A funeral was held Jan. 10 for a Texas soldier whose 92nd Infantry Division was the only African-American Army division to fight in Europe and who was buried for decades as “unknown.”
The service was held at Houston National Cemetery for Army Pfc. Lonnie Eichelberger, a 20-year-old from Waco who died in heavy fighting with German forces in Italy just months before Germany’s surrender in 1945.
For decades, he was among nearly 73,000 U.S. service members from WWII who are unaccountable.
“It has brought closure that he has been identified,” said his great-nephew, Cheyenne Eichelberger, who explained that family members knew only that his uncle was killed in action somewhere in Europe.
Army officials notified the family in 2016 that Defense Department scientists had identified the remains using dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.
Pfc. Eichelberger enlisted at a time the Army was segregated and he was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division, which, in 1944 and 1945, fought at the westernmost portion of the Allied line in northern Italy, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, an arm of the Defense Department.
“That’s the forgotten piece,” Cheyenne Eichelberger said Jan. 10. “Minorities have served in every war and conflict that America has been involved in.”
His uncle was declared missing after a battle near Strettoia, Italy. Remains recovered near there after the war in Europe ended could not be identified and eventually were buried in 1949 at the American cemetery in Florence, Italy, designated as remains X-193.
Decades later, information was obtained linking X-193 to two soldiers in the 92nd Infantry who still hadn’t been identified, so the remains were disinterred in 2016 and ultimately one set was identified as Eichelberger’s, according to DPAA.
Of the approximately 73,000 service members in WWII whose remains have not been recovered, more than 3,600 were from Texas.
The Air Force plans to fire off new prototype ICBMs in the early 2020s as part of a long-range plan to engineer and deploy next-generation, high-tech intercontinental ballistic missiles with improved range, durability, targeting technology and overall lethality, service officials said.
The service is already making initial technological progress on design work and “systems engineering” for a new arsenal of ICBMs to serve well into the 2070s – called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD.
Northrop Grumman and Boeing teams were recently awarded Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction deals from the Air Force as part of a longer-term developmental trajectory aimed at developing, testing, firing and ultimately deploying new ICBMs.
Overall, the Air Force plans to build as many as 400 new GBSD weapons to modernize the arsenal and replace the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman IIIs.
The new weapons will be engineered with improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems and command and control systems, compared to the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have upgraded circuitry and be built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability, developers said.
Initial subsystem prototypes are included within the scope of the current Boeing and Northrop deals, Col. Heath Collins, System Program Manager, GBSD, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“Over the next three years, the GBSD prime contractors will develop and test those prototypes to demonstrate technical and integration design maturity. In the end, these prototypes will burn down risk early to ensure successful execution of the next acquisition phase,” Collins said.
Following this initial 3-year developmental phase, the Air Force plan an Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and eventual deployment.
Much attention has been focused on nuclear deterrence and the need for the US to modernize its arsenal, particularly in light of recent North Korean threats. Senior nuclear weapons developers have told Scout Warrior that upgraded guidance packages, durability and new targeting technology are all among areas of current developmental emphasis.
While, quite naturally, many of the details of the emerging new ICBMs are not available for discussion for security reasons, Collins did elaborate a bit on the systems engineering strategy being employed by Air Force developers.
Collins, an engineer himself, explained that the current acquisition strategy prioritizes model-based systems engineering designed to expedite technological development.
“Our approach to systems engineering leverages the power of 21st century technology to allow the program office to better “Own the Technical Baseline” through a spectrum of tools, models and simulations in a collaborative and interactive data environment,” Collins said.
The strategy, Collins explained, is intended the Air Force to better manage program and technical complexity through digital traceability and aggregation.
“This provides a single source of truth across the weapon system design, and allows a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the architecture and design,” he said.
The new ICBMs will be deployed roughly within the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total, dispersed areas across three different sites span 33,600 miles, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota and Great Falls, Montana.
The Air Force plans to award the single EMD contract in late fiscal year 2020.
