As NASA scientists aim to cooperate on research with their Chinese counterparts, more communication between the agencies may not be such a bad idea — a partnership that might even bolster space agreements, officials say.
Speaking at a DefenseOne Space, Satellite and Communications briefing Tuesday near Washington, D.C., Brian Weeden, technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation, said the scope of how the U.S. works with China needs to expand.
While space wasn’t a dominant topic in this year’s election, Weeden said both Trump and Clinton campaign surrogates publicized “fairly favorably some sort of cooperation engagement with China.”
Weeden said it’s unknown whether those favorable views toward China in the space realm will translate into hard policy under President-Elect Donald Trump. “But I think there is … a growing sense that having the only interaction with China [be] in a national security, military context — I think is a problem,” he said during a discussion.
Weeden said there needs to be “commercial or civil engagement” to help deal with additional challenges, such as managing space traffic and debris control.
Since 2011, Congress has banned NASA from joint research and technology programs or data sharing with China even though the U.S. and Russia have had a robust association, even in times of conflict.
However, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been trying to build bridges with China on a space program. In August, he visited China and met with the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment and the Civil Aviation Administration. The next month, NASA announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with those agencies to analyze data from Chinese airports “to identify potential efficiencies in air traffic management.”
“It’s not going to happen during my tenure as NASA administrator,” Bolden said in May while addressing spaceflight and technological agreements with China. “But I think we will evolve to something reasonable.”
The DefenseOne panel also featured Winston Beauchamp, director of the principal Department of Defense Space Adviser Staff and Air Force deputy under secretary for Space; Chirag Parikh, director of source strategies, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and Robert Tarleton, director of the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.
Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.
According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.
It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.
Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.
It’s also the same province where in early April, Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, a Green Beret, died from small arms fire after conducting an operation against ISIS forces.
Army Gen. John Nicholson, top commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has pledged to eliminate ISIS in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
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The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.
Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.
“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.
Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.
Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”
Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller. An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.
“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.
An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.
“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.
Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.
“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.
Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.
While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”
“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.
The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies
Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
A French soldier has broken the world’s long-distance shooting record after successfully hitting a target from over two miles away.
On August 22, a Warrant Officer Benjamin, the leader of the armored platoon in the 1st Regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique, and his support team broke the world record for long-distance shooting after successfully hitting a target 2.29 miles (3695 meters) away.
This feat broke the previous, and still impressive, record of hitting a target from 2.11 miles (3400 meters) away.
According to a French militarypress release, Benjamin and his team prepared for three years to break the world record. But it was not until a training in June 2014 that the team realized that a record-breaking shot was within their reach. During that month of training, the team managed to hit a target of 1.84 miles (2960 meters) in four out of seven attempted shots.
Following this success, the team continued to work with a goal of roughly 2.29 miles in mind. At such distances, a number of factors come into play that could influence the shot, such as atmospheric pressure and slight variations in wind speed.
To compensate, the team trained on the technical aspects of the shot and only practiced the actual shooting on a range once every two weeks.
The emphasis on technique and teamwork payed off. On August 22, at the range in Canjuers, Warrant Officer Benjamin scored his winning hit of 2.11 miles. Still, he believes that full credit does not just belong to him.
“These shots are feasible only with a team,” he said in a French military press release. “Target spotters, wind spotters, radio link, a coach for corrections, it is truly a team sport.”
The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.
“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.
TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.
As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.
It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.
“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.
Everyone wants to get in on the pranking fun of April Fools’ Day, and people working in the national security establishment are no different.
From the individual branches of the military to non-profits run by veterans, we looked around to find out what kind of pranks were pulled on April 1st. Here they are.
From the U.S. Army:
Army drones to deliver 3D printed pizzas to forward operating bases
NATICK, Mass. (April 1, 2015) – Pizzas made to order on 3D printers soon could be delivered by drones to hungry Soldiers at outposts across the globe.
