Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female Amtrac officer

There’s a saying in the Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle community: “You ain’t tracks, you ain’t s—.”


It was in part that sense of bonding and pride that drew 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke to the career field.

Tuesday morning, the 24-year-old became the first female officer to graduate from the Marines’ Assault Amphibian Officer course and the first to earn the military occupational specialty of 1803, qualifying her to command a platoon of AAVs, or Amtracks.

Klenke, whose hometown is St. Rose, Illinois, had to complete a series of physical requirements in addition to the 12-week course: She had to prove she could do a 115-pound clean-and-press and a 150-pound deadlift; she had to lift a MK-19 machine gun, weighing nearly 78 pounds, above her head; and she had to complete a 50-yard “buddy drag” with a 215-pound dummy to simulate a wounded comrade.

That buddy drag proved to be the most physically demanding element of the whole course, said Klenke, who played a variety of team sports while at Illinois’ Highland High School, and went to college on a soccer scholarship. She would graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin with an accounting degree.

Klenke decided at The Basic School that she was interested in pursuing AAVs as a career field.

“Tracks keep the Marine Corps amphibious; I really like that part about them,” she said. “And it gives you the ability to work with the infantry and be in the battle if there ever was a battle.”

What she didn’t realize at the time was that there had never been a female officer in the field.

Since all ground combat jobs opened to women for the first time in 2016, the Marine Corps has welcomed its first female artillery and tanks officers.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Mariah Klenke poses in front of an American flag in this undated Facebook photo.

In late September, the first female Marine graduated the infantry officer’s course in a much-anticipated milestone.

There have also been two enlisted female Marines to complete required training and enter the AAV community. But until now, a female officer has not attempted the AAV officers’ course.

“Whenever my captain told me that was the MOS I was getting, he said, ‘You’re 1803 and you’re going to be the first female officer.’ I was kind of surprised and [it was] a little nerve-wracking being the first female, and it puts more pressure on yourself there,” Klenke said.

But, she added, she had no second thoughts. With her competitive sports background, she began to prepare mentally to face the challenge.

The assault amphibian officers course itself proved to be small, with only seven students in total, she said.

Other students would joke about her being the first woman in the course, but Klenke said the atmosphere was friendly, and she never felt singled out or ostracized because she was a woman.

“We were all good friends in the class, so it was just friendly jokes about everything,” she said.

She got a taste of the close bonds the tracks community shares during one of the most mentally challenging elements of the course: a week at Camp Pendleton staging AAV missions from the shoreline to inland objectives.

“We were doing three to four missions a day. It involved a lot of planning, and then operating too,” she said. “We were working on a couple of hours of sleep a night.”

The training made her more confident that she had chosen the right field, she said.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Mariah Klenke. (Facebook)

“You get the sense that it’s a very close-knit community and anybody will do anything for you, everyone works hard out there,” Klenke said. “Frankly, the Marines in the MOS, they’re very hard-working and they’ll have your back if they need to.”

For the AAV course, graduation is a quiet ceremony where certificates are distributed. In fewer than 48 hours, Klenke expects to be at her new unit: 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, at Camp Pendleton.

And she can’t wait.

“After a year of training, I’m finally just excited to get my platoon and start working for them, training them,” she said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A few days after multiple US bomber flights over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fighters and bombers from the Chinese military carried out live-fire exercises over the same area — the latest round of drills in a period of increasing tension between the two countries.

Aircraft from the Southern Theater command of the People’s Liberation naval air force conducted “live fire shooting drills” at a sea range in the South China Sea, according to the People’s Daily official newspaper, which released photos from a broadcast by state-run CCTV.


Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Chinese fighter jets during live-fire drills over the South China Sea, September 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

The brief report by CCTV stated that dozens of fighter jets and bombers performed the drills to test pilots’ assault, penetration, and precision-strike abilities during operations at sea, according to The Japan Times.

Those exercises came days after US aircraft carried out several overflights through the area.

On Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, 2018, a single US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew over the South China Sea in what US Pacific Air Forces described as part of the US’s ongoing continuous bomber presence operations.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

A US Air Force B-52H bomber and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters during a routine training mission over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

“US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations have been ongoing since March 2004,” PACAF told Business Insider, saying that recent missions were “consistent with international law and United States’s long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”

On Sept. 26, 2018, a B-52H heavy long-range bomber based in Guam met Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for what Pacific Air Command called “a routine training mission.” The B-52 carried out drills with 12 Koku Jieitai F-15 fighters and four F-2 fighters before returning home.

