VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide - We Are The Mighty
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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

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These vets brew Semper Fi PA and Jet Noise

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide


Army National Guard Veteran, Tom Wilder, and Army Reserves Veteran, Neil McCannon, set out to build an empire of home-brewed beer in their hometown of Virginia Beach, VA in 2012. After successfully crowd funding their endeavor via Kickstarter, Tom and Neil were delighted to open their doors for business roughly 18 months ago, making them among the first veteran-owned breweries by vets, for vets.

What makes them special is the idea behind their brewery and how frequently they give back to their own community.

“For Young Veterans Brewing Company brewing is about love,” Tom said. “Since our first batch, we have been delighted by the artistry of the process and the creativity of recipe development and perfection. We are captivated by the detail and scientific precision required during the production and maturation processes. Mostly though, we love the joy we provide with our distinctive, high quality beer.”

Tom and Neil began experimenting after a stint as roommates.

“We lived together in a house together with like six other people in our twenties,” Neil said. “We had a home brew kit brought over and we made it together; it was a brown ale and it turned out well. If it hadn’t turned out better than we expected, I don’t think we would have continued.”

“The military has played a pivotal role in both our lives, shaping us as men and as citizens. Combined with our love of craft beer and experience in home-brewing these last five years, our idea took shape and we are ready to begin our new careers as small business owners and as brewers.” — Neil McCannon

This set them apart from most home brewers because they began experimenting shortly after their third batch whereas many will brew from standard kits.

“When you first start home brewing, they supply you with basically everything you need to brew beer,” Tom said. “After the third one we basically said screw the kit and began experimenting on our own, becoming addicted to brewing.”

In opening the brewery, the name was the easy part. Tom and Neil are natives of the area and both served in the military.

“To us, Young Veterans is where we’re from,” Neil explained. “We’re vets and we wanted to open our own business. We’re making a call to where we’re from, and the name was the easy answer. We do have a lot of focus on veterans charities and the military because it meant a lot to us. It was something [the military] we wanted to keep in our lives.”

“We were really worried that someone was going to steal our idea because we were YVBC about two years before we opened,” Tom said. “It would have been easy for someone to come in with a decent amount money and say, ‘Nice name’ and take off with it. We’re lucky that didn’t happen. We were very much among the first of veteran-themed breweries to pop up and shortly after we opened, Veterans Brewing popped up in Chicago, who is a high-volume, money making contract brewery. It puts pressure on us to stand out.”

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

Originally, the two were looking to start a grandiose brewery with a large concert space and a tap room, but after considering the options they had in regard to venue size, budget and production, Tom and Neil opened a small brewery near Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach, completing their transition from home brewers to brewery owners.

Tom explained that in order to get their feet on the ground Neil attended the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich and obtained an International Degree in Brewing Science last year to further their goal and his knowledge as a brewer and Tom gained experience working in multiple facets of a distributing company.”

Today, they can barely keep up with the foot traffic from their 40/60 military to civilian customer base and are looking to expand. They recently found that they’ll be sharing the area with a veterans service group just up the street. Several of YVBC’s craft beers have become a staple in the Hampton Roads community, even traveling to other venues for “steal the taps” events in the area. The tap room features a membership club called ‘Canteen Command’ with military themed swag and a personalized mug that allows members to drink unreleased brews before they debut to the general public.

The duo is known for a variety of incredible brews with catchy names and nostalgic labels like “Pineapple Grenade,” “Jet Noise,” “Semper F.I.P.A.,” “Night Vision,” “New Recruit,” “DD-214,” and “Big Red Rye.” For more information about Tom, Neil and the gang at YVBC, they can be found at yvbc.com or on Instagram: @YVBC.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.

And check out American Veteran Magazine at amvets.magloft.com.

 

Now: 6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military prepared to counter Russia and China

Russia and China are near-peer competitors and the United States must benchmark military capabilities against these possible threats, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said at Duke University on Nov. 5, 2018.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a standing room only audience that the two-plus-three strategy gives civilian and military leaders the framework they need to prioritize personnel and resources.