According to researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, the pizzas would be produced on specially designed 3D printers and flown to outposts while still hot. Natick researchers called it “an unexpected breakthrough” beyond the recently announced development of a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE, pizza, which has a shelf life of three years.
“It’s great to be able to offer the warfighter a little slice of home with the MRE pizza,” said John Harlow, supervisory culinary transfer engineer at Natick, “but we never lost sight of our true goal — delivering piping hot, complete, custom pizzas to our men and women in the field. Who deserves them more?”
Washington D.C. has been the home to the Marine Barracks since President Thomas Jefferson and Commandant Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows selected the spot in 1801. For more than 214 years it has been the epicenter of Marine Corps’ tradition, ceremony, and a symbol of one of the finest military branches in the world.
In mid-2016 Marine Barracks Washington D.C. will be no more. The post will begin its move to a similar sized lot located just outside of Detroit, Mich.
“It has been decided, due to budgetary constraints, drawdown of personnel, and the incentives from the city of Detroit, that it is in the best interest of the Marine Corps to relocate our post to a new and fresh arena,” said the Barracks public affairs officer Capt. Lane Kensington.
Oral History Project Hopes To Preserve Memories Of Navy Dolphins
It’s a round-the-clock effort to save the war stories of these creatures before they’re lost. With a grant from the South Illinois SeaWorld Fund and the Aaron and Myrna Lipshitz Foundation, work is proceeding at a feverish pace. Cory Storr calls it a race against time.
CORY STORR: It’s a race against time. These dolphins are reaching their 80’s, their 90’s. We learned our lesson when we neglected to collect the stories from the Army rescue bunnies used in Korea.
SIEGEL: Belleville, of course, means beautiful city in French, and French itself is the language of love. So it’s appropriate that the Navy picked this southern Illinois town – the eighth largest in the state – to be home to retired dolphins. They are housed in what was, until recently, a facility to farm-raise whales. The recession led to that multimillion dollar business shutting down. And now, Belleville’s Chamber of Commerce is counting on the dolphin story project to succeed in its wake.
But during a recent visit to Washington, D.C., senior Air Force officials offered Uriarte “a lot of money” to focus on airmen instead.
“When I told them I didn’t really know anything about the Air Force, they simply told me ‘it’s okay no one really does, just make it about two women,” he wrote. ‘Everyone knows we have great looking women,’
“The new series will follow the hilarious predicaments of Airmen Abby and Sanchez, which makes this the first all-female leading cast of a military comic strip. Since they never deploy, the series mostly just sticks to their adventures at Starbucks and the AAFES exchange.”
Until this week, the Vietnamese government has remained silent about the release of The Vietnam War, which premiered in the U.S. after a big buildup.
In Vietnam’s lively online sphere, many commentators speculated that authorities had remained silent about the series because it presented what the government considered sensitive material about towering Communist Party figures, such as Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap.
The 10-part documentary film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which premiered September 17, covers the war’s main events and focuses on the experiences of Americans and Vietnamese during the war. American broadcaster PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is streaming it online with Vietnamese subtitles.
On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang issued a statement saying, “The Anti-America War of the Vietnamese people was a righteous revolution that mobilized the entire nation, and was supported wholeheartedly by friends and people worldwide.
“Positive developments in the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the United States are the results of great efforts by the two counties,” Hang continued. “The policy of Vietnam is to put the past behind us, overcome differences, promote our mutual interests and look forward to the future.”
She added, “I personally hope that American people and filmmakers understand the righteousness of the revolution as well as Vietnam’s goodwill.”
Like the government, the Vietnamese press has remained muted in its response to the well-reviewed documentary that has been a major event in the United States.
Only the Thanh Nien newspaper has covered the effort by Burns and Novick, reporting last month that the “U.S. consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City would hold a screening and discussion session” based on a 90-minute synopsis of the documentary. Vietnam’s top daily added that “film director and producer Lynn Novick is here in Vietnam to meet and discuss with the guests and the audience during the screening.”
