This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the Grinch in your unit:

~a case of premium craft beer by Greater Boston’s #1 veteran brewmaster~

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Frosty the Craft Beer, had a tiny foamy head… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

Does the thought of the Holidays — and all of the fluff-trimmed kerfuffery that comes with them — make you just want to start drinking? No?

So, you’re this guy:

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

That’s cool. But we bet there’s someone on your list who’s less Jingle-bell-jazzed than you.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Found him. (Photo via Flickr, Evil Erin, CC BY 2.0)

For this guy, consider the gift of beer. Really good beer.

Donovan Bailey — Army tank operator, beer brewing genius, and owner of Greater Boston’s Down The Road Brewery — crafts exactly the kind of Holiday Cheer we’re talking about.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Bailey, brewmaster of the 3rd Armored Cav. (Photo credit: David Rainville/Greenfield Recorder)

Allow us to direct your attention his extensive line of tasty craft beers.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
That’s actually only half of them. Here’s the full menu.

Since dropping his first batch of Pukwudgie American Pale Ale in April 2015, Bailey has been quietly deepening his alchemical mastery of the hops, malts, and yeasts. (That’s Boston’s version of the breaks, rhymes, and beats.)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Bailey’s state-of-the-art brewing facility. (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

He cuts his love of European craft brewing tradition with a fiendish need to iterate and remix.  As a result, the Down The Road brew line-up is a veritable mix-tape of innovative, sample-heavy, world heritage beers. DTR very literally has something for everyone.

And as of Nov. 3 of this year, they now have their very own 2,500-square-foot taproom in Everett, MA, complete with 35′ bar, retro-pinball lounge and food trucks-a-go-go.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Crowds that deep, they’ll need more bartenders… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

If you live in the Northeast, grab your Grinch and treat him to a few tasting rounds at the taproom. Or present him with a case of Queequeg’s Revenge New England IPA and see if he doesn’t crack a smile as he cracks himself a cold one.

Because beer is full of many wonderful ingredients, not the least of which are millions of tiny, alcoholic fun bubbles that just want you to lighten the hell up for the Holidays.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s ‘agile’ new fleet prepares to counter Russia in the Arctic

In the six months since its activation, the Navy’s 2nd Fleet has bulked up and is embracing its mission in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, where the US and its partners are focused on countering a sophisticated and wily Russian navy.

Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 for budget reasons — 65 years after being set up to deter the Soviet Union in the Atlantic and around Europe. Most of its assets were shifted to Fleet Forces Command.


The fleet returns amid a shift toward a potential great-power conflict, but the new version will differ from its predecessor by being “leaner, agile, and more expeditionary,” Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, said Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Rear Adm. John Mustin at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 24, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte)

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

Questions have been raised about how 2nd Fleet will integrate with other numbered fleets — particularly 6th Fleet, which oversees waters around Europe, and 4th Fleet, which is responsible for the Caribbean Sea and waters around Central and South America — but Navy officials have said the goal is not to draw stark lines in the sea.

Second fleet’s primary focus will be working with 6th Fleet and 4th Fleet “to ensure a seamless command and control for force employment — ensuring there is no vulnerability, no seam in the Atlantic,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for 2nd Fleet, told Business Insider in December 2018.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.

(Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Prior to its deactivation, 2nd Fleet was mostly a training command for units getting ready to deploy.

Now, however, the focus is “to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” Mustin said at the symposium.

“Previously, forces reported to 2nd Fleet when they entered the fleet’s geographic area of operations. Under the new model forces will be assigned once in the final stage of the training cycle and through the end of the period in which forces are available for operational tasking, unless the unit transitions to the control of another numbered fleet,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

“This allows 2nd Fleet to focus its attention on the development and employment of forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh added.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise, June 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)

Like the stand-up of 2nd Fleet, the Navy’s first East Coast use of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training — a Top Gun-like exercise meant to impart advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics to surface crews — is part of the effort to train for warfare against an enemy fleet.

Mustin said during his remarks that he was the 18th staff member to report to 2nd Fleet and that by March the command will have 85 people assigned — a “number that will continue on a glide slope that is increasing rapidly,” he said.

To avoid bloat and redundancy, the 2nd Fleet will work with Fleet Forces whenever possible, Mustin said. Both commands are based in Norfolk, Virginia. Ships will be under Fleet Forces’ operational command, while 2nd Fleet will have tactical control.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

A fire controlman trains sailors on firefighting tactics in an engine room l aboard Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

But the fleet is growing to be fit for purpose and fit for its time, Walsh told Business Insider.

“It makes sense to describe 2nd Fleet in terms of capability rather than in terms of the number of personnel assigned,” Walsh said. Most of the personnel assigned to it will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training, “with only a few staff members focused on higher headquarters administrative functions.”

