World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled - We Are The Mighty
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World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

Although a scheduled Sept. 25 flyover of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was cancelled due to weather, event organizers still honored World War II Veterans and the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.


World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

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World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

More than 16 million Veterans served during World War II, some of whom participated in the events prior to the scheduled flyover.

One of those Veterans is 95-year-old Marine Corps Veteran Paul Hilliard. On his 13th birthday, Hilliard listened to Winston Churchill deliver his famous “Their Finest Hour” speech. During the speech, Hilliard said he took to heart Churchill’s message warning, “If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age” if they didn’t defeat the German military. As a teenager, Hilliard said he ran outside his family farm, watching airplanes fly overhead. He would also read stories about SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The crews on those airplanes sank four Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway.

Although he wanted to join earlier, Hilliard’s mother wouldn’t sign the paperwork for him to enlist. In 1943, the 17-year-old farm boy left for Marine Recruit Depot San Diego, celebrating his 18th birthday shortly after. He then went to Jacksonville, Florida, for training. Soon after, he deployed to the Pacific where he served as a radioman and gunner in the same SBD Dauntless dive bombers he read about a few years earlier.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

Paul Hilliard as a teenager.

Off to war

After boarding a ship, their first stop was Guadalcanal, following a major attack against the Japanese.

“We just stopped for a few hours,” Hilliard said. “They let us go ashore and get off that damn ship. First thing I did was take my combat knife and tried to open a coconut because I’d never seen a coconut before, and cut my finger so I could say, ‘I was injured on Guadalcanal,'” he joked.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

Paul Hilliard, left, stands on an SDB Dauntless dive bomber with another crew member.

After a few stops, Hilliard ended up on Bougainville Island. Hilliard trained for a few months. Soon after, he left for Luzon in the Philippines. There, he flew combat missions as airborne artillery for Army units. Hilliard said he was so focused on missions, he didn’t even realize the impact. He said he found out several years ago when a retired Marine colonel handed him a book on Marine missions in the Philippines.

“I found out all sorts of stuff we were doing,” he said. “I had no idea. We had no TV, no maps and charts. When we took off, we didn’t know where we were going because we were flying for the Army. We were flying close support missions.”

Hilliard said the crews used to jokingly refer to the flights as “Columbus missions.”

“We didn’t know where we were going when we took off, we didn’t know where we were when we got there, we made a big mess, and we were extremely unwelcome,” he said. “When we got back to base, we didn’t know where we’d been, and we did it all at government expense.”

Hilliard’s next trip was a small island near Borneo, where they continued to fly close air support missions for the Army. In all, Hilliard flew 45 combat missions during the war.

Headed home

By July 1945 and with the war nearing an end, Hilliard headed home.

“They said, ‘You got 30 minutes to get in the truck, you’re going back to the States for reassignment,'” Hilliard said. He said the crews were so happy, they wanted to leave in a hurry.

“All I remember is one of the gunners said, ‘I don’t need 30 minutes. Give me 30 seconds to find my toothbrush. That’s the only damn thing I want here.'”

Hilliard then boarded a ship in Guam and headed back to San Diego. When he arrived, the combat Veteran was still only 20 years old—still too young to buy an alcoholic drink.

Post war

Discharged in 1946, Hilliard used his GI Bill to attend college. He later founded an oil corporation and served as president of the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Hilliard joined The National World War II Museum‘s Board of Trustees in 2006. A self-proclaimed history junkie, he has funded the acquisition of several aircraft and artillery pieces for the museum, including an SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

Over the years, he also used VA for various benefits throughout his life. In addition to his GI Bill, Hilliard said he bought his first home with the assistance of a VA home loan in 1951. He also receives his medication through VA.

“They’ve been so good to me,” he said. “I’ve got nothing but the highest regard for them [VA].”

Flyover serves a reminder

Hilliard said the flyover is a reminder to the American public on the 75th anniversary of the war ending.

