“Lucky” Lucca is a Marine Corps working dog who successfully led about 400 patrols through combat zones without once allowing a service member under her care to be injured by IEDs, even on the day she lost her leg to a secondary IED after finding the primary. She received the Dickin Medal, an award for animal valor, Apr. 5, 2016.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham was her first handler. He deployed to Iraq with Lucca two times.
“She could see when I was getting kitted up for a mission, you could see her energy increase because she knew what time it was,” Willingham said. “I put the searching harness on Luca and she knew it was game on.”
Willingham later deployed with Lucca to Afghanistan and led 30 working dog and handler teams. When Willingham was sent to a new duty station, he asked one of his handlers, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, to take over as Lucca’s handler.
It was on Lucca and Rodriguez’s second deployment to Afghanistan that Lucca lost her leg. She had indicated the presence of one IED and Rodriguez showed the explosive ordnance team where it was. Lucca was looking for more IEDs when Rodriguez heard a loud boom and saw dust erupt under Lucca. Lucca immediately tried to return to Rodriguez.
“I see Lucca trying to get up and attempting to run towards me,” Rodriguez said. “At this point I took the same path she already had cleared and ran towards Lucca. I picked her up and started running towards the treeline.”
Rodriguez placed a tourniquet on Lucca and the pair were medevacced out. Lucca had lost her paw at the blast site. Doctors later had to amputate the rest of her leg. It didn’t keep her down for long.
“As soon as she woke up, she wanted to get up,” Rodriguez said.
“She was so quick to adapt to having three legs that in a few days she was walking on her own.”
Willingham adopted Lucca under Robbie’s Law which gives handlers the first chance to adopt retired working dogs. When it came time to decide who would escort Lucca to where Willingham lived in Helsinki, Finland, Willingham immediately asked for Rodriguez.
In retirement, Lucca has experienced snow for the first time and gotten to play on the beach with the Willingham family. See Lucca in action and hear the full story from Willingham and Rodriguez in this video:
Lucca received the Dickin Medal, known as the animal version of the Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for valor, the equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Honor.
Previous American recipients of the Dickin Medal include G.I. Joe, a pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and prevented the accidental bombing of American troops, and Salty and Roselle, two guide dogs for the blind who got their humans out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.
Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.
It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.
An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.
The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.
Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.
Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.
Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.
Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.
For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.
Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.
But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”
Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.
“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”
The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”
“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”
Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.
Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.
The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.
True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.
But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.
To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.
Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.
At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.
But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.
The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.
The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.
They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.
There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.
“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said. “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”
Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.
Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.
Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.
But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.
Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.
As North Korean soldiers from the adjacent guard tower ran toward the vehicle, the defector quickly got out and ran south across the MDL. In the video, several North Korean soldiers can be seen firing their weapons at the defector, who appears to be only a few feet away.
One North Korean soldier appeared to cross the MDL for a few seconds, then run back toward it. The UNC said it found that North Korea had breached the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.
The Korean People’s Army “violated the armistice agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL,” a spokesman said during a news conference Tuesday.
During multiple surgical procedures, doctors found dozens of parasites in the defector’s digestive tract, which they say sheds light on a humanitarian crisis in North Korea. He is reportedly in stable condition.
Sources told the South Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo that as he received medical care, the defector asked, “Is this South Korea?”
After he received confirmation that he was, in fact, in South Korea, he said he would “like to listen to South Korean songs,” The Ilbo reported.
While picking up parts for his vehicle at a local hardware store in Fountain, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently encountered a unique situation.
“As I got closer to the store, I noticed that the manager was standing in front of the doorway blocking the entrance,” said Pfc. Adrian Vetner, a native of Umtentweni, South Africa. “A man was trying to get past the manager and he had power tools in his hand. He was clearly trying to rob the store.”
The robber was somehow able to get past the manager and ran toward the exit, Vetner said.
“At that moment, without hesitation, I ran — grabbed him — threw him to the ground and held him until the manager took over,” Vetner said. “I didn’t hesitate or think about it twice because at that moment I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Vetner’s personal courage and eagerness to help those around him didn’t stop there.
