The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.
But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo)
The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.
But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”
Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”
A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.
Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.
However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”
Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.
Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.
These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.
“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.
Keeping an eye on things
More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.
“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.
Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.
US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.
Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.
NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.
U.S. intelligence agencies are evaluating the respective Russian and Chinese capabilities to survive a nuclear war, as well as those of the United States.
Congress has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, through the National Defense Authorization Act of the Fiscal Year 2017, to report on Russian and Chinese “leadership survivability, command and control, and continuity of government programs and activities” in the event of a nuclear strike.
The directive was pushed forward by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio).
The U.S. “must understand how China and Russia intend to fight a war and how their leadership will command and control a potential conflict. This knowledge is pivotal to our ability to deter the threat,” Turner told Bloomberg.
Russia and China “have invested considerable effort and resources into understanding how we fight, including how to interfere with our leadership’s communication capabilities,” he added.
“We must not ignore gaps in our understanding of key adversary capabilities,” he concluded.
The intelligence review is required to identify “which facilities various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime,” “location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability,” and “key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities.”
“Our experts are drafting an appropriate response,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, told Bloomberg.
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December. He said that Russian forces should be able to “neutralize any military threat.”
China should “build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile,” China’s nationalist Global Times said in December.
Last week, Chinese reports indicated that China had deployed its nuclear-capable DF-41s in response to President Donald Trump’s “provocative remarks.”
The request predates Trump’s election; however, it appears consistent with his intentions for enhancing the power of the U.S. military.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted in late December.
Trump instructed Secretary of Defense General James Mattis to “initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies” Friday.
At the same time, Trump hopes that he can reshape relations with both China and Russia.
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Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.
“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight. Requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions with bigger effects,” Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said recently at the Air Force Association Annual Conference.
While the Air Force is now moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions, exploring 2,000-pound bomb options engineered for larger attack impacts are a key part of the equation.
The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address a fast-changing global threat calculus.
While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.
“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects need to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air attack as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power. To reinforce this point, Wilcox explained that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.
“We will continue to deal with violent extremist organizations,” Wilcox said.
Dialable Effects Munitions
The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.
“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” the report, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) writes.
Specifically, the report explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.
An excerpt from the report:
Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force—the “boom”—is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options
Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.
Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.
“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”
For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.
Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect, and detonation.
This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.
“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.
A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.
He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.
Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.
“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.
The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.
A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.
“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself, which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A South Carolina World War II veteran’s family, along with Congressman Joe Wilson and Rep. Bill Taylor, R- SC, recently honored the war hero with the Bronze Star, which he actually received 73 years ago.
On May 20, Aiken County’s James “Boots” Beatty, 96, was presented the award that was authorized in 1944, but he was never notified.
Now, after decades, Wilson and Taylor presented the Bronze Star.
“I honored him recognition from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Taylor said. “Boots was one of the original military ‘tough guys’. He served in the famed Devil’s Brigade, our county’s First Special Forces Unit and the forerunner of Delta Force, the Navy Seals.”
The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
Beatty received this and several other awards during a special surprise presentation at his home in Aiken.
“Today’s recognition was a surprise arranged by his loving family who didn’t know of his special service until they discovered it six years ago because he never told them,” Taylor said.
Jim Hamilton, Beatty’s son-in-law, and several other family members also presented other medals and decorations Beatty won, but lost over the many years.
Beatty also was presented with the Good Conduct medal, which was approved by the Secretary of War on Oct. 30, 1942; the European — African — Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which was first created on Nov. 6, 1942 by executive order 9265, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the World War II Victory Medal, Hamilton said.
He also received the Active Duty Army Minute Man Lapel Pin, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Infantryman Badge.
Spouses in place of the member (not Civil Service or Contractor). Note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.
Unremarried Widows are entitled to their departed spouse’s discounts (not Civil Service or Contractor).
Foreign partners/Coalition partners stationed at a US base are eligible. They must have a permanent US Military issued ID (CAC card with blue stripe).
The Disney Armed Forces Salutes also offer outstanding discounts on Disney Resort rooms.
The Disney Armed Forces Salute is offered at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California and may be used at both during the Salute offer.
Salute admission tickets for the Disney theme parks
The Disney Armed Forces Salute offers special military tickets. These tickets are for a specified number of days and come in several varieties.
Qualified individuals may purchase up to a maximum of 6* theme park tickets per military member during the 2019 Salute offer periods.