Excerpts from the previous report HERE:
If one were to passively reflect upon the seemingly limitless explosive power to instantly destroy, vaporize or incinerate cities, countries and massive swaths of territory or people — images of quiet, flowing green meadows, peaceful celebratory gatherings or melodious sounds of chirping birds might not immediately come to mind.
After all, lethal destructive weaponry does not, by any means, appear to be synonymous with peace, tranquility and collective happiness. However, it is precisely the prospect of massive violence which engenders the possibility of peace. Nuclear weapons therefore, in some unambiguous sense, can be interpreted as being the antithesis of themselves; simply put – potential for mass violence creates peace – thus the conceptual thrust of nuclear deterrence.
It is within this conceptual framework, designed to save millions of lives, prevent major great-power war and ensure the safety of entire populations, that the U.S. Air Force is now vigorously pursuing a new arsenal of land-fired, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs.
A Pentagon statement said the General asked reporters to imagine what the world was like in the six years preceding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “In those six years, the world in conflict killed somewhere between 60 million and 80 million people,” he said. “That’s about 33,000 people a day, a million people a month.”
The world has seen bloody conflicts — Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom were awful, but nowhere near the level of carnage the world had experienced, he said.
“The submarines are the most survivable element of it; the ICBMs are the most ready; the bombers are the most flexible,” he said. “When you put those pieces together, it gives our nation the ability to withstand any attack and respond if we are attacked, which means we won’t be attacked.”
Young Ethan Larimer has always dreamed of joining the Army and following in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Larimer, who was a “Blackhorse Trooper,” as soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment are known.
However, Ethan has a unique neurological disorder — Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J, or CMT4J — that will prevent him from joining the military. Because of his medical condition, Ethan has difficulty with motor functions and uses a wheelchair.
“Ethan has dealt with his disease very well,” said Daniel Larimer. “He has been hospitalized for weeks on end at times as well as continuous physical therapy. One thing Ethan has taught me is that even if you have some barriers or limitations, that doesn’t need to be your life.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Though Ethan will never be able to serve in the Army due to his disability, he still dreams of riding into battle on the back of tanks. When Ethan’s mother, Victoria Perkins, contacted the 11th Armored Cavalry about fulfilling Ethan’s dream, the famed Blackhorse Regiment was happy to oblige.
Ethan recently spent a day with soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry, who helped Ethan check off all the items on his bucket list. Upon arrival to Regimental Headquarters, Ethan was inducted into the Blackhorse Honorary Rolls, an honor set aside for those who have served the regiment above reproach. The regimental commander then presented Ethan with the Regimental Command Team coins.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was able to see demonstrations of several guns, including the M240B Machine Gun, Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and M4A1 Carbine. He also got to drive his wheelchair into a tank and see a helicopter.
“Through his diagnosis and living with CMT4J, Ethan has shown great resiliency,” said Col. Joseph Clark, Regiment Commander, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. “My interaction with Ethan was inspiring, because he maintains positivity, and refuses to allow his disability to stop him. Throughout the day, he was curious and asked many questions about what we do. His personality, his drive, and his grit is exactly what I look for in my troopers, and I am honored to have made him a Blackhorse Trooper.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was given a personal “Box Tour,” an event where people are shown the ins and outs of training and battles at the National Training Center in Irvine, California. Then he led a platoon during building clearance drills through the streets of “Razish,” a simulated town at NTC.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Later the 11th Armored Cavalry’s Horse Detachment gave Ethan a tour of the stables and brought some of the horses out to greet the young Blackhorse Trooper. The Horse Detachment conducted a special demonstration for Ethan and his family to mark the end of Ethan’s day.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
“Even though I am no longer a service member, the post and the unit I was a part of really pulled out all the stops to accommodate my son,” said Daniel. “We are all really grateful to come back and see what the Blackhorse has become and to hear ‘Allons’ again.”
There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran, which some believe hamper Tehran’s ability to contain the deadly outbreak of coronavirus that has officially killed nearly 2,000 people.
