Staff Sergeant Tom McArthur of the Alaska Air National Guard practices it regularly: rappelling by rope from a helicopter. Whether it’s to rescue people who are lost in the woods, who are stranded because of a snowmobile accident, or who have been attacked by animals, making that descent is a standard part of his job.
So after descending from a height of 70 feet on June 5, 2019, with the torch for the 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games in Anchorage, Alaska, he sounded nonchalant about it.
“We’re pretty consistent about this,” McArthur says. “It’s one of the things we train for. Throughout the year, we do it a number of times.”
McCarthur’s breathtaking feat was the opening stage of a ceremonial passing of the torch, the theme of which was “Mission Impossible.”
The torch will be on display during the “Parade of Athletes” at the opening ceremonies of the Golden Age Games on June 6, 2019, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. The Golden Age Games, which include nearly 900 veterans age 55 and older and serve as one of VA’s premier sports events, began on June 5, 2019, and run until June 10, 2019.
On a clear, sunny day amid the backdrop of the snow-sprinkled Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage, McArthur descended from a Black Hawk helicopter that hovered over the fairway of the 10th hole at the Moose Run Golf Course. One of his colleagues, Technical Sergeant Jason Hughes, rappelled just before him.
McArthur ran for a short distance with the gold-covered torch and handed it off. Master Sergeant Chris Bowerfind of the Alaska Air National Guard. Bowerfind and 21 other people then ran three-quarters of a mile in one direction along Arctic Valley Road, which is parallel to the golf course, and three-quarters of a mile in the other direction back to the starting point.
Taml, an emotional support dog who has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, ran alongside Bowerfind. He was also accompanied by four officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System, which is sponsoring this year’s Golden Age Games, some Veterans who are competing in the event, and members of the local community that support VA and the military.
The officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System included Dr. Tim Ballard, director of the facility. He’s excited that the Alaska VA is sponsoring the Golden Age Games.
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment hovers over a field to drop off two Alaska Air National Guard pararescuemen of the 212th Rescue Squadron and a torch for this year’s National Veterans Golden Age Games at Moose Run Golf Course, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, June 5, 2019.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pvt. Grace Nechanicky)
“We’re one of the smallest VA stations in the country,” he says. “So for us to be given this opportunity is really great. It’s a testament to our staff who are very dedicated to taking care of veterans. Often times, it’s the big facilities that get this sort of stuff. So it’s really cool that we’re a small fry in a great big VA, and we’re having an opportunity to host this event.”
Ballard explains that even though the Alaska VA is an outpatient ambulatory care facility, it has a major partnership with Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, a combined Army and Air Force installation.
“We have in-patient staff assigned to the hospital at JBER who see both Department of Defense and VA patients,” he says. “Roughly 85 members of our staff are embedded in JBER doing many inpatient activities. We’ve got a myriad of staff that are in the specialty clinics over there, including orthopedics, urology, cardiology, and the like. So even though we are outpatient from VA’s perspective, we really consider JBER’s hospital our hospital.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Mexican senators on Dec. 13 approved an Internal Security Law, which would formalize the military’s role in the country’s domestic security.
Their votes came despite protests from their Senate counterparts, international organizations, and Mexican citizens. The bill faces further discussion but could get final approval by Dec. 15. It was first approved by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, during a contentious session on Nov. 30, and throughout deliberations, opponents inside and outside congress have railed against it.
Mexico’s constitution limits the military’s domestic actions during peacetime, but the armed forces have been deployed to combat drug trafficking and organized crime since the first days of 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent troops into his home state of Michoacan just a few weeks after taking office.
The bill — proposed by members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — would create a legal framework for the public-security functions the military has been carrying out on an ad hoc basis for more than a decade, like manning highway checkpoints and pursuing and arresting suspects.
Supporters say it would address legal issues around those deployments. The bill would set guidelines for the president’s ability to authorize military action, but critics have said it makes it too easy to send the armed forces into the streets and opens the possibility they could be used against protests. They’ve also said the bill could allow deployments to be extended indefinitely.
