The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.

US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.

While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.


Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.

Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.

The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.

These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.

There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.

These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)

“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”

There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.

The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Some folks had a very good 2017, but the Seventh Fleet isn’t among them. This force will be on the front lines if the Korean War restarts and it also has to manage relationships in the South China Sea, which have been shaky at best as of late. So, just how bad has their year been?


The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
USS Ronald Reagan arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in RIMPAC 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shawn D. Torgerson)

The collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that left 17 sailors dead rightly grabbed headlines. They were the catalyst for the relief of Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin and the forced retirement of Admiral Scott Swift.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. (US Navy photo)

However, these two bizarre, tragic collisions weren’t the only maritime incidents of 2017. The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) collided with a South Korean fishing boat on May 9. In January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), a sister ship of the Lake Champlain, ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain. (Photo by US 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

Unfortunately, the Navy’s woes weren’t exclusive to the sea. Late last month, the crash of a C-2 Greyhound southwest of Okinawa claimed lives. Although, eight sailors were rescued, three died in the crash of the aircraft. Reports indicate that the pilot, Lieutenant Steven Combs, is under consideration for an award for his excellent airmanship during the incident, cited as the reason for any survivors at all.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

The Seventh Fleet also faced reverberations from the “Fat Leonard” scandal, which had caught up a number of officers, including Vice Admiral Ted Branch, the Navy’s top intelligence officer. Branch was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but had served in his post without a security clearance. A number of other officers were charged and sentenced to prison for their misdeeds during the scandal.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Vice Adm. Ted Branch (US Navy photo)

Thankfully, for the Seventh Fleet, 2017 is almost over. Hopefully, 2018 will prove to be very different for this naval force.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 female pirates you might not know about

Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.


These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

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1.Ching Shih

Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.

But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.

Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.

By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

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2. Anne Bonny

Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.

There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.

She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.

Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

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3. Grace O’Malley

Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.

With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.

Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.

Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.

She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.

Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.

4. Sadie Farrell

Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.

When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.

She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

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5. Jeanne de Clisson

This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.

Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.

As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

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6. Sayyida al Hurra

Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”

She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.

By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.

7. Charlotte de Berry

De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.

Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.

While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.

For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Military Life

Why the Veteran’s Day parade may be the big day for Pinks & Greens

The U.S. Army’s upcoming dress uniform switch that’ll put soldiers in updated Pinks and Greens is all but official. The date set for senior leadership to make the final call also coincides with another huge moment for the Army: the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. It’s also the date of the upcoming (semi-controversial) military parade in Washington D.C.


According to road maps outlined by the Army Times and Marlow White Uniforms, different phases of the uniform’s slow roll-out coincide with the Army’s important historic dates. Over this summer, 150 soldiers from the Northeast Recruiting Battalion will wear the uniform, testing to find any kinks in the prototypes. After that, fielding of the uniform will begin next summer, on June 6th, 2019 — the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
A fitting day for the finest dress uniform to make it’s comeback.
(National Archives)

But before that, on November 11th, 2018, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey will give the official verdict. If you look at their the schedule for that day, you’ll see they’ll be fairly busy with the military parade going on in Washington.

Dailey’s opinion on the Pinks and Greens are well known throughout the Army. He’s worn the uniform at high-profile events and has accompanied himself with soldiers wearing the uniform many times.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
(U.S. Army Photo)

Take all of this with a grain of salt, as nothing has been officially confirmed nor denied. However, given the Sergeant Major of the Army’s knack for showmanship and the military parade in Washington happening, it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if his official verdict was made clear by him showing up in the new dress uniform.

All of this may sound a little like pure fanboy speculation about a dress uniform, but, in my humble opinion, we shouldn’t be surprised if the Pinks and Greens make their debut at an event that has officially called for troops to wear period uniforms.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of April 20th

Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.


Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.

Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Terminal Lance)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(WATM)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Decelerate Your Life)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(/r/Military)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(WATM)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(PNN)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Military Memes)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Army as F*ck)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(The Salty Soldier)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Disgruntled Vets)

Soon, this won’t be a joke.

When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

The only constant in the military world is chaos. No two weeks are alike, and you’ve got to roll with the punches — but that doesn’t mean you need to roll blindly. Each week, we put together a collection of the most interesting stories to come from the military world, and we put them here for your learning pleasure.

Here’s what you missed while you were busy watching all of your civilian friends 4/20 Instagram stories.


The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Crew-members with the interdicted drugs at Port Everglades, FA

(US Coast Guard photo by Brandon Murray)

The coast guard unloads .5 million dollars worth of drugs

The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded literal tons of cocaine and marijuana at Florida’s Port Everglades. The haul has a whopping .5 million dollar estimated street value (also known as “the weekly budget for Charlie Sheen”). The drugs were seized in international waters somewhere in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The haul includes seven tons of marijuana and 1.83 tons of cocaine.

Officials say the operation involved two Coast Guard cutters and a Navy ship off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The Pentagon is investing in space robots to repair satellites

The U.S. has more than 400 satellites orbiting the earth at any given time. They have commercial, military, and government uses—but when something goes wrong, they have no use at all, and fixing them can be insanely difficult.

However, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) believe space robots could be a viable long-term solution for repairing the ever-growing number of satellites. The program is scheduled to last roughly five years.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Washington Nationals execs team up with military personnel

Jessica Cicchetto/U.S. Air Force

MLB executives and USAF personnel swap leadership tips and experiences

Higher-ups from the Washington Nationals and Air Force personnel met up for the 2nd annual “Nats on Base” conference to discuss leadership similarities between the two organizations. The gathering was during the “2019 Air Force District of Washington’s Squadron Command and Spouse Orientation Course.”

During the panel, 40 new commanders and their spouses focused on leadership methods with representatives from the Washington Nationals and Washington Redskins.

No word on whether or not USAF leadership learned how to lose the most prolific baseball talent to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The current one-piece flight suit

(U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)

Air Force toying with the idea of two-piece flight suits for all pilots and aircrew

The USAF seems to change uniforms more than any other branch. Much like a sorority girl before a night out — they are now deciding between going with the tried-and-true one piece or an exciting, new two-piece. Only these are made to withstand more than a spilled vodka cranberry.

The benefits of the two-piece flight suit are, supposedly, ease of bathroom use and “improved overall comfort.” So far, initial feedback has been positive. The Army is also considering more distant plans of adopting a two-piece suit.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/ USAF

Cost of new ICBMs are rising: why the Air Force isn’t concerned

Next generation intercontinental ballistic missiles are expected to rise in price soon, but the Air Force is unconcerned about this short term price hop. Gen. Timothy Ray expects the total estimated cost to drop after the Air Force makes a decision on which competitor—Boeing or Northrop Grumman—will be able to offer the best price.

Ray continued on to state, “Between the acquisition and the deal that we have from a competitive environment, from our ability to drive sustainment, the value proposition that I’m looking at is a two-thirds reduction in the number of times we have to go and open the site.”

The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program will reuse much of the infrastructure where the missiles are housed, as well as invest in those facilities—effectively giving the Air Force the ability to maintain new missiles easily and less expensively over time. “Our estimates are in the billions of savings over the lifespan of the weapon, based on the insights,” Ray said.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Defense News

Army scraps plans to demo next-gen unmanned aircraft

The Army’s plans to demonstrate the capabilities and designs for a next-generation unmanned aircraft have been abandoned. The decision was made in favor of two future manned helicopter procurement programs, according to the head of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation and Missile Center’s Aviation Development Directorate.

With current plans to build a future attack reconnaissance aircraft and a future long-range assault aircraft, Layne Merritt told Defense News, “another major acquisition is probably too much for the Army at one time.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian troops and equipment said to leave Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin says more than 1,000 military personnel and dozens of aircraft have been withdrawn from Syria over the past several days.

