The Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Kevin Gonzalez, along with the Career Retention Specialist Staff Sgt. Chandrash Malapaka, and several others crammed into the tiny room for the ceremony.
“We’re going to do the short version of this,” said the Executive Officer.
Raising his right hand, Hawkins took the oath of enlistment by 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander. With no time for the usual formalities of backslaps and handshakes, Hawkins was immediately carried out via litter and evacuated.
This damage control sailor who loves his job so much that he re-upped in full gear while being deployed to the Red Sea aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95):
These soldiers taking their oath at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks football game against the Baltimore Ravens:
This Belgian Malinois, Sgt. 1st Class Freida, who reenlisted with her human partner:
And this PAO serving with the U.S. Navy’s “Leap Frogs” who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to take her reenlistment oath thousands of feet above Earth:
Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.
Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.
Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.
The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.
“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.
A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.
“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”
The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.
Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.
“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.
In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.
A UH-1N Huey helicopter.
The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.
The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.
The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.
The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman ran out of a bunker on the Takur Ghar mountaintop for the second time, intentionally risking fire from heavily armed enemy fighters.
Shot several times already, Chapman attempted to halt the al-Qaida forces’ assault on an incoming MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. special operators.
He no longer had the cover of night, and exposed himself to the enemy as he ran. Dashing out to the ridge line in five-foot-deep snow, Chapman fired at the enemy fighters who were loading rocket-propelled grenades, helping additional American forces to enter the landing zone.
It would be his final bold act before two shots from a large-caliber machine gun cut through his torso, one destroying his aorta and killing him instantly.
But this, Chapman’s final fight, occurred well after the special tactics airman had already been presumed dead.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
A 30-month investigation involving eyewitness testimony from nearby Army and Air Force service members and drone targeteers, intelligence reports and aircraft video feed proved that Chapman not only lived after he was initially hit and knocked unconscious early in the mission, but that he at one point engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, fighting for about 70 harrowing minutes on the ground alone. In August 2018, officials who investigated the circumstances surrounding his death spoke publicly for the first time about their findings.
Chapman, a combat controller assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of his Air Force Cross, for his actions on March 4, 2002, during a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 22, 2018. He will become the first U.S. airman to receive the military’s highest award since the Vietnam War.
“John was the only American that was alive on [that] mountain top, and there was somebody fighting for an hour,” said an Air Force special tactics officer who was part of the investigation team.
Speaking on background during a briefing at the Pentagon on Aug. 16, 2018, the officer explained how the Air Force Special Operations investigative team and the Pentagon concluded that Chapman had lived and continued to fight after his presumed death.
“When you watch [these videos], heroism jumps right off the page at you,” the officer said. “It chokes you up, and it makes you realize the incredible sacrifice.”
He added, “You don’t have to do 30 months of analysis to see that.”
In all, Chapman sustained nine wounds, seven of which were nonfatal, according to his autopsy report. A medical examiner concluded he lived and fought through gunshot wounds to his thigh, heel, calf and torso, which pierced his liver. He had a broken nose and other facial wounds, suggesting he engaged in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. The final fatal shots likely came from a PKM machine gun, officials said.
John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.
The night infiltration began March 3. The reconnaissance team aboard the Chinook, call sign Razor 03, was unaware of the hornet’s nest of al-Qaida forces they were about to encounter. Their overall mission was to establish a reconnaissance position in the Shah-i-Kot Valley in southeastern Afghanistan.
After the assault began, a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, fell out of the helicopter, which then crash-landed about four miles away.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski led the SEAL Team 6 unit, known as Mako 30, to which Chapman was assigned back up the ridge on another helicopter, designated as Razor 04. Chapman began calling in airstrikes from AC-130 gunships circling overhead before returning with Slabinski and five other members around 4:27 a.m. local time.
The team’s new objective was to rescue Roberts on the mountainside, which would become known as “Roberts Ridge.” Roberts did not survive.
Chapman ran ahead of his teammates, taking fire from multiple directions. He dug himself into a World War II-style pillbox that was chest-deep and hardened, designated as Bunker 01, officials said. He was 10 meters from a second bunker, but left cover to engage the al-Qaida forces.
At 4:42 a.m., U.S. forces with night-vision goggles observed Chapman falling in battle.
Statements from a nearby Army and Air Force reconnaissance team helped investigators prove that a U.S. service member was on the ridge alone, fighting from a bunker position — Bunker 01.
The second, five-member reconnaissance team was three miles away, listening to Chapman’s radio calls.
“I am absolutely positive [it] was John’s voice. I have no doubt whatsoever,” said one unnamed witness quoted in the months-long investigation, as cited by the Air Force.
