The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.
The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”
Sailors on the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.
The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.
It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.
The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.
The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.
The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.
In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.
Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.
Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”
The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.
The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.
F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)
The Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet, and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.
“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.
As a result, Corps developers explain that the aircraft has, to a large extent, had trouble keeping pace with needed modernization and readiness enhancements. This challenge has been greatly exacerbated by a major increase in Combatant Commander requests for Ospreys, particularly since 2007, Corps officials say.
“The quality of maintenance training curricula, maturation, and standardization has not kept pace with readiness requirements. Current maintenance manning levels are unable to support demands for labor The current V-22 sustainment system cannot realize improved and sustained aircraft readiness / availability without significant change,” the Corps writes in its recently published 2018 Marine Aviation Plan. “Depot-level maintenance cannot keep up with demand.”
Given this scenario, the Corps is implementing key provisions of its Common Configuration, Readiness and Modernization Plan which, according to Burns, is “designed to achieve a common configuration and improve readiness to a minimum of 75-percent mission capable rate across the fleet.”
Corps officials said the idea with Osprey modernization and sustainment is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. This includes arming the Osprey with rockets, missiles or some kind of new weapons capability to support its escort mission in hostile or high-threat environments.
Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.
The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.
As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability. This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.
In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.
(Photo by Carlos Menendez San Juan)
“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.
Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Alvin Pujols)
Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors, and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems and targeting technologies.
Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.
While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.
Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.
The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.
At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems, and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.
In a concurrent and related development, the Navy is working on its own CVM-22B Osprey variant to emerge in coming years. The project has gained considerable traction ever since the service decided to replace the C-2 for the important Carrier Onboard Delivery mission with the Osprey.
(Photo by D. Miller)
The Navy Osprey is designed to enable 1,150 miles of flight to the ship with extended fuel tanks. Alongside a needed range increase, the new aircraft will also include a new radio for over-the-horizon communications and a built-in public address system, service officials said.
The new Osprey, slated to first be operational by the early 2020s, will perform the full range of missions currently executed by the C-2s. This includes VIP transport, humanitarian relief mission and regular efforts to deliver food, spare parts and equipment for sailors aboard carriers.
The Navy Osprey variant will take on a wider set of missions than those performed by a C-2. Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.
The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.
“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.
A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.
The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.
In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.
Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.
A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.
The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.
A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.
An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.
The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Remember that movie Stealth? It’s the one where Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and the other sexy pilots are forced to fly with a plane that has a computer pilot and, turns out, computer pilots are bad because lightning can strike them and drive them crazy and then they murder all the people?
No? Well certainly you’ve seen or heard of the Terminator movies. You know, the ones where plucky humans and their hacked robot bodybuilder are forced to fight other robots in order to prevent a future apocalypse ordered by military AI?
They’re great films, but they imply that any future where computers are controlling the weapons of war is dystopian AF. In reality, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls are guarded by men with guns. It would be much better if the U.S. could guard those walls with robots with guns controlled by men.
This would provide two advantages. First, if the guards on the walls are robots — not fleshy humans — then people shooting at the walls can only destroy hardware, not kill men and women. But perhaps the bigger factor is that artificial intelligence is enabling robots to become better at some jobs than their human controllers.
Stealth‘s artificial intelligence can pilot fighter jets, but, for some reason, needs a special sensor that looks like a robotic eye instead of just using, you know, its radar or even just normal cameras.
This may sound familiar to people for one or both of two reasons. First, the Air Force is actively pursuing this as the wingman concept. But second, Skynet in the Terminator movies got its start piloting stealth bombers where it achieved a “perfect operational record,” according to Schwarzenegger’s character.
Is this so bad? I mean, sure, we should stop short of handing strategic control of the nuclear weapons to Skynet, but that was never a realistic plot premise. Remember, even during the height of the Cold War, it was rare for launch approval for nuclear weapons to be handed down past the president. If we don’t trust generals to make nuclear decisions without the president approving it, why would we ever let a computer have full control?
