Los Angeles residents got a surprise this week when helicopters, ostensibly filled with Special Forces operators, began flying around the Los Angeles and Long Beach skylines, disgorging their fully armed passengers into parking lots while simulated gunfire and explosions rang out.
If you’re surprised to hear that the military instituted martial law in Los Angeles last night, well, obviously, it was an exercise.
As surprised residents began contacting journalists and taking to social media, the Army answered questions from journalists and told them that Los Angeles had been selected as a training location because its urban terrain is similar to that which soldiers might be deployed to in future conflicts.
Military exercises rattling nerves around LA | ABC7
“The local terrain and training facilities in Los Angeles provide the Army with unique locations and simulates urban environments the service members may encounter when deployed overseas,” the Army told CBS. “There is no replacement for realistic training. Each location selected enables special operations teams and flight crews to maintain maximum readiness and proficiency, validate equipment and exercise standard safety procedures.“
The Army said that it had alerted local residents to the training, but it’s hard to get the word out to everyone in such a densely populated area. Apparently, some people missed the memo or were simply driving through the exercise area and didn’t know about the drills until they saw what appeared to be a raid happening in front of their eyes.
Some property owners had given permission for the military to use their land and buildings, so the operators had a lot of options in their work. The training is scheduled to go through Saturday, February 9.
This isn’t the first time that local residents have gotten surprised by military training. For instance, in 2015, Texas residents had gotten plenty of warning that Jade Helm 15, a massive exercise including vehicles, special operators, and aircraft, would be taking place.
Texans protested the training and pressured the governor to assign member of the Texas State Guard, separate from the National Guard, to monitor the training and ensure the federal troops didn’t take any illegal actions during the exercise. It grew into a massive conspiracy theory before the event took off, but the actual exercise took place with little drama.
Update: An earlier version of this story said that Jade Helm included tanks, something that caused the author to slap himself in the face the next morning when he realized that he had said that. Jade Helm did not include tanks. It did include some vehicles, but mostly just HMMWVs.
A sailor from the amphibious assault ship Boxer is believed to have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease just nine days after military family members visited the ship at sea.
This marks the first coronavirus, or COVID-19, case for a sailor who was aboard a Navy ship. The person is now quarantined at home, Navy officials said in a Sunday night news release. The sailor’s test result for the sometimes-fatal virus is considered presumptive positive, pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This will likely be a new challenge for the sea service, since infections and viruses can spread quickly among crew members who live in close quarters. That has been the case for several civilian cruise liners, which has resulted in widespread cancellations for the industry.
Sailors and their family members watch an AH-1W Super Cobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, take off on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC).
The San Diego-based Boxer on March 9 held a family day cruise, allowing military families to visit the crew on the ship in the Pacific Ocean, according to official Navy photos. Civilians can be seen riding a Landing Craft Utility vessel into the Boxer’s well deck and standing on the ship’s flight deck observing Marine Corps helicopter takeoffs at sea.
Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions from Military.com about whether one of those family members is believed to have unwittingly exposed the crew member to the coronavirus. It’s not immediately clear how many family members were on the ship as part of the event or how many sailors and Marines were onboard.
Personnel who came in close contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation in their homes, according to the Navy news release. None of those people are currently onboard the ship.
Military health officials are working to determine whether any additional personnel were at risk of exposure, the release adds.
“Depending on the results of that investigation, additional mitigations may be taken,” it states.
Navy ships are routinely cleaned to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
“USS Boxer is taking appropriate preventative measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the CDC and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center,” the release says.
The service closely coordinating with state, federal and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of Navy personnel and the local population, officials said.
We’ve talked about how many Americans fighters have gone on to serve as kick-ass bombers. But did you know that the Russians managed to do the same thing with one of their fighters? All they had to do was sacrifice any hopes of a multirole capability to do it.