“I think it reminds people who we are and what we’ve done,” he said. “America has been a force for freedom. How many countries have sent huge forces overseas to help people? I think it’s a great sign of appreciation and recognition for America and what it’s done for the world.”

One of the pilots scheduled to fly was Mark Reynolds. He pilots a North American PBJ-IJ B-25 Mitchell named “Devil Dog,” which has a giant bulldog with a Marine Corps hat on its head. Reynold said piloting the warbirds is personal. His dad was a Korean War-era Veteran who passed away. Reynolds previously carried the flag from his father’s casket on a flight. He said he started flying the missions for fun, but the focus changed.

“I thought it would be just fun, but it’s way past that,” Reynolds said, noting he likes to hear World War II Veterans’ stories. “That’s what’s kept me in it. This is a lot of fun. We know what those guys did.”

About the flyover

Originally scheduled for May, organizers postponed the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover due to COVID-19. The second attempt saw cloud cover over the National Capital Region Sept. 25-26, cancelling the event.

The warbirds were supposed to fly in historically sequenced formations representing the war’s major battles – from Battle of Britain through the final air assault on Japan and concluding with a missing man formation.

More than 20 different types of vintage military aircraft flew into D.C. for the scheduled event. Multiple organizations and individuals whose mission is to preserve these historic artifacts in flying condition provided aircraft. Some of the historic aircraft included the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra, P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress.

2020 Arsenal of Democracy Flyover – Live (Saturday 9/26)

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Watch the online tribute

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is bombing South Korean F-15K dummies

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo news reports that North Korean jets are bombing targets that appear to be life-sized renderings of South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle fighter jets.

The targets appear to be cut into grass near Sondok Military Airport in North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province. What appear to be bomb craters surround the mocked-up South Korean air base, which also show cutouts in the shapes of radars and missiles.

The range is designed for North Korea’s AN-2 jets, Chosun Ilbo reports, which carry North Korean special operations troops to infiltrate enemy territory and typically fly at low altitudes.


“The AN-2 is capable of carrying air-to-surface rockets or bombs to carry out bombing missions,” an unnamed South Korean intelligence officer told Chosun Ilbo. “It’d be very threatening if it avoids radar detection and drop bombs on our air bases while sending some dozen parachute commandos down to the ground.”

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

Satellite imagery showing the Korean People’s Army testing site.

(Google Maps)

Chosun Ilbo reports that the targets were not there in 2017; they only appeared during denuclearization talks with the US and South Korea last year, suggesting that while North Korea was touting its nuclear strength, it was also sharpening its conventional combat capabilities.

According to North Korea Leadership Watch, there is a similar testing site near Pyongyang. “A few years back a KPA [Special Forces] unit practiced urban warfare on structures meant to like a [South Korean] neighborhood.”

“There is a tit-for-tat dynamic as the ROK [forces] have put up and opened fire on some of their own interesting sites meant to look those in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

North Korea has the fourth-largest conventional military force in the world, and has been ramping up its conflict with both South Korea and the US in recent months. Since July, North Korea has performed six weapons tests as US President Donald Trump hopes to restart peace talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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

Articles

This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
MIGHTY TRENDING

Camp Blaz is the first new USMC base in nearly 70 years

On October 1, 2020, the United States Marine Corps activated its first new base since 1952. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz will host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on the island of Guam. The Marines will relocate from their current station in Okinawa, Japan over the next five years. 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed at Camp Blaz while the remaining 3,700 Marines will serve as a rotational force.

The new Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific calls for a smaller, more agile and lethal force. “We have to spread out,” said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. “We have to factor in Guam.” Camp Blaz will allow the United States to distribute its premiere amphibious fighting force across the Pacific. Operating from Guam, the Marine Corps will be able to respond to a wider array of aggressive actions from China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) is officially the largest navy in the world. While the United States more than doubles the PLAN in tonnage and outclasses it in quality, the threat of numbers cannot be ignored.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Brig. Gen. Blaz’s official Marine Corps portrait (U.S. Marine Corps)

Camp Blaz is named for the late Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to reach the rank of general officer. Blaz was born on Guam on February 14, 1928 and lived through the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. After the war, he attended the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship and commissioned as a Marine officer in 1951.