So, if we develop Skynet and don’t give it access to the nukes — if we create safe AI — we’re left with a completely new version of warfare where we don’t have to risk our own troops at nearly the same level as we currently do. Doesn’t sound so horrible now, does it?
And, if the other side gets AI, that’s still better for humanity as a whole. Remember when the RAND Corporation anticipated that, by 2025, war with China would be bloody and unwinnable? No? We’re the only people who actually read RAND reports? Alright, then.
Here’s the thing: World War I was so horrible because it was a nearly unwinnable war for both sides. Once nations committed to the conflict, they poured blood and treasure into a never-ending pit of carnage. Millions died and little was gained for anybody.
AI wouldn’t make unwinnable wars winnable — at least not if both sides have it — but it could make them much less bloody, which is still a step in the right direction.
You know what would be even better than sending F-35s up with human pilots to detect enemy air defenses and suppress them? Sending them up with a bunch of fighters that are basically robots with AI. So, if they do get in a fight, they don’t need to take the hits.
(U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)
So, what about poor John Connor, an excellent small-team leader? What’s he going to do when he isn’t allowed to kill Skynet but, instead, Skynet is controlling most of the planes and tanks and ships? Well, he’ll lead small teams or infantry units on the ground while A Few Good Men‘s Col. Jessup gives the marching orders. AI can’t replace all decision-making at the front, and calm heads under fire will be needed to authorize strikes and targets.
So, yes, we all secretly want Skynet on the wall, even more so than we want Col. Jessup up there. But we also need John Connor, as long as we can keep Jessup, Connor, and Skynet from murdering one another.
Susan Ward had only served five weeks in the military when she was medically discharged after an injury — but that didn’t change the fact that she wanted a life in service.
“From that moment when I got out, I was devastated,” she tells NationSwell. “That was my life goal and plan. I didn’t know what to do. I love helping and serving people, doing what I can for people.”
That feeling isn’t uncommon for thousands of military veterans who have a hard time transitioning to civilian life. Though unemployment among veterans who have served since 2001 has gone down, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 370,000 veterans who were still unemployed in 2018.
Numerous transition programs exist to help vets bridge that gap, but for Ward, finding a gig — or even volunteer work — that was service-oriented was necessary for her happiness. She eventually became a firefighter in Alaska, but after 10 years a different injury forced Ward to leave yet another job she loved. She fell into a deep depression, she says, and struggled to find another role that allowed her to fulfill her passion for public service.
“I was on Facebook one day and just saw this post about Team Rubicon, and I had this moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this,'” she says.
Team Rubicon began as a volunteer mission in 2010 after the earthquake that devastated Haiti. The organization offered disaster relief by utilizing the help of former service workers from the military and civilian sectors.
(Team Rubicon photo)
It has since evolved into an organization fueled by 80,000 volunteers. The majority are veterans who assist with everything from clearing trees and debris in tornado-ravaged towns to gutting homes that have been destroyed by floods. The teams, which are deployed as units, also work alongside other disaster-relief organizations, such as the Red Cross.
Similar to Ward, Tyler Bradley, a Clay Hunt fellow for Team Rubicon who organizes and develops volunteers, battled depression after he had to leave the Army due to a genetic health problem.
“After I found [Team Rubicon], I was out doing lots of volunteer work. My girlfriend noticed and said she would see the old Tyler come back,” Bradley says. “Team Rubicon turned my life around.”
“There’s one guy who says that just because the uniform comes off doesn’t mean service ends,” says Zachary Brooks-Miller, director of field operations for Team Rubicon. He adds that the narrative around the value of veterans has to change. “We don’t take the approach that our vets are broken; we see vets as a strength within our community.”
In addition to Team Rubicon’s disaster-relief efforts, the organization also helps to empower veterans and ease their transition into the civilian world, according to Christopher Perkins, managing director at Citi and a member of the company’s Citi Salutes Affinity Steering Committee. By collaborating with Citi, Team Rubicon was able to scale up its contributions, allowing service workers to provide widespread relief last year in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Those efforts were five times larger than anything the organization had previously done and brought even more veterans into the Team Rubicon family.