That plane was the MiG-23 “Flogger”, a fighter that was later modified to become the MiG-27, a ground-attack aircraft. In a very real sense, the Soviets, in designing the Flogger, created an airframe that was able to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In a sense, it’s a lot like the F-86H Sabre, a lethal bomber created from an air-superiority fighter base.
The MiG-23 was primarily designed to carry air-to-air missiles like the AA-7 Apex and the AA-8 Aphid.
The MiG-23 first entered service as a fighter in 1971. It was a notable improvement over the MiG-21 in that it carried medium-range, radar-guided AA-7 Apex missiles that could be guided toward targets using the on-board High Lark radar. The Flogger could also use the AA-2 Atoll and AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles, which primarily used infrared guidance. The plane also packed a twin-barrel 23mm gun for dogfighting.
But the Soviets also wanted a ground-attack plane. Although the MiG-23 could haul just over 6,500 pounds of armaments, the Soviets wanted more.
The MiG-27, seen here, replaced the High Lark radar with sensors optimized for the air-to-ground mission, including a laser-range finder.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)
The MiG-27 entered service in 1975. Early versions maintained the twin 23mm guns of the MiG-23, but this Flogger was intended to hit targets on the ground and eventually was given a proper gun for it — a six-barrel 30mm Gatling gun. It could carry almost 9,000 pounds of bombs. The plane also featured a laser rangefinder.
In order to make room for all of those ground-attack tools, the Soviets removed the High Lark radar. This didn’t leave it completely defenseless in the air — the MiG-27 could still carry heat-seeking missiles.
Something all too familiar to Flogger pilots: An American or Israeli jet on their six.
The MiG-23 was produced in huge numbers and saw action in the hands of countries like Libya, Syria, and Iraq. American and Israeli pilots had no problem blowing the Flogger out of the sky, though. Despite a lot of negative combat experiences, over 5,000 Floggers of all types were produced. The Soviet Union and India also produced almost 1,100 MiG-27s. Some Indian MiG-27s, though, went on to become true multirole fighters.
Whether it’s salt tossed over the shoulder after the shaker is spilled or not walking under a ladder, most superstitions are pretty harmless. But sometimes superstitions cause Communist rebels to abandon their camp or a revered Navy admiral to refuse to sail.
Here are 6 stories of wartime decisions that hinged on superstition:
1. Rudolph Hess’s failed diplomatic mission to England happened after a series of dreams.
Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s favorite sycophant right up until he flew himself to Britain on May 10, 1941 to negotiate a peace as Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Historians argue back and forth about whether Hess did his mission under Hitler’s orders or on his own.
But two people were definitely consulted; an astrologer and a dreamer. The astrologer advised that May 10 was a good date to depart while a friend of Hess’s told Hess that he’d dreamed of Hess’s success on three different nights.
It turned out the dreams were wrong. The British captured Hess soon after he landed and kept him in prison for the rest of his life.
2. The feared Red Baron wouldn’t fly without his lucky scarf and jacket.
Just the appearance of the Red Baron, Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, could change the tide of an air battle.
Credited with 80 victories in the air, he was a formidable aviator who wouldn’t enter the fray if he couldn’t find his lucky scarf and jacket. In spite of this, both the jacket and scarf were shot through, and the Baron was wounded by a bullet to the skull while wearing them.
3. American PSYOPS officers created vampires to vanquish communist rebels.
Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale was a U.S. Army psychological operations officer sent to help the Philippine government defeat communist rebels. Lansdale capitalized on a history of superstitions in the Philippines, specifically one that centered around the “asuang,” a shapeshifting vampire.
Rebels soon fled the area and the government forces took it for themselves.
4. Grant’s superstitions led to victory.
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s success in the Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee led to the Siege of Petersburg from 1864 to 1865 and the Lee’s eventual surrender in Apr. 1865. Grant’s victory came despite the fact that he lost every battle in the campaign.
How? By refusing to retreat or withdraw, decisions that some have chalked up to Grant believing that a person shouldn’t retrace their own steps. Where previous forays into the area by other generals had ended with retreats, Grant was forced by his superstitions to lead his army any direction but back. This kept him and his men in the fight until they were finally able to outmaneuver Lee.
