Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.
“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”
The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.
Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”
By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.
The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.
“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”
Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.
A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.
“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”
Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.
“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.
The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.
Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle break,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority – long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
Early 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
(photo from Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.
“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.
Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sept. 14 he will retaliate against a US halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by US military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.
Cambodia’s pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen said cooperation with the United States on the MIA search would be suspended until the two countries resolve several issues, especially the visa ban. Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the report.
The US government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.
The dispute comes at a time of sharp tensions between Hun Sen’s government and Washington. As part of a general crackdown on critics ahead of next year’s general election, Cambodian authorities recently arrested the head of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and accused the United States of colluding with him to overthrow the government.
The United States has rejected the accusation and criticized the arrest, along with a crackdown on the media that shut an independent English-language newspaper and about a dozen radio stations that broadcast opposition voices or programming by the US government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
The US Embassy instituted the visa ban on Sept. 13, saying that Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes. Similar measures were taken against the African nations of Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Hun Sen said in an interview with Fresh News that the foreign ministry would send a notification of the MIA search suspension to the US in the near future. Earlier Sept. 14, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.
Hun Sen described the repatriation of convicts from the United States to Cambodia as an action that “breaks apart parents and children” and is “bad and inhumane.” He said some of the repatriated Cambodians had committed suicide.
Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.
A Russian court has ordered several of the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast-guard forces during a confrontation at sea off Crimea to be held in custody for two months.
The Nov. 27, 2018, rulings by the court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-controlled Crimea, signaled the Kremlin’s defiance of calls by Kyiv and the West to release two dozen crew members who were seized along with three Ukrainian Navy vessels following hours of hostility at sea two days earlier.
Raising the stakes after tensions spiked when Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on the Ukrainian boats on Nov. 25, 2018, the court was holding custody hearings for 12 of the crewmen. A Russian official said nine others would face hearings on Nov. 28, 2018.
So far, four have been ordered held in pretrial detention — which usually means custody behind bars in a jail — until Jan. 25, 2019. Under Russian law, detention terms can be extended by courts at the request of prosecutors, and it was not immediately clear when the sailors might face trial.
Officials identified the Ukrainians as Volodymyr Varemez, the captain of a navy tugboat that was rammed by a Russian vessel, and sailors Serhiy Tsybizov, Andriy Oprysko, and Viktor Bespalchenko.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ukrainians were charged with “illegal border crossing by a group of individuals acting in collusion, or by an organized group, or with the use of or the threat to use violence.”
The court hearings came hours after Western leaders, speaking on Nov. 26, 2018, condemned what they called Russia’s “outrageous” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as international maritime treaties, and called on Moscow to immediately release the detainees.
Conflicting reports have put the number of Ukrainians detained at 23 and 24. The court rulings put them in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
In the running confrontation off Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018, a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian tugboat in an initial encounter, and a few hours later the Russian vessels opened fire before special forces stormed the three Ukrainian boats. Six Ukrainians were injured.
The hostilities injected yet more animus into the badly damaged relationship between Kyiv and Moscow, which seized Crimea in March 2014 and backs armed separatists in a simmering war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.
Those Russian actions, a response to the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by the pro-European protest movement known as the Euromaidan, have also severely damaged its ties with the West.
The confrontation came days before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump ion the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea, that is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukraine declared martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — following what it called a Russian “act of aggression.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned “this aggressive Russian action,” and called on Moscow to return the vessels and crews, and abide by Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.”
Pompeo said both sides should “exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments” and said Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, should “engage directly to resolve this situation.”
Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and a “reckless Russian escalation” of its conflict with Ukraine.
Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia “wants to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea and annex the Sea of Azov.”
The international community will not accept this, he said, insisting that Russia “must not be allowed to rewrite history by establishing new realities on the ground.”
Martial law will come into force on Nov. 28, 2018, in 10 Ukrainian regions that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia,” and will be in place for 30 days.