“Being around my brothers and sisters in arms whom I missed so much, it was so clear to me the impact Team Rubicon would have not only in communities impacted by disaster, but also among veterans,” says Perkins, a former captain in the Marines. “Every single American should know about this organization.”
Although Team Rubicon doesn’t brand itself as a veterans’ organization, it does view former members of the military as the backbone of its efforts. And many veterans see the team-building and camaraderie as a kind of therapy for service-related trauma.
“There are so many people who have [post-traumatic stress disorder] from different things, and when you’re with family you have to pretend that you’re OK,” says Ward, who deals with PTSD from her time as a soldier and firefighter. “But when you’re with your Team Rubicon family, it’s a tribe.”
In support of Sailor 2025’s goal to retain and reward the Navy’s best and brightest, the Navy announced, Feb. 27, 2018, the Targeted Reentry Program (TRP) and associated program guidelines to expedite reentry into the Navy in NAVADMIN 047/18.
The TRP is designed to benefit both the Sailor and the Navy by allowing a return to service for those who are well-trained leaders with valuable and needed skills and will be offered to selected Sailors prior to their departure from the Navy.
The TRP empowers Commanding Officer’s (COs) to identify Active Component and Full Time Support officer and enlisted personnel who have elected to leave active duty (AD) service and do not desire to affiliate with the Ready Reserve and recommend them to be awarded a “Golden Ticket” or “Silver Ticket,” giving them the option for expedited reentry to AD if they decide to return to the Navy.
“Talent is tough to draw in and even tougher to keep,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Just like corporate businesses are adapting, the Navy must adapt to modern personnel policies as well. These changes are designed to maximize opportunities for command triads to advance their best Sailors while managing community and individual rates’ health.”
O-3 and O-4 officers and E-4 to E-6 enlisted, who have completed their Minimum Service Requirement (MSR), but not yet reached 14 years of active service are eligible for consideration for TRP. Also, an officer’s or enlisted’ s community qualifications must be obtained, superior performance annotated in Fitness Reports or Evaluations, and have passed their most recent Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). Officers who have failed to select for promotion are not eligible. Prospective participants must meet character standards, i.e. no record of civil arrest/NJP, court-martials, failed drug screenings, etc.
The Golden Ticket recipients are guaranteed a quota and an expedited return to AD within one year of release as long as they remain fully qualified. Silver Ticket recipients are afforded an expedited return to AD within two years of release, subject to the needs of the Navy and that they remain fully qualified. Golden Tickets, if not used within one year, will convert to Silver Tickets for an additional year. Silver Tickets not used within two years of release from AD expire.
Sailors who accept a Golden or Silver Ticket prior to release from active duty will go into a minimum reserve status, known as Standby Reserve- Inactive (USNR-S2) status. In this reserve status, Sailors will have no participation requirement and will not be eligible for promotion or advancement or be eligible for health care, retirement points, Servicemembers Group Life Insurance and other benefits. The Date of Rank of officers and Time in Rate of enlisted TRP participants will be adjusted upon returning to AD. Sailors who return to active duty using TRP will maintain the last rating and paygrade held at the time of separation.
BUPERS-3 is the approving authority for all TRP ticket request and will make determinations based on overall performance, community health, and needs of the Navy. Once approved for a Golden or Silver Ticket, officer and enlisted personnel will have the option to accept or reject participation in the TRP prior to their release from AD.
Sailor 2025 is comprised of nearly 45 initiatives to improve and modernize personnel management and training systems to more effectively recruit, develop, manage, reward, and retain the force of tomorrow. It is focused on empowering Sailors, updating policies, procedures, and operating systems, and providing the right training at the right time in the right way to ensure Sailors are ready for the Fleet. Sailor 2025 is organized into three main lines of effort, specifically Personnel System Modernization, Ready Relevant Learning and Career Readiness.