The US sent B-52s over the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas four times in August 2018, and the increased activity in the skies there comes amid a period of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

A B-52H bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

Asked about the overflights on Sept. 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described them as normal and pointed to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea — where Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands and equipped them with military facilities and hardware — as setting the stage for tensions.

“That just goes on. If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Mattis said, referring to a US base in the Indian Ocean.

“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” he added.

Beijing has made expansive claims over the South China Sea, through which some trillion in global trade passes annually, clashing with several other countries that claim territory there. China has also set up an air-defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

On Sept. 27, 2018, China condemned the recent US overflights.

“As for the provocative action taken by the US military aircraft, we are firmly against it and we will take all necessary means to safeguard our rights and interests,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.

In recent days, the US has also sanctioned China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for buying Russian Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile system in 2018.

The sanctions are part of a US effort to punish Russia for its actions abroad, and US officials said Moscow was the “ultimate target” of sanctions on Chinese entities. The sanctions did come amid a broader trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, however.

The US also moved ahead with the sale of 0 million in spare parts and other support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China has called for the sanctions to be revoked, summoning the US ambassador and defense attache to issue a protest.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province, also demanded the arms deal with that country be cancelled, warning of “severe damage” to US-China relations.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Live-fire drills being carried out by Chinese fighter jets and bombers in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China also denied a request for a port call in Hong Kong by US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in October 2018. The last time China denied such a request was in 2016, during a period of increased tension over the South China Sea.

Asked on Sept. 26, 2018, about recent events, Mattis said he didn’t think there had been a “fundamental shift in anything.”

“We’re just going through one of those periodic points where we’ve got to learn to manage our differences,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

Russian undersea naval activity in the North Atlantic has reached new levels, and NATO is worried that the undersea cables connecting North America and Europe and the rest of the world are being targeted.


“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces, told The Washington Post. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

Moscow’s subs appear to be interested in the privately owned lines that stretch across the seabed, carrying insulated fiber-optic cables. The cables are strewn across the world’s oceans and seas, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
A Russian Sierra-class attack submarine. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

Blocking the flow of information through them could scramble the internet, while tapping into them could give eavesdroppers a valuable picture of the data flowing within. The cables are fragile and have been damaged in the past by ships’ anchors, though usually in areas where repairs are relatively easy.

Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, the UK’s defense chief, has also sounded alarm about Russia’s apparent focus on the undersea cables. “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he said earlier this month.

Lennon’s and Peach’s warnings are only the latest about Russian undersea activity in the vicinity of important underwater infrastructure.

The New York Times reported in late 2015 that increased Russian naval activity near the lines led US military officials to fear Moscow planned to attack the cables in the event of conflict. US officials said they had seen elevated Russian operations along the cables’ routes in the North Sea and Northeast Asia and even along US shores.

Many undersea cables are in familiar places, but others, commissioned by the US for military purposes, are in secret locations. US officials said in 2015 that increased Russia undersea activity could have been efforts to locate those cables.

There was no sign at that time that any cables had been cut, and Lennon declined to tell The Post if the defense bloc believed Russia has touched any of the undersea lines.

But elevated Russian undersea activity comes as NATO members and other countries in Europe grow more concerned about what they see as assertive Russian activity on the ground, in the air, and at sea around the continent.

Russian planes have had numerous near-misses with their NATO counterparts over the Baltics in recent months, and Russia’s massive Zapad 2017 military exercises in Russia and Belarus during September had NATO on edge.

A force multiplier

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

Moscow has also pursued naval expansion, with a focus on undersea capabilities. A modernization program announced in 2011 directed more money toward submarines, producing quieter, more lethal designs. Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014, according to The Post.

Among them was the Krasnodar, which Russian officials boasted could avoid the West’s most sophisticated radars. US and NATO ships tracked the Krasnodar intently this summer, as it traveled from Russia to the Black Sea, stopping along the way to fire missiles into Syria. More advanced subs are reportedly in production.

Subs are seen by Moscow as a force multiplier, as rivals would need to dedicate considerable resources to tracking just one submarine.

Subs are also able to operate without being seen, to carry out retaliatory strikes, and to threaten resupply routes, allowing them to have an outsize impact.

Russia now fields 60 full-size subs, while the US has 66, according to The Post.

