The Air Force plans to upgrade a combat controller’s Bronze Star Medal to a Silver Star for exemplary action while engaged in combat in Afghanistan in 2006.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael R. West, assigned to the 720th Operational Support Squadron, will receive the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest valor award, during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on Dec. 15, Air Force Special Operations Command said in a release.
West was originally awarded the Bronze Star in 2007.
“West will be honored for his role in securing the safety of 51 Special Forces Soldiers and 33 coalition partners during a five-day offensive operation in support of Operation Medusa,” the release said.
“Over the period of five days and two climactic battles, West delivered more than 24,000 pounds of precision ordnance credited with more than 500 enemy killed in action,” AFSOC said.
His upgrade comes as a result of a comprehensive Defense Department-wide review of awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the Air Force announced eight valor upgrades in totality this year, new evidence shed light on West’s case, 24th Special Operations Wing spokeswoman 1st Lt. Jaclyn Pienkowski told Military.com.
“With time, additional statements were provided that more completely captured Chief West’s actions during Operation Medusa,” Pienkowski said. “Once the package was complete, the Air Force considered totality of his actions and deemed the appropriate award to be a Silver Star Medal.”
“During this process, the Air Force was committed to properly recognizing our service members for their service, actions and sacrifices, and that those valorous service members were recognized at the appropriate level. It was important to ensure the award package was complete when it was reviewed,” she said.
West, a master sergeant at the time, was involved in two dynamic battles over five days within the Panjwai Village, according to his official award citation.
West was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller supporting Special Forces teams tasked “to conduct offensive operations in support of Operation Medusa,” a Canadian-led mission during the second battle of Panjwaii in the Zhari and Panjwaii districts of Kandahar Province against Taliban fighters, the citation said.
While exposed to direct enemy fire, West’s “mastery of air to ground operations” allowed for the NATO teams to employ a strategic advantage “with over 88 fixed and rotary wing attack; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; and medical evacuation assets in the area,” the citation said.
That included bombers, fighters, and MQ-1 Predator drones “to eliminate the enemy threat and allow the coalition forces to safely seize their target location,” according to West’s “Portraits in Courage” story. He was featured in the program in 2007.
His actions “on numerous occasions either prevented friendly forces from being overrun, or directly enabled friendly forces to break contact and regroup while minimizing casualties,” the citation said.
Twelve Canadian soldiers lost their lives over the course of the battle, with dozens more wounded, according to figures from Veterans Affairs Canada; A British reconnaissance plane also crashed in Panjwai during the offensive, killing all 14 on board.
At the time it had been “the most significant land battle ever undertaken by NATO,” according to Canada’s CBC News.
Canada regards Operation Medusa as one of its most successful operations. Earlier this year, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan exaggerated he was the grand “architect” of the operation, but later retracted his comments. Sajjan served in Afghanistan at the time as a liaison between Canadian commanders and local Afghan leaders, according to the Global News.
Whether or not West’s valor elevation may be the last medals upgrade for this year remains unclear.
“Any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible,” the Pentagon responded at the time.
The Poseidon P-8A does have the capability to communicate with drones, but it’s entirely unclear if it can command a fleet of 13 drones. Russia initially displayed the drones after the attack, but did not produce any hard evidence that they communicated with the US Navy.
Russian Ministry of Defense display of the drones that allegedly took part in the attack.
Russia has some of the world’s best air defenses around its bases in Syria, which Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense journal, told Russian media contributed to the attack.
The US “pursued several goals,” with the alleged attack, said Korotchenko.
“There were three such goals: uncovering the Russian air defense system in Syria, carrying out radio-electronic reconnaissance and inflicting actual harm to our servicemen in Syria,” he said.
Without citing evidence or sources, Korotechenko alleged the US carried out the attack to uncover “the strong and weak points in our air defense system in Syria.”
In April 2018, the US would attack targets in Syria suspected of participating in chemical weapons attacks on civilians, but Russian air defenses stood down.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.
More than 1500 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
For those faced with this traumatic injury, the Department of Defense medical system has adapted in the last 20 years to speed up the recovery process and improve prosthetics.
“Our patients have challenged us by wanting more,” said Col. (Dr.) Mark Mavity, Air Force Surgeon General special assistant for Invisible Wounds and Wounded Warrior Program. “One of the unfortunate truths of war is that medicine does advance based on the large numbers of our service members who become injured.”
