Defense Secretary Ash Carter kicked off a visit to DoD’s nuclear deterrence enterprise, telling airmen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, that DoD will invest, innovate and sustain to rebuild that enterprise’s capabilities that remain the bedrock of U.S. defense strategy.
The secretary spoke at a hangar on the flightline of the base. He thanked the airmen at the base, and by extension, thanked the thousands of other technicians who man, maintain, guard and operate the bombers, ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and the command-and-control systems around the world.
“As you know, everyone has their role to play,” he said, “and while each physical piece is important, it’s really the people who make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Launch Facility-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base Calif. The Minuteman III ICBM is an element of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss)
The secretary emphasized throughout his talk with the airmen that America’s nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of U.S. security and the highest priority mission in the Defense Department.
“Because while it is a remarkable achievement that in the more than seven decades since 1945, nuclear weapons have not again been used in war, that’s not something we can ever take for granted,” he said. “And that’s why today, I want to talk about how we’re innovating and investing to sustain that bedrock.”
Carter has a long history with the nuclear mission, working in the 1980s on basing for the MX missile system. He speaks from experience when he says the deterrence mission has both remained the same and changed.
“At a strategic level, of course, you deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” he said. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. You assure allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible — enabling many of them to forgo developing nuclear weapons themselves, despite the tough strategic environment they find themselves in and the technological ease with which they could develop such weapons.”
The nuclear deterrent also provides an umbrella under which service members accomplish conventional missions around the world, the secretary said.
But the nuclear landscape has changed and it will continue to pose challenges, Carter said.
“One way the nuclear landscape has changed: we didn’t build new types of nuclear weapons or delivery systems for the last 25 years, but others did, at the same time that our allies in Asia, the Middle East, and NATO did not,” the secretary said, “so we must continue to sustain our deterrence.”
Russia has modernized its nuclear arsenal, and there is some doubt about Russian leaders’ strategies for the weapons.
“Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations underscore that a diverse and dynamic spectrum of nuclear threats still exists,” Carter said. “So our deterrence must be credible, and extended to our allies in the region.”
North Korea is building nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them, the secretary said. The North Korean threat spurs spending on missile defense in the United States and the deployment of systems to South Korea, he added.
“We back all of that up with the commitment that any attack on America or our allies will be not only defeated, but that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response,” Carter said.
India and China are behaving responsibly with their nuclear enterprises, the secretary said.
“In Iran, their nuclear aspirations have been constrained and transparency over their activities increased by last year’s nuclear accord, which, as long as it continues to be implemented, will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carter said. “The last example I’ll cite is Pakistan, where nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”
Despite the changes since the end of the Cold War, the nature of deterrence has not changed, the secretary said.
“Even in 2016, deterrence still depends on perception — what potential adversaries see, and therefore believe — about our will and ability to act,” he said. “This means that as their perceptions shift, so must our strategy and actions.”
A large-scale nuclear attack is not likely, the secretary said. The most likely scenario is “the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example by Russia or North Korea, to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis,” Carter said. “We cannot allow that to happen, which is why we’re working with our allies in both regions to innovate and operate in new ways that sustain deterrence and continue to preserve strategic stability.”
NATO is reexamining the nuclear strategy to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to deter Russia, he said.
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the United States engages in formal deterrence dialogues with its allies Japan and South Korea, Carter said, “to ensure we’re poised to address nuclear deterrence challenges in Asia.”
Carter said the U.S. is taking steps to ensure that its nuclear triad — bombers, ICBMS and ballistic missile submarines — do not become obsolete.
“We’re now beginning the process of correcting decades of under-investment in nuclear deterrence,” the secretary said.
The Pentagon has underfunded its nuclear deterrence enterprise since the end of the Cold War, Carter added.
“Over the last 25 years since then, we only made modest investments in basic sustainment and operations, about $15 billion a year,” he said. “And it turned out that wasn’t enough.”
The fiscal year 2017 budget request invests a total of $19 billion in the nuclear enterprise, Carter said. Over the next five years, he said, plans call for the department to spend $108 billion to sustain and recapitalize the nuclear force and associated strategic command, control, communications, and intelligence systems.
The budget also looks to modernization, the secretary said. Plans call for replacing old ICBMs with new ones that will be less expensive to maintain, keeping strategic bombers effective in the face of more advanced air defense systems, and building replacements for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the secretary said.