Speaking at a ceremony for military-college graduates in the Kremlin on June 28, 2018, Putin said the withdrawal continues.

“Thirteen planes, fourteen helicopters, and 1,140 personnel have left [Syria] in the past few days alone,” Putin said.


Russia has conducted a bombing campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping reverse the course of the seven-year civil war in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Putin initially ordered the start of “the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent” from Syria in March 2016, but there were few signs of a pullout after that announcement.

In December 2017, Putin again ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, but since that time fighting has flared up again among various warring factions.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Reaper shoots down another drone in a little-known test

An MQ-9 Reaper drone has bagged its first air-to-air kill of another small, aerial vehicle in a controlled simulation, an official revealed to Military.com.

The successful test in 2017 showed the U.S. Air Force that an unmanned vehicle like the MQ-9 has the ability to conduct air-to-air combat, much like its manned fighter brethren such as an F-15 Eagle or F-22 Raptor, according to Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.


“Something that’s unclassified but not well known, we recently in November … launched an air-to-air missile against a maneuvering target that scored a direct hit,” Cheater said. Military.com sat down with Cheater here at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference outside Washington, D.C.

“It was an MQ-9 versus a drone with a heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and it was direct hit … during a test,” he said of the first-of-its-kind kill.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Cheater said on Sept. 17, 2018. “We will go participate in ‘Red Flag’ exercises, and we will drop weapons in testing environments to make sure that we can fight against those type of adversaries.”

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The effort is key to preparing for the next big aerial war against near-peer threats such as Russia or China, who are advancing their skill sets not only in unmanned aerial vehicles but also in hypersonics, electronic warfare, lasers, and missile testing, Cheater said.

“In many parts of the world, it’s almost a hybrid fight by proxy,” he said. “… the MQ-9 Reaper will certainly be a big part of that. So if you package this aircraft in properly with other aircraft, it will be survivable.”

The MQ-9 has a payload of 3,750 pounds and carries a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, according to the service. The MQ-9’s weapons load remains flexible, Cheater said.

As the Air Force began phasing out its MQ-1 Predator UAV in 2017 before its official retirement in early 2018, the larger, more lethal MQ-9 began expanding its mission set — especially in areas like Afghanistan.

For example, when the military mission in Afghanistan transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO-led Resolute Support, the MQ-9’s missions increased tenfold in comparison to the MQ-1.

The Reaper conducted 950 strikes, firing approximately 1,500 weapons, between January 2015 and August 2017, according to Air Force Central Command statistics provided to Military.com at the time. The MQ-1 executed only 35 strikes, employing roughly 30 weapons, in that same timeframe.

“We specialize in urban settings,” Cheater said. “That is an important capability that very few aircraft and aircrews have.”

But 2017’s test shows how the service is refocusing and thinking about the agility of the Reaper.

“It’s a balance of the forces and resources that we have available, especially on the maintenance side of the house, and everyone wanting to be as close to the fight in numerous locations,” Cheater said.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

An MQ-1 Predator.

For example, “We can fly from one continent to the next — we [recently] flew nine [Reapers] from one operating area to another, and that is agile, that is flexible, and it provides options to the combatant commander,” he said, without disclosing locations.

The Air Force also recently moved a contingent of MQ-9s to Larisa Air Base in Greece for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions across Africa, according to Defense News. Without commenting on additional locations, Cheater said forward movement will always be part of the MQ-9’s future, especially with intelligence gathering on the rise.

“We’re ‘can-do’ operators by heart, and we want to look at it and see what’s the best option,” he said. “Generally, the resources don’t support everything we want to do, so we have to figure out what’s the best mix and match of those resources to achieve the desire and best end result.”

More study is needed to address the best places to base the drones for forward-operating missions, Cheater said.

In addition, the future of drone feed dissemination and intelligence gathering is becoming more streamlined as part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Dominance Flight Plan, he said.