Col. Dave Zinn, left, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, presents a coin to Pfc. Adrian Vetner, right, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd IBCT, Jan. 9, 2019, at the brigade headquarters building on Fort Carson, for his recent actions in helping others.
(Photo by Capt. James Lockett)
Six days after stopping the robbery, Vetner was once again put in a situation where his assistance was needed, this time it involved a fellow soldier.
“I was on my way to work and it was snowing out, and I saw someone had broken down on the side of the road,” he said. “Their tire was laying down a couple feet behind him. I helped him get his new tire on by lending him my jack, made sure he was good to go and went on with my day.”
However, for Vetner, those actions were nothing out of the norm.
He credits his upbringing in a military family and his father, who is a retired colonel in the South African military, for his acts of courage and selflessness.
“I was raised to do the right thing at all times even when no one is watching,” he said. “Sometimes people get the wrong idea [about] military personnel, and if I can do little things here and there to change that mindset, I am happy to do so.”
Capt. Cory Plymel, who recently took command of Alpha Company, said hearing of Vetner’s actions made him feel proud to become part of the company.
“The fact that we have soldiers who live the Army values on a constant basis is very fulfilling,” Plymel said. “To see someone put those values into action and show what right looks like, especially in such a young Soldier, just shows how great our soldiers are.”
Plymel said he hopes that Vetner’s actions send a greater message, not only to junior soldiers but to all soldiers.
“I think it speaks volumes that someone who is not from the U.S. is serving this country and performing these acts of courage and kindness without thinking twice about it,” Plymel said. “It’s very humbling to see that and it speaks volumes about the soldiers we have in our Army regardless of where they are from.”
Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, the commander of the 412th Test Wing, put the endless speculation as to where the B-21 would be heading to rest during comments at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference, according to The Drive.
“For the first time ever, I would like to publicly announce that the B-21 will be tested at Edwards Air Force Base … Edwards has been the home of bomber test and now we also can publicly release that the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” Schaefer said.
The general’s remarks appeared to confirm that the B-21 will be headed for operational testing sooner than some had previously believed. There are no known images of the B-21, although concept art does exist.
The level of secrecy surrounding the B-21 is so intense that Congress doesn’t even know much about it. Previous reports speculated that the testing would be at the Air Force’s infamous Area 51 facility.
The Drive reporter Tyler Rogoway said that he noticed a number of changes to the base during his last visit to Edwards. “It was clear that the South Base installation was undergoing a major transition,” he said.
“The USAF’s B-52 and B-1 bomber test units had relocated to the expansive primary apron and South Base had been vacated, aside from the B-2 test unit, so that it could be prepared for a shadowy new program.”
Edwards Air Force Base has unique facilities that would help the testing and development of stealth aircraft, such as the Raider, and is the headquarters of the Air Force’s Test Center and Test Pilot School. Edwards is also the home of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.
The B-21 will phase out the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Air Force announced in February 2018.
The reason comes down to an attacker’s motivation. Authorities have yet to name a motive for the Las Vegas attack, but officials quickly began identifying clues on Oct. 31 after what would be the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.
“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said at a news conference just two hours after the truck attack.
“He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the truck’s driver, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who had lived in Tampa, Florida. The attack ended when Saipov was shot by the police; he was then hospitalized.
“And if you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on,” O’Neill added. “So, that, along with the statement, that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.”
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the Oct. 31 carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
So even though authorities think Saipov acted alone, the attack is still being investigated as terrorism because of his apparent political motivation.
“While definitions for terrorism differ, the overwhelming majority of them distinguish terrorism from other crimes of violence by the purpose of the actor, not the severity of the harm caused,” Robert Eatinger, the former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, told The Cipher Brief in October.
Saipov, however, hails from Uzbekistan, a country never listed in Trump’s proposed travel bans. Saipov used no firearms that legislation could restrict access to. And some of those who knew Saipov, who spent the months before the attack driving for Uber in New Jersey, have said he did not display any warning signs.
The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.
Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.
“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”
The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.
McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”
IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.
Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.
McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.
“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.
“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.
Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.
“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.
“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”
IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.
Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
During rescue operations on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina, Coast Guard crews found 10 beagles and four pit bulls locked in areas with rising floodwaters and were able to rescue them in the nick of time as some of the swimming dogs were reaching the end of their endurance.
The beagles’ owners were also rescued during the operation as they had become trapped inside as well. None of the animals had been abandoned, according to reporting in USA Today.
The owners told USA Today that they had evacuated to a relative’s home, but had returned when it appeared that the worst of the storm was over.
They hadn’t accounted for the rains which continued as the remnants of the storm lingered over areas already hit by the winds and torrential rain of the hurricane.
Coast Guard 16-foot punt boats approach dry land with dogs rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. Coast Guardsmen rescued 14 pets in a single lift after 10 beagles were discovered with their owners as the dogs, swimming in locked cages, reached the end of their endurance.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
The dogs appear excited to be rescued in the video and photos, and some dove into the water despite their narrow escape from the floods.
See more photos of the rescue from the Coast Guard below, and check out USA Today for more information on the event.
Shallow-Water Response Team 3 crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard taxi to shore with pets rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guard members of Shallow-Water Response Team 3 rescue civilians and pets from Hurricane Florence flooding on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. The crew rescued 14 dogs from the waters in a single lift after the owners of 10 beagles were discovered along with their pets.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Shallow-Water Response Team 3 navigate floodwaters from Hurricane Florence as they return rescued pit bulls to dry land. The dogs were discovered near 10 beagles who were rescued just in the nick of time on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
Rescued dogs roam Coast Guard punt boats as they return to dry land after a rescue operation on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina. The Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue operations in East Coast states as the final rains and winds from former Hurricane Florence die down.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts are back in the Baltics, practicing for rough landings on improvised runways as a part of Saber Strike 18, the annual exercise where NATO and partner forces work to improve their ability to operate across Europe and with NATO’s forward-deployed battle groups.
In early June 2018, A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, practiced landing and taking off from a rural highway in Latvia and an abandoned runway in Estonia.
During the Cold War, highways were considered an option for fixed-wing aircraft, as standard airstrips were likely to be targeted first in the event of conflict. But the A-10s only recently resumed the exercise.
“The requirement that we’ve been tasked with to be able to force project into battle spaces where the assumption is that the enemy is going to immediately try to destroy or limit capabilities on known airfields,” said Air Force Maj. David Dennis, the detachment director of operations for the 107th Fighter Squadron.
“So the A-10 has been tasked with being able to forward deploy into areas a little bit more austere,” he added, “whether they’re old airfields, riverbeds, old highways, whatever the case may be, so we continue to provide close air support to the guys on the ground.”
The 107th Fighter Squadron is currently deployed to Latvia. Working with members of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron’s combat controllers, the 107th’s A-10s carried out landings and takeoffs from an abandoned runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, on June 7, 2018.
The exercise is part of Saber Strike 18, the latest version of a US Army Europe-led training exercise involving NATO countries and partner forces. This year’s iteration focuses on improving land- and air-operational capabilities, with the additional goal of training with NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)
NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland over the past two years and are made up of units from various NATO member countries. They are still on station in those four countries and now number over 4,500 personnel in total.
“We’re landing on Estonian soil, so we have Estonian defense forces here, providing security. We have local fire departments on standby, in case there is some sort of incident,” Dennis said. “So it involves a host of people.”
Austere-landing exercises contribute to the goal of providing close air support. “So day five, day six, day ten of the war, the assumption is that the airfields that the Air Force has been operating out of are probably compromised in some manner,” Dennis said.
A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practice landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.
“So in order to continue to force project, and to continue to drop bombs and protect the troops on the ground, we’re going to have to find other suitable means with which we can continue our combat operations,” Dennis added. “So they would literally truck in the bombs, the bullets, all the things they need to, to austere environments, like an old airfield, a highway, whatever have you, so that we can continue to operate and ultimately save lives on the ground.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
The A-10, introduced in the 1970s, was a key component of the NATO’s frontline defense during the Cold War. It served as the main antitank platform and was equipped with heavy armaments, like the AGM-65 Maverick missile and a 30 mm Gatling gun, and was heavily armored itself in order withstand ground fire.