Over his 29 years of service, Blaz earned the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for valor, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross for his service in Vietnam. Following his retirement from the Corps in 1980, Blaz worked as a professor at the University of Guam. In 1984, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Guam. He served in Congress until 1983 when he retired. Blaz died in 2014 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The new base that bears this Marine’s name solidifies the union between the Corps and the people of Guam. “As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we will live up to our motto of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Col. Bradley M. Magrath, Camp Blaz’s first base commander. “We will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources.” The Marine Corps plans to hold a formal activation ceremony in spring 2021.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Marines conduct the first flag raising at Camp Blaz (U.S. Marine Corps)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines’ F-35 will get its first taste of combat in 2018

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft, is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.


According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

Now Read: Watch the F-35B execute a vertical landing in rough waters with ease

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command Control (C2) capability.

If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

TSA catches man smuggling gun in DVD player at US airport

A New York man was arrested after a handgun was discovered hidden inside a DVD player he had packed in his checked bag at John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 13, 2019.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discovered the handgun when the bag was going through security scanning. The 9mm handgun was wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden inside a DVD player, according to a TSA press release. The gun was not loaded.

The man, who is from Queen’s, New York, was arrested at his gate before boarding a plane to Mexico. He has been charged with weapons violations.


In the US, TSA regulations outright forbid passengers from possessing firearms on their persons and in their carry-on luggage.

However, they may be permitted in checked luggage if very specific regulations are followed.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

A handgun was discovered in the man’s checked bag.

(TSA)

“Firearms carried in checked bags must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in,” the TSA said on its website. “Check with your airline to see if they allow firearms in checked bags.”

“When traveling, be sure to comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international government,” the agency added.

According to the TSA, it is not uncommon for passengers to be caught with guns and other firearms at its checkpoints.

The TSA discovered 91 guns in the carry-on bags of the 16.3 million passengers screened between April 8 and April 14, 2019.

Of those 91 guns, the agency said 81 were loaded and 35 had a round chambered.

Those who are caught in possession of a firearm at a TSA checkpoint can be arrested or subject to a fine of up to ,333.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic

Edward Snowden, the man who exposed the breadth of spying at the US’s National Security Agency, has warned that an uptick in surveillance amid the coronavirus crisis could lead to long-lasting effects on civil liberties.


During a video-conference interview for the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival, Snowden said that, theoretically, new powers introduced by states to combat the coronavirus outbreak could remain in place after the crisis has subsided.

Fear of the virus and its spread could mean governments “send an order to every fitness tracker that can get something like pulse or heart rate” and demand access to that data, Snowden said.

“Five years later the coronavirus is gone, this data’s still available to them — they start looking for new things,” Snowden said. “They already know what you’re looking at on the internet, they already know where your phone is moving, now they know what your heart rate is. What happens when they start to intermix these and apply artificial intelligence to them?”

While no reports appear to have surfaced so far of states demanding access to health data from wearables like the Apple Watch, many countries are fast introducing new methods of surveillance to better understand and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

upload.wikimedia.or

Numerous European countries, including Italy, the UK, and Germany, have struck deals with telecoms companies to use anonymous aggregated data to create virtual heat maps of people’s movements.

Israel granted its spy services emergency powers to hack citizens’ phones without a warrant. South Korea has been sending text alerts to warn people when they may have been in contact with a coronavirus patient, including personal details like age and gender. Singapore is using a smartphone app to monitor the spread of the coronavirus by tracking people who may have been exposed.

In Poland, citizens under quarantine have to download a government app that mandates they respond to periodic requests for selfies. Taiwan has introduced an “electronic fence” system that alerts the police if quarantined patients move outside their homes.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines threw together a crazy mission to rescue a wounded Marine trapped inside the compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode back into the compound.