Mustin also told attendees at the symposium that they could expect 2nd Fleet personnel to be roaming their area of operations — working from forward posts on command ships or from austere locations ashore — while keeping in touch with home base in Norfolk.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham approaches fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys, right, for replenishment-at-sea in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Those personnel will include staffers from allied countries and other partners who are fully integrated rather than assigned as liaisons, said Mustin, who added that surface warfare officers interested in 2nd Fleet had been approaching him at the symposium.

Moreover, plans are to rotate Navy reservists through the fleet to work alongside active-duty sailors, with the goal of keeping those reservists up-to-date. “This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet, or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

Second Fleet will also work on development in other aspects of naval warfare.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of 2nd Fleet, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 27, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

Working with the Naval War College and the Warfare Development Centers, the fleet “will be a hub for the Navy’s concept development and implementation, ensuring that when the Navy operates around the world, it is prepared to compete, fight, and win in great-power competition,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

In September 2018, the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School led 2nd Fleet staff in a seminar to develop the fleet’s mission set, and in coming months the 2nd Fleet will work with the Naval War College on staff training to “ensure the fleet is equipped to command and control naval forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh said, adding that most 2nd Fleet staff will attend the school’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare.

“Going forward, this same kind of integration applies to the employment of the naval forces [that] 2nd Fleet commands,” Walsh added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jim Nabors, the original Private Gomer Pyle, dies at 87

Jim Nabors made good on his last name when he brought Gomer Pyle to “The Andy Griffith Show.” His big-hearted, ever-cheery gas-pump jockey was a neighborly fit in the easygoing town of Mayberry.


But when Gomer enlisted in the Marines for five TV seasons, he truly blossomed. So did the actor who portrayed him.

Nabors, who died Nov. 30 at 87, made Pvt. Gomer Pyle a perfect foil for the immovable object of Marines boot camp: Grinning, gentle Gomer was the irresistible force.

On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a spin-off from The Andy Griffith Show that premiered in 1964, Gomer arrived in the fictional Camp Henderson with a happy attitude and eager innocence that flew in the face of everything he found awaiting him there, especially irascible Sgt. Vince Carter, played by Frank Sutton.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Publicity photo of Jim Nabors (left) and Frank Sutton from the television program ‘Gomer Pyle USMC,’ May 3, 1968.

It’s a measure of Nabors’ skill in inhabiting the anything-but-militaristic Gomer that this character was widely beloved, and the show a Top 10 hit, during an era when the Vietnam War was dividing America. His trademark “Shazam,” ″Gollllll-lee,” and “Surprise, surprise, surprise” were parroted by millions.

But Nabors had another character to offer his fans: himself, a booming baritone. In appearances on TV variety programs, he stunned viewers with the contrast between his twangy, homespun humor (“The tornado was so bad a hen laid the same egg twice”) and his full-throated vocals.

He was a double threat, as he demonstrated for two seasons starting in 1969 on “The Jim Nabors Hour,” a variety series where he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with Sutton and fellow Gomer veteran Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.

Offstage and off-camera, Nabors retained some of the awed innocence of Gomer. At the height of his fame in 1969, he admitted, “I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Jim Nabors’ headshot for a USO performance. (Image from USMC)

After his variety show, Nabors continued earning high salaries in Las Vegas showrooms and in concert theaters across the country. He recorded more than two dozen albums and sang with the Dallas and St. Louis symphony orchestras.

During the 1970s, he moved to Hawaii, buying a 500-acre macadamia ranch. He still did occasional TV work, and in the late 1970s, he appeared 10 months annually at Hilton hotels in Hawaii. The pace gave him an ulcer.

Read Also: The 12 most iconic roles in military movie history

“I was completely burned out,” he later recalled. “I’d had it with the bright lights.”

In the early 1980s, his longtime friendship with Burt Reynolds led to roles in “Stroker Ace,” ″Cannonball II,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

He returned to concert and nightclub performances in 1985, though at a less intensive pace. Among his regular gigs was singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year, which he first did in 1972. That first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn’t forget.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Honorary Marine Cpl. Jim Nabors sings ‘Silent Night’ during the Second Annual Na Mele o na Keiki, ‘Music for the Children’ Dec. 9 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, Dec. 9, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Whittington)

“I’ve never thought of (the audience reaction) as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.”

Illness forced him to cancel his appearance in 2007, the first one he had missed in more than 20 years. But he was back performing at Indy in 2008, saying, “It’s always the main part of my year. It just thrills you to your bones.”

In 1991, Nabors was thrilled to get a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He was joined for the ceremony by pals Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller, and Florence Henderson. His reaction? “Gollllll-lee!”

