Exercise Red Flag is the much-less famous, Air Force version of TOPGUN. It had the same impetus as TOPGUN – the Vietnam War highlighted some very serious shortcomings in how the service prepared to fight a war. Red Flag, however, doesn’t just feature the air-to-air stuff. Red Flag takes it a step further and trains pilots in air-to-ground combat as well.
Sometimes, Red Flag is a very international affair, with participants from all over the world. The current Red Flag, though, is going to be a much more… private affair. According to Popular Mechanics, the United States is only bringing in some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia. This is because this Red Flag is being run without the use of the Global Positioning System, or GPS.
The good news is that GPS is not the only tool that American pilots have. There are inertial navigation systems and radios that don’t rely on the satellites. GPS, however, has become the preferred tool. As such, if an enemy were to knock some or all of the constellation out, American forces would be greatly disadvantaged.
This year’s Red Flag is recreating that scenario to prepare pilots for the worst. The United States will be getting a good idea of how to fight without GPS. Participants will be getting plenty of practice doing so when the stakes are little more than a bunch of bruised egos.
How did they shut off GPS over the deserts of Nevada? They aren’t saying — after all, no need to give the enemy ideas.
President Donald Trump on Dec. 25, 2018, renewed his pledge to fund a new icebreaker for the Coast Guard, comparing its necessity with his effort to build a wall on the southern border.
“It’s like the border wall. We still need a wall,” and the Coast Guard needs an icebreaker to replace the 42-year-old Polar Star, Trump said in a series of Christmas Day phone calls to service members around the world.
In a call to the Coast Guard’s District 17 in Juneau, Alaska, he said the new icebreaker will be fitted with the latest technology, but its defining feature will be the thick steel in its hull.
“With all of the technology, it still needs very thick steel,” Trump said.
Following the partial government shutdown that began at midnight Dec. 21, 2018, over billion the president is seeking to fund the wall, Trump said the new sections of the wall he proposes would consist of “steel slats.”
Technology would be no substitute for the wall, despite what House and Senate Democrats claim, he said. “They can have all the drones they want, all the technology they want,” but the wall is essential to border security, Trump said in the call to Alaska.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“I call it bells and whistles,” he said of the technology, “but if you don’t have the wall, it doesn’t work.”
The new icebreaker will have capabilities “the likes of which nobody’s seen before. The bad part is the price,” Trump said, apparently referring to the Coast Guard’s estimate of 0 million.
“The good part is it’s the most powerful in the world,” he said. “The ice is in big trouble when that thing gets finished. It’ll go right through it. It’s very expensive, but that’s OK.”
Trump called the icebreaker a Christmas present for the Coast Guard and suggested that a contract had already gone out, although Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said earlier this month that he expected an announcement on a contract award in spring 2019.
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
In addition to the phone call to the Coast Guard, Trump also called Task Force Talon at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Marine Attack Squadron 223 and Navy Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain; and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar.
The overall message: “There’s no greater privilege for me than to serve as your commander,” Trump said. “I know it’s a great sacrifice for you to be away from your families.”
“To those in the field or at sea, ‘keeping watch by night’ this holiday season, you should recognize that you carry on the proud legacy of those who stood the watch in decades past. In this world awash in change, you hold the line,” Mattis said in the message prepared before his resignation.
“Far from home, you have earned the gratitude and respect of your fellow citizens, and it remains my great privilege to serve alongside you,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.
The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.
To date, the Army has completed 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 48,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.
The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”
Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.
Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.
“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.
The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.
“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.
Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.
The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.
“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.
Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”
Future M4 Rifle Improvements?
While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.
Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camouflage, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.
The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.
Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.
“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in
Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.
The E-4 mafia is one of the tightest groups in the military. The group consists of service members who fall between the pay grades of E-1 and E-4 and is known for (unofficially) running the military. Sure, the senior enlisted and officers give the orders and the NCOs pass those organized plans along, but it’s the mafia that gets sh*t done.
