigger projects.
So we’ve got a great partnership right now. The team is working with me on a regular basis. Our team’s trying to set in place processes to review where our tech focus areas are so we can make the right investments. They’re looking at what we want to do in basic research. They’re looking at what we want to do at the next level and then what we’re doing in our advanced research, where we’re getting to the prototyping and how do we focus.
A Republic of Singapore air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 425th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, performs a launch inspection June 10, 2019, on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The 425th FS is at Tyndall to take part in a Combat Archer exercise.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Airman magazine: Is the Tyndall AFB rebuild an opportunity to take the Base of the Future off the drawing board and make Tyndall a proof of concept for new tech?
Gen. Bunch: We are looking at new technology for Tyndall. Tyndall, as devastating as that was, thank goodness we had a great team doing a lot of great work so that the damages were material damages to things that we can replace and it wasn’t to our Airmen and their families. That’s our number one focus, their safety. But now as we recover, we do have an opportunity to look at what would we want the base to look like for the future. How would we want the information technology system set up so that it’s more efficient? How would we set in the power lines? How would we build the buildings? We are looking at Tyndall as an example of what we may be able to do for the future.
We’ve actually had AFWERX bring in some outside companies to come in and pitch their ideas. So we’re trying to move as quickly as we can to get everything moving forward, to get the mission back to normalcy. We’re also looking at what would we do different now that we can make changes and we can look at the mission from a different perspective. How would we make it better when we rebuild it? How is it more resilient? How do we have a better information technology network? How do we design everything–from are we going to put anything above ground or are we going to put it all underground now that we have the time to be able to do that so that it’s safer and more secure and less likely to be damaged in the future. Those are all things that we’re looking at as we go forward.
Airman magazine: How does AFMC support the Air Force as a hub for innovation?
Gen. Bunch: Innovation’s been a foundation of what we’ve been as an Air Force from the very beginning. And it’s interesting, we have more than 80,000 people within AFMC and you ask them all what innovation means, you’d probably get 80,000-plus different definitions. And I’m good with that. Innovation can mean some groundbreaking revolutionary thing that we’ve never done or it could mean changing a process so that we can go faster because we’ve employed what the Sustainment Center uses which is the ‘art of the possible.’
I’m good with all of it. What we have to create, and I think we are doing a better job of it, is an environment where a good idea can come in. What I want to make sure, as the commander, is that our people understand I’m willing to let them try things. And I’m not talking crazy risks, but if they want to try a new idea or process, I’m okay with that. If it works, that’s great and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on. So innovation can take many, many forms. I want people to come in with their good ideas and I want to capitalize on their innovative spirit. That is what we as an Air Force were founded upon.
We also tie in with AFWERX; the Pitch Days to me are innovative. We’re going to be doing an AFMC internal pitch day where we can pitch our own good ideas, not just try to capitalize on what industry does or what venture capitalists are doing. So we’re trying to actually harness those good ideas to go forward.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, welcomed event attendees during the Air Force Space Pitch Day, Nov. 5, 2019, San Francisco, Calif. Air Force Space Pitch Day is a two-day event demonstrating the department’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional start-ups.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Van De Ha)
Airman magazine: With declining mission capable rates and an aging fleet with an average 28 years of service, what do these numbers mean and do MCRs equate to Air Force readiness rates?
Gen. Bunch: So readiness depends on where you sit as to what you believe the right metric is. The one we’re driving right now, we’re trying to increase, is aircraft availability. That’s one that we’re really focused on with our legacy fleets. And there are multiple factors that play into that. One of the things that we’re finding is, we have, in some cases, a shrinking industrial base. And that’s one that we’ve got to focus on to help grow that industrial base.
What we want to do is make sure that the people who are operating the systems have as much up time as they can so they’re as ready as possible to do their mission. That takes research. How would I go do this? It could take reverse engineering. How do I reverse engineer this component that there’s no longer a vendor for and create it? So we either build it ourselves or we put the drawings out to get it manufactured.
The fact we are flying aircraft as old as they are with the mission capable rates that we have today is because of the Airmen working in the Sustainment Center and the focus of our maintainers out on the line who can keep these legacy aircraft up and running.
At an average age of 28 years, the fact that we keep mobility aircraft taking off and landing, delivering supplies and equipment every two minutes is amazing work by a lot of different people. We’re ready, but we’ve got to continue to try to up that game and continue to try to improve.
An F-16 jet engine in max power during a test in the 576th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s hush house engine facility at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 5, 2019. The shop is responsible for performing organizational level maintenance on more than 200 engines per year. The shop’s maintenance tasks include engine inspections, external engine component removal and replacement, repairs, and troubleshooting during flight line and test cell operations.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
Airman magazine: Can you identify some of the success stories throughout AFMC in new technologies like additive manufacturing, 3D printing and data analytics to improve readiness and decrease maintenance downtimes?