About 1.8 million Americans are living with amputations. The psychological challenges patients battle every day can be harsh. For most people, losing a limb profoundly impacts every aspect of their life: mentally, physically and spiritually. A strong support system can be vital to recovery and returning to duty.
Capts. Christy Wise and Ryan McGuire can attest to this. Both Wise, a C-130 pilot, and McGuire, a C-17 pilot, lost a limb and credited their support systems with helping them continuing their service and remain flying.
“In April of 2015, I was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. I had been flying for a couple years and had just got back from a deployment,” Wise said. “I was in Florida … out on my paddle board, just behind my best friend’s house, and I was hit by a hit-and-run boat driver. My boyfriend at the time used his t-shirt and made a tourniquet to save my life.”
A couple on a fishing boat saw it all happen and transported Wise to medical care. She lost 70 percent of her blood in approximately three minutes.
Lucky to be alive, Wise said she thought about McGuire, who in 2009, while in pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, lost his leg returned to flying C-17s. She remembered him because he was only a year ahead of her in pilot training.
It was Labor Day weekend when McGuire’s accident happened. He and some friends from pilot training were out tubing.
“There was no place to tie the tube into the boat, so we had the tube in the back of the boat, and I was holding the rope,” McGuire said. “The tube caught some air and flew out the back of the boat, and then the rope unraveled, cinched around my leg and pulled me out of the boat, slammed me into the side of the boat on the way out.”
McGuire said he flew over his friends’ heads and landed in the water. The rope then unraveled around his leg and caused traumatic rope-burn damage from his right knee down to his foot.
“I was able to get back into the back ledge of the boat that’s level with the water, and then the pain started setting in, I knew something was really wrong,” he said. “My pelvis had popped open, or fractured, and my hip had dislocated, so I was in an incredible amount of pain.”
After multiple attempts to save his foot and leg, doctors were forced to amputate below the knee.
“That was probably the lowest point of my life, just going through the amputation surgery, and losing my leg for something that seemed like it was so trivial, and not that big of an accident,” McGuire said.
Even at this low point, McGuire never doubted he wanted to return to flying. But for service members to return to duty after accidents such as these, they must be able to prove they can continue to function, while maintaining the safety of those they support.
McGuire’s unit and leadership backed the idea and began the process of returning him to duty.
“One of the things that I insisted on from the beginning, and all the commanders below me and above me insisted on, is if we’re going to do this, this isn’t a [publicity] stunt,” said Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, director of strategy, plans and programs for Pacific Air Forces.
Wills was the operations group commander at Laughlin AFB when the accident happened. He believes McGuire’s character, and the support he received, was the key to his recovery and return to duty.
“I think this story shows that we have great squadron commanders out there, and in my mind, the squadron commanders involved were the key to this thing,” he said. “Because they never stopped believing in [McGuire], they never stopped for one minute trying to think of a way to help this Airman succeed.”
One of the things McGuire had to prove was that he could stop the airplane with a prosthetic leg and that he could control it without any additional risk.
McGuire also appeared before a board. But even here he wasn’t alone. His squadron commanders and some classmates also flew to San Antonio to testify on his behalf.
“It was amazing for me as the group commander to just look around see all these gentlemen that were lining up to support Ryan,” Wills said.
In 2010, McGuire received word from the medical board that he was cleared to return to pilot training.
Now, several years later, Wise was in the back of an ambulance worrying about her Air Force career.
“I remember laying in the back of an ambulance thinking, ‘I can’t feel my leg, this is not good,'” Wise said. “But worst-case scenario, ‘Ryan did it, I can do it.'”
Wise’s injuries were so severe her leg had to be amputated above the knee.
But before she even left the hospital Wise said the support from her unit and other Airmen had already commenced. She even received phone calls from other amputees wanting to help.
“They would say, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to talk, I got back to flying, we’ll tell you the steps, you can do it, don’t doubt it,'” Wise said.
So, like McGuire, Wise put in the work and proved she could still fly.
“And now I’m here, I’m at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base [Arizona] back on flying status, back to my job and loving it,” she said.
McGuire’s injury may have paved the way for Wise to return to duty, but it is not what helped her regain her flying status.