The rise of China and Russia represent the return of great power competition and the American military must respond to this challenge. But the United States still is concerned about North Korea, Iran and violent extremism, he said.


This does not limit officials, he said. The best guess is that these threats are most likely, but there could be other threats that rise and must be addressed.

Preparing against challenges

“Our assumption is if we prepare against one or some combination of those challenges, then we’ll have the right inventory of capabilities to deal with the unexpected,” the general said. “But clearly, as we do our planning we think of the unexpected in addition to these five challenges.”

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, during a discussion with students in Duke’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

He said ensuring overmatch against these threats is not easy and the sources of strength for the U.S. military is what nations concentrate their capabilities on. In the U.S. case, one source of strength is the network of allies and friends around the world. This helps another source of strength and that is the ability to deploy forces and capabilities anywhere in the world and then sustain that effort.

Both Russia and China have developed capabilities that would negate some of these advantages, the chairman said. Russia is doing its level best to chip away at the North Atlantic alliance. China is trying to separate the United States from allies in the Pacific region, like Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.

What complicates this is two new domains of defense: space and cyberspace. Russia and China are developing combat capabilities in both domains and the United States has to defend these areas, the general said.

This is not a return to the Cold War, Dunford told Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and the founder of the Duke Program on American Grand Strategy. “Competition doesn’t have to be conflict,” the general said, “but we now have two states that actually … can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all domains.”

This does not mean that Russia or China are enemies of the United States, Dunford said, and he stressed that American diplomats need to continue engaging the countries. But, as a military leader, the chairman said he has to deal with capabilities, not intents.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Duke University, during a discussion with students in Duke’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

In Europe he tells his Russian counterpart that “what you’re seeing in our posture, what you’re seeing the increased forces that we have put in Europe, what you’re seeing in the path of capability development that we are on is in order to deter a conflict, not to fight,” the general said.

These developments are “largely reacting to what we have seen over the last 10 years, which is a significant increase in the development of [Russian] maritime capability, modernizing their nuclear enterprise, cyberspace, and space capabilities and in the land domain,” he said.

Dunford added, “Over all domains, Russia has made a concerted effort to increase their capabilities, and we are responding to them.”

The challenges are different in the Indo-Pacific region, he said. The U.S. goal is to follow the rule of law that has benefitted the region since the end of World War II. The U.S. government would like to see China acquiescing to these rules and not trying to replace them.

“In order for us to have a free and open Indo-Pacific, in order to have China comply with international law and standards as they exist or seek to change them in a legitimate venue, what it will take is a collected multilateral response,” Dunford said. “One of the things we work on very hard is to develop a group of like-minded nations that will seek to have a coherent, collective response to violations of international law.”

He added, “To the extent that we are able to do that, we will be able to manage the situation in the Pacific peacefully.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Army lab integrates Future Soldier Technology

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
YouTube


Lighter weight protective body armor and undergarments, newer uniform fabrics, conformal wearable computers and integrated sensors powered by emerging battery technologies — are all part of the Army’s cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at shaping, enhancing and sustaining the Soldier of the Future.

The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said.

A main impetus for the effort, called Warrior Integration Site, is grounded in the unambiguous hopef reducing the weight carried by today’s Army infantry fighters from more than 120-pounds, down to at least 72-pounds, service officials explained.In fact, a Soldier’s current so-called “marching load” can reach as much as 132-pounds, Army experts said.

“We’ve overloaded the Soldier, reduced space for equipment and tried to decrease added bulk and stiffness. What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager, Integration, Program Executive Office Soldier, told Scout Warrior in an interview during an exclusive tour of the WinSite facility.

Citing batteries, power demands, ammunition, gear interface, body armor, boots, weapons and water, Rowell explained that Soldiers are heavily burdened by the amount they have to carry for extended missions.

“We try to document everything that the Soldier is wearing including weight, size and configuration – and then communicate with researchers involved with the Army’s Science and Technology community,” he added.