Gen. Bunch: We had a meeting last month where we were looking at engines. I’ll just use that as one example. We started looking at the performance of the engines over time and as we reviewed data and did the analytics, we started doing scheduled replacements of engines. So we could pull them off at the time that was of our choosing versus downtime required because the engine went too far.
What this allows us to do is control when we do maintenance. It allows us to prime the pump in the supply system so we get the right parts at the right time. That’s just one example that I can say from a data analytics perspective where we are really already seeing some great progress. We’re using condition based maintenance and algorithms right now with the C-5 Galaxy. We’re doing it in some cases in the B-1 bomber and we’re looking at growing it into the KC-135 fleet. So we’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that others are using and apply it into our inventory and we’re starting to see some benefits.
We really want to get to the point if we’re going to send an aircraft down range and it’s going to have something fail in five days and the deployment is for 10 days, let’s fix it before we deploy it. If we can get to that point, we’ll really increase our aircraft availability and our ability to generate sorties and improve the mission dramatically.
On additive manufacturing, that one’s one that’s more challenging. A lot of people look at 3D printing as that’s really something easy to do. When you start talking about airworthiness that becomes a little more challenging. There are components we can build that are not airworthy components, and we’ve already got approval to do those parts. We have innovation centers at each of our three logistics complexes and they can do some of those. We save money and get the mission done in a timelier manner.
So we’re demonstrating some of those. It’ll take more time to get to where we can do a lot of airworthy parts. We’re working on that. We must get the engineers involved and get them the analysis.
We are seeing a lot of ground being made in additive manufacturing and in condition based maintenance. And then the other one, we’re taking technologies like cold spray, which is a repair technique, and we’re actually employing that in some of our depots so that we can minimize the downtime.
Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)
Airman magazine: Would you talk about AFMC’s support to the nuclear enterprise from both a sustainment and modernization perspective?
Gen. Bunch: Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris is our Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) commander and his team is doing an outstanding job making sure that our nuclear deterrent is solid and that there is never a question that if they are called are they going to be able to respond. And that goes across the full spectrum.
The Minuteman-III program was built many, many years ago with a short lifespan; well we’re still maintaining them. We’re going to be maintaining them until the 2030 timeframe. We’ve stood up depot maintenance now on our Minuteman-III system, which was never intended to have a depot capability, but we’re doing that so we can sustain it and ensure that it’s reliable if ever called upon to do its mission.
AFNWC is on the front edge of making sure that our nuclear deterrent is really a nuclear deterrent and it’s credible and it’s safe and secure and it can answer the nation’s call.
The other part of the nuclear mission is the air leg; we have to make sure that we’re doing what we need to sustain our bomber force. AFMC is key in making sure that the force is supportable, sustainable, with upgrades where needed, while making sure all the activity we’re doing in the depot is supporting the mission.
Airman magazine: Could you talk about agile software development and the way we buy and develop software and how does this relate to Agile DevOps and cyber protection for all of our weapon systems?
Gen. Bunch: Software is everywhere. We’re going to have to change our mindset about software. The way that industry does it is they’ll modify and continue to push updates on a more regular basis. I don’t ever think we’ll get to the point we’re doing what industry does with our systems, but we have to get into a more Agile mindset. That’s a challenge for a lot of the way we’ve done business. It’s not just that you have to bring in coders and create an environment where they can develop Agile methods, that’s part of it, but you also have to change the culture of the men and women that are working on this because it’s not the way they’ve historically done it.
You’re developing. You’re testing. You’re fielding. You’re correcting deficiencies and it goes on and on. That is a culture change for AFMC and the men and women that are doing the acquisition. It’s also a culture change for all of the test community and anybody involved. It’s a culture change with how you handle your dollars. One of the things that I’ve been a proponent of is the need for money that has not binned by a specific definition of sustainment, development, or production. If you’re really doing Agile or secure DevOps, those money lines are blurry. We need colorless money so that we’re not hindered by some of the rule sets on how the money gets moved around.
So it’s a big change. We’ve got to be able to change that culture. The other thing is you have to be able to attract and recruit software developers. We have to capitalize on that skill set. And a lot of what we’re doing right now, we’re actually bringing in Airmen who just have a propensity and a love for doing software development and we’re putting them to work and they love it. We also have to capitalize on our own capabilities along the way, but it’s one that we’ll have to re-look at how we bring in manpower.
Pilot Training Next instructor, U.S. Air Force Capt. Orion Kellogg, discuses a future PTN version 3 student’s virtual reality flight with members of NASA as part of a collaborative research agreement between Air Education and Training Command and NASA October 22, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, TX. The goal of the agreement is to help both AETC and NASA collect physiological and cognitive data and leverage each organization’s knowledge and skills to maximize learning potential for individual students.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Airman magazine: With the advancements in AI/VR, how do you see the Air Force further capitalizing on technology to equip Airmen with quality training through simulation scenarios?