As a member of this unique club, you must follow an unwritten rule that states we don’t talk about being in the mafia or the sh*t we pull off. Since most troops obey this fundamental rule, not much information gets out about this special, underground world. Although we’re not allowed to speak about the mafia that much, it’s definitely okay to crack jokes about the lifestyle through motherf*cking memes.
Let the humorous commentary begin!
To all the current members of the E-4 Mafia: Cheers, and remember to enjoy your time in the suck.
The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.
The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.
Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”
The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.
This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.
According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.
The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.
“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”
VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.
Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.
Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.
“It means the world to us,” said Cash.
During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.
“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”
“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.
Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.
Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.
“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”
Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.
“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”
The head of the Army aviation said that the service is about six years away from reversing its shortage of pilots for the AH-64 Apache and other rotary-wing aircraft.
“We are short pilots … we are under our authorization for aviators, most predominantly seen in the AH-64 community,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commanding general of the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.
“We under-accessed, based on financial limitations, to bring in the number of aviators that we were required to meet an operational requirement from Forces Command.”
Between 2008 and 2016, the Army fell short in accessions of aviators, creating a shortage of 731 slots, Gayler told Military.com.
Since then, the service has reduced the shortage to about 400 through increased accessions of new aviators and paying retention bonuses of up to ,000 each to seasoned pilots, Gayler said, adding that he didn’t have an exact number of the number of Apache pilots the Army is short.
“You can’t fill the void with just accessions because, then six to eight years later, you will have a relatively inexperienced force,” Gayler said.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
(US Army photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
In the next 18 months, 33 percent of the active-component warrant officer aviation population will be retirement-eligible at a time when the airline industry has a huge pilot shortage as well, he said.
“They are highly recruiting all services … and we have lost some Army rotary-wing aviators to them,” Gayler said.
As an incentive, the Army has given out about 341 retention bonuses to pilots since late 2015 that were worth up to ,000 each, Gayler said. He added that the biggest bonuses went to Apache pilots, but would not say how many received them.
“We did it in two different year groups; we did mid-grade and we did seniors with 19 to 22 years in service,” Gayler said. “And some people questioned, ‘hey why would we give a 20-year Army aviator a three-year bonus,’ and my answer is, ‘because if they all retire, we have no experience in our fleet.’
“We retained quite a few mid- and senior-grade [aviators] that will enable us to get out of this experience gap, but we still have to bring in more aviators.”
The plan now is to access 1,300 aviators a year, “which over the next five to six years will completely fill us up,” Gayler said. “It took us a decade to get into this position; we can’t get out of it in a year or by next Thursday, so we’ve got some work ahead of us.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Maybe you’re already collectively rolling your eyes at the idea of Valentine’s Day, but you shouldn’t! With the pandemic taking all the “normal” away, we should just let the world decorate itself in hearts and all things pink. We could all use some love around here.
That being said, there are still ways you can make your Valentine’s Day meaningful. Rather than heading to the drugstore the day before (I am not judging you, but don’t pretend this doesn’t happen) I’ve created a gift-guide for the big day that’s filled with meaningful items produced by veteran and military spouse owned businesses. You’ll be winning points with your significant other and making the difference in the lives of those in our military community. Double win!
Here are our top 10 businesses for you to patronize this Valentine’s Day and the gifts we think would be extra special for your sweetheart.
This Valentine’s Day, Doc Spartan has gone all out. The Heartbreaker Valentine’s Day Set is a limited-edition item that comes with a brand new grapefruit scent! Then we have the Sex Panther Set which is also fun and the scent is a favorite. The website jokingly claims it has bits of panther embedded and also comes with a disclaimer: Warning – not responsible for increased sexual activity while using or wearing this product. Use with caution. Ha!
Doc Spartan is always on my top-10 list because of how they do business. Not only are all of the products made right here in the USA with all natural ingredients but the business thrives on compassionate commerce. They employ individuals and veterans in recovery from substance abuse to assemble and prepare all of the products. This gives those seeking to rebuild their lives meaningful employment and above all: hope.