A new initiative proposed by the bill would have the military provide intelligence to the government and its security agencies. The measure would also establish a group of government officials who would make decisions about the implementation of new measures the president could then, if needed, invoke to restore “internal order.”
“The thing that I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Yeah, but aren’t they already doing it? And isn’t this just sort of bringing that under code of law?’ And that’s a reasonable point,” Everard Meade, the director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider.
“Creating some more law and clarifying the legal framework is not a terrible idea, even if you think, as I do … that it’s not a good idea,” Meade said. “The broader point is they’re already doing it, and they’re often doing it under really shady jurisdiction.”
‘Mexico without war!’
Criticism has come from all sides. Opposition legislators have called for calm, detailed discussion about the bill, rather than the previous fast push through the Chamber of Deputies that apparently left no time to read or debate it.
Lawmakers and civil-society groups inside and outside of Mexico have also charged the bill gives the military too much leeway in its domestic actions. Legislators have also criticized measures within the bill regarding the use of force as “cosmetic” and said that changes made by Senate committees are “insufficient” or “superficial.”
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has said the law is vague and doesn’t include objective definitions of “internal security” and opens the possibility for it to be applied in “any” situation.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the premise of the law, saying it provides no exit strategy for the military and is “ill-conceived.”
The Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations (United Nations Office at Geneva). (Photo by MadGeographer)
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights said formalizing the military’s role in domestic security was “not the answer” and that doing so reduces incentives for civilian authorities to act in their traditional roles.
The Washington Office on Latin America — which noted that the military was still operating in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states a decade after its first “temporary” deployment — has cautioned that the measure as is would likely lead to more abuses and hinder transparency.
Mexican protesters took to the streets of Mexico City during the Senate’s deliberations on Dec. 13, chanting “Mexico without war!” and calling for the law to be rejected.
‘We still need the army in the streets’
The PRI and parties allied with it have touted the necessity of the bill, dismissing international criticism and stressing the importance of a legal framework for the military’s domestic operations.
“The issue of human rights is covered, and covered well” in the law, PRI congressman Cesar Dominguez said at the end of November. “But we cannot guarantee liberties and the full exercise of rights if there isn’t a climate of public safety and peace.”
“Blah, blah, blah. The truth is you always vote against everything,” said Arturo Alvarez, a congressman from the Green Party, a PRI ally. “The fact is we still need the army in the streets.”
The military’s activities “have been limited by the lack of a normative framework that regulates actions they can perform during times of peace,” Cristina Diaz, a PRI senator who heads the Senate’s governance commission, said Dec. 13.
Mexican army soldier at the Independence Day Parade, September 16, 2013 in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com)
The continuing threat posed by powerful criminal organizations and their often more violent offspring undergirds many arguments in favor of the bill. But most admit the military’s training is incompatible with policing.
Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, called the measure a “double-edge sword,” because while the military had the capability to confront heavily armed criminal groups, it is not trained or equipped to carry out law-enforcement jobs, like gathering evidence or interrogating suspects.
“If you use the military, the allegations and the issues of human-rights violations are probably going to continue,” Vigil told Business Insider. “But at the same time, if you don’t use them, then Mexico is really sticking its neck out in terms of being able to provide nationwide security against these complex drug-trafficking consortiums.”
David Shirk, the director of the Justice in Mexico program at the University of San Diego, differed, saying that lack of investigative capacity was disqualifying.
The military “can’t identify, track, and … they don’t have the necessary intelligence and, importantly, the evidentiary basis on which to bring people to justice that a part of a vast criminal conspiracy,” Shirk told Business Insider. “The problem is neither does the Mexican police force.”
Shirk noted that the Mexican military has been involved in domestic operations for decades, with some arguing its role extends back the middle of the 20th century. By 1995, he said, there were calls to include the armed forces on the national public safety council.
But the expanded deployment in 2007 — rising from 20,000 to 50,000 soldiers — was intended as a short-term solution until criminal groups could be suppressed and police forces could be better trained.