“If we don’t replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective,” Carter said. “The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it’s not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them. It’s really a choice between replacing them or losing them. That would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter, which we can’t afford in today’s volatile security environment.”
While these plans are expensive, they are only a small percentage of total defense spending, the secretary said.
“In the end, though, this is about maintaining the bedrock of our security,” Carter said. “And after too many years of not investing enough, it’s an investment that we as a nation have to make, because it’s critical to sustaining nuclear deterrence in the 21st century.”
The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) introduced an innovative Blackhawk helicopter simulator at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 17, 2019, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The Cockpit Academics Procedural Tool — Enhanced Visual Capable System — or, CAPT-E-VCS for short — is a reconfigurable research platform that allows for swift, mission-responsive research in support of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift and modernization priority. These priorities are part of the Army’s focus on multi-domain operations to counter and defeat near-peer adversaries in all domains.
“USAARL is the Army’s aeromedical laboratory focused on the performance and survival of the rotary wing Warfighters to give them decisive overmatch,” said USAARL’s Commander, Col. Mark K. McPherson, about the importance of fielding state-of-the art tools in research. “This high fidelity simulator is the perfect example of how we merge the science of aviation and medicine to optimize human protection and performance, leveraging science against our nation’s competitors.”
USAARL Commander, Col. Mark McPherson, assists Joshua DuPont, an aerospace engineer at CCDC S3I, with the ribbon cutting that unveiled the Laboratory’s new state-of-the-art aviation research capability, the CAPT-E-VCS.
(Photo by Scott Childress)
The Army views vertical lift dominance over enemy forces as critical to increased lethality, survivability and reach. To meet the demands of Future Vertical Lift priorities, the Army is both developing and acquiring next-generation aircraft and unmanned systems to fly, fight and prevail in any environment. The CAPT-E-VCS was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Command’s System Simulation, Software, Integration Directorate to evaluate new technologies integral to meeting those requirements. The device pairs a Blackhawk medium-lift model helicopter cockpit and academic simulator from California-based SGB Enterprises with a 12-inch projection dome from Q4 Services, Inc., which is headquartered in Orlando, Florida. State-of-the-art X-IG image generation software —developed by Alabama-based CATI Training Systems — was further added to the CAPT-E-VCS in order to create a singular, customizable research platform for USAARL.
Capt. Justin Stewart, a USAARL pilot, gives Master Sgt. Kenneth Carey, USAARL’s Chief Medical Laboratory Non-Commissioned Officer, a CAPT-E-VCS tutorial.
(Photo by Scott Childress)
“Now we can evaluate in a digital glass cockpit platform pilot workload as well as the effects of high altitude flight environments,” said Dr. Mike Wilson, Research Psychologist at USAARL. “For example, we can couple the laboratory’s reduced oxygen breathing device with a high-fidelity simulation environment and create a more realistic test environment for research. This innovation is a mission responsive, cost saving research tool that is critical to moving the Army closer to its Future Vertical Lift goals.”
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.
The US, Russia’s main nuclear rival, had no answer for this weapon— no defenses in place can stop it, no emergency-response plans in place address it, and no forthcoming projects to counter or neuter it.
On the surface, the doomsday torpedo represents unrivaled capability of nuclear destruction, but a nuclear arsenal’s worth rests on many factors, not just its ability to kill.
Eight nations control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, and another nation holds an additional 80 or so as an open secret.
Nuclear weapons, once thought of as the ultimate decider in warfare, have seen use exactly twice in conflict, both times by the US during World War II.
Since then, nuclear weapons have taken on a role as a deterrent. The US and Russia, Cold War rivals for decades, have not fought head-to-head since the dawn of the nuclear era, owing the peace at least in part to fear that a conflict would escalate into mutual, and then global, destruction.
What makes a good nuclear arsenal?
First, a good nuclear doctrine. Will a country strike first, or only in response?
Second, safety. Are the nukes secure? Does the country participate in nonproliferation treaties?
Third, do the nukes work as intended? Is the arsenal sufficient? Can the nukes survive an initial attack?
In the slides below, Business Insider has weighed these questions with the help of Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to rank the world’s nuclear arsenals.