The United States has offered to help Iran but has shown no desire to ease crippling sanctions reimposed on Tehran shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump exited the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump said on March 22 he had offered to help the Islamic republic in its fight against the coronavirus, saying that “Iran is really going through a difficult period with respect to this, as you know.”
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rohani, have long called for the lifting of the sanctions, while dismissing Washington’s humanitarian offer as dishonest. “They offer a glass of muddy water but they don’t say that they’ve blocked this nation from [accessing] the main [water] springs,” Rohani said on March 23.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went as far as suggesting that the United States might be behind the pandemic and therefore the offer cannot be trusted. “You are accused of creating this virus; I don’t know if this is true, but amid such an allegation, how can a wise person trust you and accept your offer of help?” he said in a speech on March 22. “You could be giving medicine to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain here permanently.”
In a statement issued on March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Khamenei’s “fabrications” put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk. He also reiterated that U.S. sanctions did not target imports of food, medicine, or other humanitarian goods.
Iran has said it asked the International Monetary Fund for billion in emergency funding to battle the coronavirus outbreak that, according to Iran’s Health Ministry, is killing one person nearly every 10 minutes.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed on March 22 for Trump to lift the sanctions — which prevent banking transactions well as the export of oil — on humanitarian grounds until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. “The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran’s efforts to fight COVID19,” Khan said on Twitter. “Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic.”
‘Maximum Pressure’ To Continue
While continuing to pressure Tehran amid the pandemic, U.S. officials have blamed much of the crisis on mismanagement by Iranian leaders, who are accused of a slow initial response.
Criticism also came for the failure of Iranian officials to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak in Iran and from where the virus is believed to have first spread to the rest of the country.
“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iranian affairs, told reporters last week. “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran.”
China and Russia, allies of Tehran and signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, have also made a similar appeal for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. “We called and are calling on the United States to abandon the inhumane practice of applying unilateral sanctions against Iran, which has an acute shortage of means to solve urgent health issues in the current situation of the spread of the coronavirus,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a similar demand on Twitter. “Continued sanction on Iran was against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations,” it tweeted on March 16.
The Guardian reported on March 18 that Britain was also privately pressing the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to allow it to help fight against the coronavirus, which, according to figures released by Iran’s Health Ministry on March 24, has infected 24,811 Iranians. The official death toll — which has been criticized by many as being underreported — stands at 1,934.
On March 20, some 25 organizations in the United States, including the International Crisis Group, Oxfam America, and the National Iranian American Council, called on U.S. leaders to lift the sanctions for 120 days to offer Iranians relief at this critical time.
“Sanctions have harmed the public health sector in Iran by slowing or entirely blocking the sale of medicine, respirators, and hygienic supplies needed to mitigate the epidemic, and broad sectoral sanctions continue to negatively impact ordinary Iranians by shuttering civilian-owned businesses and decimating the value of the rial, making it harder to procure food, medicine, and other basic needs,” the organizations said in a joint online statement.
There have also been calls on social media by U.S. lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” he tweeted on March 18. “As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”
Human Rights Watch said in an October 2019 report that U.S. sanctions have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment.
In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.
Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome
Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.
Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.
The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.
Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.
In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications
(U.S. Army photo)
To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.
“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”
Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer
Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.
The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.
The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.
According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.
Applications and Future Testing
Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.
Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has conducted simulated intercontinental ballistic missile strike missions from underground bunkers, Chinese media reported.
The exercises, which are aimed at imaginary foreign enemies, are designed to improve China’s counterattack capability in the event a war breaks out, the nationalist Global Times reported, citing state broadcaster CCTV. Many of China’s ICBMs are strategically positioned in hardened, protective bunkers to preserve China’s second-strike capabilities. China has a no first strike policy.
The country’s intercontinental-range ballistic missiles include a variety of silo-based, road-mobile, and submarine-launched missiles. China is believed to have tested a new longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in November 2018, and the country is expected to unveil the mysterious road-mobile DF-41 ICBM in 2019.
These moves are all possible signs that China is bolstering its nuclear deterrent. These developments come as both Russia and the US are also looking into modernizing their respective nuclear arsenals.