U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.
“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”
The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.
The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.
Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.
“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.
This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.
The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.
The shipbuilders tasked with constructing the US Navy’s next supercarrier have finished installing the flight deck, using a massive crane to place the final 780-ton piece.
The USS John F. Kennedy will be the Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier after the USS Gerald R. Ford, which has been delayed due to unexpected problems and increased maintenance demands. The installation of the JFK’s upper bow at Newport News Shipbuilding early July 2019 completed the carrier’s main hull, which, at a length of 1,096 feet, is longer than three football fields.
The final piece weighed nearly 800 tons — as much as 13 main battle tanks — and took a year and a half to build. Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII) released a video of the installation.
More than 3,200 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers are involved in the construction of the Kennedy, which will, if everything goes according to plan, be launched later this year.
“The upper bow is the last superlift that completes the ship’s primary hull. This milestone is testament to the significant build strategy changes we have made — and to the men and women of Newport News Shipbuilding who do what no one else in the world can do,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy construction project, said in a HII statement.
While the US is not the only country to field aircraft carriers, no other country has built anything that even comes close to the new nuclear-powered Ford-class supercarriers.
China’s only operational carrier, for instance, is a previously-discarded Soviet ship that China transformed into the country’s first flattop. Russia’s situation is even worse: It’s only carrier is out of action and the foreign-made dry dock used to repair it.
While the US force of 11 carriers is much more modern and capable, the Ford-class carriers have certainly had their share of problems.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
June 2019, US lawmakers expressed concern after learning that the Ford and the Kennedy would not be able to deploy with the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters when the carriers are first delivered to the Navy. A congressional staffer told reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”
And, in May 2019, the Navy admitted that the advanced weapons elevators on the Ford, systems required to quickly move ordnance to the flight deck to increase the aircraft sortie rate and the overall lethality of the ship, will not be working properly when the carrier leaves the shipyard to rejoin the fleet in October 2019.
Maintenance on the Ford was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but problems with the ship’s propulsion system, elevators, and a few other areas resulted in unplanned delivery delays.
HII says that it has leveraged the lessons learned from its work on the Ford and insists that the Kennedy is on schedule to launch in the fourth quarter of this year; the JFK’s construction is estimated to cost at least .4 billion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you can’t own or buy it, you make it. And that’s exactly what Zacharias Ourgantzidis from Thessaloniki, Greece did. He decided to build a replica of the Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222, a light four-wheel drive armored car, used by the German armored forces during World War II. The production ran from 1937 until 1943 and a total of ca. 990 were produced.
At the beginning of the war, the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 222 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. Later, both of the guns were upgraded to a 2 cm KwK 38 and MG34. It had a crew of 3 and saw action on the Eastern Front, North Africa and Europe. Even China purchased a lot in 1937.
Less than a handful of authentic Sdkfz 222 survived and reside in private collections and museums around the world. So, Zacharias Ourgantzidis, decided to recreate an original scale replica of the Sdkfz 222. Costing approximately 10.000 euro.
“My vehicle is a replica and I built it step by step, based on all available documentation”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis to WW2Wrecks. Adding, “I already own 2 Willy’s jeeps, 3 motorcycles, a BSA, a BMW and a Mustang, as well as a variety of other period vehicles and I wanted to add an armored vehicle in my collection.”
“I researched for almost a year and the actual implementation of the plan, from the drawing board to reality lasted 19 months, at a cost of approximately 10,000 euro.”, Mr. Ourgantzidis explained.
The chassis is based on a modified ISUZU Trooper SUV, the engine is a 2600cc and all other parts are custom made, based on the specifications and measurements of the original vehicle. There are several original parts used too, mostly coming from Russia and Germany, such as the lights, gun muzzle and other elements which add a period touch to the vehicle.
“I painted the SdKfz 222 with RAL7021, since color used by the Wehrmacht during Operation Marita, the campaign to conquer Greece in 1941, as my vehicle is participating in reenactment events, parades and World War II shows.”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis.