9. North Korea: the fledgling force
North Korea fails by virtually every metric used to measure nuclear arsenals. North Korea’s nuclear missiles may not even work, and the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, diverts money from essential services for his own people to foot the bill. The nation is a constant proliferation threat.
Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as pieced together from decades of saber rattling, amounts to essentially saying it will nuke the US, South Korea, or Japan if it wishes, and as a first strike. In the 21st century, only North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, introducing the threat of radioactive fallout to a new generation.
North Korea serves the world as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear proliferation. Every day, intelligence officials investigate whether the poverty-stricken country has helped another rogue state acquire missile or nuclear-bomb technology.
North Korea remains an international pariah under intense sanctions for its nuclear activity, so why bother?
Because North Korea has a hopeless disadvantage in nonnuclear forces when compared to South Korea, Japan, or the US. Because Pyongyang can never hope to defeat any of its enemies in conventional fighting, it turned to nukes as a guarantor of its security.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 60
Weapons count rank: 9
North Korea has a number of short- to intercontinental-range ballistic-missile systems thought to operate off the backs of mobile missile launchers.
One analyst has warned that North Korea’s mobile launchers may simply distract from the real threat of hidden nuclear silos, but no evidence of such silos has ever appeared in US intelligence reports made public.
North Korea has tested a number of submarine-launch platforms and fields a fleet of older submarines, but this capability is thought to be far off.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal comes down to a few older ballistic-missile systems in the field and some long-range systems in development, according to Kristensen.
It’s completely unknown if North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons mated or with the warhead affixed to the missile.
8. Pakistan: loose nukes?
Pakistan built nuclear weapons in response to its bitter regional rival, India, testing and proceeding with a relatively simple nuclear mission: deter or defeat India.
Pakistan managed to develop what’s known as a “credible minimum deterrent,” or the lowest number of nukes possible while still credibly warding off India, which has much stronger conventional forces and many times Pakistan’s population.
Full on shooting wars and frequent cross-border skirmishes have broken out between India and Pakistan since World War II, making the relatively smaller country fear for its sovereignty.
“Pakistan has concluded that India can use its more advanced conventional forces to push into Pakistan and Pakistan wouldn’t have a choice except to use nuclear weapons,” Kristensen told Business Insider.
Pakistan would score highly for having a simple nuclear mission, and not going overboard in meeting it, except for two glaring issues: safety and responsibility.
Additionally, “Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use,” by building smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.
Pakistan Air Force Chengdu JF-17.
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 150
Weapons count rank: 6
Pakistan has ballistic missiles with ranges just long enough to hit anywhere in the country of India. It has built nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can travel more than 400 miles.
Pakistan’s air force has reportedly practiced dropping nuclear bombs with its foreign-made planes. The US has specifically given Pakistan permission to modify its F-16 fighters to drop nuclear weapons.
Pakistan has no nuclear-missile-capable submarines, but has reportedly started work on one in response to India’s first nuclear submarine.
Pakistan is thought to keep its nuclear warheads separate from its missiles and delivery systems.
7. India: between a rock and a hard place
“India is still a nuclear posture that’s still in vivid development,” according to Kristensen.
While India had early success creating advanced nuclear devices, the rise of China and Beijing’s aggression in the region has made India divert its focus from one regional rival, Pakistan, to a second.
Just as Pakistan fears India’s greater strength and numbers, India has come to fear China’s growing and modernizing conventional forces.
But unlike Pakistan, India has sworn off nuclear first strikes and not looked into tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, India is considered to be more responsible with its nuclear weapons and is assumed to keep them more secure.
India doctrine succeeds for the most part by having a credible deterrent that’s not overblown and good cooperation with other nuclear powers.
But India’s submarine fleet remains a dream at the moment, lowering its overall score.
India’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 140 (stored)
Weapons count rank: 7
Like Pakistan, India has air-dropped and land-launched nuclear weapons. Initially, India built shorter-range weapons to hold Pakistan at risk, but has since evolved to take aim at China with longer-range systems.
India is testing the Agni V, a land-launched missile that can range all of China, but as Kristensen said, “once they develop them they have to build up their base infrastructure.”
India recently launched its first nuclear-powered submarine for a supposed deterrence patrol, but Kristensen said the patrol lasted only 20 days and did not bring armed nuclear missiles with it.