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Publicity photo of guest star Molly Picon and Jim Nabors from the television program Gomer Pyle USMC. (Image from CBS)

Nabors, who had undergone a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said his husband, Stan Cadwallader, who was by his side.

“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.

The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Jim Nabors (right), honorary Marine sergeant who played Gomer Pyle in a television show laughs while his biography is read during a conference room dedication ceremony at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, June 9, 2015. Nabors laughed when his biography stated he was given the rank of private for 37 years before being awarded honorary lance corporal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

An authentic, small-town, Southern boy, he was born James Thurston Nabors in Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1930, the son of a police officer. Boyhood attacks of asthma required long periods of rest, during which he learned to entertain his playmates with vocal tricks.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, he worked in New York City for a time, and later, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was an assistant film editor and occasional singer at a TV station.

He moved on to Hollywood with hopes of using his voice. While cutting film at NBC in the daytime, he sang at night at a Santa Monica club.

“I was up there on the stage the night that Andy Griffith came in,” Nabors recalled in 1965. “He said to me afterward, ‘You know somethin,’ boy? You’re good. I’m going to bring my manager around to see you.'”

Nabors soon landed a guest shot on Griffith’s sitcom as Gomer Pyle. That grew into a regular role as Gomer proved a kindred spirit with other Mayberry locals. By then, he had proved he was also a kindred spirit with millions of viewers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US Army has some of the best divers in the world

Believe it or not, America’s primary land combatant force has some of the best combat divers in the world. It may seem odd that the Army, tasked with “providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict” would have world-class divers. But the Army’s swimmers are kept plenty busy.


Mission of Army Divers

www.youtube.com

The Army has two major classifications of divers: engineering and special operations. The engineering dive detachments make up the bulk of Army dive formations. Their primary mission is to conduct underwater engineering and disaster response.

Basically, these soldiers are responsible for making bridges safe, ensuring ports and harbors are stable and clear of dangerous debris, and clearing waterways like rivers. But they can also be sent to disaster response areas where they could conduct all of the above missions as well as search and rescue to save people in distress. They also provide emergency treatment for civilian divers suffering from decompression treatment.

That may not sound all that grueling. After all, welders don’t have to be super buff, why would an underwater welder have to be some elite soldier?

Well, divers are doing construction tasks like welding, cutting, bolting, and more, but they’re doing it while water presses against their bodies, they’re carrying 30 pounds or more of tanks and compressed air, and they may have to constantly paddle to stay in position for their work.

And that’s ignoring the mental fortitude needed to conduct dangerous operations underwater as cloudy water obscures vision, rushing water pushes against you, and the shadows of animals like gators or sharks pass over your body.

It’s because of all that strain that Army divers have a reputation for being jacked (not that the other services’ divers are any less fit, we’re just talking about the soldiers right now).

Army dives are typically made with teams of at least four or five divers, depending on the equipment being used. But dive detachments have 25 personnel, allowing them to support operations at three locations at once if so ordered. Each of the three dive squads in a detachment has six people at full manning, and there are seven more people assigned to the headquarters.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Pfc. Stephen Olinger checks his oxygen levels prior to an exercise during Army Engineer Diver Phase II training at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army Joe Lacdan)

A single squad can be deployed within 48 hours of a mission notice, or the entire detachment can move out within seven days if they receive logistics and security support from a larger unit. These short-notice missions can often be assessing damage to key infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake or search and recovery after a disaster. But the detachment can be tasked with anti-terrorism swims, underwater demolition and construction, or salvage as well.

As we hinted above, though, the Army has Special Forces divers as well. But these divers have a more limited set of missions. They primarily are tasked with conducting reconnaissance on target areas or entering or exiting an area of operations via the water. They can conduct some demolition raids and security missions as well.

Their list of missions includes mobility and counter-mobility, physical security, and more. Each Special Forces battalion has three combat diving teams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of July 13th

It looks like the World Cup isn’t coming home to England. Such a shame to see the championship match of the sport you claim to have invented go to literally everyone else. Seeing as an estimated seven people from the United States give a damn about the World Cup — give or take six people — we’re finding it hard to care.

Meanwhile, American troops are about to do some dumb sh*t this weekend. Not for any particular reason — just that it’s a payday weekend and it’s Friday the 13th. Remember, if your weekend doesn’t involve you making the blotter and having your First Sergeant busting your drunk ass out of the MP station, did you really have a weekend?

No matter what you’ve got planned, enjoy these memes first.


This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Infantry Army)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

I guess screaming, “If you ain’t ordinance, you ain’t sh*t” is the Air Force’s way of feeling slightly less like POGs.