“They saw somebody fighting against the enemy from that bunker position for an extended period of time,” the special tactics officer said. “They heard the enemy talking about the American on the mountaintop … And the enemy was talking excitedly — ‘An American! An American! An American!’ — and they were actually planning their assault.”
Meanwhile, another special tactics airman on the same radio frequency heard Chapman transmitting his call sign — MAKO 30C.
Two AC-130 gunships, dubbed “Grim 33” and “Grim 32,” were circling overhead alongside an MQ-1 Predator drone. The three were capturing different angles of the firefight below, although gaps in coverage existed for technical reasons or repositioning.
Grim 32 used a low-light TV sensor that could see various infrared markers, such as reflective tape on Chapman’s body armor as well as strobes from his scope.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.
“I continued to observe glint tape, strobe lights, muzzle flashes, and [Infrared Illuminator] laser movement after [4:42] from Bunker 1,” one AC-130 crew member said in his testimony.
The AC-130 pilots and navigator continued to reference Chapman’s position, but the gunships needed to leave the airspace as they had expended their fuel and the enemy could see them overhead.
By overlapping the AC-130 feed and eyewitness testimony alongside the MQ-1 drone feed and the reconnaissance team’s audio observation, “we took seven different subject matter experts that all looked at this independently from an intel perspective and then layered those conclusions in,” the special tactics officer said.
Additionally, the National Geospatial Agency worked with the Air Force to survey the terrain to measure correct distances, height and trajectory of the firefight.
The videos and testimony substantiated what Air Force officials had believed all along, providing the additional clarity needed to piece together the series of events.
“No one thing would tell [Chapman’s] story in its totality. It was bits and pieces combined,” the special tactics officer said.
The final fight
The mission was part of Operation Anaconda, a large-scale attempt to clear the Shah-i-Kot Valley of al-Qaida forces. Chapman died after fighting off al-Qaida forces for roughly two hours, but his efforts allowed the special ops teams that followed to advance their position on the mountainside.
Along with Chapman and Roberts, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, Army Sgt. Bradley Crose, Army Sgt. Phillip Svitak, Army Spc. Marc Anderson and Army Cpl. Matthew Commons also died during the mission.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made the recommendation to upgrade Chapman’s Air Force Cross earlier this year. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and then-acting Defense Secretary Robert Work were also involved in the recommendation process as the investigation advanced.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.
Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.
“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”
“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.
Benjamin Holt was a proud industrialist creating tractors and other farming equipment when World War I broke out. While he prided himself on innovation, he stuck to creating better and better farming equipment rather than trying to create arms for the war effort.
That’s because Holt had developed a new tractor design in 1904, the “Caterpillar,” which used treads instead of wheels, allowing it to stay above the mud of the San Joaquin River Delta near Sacramento, California.
Holt replaced the steam engines of his original design with gasoline power ones in 1908, and the design took off. When World War I opened, horses butchered in front line fighting were slowly replaced with tractors, including Holt’s.
His design was actually a favorite on the front lines because the amazing grip of his caterpillar treads allowed the tractor to operate in heavy mud and to pull itself out of shell craters.
But when those same tractors rolled onto the battlefield, there was plenty of reason for German soldiers to sh-t their pants.
That’s because those tractors had undergone the “Mad Max” treatment courtesy of the Royal Navy, who covered them in thick metal plates, packed them with machine guns and cannon, and sent them crawling across the battlefield at a whopping 4 mph.
Behind them, infantrymen poured through the gaps created by the tanks and quickly seized German trenches and territory.
While the first attack at Flers Courcellette had its issues — mostly that the tanks broke down and were too slow to reposition themselves after the advance to prepare for the German counterattack — their rapid drive toward the objective served as their proof of concept.
British Gen. Douglas Haig, the commander of Allied forces at the Somme, requested hundreds more of the makeshift tanks, and armored warfare quickly became a new standard.
Better French and British tank designs soon followed the Mark 1, but it was an American tractor that carried the first tanks to fight in war.
Sergeant David Bleak was set to go out on a normal patrol. It was 1952 and the young medic was accompanying a U.S. Army recon patrol with the mission of probing Chinese defenses and capturing an enemy soldier for intel and interrogation. What he didn’t know, however, was that by the patrol’s end, he would kill four enemies with his bare hands while saving his comrades.
He would have decades to think about that night after the war.
Bleak rolled out with 20 soldiers in an American-occupied area of North Korea near the front lines. By 1952, the Chinese were fully committed to North Korea, which resulted in what would be, more or less, considered a stalemate for the duration of the war.