A Topol-M (in its container) on MZKT-79221 mobile launcher during rehearsals for the 2012 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
In addition to ICBM strike exercises, troops stationed in the defensive bunkers guarding parts of China’s nuclear arsenal also conduct regular long-term survival training.
The man behind China’s strategic bunkers is a man named Qian Qihu, who was recently honored for his achievements with regard to the development of storage facilities for China’s nuclear warheads — bunkers built to serve as a critical last line of defense should China’s missile shields and air defense systems fail.
The bunkers are said to be able to withstand a direct, head-on collision by a standard passenger jet.
In an interview with state media following a recent award ceremony, he stressed the need for tougher defenses to counter evolving threats.
“As the Chinese idiom goes, the thickening of a shield must closely follow the sharpening of a spear. Our defense engineering must keep evolving when attack weapons continue to pose new challenges,” Qian explained, according to the Asia Times.
He described the existing bunkers as an “underground Great Wall,” the South China Morning Post reported. “My goal has been to design a nuclear weapons-proof wall for my country,” the 82-year-old defense engineer added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced a sweeping buildup of America’s Navy to oppose the rising threat from China, calling for more ships as well as the adoption of new technologies and doctrines.
Speaking at the Rand Corp. on Wednesday, Esper called for the US Navy to increase its fleet size from today’s 293 ships to more than 355 by the year 2045 as part of a comprehensive modernization plan called “Future Forward.” This revamped naval force will comprise a bigger fleet of smaller ships, including surface ships and submarines that are unmanned, manned, and autonomous. The buildup will also comprise additional unmanned, carrier-based aircraft.
In addition to that quantitative increase, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, Esper is also calling for the Navy and Marine Corps to adopt new warfighting technologies and doctrines to counter novel threats from China.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California, Sept. 16, 2020. DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando, courtesy of DVIDS.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon published a report underscoring that China now wields the world’s largest navy with some 350 ships and submarines at its disposal. Beijing aims to complete its crash-course military modernization program by 2035, with plans to field a “world-class” military by 2049, Esper said. To that end, China is building new aircraft carriers, unmanned submarines, and missile systems and is expanding its nuclear arsenal.
“I want to make clear that China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power. Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the [People’s Republic of China] years to close the gap when it comes to our capability on the high seas,” Esper said, adding: “Ship numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.”
However, the secretary said the US needs to invest in new technologies — artificial intelligence, or AI, in particular — to maintain its qualitative edge over China’s growing military might.
“Today, we are at another inflection point, one where I believe unmanned technologies, AI, and long-range precision weapons will play an increasingly leading role. The US military, including the Navy, must lean into that future as the character of warfare changes,” Esper said.
Royal Australian navy, Republic of Korea navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and United States Navy warships sail in formation during the Pacific Vanguard 2020 exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 11, 2020. Official Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force photo by Lt. Mark Langford, courtesy of DVIDS.
Esper said that the US faces threats from both Russia and China. But the secretary also underscored that, in the long run, China was the bigger strategic threat to America’s global dominance, as well as an existential threat to the US homeland.
“Clearly when you look at Russia compared to China, China’s vast population, its resources, it’s this strength, the dynamism of its economy, we see that as a … much greater long-term challenge,” Esper said.
The Pentagon has created a Defense Policy office on China, and established a China Strategy Management Group. Esper said he had instructed the National Defense University to dedicate half of its coursework to China. And all military services have made China the overarching threat guiding the direction of their training and other educational programs.
“These are just a few of our efforts to focus attention on our priority theater, the Indo-Pacific,” Esper said. “Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of great power competition with China.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 launches from the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on the Philippine Sea, Sept. 12, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Samantha Jetzer, courtesy of DVIDS.
The Pentagon needs to reform its acquisitions program, tighten its budget, and build up its industrial base to sustain the long-term effort necessary to counter China’s rise. Such an endeavor will be difficult to justify, however, in the absence of a conflict, many experts say.
Nevertheless, earlier this year, the Navy awarded a 5 million contract to purchase the first ship of a new class of guided missile frigates — with an option to purchase nine more totaling nearly .6 billion.