The WinSite lab is not only looking to decrease the combat load carried by Soldiers into battle but also identify and integrate the best emerging technologies; the evaluation processes in the make-shift laboratory involve the use of computer graphic models, 3-D laser scanners, 3-D printing and manequins.

“This is not about an individual piece of equipment. It is about weight and cognitive burden – all of which contributes to how effective the Soldier is,” Rowell said.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment provide security during a village meeting near Combat Outpost Mizan, Zabul province, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon

The 3-D printer allows for rapid prototyping of new systems and equipment with a mind to how they impact the overall Soldier system; the manequins are then outfitted with helmets, body armor, radios, water, M-4 rifles, helmets, uniforms, night vision, batteries and other gear as part of an assessment of what integrates best for the Soldier overall.

In addition, while the WinSite is more near term than longer-term developmental efforts such as the ongoing work to develop a Soldier “Iron Man” suit or exoskeleton, the Army does expect to integrate biometric sensors into Soldier uniforms. This will allow for rapid identification of health and body conditions, such as heart rate, breathing or blood pressure – along with other things. Rapid access to this information could better enable medics to save the lives of wounded Soldiers.

Lighter weight fabrics for uniforms, combined with composite body armor materials are key elements of how the Army hope to reach a notional, broad goal of enabling Soldier to fight with all necessary gear weighing a fraction of the current equipment at 48-pounds, Rowell explained.

WinSite is primarily about communication among laboratory experts, scientists and computer programmers and new Soldier technology developers – in order to ensure that each individual properly integrate into the larger Soldier system.

Articles

Here’s a friendly reminder of how big the A-10 Warthog’s gun is

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. | US Air Force photo


On Thursday, we saw for the first time the brand new F-35B/C variant’s GAU-22 25 mm gun pod firing, and as impressive as it was, it’s not even close to the best gun on the force.

What you’re looking at above is the biggest asset for, and the biggest argument against, the A-10 Warthog. You can plainly see how the massive, 4,000 pound (including ammo), almost 20-foot long GAU-8 Avenger dwarfs the classic VW bug next to it. The firepower of that gun has become the stuff of legend over the last decades.

But that’s the problem; this picture was taken in the late 1970s. As big and awesome as this gun is, much has changed in aviation, in the battle space, and in the world since it was first fielded. Case in point — you just don’t see VW bugs on the road anymore.

So while the A-10 still holds the title of best and biggest gun, the close air support of the future makes different demands on a weapons system. Even though it may still have useful days ahead, the A-10’s days at the top are numbered.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Living (and loving) in a soberly-divided marriage

Marriage can feel like a roller coaster, full of unforeseen ups and downs. But a marriage that becomes divided by sobriety levels up the ride, adding sharp turns, twists and loops that will make any head spin.

From the moment my husband and I met in 2007 — at a bar on a Monday night — alcohol has played a significant role between us. We bonded and drank our way through every phase: courting, engagement and newlywed. We drank through good times and bad, for good reasons and not.


When we entered the new-parent phase, there was a shift. My husband, whose sole goal in life was to be a dad, started to slow down his drinking. I boldly amped it up, increasing with each of the three children we brought into the world.

When my heavy weekend drinking trickled into weekdays, my husband expressed concern. When I drank excessively while he was on missions, he gave me ultimatums to not drink.

When my few solo travels resulted in reckless drinking, we both agreed I should stop altogether. Twice I attempted to break up with alcohol for my kids and marriage — once for 100 days, the other for eight months.

Yet, I knew I’d drink again because that’s what my husband and I did. We drank. A lot. Together.

By the beginning of 2017, my drinking was at an all-time high, and I was at an all-time low. My soul felt beyond broken. I was living life on alcohol’s terms rather than my own.

I was in single-mom-mode with our kids and on day four of an uncontrollable bender. I heard a very distant voice. It was my own, deep inside, and it said, enough. In that moment I knew I was ready to get sober — not for my kids, not for my marriage, but for me.

Fast forward to today, more than three years later, and I’m still gratefully sober.