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
A-10 pilots were given a coloring book to help train them to recognize Soviet tanks. The book, filled with deadpan humor and titled “What you always wanted to know about the T-62 but were afraid to ask,” color-coded sections on Soviet vehicles to instruct pilots on which parts to target and which to avoid.
“The point of the article is to highlight for newly assigned pilots the improved vulnerabilities of the tank from a side or rear attack,” Andy Bush, a retired A-10 pilot, told War is Boring in 2014. Bush said he had “no idea who wrote it or where.”
Cold War planners were not optimistic about the A-10’s chances in a war. In the 1980s, the Air Force planned to put 68 A-10s at each of six forward operating bases in West Germany. Their estimates assumed a 7% loss rate for each 100 flights, meaning each forward operating base would lose at least 10 A-10s every 24 hours. At that rate, the roughly 700-plane A-10 fleet would be shot down in less than two weeks.
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alex Goulette, crew chief assigned to 127th Wing maintenance squadron in Selfridge, Michigan, and Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, communicate with A-10 pilots about landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
Current tensions with Russia are far from the level seen between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. But the austere-landing exercise and other drills are meant to keep pilots and aircrews sharp and reassure allies.
A US Air Force A-10 practices landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
“Why did we choose Haapsalu over other areas? Inside the country of Estonia, essentially inside the Baltic region … it’s part of reassuring our NATO alliances,” Dennis said. “We continue to force-project airplanes, not just the A-10 but other NATO assets, all throughout the Baltic region. So what we have done is we’ve analyzed different areas, not just inside of Estonia, but also in Latvia and Lithuania as well, that are suitable landing sites.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
There are three important training objectives, Dennis said.
“The first is, trust the pilots right? So the larger Air Force in a whole needs to trust that the A-10 pilot group is capable of executing this in a very important mission set.”
“The next thing is the pilot trusting the airplane. As you operate this these sort of austere environments, the pilot has to have confidence that he or she can actually land in these environments, and execute the operation safely.”
“And the third, and I think equally as important, is we exercise the Special Tactics Squadrons, and other people that are involved in controlling us, and keep them proficient and current.”
Even in a training situation, landing on rough surfaces poses risks. “The airplanes can blow tires. The concrete isn’t as well grooved. In this case, the concrete is not even nearly the same as it would in a normal airfield,” Dennis said. “So there’s a lot of challenges that, physically, the airplane will face when … the rubber actually meets the concrete.”
US Air Force Master Sgt. Wolfram Stumpf, public affairs assigned to the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, records an A-10 Thunderbolt practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
“There’s a lot of detailed planning that goes into ensuring that all of these areas have been properly looked at,” Dennis added. “The Special Tactics Squadrons have a very methodical way with which they come and analyze and basically evaluate these landing surfaces.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks the runway for foreign-object debris after A-10 landed in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
The A-10, however, is the best plane for this kind of job. “The reason the A-10 does this is because it was designed to do this,” Dennis said. “In the design phase of the actual airplane, [there] was the consideration for this type of environment. So landing gear all the way up to the high-bypass engines, that sit above the airplane, all of that is specifically designed so the airplane is not just survivable, but can operate in these austere environments.”
US Air National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The head of the U.S. Space Force said it hasn’t been easy to get the American public to understand what the military’s newest branch does, but vowed to keep working on getting its message across.
“Space doesn’t have a mother. You can’t reach out and hug a satellite. You can’t see it; you can’t touch it. It’s hard to have that connection,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations for the service, told reporters Wednesday during a Defense Writers Group virtual event.
Since former President Donald Trump left office, many have speculated on the Space Force’s future. Space Force has a public relations crisis, Defense News reported, and is often seen as the Pentagon’s stepchild branch.