“That’s when I realized how much support I really had from my unit, from the Air Force, from my family, from my friends,” she said. “I mean, half of my base showed up in the hospital room the next day in Florida. So it’s weird, because it’s such a dark chapter, but such a good chapter too.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
Can a rifle turn a novice into a world-class sharpshooter? Yes, based on the shootout scoreboard at a major fundraising event for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Saturday.
A sharpshooting showdown pitted a young American woman against the reigning NRA global champion … the novice crushed her opponent at the inaugural American Sniper Shootout Saturday in Mason, Texas.
The victorious novice shooter was Taya Kyle. Founder of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, she is the wife of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in US military history,” author of autobiography “American Sniper,” and the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper.”
TrackingPoint says that its Precision-Guided Firearms can transform inexperienced shooters into world-class marksmen. To prove this claim, the company put $1 million on the table in an ultimate shootout. If the NRA champion Bruce Piatt could outshoot novice shooter Kyle then he would take home the hefty prize.
But Kyle defeated the champion, with the proceeds from the event going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation – here’s how she did it.
Piatt competed with the current military rifles M4A1, M110, and M2010.
Taya Kyle opted for TrackingPoint’s new M600, M800 and XS1 firearms. TrackingPoint touts advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of first-round shots at any distance.
Kyle explained why she chose to be armed with TrackingPoint at the shootout. “The technology of the gun was developed based on conversations with Chris [Kyle] about what factors a marksman has to consider on with every shot,” she told FoxNews.com, via email. “The end result is technology that I know would have saved lives of friends we have lost and will save life and/or limb of those who put it all on the line for the 99% of us they choose to give their life for.”
The rifles incorporate a range of innovations like the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity. Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger is completely squeezed.
Kyle faced off against Piatt in a series of battlefield-simulated challenges.
The competitors had to take shots consistent with those warfighters must take in battle. It meant grappling with realistic challenges like shooting at targets placed at unknown distances as well as moving targets.
To win, both competitors also had to shoot in a range of positions, including prone and off-hand shots. They also had to tackle blind shots when the shooter takes shots while completely hidden without a direct line of sight to the target. The competitors also emulated Chris Kyle’s famous long-distance ‘Sadr city shot,’ which was featured in the film American Sniper.
And Kyle emerged the victor – by a lot. She made ALL of her shots from prone, kneeling, sitting and from cover…as in every single one – 100 percent.
How did the NRA champ fare? Piatt made 58.4 percent of the shots.
There were 29 targets with a total of 10,140 points available.
Kyle scored a perfect 10,140. Piatt scored 3,040 points, making 58.4 percent of his shots. The scoring was weighted based on degree of difficulty.
In the challenges where the shooters took on targets without a direct line of sight while concealed from ‘enemy fire’ – Kyle made 100 percent of the blind shots while Piatt did not make a single one.
For practical application in war, this means the TrackingPoint technology has potential to allow American warfighters to stay concealed while still accurately taking on targets. The ability to stay concealed and still shoot accurately could help reduce the risk to warfighters.
Kyle explained further why the tech was developed. “Our first responders and military members regularly face situations most of us cannot imagine,” she told FoxNews.com via email. “They need every advantage for precision and efficiency to protect and serve while minimizing collateral damage and risk to themselves.”
Armed with TrackingPoint tech, Kyle was also able to make moving target and canted shots that Piatt did not.
The day-long American Sniper Shootout was open to the public and also featured music from country singer Easton Corbin, Grammy winner Asleep At the Wheel.
The proceeds from the event benefit the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Kyle explained her inspiration for the event as “being able to simultaneously showcase the technology and raise money for CKFF to fulfill its mission … this event was an opportunity to take care of our warriors and their families on many different levels.”
North Korea is widely believed to be developing a new ballistic missile submarine that could one day be trouble for US forces and allies in the region, but experts say it may take years to turn this boat into a serious threat.
In July 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a “newly built submarine.” North Korean media reported that its “operational deployment is near at hand.” Observers suspect this is a new ballistic missile submarine, a weapon North Korea has described as “an important component in [the] national defense of our country.”
If it eventually works, this kind of submarine would give North Korea and alternative sea-based strike option to attack countries like South Korea or Japan, as well as US bases.
Experts believe the work is underway at a shipyard in Sinpo, a major port city and defense industry hub located on the coast of the East Sea/Sea of Japan where an experimental ballistic missile submarine lives.