Adding to Russia’s subsurface fleet are deep-sea research vessels, including a converted ballistic missile sub that can launch smaller submarines.

“We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they’re transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor,” Lennon told The Post.

 

Russian officials have also touted their fleet’s increased operations.

In March 2017, Adm. Vladimir Korolev, commander of the Russian navy, said the Russian navy in 2016 “reached the same level as before the post-Soviet period, in terms of running hours.”

“This is more than 3,000 days at sea for the Russian submarine fleet,” Korolev added. “This is an excellent sign.”

‘Those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats’

Western countries have also pursued their own buildup in response.

While US plans call for curtailing production of Virginia-class attack subs when Columbia-class missile subs begin production in the early 2020s, a recent study found that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-class subs and one Columbia-class sub a year — averting what Navy officials have described as an expected submarine shortfall in the mid-2020s and keeping the fleet ahead of near-peer rivals like Russia and China.

The US is looking to sensors, sonar, weapons control, quieting technologies, undersea drones, and communications systems to help its subs maintain their edge. (Government auditors have said the Columbia-class subs will need more testing and development to avoid delays and cost overruns down the line, however.)

Elsewhere in NATO, Norway and Germany — the latter of which does not currently have any operational subs — recently agreed on a deal to build two submarines for each country.

The response extends to tactics as well. US and NATO personnel have dedicated more time to anti-submarine-warfare training and operations. Transponder data shows that the US Navy has in recent months flown numerous sorties over areas where Russian subs operate, according to The Post.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, told The Wall Street Journal this fall.

As the number of sub-hunting ships that can patrol the North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean has fallen since the Cold War, NATO members are working to deploy more air and sea assets. This summer, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey signed a letterof intent to start development of new submarine-detecting aircraft.

The number of frigates — typically used for anti-submarine warfare — in use by NATO allies has fallen from about 100 in the early 1990s to about 50 today, prompting the US to rush to field more in the coming years.

Attention has also returned to the North Atlantic choke point between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK. The GIUK Gap was a crucial element of Cold War naval defenses, and US anti-submarine planes were based in Iceland for decades before leaving in 2006.

Also Read: This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

The US Navy has been upgrading hangers in Iceland to accommodate new P-8A Poseidon aircraft, however, and the Pentagon has said the US and Iceland have agreed to increase rotations of the US surveillance planes there next year.

As the Russian navy seeks to reverse the contraction it experienced after the Cold War, NATO too is looking to expand its commands after shrinking in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

A recent NATO internal report found that the alliance’s rapid-response abilities had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War” and recommended setting up two new commands to streamline supply efforts.

One, based on the continent, would oversee the movement of personnel and material in Europe, and the other, potentially based in the US, would oversee transatlantic resupply efforts and the defense of sea lanes.

“If you want to transport a lot of stuff, you have to do that by ship,” Lennon, NATO’s submarine commander, told The Journal this fall. “And those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats.”

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Plans for the new commands were approved in early November. More details are expected in February, though current plans include embedding the NATO North Atlantic command with US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We are a transatlantic alliance, and we must therefore be in a position to transport troops and equipment over the Atlantic,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “For that we need secure and open seaways.”

Articles

Army names first unit to receive service’s new pistol

U.S. Army weapon officials announced Wednesday that the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will be the first unit to receive the service’s new Modular Handgun System.


The announcement comes as the service waits for the Government Accountability Office to rule on a protest filed by Glock Inc. in February against the Army’s selection of the Sig Sauer P320 as the replacement for its current M9 9mm pistol.

The GAO is expected to make a decision in early June, but the service is free to continue work on the effort.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.

The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines.

Related: This is why the M1911 was America’s favorite pistol

The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Army officials have said very little about the new MHS since the contract award.

“It has increased lethality, faster target acquisition, better reliability,” Lt. Col. Steven Power, who runs Product Manager for Individual Weapons, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum.

Power said there have been a lot of misconceptions about what the requirements community meant when they described the new pistol as modular.

“This largely focused on the shooter’s hand size and the enablers that the weapon is compatible with,” Power said, describing how the MHS offers different grip sizes and can accept various attachments such as lights and optics.

The base configuration of the full-size XM17 pistol will come with Tritium sights and three magazines — one standard 17-round magazine and two extended 21-round magazines. Army equipment officials are developing a holster for the MHS as well.

One aspect of the MHS that Army officials have been reluctant to talk about is the type of ammunition the service’s new sidearm will use.