One of the people who attended the screening, a former journalist, wrote on Facebook that after the screening, another attendee, a young woman, asked Novick why in the excerpts “do I only see characters from North Vietnam being interviewed? Will people from the South be interviewed?”
The journalist noted that Novick said people from the South had been interviewed and “that will be evident when you see the complete documentary being shown on the PBS website.”
The former journalist, who once worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), added on Facebook, “Lynn’s answer raised an uneasy suspicion about whether the shown clip was heavily censored before it was screened to young people, who really wanted to understand the Vietnam War beyond the simple division over red and yellow flags [of the current and former regime respectively].”
About 70 percent of Vietnam’s 96.1 million citizens were born after the April 1975 fall of Saigon.
Brian Moriarty, the press spokesman for the filmmaking team, told VOA Vietnamese, “There have been two successful screenings in Vietnam, and the clips can be shown to those interviewed in the movie.”
Moriarty added he “could not comment” on the Facebook posts in Vietnam that Hanoi’s Central Department of Propaganda, the media watchdog, has forbidden “media coverage” because The Vietnam War documentary has “sensitive details about the 1968 Tet Offensive, about Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan or Vo Nguyen Giap.”
The Tet Offensive is widely considered to be the turning point of the Vietnam War. While communist forces ultimately lost the Tet Offensive, they won a propaganda victory that prompted Americans to lose support for the conflict.
Revered CBS-TV anchorman Walter Cronkite, after reporting on one of the Tet Offensive battles, in Hue, broadcast an editorial calling for a negotiated end to the war.
Vietnam’s Central Propaganda Department could not be reached for comment.
Moriarty added that people in Vietnam “can still watch the Vietnamese documentary film with Vietnamese subtitles” on the PBS website. He also said they have “people in Vietnam [who] have checked and confirmed this.”
But there have been hiccups, according to Facebook posts speculating that the sensitive material in the work makes the current Vietnamese government uncomfortable.
Ho, a founding member of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, was president of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death in 1969. He abstained from a Politburo vote to approve the Tet Offensive, widely seen as the bloody turning point in growing U.S. opposition to the war.
Le Duan, head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, presided over a severe postwar economic slump, and took an anti-Chinese stance that included border clashes as well as the expulsion of ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese citizens, before his death in 1986.
Lê Duẩn. Wikipedia image.
Vietnam today looks to China as its primary trading partner, even though the two communist countries have a long-running dispute over the South China Sea that has pushed their relationship to a new low.
Giap, a general who defeated the French and the U.S. in Vietnam, came to support economic reform before his death in 2013. He “fell into disfavor and became sensitive to the Communist Party of Vietnam because of his anti-China point of view and the disapproval of an all-in attack [on] the South in 1968,” said Bui Tin, a former party member and colonel in the People’s Army of Vietnam who is now a dissident living in France.
Giap presided over the 1968 Tet Offensive and at least 2,800 Vietnamese civilians were believed to have been massacred by communist troops during the battle fought over Hue.
On Facebook on September 17, the day the film was shown on public television in the U.S. and available for streaming in Vietnam, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius wrote: “In order to build a just and bright future, we must acknowledge and be honest about the past. While many of you will not agree with all that is featured in the film, it’s important to consider that, as the film says, ‘There is no single truth in war.’ Once we accept this, we can move forward from the past, deepen ties between our two peoples, and build a brighter future for all.”
In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”
The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.
Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.
Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.
Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.
U.S. Marine Corps
The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.
U.S. Army and U.S. Navy
Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.
U.S. Air Force
It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.
And, for nearly 70 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained all of its academy cadets on a 295-foot sailing vessel commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.
The ship, now called the USCGC Eagle, has an amazing history.
Launched in 1936 as the SSS Horst Wessel, the vessel was always destined to be a training ship. The Nazis made her the flagship of the training fleet of the Kriegsmarine, the navy.