“This is the first new major shipbuilding program the Navy has sought in more than a decade,” Esper said, adding that trials are ongoing on a 132-foot-long trimaran drone called the Sea Hunter, which can autonomously patrol for enemy submarines for more than two months at a time.
Esper’s quarter-century naval buildup, while ambitious, pales in comparison with what the US was able to accomplish during World War II.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the US into the war, the US Navy mustered 790 total ships. During the period from 1941 to 1945, US shipyards produced thousands of new vessels. Total US Navy ships numbered 6,768 by August of 1945, according to Pentagon records. That number dropped to 1,248 by June 1946.
To defeat the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan ordered a peacetime naval buildup from 530 to 597 ships in the period from 1980 to 1987.
“We must stay ahead; we must retain our overmatch; and we will keep building modern ships to ensure we remain the world’s greatest navy,” Esper said.
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina this week over Russia’s detention of Ukrainian sailors.
His comments in an interview with The Washington Post published late on November 27 came as the Ukrainian president warned of a “threat of full-scale war” with Russia while European leaders said they were considering a new round of sanctions against Russia because of its capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews following a confrontation at sea off Crimea on November 25.
Will President Trump hold Russia accountable over Ukraine?
Trump told the Post he was awaiting a “full report” from his national security team about the incident before going through with a Putin meeting that had been expected to address a range of issues from arms control to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
“That will be very determinative,” Trump told the Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting … I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all,” he said.
Trump was due to meet Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1.
His comments came after a Russian court on November 27 ordered 12 of the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian forces to be held in custody for two months.
Russia has claimed that Ukraine provoked the naval clash in what it has called its “territorial waters” near Crimea, which Moscow forcibly annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 in a move not recognized by most nations.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned late on November 27 that the conflict threatens to turn into a “full-scale war,” citing Russia’s “dramatic” build-up of forces in the area.
“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” the president said in an interview with Ukrainian national television.
“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” he said, while the number of Russian tanks has tripled.
Poroshenko a day earlier won the Ukrainian parliament’s approval to put parts of Ukraine they deemed vulnerable to attack from Russia under martial law for 30 days.
The clash between Russian and Ukrainian forces in waters near Crimea was the first in that arena after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.
Ukraine President Wants Trump’s Help In Getting Russia Out Of His Country | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea. That strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian sailors.
Karin Kneissl, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the bloc will next month consider further sanctions against Moscow.
“Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed,” Kneissl told reporters.
Norbert Roettgen, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the EU may need to toughen its sanctions against Russia, while Poland and Estonia called for more sanctions.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said Russia’s actions constituted “war in Europe,” adding that this “will not, shall not, and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual.” She urged the international community “to condemn the Russian aggression clearly, collectively and immediately and demand a stop to the aggression.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said EU countries should do more to support Ukraine, suggesting they reconsider their support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which she said “helps the Russian government.”
“The United States government has taken a very strong position in…support of Ukraine. We would like other countries to do more as well,” Nauert said.
“Many governments have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea, in Ukraine. Not all of those sanctions…have been fully enforced,” she said.
The Kremlin said Putin repeated Russia’s position that Ukraine provoked the incident In a conversation with Merkel on November 27, and expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law in regions that border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester area, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.
Putin said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” the Kremlin said.
Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it’s hot on the work site, it’s important to stay cool. If it’s hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.
Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army’s aircraft on the ground.
There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.
By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.
They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.
The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol’ martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.
Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.
There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A’s fuselage.
Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.
After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.
It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.
In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.
Here’s how it works:
The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.
One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.
Most of the transformation is self automated.
A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.
The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.
San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.
For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.
Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.
2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.
The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.
The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.
The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.
More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.
“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.
The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.
Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.
But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.
“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”
Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.
“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”
Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.
“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.
But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.
Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.
The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.
The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.
They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.
The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.
A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.
The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.
“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.
Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.
The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.
The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.
Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.
Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.
The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.
“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.
But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.
The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.
In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”
Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.
Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.
If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.