“WE HAVE AN ARMY”
The hill they were traversing, Hill 499, was bare. It lacked significant vegetation after all the weeks of fighting in the area and offered little in the way of concealment, but the enemy was out there and the Army needed more information about their positions. The 21-man unit set off at 0430 to see what they could learn while another company distracted the Chinese on the other side of the hill with a frontal attack (where another soldier was earning the Medal of Honor, strangely enough).
Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be enough of a distraction. Bleak’s formation was spotted as soon as they began to hike their way up. Quickly, the unit came under Chinese small arms fire. A few soldiers were injured immediately. Sgt. Bleak ran up from the rear to treat them just as fast as they were hit.
The mission soon continued, as did Sgt. Bleak.
Once more they took surprise small arms fire, but this time, Bleak bum-rushed the enemy trench and dove in head-first. He snapped the neck of the first soldier he could get his hands on and then crushed the windpipe of another. As a third Chinese soldier attacked him, Bleak drew his knife and killed him with a stab to the chest.
The medic returned to his unit and began treating the soldiers wounded by the second surprise attack. As he worked, a Chinese grenade bounced off the helmet of a man standing over him. Bleak zipped into action, throwing his body over his fellow GI to shield him from the shrapnel. Luckily, no one was injured.
After succeeding in its mission, Bleak’s patrol was returning to United Nations lines as they were again ambushed — this time, wounding three. Bleak was shot in the leg as he tried to get to those who needed aid. After treating everyone (including Bleak himself), the group went to leave, but one man was so injured that he couldn’t stand. So, Bleak picked him up and carried him out of there. On his way back to base, Sgt. Bleak ran into two Chinese soldiers who tried to assault him with fixed bayonets.
Not one to be easily intimidated, Bleak rushed back at them. Deftly avoiding being bayoneted, he smashed the two Chinese men’s heads together so hard that he broke their skulls. He picked up his patient and returned to friendly lines. Because of Sgt. Bleak, every man of the 20-man patrol that was ambushed multiple times that night came home. Their mission was completed, with captured enemy soldiers and all, and only sustained a few wounds in exchange.
Later the next year, President Eisenhower presented Bleak with a well-earned Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Bleak would live on until age 74, dying on the same day as fellow Army medic and Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss.
So, you messed up. That sucks. It’s time to absorb whatever punishment your command team is about to drop on you like an adult and carry on with your career. “But wait,” you hear from the corner of the smoke pit, “according to the regulations, you can’t get in trouble for that thing you did!”
We’ve all seen this happen. That one troop — the one who thinks they know how to help you — is what we call a “barracks lawyer.” They’re not actual legal representation and they don’t have any formal training. More often than not, this troop catches wind of some “loophole” via the Private News Network or Lance Corporal Underground and they take this newfound fact as gospel.
For whatever reason, people routinely make the mistake of believing these idiots and the nonsense that spews from their mouths. Here’s just a brief look at why you shouldn’t take their advice:
Think about it for more than half a second. If everyone knew all the stupid loopholes, there wouldn’t be a court martial system.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco)
They think they found a loophole… They didn’t.
The actual rules and regulations have been finely tuned over the course of two hundred years. It’s very unlikely that some random troop just happened to be the only one to figure out some loophole. And, realistically, that’s not how the rules work. There’s a little thing known as “commander’s discretion” that supersedes all.
If the commander says it, it will be so. It doesn’t matter how a given rule is worded.
What they’re suggesting isn’t real. Want to know what is? Troops breaking big rocks into smaller rocks in military prison.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)
What they’re suggesting is often insubordination.
Advice that these pseudo-lawyers offer often involves a line that often starts with, “you don’t have to follow that, because…” Here’s the thing: Unless a superior is asking you to do something that’s profoundly unsafe or illegal, you have to do it. That’s not just your immediate supervisor — that’s all superiors.
The advice that they’re offering is a textbook definition of insubordination. Disregarding an order comes with a whole slew of other legal problems down the time.
If they’re on in the first sergeant’s office after every major three-day weekend, they’re probably full of sh*t.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
They’re usually not the best troops in the formation
If they do know what they’re talking about, it’s for good reason. They probably got in trouble once, talked their way out of that trouble, and got let off the hook because the command stopped caring to argue.
It’s not like there’s an entire MOS field dedicated to solving such issues… oh… wait…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)
They don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about
There are 134 articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice out there and countless other rules and regulations that pop up from time to time. There’s no way in Hell that some private in the barracks has spent the time required to study each and every one of them and how they interact with each other.
