Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.


The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping
A U.S. Army soldier exits an Army Air Force Post Exchange at Steel Castle camp ground near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. | US Army photo by Spc. Emmanuel Samedi

The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.

The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.

Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.

“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”

Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.

About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.

“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 much better names for the Army bases honoring Confederate generals

It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.

Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?

So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.


1. Fort Benning (Georgia)

This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.

For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)

In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”

Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.

2. Fort Lee (Virginia)

So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.

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Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.

A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.

If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.

3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)

Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.

Bragg lost almost every battle he commanded, always took the opposite of good advice and once even misplaced a line of men.

Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?

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Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.

Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.

Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.

4. Fort Hood (Texas)

This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.

For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.

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Bling.

Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.

5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)

What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.

Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.

Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?

But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.

6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)

Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.

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This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.

This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.

Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.

Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.

7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)

Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.

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Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.

Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.

A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.

But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.

Pick one, Virginia.

8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)

Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.

Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.

9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)

Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.

The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.

But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)

Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.

10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)

Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.

While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.

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Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.

Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.


Humor

The 13 funniest military memes of the week of May 18th

Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).


Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.

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(Meme via /r/AirForce)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via American AF)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via the Salty Soldier)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Articles

Air Force investigates latest Reaper crash

Officials at an Air Force base in southern New Mexico say no one was injured after a drone crashed during a training mission.


The Alamogordo Daily News reports the 49th Wing Public Affairs at Holloman Air Force Base says first responders arrived at the May 2 crash site to assist military and civilian personnel.

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An MQ-9 Reaper flies in support of OEF. The Reaper carries both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Public Affairs spokesman Arlan Ponder says the MQ-9 Reaper had been on its way back to the base when it crashed.

He says an investigation will be done to determine what caused the drone to go down.

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, remotely piloted aircraft assigned to the base’s 9th Attack Squadron. It is deployed against dynamic execution targets and used in intelligence operations.

The aircraft can cost up to $12 million.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. seeks to seize Iran gasoline shipments heading to Venezuela

U.S. prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard four tankers that Iran is currently shipping to Venezuela, the latest attempt to increase pressure on the two sanctioned anti-American allies.

The civil-forfeiture complaint filed in the District of Columbia federal court late on July 1 claims the sale was arranged by an Iranian businessman with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.


Since September 2018, the IRGC’s elite Quds Force has moved oil through a sanctioned shipping network involving dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators, according to the lawsuit.

“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” the prosecutors alleged.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said that any attempt by the United States to prevent Iranian lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy.”

The four tankers named in the complaint — the Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna — are carrying 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, the U.S. prosecutors said.

The Justice Department said on July 2 that U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all the gasoline on the vessels, “based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.”

The United States has been pressing for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster with a campaign of diplomatic and punitive measures, including sanctions on its energy sector.

The South American country is suffering from a gasoline shortage amid a ravaging economic crisis.

Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat-search-and-rescue flying in support of Florence victims

Reserve and active duty pararescuemen were undergoing dive and jump training Sept. 11, 2018, in Key West, Florida, when they were recalled back to their home units to immediately begin the process of pre-positioning for Hurricane Florence search-and-rescue operations.

Reserve airmen within the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, put their lives on temporary hold to respond to a natural disaster.


“When we returned to Patrick (AFB) that evening, we unpacked our dive gear and repacked all of our hurricane gear,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Traska, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “We went home to see our families briefly and returned the following morning to begin the trip to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.”

In all, 140 Reservists dropped what they were doing on a Wednesday afternoon to fix and fly search-and-rescue aircraft, and perform everything imaginable in-between, to get four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and all the necessary personnel and equipment heading north to Moody AFB, Georgia, when the prepare-to-deploy order was given Sept. 12, 2018.

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HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew airmen with the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, sit alert on the Joint Base Charleston, S.C.flightline Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The 920th RQW airmen integrated forces with active duty personnel at Moody AFB’s 23rd Wing and began posturing for an official disaster relief operation as one cohesive Air Expeditionary Group, waiting out Hurricane Florence as it crawled through the Carolinas.