Also read: The 6 most awesome machine guns in U.S. history

A new Defense Department policy — that allows for the use of “special-purpose ammunition” — allowed the Army to require gunmakers to submit ammunition proposals along with their pistols to be evaluated in the competition.

The ammunition chosen to go with the Sig Sauer is a “Winchester jacketed hollow point” round, Power told Military.com.

But before it can be issued, the Pentagon must complete a “law of war determination,” which is scheduled to be complete in the next two months, Army officials said.

“Before we can field it, we have to have a law of war determination on the specific ammunition that was submitted with the handgun before we actually continue to field it to the soldier,” said Col. Brian Stehle, head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons.

“We have a law of war determination that stated that this type of ammunition is usable. We are very confident that the winning ammunition will be usable.”

The current plan is for the Army to buy 195,000 MHS pistols. Here’s a look at the MHS quantities the other services intend to buy, according to Army officials:

Air Force: 130,000

Navy: 61,000, XM18 only

Marine Corps: 35,000

As long as the GAO upholds the Army’s decision in the Glock protest, the service will conduct final testing of the MHS this summer, service officials maintain.

“Our first fielding of this is going to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, by the end of the calendar year,” Power said.

Humor

The 13 funniest Veterans Day memes for 2017

Last week was a special week. The Marines had a birthday and we all stuffed our faces at the tactical thanksgiving America’s restaurant chains offer veterans every Veterans Day.


Let’s start Monday off with some fun by rounding up the best of this year’s Veterans Day memes.

You’re welcome for our service.

1. “Mom, I’ll take the trash out after I get back from Denny’s.” (via Decelerate Your Life)

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Walter White has seen some shit.

Also Read: These ax murders along the DMZ almost started another Korean War

2. Veterans haven’t been this vigilant since their last day in the military. (via Pop Smoke)

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

3. If he walks out on the bill, it’s not that much of a loss.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Hopefully you can’t get abducted by the Taliban at Applebee’s.

4. Keep fighting the good fight. (via The Salty Soldier)

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
The mission continues.

5. “Who wants to volunteer to be on duty during the Marine Corps Ball?”

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Guess which one of these guys asked Alexis Texas to the ball on YouTube.

6. Rolling into Hooters like:

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

7. Don’t they know I’m a veteran? (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

8. Oh Wait, Marine Corps birthday came first.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
A meal that sticks to your ribs.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

9.  Where did he steal that book from? (via ASMDSS)

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
It’s not like there are pictures in it.

10. Don’t forget about other generations of veterans.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Bert doesn’t want to talk about it.

11. In case you don’t know what to say:

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Most civilians are never face to face with greatness.

12. “Feel free to watch your step.”

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Clean like the day America was born.

Totally unrelated but still cool: If the battle of Thermopylae was fought today with 300 Marines

13. “To TGI Friday’s I will go.”

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Articles

How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

What would happen if the U.S. found itself facing off against the rest of the world? Not just its traditional rivals, but what if it had to fight off its allies like the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea as well?


Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
The British are coming! The British are coming! Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach

In short, America would stomp them. Especially if it pulled back to the continental U.S. and made its stand there.

First, the U.S. has the world’s largest Navy, by a lot. With ships displacing 3,415,893 tons, the mass of the U.S. Navy is larger than the next 8 largest navies combined. And the American ships, as a whole, are more technologically advanced than those of other countries. For instance, only America and France field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. France has just one while America has 10 with an 11th on the way.*

And that’s before the U.S. Coast Guard gets into the mix. While the Coast Guard isn’t an expeditionary force, it could use its C-130s and other sensor platforms to give the Navy more eyes across the battlespace. It’s counterterrorism operators could protect government leaders and secure American ports.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
A U.S. Navy carrier sails next to a British raft aircraft carrier. Photo: US Navy Airman Robert Baker

So attacking America across the water is a horrible idea. (Got that North Korea and China?)

Second, America’s air power is the strongest in the world. Currently, it has approximately 14,000 planes and helicopters spread across the five services. That’s more aircraft than the next 7 countries combined.

The world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter, the F-22, would conduct constant air patrols across the land borders of the U.S. to prevent any incursion by enemy bombers. The Army’s Patriot missile launchers would help stop enemy jets or missiles and Stinger/Avenger missile crews would shoot down any low-flying planes or helicopters.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich

So the rest of the world’s militaries have to fight their way across a land border with the U.S. while their air support is falling in flames around them.