Rpt: North Korea Appears To Be Building New Ballistic Missile Submarine | The Last Word | MSNBC
Joe Bermudez, one of the authors of a new CSIS Beyond the Parallel report on recent developments at Sinpo, told Insider that North Korea may be close to launching its new submarine, the development of which likely began a few years ago. North Korea already has a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and it has conducted several successful tests, although never aboard a submarine.
The development of this particular submarine has taken longer than some of the other boats in North Korea’s arsenal because a ballistic missile submarine is more complicated. But, given North Korea’s recent display, it may soon be ready for launch, experts say.
But simply launching a submarine doesn’t mean its ready for combat. “Even if launched today the submarine will have to undergo a period of fitting-out, then manufacturer’s acceptance trials, KPN acceptance trials, commissioning and finally KPN shake-down cruises before becoming truly operational,” Bermudez and Victor Cha, well-known Korea experts explained, in their new CSIS report.
Bermudez suggested that if North Korea launched with the Pukguksong-1, North Korea’s only submarine-launched ballistic missile, they might achieve operational capability in a year or two. “If it is with a new system, that could potentially take two to five years,” he added.
North Korea has been known to define operational capability a little differently than most countries do, sometimes putting “in service” systems that are actually still in development.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a submarine factory.
“They could launch this submarine today and within the next six months conduct a test launch from it. That’s not operational,” Bermudez explained, adding that given North Korea’s recent weapons testing, it would not be surprising if they actually took such a step.
Bermudez and Cha characterized North Korea’s ballistic submarine program and ballistic missile program as an “emerging threat,” explaining in their report that North Korea appears to be “making real progress in developing a second leg of the nuclear triad, bringing them closer to a survivable nuclear force and lessening prospects for full denuclearization,” a Trump administration priority that it has struggled to achieve.
Left unchecked, the North Korean program could steadily become a greater challenge. “If they launch, that is a certain level of threat but not overly significant. If they test, that raises the threat. When they finally get to operational, that is a real significant threat,” Bermudez told Insider.
If they were to achieve operational capability and if there were an armed conflict, “they could launch at Japan, South Korea, or US bases in the Asia-Pacific region from a direction different from what we have been anticipating and planning for,” he explained. “If they were able to achieve a time-on-target for sea- and land-based ballistic missiles, that would further complicate defense.”
The new submarine appears crude and is likely noisy, making it easier to detect and eliminate. That being said, its existence raises the threat level as an alternative nuclear weapons delivery platform, and that is especially true if North Korea can find a way to build and field a more than one of them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.
Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.
“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.
To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.
The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.
Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.
“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.
Picking a bomb and a target
We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.
Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.
The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:
Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”
Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”
Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones
When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.
We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.
Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.
According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.
“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”
Google Earth’s view
We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.
For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.
But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.
Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.
China looks set to beat the US to the punch on a naval railgun — which the US has spent more than $500 million and a decade on — by deploying the game-changing weapon on a navy ship.
But the complicated railgun doesn’t even have to work to succeed, as it looks as if Beijing’s doing this to embarrass Washington.
The US Navy started work on a railgun in 2005. For years, the Navy struggled to reign in the wild technology that allows a railgun to fire a projectile at such high velocity that it will make a devastating impact without an explosive charge.
Some grounded tests of the Navy’s railgun produced fantastic imagery, but it remains far from battle-ready and may never be fielded on a warship.
Citing people with knowledge of a US intelligence report, CNBC reported in June 2018 that China had been working on its railgun for seven years and was just another seven from deploying a working model on a ship.
It’s “pretty obvious that China is working towards that goal, and probably faster than the US is,” Melodie Ha, who’s part of the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program, told Business Insider.
“It’s very possible that they will mount a working railgun on a ship” by 2025, Ha said. But everything is not always as it appears with the Chinese military.
A railgun doesn’t even really make sense
(U.S. Navy photo)
Instead of gunpowder, pure electricity powers the railgun’s projectiles. But despite the lack of explosives, railgun projectiles still cause fireballs, because the round travels so fast that the air and metal itself combust under the immense friction. This indicates the massive amount of electricity needed to fire the railgun — a big problem for China, or any warship.
Additionally, the Chinese would have to clear the same engineering and operational hurdles that have kept the US from mounting the railgun on a ship. Railguns produce a lot of heat and have a short barrel life. After rapid-fire shots, the gun barrel might be susceptible to dangerous warping. And aiming a railgun that can fire at targets as far as 100 miles away — and from a warship that’s rocking in the seas — also poses serious challenges.