Hitler is believed to have rode on her only one time, but legends persist in the Coast Guard about where Hitler may have napped while on board. A sailor on the Horst Wessel in World War II, Tido Holtkamp said in a BBC interview that Hitler’s boots had nails that scratched the deck, but everyone was too afraid to say anything.
She served in this role for three years, but was sidelined at the start of World War II in 1939. For a few years, she was a dormitory for Hitler Youth. In 1942, the ship was pressed back into service with a complement of anti-air guns but they weren’t very effective. Hotkamp remembers an American bomber attempting to destroy the ship, but it only survived because the bombs missed.
The ship was captured by the British in 1945. In 1946, Allied commanders splitting up the captured spoils of war reportedly pulled the names of captured ships from a hat. A Russian commander pulled the Horst Wessel, but a U.S. officer eager to bring home the tall ship convinced him to trade it.
The ship was sailed across the Atlantic by a mixed crew of Germans and Americans. In American, she was rechristened the USCGC Eagle. It is the sixth cutter to bear the name.
When the Revenue Cutter Service — a prelude to the modern U.S. Coast Guard — began training cadets, it had no physical building to train them in. Instead, it took it’s first class of nine cadets and trained them on the USRC Dobbin, a cutter. In 1932 the academy received a permanent shore facility, but it has continued to use a sailing ship as a major part of the training process for potential officers. Since 1946, the vessel cadets have trained on has been the USCGC Eagle.
Training for emergencies is important when taking a nearly 80-year-old ship across the ocean.
Today, the training vessel also operates as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting friendly ports in the U.S. and around the world.
It has visited Kiel, its original homeport, a few times throughout history. She’s due to return next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of her trip to America.
A few presidents have been photographed on board the Eagle. The first was President Harry Truman.
President John F. Kennedy toured her and later gave a speech on deck.
Future president Lyndon B. Johnson was there for the speech by Kennedy.
The 2016 Syracuse Airshow in Western New York was originally supposed to feature the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron as their headlining act, but with the loss of their Opposing Solo pilot Jeff “Kooch” Kuss (Blue Angel #6), the team withdrew from shows for the time being and returned to NAS Pensacola, Florida to grieve their fallen teammate and to determine the best course of action for the remainder of this airshow season.
The show’s other acts include the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, as well as the F-16 Viper demo and the GEICO Skytypers, but without the Blues, the lineup feels a little empty, especially with the incredibly sad reason for their cancellation. However, the show will most certainly go on, according to Syracuse’s organizers, now dedicated to the memory of the deceased Blue Angel. Profits from the show will be going towards the Kuss family in their time of need.
Now, the world’s only civilian Sea Harrier airshow team will be pitching in after a last-minute request from Syracuse’s organizers to assist with the show. Featuring a retired US Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Art Nalls, Team SHAR as they’re more popularly known, will be bringing their gray Sea Harrier and an L-39 Albatros to New York where they’ll perform for a reduced fee, and will also donate a considerable portion to Kuss’s family.
“A very busy weekend for our team. At 10:30 pm on Friday, I received a phone [call] … The show wants to continue, dedicated to the memory of Capt Kuss. ALL profits are going to support the family of Capt Kuss. Can we be there to support them?” Nalls says on his personal Facebook page. “Of course we’ll be there,” he enthusiastically replies. Team SHAR, having recently completed a demonstration, was in a stand down state of their own, as they didn’t have another scheduled performance for a while. Their aircraft required maintenance, their truck was in the process of being serviced, and the support trailer was also in the middle of being worked on.