The measure includes a partial mobilization of forces, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and other unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime.”
Putin expressed “serious concern” over the Ukrainian decision in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said on Nov. 27, 2018.
The Russian leader also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” a statement said.
“The imposition of martial law in various regions potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region, in the southeast” of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later told reporters.
Hours before the court hearings, Russian state-run TV channel Rossia-24 showed images of several of the detained Ukrainians that were apparently recorded during interrogations by Russia’s security services.
One of them parroted the version of events put forward by Russian authorities, saying, “The actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character.”
One of the detained appeared to be reading his statement. Russian law enforcement agencies frequently provide state media with footage of suspects being questioned under duress.
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) confirmed that a number of its officers were among those captured.
One of them was seriously wounded after a Russian aircraft fired two missiles at the Ukrainian boats, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement.
Calling Russia’s capture of Ukrainian crews “unacceptable,” the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Russia to “immediately release” those detained and provide them with medical aid.
She also called on both sides to use “utmost restraint” to prevent the only live war in Europe from escalating.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “has to understand that its actions have consequences. We will remain in contact with the Ukrainian government to underline our support.”
Unlike other U.S. officials, who vocally backed Ukraine and criticized Russia, President Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation.
“Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it, too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Russia’s acting UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of “staging an aggressive provocation,” which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in March.
“They have no hope to remain in power otherwise,” he said, while condemning Western leaders for condoning what he called their “puppets” in Kyiv.
“I want to warn you that the policy run by Kyiv in coordination with the EU and the U.S. of provoking conflict with Russia is fraught with most serious consequences,” Polyansky said.
At the outset of the UN Security Council meeting on the incident, Russia suffered a setback after it sought to discuss the clash under an agenda item that described the incident as a violation of Russia’s borders.
This was rejected in a procedural vote, with only China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan siding with Russia. The Security Council then discussed the clash under terms laid out by Ukraine.
The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
“I have to emphasize that, according to the international law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.
“Hence, there are no Russian borders in the area where the incident happened. I repeat — there are no Russian state borders around the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.
The Navy is finalizing plans to build its fourth Ford-Class aircraft carrier in the mid-2020s as a substantial step in a long-term plan to extend surface warfare power projection for the next 100 years — all the way into the 2100s
This fourth carrier, called CVN 81, will continue the Navy’s ongoing process to acquire a new class of next-generation carriers designed to sustain its ability to launch air attacks from the ocean in increasingly more dangerous modern threat environments.
“Procurement of CVN 81 is currently being planned for inclusion in the 2023 budget,” William Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
While Couch emphasized that funding will require Congressional approval, he did specify key elements of the Navy’s Ford-Class strategy.
The first one, the USS Ford, is now complete and preparing for operational service. The second Ford-Class carrier, the USS Kennedy, is more than 80-percent built and the third Ford-class carrier will be called the USS Enterprise.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
The USS Kennedy will replace the USS Nimitz which is due to retire by 2027; the Ford-class carriers are slated to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-to-one basis in an incremental fashion over the next 50 or more years.
As a result, the Navy is making a specific effort to expedite the acquisition of its Ford-class carrier by exploring the possibility of buying the third and fourth Ford-class carriers at the same time.
“The Navy released a CVN 80/81 two-ship buy Request for Proposal to Huntington Ingalls Industries — to further define the cost savings achievable with a potential two-ship buy. The Navy received HII response May 1, 2018, and will consider it in its procurement planning for both ships,” Couch said.
Streamlining acquisition of the Ford-class also naturally brings the advantage of potentially speeding up construction and delivery of the new ships as well, something of significance to the Navy’s fast-tracked effort to reach a 355-ship fleet.
Part of this strategy is articulated in the Navy’s recent 2019 30-year shipbuilding plan, called the “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2019.”
The plan says the Navy is working on “setting the conditions for an enduring industrial base as the top priority, so that the Navy is postured to respond to more aggressive investment in any year.”