The plan, released in August 2018 with few specifics for operational security reasons, has become the service’s new road map to incorporating more autonomy and data from multiple sensors across platforms stationed around the globe. “We can determine if there [are] threats or indications of enemy forces,” Cheater said.

The Air Force wants to leverage artificial intelligence, automation and algorithmic data models to streamline opportunities for airmen watching drone feeds.

“We’re actually pretty exceptional as far as adopting new technologies and putting it in combat operations right now,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.

Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.

“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”


The medically retired Air Force captain is walking with the aid of a wearable exoskeleton robotic device as part of a study at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.

Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.

“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”

Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.

Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.

“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”

“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”

Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.

“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”

Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.

“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”

“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”

Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.

Basic training needed to master balance skills

“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”

The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.

He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.

“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”

Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.

“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”

“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.

At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.

“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”

After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Unanswered questions about the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran

All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.

Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.

Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.

Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.

Here are the unanswered questions.


What happened on the flight?

A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.

We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.

But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.

Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.

A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.

Who was killed?

Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.

Vadym Prystaiko said the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, as well as 11 Swedish citizens, four Afghan citizens, three UK citizens, and three German citizens. Nine of those on board were crew members.

But he did not identify the victims.

Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.

Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”

Was the plane shot down?

Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.

But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”

Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.

CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.

“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.

Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.

According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.

Suspicion over causes of the crash have been heightened amid the increased tension in Iran after the US assassinated its top general and Iran subsequently attacked bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Hours before the plane crash, Iran attacked two Iraqi military bases that housed US and coalition forces with ballistic missiles. There is no evidence that the two incidents are linked.

Were there any faults with the plane?

Ukraine International Airlines has sought to distance itself from the possibility that there was a fault with the plane or its crew.

It said in the hours after the crash that the plane was built in 2016 and that it had last completed maintenance checks just two days ago.

Officials: Boeing 737-800 crash in Iran likely a result of mechanical issues

www.youtube.com

It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.

The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”

The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.

The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.

But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.

Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”

How will the investigations work?

Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.

Ukraine’s President Zelensky also said that he had instructed his prosecutor-general to open criminal proceedings after the crash.

Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.

But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.

Mehr, a semi-official Iranian news agency, quoted the head of Iran’s civil aviation authority as saying the country would not give the plane’s black boxes to Boeing, Reuters reported. He said he was not sure what country Iran would give them to.

It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”

Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.

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

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Articles

China to deploy its first home-built aircraft carrier

China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.


The Liaoning was once the Varyag, Russia’s second Kuznetsov-class carrier. If you’ve followed WATM, you probably have heard about the Kuznetsov’s many problems. The splash landings, the hellacious accommodations, and the need for oceangoing tugs to sail along because the engines are shit are just the tip of the iceberg for the Kuznetsov. During that carrier’s first-ever combat deployment in 2016, the Russians flew the Kuznetsov’s air wing from shore bases. Or course, their video tribute glossed over all those realities.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
The Liaoning. (JMSDF photo)

And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.

According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.

The Liaoning has made some trips to sea. Japan took photos of the Liaoning and some escorts near the South China Sea, one of the biggest maritime flashpoints in the world, last year.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
China’s carrier Liaoning

The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.

The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.

MIGHTY MOVIES

More ‘Baby Yoda’ tweets and memes from to get you through the week

The third episode of Disney Plus’ new series “The Mandalorian” premiered Nov. 22, 2019, and with it came a new wave of viral tweets all celebrating the small green “Baby Yoda.”

The show has yet to reveal a name for the little being, so fans have taken to simply calling it “Baby Yoda.” This show takes place after “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” which means it’s not literally young Yoda (though it could be his clone). But the term has stuck anyways, and even the show’s pilot episode director Dave Filoni says the name “Baby Yoda” is perfectly acceptable until we know more about it.

So for now, let’s just enjoy all of the viral tweets about this small baby who the entire world will protect at all costs.