But when the organizers called, Team SHAR kicked into high gear and readied themselves to roll out to support the show. “Emails were flying all weekend to get a quorum of mechs, driver, pilots, and planes ready,” said Nalls. The former Harrier pilot flies with Major General Joe Anderson, a man instrumental in helping to successfully integrate the AV-8A Harrier into the Marine Corps’ air wings. Anderson retired in 2001, while Nalls retired in 1998… both much before Kuss earned his commission as an Officer of Marines in 2006. However, the brotherhood that links the three Marine aviators transcends time, and Team SHAR’s willingness without hesitation to help out with the Syracuse show for the benefit of Kuss’s family truly demonstrates the spirit of “Semper Fidelis”, the Latin motto of the Marine Corps which translates to “Always Faithful”.
As Art aptly puts it, “While the airshow industry is indeed a business, it’s actually much more for the performers, supporters, and promoters. It’s more like a family.” If you can be there at Syracuse this coming weekend (June 10-12), please consider making your way over to the show. Though the previous headlining act has been canceled, Nalls Aviation expressed that they want people to continue to purchase tickets for the show, knowing that even though they won’t see the Blues perform, their money will go to do good for the family. It’s for a fantastic cause, and you’re bound to see some incredible flying and airmanship from some extremely gifted aviators.
The statement added that the AAF had just finished laser-guided bomb training and that the entire operation was conducted “with minimal advisor input.”
The strike, an important milestone for the AAF and the Afghan National Security Forces, was conducted by AAF pilots from Kabul Air Wing’s Kandahar A-29 detachment.
NATO said that the strike shows that the Afghans are making progress in slowly weaning off of their dependence on Coalition airpower to help them in firefights.
General John Nicholson, a Resolute Support commander, said in October 2017 that “a tidal wave of Afghan airpower is on the horizon.” Recent offensives have seen the AAF conduct close air support for Afghan and coalition forces, often aided by Afghani drones.
In addition to Taliban compounds, key targets that the AAF has struck in the past include “narcotics facilities, explosives and weapon storage facilities, and other sources of the Taliban’s illicit revenue and support networks that enable them to launch attacks against the Afghan people.”
“Key pieces that you’re seeing is that the Afghan Air Force itself, one of the more lethal organizations they have, and one that we’re looking to triple in size by 2023, is conducting significantly more air operations in direct support of the ANDSF on the battlefield, to the tune of 500 more sorties this year than they did the year before,” US Air Force Brigadier General Lance Bunch said in a December 2017 press release.
The AAF is currently made up of 8,000 servicemen, supporting around 129 aircraft. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants to increase that to 11,000 servicemen, and triple the size of the air fleet currently in service.
A top U.S. military technology company has announced that it’s working on new technology to give tank and armored vehicle crews a 360-degree view of the outside even when they’re buttoned up in armor with no windows.
Basically, crews will be able to see a virtual view of the world through the steel-plated sides of their tanks.
The new helmet technology being developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies is part of a project initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to develop futuristic survivability tools for armored vehicles.
“Our team is developing a virtual experience that gives the crews of armored military vehicles greater awareness of what’s going on outside the vehicle, while also reducing their vulnerability to attack,” David Diller, a program manager for Raytheon BBN Technologies, said in a press release. “We’re creating a three-dimensional model of the environment in real time that gives users views of their outside environment that would not normally be possible from inside the vehicle.”
The team aims to incorporate trackers for friendly forces, hostile fire, and known threats into the crew’s displays so the troops can concentrate on maneuver and tactics.
The system aims to use lidar, the same laser-imaging science that is in Google’s self-driving cars, to create the map of the surroundings while high-definition video lets the crew see what is going on around them.
Pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II currently have a system that uses that plane’s sensors to achieve a similar effect, allowing the pilot to “see” through the aircraft. While the F-35 program has come under fire for cost overruns and delays, pilots and program managers have pointed at the tactical awareness the helmet gives as a game-changer in future fights.
If tank crews can get similar awareness when they’re going toe-to-toe with enemy armor, that could tip the scales in their favor during a decisive battle.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is owned by the Raytheon Company and is working on DARPA’s Grond X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve America’s vehicles by enhancing mobility, agility, crew augmentation, and signature management.