Those troops are still in the streets. In places like Guerrero, riven by drug-related violence, they remain deployed to augment or replace local police. Tamaulipas, the northeast Mexican state that is the home turf of the Gulf and Zetas cartels, depends entirely on the military for order, after all the state’s city and town police forces were dissolved because officers were linked to cartels fighting in the state.
Mexico’s military remains one of the country’s most trusted institutions, and the army is its most trusted security branch. But many see these prolonged deployments as directly responsible for more human-rights abuses and for increased violence throughout Mexico.
The Washington Office on Latin America found that, between 2012 and 2016, there have been 505 criminal investigations by the Mexican attorney general into crimes and abuses by soldiers but just 16 convictions.
Researchers have foundthat between 2007 and 2010, there was “a causal effect between the deployment of joint military operations and the rise in the murder rate” in states where those joint operations took place, with data indicating there could have been nearly 7,000 fewer homicides in 2008 and 2009 had the military not been deployed.
The military has been implicated in abuses in recent years, like the killing of 22 suspects in central Mexico in 2014 and the disappearance of 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, also in 2014. Between 2015 and September 2017, the Mexican government reportedly paid out more than $6 million in compensation for human-rights violations by federal authorities, including defense forces.
“So to me, it’s absolutely clear that if we see this government or another government that comes next turn to even more military involvement or start deploying the military more, we’re going to see more people get hurt,” Shirk told Business Insider.
‘A very long-term project’
The Mexican military currently operates domestically under a vague clause allowing it to “aid” civilian law enforcement when asked to do so.
Military leaders have expressed “unease” about domestic operations, and the Mexican government has taken steps to hold military personnel accountable for abuses committed while acting in a public-security capacity.
Under a law approved in 2014, soldiers accused of violating civilians’ rights are tried in civilian courts.
“That’s a big deal” and an important part of making sure abuses are dealt with transparently, Shirk said, though he doubted there had been enough time to assess whether that policy was being used well and had been effective in protecting against violations. (The Washington Office on Latin America has said that reform has not been fully implemented.)
Mexico has made little progress in reforming and reconstituting local and state police forces, which were often ineffective or infiltrated by criminal elements, and has shown little interest in doing so. Critics of the bill have charged that it removes incentives to carry out those reforms, but even a sincere effort to effect them would “be a very long-term project,” Vigil said.
“It’s going to take decades before they’re up to speed,” he told Business Insider, “and in the meantime they’re going to have to use … the military to conduct a lot of those [law-enforcement] operations.”
President Donald Trump lashed out against Amazon on July 23, 2018, saying the US Postal Service is its “delivery boy.”
“The Amazon Washington Post has gone crazy against me ever since they lost the Internet Tax Case in the U.S. Supreme Court two months ago,” Trump tweeted, seemingly referring to a high court ruling in June 2018 that freed states to collect sales tax on online purchases. “Next up is the Post Office which they use, at a fraction of real cost, as their “delivery boy” for a BIG percentage of their packages.”
Trump has argued that Amazon takes advantage of the postal service, which he claims is losing money from the e-commerce giant. But the post office had been slipping into the red since before the rise of Amazon and is not funded directly by taxpayers.
July 23, 2018’s tweets are just the latest in a string of attacks on Amazon that have carried on for months.
“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” Trump tweeted in April 2018. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”
Part of Trump’s frustrations toward Amazon seem to be associated with its chief executive officer Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post. The tweets came after a weekend of critical news reports on the White House and the Trump campaign.
“In my opinion the Washington Post is nothing more than an expensive (the paper loses a fortune) lobbyist for Amazon,” Trump tweeted. “Is it used as protection against the antitrust claims which many feel should be brought?”
Shares of Amazon fell as much as 2.4% following the tweets. They’re up 54% this year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.
I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).
But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…
Twenty-four years after the Marine Corps got its first female aviator, another woman pilot is making history.
Capt. Anneliese Satz is the Marine Corps’ first-ever female F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jet pilot. The 29-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has spent the past four years training as a naval aviator.