“India has to be able to communicate reliably with a ballistic missile submarine at sea, possibly under tensions or while under attack they have to maintain secure communications. That will take a long time,” said Kristensen.
As it stands, the missiles and submarine India has picked out for its underwater nuclear deterrent can’t range China’s vital points or most of Pakistan.
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.
6. Russia: bomb makers gone wild
Russia ended World War II with the Red Army outnumbering any force on Earth. But throughout the nuclear age, it saw Europe turn away from it in favor of the West.
Russia feared it was conventionally weaker than NATO, which has grown to include 29 nations, and started building the world’s most vast array of nuclear weapons.
“Russia seems to sort of be driven by a frantic exploitation of different options,” Kristensen said. “You have a very prolific sort of effort to bring in more experiments with many more and new systems, more so than any nuclear weapons state does.”
Russia is mainly focused on stopping a US or Western invasion and holding US cities and forces at risk. To combat the US with forces all over the globe, Russia needs a lot of nukes. Russia has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, but stands accused of violating other arms agreements with the US.
Putin frequently looks to the country’s nuclear strength for propaganda purposes, announcing in 2018 no less than five new nuclear offensive and defensive systems meant to defeat the US in a nuclear war that nobody seriously thinks Russia wants.
No country needs five new nuclear weapons in a year.
While Russia has about the same number of nukes as the US, Russia’s have higher yields and could end all life on Earth more quickly and with great spectacle than any other nation.
But because Russia explores all kinds of ridiculous nuclear weapons, bases nuclear warheads near population centers, uses nuclear weapons to threaten other countries, and because the fall of the Soviet Union led to the greatest episode of loose nukes in world history, Russia sits on the low end of this list.
Russia has the full nuclear triad with constantly modernized bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines. The triad is a true 24/7/365 force with submarines on deterrence patrols at all times.
Additionally, Russia has a high number of tactical nuclear weapons with shorter-range and smaller-explosive yields, which arms-control advocates say lowers the threshold for nuclear war.
According to Kristensen, most of the supposedly revolutionary Russian nuclear strategic systems hyped by Putin will see limited deployments. While Putin hypes a new hypersonic, maneuverable intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) warhead, Kristensen notes that most ICBMs will remain the old type. Furthermore, all ICBM warheads travel at hypersonic speeds.
Russia routinely sinks needed cash into “really frivolous exploratory type systems that make no difference in deterring or winning,” according to Kristensen.
One “excellent” example of this, according to Kristensen, is the Poseidon underwater 100 to 200 megaton nuclear torpedo.
This weapon, potentially the biggest nuclear explosive device ever built, just doesn’t make sense.
The weapon would essentially set off tidal waves so large and an explosion so radioactive and punishing that continents, not countries, would pay the price for decades.
The US has not found it useful to respond to these doomsday-type devices.
Russia stores its nuclear warheads mated to missiles and ready to fire. Additionally, it has surrounded Moscow with 68 nuclear-tipped missile interceptors meant to protect the city from a US strike.
5. Israel: Who knows?
“Israel is interesting because it’s a semi-dormant nuclear program, but it’s not dormant,” Kristensen said.
Israel, unlike others on this list, finds itself mainly in conflict with nonnuclear foes. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, but it has sworn off building nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, Israel’s conventional military, with its top-of-the-line air force and close coordination with the US, easily overpowers its regional foes in traditional fighting.
Instead of reaching for nuclear weapons to threaten a more powerful foe, Israel has a “very relaxed nuclear posture, truly what you could call a last resort posture,” according to Kristensen.
Secrecy surrounding Israel’s nuclear program has made it hard to evaluate, so it gets the middle spot.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 80
Weapons count rank: 8
Truly, nobody knows what weapons Israel has or doesn’t have, and that’s the way they like it.
That said, Israel has fairly advanced weapons systems, including land-based systems that remain unmated from nuclear warheads.
Kristensen said Israel has mobile missiles and aircraft that can launch nuclear bombs.
“Rumor is Israel has a cruise missile for their submarines and there are writings about nuclear land mines and tactical nukes, but they remain in very much in the rumor box,” he said.
Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard.
4. UK: USA lite
Weapons count: 215 (120 deployed; 95 stored)
Weapons count rank: 5
During the Cold War, the UK labored to create its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UK has withdrawn from that posture and essentially become a client of the US.