The situation arose after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, but the insurgents returned a heavy volume of fire when the Marines dismounted. Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.

 

After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield spotted what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound with his infrared sensors. The Royal Marines quickly devised the plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound. They would recover Ford, who appeared to be severely wounded, and then ride back out.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Photo: Screen capture from Youtube

The men called for nearby NATO assets to assist and American A-10s and a B-1 came in to help. The B-1 kicked off the assault by dropping four JDAMs onto the opposite side of the compound from Ford. According to a report published in “War is Boring,” the American pilots were shocked by what they saw during the mission.

“As I passed ahead of one Apache,” an unnamed pilot wrote, “I glanced high left to see a man, leaning over the stubby helicopter wing, unloading his rifle on the enemy. We matched with 30-millimeter and rockets.”

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
You’ve really messed up when you’ve drawn the ire of both Apaches and A-10s (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Heath Allen/Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs)

That’s right, the Marines were firing their rifles while strapped to the helicopters.

When the Apaches landed at the fort, there wasn’t enough space for both helicopters at the planned landing zone. So one Apache landed just outside the walls while the other landed inside the compound. The Marines quickly detached themselves and began searching for Ford. When one pair of Marines headed in the wrong direction, an Apache pilot jumped out of his bird to show them the way.

As the A-10s provided fierce covering fire, the Brits found Ford and carried him back to the helicopters. They managed it just in time. At three minutes after landing, the insurgents had recovered enough to begin firing on the parked Apaches. The Marines and pilots got away at five minutes without suffering further casualties.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Apaches: usually badass enough without the Royal Marine attachment (U.S. Army photo)

The Apaches rushed Ford to medical aid before returning to base, barely making it before they ran out of gas. Unfortunately, Ford had died of his wounds sometime before the rescue attempt.

The men involved in the rescue attempt received awards for their valor. One of the pilots involved in the mission wrote a book, “Apache: Inside the Cockpit of the World’s Most Deadly Fighting Machine,” where he detailed his time in Afghanistan and the mission to rescue Lance Cpl. Ford.

MIGHTY TRENDING

State Dept. issues warning when traveling to India

The US State Department updated a travel warning to India during violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.

The State Department warned women against a troubling rise in sexual violence and all travelers against potential terror attacks.

India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a Feb. 16, 2019 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.


Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.

The State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.

(US Air Force photo)

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.

State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.

Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”

“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.

“If you decide to travel to India… Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travelers.

Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country, but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect that the State Department had a similar travel warning in place before the terror attack in Kashmir.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran surprises world with completed combat jet

Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.

Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.


It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”

State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.

The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.

The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”

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

Articles

Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.


World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Keelan, a Patrol Squadron 46 pilot, operates a P-3 Orion aircraft during a sinking exercise Sept. 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Valiant Shield 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin Fisher)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the incident occurred Nov. 8 off Scarborough Shoal, a reef about 120 miles off the west coast of Luzon. Chinese forces have interfered with Filipino fishermen in the vicinity of the reefs, an action condemned by an international arbitration panel.

China has been constructing island airbases in the region, despite the adverse ruling, and recently conducted joint exercises with Russia in the maritime flash point.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
A P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 takes off from Naval Air Facility Misawa. VP-10 recently started a six-month deployment to NAF Misawa in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kenneth G. Takada/Released)

The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.

Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
A KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.

Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

Articles

US General thinks Iran is behind the missile attacks on US Navy near Yemen

US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.


“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.

Also read: Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham

While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.

After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”

If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.

Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that the Obama administration “doesn’t want to get dragged into another Middle East conflict, but [it’s] also an administration that is phobic of clashing with Iran-sponsored actors,” as it tries to preserve the fragile nuclear deal with Iran.

Articles

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Lockheed Martin


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag.

The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.

Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.

In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Lockheed Martin

The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.

As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.

“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
US Air Force

One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.

Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”

According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
US Air Force

The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Lockheed Martin

Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.

The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.

IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.

Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.

The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.

Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled
Lockheed Martin

Here’s the full report from the Department of Defense

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