Fun Fact: Airman and Navy aviators have their own version of POG — “Personnel on the Ground.” But they’re all still POGs in the eyes of soldiers and Marines.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via ASMDSS)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Military World)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Discharged)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Private News Network)

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The first time you select afterburner in a fighter is an experience you’ll never forget. Over a decade later, I can still remember every second of it.

I had made it through the attrition of pilot training and was now in the 9-month B-Course learning to fly the F-16. After several months of academics—going over every system on the jet and how to troubleshoot malfunctions, it was time to finally get in the air. 

The way the jet is configured makes a big difference in terms of its performance. Usually, there are several weapons, pods, and fuel tanks hanging off the jet, which makes it much more capable in combat. However, they add a significant amount of weight and drag to the airframe. 

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
It is not uncommon for F-16s to fly carrying two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

The squadron leadership had decided to completely clean off the jets for our initial phase of flying—nothing external would be added, making it the stripped-down hot-rod that John Boyd famously envisioned back in the ’70s. It’s a rare configuration that I’ve only seen a handful of times during my career.

On the day of the flight, after I strapped in, I started the engine and could feel the F-16 coming to life: the slow groan of the engine transforming into a shrieking roar. 

After the ground-ops checks, my instructor and I taxied to the end of the runway—as a wingman, my job was to follow him throughout the sortie. Once we received clearance to take off, he taxied onto the runway and pushed the throttle into afterburner. 

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

I could see the nozzle of his engine clamp down as the engine spun-up into full military power—the highest non-afterburning setting. The nozzle then rapidly opened as the afterburner kicked in and a 10-foot bluish-red flame shot out of the back of the engine. Looking into the engine, I could only see a few feet of the nozzle before it disappeared into a whitish-yellow fire, similar to the sun. As he rapidly accelerated down the runway, I taxied into position.

After 15 seconds, I pushed the throttle forward until it hit the military power stop. I then rotated the throttle outward, which allowed me to push it further into the afterburner settings. Nothing happened for what seemed like a minute, but in reality, it was only a few seconds. It was enough time for me to look down to make sure nothing was wrong when, suddenly, the thrust hit me in the chest. 

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Before flying the F-16, I had flown a supersonic jet trainer called the T-38, so I was familiar with high-performance aircraft… But this acceleration was on another level. Before I knew it, a second jolt of thrust hit me, further increasing my acceleration—and the engine wasn’t even at full thrust yet.

There are five rings in the back of the engine that make up the afterburner. Each ring has hundreds of holes, through which fuel is sprayed at high pressure and then ignited. In order to not flood the engine, each ring sequentially lights off. So far, only two of the five rings had started spraying fuel.

The interesting thing about the way a jet accelerates is that as it goes faster, it accelerates faster (to a point). This is unlike a car, which starts off quickly and then slows down. As each afterburner ring lit off, my acceleration further increased. Before I knew it, I was at my rotation speed of 150 knots, or 175 mph. As soon as I was airborne, I began retracting my gear, reducing my drag, which further increased my acceleration. Even though it takes just a few seconds to retract the gear, I came dangerously close to overspending the 300-knot limit.

The one thing that stands out about that takeoff is that even though I was operating way behind the jet, I was smiling the whole time–it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will use drones to seek and destroy underwater mines

The U.S. Navy plans to deploy fast, high-tech surface drones equipped with advanced wireless technology able to find, attack, and ultimately destroy underwater enemy mines, all while operating at safe distance from a larger, manned surface host ship, such as a Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said.


Naval Sea Systems Command is currently working with industry to develop, assess and analyze mine-neutralization technologies for its emerging Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) — a multi-mission surface drone countermine platform slated to be operational by 2019. Capt. Jon Rucker, Program Manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, told reporters recently at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.

“MCM USV will ‘take the man out of the minefield’ when it comes to Navy mine countermeasures operations,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
A German mine swept up in Australian water by an auxiliary minesweeper visible at center right. (Image from Naval Historical Collection)

The current exploration of mine-neutralization technology is happening alongside the ongoing integration of advanced sonar mine-hunting payloads onto the USV – the AQS-20 and AQS-24, Baribeau explained.

Overall, the MCM USV represents the next-iteration of surface-drone technology, extending beyond the mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) now going through testing and builders trails, Rucker said.

“The UISS provides the Navy’s first unmanned minesweeping capability and the MCM USV with towed sonars provides the Navy unmanned volume and bottom mine hunting capability,” Baribeau said.

Textron Systems is now on contract with the Navy to integrate the AQS-20 and AQS-24, sonar payloads which will expand range and detection technology.