2. CharlieMadison Originals
The jewelry offered by this military spouse owned business is one of a kind. Everything you choose has meaning and there are endless opportunities to find that perfect gift. Not only is each piece of her beautiful jewelry lovingly crafted by hand, 5% of every single purchase goes back to a military charity. You can start your shopping by clicking here.
3. Bottle Breacher
Eli is a former Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur and Jen has had a passion for business for as long as she can remember. Bottle Breacher got its start in Eli’s garage while he was active duty. A year and a half later, they were on Shark Tank pitching their idea. There are so many unique gift options and your purchase comes with purpose, too. You are investing in a veteran-owned business that also hires veterans and military spouses to do the work. Everything is made right here in the USA. The husband and wife duo also gives a portion of their profits right back into the military communities by supporting charities that take care of our heroes and their families. Click here to check out Bottle Breacher and all they have to offer.
4. Seaport Sweethearts Designs
This Navy-spouse owned business is always at the top of my list for gifts. Each piece she’s designed is dripping in beauty and is all handcrafted by her. There are endless opportunities to select something that’s both deeply meaningful but also gorgeous. Many of the creations can be worn every day and there are some to-die-for pieces that are for those special occasions, like Valentine’s Day. BIG HINT HERE. To check out Seaport Sweetheart Designs (the name is literally made for a V-Day gift, isn’t it?) click here.
5. Hope Design Ltd.
This is one military-spouse-owned business that you won’t want to miss. Each piece honors America’s heroes and their families. Army wife Lauren Hope features a wide array of beautiful jewelry to choose from but also something unique: custom pieces. You can take the time to create a one-of-a-kind piece for your sweetheart, making this Valentine’s Day extra special! Click here to start shopping today!
6. Triple Nikel
I love this apparel company for so many reasons! Founded by some pretty epic soldiers, it’s not your average veteran-owned business. Their focus on equality and designs that can be worn by everyone makes my social worker heart want to explode, in a good way of course. This shop features some really wonderful designs that can fit anyone. Start shopping today, click here.
7. Naturally London
This woman, veteran-owned business hits all the right notes for amazing Valentine’s Day gift ideas! When this Air Force veteran was pregnant, she was suffering from swelling and joint paint. Nothing on the market was working, other than soaking her feet in all natural oils and salts. The idea was born! “I wanted to create a beneficial foot care regimen that was easy-to-use, multi-purpose, didn’t make me smell like a medicine cabinet and most importantly ignite joy.”–Chrissy Cabrera
This military-spouse-owned shop is making handcrafted amazingness! Two military spouses created this business as a way to sustain employment as they continued to move while their husband’s served the country. They grew and scaled with their own money before landing on Shark Tank in 2016. That appearance changed everything! They don’t just make handbags for military spouses, they hire military spouses to make handbags. The ripple affect of their idea, grit and determination has impacted so many. Check out their incredible collection of bags, candles and more by clicking here.
9. Teak and Twine
This female veteran-owned business is the perfect shop to find a one of a kind Valentine’s Day gift! The whole premise is making custom and special gift boxes, filled with quality items that bring joy. They work directly with artisans and small businesses to create unique gifts for everyone. Click here to check at their shop.
10. Recon: Active Rings
This veteran-owned business makes safe rings for America’s troops and first responders to wear. The story goes that the founder saw a fellow soldier lose his finger in part because of wearing a traditional wedding band while in combat. This sparked the idea for the business. This shop offers not just amazing bands to be worn anytime but things like soaps, shirts and hats. There are so many ways to pick a great Valentine’s Day gift, just click here to start shopping!
Jan. 9, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order titled, “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” This executive order directs the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security to develop a plan to ensure that all new Veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service.
The three departments will work together and develop a joint action plan to ensure that the 60 percent of new Veterans who currently do not qualify for enrollment in health care — primarily due to lack of verified service connection related to the medical issue at hand — will receive treatment and access to services for mental health care for one year following their separation from service.
“As service members transition to Veteran status, they face higher risk of suicide and mental health difficulties,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin. “During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care. The focus of this executive order is to coordinate federal assets to close that gap.”
The Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security will work to expand mental health programs and other resources to new Veterans to the year following departure from uniformed service, including eliminating prior time limits and:
Expanding peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA whole health initiative from 18 whole health flagship facilities to all facilities. Whole health includes wellness and establishing individual health goals.
Extending the Department of Defense’s “Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center” services to provide peer support for Veterans in the year following separation from the uniformed service.
Expanding the Department of Defense’s Military One Source, which offers resources to active duty members, to include services to separating service members to one year beyond service separation.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the VA to ensure Veterans who have served our country continue to receive the important mental health care and services they need and deserve,” said Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.
“The Department of Homeland Security is where many Veterans find a second opportunity to serve their country — nearly 28 percent of our workforce has served in the armed forces, in addition to the 49,000 active duty members of the United States Coast Guard,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“This critically important executive order will provide our service members with the support they need as they transition to civilian life. These dedicated men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our American way of life, and we owe them a debt we can never repay. We look forward to working with the VA and DOD to implement the President’s EO,” said Secretary Nielsen.
“In signing this executive order, President Trump has provided clear guidance to further ensure our Veterans and their families know that we are focusing on ways to improve their ability to move forward and achieve their goals in life after service,” said Secretary Shulkin.
Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.
The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.
“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.
Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition.
Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.
If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.
“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.
The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.
The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.
The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.
The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.
Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.
The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.
The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.
“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.
Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.
“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”
After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.
Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.
“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.
“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.
Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.
“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.
“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.
In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.
The service had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.
The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but the setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.
The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo, Marine officials maintain.
The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”
Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.
The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.
“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”
While the White House seems to mull over an attack on North Korea, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair pointed out that the U.S. military has backed down North Korea before and, if need be, they should do it again.
While Blair doesn’t think that sanctions have been ineffective, that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with an arsenal of nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles won’t be deterred from attacking the U.S. like the Soviet Union was, he also takes issue with the idea that military force doesn’t work on Pyongyang.
“Military preparedness, and the use of military force are vital components of American policy towards North Korea,” wrote Blair. Citing the U.S. and South Korea’s joint war plan to reclaim the entire peninsula in the event of war, Blair wrote that North Korea would be wary of entering a war it knows it will lose.
“Damage will be heavy on all sides, but there is no question about the outcome,” Blair wrote.
Blair pointed to a history of the U.S. military asserting its dominance over North Korea as evidence that Kim doesn’t want war, and instead wants to keep his provocations below the level that will prompt a strong U.S. response.
North Korea can and has been tamed with force
In 1976, U.S. Army and United Nations personnel went into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to trim a tree that blocked the view of U.N. observers. North Korean soldiers showed up and killed two of the U.S. Army officers with their own axes they had set aside while pruning the tree.
Within hours, U.S., South Korean, and U.N. personnel returned with a massive convoy of military vehicles, attack helicopters, and soldiers trained in martial arts with axes. They came without warning and removed the tree entirely. The North Koreans could do little but watch in the face of a resolute, united front against them.
“Every time the US-ROK response has been relevant and strong, supported by contingency plan preparations that make it clear that if North Korea escalates the Alliance is ready for major war, North Korea backs down. It will later in the future commit further and different provocations, but it will retreat in the near term,” Blair wrote.
Similarly, in 1994, when the U.S. cooked up plans to bomb a North Korean nuclear reactor, Pyongyang soon submitted to talks, though they ultimately backed out.
While most experts have dismissed the Trump administration’s reported notion of a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea in response to some provocation as madness that will lead to nuclear war, Blair, who at one point commanded the U.S. military’s Pacific area of operation, disagrees.
If the U.S. responded to some provocation with Pyongyang, Blair argued, “North Korea will understand that the actions are retaliation for what North Korea has done.”
Blair suggested the U.S. and its allies “raise its readiness level so the North Koreans know that if they escalate the confrontation, they risk starting a war they know they will lose.”
Russia is disturbing the peace, and NATO countries must combat its hybrid strategy, the alliance’s supreme allied commander for Europe said on Sept. 29, 2018.