5. British magician Maskelyne may have created a massive scarecrow to scare Italian peasants.
The British magician Jasper Maskelyne offered his professional services to his nation when World War II broke out. As Maskelyne was known to exaggerate his actions in the war, tales surrounding him have to always be taken with a grain of salt.
But, his claims from the Allied invasion of Italy suggest that Maskelyne helped the Allies take over rural Italy by building a 12-foot tall scarecrow of fire and metal that convinced some superstitious Italians that the devil was fighting side-by-side with the British. The Italians locked themselves in their homes, leaving the British to continue north unmolested.
6. Adm. Halsey demanded his task force number and sailing date be changed because the number 13 is unlucky.
Adm. William Halsey Jr. was an ensign on the USS Missouri on April 13, 1904 when an accidental fire burned and suffocated 31 men to death. After that, he was very superstitious about the number 13.
So, when he was assigned commander of the new Task Force 13 that was set to sail on Friday, February 13, Halsey sent one of his officers to protest. The command relented and changed the task force designation to 16 while promising that an oiler would be late, delaying TF 16’s departure until Feb. 14.
November is Military Family Appreciation Month. Of course, our nation owes military families a debt of gratitude: Their sacrifices and stressors should not go unnoticed. We do try to honor them, with thanks and praise, but during this month set aside to appreciate military families, we should consider practical ways we can do more to address the challenges they face. Fortunately, such efforts are underway.
In August, the White House hosted a listening session of military spouses, and the common themes were disruptions in career development and employment.
Ninety-two percent of military spouses are female, but the unemployment rate for military spouses (16 percent) is four times higher than the rate for all adult women in the U.S. (4 percent). About half of military spouses who are now working part-time report that they are underemployed; they would prefer full-time work.
Both the private sector and the public sector are making efforts to address the needs of military families.
First, because military life often requires moving from state to state, varying occupational licensing and a continuing education programs can keep military spouses from working, or slow them down and impose additional costs after a move. Unbelievably, today in the U.S., nearly one in three workers need a license to work. Scaling back these requirements, or offering state-to-state reciprocity, is one way governments can help. A trio of bills (the Restoring Board Immunity Act, the New HOPE Act, and the ALLOW Act) are currently under Congressional consideration. Each would encourage states to dial back oppressive licensing laws.
Second, private companies can work to foster more workplace flexibility. In industries where this is possible, employers should allow flexible hours, telecommuting and work-from-home options. These flexible workplace practices are helpful to any spouse (or single parent) who has to juggle the lion’s share of childcare duties. This particularly applies to military spouses.
The government can help to foster more workplace flexibility as well, simply by staying out of employment contracts and reducing regulations promulgated under the Fair Labor Standards Act that actually restrict employer’s ability to offer flexible arrangements. In May, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow workers to elect to take comp time instead of overtime pay. This would be one good step toward greater flexibility. The bill is now with the Senate.
Finally, thirdly, many military spouses have found that the best way to become and stay employed is simply to work for oneself. Many run Etsy shops or otherwise operate their own small businesses. Pursuing a pro-growth economic policy, including tax reforms that make it easier to comply with the tax code and reducing the tax burden that small businesses face, would greatly help these military families. Congress is hard at work trying to pass such tax reforms now.
More good news: New technologies—and the growth of tech-related industries—are making more flexible, work-from-home positions available, and some companies, like Amazon, are committed to hiring military spouses in these jobs. These efforts are welcome and help combat the bias that some other employers may exhibit toward military spouses, whom they may see as a “flight risk” due to the frequent moving associated with military life.
Our economy is changing rapidly. Thanks to cultural and technological changes, the workplace can be more flexible than ever. By reducing barriers like occupational licenses and outdated labor and tax laws, we can do more to provide better economic opportunities for military families. Our debt to them can never be repaid – but fostering better employment options would be a good start.