Now, she’s cleared to operate the cutting-edge fifth-generation stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft in combat. She’s the first woman to complete the F-35B Basic Course, designed specifically for the Marine Corps variant of the fighter jet. The F-35B can take off and land vertically from amphibious assault ship flight decks and austere locations with little runway space.
Satz is joining the “Green Knights” with the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. VMFA-121 was the first F-35B squadron to complete an operational deployment with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard a Navy ship.
Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)
Satz recalled the first time she took off in the Joint Strike Fighter in a Marine Corps news release announcing her career milestone.
“The first flight in an F-35 is by yourself,” she said. “… It’s an exhilarating experience.”
Satz was licensed to fly the single-engine Robinson R44 light helicopter before joining the Marine Corps. Since switching to fixed wing, she’s flown the T-6 Texan II tandem-seat, turboprop trainer and the T-45C Goshawk carrier capable jet trainer, which prepares naval aviators for tactical missions.
Capt. Anneliese Satz puts on her flight helmet prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)
She then joined Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, where she trained to fly the military’s newest fighter jet. Showing up and working hard are what allowed her to succeed, she said in the release.
Satz also credited the instructors, maintainers and other members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 for helping her complete the F-35B Basic Course.
“This is a phenomenal program made possible by all of their hard work,” she said in a Marine Corps news release. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them. I am incredibly excited to get to VMFA-121 and look forward to the opportunity to serve in the Fleet Marine Forces.”
Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)
Earlier this week, another female Marine aviator made history when she became the first woman selected to fly the Corps’ other Joint Strike Fighter variant — the F-35C.
First Lt. Catherine Stark will join the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 125, where she’ll fly the F-35 variant designed for carrier operations.
Female Marines have been able to fly only since 1993 when the service opened pilot positions to women. Then-2nd Lt. Sarah Deal, a CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter pilot, became the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1995. And Capt. Vernice Armour, an AH-1W Cobra pilot, became the service’s first black female pilot in 2001.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.
The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.
The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.
“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.
Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.
It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.
While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.
The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.
Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.
(Photo by German Navy)
“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”
Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.
The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.
At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British Ministry of Defence announced July 9 that it’s investing up to $160 million in testing, procuring, and fielding directed energy weapons for their three military branches, starting with tests on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles by 2023. Directed energy weapons require serious juice from a generator or other power source but can inflict targeted damage without ammo.
Britain’s plans center on three demonstration weapons that use lasers or radio waves to damage enemy forces and equipment.
One is a British-designed weapon that earned a lot of attention. The Dragonfire laser weapon system packs a 50 kW laser that is a significant jump from the American 30 kW laser once deployed on the USS Ponce for training. (The American program aims to eventually support weapons up to 300 kW, and American researchers are part of the current U.K. effort.)
The lasers are primarily aimed at taking out drones, mortars, rockets, planes, and missiles that have already come close to the laser-armed vehicle or ship. Traditional interceptors like missiles will deal with targets further away.
(U.K. Ministry of Defence, Crown Copyright)
In addition to lasers, England will be testing radio frequency weapons that could disable target computers and electronics.
According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “The MOD also has over 30 years’ experience in Radio Frequency DEW, during which time the UK has become a world leader in developing new power generation technologies and a global hub for the performance testing and evaluation of these systems.”
Britain is creating and staffing a joint programme office to oversee this new effort, and they expect that the demonstrator weapons will be ready for broad fielding with 10 years.
“Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces” said British Defence Secretary Penny Mourdant.
An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.
Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.
His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.
“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.
Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.
But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.
The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”
Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.
Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.
“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.
The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.
“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”
“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.
“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”
In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.
The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.
In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
The Navy is asking Congress for funding to equip its most technologically advanced surface ships, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers, with new weapons designed to turn them into long-range ship killers, according to budget documents spotted by Defense News.
One of the new weapons is Raytheon’s SM-6 missile, which serves three purposes: anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic-missile defense.
Unlike its older brother, the SM-3, the SM-6 has a proximity charge that explodes near its target, meaning it does not have to make physical contact with whatever it is intercepting.