When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s plans for the service, critics argued she came off as dismissive. Lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., condemned her response and asked her to apologize to the men and women of Space Force.Advertisement
“We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work,” Psaki tweeted hours after the briefing.
Raymond said Wednesday that he would “welcome the opportunity.”
In a separate briefing, Psaki said the Space Force “has the full support” of the Biden administration, confirming the president has no intention of undoing the labor already done to form the branch.
“We’re not revisiting the decision,” she said.
The Space Force has tried to explain its role to the public. Leaders have talked about overseeing everyday tasks like providing GPS capabilities on cellphones and enabling connections for ATM transactions, as well as more sophisticated missions such as early detection of incoming ballistic missiles — something the service accomplished during the Iranian attack on American forces in Iraq last year.
“I really believe we are communicating really well in a number of areas,” Raymond said, citing efforts to deter adversaries such as Russia and China in space, and collaborating with partners, allies and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“I think it’s also hard to understand because it’s been severely classified what the threats are out there,” he added. “I think we’ve been doing a lot of work to be able to talk about those threats, and to talk about the value of space to every single American. … But I think there still is a challenge that it’s hard to understand that connection to space. And we’ll keep working at it.”
Lawmakers have taken note, and congressional support for the Space Force is growing, Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said in November.
But the Trump administration took hold of the messaging surrounding the Space Force early on — with Trump surprising Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in 2018 with his push to form the new branch. It has been seen as “Trump’s Space Force” for that reason, experts including Harrison say.
Trump made the Space Force a reality when he signed the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20, 2019. The move temporarily reassigned 16,000 airmen and civilians to the new branch and dissolved the Air Force’s leading major command overseeing space, Air Force Space Command.
Actor Steve Carell based his new comedy show on the Space Force; it premiered on Netflix last year. And the service continues to get a bad rap on social media, from users posting that it “stole” the Star Trek logo; to ridiculing Guardians, the name for Space Force members; to denouncing its existence because of its association with Trump.
“It doesn’t help that [the service’s] recruitment [ad] shows astronauts and fictional space stations,” another user posted Wednesday on Twitter, referring to how Space Force and NASA’s commercial missions often get misconstrued.
Others fail to see the difference between U.S. Space Command — reactivated in August 2019, before the establishment of the Space Force — and the military’s sixth branch. SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force organizes and trains space personnel.
Inside the Pentagon, messaging to the force has been “spectacular,” Raymond said, adding that there is an excitement for the mission, which supports the joint force.
But there was mockery once again Wednesday as Raymond’s words made it on Twitter, with users asking someone to manufacture a satellite plush toy to hug at night. Others called for an “adopt a satellite” program akin to sponsoring an endangered animal in the wild or blamed Trump for the service’s creation, claiming it wasted taxpayer dollars or complaining about the militarization of space operations.
“Communication is only fantastic if we understand the message,” tweeted Maggie Feldman-Piltch, head of NatSecGirlSquad. “We don’t need a mother, we need an origin story and a value statement.”
At an Air Force Association breakfast March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force talked up the service’s progress in ridding the service of outdated rules and procedures that burden airmen.
When she took office in May 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the service’s blizzard of instructions, policies, and rules with the overall goal of eliminating the unnecessary ones. Since then, the Air Force has gotten rid of about 100 of the total of about 1,400 instructions, she said.
As an example, Wilson cited a regulation that would have required her as Air Force secretary to sign off on how an obstacle course could be constructed on a base.
“We have an instruction on how to build an obstacle course,” Wilson said. “My guess is, if they need to build an obstacle course, they can probably figure it out.”
Wilson said the work continues to whittle down the Air Force’s body of rules and regulations.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations” as the Air Force presses to push decision-making down to the lowest levels to save time and money.
In addition to eliminating red tape, the Air Force is also intent on teaching airmen to act on their own initiative, she said.
“We don’t expect in future conflicts to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat” as potential adversaries become more adept at jamming, Wilson said.
“We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgment for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime, then we need to treat them that way in peacetime,” she said.
The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.
According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.
The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.
The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.
The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.
While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.
Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.