One ticket must be used by the member or spouse, the rest can be used by anyone else.
These tickets are non-refundable.
The tickets are valid for the entire length of the offer periods (with certain excluded dates):
2019 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019
2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 19, 2020
Days on the tickets do not need to be used consecutively. Any days left on the tickets will expire at the end of each offer period. Tickets from 2019 cannot be used in 2020!
Tickets purchased at all military resellers (except Shades of Green) and not directly from Disney must be activated prior to first use in person by the military member or spouse. See Salute Ticket Activation Procedures
Once the tickets are activated the party may split up. For example some go to one park and some to another, or even use the tickets on different days. The Military ID is checked only upon ticket activation.
Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come and in two types at WDW:
The Theme Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day
Note These tickets need to be activated at WDW prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide
Linking your military tickets to your My Disney Experience account does not activate your tickets! You will still need to do so at Disney with a valid military ID!
FastPass Plus – All military discounted tickets including the Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are able to be linked to your My Disney Experience account. You can then make your advance FP+ reservations the correct number of days ahead based on where you are staying.
Disney Resorts (including Shades of Green, Swan and Dolphin, and Disney Springs Hotels) – 60 Days
Non Disney Resorts – 30 Days
Day Guests – 30 Days
Disneyland in Anaheim California
At Disneyland Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are Park Hoppers and come in 3-day and 4-day lengths.
Disneyland 2020 Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):
April 12, 2019
These tickets can be purchased at Your local Base Ticket Office, or Disneyland Ticket Booths and Resort Hotels (for registered guests).
If you do not have a base near you see this page for other options.
Note These tickets need to be activated at Disneyland prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide.
At Disneyland Salute Tickets are not valid for Magic Morning early entry admission.
* For families larger than 6, Disney states “Exceptions should be made for immediate families larger than six people.” For example, if a family has five children, Disney will allow all members of the family to purchase Disney Military Promotion Tickets, for Mom, Dad, and the five kids.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
With millions of boats and ships plying the waves, it’s easy to forget that mankind isn’t made to survive in the ocean — and the dangers inherent to the sea are compounded when you’re trapped a few decks below the waterline in a huge iron bubble filled with ammunition and fuel that’s on fire as it sinks into icy waters.
A ship goes down, circa 1943.
(John Atherton, CC BY-SA 2.5)
For sailors, attempting to save their vessel and then, if necessary, abandoning it while trying to survive is a real process that they must be prepared to complete. Based on testimony from those who have survived torpedo hits and other attacks that doom a ship, the experience is even more nightmarish than most would imagine.
“The steamer appeared to be close to us and looked colossal. I saw the captain walking on his bridge, a small whistle in his mouth. I saw the crew cleaning the deck forward, and I saw, with surprise and a slight shudder, long rows of wooden partitions right along all decks, from which gleamed the shining black and brown backs of horses. ‘Oh heavens, horses! What a pity, those lovely beasts!’ ….
“The death-bringing shot was a true one, and the torpedo ran towards the doomed ship at high speed. I could follow its course exactly by the light streak of bubbles which was left in its wake….
“I saw that the bubble-track of the torpedo had been discovered on the bridge of the steamer, as frightened arms pointed towards the water and the captain put his hands in front of his eyes and waited resignedly. Then a frightful explosion followed, and we were all thrown against one another by the concussion, and then, like Vulcan, huge and majestic, a column of water two hundred metres high and fifty metres broad, terrible in its beauty and power, shot up to the heavens.”
For men not on the deck, the end of the ship can come as even more of a surprise.
“I awoke. I was in the air. I saw a bright light before I felt the concussion of the explosion that threw me up in the air almost to the overhead. A torpedo had detonated under my room. I hit the edge of the bunk, hit the deck, and stood up. Then the second explosion knocked me down again. As I landed on the deck I thought, ‘I’ve got to get the hell out of here!’ I grabbed my life jacket and started to go out the door. My room was already on fire.”
The German battleship Admiral Graf Spee in flames after being scuttled in the River Plate Estuary off Montevideo, Uruguay.
(Imperial War Museums)
For men on sinking ships, fire is a real hazard despite the water rushing to fill the ship. The water is the greatest threat to the ship floating for the moment, but fire can quickly kill all life aboard and cause explosions or melt bulkheads, disabling pumps or allowing even more water in.