Efforts to control carrier costs has been a long-standing challenge for the Navy. Several years ago, the Navy received substantial criticism from lawmakers and government watchdog groups during the construction of the USS Ford for rising costs. Construction costs for the USS Ford wound up being several billion above early cost estimates. Cost overruns with the construction wound up leading Congress to impose a $12.9 billion cost-cap on the ship.
(U.S. Navy photo)
At the time, Navy officials pointed out that integrating new technologies brings challenges and that at least $3 billion of the Ford’s costs were due to what’s described as non-recurring engineering costs for a first-in-class ship such as this.
For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons, and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
HII ship developers have been making an aggressive effort to lower costs of the USS Kennedy. Officials have said that the cost of the USS Kennedy will be well over $1.5 billion less than the costs to build the first Ford-Class ship.
One of the construction techniques for Kennedy construction has included efforts to assemble compartments and parts of the ship together before moving them to the dock — this expedites construction by allowing builders to integrate larger parts of the ship more quickly.
This technique, referred to by Huntington Ingalls developers as “modular construction,” was also used when building the Ford; the process welds smaller sections of the ship together into larger structural “superlift” units before being lifted into the dry dock, HII statements explained.
Construction begins with the bottom of the ship and works up with inner-bottoms and side shells before moving to box units, he explained. The bottom third of the ship gets built first. Also, some of the design methods now used for the Kennedy include efforts to fabricate or forge some parts of the ship — instead of casting them because it makes the process less expensive, builders explained.
Also, Newport News Shipbuilding — a division of HII — was able to buy larger quantities of parts earlier in the construction process with the Kennedy because, unlike the circumstance during the building of the USS Ford, the Kennedy’s ship design was complete before construction begins.
As for the design, the Kennedy will be largely similar to the design of the USS Ford, with a few minor alterations. The Kennedy will receive a new radar and its aircraft elevators will use electric motors instead of a hydraulic system to lower costs.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.
The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.
For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.
The Czech-West German Border in 1980.
(Photo by Alan Denney)
Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.
After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.
The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.
The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.
The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?
Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.
According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.
The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.
All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.
The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).
Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to “yes.”
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
“I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans,” said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC’s success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC’s second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
“After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week,” said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. “This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully,” he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. “Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that’s why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits,” said the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office explained, “Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation’s Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population.”
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Despite a visibly less dominant string of qualifying matches and a questionable performance early in the group stage, as the reigning World Cup champions, when it came to the 2018 tournament, Germany could not be written off by any means. When you think about it, after handing Brazil a sound 7-1 whooping in the semi-finals in 2014, how could one even imagine that they wouldn’t even make it out of the group stage this year? Well, after a stunning 2-0 loss to South Korea — of all the teams — Germany is going home and the internet is going nuts.
For starters, Fox Sports Brazil’s reaction is both petty and priceless. Still, that 7-1 L Brazil took in 2014 is by no means better than going out in the first round. It’s better to go out early than be a world-renowned team that chokes and gets smashed in the semi-finals, especially considering the fact that Brazil had beaten Germany when it really really mattered so many times in the past, but I’m digressing here.
The American Outlaws, a band of next-generation US Soccer fans are actually offering Germany a seat on the couch of embarrassingly crippling defeat.
Maybe Americans were just generally elated that someone else besides them blew it when they didn’t have to?
Speaking of couches.
But, South Korea still isn’t even that good!
When you think about it, Germany deserved this, they just didn’t seem to play that hard.
The fans are pissed.
The fans are shocked.
But, it’s been a weird week in general anyway.
Meanwhile, everyone who stood to benefit from their elimination *cough cough* England and Mexico, are turning all the way up right now.