The years have gifted me heaps of self-growth, such as how to honor my feelings, to stay present and to live authentically. I’ve found my voice and my calling in a new career. I’ve also done a complete 180 on how I perceive alcohol and the alcohol industry.

When people ask about the hardest part of recovery my answer has been and remains my marriage.

At first, it was not only the elephant in the room, but an elephant between us. To remove the elephant, we’ve attempted a dry house, which resulted in resentment from both parties.

We’ve tried a normal routine of my husband drinking as he pleases, which has also resulted in resentment and rejection from both parties.

We’ve talked. We’ve fought. We’ve cried, and we’ve loved each other so hard through it all.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(Military Families Magazine)

So how then do you live in a soberly divided marriage?

For us, there is no black-and-white answer, but I can attest to what we’ve learned over the years.

Honest communication is a must.

If I’m triggered or having an off day, it’s best to own it and say it aloud. Otherwise, my husband may have no understanding as to my bitterness or emotional distance. Plus, he’s able to better support me in the future, and vice versa if he struggles on his side of the journey.

Establish and honor boundaries.

Being around my husband when he drinks usually doesn’t bother me because, oddly enough, I like his tipsy, talkative lighter side. But my boundary is set at two nights in a row of his drinking. Beyond that and he knows he’ll find me elsewhere, doing my own thing. He honors my choice and space, but more times than not, he’ll not risk losing my company for a drink.

Respect the differences.

He’s a science guy. I’m a believer in Jesus. In all our time, we’ve respected our differences in faith. Similar respect is now applied to our opposing relationships with alcohol. We agree to disagree, and we do so respectfully.

Time and patience do wonders.

Despite the infinite ups and downs outside that come with being soberly divided, it’s clear with every passing sober day, we grow stronger in our marriage. We also grow stronger as individuals. But we must practice patience when the sober journey feels tough.

Practice empathy daily.

Lastly, without empathy, we may have fallen apart years ago. With empathy, we see through each other’s eyes more clearly. We’re better equipped to practice the “Golden Rule.” We’re forever reminded that at the end of the day, we’re two imperfect people doing our best to love each other through the sober journey’s good, bad and in-betweens.

Visit https://www.instagram.com/teetotallyfit/ to follow Alison Evans’ journey with sobriety and fitness.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Air Force is looking for more pilots to fly like the Russians and Chinese

Air-to-air dogfights have been lacking in recent years.


In one sense it is a good thing – it means the United States has been able to take control of the air very quickly. But American pilots still need to be able to practice – and not everyone can get to Red Flag or the Navy’s equivalents.

Recently the Air Force has been using Northrop T-38 Talons to help alleviate the problem. The T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer that served as the basis for the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” and the F-5E/F Tiger. The F-5s were light, day-time fighters that were very maneuverable, and they have served as Navy and Marine Corps aggressors for the long time.

The Air Force has been using T-38s to supplement F-16s at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Aggressor training, developed after the Ault Report showed shortcomings in naval aviation, has helped keep American airmen good, and emerged in the late stages of the Vietnam War. The famous “Top Gun” school, in particular, had a marked effect, sending kill ratios skyrocketing to over 13:1.

Many of the aggressor pilots are currently members of the military, but according to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, that is changing as the Air Force seeks to hire contractors. Part of the reason has been an ongoing pilot shortage.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter was used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

The other reason is that some of the private companies can offer planes beyond the T-38 for these missions. A 2016 report from DefenseOne.com noted that one company has a mix of F-21 Kfirs, A-4 Skyhawks, Hawker Hunters, and L-39 Albatross jets. Among the companies getting into the mix is Textron, which makes the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

The final reason. though, maybe the most important.

That is because turning the aggressor training over to contractors could make them even tougher opponents for Air Force and Navy pilots. While many an Air Force pilot has non-flying billets at various points in their career, contractors will be able to just keep flying and dogfighting. This will make the military pilots they face off against sweat more, but it may prove the wisdom behind one old saying: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

Articles

The Air Force will have lasers on planes soon

By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
DARPA Air Force Laser Concept

The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.

“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
For the uninitiated, this is what the current gun on the AC-130 looks like.

Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
It’s like Star Wars lasers vs. Star Trek lasers. So that debate might be settled soon too.

Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.

The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11v=LThD0FMvTFU

 

NOW: The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.


“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, Crashback. It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”

Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.

Also read: The Navy gets more money for its next nuclear-armed submarines

One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.

The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February 2018 interview. But “China has grown — in terms of maritime power, maritime projection — more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”

That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.

‘Armed to the teeth’

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
The Virginia-class attack sub USS North Dakota. (Photo by US Navy)

Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs — capable of firing anti-ship and land-attack missiles — and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.

“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.

More: Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.

The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.

That expansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.

“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”

China’s subs are also stretching their legs.

In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan — the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)

In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea— the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.

“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”

‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
A Chinese Shang-class nuclear attack submarine in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands. (Photo by Japanese Ministry of Defense)

The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.

US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.

A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.

Related: The US Navy’s most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers

The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs — which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.

China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.

Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”

“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”

“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power — it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.

Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”

Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November 2017, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March 2018 it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.

Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years — a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.

In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine in an undated photo released by Japan. (Photo by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.

India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.

The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.

Read more: Trump pardoned a sailor who took illegal photos of a submarine

India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back — the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.

India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.

Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.

Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance — which extends Beijing’s influence.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015. (Photo by Indian navy)

“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity

“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”

All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.

More: What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.

“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”

“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the advice a Navy SEAL has for his younger self

If you can’t control it, your ego can destroy everything in your life.


That’s according to former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who teach this fundamental lesson through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front.

Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” We asked him for the advice he would give his 20-year-old self, and he said it taps into this idea about ego.

While it may seem obvious that you know more about the world at age 30 than age 20, Willink said it’s important to realize that you’re never old enough to outgrow your ego — and it can make you susceptible to reckless decisions.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“If I went back to my 20-year-old self what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything,'” Willink said. “Because everyone when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world and you don’t. And when I was 25, I thought that 20-year-old didn’t know anything but I thought my 25-year-old self knew everything. He didn’t know anything either. And when I was 30, the 25-year-old didn’t know anything. And then when I was 35, the 30-year-old didn’t know anything.”

Willink reflected on this in a previous interview with Business Insider. “When I get asked, you know, what makes somebody fail as a SEAL leader, 99.9% of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with their physical skills or their mental toughness,” he said. “What it has to do with is the fact that the person’s not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind. They can’t change.”

Read More: This SEAL commander has 5 tips to transform your life

He noted that being ego-driven can, at times, be constructive. You want to be competitive, you want to prove yourself, Willink explained — but you need to realize that your opinions may not be the best available.

Willink said that this really crystallized for him when he began training young SEALS and saw how some were headstrong about beliefs that his experience taught him definitively were incorrect.

“And I would do my best to help them along that road and realize, ‘You’re not quite as smart as you think you are,'” Willink said.

Articles

This battleship went from Pearl Harbor to D-Day to nuclear tests

The D-Day landings featured an immense fleet – including seven battleships.


One, HMS Rodney, was notable for being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship. However, one of the American battleships came to Normandy via Pearl Harbor, where she was run aground.

That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
USS Nevada (BB 36) shortly after she was built. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.

On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.

As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.

The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Damage to USS Nevada after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.

On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.

She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.

The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
USS Nevada fires on Nazi positions during D-Day. (U.S. Navy photo)

After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.

According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.

Articles

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Army Maj. John Spencer, a scholar at the Modern War Institute, argued Wednesday the Army needs to create a school of urban warfare as soon as it possibly can.


Global trends make conflict in urban areas much more likely in the future, but Spencer noted in an opinion piece for the institute at West Point that the Army has not adequately prepared its soldiers to fight in this environment, which means that the service is violating one of its ten core principles.

For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.

As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”

And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.

Related: The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”

As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Soldiers from the 19th Engineer Battalion react to a simulated rocket-propelled grenade attack at Zussman Urban Combat Training Center. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael Behlin

Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.

Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.

A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”

“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”

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