The UK operates four nuclear submarines that fire can fire 16 Trident missiles made by the US. That’s it. The UK won’t get an “arsenal” page for this reason. The warheads on these patrols are mated to missiles.
The UK belongs to NATO and draws Russia’s ire sometimes as a loud voice in the West, but doesn’t have a very big or powerful conventional military.
Nor does the UK have any clear-cut enemies. While the recent UK-Russia hostilities may have reminded the island it’s not without opposition, Russia’s horns are mainly locked with the US.
As far as doctrine goes, the UK vows to use nuclear weapons only defensively and has signed the nonproliferation treaty, meaning it has agreed not to spread nuclear technology.
The UK has “very close coordination and nuclear targeting planning with the US,” Kristensen said. “It’s not a standalone nuclear power in the same way that France considers itself to be.”
The UK has determined it doesn’t need a very big nuclear arsenal and didn’t overdo it, giving it high marks on its small force.
A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
France has a long history with nuclear weapons, like the UK, but has maintained more independence and control over its stockpile and doctrine.
“The French have a very open ended strategy that looks at potential use against any significant threat against crucial French interests,” Kristensen said. This includes using nuclear weapons against a state that launches a weapons of mass destruction attack on France.
In 2015 after the tragic Paris attacks by ISIS fighters, France sent its aircraft carrier to fight the militants in Iraq and Syria, but they used conventional weapons.
France’s nuclear doctrine allows first use in a broad range of circumstances, and while its weapons are not as aligned with NATO’s posture as the US or the UK’s, “it’s assumed they would pick a side and somewhat contribute to the deterrence posture of NATO,” Kristensen said.
Also, France collaborates less with the US on nuclear issues, though their targeting objectives probably broadly align with the US’s, Kristensen said.
Essentially, France’s strong conventional military allows them to avoid much discussion of using nuclear weapons. Additionally, the French seem more able to stomach paying for nuclear weapons and infrastructure, which the British have often been uneasy about.
France’s participation in the nonproliferation treaty and its relative stability with its nuclear program earns it high marks for such a limited arsenal.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
Weapons count: 300 (290 deployed; 10 stored)
Weapons count rank: 3
France mainly breaks with the UK on nuclear weapons in that they have 50 or so aircraft that can launch missiles with a range of about 300 miles that deliver nuclear warheads, according to Kristensen.
Like the UK, France has four nuclear-powered submarines, one of which stays on a constant deterrence patrol ready to fire mated nuclear missiles.
While it’s not a nuclear weapon outright, outside of the US, only France operates a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
2. US: the big boy
The US’s nuclear warhead count falls short to only Russia, and like Russia, the US swelled its arsenal to surpass 30,000 weapons during the height of the Cold War.
The Cold War saw the US explore a wide, and sometimes exotic, range of nuclear-weapons delivery options, including cruise missiles and artillery shells.
But since then, US has attempted to sober its nuclear ambitions, and has become the source of many nonproliferation regimes and attempts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons globally.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was the US that took on accounting for the loose nukes spread across places like Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The US leads the diplomatic pressure campaign to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons.
From 2015 to 2017, the US led an effort to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
The US invented nuclear weapons and remains the only country to have ever dropped them in anger, but the US’s conventional-military supremacy curtails any need for nuclear saber rattling.
Today, the US allows for nuclear-first use and has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
While the US has come a long way from the arms-race madness of the Cold War, it still spends a world-record amount of money on its nuclear arsenal and could stand to lose about a third of its force, according to experts.
Because the US tries to be a transparent, responsible nuclear force, it scores the highest out of any country with greater than a “credible minimum deterrent.”
Today the US’s nuclear arsenal has narrowed down to a triad in constant stages of modernization.
The US operates two nuclear-capable bombers, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress, originally built in the 1950s and slated to fly for 100 years.
The US operates a fleet of nuclear submarines, which it keeps on constant deterrence patrols.
The US also has nearly 400 intercontinental-range missiles in silos around the country, mostly aimed at Russia’s nuclear weapons for an imagined “mutual destruction” scenario.
Recently, the US has come under intense criticism for President Donald Trump’s proposal to build more smaller or tactical nuclear weapons. Experts say these weapons make nuclear war more likely.
The US has tactical nuclear weapons stored around Europe and Turkey, which, like the bigger strategic weapons, are stored mated.