Still, it’s not like Germany’s exit is unfounded. This is the third World Cup in which the reigning champs have gone out in the first round. Italy did it in 2010 and Spain did it in 2014. Plus their exit gives less experienced but talented teams like Mexico and South Korea a chance to prove themselves in the round of 16 and that’s something to be excited about.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
With the new Godzilla movie coming out this Friday (May 31), we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that we only have the iconic movie monster—or the more than dozen other kaiju of the Godzilla universe—thanks to the survival of a particular Japanese platoon sergeant who was taken prisoner by Chinese forces in World War II.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters Final Trailer (2019) | Movieclips Trailers
While we don’t typically advocate the success of Japanese soldiers in World War II (they were fighting America, after all), I think most of us can agree that Ishiro Honda’s survival was a lucky get. He was an up-and-coming director in Japan in the 1930s who was working for a popular director and film instructor at the time, Kajiro Yamamoto.
But in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army came calling, and Honda was drafted as an infantryman who served multiple tours in his country’s invasion of China, a republic and ally of America in World War II. Most biographies of Honda paint him as a reluctant member of that military, serving only because it was demanded of him, not because he believed in Imperial Japan’s invasions or fascist ideology.
In between combat tours in China, he continued to make movies, predominantly in Tokyo. One movie that he cited as an inspiration during the war was the propaganda film The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya, which he thought had great special effects.
But the reluctant warrior eventually fell to the realities of the prolonged war. After all, Chinese citizens fighting for their survival didn’t particularly care if the guys firing at them were reluctant or not. And in 1945, Chinese troops were able to capture Honda.
Ishiro Honda holds a Godzilla model while filming his iconic movie.
He would spend the next six months in confinement, learning of the atomic bombings and the Japanese surrender from a Chinese prison. He returned to Japan in 1946 and traveled through Hiroshima, one of the cities that suffered a direct hit from an atomic bomb.
For anyone who didn’t catch that, Gojira was Godzilla, and Honda’s success creating and directing the movie would change his career. It set a new record for Japanese film budgets at the time, and it was an international hit translated into multiple languages and even re-shot and re-cut in America with a Hollywood star at the time, Raymond Burr.
A still image from the trailer for Mosura, the Japanese film centered on the giant moth Mothra.
The former Japanese soldier did not rest and bask in the praise, though, he catapulted from Godzilla to other large monster movies, helping to create and popularize the kaiju film genre characterized by massive monsters, helping create the movies and characters such as Rodan and Mothra, both of whom will appear in the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters on Friday. He also created King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962.
Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.
The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.
Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.
Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.
In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.
Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.
With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:
1. Tell your story
Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.
2. Participate in surveys
Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.
3. Give Feedback
We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.
4. Self-identify in the workplace
CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.
One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.
Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.
“The key is accuracy, rate of fire, and programmable ammunition,” said BAE Systems representative Scott Thompson in the YouTube video below.
While the Mk 110’s predecessors—the Mark 1 and Mark 2—are highly effective against large heavily armored targets, they are inefficient against today’s fast-moving threats, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship missiles, and speedboats.
The Mk 110 on the other hand, can fire 220 rounds per minute at targets nine miles away with an intelligent and highly destructive 6-mode programmable 57-mm Mk 295 munition. The munition is a pre-fragmented, programmable, proximity-fuzed round that can explode on contact or deliver a shotgun effect with more than 8,000 pre-formed tungsten fragments. The gun’s digital fire control system responds to precise pointing orders and selects the munition fuze in fractions of a second upon firing.
The Mk 110 naval gun fires up to 220 rounds per minute.
Each round accelerates to 3,500 miles per hour.
In air burst mode, the round detonates in mid-air above the target.
The proximity mode uses a miniature radar system to trigger the fuse when the round gets close to the target.
The impact mode explodes the round on contact.
The Mk 110’s flexibility makes it the deck gun of choice for the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and offshore patrol cutter ships, as well as for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This American Heroes Channel video perfectly shows the Mk 110’s efficiency and power.
US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.
Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.
Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.
The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.
While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.
A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.
As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.
At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.
“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.
Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.
“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.
However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.
In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.
The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.
However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.