If they have, by some miracle of time management, spent the effort required to learn all of this, then why the hell have they been squandering their profound talents in your unit rather than going over to JAG? Which leads us perfectly into…
If you live with a lower enlisted troop who’s in JAG, they’re still a barracks lawyer if their head is firmly up their own ass about how they can help you. Catch them on the clock.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)
There are actual military lawyers who will advocate for you.
They exist and aren’t that uncommon. They’re often found at the brigade-level or installation-level. It’s their job to take on your case and see how the military judicial system could work for you. Unlike your buddy in the barracks, these lawyers have spent years in military (and often civilian) legal training.
Don’t waste your time placating the barracks lawyer. Actual military lawyers in JAG will take care of you.
When Jessica Pearce Rotondi lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009, she had no idea of what she would gain: the chance to become a part of her military family’s history. The unexpected journey took her from her childhood home in Massachusetts to the lush mountains of Laos, where her airman uncle was shot down in 1972.
“Sending a loved one away and not knowing if they’ll walk through the door again is an incredible sacrifice,” Rotondi said.
It’s a sacrifice her mother’s family made multiple times. For not only was her Uncle Jack shot down alongside his AC-130 crew during the “secret war” in the neutral nation of Laos, her grandfather — Jack’s father — fell from the sky too, spending two and a half years in a German POW camp during WWII.
As “What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers” so arrestingly confesses in its first sentence, Rotondi comes from “a family that loses children.”Rotondi spent a decade researching and writing her debut novel, a deeply personal family memoir and obscure history lesson released this April. Historical supporting evidence, it turns out, would be hard to come by.
Read more about Vietnam War vets traveling to find answers.
“Much about what happened in Laos has only recently been declassified. I embedded photographs of some of the reports and letters I found directly into the book, because I wanted to recreate that sense of expectation to show how the force of a single document can change a family’s hopes,” Rotondi, a Brooklyn resident, said. “Getting CIA officers, refugees and former soldiers on the record about their role in the war was a slow exercise in trust-building but led to some incredible conversations.”
Before her mother’s death, conversation about Rotondi’s uncle and grandfather’s wartime experiences were few. A chance discovery of a hidden-in-the-closet file cabinet just hours after her mother’s passing launched Rotondi onto what would eventually become “What We Inherit.” It involved thousands of hours of research, sifting through redacted files, yellowed newspaper clippings and maps of questionable accuracy.
Rotondi, whose work has been published in the likes of The Huffington Post and The History Channel, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2013 to locate her uncle’s crash site. She was not the first family member to do so; she was simply retracing her grandpa’s steps through Laos as he obsessively searched for answers about his missing son years earlier.
The process of writing her family’s tragedies reminded Rotondi of the incredible strength of military families.
“I had the incredible privilege of speaking to other families of the missing for this book, and the biggest takeaway from them was the strength of the unspoken bond between military families,” she said. “I read somewhere that we never truly die until our name stops being spoken aloud. There is power in talking about our lost and missing veterans — especially with the next generation.”
“What We Inherit,” a book worth reading, ensures that will never happen on Rotondi’s watch.
As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.
When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.
Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.
Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.
The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.
A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.
Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.
But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.
Out of the sky
The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.
US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.
This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.
Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.
The air war
Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.
US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.
The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.
From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.
Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.
The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.
Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.
If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.
While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.
In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.
Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.
But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.
The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.
Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.
With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.
The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.
The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.
“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.
A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:
FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS
The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.
“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.
She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.
First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019
“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”
The lone road to SpaceX
SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.
During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.
Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.
SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.
On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.
When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.
Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.
“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The rate of machinist’s mate has a long and proud history in the United States Navy. Established in 1880 as finisher, the rate changed names a couple of times before being settled as machinist’s mate in 1904.
According to the Navy CyberSpace website on enlisted jobs, “Machinist’s mates (non-nuclear) operate, maintain, and repair (organizational and intermediate level) ship propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and outside machinery, such as: steering engine, hoisting machinery, food preparation equipment, refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, windlasses, elevators, and laundry equipment; operate and maintain (organizational and intermediate level) marine boilers, pumps, forced draft blowers, and heat exchangers; perform tests, transfers, and inventory of lubricating oils, fuels, and water; maintain records and reports; and generate and stow industrial gases.”
With such a wide array of skills and responsibilities, the machinist’s mates in George Washington’s engineering department prove the value and versatility of the rate to the ship and to the Navy as a whole.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Austin Huizar samples liquid nitrogen in the cryogenics shop aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, October 14, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Seaman Krystofer Belknap)
Machinist’s Mate Fireman Gopika Mayell checks a steam usage reading in one of the flight deck catapult rooms aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, June 14, 2012.