In late 2001 an economist called Edward Castronova made tsunami sized waves in the world of economics when he published a paper claiming that an isolated place called Norrath had a currency stronger than that of the Japanese Yen — an especially bold claim considering Norrath had less than a million inhabitants, had only existed for about two years and didn’t exist physically. Yes, Norrath was entirely virtual and populated exclusively by players of the video game EverQuest.
Released in 1999, EverQuest is an immensely popular and influential massively multiplayer online role playing gaming (MMORPG). Set in the magical fantasy world of Narroth and boasting an impressive (for the time) near half million subscribers at the apex of its success, EverQuest came to the attention of Castronova at first much in the same way it came to the attention of anyone — he just thought it sounded like a fun game to play.
The original box art for ‘EverQuest’
However, as he became more familiar with the game, he noticed some rather fascinating things about how the virtual economy had developed within the game. This all culminated in him publishing on the Social Science Research Network a humorous but excellently researched, and ultimately groundbreaking, paper titled, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. By his own admission, Castronova stated, “I thought maybe seventy-five people would read it and that’d be great.”
Instead, it quickly received over 16,000 downloads (and today is sitting at closer to 50,000). While this might not seem like much, let’s remember context here — this was an academic paper published on an online academic journal. Needless to say, that number of downloads made it the most downloaded paper in the history of the Social Science Research Network, which at the time featured almost 50,000 academic papers, including many dozens written by Nobel laureates.
Why was this paper so fascinating to the world of economics? As economist Yanis Varoufakis noted, “Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s. But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”
What Castronova had stumbled upon was essentially an economist’s dream — virtual worlds the researchers could use to analyze in a scientific manner various concepts in their field using large data sets and real people populating those worlds. Or as Washington Post journalist Brad Plumer succinctly stated, in virtual worlds, “The data is richer. And it’s easier to run economy — wide experiments in a video game — experiments that, for obvious reasons, can’t be run on countries.”
In short, economists in academia were intrigued with Castronova’s paper and its implications for future research.
So what did Castronova find? After painstakingly pouring over the available data surrounding the world of Norrath, he was shocked to discover that in real world dollars Norrath had the 77th highest GNP per capita, placing it squarely between Russia and Bulgaria at the time.
The world of Norrath
How was this possible for a virtual world with only virtual currency?
At the height of EverQuest’s popularity, sale of in-game items ran rampant and at one point in time a player could pretty much buy anything they wanted in-game, regardless of how rare or powerful it was, so long as they could flash the cash to make it happen.
Although Sony, who published the game, would make several attempts to quash this practice, claiming amongst other things that all of the items for sale were their intellectual property, as well as outright banning players they caught doing this, the sale of in-game items and avatars became a thriving industry on sites like Ebay.
In fact, former child actor Brock Pierce (perhaps best known as a kid for his roles in Mighty Ducks and First Kid, and as an adult for his work in crypto currency) even started a surprisingly successful company, Internet Gaming Entertainment Ltd (IGE), which dealt in these virtual goods in exchange for real money. The company maintained a rather large staff of low-waged workers who worked in Norrath and the real world, doing things like meeting to exchange goods, as well as building up avatars and acquiring virtual goods for future sale.
In any event, Castronova analysed over 600 illicit sales outside the realm of Norrath on sites like Ebay and then simply compared this to the value of the item in-game in the principle currency of Norrath- Platinum Pieces.
When he did this, Castronova discovered that the relative value of a single Platinum Piece compared to the US Dollar was .01072. While this may not seem all that much, as Castronova pointed out, at the time, “its value exceeds that of the Japanese Yen and the Italian Lira.”
With this value in hand, Castronova was then able to roughly calculate a number of other interesting things about the economy of Norrath. For example, it turned out the average citizen of Norrath earned around .42 per hour (or about an hour today) when taking into account the value of the items and in-game currency they could realistically acquire during normal play per hour on average.