“Baby Yoda” is truly an internet phenomenon. Fans have been clamoring for merchandise, which was released in a limited quantity last week. The show has also officially dethroned “Stranger Things” as the most “in-demand” show, according to a new report from Business Insider’s Travis Clark.

We’ll have to wait for more “Baby Yoda” cuteness on the next episode, but in the meantime at least we have the very good tweets.

The fourth episode of “The Mandalorian” premieres Nov. 29, 2019 on Disney Plus.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Boeing missed a self-imposed deadline to deliver the first new KC-46 tanker to the Air Force by the end of 2017, and now the Air Force believes the company may miss its expected delivery window in spring 2018, instead presenting the first tanker late 2018, according to Aviation Week.


The Air Force came to that conclusion after a recent joint schedule risk assessment. Boeing is obligated to give the Air Force 18 of the new tankers by October 2018. Missing that deadline will likely bring additional financial penalties.

The firm has already been hit with about $2.9 billion in pretax costs under the tanker contract, which holds the planemaker responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment.

Also read: Why Boeing may stop building fighter planes

Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Aviation Week that the force will continue working with Boeing “to develop schedule mitigations” as needed and to expedite the program. “These potential delays will not result in additional program cost to the taxpayer,” she added.

The tanker program has been hindered by a few persistent problems in recent months.

The most severe — a “category 1 deficiency” — is the tanker’s rigid refueling boom scraping against the plane it is refueling. Such contact can compromise the special stealth coating on aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. And a tanker with a contaminated boom may also have to be grounded.

Air Force and private-sector personnel are reviewing flight data to determine the nature of such incidents and compare them to international norms, Aviation Week previously reported. That investigation will also inform a decision about replacing the remote camera used during the refueling process.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing/John D. Parker)

Two other issues, which have been lowered to category II, involve the tanker’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the aircraft broadcast and can cause sparks and fires. The Air Force wants assurances those radios will never broadcast while fuel is flowing and expects a long-term fix from Boeing. The force also expects a Boeing software update in 2018 to address the deficiency in which the refueling boom would extend on its own when disconnecting from a refueling aircraft.

Related: Report blames Boeing mechanics for Air Force One oxygen problems

In December 2017, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certification for the 767-2C, which is the tanker derivative of the 767 commercial plane. But the firm is yet to receive the supplemental type certification that signs off on all the military and aerial-refueling modifications that turn a 767-2C into a KC-46.

Air Force Materials Command also told Air Force Times that the tanker still needs to get the Air Force’s military type certification, which will signify the safety and airworthiness of those systems and equipment.

Early 2018, a Pentagon testing and evaluation office report indicated the KC-46’s most important systems — including its ability to transfer fuel — had been uninstalled or deactivated during testing under electromagnetic-pulse conditions. It recommended retesting “operationally representative” conditions.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
A KC-46 Pegasus takes its first flight at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, September 25, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jet Fabara)

However, the Air Force said in February 2018 it was working with the testing and evaluation office to reconcile those concerns but had no plans to change the overall tanker program or its testing timelines.

Officials from Air Force Materials Command told Air Force Times that the EMP testing was intended to evaluate mission-critical systems — like takeoff, flight, landing, aircraft control, voice communications, and use of the refueling boom and centerline drogue system.

More: Boeing’s SR-71 Blackbird replacement totally looks like a UFO

“The systems that were uninstalled or deactivated were not flight-critical or required for aerial refueling operations,” according to the officials. After the EMP tests, they said, those critical or required systems were still operational.

The Air Force has two nuclear-threat-related tests planned for fiscal year 2018, which began in October 2017 and ends in September 2018. One will evaluate the KC-46’s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base. The other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects. The tests are slated for the second half of the fiscal year.

The Air Force currently plans to buy 179 of the KC-46, which is being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 fleet, the members of which are, on average, 55 years old.

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