“UISS was foundational program that then migrated into expanding within the mine countermeasures technology,” Wayne Prender, Unmanned Systems Vice President of Control Surface Systems, Textron Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also Read: Collision at sea sidelines US Navy mine sweeper and nuclear submarine

Building upon these efforts, the Navy is also planning for the MCM USV to incorporate an ability to “destroy” mines from USVs as well.

Neutralizing mines, once they are found, is the aim of this longer-term Navy effort to go beyond detection and succeed in destroying mines as well. As part of this effort, the Navy is now considering the Barracuda Mine Neutralization System — a technology described by a Navy solicitation as “a modular, low-cost, semi-autonomous, expendable neutralizer conforming to the A-size sonobuoy form factor.”

Navy documents further specify that Barracuda will use wireless communications, therefore allowing for a “tetherless” operation for the MCM USV. Military Aersopace electronics describes mine neutralizers as mini underwater drones armed with explosives which travel to an identified underwater mine – and then explode.

Barracuda will first be deployed from an LCS before potentially migrating to other surface or airborne platforms, Navy statements indicated.

Mine neutralization will naturally work in tandem with sonar systems which, Baribeau explained, can both send imagery data back to a host ship in real time through a line of sight connection or store sonar information for post-mission processing.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
A port view of the guided missile frigate USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) in dry dock in Dubai, UAE, for temporary repairs. The frigate was damaged when it struck an Iranian naval mine while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. (Image Wikipedia)

Navy Surface Drone “Ghost Fleet”

Incremental steps forward with surface drone countermine technology is all unfolding within a broader strategic context for the Navy aimed at architecting a “ghost fleet” of interconnected, unmanned vessels able to perform missions in a synchronized fashion.

Pentagon and Navy developers are advancing this drone-fleet concept to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could potentially coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, developers have explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

The Ghost Fleet effort involves a collaborative venture between the Office of Naval Research, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, and the Navy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-15EX may be the baddest 4th-gen jet on the planet

On Tuesday, the first ever F-15EX took to the skies in a test flight that brought the U.S. Air Force that much closer to fielding what may be the most capable 4th generation fighter on the planet. The F-15 has been in service for more than 45 years to date, and is widely regarded as the most successful air superiority fighter in history.

“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager.

“Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”

The last time the U.S. Air Force took delivery of an F-15 was in 2004, but the aircraft’s design has not stagnated in the 17 years since. Boeing, who absorbed the F-15 program when they merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, has been updating and improving the F-15 for foreign sales throughout. In fact, foreign purchasers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funneled more than $5 billion into improving the F-15 Eagle as America moved on to sourcing more advanced, stealth fighters. The result of all this time and money is an incredibly capable iteration of the F-15 that couples advanced avionics with the low maintenance cost of non-stealth fighter.

Most of the world still relies on 4th generation fighters for engagements in the sky, which means the F-15EX may have some stiff competition… but this new bird isn’t resting on the F-15’s historic laurels. Instead, it just may be the baddest fighter of its generation anywhere on the planet.

Why doesn’t the Air Force just buy more F-35s?

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

In this era of flying stealth supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, many have questioned the wisdom of purchasing a slew of new old fighters. The F-15EX does not boast any stealth capabilities, nor does it have the same knack for sensor fusion that has earned the F-35 the unofficial nickname of “quarterback in the sky.” Despite this apparent lack of capability, the Air Force is procuring F-15EXs at a cost of around $87.7 million each, as compared to the now lower F-35 price of just $77.9 million per aircraft.

This price differential only emboldens the F-15EX’s critics, who point out that the F-35 offers a far wider variety of capabilities and is considered much more survivable in contested airspace (thanks to its stealth capabilities). When you only consider those figures, the F-15EX may seem like a pretty poor choice.

However, the reality of military acquisitions and combat capability are far more nuanced than a side-by-side tale of the tape might represent. While the F-15EX may indeed cost more per airframe than the latest batch of F-35s, it may actually be the savvier purchase. The F-35 is intended to have an operational lifespan of around 8,000 hours, whereas each F-15EX is expected to last 20,000. In other words, in order to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX, the Air Force would need to purchase not one, but three F-35As.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(U.S. Air Force photo)

That price reduction is further bolstered by operational costs. Keeping a high performance fighter in tip-top shape is expensive and time consuming, but in that portion of the ledger, the F-15EX once again shines. The Air Force expects to spend around $29,000 for every hour the F-15EX is in the air, far cheaper than the F-35’s figures recorded in 2018 of around $44,000 per hour. Now let’s do a bit of back-of-the-envelope math to assess how much these aircraft will actually cost in a fight.

The F-15EX costs $87.7 million per aircraft, and can fly for up to 20,000 hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. So $29,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $87.7 million for the aircraft comes out to a pretty serious $667.7 million dollars.