Combining this with the estimated time extreme players sunk into the game (according to data gleaned by Castronova in surveying over three thousands players), Castronova calculated:
Many users spend upwards of 80 hours per week in Norrath, hours of time input that are not unheard of in Earth professions. In 80 hours, at the average wage, the typical user generates Norrathian cash and goods worth 3.60. In a month, that would be over id=”listicle-2633077434″,000, in a year over ,000. The poverty line for a single person in the United States is ,794.
Looking at players of every time commitment level, Castronova determined that, despite the game being extremely new, the average player of EverQuest already had over ,000 worth of sellable goods locked up in the game.
But we’re not done yet because Castronova was then able to roughly calculate the gross national product of Norrath based on the value of the (entirely virtual) goods it produced in 2001. His final number? About 5 million.
While, again, this may not sound like much, divided amongst the estimated total number of Norrath denizens, that meant the GNP per capita of the virtual kingdom was ,266 — a figure that, as previously mentioned, theoretically ranked the computerised state the 77th highest on Earth at the time.
Naturally, this information peaked the interest of Castronova’s fellow economists, as did other observations he made about the virtual world and economy he was studying.
For example, according to Castronova one of the more curious things he noticed during his research was that, despite every effort being made by Sony to give everyone an equal footing when the game began, financial inequality was quickly rife amongst the denizens of Norrath.
Additionally Castronova also observed how, much like in the real world, the wealthiest players would often hoard their wealth and use their vast resources to pay poorer characters to do all of the pointless busy work they didn’t want to waste time with, in effect becoming pseudo-employers who kept the lion’s share of any profits made via the work of the plebeians to themselves.
Anecdotally, Castronova would say of his own time in-game as a low level player with no resources: “My problem is that I am under-equipped. I have been basically naked, carrying only a simple club, a caveman in a world of cavaliers. My poverty is oppressive – no amount of rat fur is sufficient to buy even a simple tunic at the ludicrously high prices of the merchant biots.”
Screenshot from EverQuest featuring a combat involving a sand giant.
Naturally, as the game evolved, the whole “initial equality” thing also died off for some, thanks to those markets where players who had disposable income in the physical world could simply buy whatever they wanted for real money and enter the game vastly more powerful and capable than a player without this option.
Since Castronova’s paper, and partially as a direct result of his work studying virtual economies, the one time self professed “academic failure” and “schmo at a state school” managed to leverage this to level up in real life — securing a tenured position at Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of Telecommunication and Cognitive Science, as well as coming to be known as the “founder of the field of virtual economics”.
And as many other virtual worlds with complex virtual economies have likewise sprung up, economists and other scientists continue to study them, as they make great petri dishes to observe how various variables result in changes in economy and human behavior.
Going the other way, gaming companies like Valve have taken to hiring economists to help them manage their virtual worlds. As economist Robert Bloomfield notes, “If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system so that it doesn’t spin out of control.”
As for Castronova, he concluded his ground breaking paper by waxing poetic about the potential virtual worlds could have with the application of new technology, stating
The impact on Earth society is hard to overestimate. With the development of voice technology, communication in Virtual Worlds will move from cumbersome chat to telephone-like conversation, thus greatly enhancing the Virtual World as a place of social interaction. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky.
To trade items they’d bought illegally via Ebay and the like, Castronova observed that players would generally sell the item online first and then agree to meet in a designated place in-game, at which point the seller would then trade the item to the buyer for an item of trivial value they had in their possession. Castronova was amused to learn that, much like in real life, many of these illicit trades took place in abandoned buildings and dark alleys.
With President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address on Jan. 30, the White House’s security apparatus is making preparations for a grim worse-case scenario.
If there was a targeted attack on the Capitol, someone would have to take over the government.
Excluding the years immediately after a new president is elected, one member of the president’s Cabinet has been selected every year since the 1960s to be the “designated survivor.”