Strategically, it’s also unclear how the railgun fits into naval warfare. The US, China, and Russia all have hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile programs designed to thwart existing defenses, and they generally have higher accuracy and much greater range than the railgun.
And if the railgun’s barrel melts after a few shots, why bother?
“As long as the US can launch a second strike, if the Chinese can’t knock down the second missile, then what’s the point?” Ha said.
China’s railgun has a reported range of only 124 miles — so by the time the railgun could strike a target, the Chinese ship would already be in range of US missiles.
The real purpose behind the railgun
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
A railgun doesn’t make sense in today’s warfighting environment, but it makes perfect sense for another mission of China’s navy: embarrassing the US.
“In terms of Chinese maritime grand strategy, it would fit in their entire plan,” Ha said, adding that railguns are “next-generation technology” and that China wants to “prove to the US and the entire world that they are technologically advancing.”
China’s opaque system has shrouded the new railgun prototype in mystery. If China were to place one of these mysterious, next-generation guns in the South China Sea, it would have beaten the US to the punch on a major technological advance and projected a unique kind of power unmatched by the West.
At a time when the US and China are battling to see whose vision of the future can win out, it makes sense that Beijing would try to shame Washington by winning this leg of the arms race.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NATO defense ministers agreed to continue projecting stability beyond its borders and will continue to build capabilities within the alliance, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Brussels Feb. 15, 2018.
“In a world awash in change, NATO stands firm as an island of stability in a turbulent sea,” Mattis said during a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting.
Projecting stability requires the alliance’s political stance to be backed by military forces that are fit to fight, the secretary said. This will reduce the chance of miscalculation by any adversary.
During the ministerial, the defense leaders discussed the recently published U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Mattis said that many allies had been consulted on the study.
“The review was very well received across the alliance.” the secretary said. “The U.S. approach to nuclear deterrence embraces two co-equal principles: First, ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, and second, working wherever possible for nuclear non-proliferation and arms control.”
Mattis was pleased on discussions about burden-sharing in the alliance. He noted that alliance nations have increased defense spending and are working on improving “the culture of readiness.” This will provide ready forces that will be responsive to NATO’s political direction.
The alliance must make political decisions faster, adapt the command structure, and accelerate military mobility in conjunction with the European Union, the secretary said.
NATO spending increases
A total of eight NATO nations will meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 15 nations will hit that mark by 2024. Mattis noted that France is forecasting hitting that level in 2025.
“Year-on-year across the alliance, 2017 saw the largest growth … as a percentage of GDP, and the largest real growth in a quarter century,” he said. This has added $46 billion to defense across the alliance.
NATO is a member of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and defense ministers agreed to remain committed to the immediate and longer-term missions in Iraq.
“NATO will sustain its investment in Iraq to project stability into the geopolitical heart of the Middle East,” Mattis said. “America supports NATO’s initiative for a NATO training mission in Iraq.”
NATO is also a stalwart part of the mission to Afghanistan and the ministers committed to filling critical shortfalls in the staffs.
“It is the collective dedication of the 29 nations, and working together creates the collective strength as we fight the threats from the east and the south to defend our values,” he said. “There is much that needs to be done, but NATO is on the right trajectory.”
Choose a degree that leads to a career and a school that can help build a career network. I know it looks tempting to get the BAH, and take random classes. Don’t take that temptation. If you have to, go to a community college for two years to get a taste for school, and then choose a direction.
Choose a school that lets you go to school year-round. If you can take 6 classes per semester, do it. If four is better for your school-life balance, do that. Remember, it may be more economical to take more classes. If your school charges the same for 12 credits as 18, take 18 credits. It might be hard, but you will be pushing through more effectively. Again though, you want to succeed, so only take a course load that helps you succeed.
Life hack: bend your young, naïve classmates to your war-hardened will.
3. Plan it out
Plan your classes down to the day. Look at the schedule for each semester. The GI Bill is prorated down to the day. If you have even one-day left, you will qualify for the entire semester including BAH. By planning this, you’ll be able to get more from your GI Bill. Also, the BAH is lower for an online program, but if the degree gives you something of benefit, it might be worth it to take a lower BAH rate. Focus on the long-term plan.