In order to match that operational lifespan, it would take three F-35As. So the math would look like $44,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $233.7 million for three F-35s… and it comes out to more than a jaw dropping $1.1 billion. The F-15EX, then, offers a saving of around $446 million per aircraft over the lifespan of the jet (if things were this simple, anyway).

To give the F-35 a slightly more realistic shake, let’s use larger volumes of aircraft, rather than 1:1 comparisons. The Air Force plans to purchase at least 144 F-15EXs, but for the sake of simple math, let’s call it 100. The above per-aircraft cost times a hundred comes out to $66,770,000,000 spent on aircraft and 2,000,000 flight hours. You would need 250 F-35s to match the same flight hour total, which combined with operating costs come to $109,925,000,000. In this more realistic comparison, the F-15EX offers a less pronounced advantage, but still comes to the tune of some $43,155,000,000 in savings over the span of the program. $43 billion is certainly nothing to scoff at.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Doesn’t seem quite as pricey now, does it?

Now, it’s important to note here that this math is egregiously simplified: Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are already working tirelessly to reduce the operating costs of the F-35 (because the Air Force says they can’t afford them if they don’t).

The cost per hour of the F-35 is sure to drop in the years to come — and just as importantly, the F-35 is a stealth platform built largely to engage ground targets. The F-15EX, on the other hand, is an air superiority fighter designed to duke it out in the skies. Both of these aircraft are capable of either role, but at a fundamental level, these jets simply aren’t built to do the same jobs. It might help to think of them as NASCAR and Formula 1 racers: Both are extremely capable platforms, but they’re each highly specialized for their specific use. The new F-15EXs the Air Force buys won’t fill F-35 spots, but will instead replace aging F-15s in America’s existing arsenal.

What makes this new F-15 better than our old ones?

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Boeing’s first F-15EX during production. (Boeing)

The United States currently maintains a fleet of around 230 F-15s in various trims (C/D). These jets represent the crux of America’s fourth generation air intercept fighters. The F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement for the F-15, but the program was canceled after just 186 Raptors were delivered.

The new F-15EXs boast updated cockpit systems, an enhanced sensor suite and data fusion capabilities, and the ability to carry up to 29,500 pounds of ordnance split into 12 air-to-air hard points or 15 air-to-ground hard points. Its new twin engines aren’t just more efficient, they’re also more powerful, making the fastest fighter in America’s inventory even faster.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(Boeing)

The F-15EX isn’t stealthy, but it does boast an electronic warfare suite that will help make it more survivable in contested airspace. Its streamlined pilot interface borrows from some 5th generation technology, integrating information into easier to manage displays that allow the pilot to focus more on the battle space than the gauge cluster. This not only improves pilot performance, it also reduces fatigue on long missions.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
The F-15EX’s central pylon can carry a notional 22-foot, 7,000 pound weapon. This artist’s concept shows an F-15EX after firing a hypersonic missile from that station. (Boeing)

In order to keep pace with new weapons as they emerge, the F-15EX leverages what Boeing calls an Open Mission System architecture designed specifically to be able to absorb new tech as it reaches the field. Importantly, however, the new F-15s retain around 80% of the old F-15 design, making them easy for maintainers to adapt to. Instead of having to train for an entirely new platform, they need only to train for the more modern additions to a jet they’re already intimately familiar with.

How does the F-15EX stack up against the top fighters from other countries?

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
(Boeing)

Despite its upgrades, the new F-15EX remains squarely within the 4th generation of fighters. There are currently four operational 5th generation fighters on the planet: America’s F-35 and F-22, Russia’s Su-57, and China’s J-20. If the F-15EX were to square off against these platforms, it would be at a huge disadvantage–and platforms like the F-35 or F-22 would likely be able to engage and destroy the F-15 before its pilot was even aware of their presence. Questions remain about the stealth and avionics found in the J-20 or Su-57, but even if their stealth isn’t quite as advanced, they’d still have a real leg up on the F-15EX.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

But to be honest, the chances of such an engagement are incredibly small. Russia’s troubled Su-57 program has seen setback after setback, and to date, there are only around 13 of the fighters in existence. Production is expected to pick up, but Russia lacks the funds to really field a large scale fleet of these stealthy fighters. China’s J-20 has also faced woes in its engine compartment, though China has managed to field more than 50 of these jets already. The new J-20B will incorporate thrust vector control (like America’s F-22) and is expected to be an even more capable aircraft… but again, it exists in extremely limited numbers.