Guess what happens next?

The Army and Marine Corps’ almost 9,000 tanks would team up with thousands of Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicles, Apache and Cobra helicopters, and anti-tank missile teams carrying Javelins and TOW missiles to annihilate enemy armor.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
A U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle firing a TOW missile. Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

The world’s most advanced tanks, like the Leopard or the Merkava, would be tough nuts to crack. Artillery, aircraft, and anti-tank infantry would have to work together to bring these down. But most tanks worldwide are older U.S. and Soviet tanks like the Patton or the T-72 that would fall quickly to missile teams or Abrams firing from behind cover.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
M1 Abrams can kill most things. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw

The other combat troops trying to make their way through the shattered remains of their air support and the burning hulks that were once their tanks would find themselves facing the most technologically advanced troops in the world.

American soldiers are getting weapon sights that let them pick out enemies obscured by dust and smoke. Their armor and other protective gear are top notch and getting better.

Chances are, even infantry from France, Britain, or Russia would have trouble pushing through the lines in these conditions. But even if they did, the Marines and 101st Airborne Division would be able to swoop in on helicopters and Ospreys while the 82nd Airborne Division could drop thousands of reinforcements from planes to close any openings.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

And all of this is before America becomes desperate enough to launch any nuclear weapons. If the enemy actually did make it through, they’d face nuclear strikes every time they massed outside of a city. And their forces still trying to reach the border would be easy pickings.

Minuteman III missiles are designed to strike targets far from American shores but they could annihilate an advancing army moving from Houston to Dallas just as easily. Navy Trident missiles could be fired from submarines in the Gulf of Mexico to destroy units waiting for their turn to attack at the border. Northern Mexico and southern Canada would become irradiated zones.

So don’t worry America, you are already behind one hell of an impenetrable wall.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that only America field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, is also nuclear-powered. WATM regrets this error.
Articles

How war memorabilia serves as a window to the past

Many children grow up with parents in the military. It usually means frequent moves, a parent being gone for long periods of time. And there is the possibility that some day an officer and chaplain might turn up, bearing bad news.


Whether the parent is a Green Beret, constantly deploying to a foreign country on missions they can’t talk about, or someone who pushed papers at a desk in a building at a military installation – they all served, and they all knew that there was some measure of risk. And when the parents pass on, what’s left behind are medals, uniforms, photos, and in some cases, films.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

In this clip, Fred Linden discusses the memorabilia left behind by his late father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Frederick “Bud” Linden, of his service during World War II. His dad flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina – one of the famous “Black Cats” that made the life of many Japanese sailors miserable during the fighting in the Pacific.

Linden’s memorabilia included a map showing the route his father took to the theater he served in, as well as medals.

The two rolls of 16mm color film included in the memorabilia collection showed a wide variety of events during his father’s tour, including bombing raids. The film was preserved through the involvement of Film Corps, an outreach organization that seeks to preserve records like Linden’s.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
PBY Catalinas flying in formation during World War II. (Youtube Screenshot)

“The stuff – the medals and so forth – is not something he’d care about, but he would love to be able to sit down in front of that movie and point out the names of the guys and what they did and things he remembered about them, what happened at the time with the people he was with,” he says. “That would be the most important thing for him”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

The algorithms that played a major role in allowing a supermassive black hole to be photographed for the first time were largely designed three years ago by a graduate student in her 20s.

Katie Bouman, now 29, was studying computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she worked at the school’s Haystack Observatory.


Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Scientists published the first image of a black hole. The image captured Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87.

(Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)

In the search for a way to capture an image of the black hole, located 55 million light-years away in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, astronomers at MIT took part in the Event Horizon Telescope project, but they faced a serious problem.

They needed to stitch together millions of gigabytes’ worth of data captured by telescopes located all over the world.

Bouman had the solution: Find a way to stitch the data about the black hole together pixel by pixel.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Katie Bouman.

(TED/YouTube)

“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,”Bouman told CNN.

“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them.”

“If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”

Vincent Fish, a scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, told CNN that Bouman was “a major part of one of the imaging subteams.”

Fish told CNN that senior scientists worked on the project too, but the specific task of imaging the black hole was predominantly run by junior researchers like Bouman.

“One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images,” Fish said.

“Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone, they have certain properties.” He added: “If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it.”

CNN reported that Bouman would begin teaching as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology in the fall.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is Russia trying to hide its massive military exercise from NATO?