Two days later, Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, director of search-and-rescue operations coordination element for Air Force North Command, officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces of airmen and assets for relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Within 18-hours, 270 airmen working together seamlessly picked up and moved their search-and-rescue operation from middle Georgia forward to Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

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Senior Master Sgt. Will Towers checks the tail rotor blades as part of his preflight checklist at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

However, the coastal installation was still under evacuation orders leaving the 334th AEG faced with establishing a bare base operations center while contending with lingering unfavorable weather conditions.

“The base had to literally open their gates for our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Adolph Rodriguez, 334th Mission Support Group commander. “They (JB Charleston officials) began recalling critical personnel to give us the necessary assistance for this operation to be a success.”

With the aid of the host installation, the 334th AEG was at full operational capability, ready to conduct search-and-rescue missions when the first HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed Sept. 15, 2018.

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Col. Bryan Creel, 334th Air Expeditionary Group commander, discusses search-and-rescue operational plans with Lt. Col. Jeff Hannold, 334th AEG deputy commander, at Joint Base Charleston on Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Technical Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

Switching gears from readiness training in South Florida to real-world operations in South Carolina is a prime example of, “being constantly fluid and flexible,” said Capt. Jessica Colby, 334 AEG public affairs officer. “Search and rescue is often like that: You never know where you’re going to go, you never know how big of a footprint you can bring, or what will be needed.”

There is one constant in situations like these, training, explained Rodriguez. “Reserve citizen airmen must constantly train to not only stay current, but to propel their capabilities beyond just meeting the minimum requirement. Honing their proficiencies will ultimately provide the best possible performance in real-world operations. All of the readiness training efforts that the 920th RQW has conducted has better positioned the Wing to this current operational pace.”

“The same capabilities which make the U.S. armed forces so powerful in combat also lends themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief.”

“It’s amazing what these citizen airmen did inside and outside their Air Force specialty codes,” Rodriguez said. “They’re doing things they’re trained for, and accomplishing tasks beyond their job scope with zero deficiencies and zero mishaps.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.



MIGHTY TRENDING

Loud noise that woke up London residents in the night explained

Shortly before 5 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2019, residents of north London were awoken by an extremely loud “bang.” Many took to the internet to raise concern, with some Londoners believing that the noise was an explosion, or something to that effect.


People even reported their cars and homes shaking.

The city is already on high alert after a stabbing on the London Bridge left two victims dead and three injured on Nov. 29, 2019.

However, the Royal Air Force and the local police confirmed that the noise wasn’t an explosion after all — it was a sonic boom resulting from RAF Typhoon jets breaking the sound barrier.

“Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby were scrambled this morning, as part of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) procedures, after an aircraft lost communications in UK airspace,” an RAF spokesperson said in a statement to CNN, “The aircraft was intercepted and its communications were subsequently re-established.”

You can hear the sound in videos captured by surveillance cameras across the city.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Read more:

Articles

4 things cluster bombs can do that JDAMs can’t

People think that the Joint Direct Attack Munition is an excellent system. Don’t get me wrong it is great when there is a point target you need to go away.


JDAMs usually land within 30 feet of their target thanks to the use of the Global Positioning System for guidance. In fact, a lot of other systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, use that system as their entire guidance package, or to supplement other precision systems.

But there are some things these precision-guided systems can’t do so well. In fact, the cluster bomb actually can do some things that the JDAM can’t – which is a reason why the United States has not signed the Oslo Treaty that bans cluster bombs.

Here’s a sample of situations where it proves useful.

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CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. Cluster bombs can hit multiple targets

This is the big thing. One JDAM can take out one target. Bridges or bunkers are the sort of thing the JDAM specialize it killing. But let’s take a look at a company of tanks. Here, we are talking anywhere from ten to fifteen vehicles.

This is the sort of target something like the CBU-87 cluster bomb was designed to handle. With 202 BLU-97 bomblets, it has a good chance of landing one or two on the thin top armor of tanks. One bomb can kill multiple tanks, or trucks, or enemy troops.