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also commands U.S. European Command, spoke to reporters covering the NATO Military Committee meeting, alongside Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Scaparrotti said Russia already is a competitor that operates in domains “particularly below the level of war,” the general said, but in an aggressive way, noting that the Russians use cyber activity, social media, disinformation campaigns, and troop exercises to threaten and bully other countries. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its actions Eastern Ukraine show their determination to continue to intimidate neighboring countries.
Undermining Western values, governments
“[They are] operating in many countries of Europe in that way, with basically the common theme of undermining Western values and the credibility of Western governments, in my view,” Scaparrotti said.
Short of conflict, Russia sends money to organizations in Europe at both ends of the ideological spectrum, the general said. “Really, their view is — I call it a destabilization campaign. That’s their strategy,” he added. “If they can destabilize these governments, if they can create enough questions, then that is to their benefit.”
The Russians’ doctrine looks to achieve their ends without conflict, Scaparrotti said. “They have the idea that ‘I don’t have to put a soldier there or fire a shot, but if I can undermine the government, then I’ve achieved my ends,'” he explained. “That is particularly true of the countries that are in the Eastern part of the alliance that are on their border.”
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
The Soviet Union subjugated those countries after World War II, and Russia sees those countries as areas where it should still have privileged influence, he said. “They want to keep those governments in the position that they could influence them, and this is a tactic for doing that.”
The environment surrounding it has changed, he noted. “They were ahead of us in terms of changing their posture with respect to NATO,” he said, and the Russians have maintained a purposeful military modernization program that they have maintained even as their economy strains.
“It took us some time in NATO to recognize that [Russia] is not our friend, not our partner right now, and we have to pay attention to what’s happening in our environment and how they are acting,” he said. “Of course 2014 was a real wake-up. Russia violated international law and norms, which I will tell you they continue to do in other ways.”
Scaparrotti said he has no doubt that Russia would repeat its actions in Crimea and Ukraine “if they saw the opportunity and they thought the benefits exceeded the costs.”
This strategy is called a hybrid war, he said, and NATO is coming to grips with the concept. “One of the things about hybrid war is defining it. What is it?” he added. “It’s a lot of things, and most of it is not in the military realm.”
Planners need to determine what the military can do as part of a counter-strategy and what other agencies, branches efforts can contribute, he said. “And then [you must decide] how should you work with them, because we can’t just work on this on our own,” he said. “This really does talk about the whole-of-government approach and bringing others into it and deciding what needs to be done.”
In each NATO nation that approach has got to be different, Scaparrotti said, because the nations themselves have different strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. They also must factor in what Russia’s interest or activity is.
“We are working in this realm with military capacity as well,” the general said. “We have special operations forces, and this is their business. They understand it. To the extent that they can identify hybrid activity, they can help our nations build their ability to identify and counter it.”
A Meeting of the NATO Foreign Minsiters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, 2018.
NATO can, for example, reinforce each nation’s capacity for understanding disinformation and how to counter it, he said, noting that these issues are among the Military Committee meeting’s topics..
The bottom line is that Russian leaders need to understand that a conflict with NATO is not what they want, Scaparrotti said. “We are 29 nations. We’re strong. I am confident of our ability to secure the sovereignty of our nations in NATO,” he said.
Readiness critical to deterrence
NATO readiness is crucial to the deterrent success of the alliance, and Scaparrotti now has the tools to work on this aspect. Readiness in NATO means the commander gets a specific capability, and that capability is available on a timeline that’s useful given the environment, he explained.
“Then, of course, [readiness] is a mindset, which is perhaps the most important thing that has changed,” he said. “It is changing now.”
The NATO summit held in Brussels in July 2018 gave Scaparrotti the authority and directive to deal with alliance readiness.
“We are back to establishing force where I, as the commander, now have the authority to require readiness of units on a specific timeline and the ability to check them to ensure they can actually do it,” he said. “This all comes together with our ability to move at speed to meet the environment to do what we need to do.”