Type 094 submarine.
1. China: True minimum
In 1957, before China had nuclear weapons, its leader, Chairman Mao, said the following horrifying quote about nuclear war:
“I’m not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn’t matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I’m not afraid of anyone.”
In 1967, China had tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. To prove its systems worked in the face of Western doubts, it fired the only nuclear-armed ballistic missile in history to an unpopulated region within its own borders.
Given China’s early enthusiastic attitude toward nuclear combat, it developed a surprisingly responsible and calm force.
China has just 280 nuclear warheads, and none of them are mated to delivery systems. China flies bombers and sails submarines that it calls nuclear-capable, but none of them have ever actually flown with nuclear weapons.
China’s nuclear doctrine forbids first strikes and centers around the idea that China would survive a nuclear strike, dig its bombs out of deep underground storage, and send a salvo of missiles back in days, months, or years.
This essentially nails the idea of “credible minimum deterrence.” Everyone knows China has nuclear weapons, that they work, and nobody doubts China would use them if it first received a nuclear attack.
Also, China has spent a fraction of the money the US or Russia has spent on weapons while conforming with nonproliferation treaties.
China has continued to build up its missile, submarine, and bomber fleets, but all without the scrutiny afforded to nuclear systems.
Because China’s nuclear warheads don’t sit on missiles, if China attacked another country with ballistic missiles, the attacked country could be fairly sure the missiles were not nuclear armed and resist returning fire with its own nuclear weapons.
China has more big cities than any other country and stands to lose more than anyone in a nuclear exchange, but the incredible restraint shown by the Chinese earns them the top slot in this ranking.
China’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 280 stockpiled
Weapons count rank: 4
China operates three types of ballistic missiles, some of which out-range their US counterparts.
China has nuclear-capable submarines and bombers, but they do not ever travel with nuclear weapons on board.
China relies on a growing and modernizing conventional military to assert its will on other countries and virtually never mentions its nuclear arsenal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The head of NATO has demanded that Russia release Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels it seized in a confrontation at sea, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea are “absurd.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke on December 3 as Russia continued to hold the 24 Ukrainian seamen in Moscow jails on border-violation charges Kyiv rejects.
NATO chief warns Russia over Crimea incident after chairing emergency talks
“Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships,” Stoltenberg said on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers who will address that issue, among others.
Russia, he said, “must also allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels — military as well as civilian — have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”
Russia has been holding the sailors — crewmen from three Ukrainian naval craft — since the confrontation on November 25 in which Russian Coast Guard ships rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on the boats before special forces boarded them.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and took over from Ukraine in March 2014, and raised fears of a flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Peskov dismissed concerns that Russia could seek to gain access by land to Crimea by seizing or helping the separatists to seize territory on the Azov shore from Mariupol to the isthmus further west that links the Ukrainian mainland to Crimea.
“It’s an absolutely absurd claim. It is another attempt to generate tension. Regretfully, attempts like this will most likely continue as we approach” the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled for March 31, he said.
Peskov claimed that “Russia has never invaded anything or created any corridors anywhere.”
But in addition to occupying and taking over Crimea, Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say there is ample evidence that Russia has given the separatists in eastern Ukraine major military support in the war.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for one of the Ukrainian sailors confirmed on December 3 that all 24 had been charged by Russian authorities with “illegal border crossing.”
Nikolai Polozov, who is representing Denys Hrytsenko, said the sailors were formally charged on November 27.
Dzhemil Temishev, an attorney for another of the sailors, said on November 29 that 21 of the detainees were being transferred from Russia-annexed Crimea to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.
Russian authorities say three other Ukrainian sailors wounded on November 25 were receiving medical treatment at a different, unspecified detention center.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on December 3 that the detained Ukrainian sailors had food, “clothes, and all the necessities.”
In remarks that appeared aimed to portray the jailing of the sailors as a strictly legal issue and tell the world that they were not being mistreated, Moskalkova said on state-run Rossia-24 TV that rights monitors “have visited the sailors and spoken with every one of them.”
She said the sailors “have no complaints about custody conditions or medical aid” and that lawyers had access to their clients. Her comments could not be independently verified.
The incident has raised tensions between Kyiv and Moscow to their highest point since Moscow seized Crimea.
Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in 10 regions, including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the altercation. Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all sea traffic during the incident, and Kyiv says Russia has continued to deny passage to Ukrainian commercial traffic in and out of Mariupol and Berdyansk, another port on the Sea of Azov.
Western leaders — including all members of the G7 leading industrialized states — have called on Russia to release the Ukrainian crew and return the seized navy ships to Kyiv.
In the early 1900s the navies of the world were quickly expanding their submarine fleets and with them the technology that they used to fight.
One problem submarines faced as they matured was how to communicate underwater. Radio communication was only a couple decades old and radio waves barely transmit underwater. To allow submarines to communicate with naval forts, each other, and surface vessels, the U.S. Navy tested an improvised “violin” for submarines that allowed communication at ranges of up to five miles.
The violins had a single string stretched between two large, metal rods connected to the hull of the submarine. A wheel with a rough edges spun in close proximity to the string. A Morse-code operator could tap a button that pressed the spinning wheel to the string, sending a vibration through the string, the rods, and then the submarine hull itself. This vibration would continue through the water to underwater microphones on ships and coastal installations. The tests began in 1913 with three violins being installed on three ships. There’s no sign that these violins were ever used in combat.
They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.
Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)
America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.
But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.
Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.
PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)
These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.
Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.
The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.
They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.
U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.
All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.
But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”
Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.
The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.
Were the US to go to war with China or Russia today, it might lose, a new report to Congress from a panel of a dozen leading national-security experts warns.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained, calling attention to the erosion of America’s edge as rival powers develop capabilities previously possessed only by the US.
The commission highlights China and Russia’s energized and ongoing efforts to develop advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weaponry, systems that could result in “enormous” losses for the US military in a conflict. “Put bluntly, the US military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.
The National Defense Strategy Commission has concluded that US national security is presently “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”
“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit to Moscow in May 2015.
The report calls into focus a concern that the US military is trying to address — that while the US put all of its efforts and energy into the fights against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, adversarial powers have been preparing for high-end conflict.
“Many of the skills necessary to plan for and conduct military operations against capable adversaries — especially China and Russia — have atrophied,” the commission argues.
The National Defense Strategy emphasizes the return of “great power competition,” placing the threat posed by rival powers like China and Russia above terrorism and other challenges. The military branches are, in response, shifting their attention to the development of future warfighting capabilities — even as the ISIS fight and Afghanistan War grind on.
Preparation for high-end conflict is visible in the efforts across the Army, Navy, and Air Force to develop powerful stand-off weapons, such as long-range artillery and hypersonic strike platforms.
The commission is supportive of the National Defense Strategy, but it calls for faster measures and clearer explanations for how America plans to maintain its dominance. The report also called for an expansion of the current 6 billion defense budget, the bolstering of the nuclear arsenal, and innovative development of new weapons systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A submarine that just missed serving in World War II may soon find itself making one last dive off the coast of Florida.
According to WPTV.com, the Balao-class submarine USS Clamagore (SS 343) could be towed to a point off Palm Beach County and sunk as an artificial reef. The vessel is currently at the Patriot’s Point Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, along with the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV 10) and the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724).
According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Clamagore is the only surviving GUPPY III-class submarine in the world. Nine GUPPY III-class submarines were built. According to a web page serving as a tribute to these diesel-electric submarines, most of the vessels modified under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program were scrapped, sunk as targets, or sold to foreign countries.
The reason she is going to wind up becoming a reef? The report from WPTV states it is about money.
“The museum up in Charleston is losing money and they would really like to unload this as quickly as possible,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told the TV station. The alternative to turning the 2,480-ton submarine into an artificial reef is to scrap her.
“We wanted to honor the people that served on it, we wanted to honor the submarine service in general,” Valeche said.
Several organizations are trying to save the Clagamore for continued service as a museum. A 2012 FoxNews.com report indicated that at least $3 million was needed to repair the vessel.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.
Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.
Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.
But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.
“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”
Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.
Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”
In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.
Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.
More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.
Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.
The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.
Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.
Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.
In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.
On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI. Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.
A federal judge has awarded a $920 million judgment to 80 victims of the 1983 bombing of a Beirut USMC barracks. The judgment is against the government of Iran for supporting Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for the bombing.