(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class William Pittman)
“The main ways that machinist’s mates and engineering department support naval aviation is through the catapult shop and [oxygen and nitrogen] shop,” said Huizar.
“The catapult shop makes sure that all of the machinery is up to date and fully functioning in order to operate the catapult that launch the jets. As for [oxygen and nitrogen], we create aviator’s breathing oxygen and we also have a cryogenic plant that creates liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen. The liquid oxygen is used as aviator’s breathing oxygen and the liquid nitrogen is used as gaseous nitrogen for the airplane tires because it expands and contracts less at various altitudes.”
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Duane Hilumeyer, left; Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Kexian Li, center; and Machinist’s Mate Fireman Jacob Tylisz close a valve to maintain accumulator steam pressure on a catapult aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Sept. 24, 2014.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr.)
In order to convert each gas into liquid form, the air expansion engine lowers the temperature of the air to reach negative boiling points, separating oxygen and nitrogen from air.
The air in the expansion engine is frozen to negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit to separate nitrogen, and negative 297 degrees Fahrenheit to separate oxygen.
Air separation is vital to the mission of George Washington, regardless of where the ship finds herself in her life cycle.
According to navy.mil, “O2N2 Plants Bring Life to Airwing Pilot,” O2N2 plants provide oxygen to the aviators, nitrogen to the air wing, and gas forms of both for use throughout the ship.
Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Robert Howard, front, Machinist’s Mate Fireman Austin Martin, center, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Glen Spitnale, test a package conveyor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Aug. 5, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class Kaleb J. Sarten)
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Brandon Amodeo performs maintenance on a pressure regulator in emergency diesel generator room aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS Seaman Apprentice Trent P. Hawkins)
The current refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) environment enables them to put their skills to the test in. Sailors from engineering department, such as Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Larissa Pruitt, auxiliary division leading petty officer, have provided significant support to accomplishing major ship milestones while in RCOH.
“The machinist’s mate is like the Swiss army knife of the Navy,” said Pruitt. “Since being in the shipyards, we have repaired all four aircraft elevators, started the five-year catapult inspection, restored fire pumps to support Ready to Flood operations, and refurbished the air conditioner and refrigeration units.”
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Teran Vo, left, and Fireman Billy Price perform maintenance on a deck edge door track in the hangar bay aboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 4, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)
As a rate that has been around for roughly 140 years, machinist’s mates will continue to make an impact throughout the surface fleet and the naval aviation community. The hard work of the machinist’s mates ensures that George Washington will have a successful redelivery to the fleet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.
The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.
“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.
A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019
(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)
US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.
“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”
A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.
“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.
A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.
“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.
US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.
“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”
Know what’s a great tool in combat? Planes. They were the ultimate high ground until the Space Race began; they can carry heavy weapons like large machine guns, bombs, and missiles; and they’re fast, allowing them to cross the battlefield quickly. But they also have big infrastructure needs like entire airstrips. Unless they’re vertical take-off, a technology that took decades to make work.
Vertical take-off aircraft like the Harrier and F-35B use vertical take-off to achieve one strategic goal: allowing pilots to support Marines from ships or forward landing areas that cannot support planes conducting conventional takeoffs and landings.
Planes need quite a bit of runway, and even carrier catapults have limits when it comes to rapidly accelerating an aircraft. So when Marines are fighting to take a beachhead or press inland or just doing patrols in the desert, there’s always the chance that they might press ahead into an area that a carrier can’t get to, and that doesn’t have a suitable airport or enemy airbase which they can capture to ensure they get timely air support.
But Harriers, and now the F-35B, can operate from certain amphibious assault ships and many forward positions on land. All they need is a large open area, preferably without much dust and debris, that Marines on the ground can secure and carry fuel and ammo to.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
But it’s hard to make planes fly when they aren’t moving horizontally. Most planes only achieve lift by moving forward through the air. The air flowing over the wings generates the lift, and if the plane starts moving too slowly, it will stall and, potentially, fall out of the sky.
The Harrier got around this by creating four columns of air that supported the plane when it needed to takeoff and land. These columns overcame the weight of the Harrier and allowed it to fly. But the columns were unstable, and it took a lot of computer power to make all the fine adjustments necessary to prevent crashes.
The new F-35B is more stable and has much more computer power, allowing it to create its columns of air more safely. And, the F-35B uses its vectored thrust to create one of these columns, allowing it to transition to forward flight by simply re-vectoring that thrust after takeoff.
Check out the video above to learn more about how this whole process works.