Damage control parties move through the ship, attempting to patch holes, pump out flooded compartments, and douse fires. But if they can’t get the damage under control, the ship’s captain has to make one of the hardest decisions: to abandon ship.
Sometimes, it’s the only way to save the crew, giving them the chance to fight another day or to return to their families, but it consigns thousands of tons of American steel and aluminum to the sea, along with the remains of any sailors already dead or too injured or trapped to escape.
The rest of the crew heads for the lifeboats, helping each other through listing decks and smoke-filled compartments that are often without power and light.
But there’s not always room enough for everyone in the lifeboat. This is extremely dangerous, even when the water is warm. The water is often filled with oil and diesel, and the sinking ship is drawing literal tons of water towards itself, creating a situation where even the strongest swimmer can get slowly pulled under and drown.
The HMS Legion, at left, rescues survivors from the slowly sinking HMS Ark Royal near the coast of Gibraltar.
(Royal Navy photo by Lt. S.J. Beadell)
From Dr. Haynes’ account of the Indianapolis sinking:
“I slowly walked down the side of the ship. Another kid came and said he didn’t have a jacket. I had an extra jacket and he put it on. We both jumped into the water which was covered with fuel oil. I wasn’t alone in the water. The hull was covered with people climbing down.
“I didn’t want to get sucked down with the ship so I kicked my feet to get away. And then the ship rose up high. I thought it was going to come down and crush me. The ship kept leaning out away from me, the aft end rising up and leaning over as it stood up on its nose. The ship was still going forward at probably 3 or 4 knots. When it finally sank, it was over a hundred yards from me. Most of the survivors were strung out anywhere from half a mile to a mile behind the ship.
“Suddenly, the ship was gone and it was very quiet. It had only been 12 minutes since the torpedoes hit. We started to gather together. Being in the water wasn’t an unpleasant experience except that the black fuel oil got in your nose and eyes. We all looked the same, black oil all over — white eyes and red mouths. You couldn’t tell the doctor from the boot seamen. Soon everyone had swallowed fuel oil and gotten sick. Then everyone began vomiting.”
USS Indianapolis survivors are moved to the hospital in August 1945.
Best case scenario, the sailors are now safely in the water, attempting to tend to wounds and keep people afloat while awaiting rescue. But, they may still be under attack or could be captured by enemy forces. In the case of the Indianapolis, the crew was returning from the top-secret mission to deliver the atomic bomb to Allied forces for use against Japan.
No one knew where the ship was, and the men were left at sea for four days in shark-infested waters. The crew had 1,195 members when it went down in 1945. 300 men are thought to have gone down with the ship, and nearly 600 more died in the water while waiting for rescue. Only 316 survived.
Normally, James Martin is the very model of a modern major general. But the Air Force officer, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, recently collapsed at the podium while answering questions about the F-35.
Air Force Deputy for Budget Carolyn Gleason held Maj. Gen. Martin up, while aides came to help Martin, who regained his senses seconds later.
“That’s what the F-35 will do to you,” Gleason laughed.
The struggle over at the USAF Budget Office is real.
The Civil War Trust, known for its great maps and historical accounts of the war, has branched into animated maps that show move-by-move accounts of important battles like Antietam, Vicksburg and Shiloh.
The trust’s still maps are known for their accuracy and detail, and these new animated maps continue that tradition. The big difference is the motion; it’s like watching the battle play out on a sand table during a ROC drill.
A narrator provides context for the action, telling viewers everything from how the crippling heat affected the repeated clashes at Little Round Top to why Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-advised deployment of artillery on the Union’s front.
Meanwhile, short video clips try to put the viewer on the ground with soldiers during the most fierce and important events, showing things like when Maj. Gen. John Reynolds was shot in the neck and killed.
The full videos for each battle are a little long, about 15-20 minutes each. But they let you get a better understanding of each battle that you can knock out in a lunch break. Check out Gettysburg below:
The US’s long-awaited Space Force was officially established on December 20, when President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Space Force was created from US Air Force Space Command but is still part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department. Space Force is not meant to put troops into space but will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which leads US military space operations.
The secretary of the Air Force has to tell Congress by February 1 how Space Force will be organized and its expected funding needs. But there are still “thousands and thousands of actions that are going to have to take place” over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said on December 20
Among those is the renaming of Air Force bases to reflect the space mission, according to Raymond, who is head of US Space Command and will lead Space Force as its first chief of space operations.
“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be space bases,” Raymond said.