Gen. Bunch: AI and VR, those are big areas that we’re going to continue to look at. The best example right now is one that our Air Education and Training Command started with Pilot Training Next. What they’re really doing is they’re capitalizing off of the gaming industry and artificial intelligence to understand and to personalize the training they’re doing for each individual student.
The way they’re building Pilot Training Next allows the student pilots to learn in a simulated immersive AI and VR environment with an individualized training methodology, which really speeds up the learning process.
I think you’re going to see more growing in that area. We’re looking at trying to apply that for maintenance. We’re also looking at other avenues to try to capitalize so we’re better able to train the workforce in a timelier manner.
Airman magazine: You have a lot of experience in your resume in the test community. How do you see the community evolving for the speed of relevancy?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of initiatives here. One of the things we did in my previous job was take the test community leadership to Silicon Valley to expose them to how commercial industry tests software. The goal was to figure out what can we change within our initiatives to be able to test software more quickly to support Agile development ops, secure DevOps and to push things out into the field faster.
That’s now something we’re working on. We’re changing our philosophy. We’re working with the operational test community to set that up. Another area that we’re looking at is how do we combine more developmental tests and operational tests earlier in the process? Gen. Mike Holmes [Commander, Air Combat Command] and I have kicked off an initiative to look at that. We’re looking at how we could combine our developmental tests and our operational tests so that we’re getting more data quicker. We can streamline the amount of testing. We can save costs. We can get things into the field more readily.
There are a lot of great strides going on at the Air Force Test Center with Maj. Gen. Chris Azzano about how do we test things in a more rapid manner. He’s asking the questions: How do we not over test? How do we use digital enterprise, model-based systems engineering? How can we utilize that digital enterprise to get after some of that testing so that we don’t have to do everything in open air and repeat things?
The worst answer you can give me is, “Gen. Bunch, we got to test this much because that’s how we’ve always done it.” That is not a good answer. So anybody out there, that’s not a good answer to give me. There are certain things we’ve got to go test. We want to make sure that it’s safe for the Airmen we’re putting in harm’s way. We want to make sure that they have a good product. But we are making a lot of strides at relooking at how we do our test enterprise.
Staff Sgt. Ruth Elliot, 412th Medical Group, takes a selfie with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18. Elliot was a presented a commander’s coin by the AFMC commander.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)
Airman magazine: What has been some of the most rewarding part of your career?
Gen. Bunch: From what I’ve done in the military, I go back to all I’ve ever really wanted to be was a commander and work for Airmen. I firmly believe in servant leadership and that the commander works for everybody in the organization. Right now I work for more than 80,000 men and women within AFMC, the Airmen making the mission happen every day and doing all the hard work. Getting to talk with them, getting to watch them grow and feeding off of their energy is the most rewarding thing I get to do every day.
If you listen to some of our young Airmen when they talk about the great things they’re doing or you watch them respond in a time of crisis with what they do, if that doesn’t put a smile on your face and make it great to put the uniform on every day then you probably got a problem and it may be time for you to go find something else to do.
To me, just the interactions with the our people and watching our Airmen succeed and watching them do the mission every day with the passion they do is just remarkable for me.
Airman magazine: What would you like to say directly to the Airmen of AFMC?
Gen. Bunch: So for the Airmen of AFMC, thanks for what you do each and every day, your wartime mission makes us successful. Remember that what we’re doing is critical to the war fighter and remember that we are the most important major command within the Air Force. If we’re going to achieve the National Defense Strategy and if we’re going to drive to the Air Force We Need, we’re the ones that have to succeed. If we don’t succeed then the Air Force can’t succeed. Remember, the programs and systems we’re working to sustain and test is to make sure America’s most valued treasure, our sons and daughters we send into harm’s way, have the technological advantage they need to do their mission supporting our nation’s defense and to come home safely.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with actor, TV host, and former U.S. Army Green Beret, Terry Schappert. You may remember Terry from the popular History Channel show Warriors and, more recently, Hollywood Weaponson the Outdoor Channel with Israel Defense Forces reconnaissance man, Larry Zanoff.
Terry was a Special Forces Team Sergeant who happened to serve alongside WATM’s own, Chase Milsap.
Larry and Terry smash Hollywood’s biggest myths in the Hollywood Weapons. (Image source: Outdoor Channel)
Hollywood Weapons gears up to take on the most insane challenges to accurately reproduce our favorite action movie stunts while breaking the myths that movies perpetuate. From breaking through the glass of a tower window, like that of the Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard, to blowing up a Great War shark with a single shot, like in Jaws, this show recreates all your favorites using only practical effects.
“I have to make those real shots, with those real guns, under real conditions,” Terry pridefully states.
The show breaks everything down using high-speed cameras to catch all the little details that audience members might miss as a movie’s action sequence flies across the screen.
Terry and the team literally break it all down. (Image via GIPHY)Although the show’s primary objective is to entertain, the talented and creative minds behind Hollywood Weapons have a unique way of educating their loyal viewers by scientifically breaking down what it would take to pull off our favorite stunts in the real world.