4. Choose a school based on the professors and the network they offer you
This is not GI Bill specific, but your professors and fellow-students will be your network in the future. Look at alumni. Look at the research by your professors. Look at who works for the school in a consulting or a part-time capacity. These relationships are super important towards shaping your future. Utilize them.
5. Don’t be afraid to change direction and re-plan everything
I did this in my first semester of undergrad. I had a plan that wasn’t smart. My professors pushed me toward a degree that would get me to my goals. That being said, my last semester of Graduate School, I changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my life. It happens. I am creating my own peacebuilding business instead of going to work for the UN. I have all the skills for this from my two degrees, and it fits my interests better.
6. Be active in planning, preparing, and choosing all aspects of your degree path
This is part of planning your schedule, but it’s also about taking classes that will help you in your career. Don’t take a math class that you don’t need. Don’t take gym just to take it. Take classes that teach you things that you will use. If you do this, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from the GI-Bill.
This is how I’ve used the GI-Bill with purpose, and how I think you can do the same.
The Defense Department will provide all support necessary to the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference and other bad actors, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters today.
The secretary also said the U.S. military must address space as a developing warfighting domain that may lead to creation of a new combatant command.
The Russian government was responsible for the attacks on the U.S. election process in 2016, Mattis told reporters. “We all saw what happened in 2016 when the Russians – and possibly others, but the Russians for certain – tried to do both influence operations and actually get in to try to corrupt some of the process,” he said.
The new Ford-class supercarriers are being delivered to the US Navy without the ability to deploy with the service’s new stealth fighters, and lawmakers have decided to put a stop to it.
It’s very difficult to get something like an aircraft carrier cheaply and quickly and have it work well. In the case of the Ford-class carriers, the Navy program is facing cost overruns, delivery delays, and missing capabilities.
The Navy has been accepting unfinished aircraft carriers that are lacking critical capabilities, such as the ability to deploy with fifth-generation fighters.
The service has been planning to complete the necessary work after delivery to skirt the caps imposed by Congress to keep costs from soaring, USNI News reported this week. The workaround ultimately results in higher costs in the long run.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), which should be delivered back to the fleet this fall, currently lacks the ability to deploy with F-35s, and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), which is still in the works, will not be able to deploy with F-35s either, at least not upon initial delivery.
That’s a big problem for Congress.
“CVN-79 will not be able to deploy with F-35s when it’s delivered to the Navy,” a congressional staffer said this week, telling reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”
The Navy argues that while the newest carriers may not be ready to carry F-35s upon delivery due to the need for additional modifications, none of which require significant redesigns to the ship, they will be ready to go by the time the air wing is stood up and the carrier-based F-35Cs are ready for operational deployment aboard the Navy’s new flattops.
An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter conducts a touch and go landing.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)
The “F-35C modifications for CVN-78 and CVN-79 are currently scheduled for a future post-delivery modernization maintenance period that will occur prior to the planned F-35C operations on those carriers,” Captain Daniel Hernandez, a spokesman for the Navy acquisitions chief, told Business Insider.
The two follow-on Ford-class carriers, CVN-80 and 81, “will be constructed with those modifications made during construction and will not require a post-delivery modification,” he further explained.
Congress isn’t having it
Lawmakers, however, are not satisfied with the Navy’s plans.
The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has included a line in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which is still ongoing legislation, requiring that the USS John F. Kennedy be capable of deploying with F-35s before the Navy takes delivery of the new carrier.
Artist impression of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
Experts agree that it’s time for action.
“I think it’s a good idea to drive the Navy to make the ship more complete when it’s delivered because that’s a problem that’s getting worse, not better,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Business Insider, explaining that Congress will need to provide financial relief as changes to the service’s current approach to aircraft carrier development will likely result in higher upfront costs.
Lawmakers have proposed amending the cost caps on the new supercarriers, a change the Navy welcomes.
“The Navy supports the lifting of cost caps on CVN78 – CVN81 so that it can take full advantage of opportunities to deliver capability earlier and more rapidly incorporate new requirements into the ship baseline,” Hernandez told Business Insider.
The new legislative measures could address a serious problem for the Navy that truthfully extends well beyond the ability of its new carriers to carry F-35s.
With the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy has faced challenges with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and the arresting gear for recovering planes, the propulsion system, and the advanced weapons elevators, basically everything required for an effective next-generation aircraft carrier.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.