They sit out the State of the Union far away from the House chamber, so that in case there is a catastrophe, a Senate-confirmed official could take the reigns of the presidency. Since 2005, a designated survivor from Congress has also been selected in order to rebuild the legislative branch.
This year’s designated survivor has not been announced yet. Although highly unlikely, this doomsday scenario has captured the imaginations of screen writers and TV producers, spawning a an entire show on ABC called simply “Designated Survivor.”
In the real world, designated survivors have often tended to be low-ranking cabinet members, and until 9/11, had spent their evenings away from Washington, DC, in a variety of ways. Almost all choose to kick back, relax, and enjoy the perks of the presidential treatment for a few short hours.
Here are how past designated survivors have spent their State of the Union addresses as the possible president-to-be:
A designated survivor has been selected for the State of Union address since sometime in the 1960s, but the first one documented person was secretary of housing and urban development Samuel R. Pierce Jr. at former President Ronald Reagan’s in January 1984.
In 1996, secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala spent the State of the Union address in the White House. She reportedly ordered pizza for her staff after former President Bill Clinton told her, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
In 1997, secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman visited his daughter in Lower Manhattan to hang out at her apartment — “nuclear football” and all. But after the State of the Union ended and Secret Service left, they were left looking for taxis in the pouring rain.
In 2000, secretary of energy Bill Richardson spent his time as designated survivor hanging out with his family in coastal Maryland. They dined on roast beef and drank beers as the Secret Service watched over them.
But after the 9/11 attacks rocked the world, the role of designated survivor took on new gravity. From then on out, designated survivors were taken to an undisclosed location and didn’t speak to reporters about their experiences.
In 2006, secretary of veterans affairs Jim Nicholson had to deal with this new level of seriousness when he was transported via helicopter to an unknown location and given a security briefing. But was able to enjoy a steak dinner in the process.
Had anything happened to the president, Clinton would have succeeded former President Barack Obama because she was next in the line of succession, but because her location was known, another survivor had to be selected.
After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.
“You should totally try to draw a penis.”
It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.
They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.
“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”
While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:
“You should totally try to draw a penis.”
“Which way is the shaft going?”
“It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
“I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”
While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.
The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.
More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.
Both pilots ejected safely and are believed to be alive, The Belgian Air Force confirmed on Twitter, writing: “The pilots left the plane using their ejectable seats.”
Photos posted to social media show what appears to be a pilot hanging from an overhead electrical wire.
A National Police spokeswoman told the AP no injuries were reported among residents in the area. Police have set up a 500-meter security perimeter around the crash site.
The owner of the house damaged in the crash told Ouest-France: “We were in the garden. We heard a great boom and a sound of tearing metal. Moments later, a second explosion and another tearing of scrap metal.”
The F-16 was travelling from an air base in Florennes, near Namur, to the French naval air base at Lann-Bihoué, Morbihan, and was not armed, local officials told French media.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
While Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he was clear to point out he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35. In addition, many Air Force officials have cited a strong belief that the F-35 is the best fighter in the world.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of this year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials toldMilitary.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Washington Redskins will be getting a new name, in a decision that has proven a bit controversial in the political arena. From my vantage point, gleefully removed from the politics of it all and without a real stake in Washington’s football franchise, I welcome this change with open arms for a few important reasons.
Recognizing the heroism of the brave Black Americans the “Redtails” name comes from
If you’re not already familiar with the story of the real Redtails (also sometimes called the Red Tails), it really is one worth honoring in the most American of sports. Back in World War II, the United States military was still segregated. Black Americans, while expected to serve, were not allowed in many combat roles.
You may not have heard the name “Redtails” before, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. These brave pilots were the U.S. Army Air Corps’ (the predecessor to the Air Force) first Black aviators, earning the Tuskegee name from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama that they trained on.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
Many white bomber pilots didn’t know that the legendary Redtails were indeed Black pilots at the time, but thanks to their fighting prowess, it soon didn’t matter. Prejudice be damned, the Redtails were often requested for particularly daring missions, as they’d gained a reputation for their courage and technical skill. In all, the Redtails flew more than 15,000 individual sorties over Europe and North Africa during the war, and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.