Their rarity notwithstanding, if American jets were to square off against Chinese or Russian ones, America would leverage its fleet of hundreds of F-35s and F-22s. There would be no reason to send the F-15 into such a fight. However, F-15EXs could see a great deal of use in the uncontested airspace of trouble spots like Syria and Iraq, where stealth is as unnecessary as it is expensive.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)

But what about the 4th generation fighters that make up the backbone of Chinese and Russian air forces? The Su-35, operated by both Russia and China, as well as the J-10 operated by China are both considered to be highly capable platforms, and the MiG-29 operated by a number of nations is also considered rather formidable (among others). However, the F-15 has already squared up against a number of capable fighters and emerged on top. In fact, of the 104 air-to-air duels the F-15 has entered, it has lost exactly zero of them. Not too shabby.

With the addition of 21st century avionics and more capable engines, it seems likely that the F-15 will maintain its advantage of the competition.

Articles

Turkish special forces opened a ‘sniper cafe’ on the front line against ISIS

An old Turkish proverb notes that “coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” One possible interpretation for this is that you should enjoy your coffee under any circumstance.


Even fighting the Islamic State.

Turkish special forces troops are said to be taking this to the extreme, opening a sort of coffee house on a rooftop overlooking the Syrian city of Al-Bab. The Turks sent their special operators into the area in December, and now the city is said to be surrounded by Turkish forces.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
The livemap of the Syrian War near Al-Bab as of Feb. 15, 2017. The red represents the Free Syrian Army, ISIS is the black area, and Turkish-controlled territory is in dark green.

Reddit user “bopollo” posted a few photos of Turkish troops near a sniper overwatch position. While there’s no concrete evidence the photo was taken in Al-Bab, the writing is on the wall.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
Literally.

Bopollo is a frequent commenter and contributor on operations and developments of the Syrian Civil War. The photo above shows directions to both Al-Bab and Kabbasin, both towns in Syria still held by ISIS.

The road between the two cities is also held by the terror organization. It’s fairly common for troops to write graffiti on the walls of buildings they captured and held. It turns out Turkish special operators are no different.

Related: This collection of graffiti tells the real story of what modern war is like

While it’s entirely unlikely that special forces troops opened an actual functioning business, the building is more likely just an area secured by the Su Altı Taarruz, Turkey’s Navy SEALs (you can see the flag with the SAT logo on it above).

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

But because Turkish people are funny and there are at least 106 Starbucks locations in Istanbul, it’s likely some troops are living it up as best they can on the front lines against ISIS.

The U.S. Army won war after war fueled by coffee – turns out Turkey does too. They just don’t have a Green Beans…yet.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

“Ain’t war hell?”

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

See!

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

He was the guest of honor.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Neither game has a winner…

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

Now that’s a war face.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TOPGUN Instructor shares his leadership lessons from the cockpit in new memoir

One of the benefits of being in the military is that the services place a great value on training and education. Throughout a 20-year military career, service members will have the opportunity to attend schools ranging from learning how to jump out of planes all the way to how to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. If we could offer one critique, it is that we don’t have more opportunities to learn across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Recently, I was able to jump the divide and learn from a Navy pilot. I grabbed a new book by Guy “Bus” Snodgrass about his unique experience as an instructor at one of the most premier schools in the military: TOPGUN School. The book, titled TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit, is part memoir, part leadership book and an extremely quick read at less than 200 pages. Bus recounts how the lessons he learned as a pilot at TOPGUN helped him throughout his military career, and I also found them worthy of application in my line of work in the Army.


We had the opportunity to catch up to Bus and talk to him about his book and about the important role writing and reading played in his military career.

WATM: TOPGUN’s Top 10 is packed full of valuable and insightful lessons. When you were going through the course and later instructing, did you realize that you were learning these leadership skills or did the realization come after the fact?

Bus: I’ll give you the quintessential TOPGUN response: It depends.

Some lessons, like, “Nothing Worthwhile Is Ever Easy,” and, “Focus on Talent, Passion and Personality,” were apparent while I was serving as a TOPGUN Instructor. Others, like, “Don’t Confuse Activity with Progress” and, “Never Wait to Make a Difference,” started at TOPGUN but also benefit from experiences serving alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders.

To be honest, the seeds for each of these lessons were planted back in high school because of terrific mentors from my church, community, and Scouting.

WATM: In the book, you make the point that the world is full of noise (social media, news media, things in life that don’t matter). How did Top Gun teach you to focus and what role has focus played in your professional career?

Bus: We call this “compartmentalization” in the aviation community — the ability to push aside distractors and focus solely on the task at hand. As I share in the chapter titled, “Stay Calm Under Pressure,” the ability to prioritize and sort fact from fiction is a critical trait, one that saved my life on a number of occasions.

TOPGUN accomplishes this feat by focusing on an awareness regarding the harm caused by distractions. You never have enough time in any given day to accomplish all that is asked of you. You’re flying high-performance fighter jets to the very edge of your capabilities. Like stoicism, you have to learn to master yourself before you can master the events around you.