Russia has been accused by the head of NATO of blocking the alliance from properly observing next week’s “Zapad” military exercises, when about 100,000 Russian troops are expected to mobilize on the EU’s eastern borders.


Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said an offer from Russia and Belarus for three of their experts to attend some aspects of the huge exercise fell short of the Kremlin’s international obligations.

“Briefings on the exercise scenario and progress; opportunities to talk to individual soldiers; and overflights over the exercise. This is something that is part of the Vienna document, an agreement regulating transparency and predictability relating to military exercises,” said Stoltenberg, during a visit to an Estonian military base, where British troops have been stationed since March.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“So we call on Russia to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna document. Transparency and predictability are even more important when tensions are high to reduce the risks of misunderstandings and incidents. NATO remains calm and vigilant and we are going to keep Estonia and our allies safe.”

Under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules in the Vienna document, nations conducting exercises involving more than 13,000 troops must notify other countries in advance and be open to observers.

Russia and Belarus claim the Zapad (“west”) exercises, which will be held in Belarus and parts of western Russia between Sept. 14-20 will involve about 12,700 troops.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

NATO, however, believes many more troops are set to be involved. The prime minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, who joined Stoltenberg at the base in Tapa, about 75 miles (120km) from the Russian border, confirmed that his government believed about 100,000 Russian soldiers would be mobilized during the exercise.

He said, “I would like to say that we are concerned about the nature and lack of transparency of the exercise. Our attitude remains cool and confident. Along with our allies, we will monitor the exercise very closely and remain ready for every situation.”

There has been speculation that Russia could use the upcoming exercises as a cover for the permanent movement of troops and equipment into Belarus or even an offensive against NATO states, something Moscow has adamantly denied.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia claims that that western concerns about Zapad are unfounded, saying the war games will be purely defensive and are designed to help practice dealing with a terrorist threat in the future. The country holds the Zapad exercises every four years.

Tensions following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 have, however, seen the establishment of four multinational battle groups in three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – as well as Poland, amounting to approximately 4,500 troops, including those from the UK.

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, told reporters in Estonia, “We are not changing our military posture because of the Zapad exercise, but NATO has only implemented important changes in our military posture in response to a more assertive Russia as seen developing in recent years, with more Russian troops close to our borders, more Russian equipment, and more exercises. And not least, of course, the use of military force against a neighbor, Ukraine.”

He added that while he saw no imminent threat to NATO states, that the battle groups’ presence sent a strong message “that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out the new 80-ton robotic assault breacher

Soldiers and Marines have risked life and limb in dangerous breach operations on the battlefield, but new technology will help keep them out of harms way.

“We never, ever want to send another soldier into a breach, so how do we do this completely autonomously?” Gen. Mike Murray, head of Army Futures Command, asked at Yakima Training Center in Washington state recently, Defense News reported.

The answer to the general’s question: A monstrous robotic Assault Breacher Vehicle, an 80-ton battlefield bulldozer built to rip up minefields and remove obstacles.


Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

A M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) from 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division prepares to conduct gunnery qualifications.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

The Army and Marines have been using manned M1150 ABVs for breach operations for nearly a decade.

An Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) is essentially an M1 Abrams tank that has been upgraded with armor improvements and had its turret replaced with either a mine plow or a combat dozer blade able to clear a path for other assets.

These mobile, heavily-armored minefield and obstacle clearing vehicles have traditionally been manned by a crew of two.

The plan is to get those troops out.

“That is a very dangerous point to put soldiers and Marines, especially when dealing with explosive obstacles,” 1st Lt. David Aghakhan, ABV Platoon Commander, said in a statement, adding that new robotic variants give “us the option to take the operator out of the vehicle, and still push that vehicle through the lane, creating that mobility for follow-on forces.”

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., operate an Assault Breaching Vehicle with robotic operation capabilities at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Wash., May 1, as part of Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019.

(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Monte Swift)

The Army and the Marines tested a robotic version of the ABV for the first time out at Yakima Training Center a few weeks ago in a first step toward pulling troops out of the breach.

“This is something we cried from the mountain tops for. Somebody listened,” Lonni Johnston, program manager for Army Future Command’s Robotic Complex Breach Concept (RCBC) and former assistant program manager for the ABV program, told Business Insider.

During the recent demonstration at Yakima, a prototype was put to the test. “This is the first time this has been used. We’ve never had a robotic version of this until now,” Johnston explained.