You can enjoy the photographic journey of this painstaking step by step 19-month production to build this Sdkfz 222 replica:
“You can’t spell ‘lost’ without ‘Lt'” is such an old joke in the military that Lieutenant George Washington probably had to halfheartedly chuckle at it to get his salty platoon sergeant off his ass. Yet, no matter how many times it’s repeated, we have to admit, it’s still kind of funny.
It stems from the idea that all lieutenants are inept at land navigation and, when the platoon goes off rucking in the woods, the platoon leader is going to get everyone lost — so they should follow the platoon sergeant instead. It doesn’t matter if the lieutenant actually knows their way around a land nav course, the stigma is still there.
Like all sweeping generalizations, it’s not entirely true. Maybe the lieutenant was prior enlisted and has retained that particular skill. Maybe they were in the Scouts as a teen and picked up a few things. Kudos to you, resourceful lieutenant! Prove that stereotype wrong for the betterment of your peers.
But as it stands, there are a few systemic reasons why lieutenants get lost, perpetuating the joke.
Knowing what the book says about crossing tricky terrain is much different than the NCO approach finding a way across.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The difference between lieutenants and sergeants is basically the same as the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Now, we’re not saying that sergeants aren’t smart or that lieutenants aren’t wise, but they’re groomed with different emphases.
Lieutenants are trained to value institutional knowledge. Ask any officer a question and they’ll recite the book answer, verbatim — intelligence. Sergeants, on the other hand, are born from street smarts. They probably couldn’t tell you the exact, obscure regulation about God-knows-what, but they can tell you if it’s right or not based on context clues — wisdom.
They make a fine team together. It’s what keeps the military functioning. It’s that special balance of yin and yang in the unit. But land navigation is almost entirely based on wisdom, not intelligence. It’s a skill you learn over time and develop a gut feeling about.
The secret to land nav is to not think about it too hard.
(U.S. Army photo by Armando R. Limon)
Knowing the book answer (and only the book answer) to land navigation is where lieutenants shoot themselves in the foot. As odd as it sounds to enlisted, officers do conduct land nav training while at the academy, OCS, or ROTC. They probably tell you what the book says about putting a compass to your cheek to shoot a proper azimuth, they probably tell you about each topographical feature on a map, but that doesn’t always translate to the real world.
In practice, memorizing what the book says about land nav actually hurts you. Leading a platoon through the field requires you to juggle a few things — where you’re coming from, where you’re going, the direction in which to travel, and about how far between those points you should be at a given time.
All of the jokes can easily be avoided if the lieutenant keeps their pride in check and trusts in their NCOs.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Jones)
An NCO could look at the map and say, “I’m currently in this valley and I need to be at the second hill to the west. Seems to be about a quarter of a kilometer away. Compass says west is that way… Cool” and be on their way.
Officers would likely over-analyze the situation. They’ll stare at the compass until it reads precisely the right direction according to their starting point (and not readjust it as they move). They’ll measure the distance they’ve traveled based on step count, knowing that each stride is roughly one meter (and not account for terrain). They’ll follow what the book says to perfection — and it’ll put them way off course.
Land nav is not something you can learn in a book. Every location is different. Sure, mastering land nav requires a good dosage of the book stuff — but you also need to know when to toss it to the side in favor of following your wise, experienced gut.
The 1980s brought us some fantastic action movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard,” which made movie-goers consider joining the police force.
When Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” landed in cinemas across the nation, it was an instant blockbuster, earning over $350 million worldwide according to box office mojo.
With all the adrenaline-packed scenes the film offers, “Top Gun” audience members of all ages wanted to be the next Maverick.
While it made a massive impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the cool pilots from “Top Gun?”
Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.
FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.
Soon after Iceman made amends with Maverick, his naval career took a downward turn, and he ended up leaving the military. Like most veterans, he didn’t have a plan about what he wanted to do post service — so he dyed his hair brown and became a Jim Morrison impersonator.