WATM: Out of all the lessons you learned at TOPGUN, which one was the most valuable to you? And now that you are out of the military, has that one changed?

Bus: “Never Wait to Make a Difference” remains my favorite lesson. We can all accomplish some absolutely incredible results, many on a level well above our pay grade or position in an organization, if we commit to making a positive difference each and every day.

I’d say this lesson is first among equals… and remains so to this day.

WATM: I know you’re an avid reader and have published articles throughout your military career, did those two practices give you a competitive advantage in your military career?

Bus: Yes, I believe so, especially if you desire to make an outsized impact to your organization. A significant number of leaders who rise to senior levels of responsibility have embraced authorship: Gen. H.R. McMaster, Secretary James Mattis, service chiefs, senior enlisted, and many more.

Writing forces you to prioritize and align your thoughts, which also helps you to better understand what you care about and stand for. Publishing, whether in a professional journal or to a wider audience, significantly increases your chances of influencing others. Publishing also teaches us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s no small task to put your thoughts into the public domain but like any muscle, the more you use it, the easier the exercise becomes.

WATM: Since we’re talking about reading, what book or books have been the most influential to you as a leader?

Bus: Each book can be paired with a situation or an experience in our life.

In high school, I really enjoyed Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Isaac Asimov — large chapter books that engaged my interest and imagination. As I started college, I really enjoyed reading biographies about senior political and military leaders, people faced with tough choices and limited resources. Then, as I gained seniority in uniform, I began to read more “ancient” history.

Reading is the least expensive form of learning. It opens doors into worlds we might never experience ourselves, teaches us lessons paid for by others, and generates increasingly complex ideas as our awareness grows. All these elements help accelerate us along our path to making an ever greater — and wider — impact!

Articles

These full-bird colonels are amped about vertical lift aircraft

The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious drive to develop leap-ahead capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that will provide greater range, speed, lethality, and survivability, but also have the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce cost and enhance sustainability.


This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The three colonels managing that complex effort say they believe they can do a better job of maximizing commonality and limiting cost than the tri-service F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, program that continues to struggle with technology challenges, cost growth, and fractured schedules.

Appearing at a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum on future vertical lift (FVL) on Dec. 9, the three officers stated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.

The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling air lift and air assault missions currently performed by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future vertical lift program manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Col. David Phillips, program executive for rotary wing requirements at SOCOM.

Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the utility mission,” which includes aerial medical evacuation and air assault, or “the ability to assault light forces and their equipment.”

SOCOM’s air lift missions tend to be long-range covert insertion and extraction of special operations units.

Marine Col. John Barranco, the rotary requirements branch head, expressed a need for both troop transport and attack capabilities as successors to the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, which already has speed and range far greater than those two.

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

But all three emphasized the primary focus of their FVL effort was more speed, range, power, and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They emphasized that those enhanced capabilities were needed to overcome the emerging anti-access, area-denial defensive capabilities being fielded by “near-peer competitors,” which usually refers to Russia and China.

Bentley said greater “reach, speed, and power” would enable the Army to “conduct strategic deployment” from outside the combat theater, and immediately go into tactical operations on arrival.

Greater speed and reach, combined with additional protective systems, enhances survivability and “coupled with light-weight sensor systems, increases the lethality of Army aviation,” he said.

Barranco, noted that the Marines are fielding the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter, while their vertical lift aircraft, with the exception of the Osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. But, due to “the threat picture, the anti-access, area-denial, from a variety of near peer competitors,” he said, “there is a need across the joint force to leverage technology to develop a new, more capable aircraft.”

Phillips said the improved capabilities, and the open architecture systems were essential to “stay ahead of the environment,” which was his term for the threat.

The CSIS moderator, Andrew Hunter, challenged the officers on how they could achieve the high commonality for their different missions in light of the record of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been “challenged” and has had “less commonality than expected.”

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road
The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the FVL effort is under the established Army program office. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

All three emphasized the time they have spent on confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of those requirements was “trade space” that would allow each service to take from one capability to enhance another.

Barranco agreed, saying “every requirement is in a range of capabilitie,” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Marine also stressed how they all needed the high commonality to enable them to get what they need within “the fiscally constrained environment,” which he predicted would not change.

In addition to reducing the procurement costs, commonality also would enhance sustainability by allowing common supply of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance, they said.

Although the individual platforms may be different, Barranco cited the example of the Marines’ new H-1s, which have 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems, despite the significant difference in airframe and missions. 

Commonality also would be easier with open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to modify some performances, they said.

As the program lead, Bentley said the goal was to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin full rate production in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft were due to retire.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information