The robotic ABVs in the recent test were supported by a robotic Polaris MRZR vehicle capable of creating smoke screens, as well as suppression fire units, which in a real situation could be either manned or unmanned.

“A breach is one of the most complex maneuvers during any type of military operation because there are so many components to it,” Johnston explained.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., operate an Assault Breaching Vehicle with robotic operation capabilities at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Wash.

(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Monte Swift)

The breach is one of the most dangerous places a soldier or Marine can find themselves.

“The breach is literally the worst place on Earth,” Johnston, a retired Army officer, told BI. “It’s the most dangerous place on the planet.”

“Every gun, every cannon, everything that shoots a missile or a bullet is going to be aimed at that breach,” he added. “When you are attacking an enemy force that is hellbent on keeping you out, they are going to do whatever they can to do that.”

So, the Army and Marines are looking at robotic systems smash through the breach, which soldiers and manned vehicles can then flow through.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

U.S. Marine with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion services Next Generation Combat Vehicle Surrogate during a demonstration of next generation technologies in support of Joint Warfighter Assessment 19 at Yakima Training Center.

(U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Spc. Patrick Hilson)

The services have a number of challenges to surmount for robotic ABVs to be effective against a tough adversary.

It’s unclear when the robotic ABVs will be ready for deployment, but the Army is envisions fielding six per brigade, four with mine plows and two with combat dozer blades. That is how many the service believes it needs to clear two breach lanes.

Each vehicle would be operated by one person in either a stationary or mobile command and control center.

Challenges include electronic countermeasures, such as jamming technology that could be used by an enemy to incapacitate these vehicles. There are also concerns about what to do if it dies mid-breach, inadvertently becoming just the kind of obstacle it was meant to obliterate.

These are some of the things the services will have to explore as they push forward on this technology.

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

Articles

ISIS and Al Qaeda have specifically called for the type of attack that just happened in France

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Nice, France | YouTube


It’s not clear yet who is responsible for the truck attack that killed dozens at a Bastille Day celebration in France. But terrorist groups have long been calling for supporters to attack “infidels” with cars.

At least 70 people were killed in the southern French city of Nice when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the country’s national holiday Thursday night.

The earliest information from the attack does point to terrorist involvement. US President Barack Obama said it appears to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”

The truck was reportedly loaded with firearms and grenades, and US officials told The Daily Beast that the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) is a top suspect in the attacks.

Both ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons.

The Institute for the Study of War noted in a 2014 report that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani instructed supporters in a speech in September of that year.

“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him,” Adnani said.

And a 2014 ISIS video aimed at French-speaking recruits encouraged supporters to attack people in France with cars and other easily accessible weapons.

“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member says in the video. “Operate within France.”

The man then goes on to mention cars specifically: “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. … Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”

Al Qaeda has also put out global calls to attack Westerners with cars.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Nice, France | YouTube

In the second issue of its English-language magazine “Inspire,” the terrorist group referred to pickup trucks as “the ultimate mowing machine.”

“The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” the magazine article states.

Pro-ISIS accounts on the messaging app Telegram, which the terrorist group uses as a platform to disseminate its message, have been celebrating the Nice attack. But the group has yet to make any claim of responsibility.

ISIS in particular has increasingly been relying on external attacks as it has been losing territory in the Middle East, where its self-declared “caliphate” lies.

When the terrorist group first rampaged across Iraq and Syria claiming territory, it encouraged supporters to travel to the Islamic State, but recently ISIS rhetoric has shifted to focus on encouraging people to mount attacks in their home countries. Sometimes these attacks are directed by ISIS leadership, but sometimes they are carried out by lone actors who don’t have any significant contact with ISIS members.

Mia Bloom, a terrorism expert at Georgia State University, told Business Insider that it’s too soon to tell who’s responsible for the Nice attack.

“It is true that Isis has returned many fighters to France for these kinds of attacks,” she wrote in an email. “It is equally true that if Al Qaeda felt ignored it might plan an elaborate operation to get itself back in the the media spotlight and back on the map. My research showed groups might compete with each other for ever-[more] spectacular attacks.”

Articles

Increased number of casualties among Afghan women and children

The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.


The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.

“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.

Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers
Afghan women and children come to a bazaar to sell home-spun crafts to help support their families through sales of Afghan souvenirs. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Lawn, 1st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs/Released)

The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.

Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.

Also read: ISIS militants nabbed trying to escape capture by dressing as women

Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.

The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.

“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”