Here at Sandboxx News, one of our contributors is actually the grandson of one of those Tuskegee Airmen. Harry Alford writes about entrepreneurship in the military sphere, and is the co-founder of Humble Ventures.
“I’m a lifelong Washingtonian and I’ve never felt comfortable supporting a team with such a disparaging, racial and offensive name for a mascot. I am very supportive of the name change,” Alford explains.
Members of the first graduating class. Left to right: Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., second lieutenants Lemuel R. Custis, George Spencer Roberts , Charles H. DeBow, Mac Ross
“In particular, I’m especially excited at the potential of the new name, Redtails. As the grandson of one of the original five Tuskegee Airman, Charles DeBow, this would mean the world to me. The name change signifies a new path forward while honoring the past as well as those who currently serve our country today.”
In a very real way, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, flying planes with bright red painted tails (hence the name Redtails), not only proved to be some of the most heroic aviators of the war, they also helped bring about an end to military segregation. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cool namesake for a football team playing out of America’s capital city.
Maj. Shawna R. Kimbrell, 555th Fighter Squadron (USAF)
Paying respect to the military community
In America today, the fact that the Redtails were pioneering Black aviators really matters, but these brave pilots fall into another important socio-economic category that the former Washington Redskins can honor: military service personnel.
America’s Armed Forces truly do represent a vibrant cross sections of American cultures and backgrounds, but it has become increasingly apparent in recent studies that America’s military is largely made up of people from what you might call a “warrior class” of Americans. About 80% of those who choose to volunteer to serve in America’s military have a direct family member who served as well. In other words, for most of us, serving in the military could be seen as getting into the “family business.” I’m no exception–my father served in Vietnam as an Army medic and my grandfather was a Marine who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II.
By acknowledging a heroic World War II unit by naming the football franchise that plays in our nation’s capital the Redtails, the former Washington Redskins could send a message to America’s Black communities and service members of any color: We honor the service and sacrifice of our sons and daughters in service, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or heritage.
It could attract new Americans to a great sport
In today’s social media-charged climate, everything is seen as a political statement; whether its watching football on a Sunday, buying beans at your local grocery store, or watching a musical on Disney+. As a guy that’s spent my entire adult life analyzing foreign policy and media manipulation, I find our love affair with waging war on one another troubling, so I try not to participate.
You may have political reasons you choose to skip football. You may have political reasons you choose to watch football. I just love football and prefer to leave the politics on Twitter.
I grew up in a fairly poor family, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do much of anything just because it was fun. Football, however, was always the exception. My dad and older brother both played football before me, and when it was my time to suit up, I reveled in the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. I loved playing football, complete with the broken bones and concussions I ended up with, for many of the same reasons I loved the Marine Corps. To me, my team was more important than I was, and playing well for my team was my chance at doing something that really mattered in my little slice of the world.
I continued playing football all the way into the Marine Corps. (Sandboxx)
Yup, football is a violent sport and you can get hurt (Lord knows I did), but you also get to experience the grueling exhaustion of overtime, the thrill of a hard-fought victory and the stinging pain of failure. Football forced me to engage with and appreciate complex emotions at a young age, and made me a better man, and Marine, for it. Today, watching football spurs that part of my brain that remembers padding up to play ball from the peewee leagues to my back-to-back championship run in the Marine Corps… and I’m grateful for it.
For young Americans growing up in an increasingly chaotic world, a positive change like honoring the Tuskegee Airmen could be just the push they need to throw the game on one Sunday. For some small percentage of folks, that experience may mature into a love for the game that I hold so dear.
A new name that pays respect to a downtrodden American community, that honors military service and sacrifice, and can entice non-football watching Americans to give the sport I love a try? The Washington Redtails (or Red Tails) seems like a no-brainer to me.