In a test of the missile’s anti-ship capability in March 2016, an SM-6 from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer took out the decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James.
Back then, the missile’s range was listed as 250 nautical miles, but it’s now expected to be as long as 268 nautical miles. It also has a speed of Mach 3.5.
The SM-6 has had success in its anti-ballistic-missile tests, with the missile intercepting a target in Hawaii in August.
The other new weapon is Raytheon’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a variant of the classic cruise missile designed to destroy moving naval targets.
The missiles would be a much-needed addition to the destroyers, as the ships’ main armament, the 155mm Advanced Gun System, is unusable because it has no ammunition. The kind intended for the guns was deemed too expensive, ranging from $800,000 to $1 million for a single round.
The guns will remain on the destroyers, but “in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the budget documents say, according to Defense News.
The Navy decided in November to change the Zumwalt-class ships’ role from land-attack to anti-surface warfare, the documents say. The commander of US Pacific Command said in congressional testimony last week that the change was motivated by China’s increasingly capable navy and the need for more surface ships capable of dealing blows in ship-to-ship combat, Defense News reported.
All three Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific, the Defense News report says.
The new missiles would allow the destroyers to work alongside littoral combat ships, which are expected to soon get upgrades to allow them to take on enemy vessels miles away.
There are two Zumwalt-class destroyers. The USS Zumwalt is now in its homeport in San Diego for overhauls and a weapons installation, Defense News reports, while the USS Michael Monsoor completed its acceptance trials early February 2018.
The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.
According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.
“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”
The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.
The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.
Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.
When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.
“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”
Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.
AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.
The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.
Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.
News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.
One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.
“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”
For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.
Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.
“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”
Army equipment officials have issued a reminder to soldiers that the service’s authorized protective eyewear list is being updated regularly with high-tech options like lenses that adjust to changing light in the blink of an eye.
The Transition Combat Eye Protection lens features sensors with much greater sensitivity than commercial transitional lenses because they are designed to respond to visible light instead of UV rays, according to a recent Army press release.
“It’s a one-second button,” Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of Head Protection at Program Executive Office Soldier, said in the release. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic.”
The authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL, is updated about every two years and offers a wide range of brands and styles of protective sunglasses and goggles which feature the APEL logo. All of the 27 types of eyewear on the list have been through rigorous ballistic and non-ballistic testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, according to the release.
(U.S. Army photo)
Soldiers who chose to buy non-authorized eyewear run the risk of suffering irreversible injuries, Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said in the release.
“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” Whitehead said.
Facial injuries will still occur with authorized eyewear, but there is a chance the soldier’s eyes will be protected, she said in the release.
“The soldier’s face is all chewed up,” Whitehead said. “But when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”
Soldiers can check out the Army’s APEL online and buy approved eyewear at most Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sure, sure, when you’re a fetus the water is balmy and occasionally they play Mozart in the pool. But you can’t knock a fetus’s breath holding record, now can you? What was yours last time you did pool training? Was it 9 months? And at the end of it, did you just bob like a big, doughy man-pontoon buoyantly to the surface or did you, like a fetus, get flushed down the drain hole, slapped till you screamed and then circumcised? So yeah, a fetus is tougher than you when it comes to amphibious operational readiness.
And we cry when they give us baths. We cry when they give us haircuts. We cry when they remove the kitten’s head from our mouths. We turn into babies and babies are wimps.
Water Survival, then, is just an easy way for the military to remind us soft adults how to be hard again. Hard like a fetus. It’s how they take us back to our Original Toughness, like when we did nine month tours of duty guarding the subterranean door to Fort Uterus.
You’ve probably caught the drift of the incontinents here, but Max was Captain of that particular detail. And we’re gonna tell you all about it, as soon as he puts you through some dryland drills designed to get your core up to code. Because this is stage 1 of Operation Fetal Preparedness.
The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.
Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?
The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.
The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.
But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.
Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)
When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.
(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)
If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.
Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.
(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)
And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.
So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.
And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.
While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.
So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.
But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.