That can be very useful for an Special Forces A-Team in a fight for their lives.

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When a lot of tanks are coming, You don’t have time for JDAMs to kill them one-by-one. (Photo: Wikimedia)

2. Cluster munitions allow missiles to hit multiple locations

Next to the BGM-109B TASM Tomahawk anti-ship missile, the BGM-109D Tomahawk TLAM-D is often a forgotten missile. But the BGM-109D has the ability to hit multiple locations, something the latest Tactical Tomahawks can’t do.

This is because the BGM-109D’s BLU-97s – the same ones used on the CBU-87 – are carried in a series of packets. For instance, one missile could dump some of its bomblets on parked planes, then fly on to hit a supply base elsewhere. The BGM-109D, therefore can do the work of two TLAMs.

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A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

3. Cluster bombs provide multiple effects in one package

The JDAM has one warhead that can go off one time. But a cluster bomb can carry different kinds of submunitions in the same case. Perhaps the best example is the CBU-89 GATOR – it carried two kinds of mines – one was an anti-tank mile, the other was anti-personnel. The JP233 was another – it combined both a runway-cratering munition with area-denial munitions.

The other thing is that even when you have a bomb that is all one type of submunition, some bomblets can be set to go off immediately, while others could be set to wait for a period of time (the famous delayed-action bomb – or in this case, delayed-action bomblets).

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The JP233 on display underneath the Panavia Tornado GR1 in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Cluster bombs can provide surprises without going bang

Some cluster bombs don’t even need their submunitions to go bang. For instance, Designation-Systems.net notes that the CBU-94 and CBU-102 are “blackout bombs” that drop carbon fiber chaff over power lines. This shorts out an entire power grid.

The CBU-19, though, dispensed 528 bomblets filled with CS, better known as tear gas. If you ever saw “The Big Break” episode of the 1950s TV show “Dragnet,” you saw CS in use.

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Finally, some cluster bombs can also be guided in, thanks to the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser program. In essence, these systems can also be dropped within feet of their aiming point.

Articles

The Navy recently proved it can launch planes from a carrier by using magnets

Six days after being commissioned, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest and most sophisticated aircraft carrier, received and launched its first fixed-wing aircraft.


An F/A-18 Super Hornet landed on the ship at 3:10 p.m. July 28, catching the No. 2 arresting wire of the Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear system, and took off at 4:37 p.m., launched from catapult one of the Ford’s Electromagnetic Launch System.

“Today, USS Gerald R. Ford made history with the successful landing and launching of aircraft from VX-23 using the AAG and EMALS,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces, referring to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23. “Great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone.”

 

The July 28 tests appear to show the AAG and EMALS have overcome issues that cropped up during their development — issues with the EMALS prompted President Donald Trump earlier this year to admonish the Navy to return to steam-powered catapults.

The tests were the Ford’s first shipboard recovery and launch of fixed-wing aircraft, said Capt. Rick McCormack, the Ford’s commanding officer. By the end of the day, the Ford had completed four arrested landings and catapult launches.

The Navy says the AAG, a software-controlled system, will offer greater reliability and more safety and interoperability with more aircraft. It also has built-in testing and diagnostic features, meant to reduce maintenance and lower manpower needs.

 

Navy officials have said the EMALS is designed to provide more energy, reliability, and efficiency while moving away from the traditional steam-powered launching system. In addition to more accurate speed control and better acceleration, the EMALS is designed to work with all current and future carrier aircraft.

Those systems are two of 23 new or modified technologies installed on the Ford, which is the first Ford-class carrier. Two more in-class carriers are planned: the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Enterprise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 is getting an awesome avionics upgrade

The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.


The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.

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F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.

“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.

Also read: F-22s will soon deploy anywhere in the world with 24 hours notice

​In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.

Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”

Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.

Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.

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An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.

Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.

Related: Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.

​This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.

This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.

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F-22 Raptors parked at Rickenbacker ANGB in Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.

“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.

Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.

“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.

A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.

“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.

Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.

Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.

Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.

More: This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.

Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.

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An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. (Lockheed Martin)

Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warns of Russian hacking group’s attempts to gain ‘dream access’ to computer systems

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”


The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.

The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”

Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.

The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.

The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.

It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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A third US carrier is steaming its way towards North Korea

Two U.S. aircraft carriers that are to train together in the Sea of Japan might be joined by a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing from a U.S.naval base, according to a Japanese press report.


The USS Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson are to conduct joint exercises June 1 with a convoy from Japan’s maritime self-defense forces, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

A Japanese government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the drills. The newspaper reported the aim of the exercise is to deter North Korea, following repeated launches of ballistic missiles.

Japan deployed the helicopter carrier JS Hyuga from Maizuru base in Kyoto the morning of May 31.

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An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter flies near the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Danielle A. Brandt)

The Ronald Reagan traveled separately to the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea in South Korea, by sailing through the Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu.

The Carl Vinson previously trained with the South Korean military in late April, and the Ronald Reagan completed a routine inspection on May 16.

The Ronald Reagan then conducted flight training near southern Japan before heading out to areas closer to North Korea from its home port of Yokosuka, according to the report.

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Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) pulls into Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet headquarters. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford)

A Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier traveling from Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State could join the aircraft carriers, or be stationed in another area of the Pacific, but an exercise involving all three U.S. aircraft carriers would be unprecedented, the Yomiuri reported.

Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Wednesday the state’s “highest leadership,” Kim Jong Un, can order the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time and place in response to what it claims are U.S. “threats” that include joint drills with U.S. allies in the region.

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These are Hollywood’s 5 most awesome military spouses

As any career military person knows, the job is next to impossible without support on the homefront. And making that support happen isn’t easy.


So in honor of #MilitarySpouseAppreciationDay (let’s get it trending, people), WATM presents our choices for 5 times Hollywood did right by military spouses (considering Hollywood’s ability to get it right, period, of course):

1. Madeleine Stowe as Julie Moore in “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

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Madeleine Stowe portrays Julie Moore, wife of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the commander of the Army unit that finds itself in the middle of the first major battle of the Vietnam War. Stowe does a great job of showing Julie’s support for her husband’s career choice (while making sure he gets over his bad self from time to time) and strength when the word of casualties starts returning stateside.

2. Sienna Miller as Taya Kyle in “American Sniper”

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(Photos: Warner Bros.)

“At its essence, this is a human story between two people: one of whom is doing these extraordinary, unimaginable things so far from home and the other who is trying to hold her family together,” Miller said. “And having met Taya [Kyle] I felt a responsibility to do it justice.”

3. Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager in “The Right Stuff”

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Chuck (Sam Shepard) and Glennis (Barbara Hershey) enjoy a quiet moment before he risks life and limb attempting to break the speed of sound. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Barbara Hershey’s tough and sexy portrayal of Air Force legend Chuck Yeager’s wife Glennis is only a minor part of the movie, but her peformance is pitch perfect in terms of capturing what kind of woman it takes to be the wife of a military man who willingly rides into the jaws of death on a regular basis. Signature line: Chuck (played by Sam Shepard) looks at Glennis and says, “I’m fearless, but I’m scared to death of you.”

4. Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw in “Top Gun”

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Carole Bradshaw knows how to party and keep her man’s focus where it belongs (“Take me to bed or lose me forever”) as well as take care of the homefront while her husband “Goose” is out there feeling the need for speed. And she’s the model of sorrow and strength after he dies while ejecting from an out-of-control F-14.

5. Debra Winger as Paula Pokrifki in “Officer and a Gentleman”

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Paula (Debra Winger) with Zach (Richard Gere) right before he carries her out of the factory and into life as a Navy wife. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Okay, Debra Winger doesn’t play a military spouse in “Officer and a Gentleman,” but she does play a girlfriend who is about to become a military spouse, which is a very important part of the process. Marital success rates notwithstanding, the cities around training bases have bred more military wives than anyplace else, and Winger’s portrayal of the fetching Paula accurately captures how and why that happens.