“I just want to point out, though, that we will rely very heavily on the Air Force to operate those bases,” he added. “But we’ll work to rename those to match the mission of the base.”
Raymond mentioned five Air Force bases that could be renamed — Patrick Air Force Base, for example, could become Patrick Space Base — but he said “his list wasn’t necessarily all inclusive,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email last week, adding that the service was “still working through the details” and didn’t currently have any other information about renaming bases.
Below, you can see some of the bases that may soon have new names.
A C-17 Globemaster III at Buckley Air Force Base, March 19, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Michael D. Mathews)
Located in Aurora, Colorado, Buckley AFB’s host unit is the 460th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theater and homeland defense and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior airmen.”
In its day-to-day operations, the 460th SW directly supports combatant commands around the world.
Runners exit the north portal of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during the Zombie Tunnel 5k Fun Run, Oct. 20, 2017.
(US Air Force/Steve Koteck)
Cheyenne Mountain AFS is located near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command.
While Raymond didn’t mention Cheyenne Mountain by name, it is a big part of US space operations. It is the alternate command center for NORAD and Northern Command and is a training site for crew qualification.
“NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain,” according to NORAD. But it is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command, which is now Space Force.
Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney takes photos on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, July 3, 2019.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Frank Casciotta)
In addition to hosting the headquarters for NORAD and Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Space Command and now for Space Force.
It is also home to the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force’s most geographically dispersed wing and the fifth-largest wing in the Air Force by number of units.
The 21st SW uses a network of command-and-control units as well as ground- and space-based sensors operated by units around the world to provide missile warning and space control to NORAD.
50th Operations Support Squadron students at Schriever Air Force Base, January 10, 2019.
(US Air Force/2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)
East of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Schriever AFB’s host unit is the 50th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.”
The 50th SW and its 16 units around the world provide “command and control of more than 185 satellites, to include commercial, DoD and civil assets,” the base’s website says.
The wing runs satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote-tracking stations and command-and-control facilities across the planet, at which it monitors satellites throughout their service life.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of Northern Command and NORAD, tours Vandenberg Air Force Base, August 7, 2018.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos)
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Located in a remote area north of Los Angeles, Vandenberg AFB is headquarters for the 30th Space Wing, which manages space and missile testing for the Pentagon, launches satellites and spacecraft, and supports the Minuteman III ICBM force development evaluation program.
Vandenberg is also home to the 14th Air Force, which on December 27 was redesignated as Space Operations Command, which “directly supports the US Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.”
SPOC comprises the five space wings on this list as well as the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, which is the SPOC commander’s command-and-control center at Vandenberg.
Among other things, SPOC will provide space domain awareness and electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile-warning and nuclear-detonation detection, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for Space Force and Space Command and other combatant commands.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 23, 2019.
(US Air Force/1st Lt Alex Preisser)
Patrick Air Force Base
Patrick Air Force Base is on Florida’s Atlantic coast near Orlando, and its host unit is the 45th Space Wing.
The wing operates the Eastern Range, which supports rocket and missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. It also oversees satellite launches at Cape Canaveral for the US military and civilian agencies and commercial entities.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday with Starlink satellites in the first launch of 2020 and the wing’s first launch as a part of Space Force.
“The effects the new Space Force will have on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base has not been announced yet, but continuing to successfully accomplish the mission without interruption is our top priority,” 45th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess said January 3.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy has declared its carrier-capable F-35Cs “ready for combat,” a major milestone for the fifth-generation stealth fighter.
The Navy’s version of the F-35 has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the Navy said on Feb. 28, 2019.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of naval air forces, said. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
This news follows an earlier announcement by the Navy in December 2018 that the service’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, had completed the critical aircraft-carrier qualifications aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
“The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments,” Rear Adm. Dale Horan, the director of the US Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, said in a statement.
With Feb. 28, 2019’s IOC declaration, which follows decades of testing and development, the Navy has joined the Marine Corps and Air Force, both of which have already declared their F-35 variants combat-ready. The Marine Corps was the first service to take the F-35 into combat.
“This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the US Navy,” Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 Program, said in statement, CNBC reported.
Lockheed Martin developed the A, B, and C variants of the F-35 for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, respectively, with each version featuring different combat capabilities.
Recognized as America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 stealth fighter has faced constant criticism and numerous developmental setbacks, but now all three variants are officially ready to wage war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.
The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”