He played a few music gigs and smoked a lot of drugs. But after the market for music impersonators dried up, Iceman reset his hair blonde and turned to a life of crime.
You may have even seen him on the news after being involved in a major shootout with police in downtown Los Angeles back the mid-90s.
The “Heat” was totally on.
Since then, Iceman has gone off the grid, but he resurfaces every once in a while.
Jester loved being a Top Gun instructor, but because he lost a dogfight to a student — his peers started to look down at his piloting skills. Jester put in for retirement and left the Navy. After months of being a civilian, Jester missed the action so much, he moved to Mars becoming a bounty hunter.
While on assignment, Jester lost his arms during a fight on an elevator. The Mars government patched him up and gave him a bionic arm.
Then wouldn’t you know it, a war broke out against some big ass bugs, and he joined the mobile infantry. He flew to a planet named “Klendathu” to eliminate the threat. Unfortunately, Jester met his doom there, and his body was ripped apart.
Jester could have just walked this off.
After being Iceman’s sidekick for so many years, Slider’s BUD/s package was approved, and he went on to become a Navy SEAL. He didn’t talk too much, but he learned to play a mean round of go-kart golf.
Life after the teams, Slider finished getting his medical degree and went to work for a ghetto hospital in Chicago. He began dating a hot nurse until an upcoming pediatrician stole her away.
Then, he kind of just vanished. Oh, wait! We just received reports that he spotted as a bicycle officer patrolling the Santa Monica Pier.
No one saw that career change coming.
As much crap as he raised as a fighter pilot, Maverick ended up getting recruited by a spy agency named “Mission Impossible Force.” The organization made him change his name from Pete Mitchell to Ethan Hunt — which is far better.
He went on several successful missions and took down some of the world’s most dangerous and well-connected terrorists.
In recent news, the all-star pilot will be returning for round 2, “Maverick” set to debut this fall.
Three B-2 Spirits and approximately 200 airmen completed their first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment, Aug. 15 through Sept. 27, 2018.
Although bombers regularly rotate throughout the Indo-Pacific, this marked the first deployment of B-2 Spirits to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. “The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”
Despite the deployment taking place in the middle of hurricane season, the B-2 pilots accomplished hundreds of local and long-duration sorties and regional training. Each mission focused on displaying the bomber’s flexible global-strike capability and the United States’ commitment to supporting global security.
One of the key integrations involved the B-2s and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 154th Wing under the Hawaii Air National Guard. Like the B-2, the F-22 is virtually invisible to threats. This makes them the perfect match for escorting the stealth bomber and providing situational awareness. The training helped polish the cohesion between the pilots.
“The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander. “Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future.”
A B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment is parked on the flightline Sept. 26, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The 154th Wing also supported the B-2 with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron’s KC-135 Stratotankers. Although the B-2 is capable of flying approximately 6,000 miles without refueling, the KC-135s provided aerial refueling for long-duration missions.
“The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable,” Adcock said. “Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
In addition to air operations, the deployment also focused on hot-pit refueling. During this technique, the pilots land and continue to run the B-2’s engines while fuels distribution technicians refuel the aircraft. The pilots are immediately able to take off again with a full tank and maximize the amount of time they are in the air versus on the ground. One B-2 conducted hot-pit refueling at Wake Island, a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific, west of Honolulu, Sept. 14, 2018.
Finally, weapons load crews exercised loading BDU-50s, inert 500 pound non-explosive practice bombs, into B-2 bomb bays on the JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam flightline.
“This weapons load is the first stepping stone to loading live munitions from this location,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons section chief. “Furthermore, it provides pilots and load crews valuable training necessary to accomplish future BTF missions.”
From air to ground support, the first Bomber Task Force deployment to Hawaii has allowed each member to determine what it would take to operate the B-2 from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam and execute strategic deterrence, global strike, and combat support at any time.
“I am very proud of every airman that was a member of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron,” Adcock said. “We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges.”