Cohen Milstein Sellers Toll PLLC, a national plaintiffs’ law firm, filed the lawsuit in 2014, suing Iran on behalf of the victims of the attack. While foreign nations are normally granted sovereign immunity from US lawsuits, Cohen Milstein argued that compensation is due under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows citizens to sue foreign countries if they are victims of state-sponsored terror. Cohen Milstein argued that Hezbollah perpetrated the attack at the direction and with the support of Iran.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the judgment after Iran failed to respond to the lawsuit, awarding roughly $207.2 million in compensatory damages and $712.8 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff group made up of service members injured in the Beirut attack and the estates and family members of those who perished.
The memory of the 1983 USMC barracks bombing in Beirut, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US military history, has surely been eclipsed in the minds of the American public by the horrors of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent drumbeat of terrorist bombings that underscores the Global War on Terror. At the time, the Beirut bombing was considered by the FBI to be the largest car bomb attack ever and the largest non-nuclear detonation since WWII, but it’s likely that neither designation still applies.
Vice President George H.W. Bush tours the bomb site, led by Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Nonetheless, for the families of the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers who lost their lives in the attack, the day still lives in infamy. Though Iran isn’t participating in the suit, the judgement gives the plaintiffs access to restitution from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was set up to provide compensation to the 53 Americans who were held captive for 444 days at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 – 1980, but was expected to extend to other victims of state-sponsored terror.
The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. servicemember was killed in Nangarhar Achin Province, Afghanistan, though officials declined to release any more details, including the casualty’s name and branch.
Some media outlets are reporting that the he was a special operations commando.
The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson confirmed that the servicemember was killed during a raid on ISIS fighters with Afghan special forces by a roadside bomb that detonated during a patrol.
“On behalf of all of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, we are heartbroken by this loss and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the service member,” Nicholson said. “Despite this tragic event, we remain committed to defeating the terrorists of the Islamic State, Khorasan Province and helping our Afghan partners defend their nation.”
Many an airman have found themselves utterly confused whenever they encounter these wonderful and mythical creatures normally found somewhere downrange (or near one of our sibling service’s chow hall).
Their rank insignia is confusing for the airman seeing it for the first time — but don’t you dare stare! Yes, this rare and godlike commodity is the warrant officer.
What, exactly, is a warrant officer?
A warrant officer is a technical expert. For the branches that have them (i.e. not the U.S. Air Force), they serve as the technical base for their respective service. They, simply put, have become officers based on expertise and, well, warrant.
Sounds great, but does the Air Force need them? Here are five reasons why they might not:
The Air Force actually did once have warrant officers.
From the moment the Air Force become a separate branch on Sept. 18, 1947 until 1958, the enlisted ranks topped out at E-7. Congress then created the ranks of E-8 and E-9 for the Air Force, allowing for more growth.
The Air Force didn’t see a need for these technical experts anymore and used this momentum to usher out what had become a somewhat pesky group of individuals.
The Air Force made their last warrant officer appointment in 1959 and the one in active duty retired in 1980.
4. Wait, aren’t we actually getting them?
This is a rumor that has been going around for decades. I, personally, heard it back in my earliest days in Air Force blue and thought it was a great idea.
I heard it again a few years and bases later, and even right now the idea of re-introducing the warrant officer tier to the Air Force is being kicked around.
It’ll probably, eventually, likely, maybe-not-but-just-might happen… one day.
3. We must be different
Just like most younger siblings, the Air Force strives to be different from our big brothers in blue, green, and Marine.
We learn from their history, their triumphs, and their missteps to be a better version of awesome whenever and wherever possible.
Most of the time, that makes sense. But sometimes, different is just different — not better.
2. Because… air power
Keeping in line with the snootiness of being the baby sibling, the Air Force went a step further in hardening the line between enlisted and commissioned than our brothers did.
The Air Force zigged when the Army zagged.
Why? Because there will be no misnomer about ranks, positions, and titles in the Air Force, right?
We already have mythical, rarely seen, hard-to-catch creatures in the Air Force.
Unlike other services, where you commonly see some type of operator doing all types of things (from working out to shopping), in the Air Force, you could easily go your entire career without ever seeing a pararescueman or combat controller with your own eyes.
Oh, they exist like a motherf*cker but, unless you’re in that world, you’ll only see them in your dreams.
Pictured: absolute badass, Chief Master Sgt. Davide Keaton (Retired). (USAF photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)