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6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

 

6 things troops always buy after deployment

 

The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Post-deployment booze

 

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

 

Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect

 

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

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These Coasties were tougher than your first sergeant

The Coast Guard is typically more worried about life jackets than L-shaped ambushes, so they often get a reputation for being bad-ss free, but it’s actually not true.


A bunch of the oft-mocked “puddle pirates” are actually tough as nails. Here are six Coasties from history who weren’t afraid to put life and limb on the line so that others may live:

6. A rescue swimmer personally saved half a crew in the middle of a hurricane

6 things troops always buy after deployment
The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski)

When the HMS Bounty, a replica ship based on a 1780s design, sailed into the Atlantic ahead of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it was pretty much doomed. Few people on the crew of 15 had any real experience on tall ships and the captain failed to account for how much damage high winds could do to his wooden masts and hull.

So the Coast Guard had to attempt a rescue in severe conditions. Petty Officer Third Class Daniel J. Todd, a rescue swimmer, dove into the waters and braved 30-foot waves for an hour to rescue nine crew members, many of them one at a time.

Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.

5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies

6 things troops always buy after deployment
First Lt. John A. Pritchard gets ready to take off on what will be his final rescue flight. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.

On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.

He returned the next day and picked up a third flier but never made it back to his ship. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his November 28-29 actions.

4. The crew of the USCGC Campbell, which rammed a German submarine

6 things troops always buy after deployment
The USCGC Campbell while in Navy service in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

On Feb. 22, 1943, the USCGC Campbell was escorting other ships when a German submarine suddenly appeared in the ocean nearby. The Campbell immediately turned towards the enemy craft and rammed it, damaging both vessels but failing to sink the enemy sub.

Despite a large hole in the Campbell’s side, it stayed in the fight and engaged the sub with direct fire and depth charges, eventually destroying the enemy. The Campbell took a few prisoners on board, but its commander, Commander James Hirshfield, had been wounded by shell shrapnel.

Hirshfield remained in command and had the Campbell brought into port for repairs.

3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors

6 things troops always buy after deployment
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.

Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.

The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.

2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm

6 things troops always buy after deployment
(Photos: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.

The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.

Despite massive waves, freezing temperatures, and a broken compass, the four men were able to rescue 32 of the 33 men still alive on the Pendleton and get them back to shore.

1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal

6 things troops always buy after deployment
(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.

The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.

They even volunteered for service in the boat designated to draw Japanese fire.

Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.

He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force hopes to train 1,500 pilots per year

The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.


The moves come as the service faces a shortage of roughly 2,000 pilots overall.

“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.

While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.

“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.

Revising pilot training

The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.

Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.

It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”

Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.

“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.

Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.

Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.

Pilot Training Next

Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.

“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”

6 things troops always buy after deployment

U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.

Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.

Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.

“This is an airman who can learn faster than their competition, can adapt when things are not working, and they can innovate faster than any opposition to create an advantage as a kind of lethality that allows our nation to defend its freedoms,” he said in May after taking the helm of AETC.

In a news release, he expanded on his vision.

“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.

To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.

“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”

The program applies to members of the 560th Flying Training Squadron and the 99th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.

“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”

She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”

Aircrew Crisis Task Force

AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”

At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.

The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.

It has also included increasing financial incentives such as bonuses and providing more control over assignments and career paths, Wilson said.

“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Here are the issues to watch for during NBC and IAVA’s Commander-in-Chief Forum

6 things troops always buy after deployment


Tonight NBC and IAVA are hosting the first-ever “Commander-in-Chief Forum” in the hangar bay of the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan. The forum will not be a debate, but rather a hybrid “town hall” event, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appearing separately in back-to-back 30-minute segments to answer questions posed by NBC personality Matt Lauer. The forum airs tonight at 8 PM EDT. (Check local listings for the NBC/MSNBC station in your area.)

The military community — particularly the active duty community — has a unique stake in the outcome of this election since the Constitution makes the President of the United States the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military and give him or her the power to take the nation to war. As a result, servicemembers would be well advised to exercise their right to vote and to be as informed as possible while doing so.

Here’s a quick look at some of the issues that will likely come up during the event:

1. Defense budget

6 things troops always buy after deployment
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill last year that would have stopped the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completed comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II. (The tests never happened.) (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth)

The defense budget is a complex beast, worth over $600 billion in annual spending (as measured by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act). Wrapped into that are the costs of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the acquisition programs for defense systems (aka “program of record”), manpower funding, and ancillary items like child care and spouse employment. But look for tonight’s discussion to be centered around the issue of “sequestration,” the law passed in 2012 as a deficit reduction measure that wound up targeting the Pentagon more than any other part of the government as a way to yield the desired outcome. The result, which threatens to cut DoD’s budget by nearly 25 percent over the next eight years, has been blamed for harming military readiness in myriad ways, including gutting the number of troops on active duty and creating the need for squadrons to “cannibalize” scrapped airplanes in order to stay airworthy.

Watch for Trump to call for an end to sequestration with the assertion that the necessary deficit reductions can be met by elimination of government waste. For her part, Clinton is likely to avoid committing to ending sequestration, instead focusing on how America needs to be more judicious about when and where troops should be deployed.

2. Vet healthcare

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Hospital corpsmen help Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, a surgeon, into his scrubs during a Pacific Partnership. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

This has been a hot-button topic during the campaign season to date and is sure to dominate a large portion of the discussion tonight. The VA has been plaqued by scandals in recent years — everything from long wait times that resulted in vet patient deaths to claims backlogs in the hundred of thousands — and Secretary Bob McDonald, who was brought in because of his corporate business experience, has been frustrated by the slow pace of change within the agency even as he touts the accomplishments that have occured on his watch.

Solutions for the VA’s woes are incredibly complex and don’t make for good television, so watch for Lauer to admininster the litmus test to the candidates in the form of a question around how each of them feels about privatization, which is basically a plan to outsource many if not all of the functions to private medical entities. (A “Commission on Care” recently released a report that said privatization was a bad idea cost-wise and that vets who tried it hated it because they felt lost in the system.) Trump initially said he supported privatization but has since softened that position, favoring it only “when it makes sense.” Clinton is against privatization.

A possible x-factor on this topic is that Trump recently called VA Secretary McDonald “a political hack.” While Lauer probably won’t directly ask him whether he stands by that, watch for a more-cryptic version of that question.

3. Vet suicides

6 things troops always buy after deployment

This topic is a subset of the one above. The latest statistics released by DoD are that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Last year the Clay Hunt Act was passed by Congress to combat this trend, and it aims to do so in 3 major ways: Improve the quality of mental health care, improve access to quality mental health care, and to increase the number of mental health care providers.

4. Foreign policy (and war against ISIS)

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Trump has used the threat of ISIS as a centerpiece of his campaign, claiming that the group’s rise is a function of President Obama’s perceived weakness across the world stage. Clinton, on the other hand, primarily as a function of her recent experience as Secretary of State, tends to be very granular in her answers when asked what the U.S. should do to combat the Islamic State.

This topic as much as any other illustrates the contrast between the candidates. Watch for Trump to avoid details and instead state in general terms how we have to be tougher and how he’ll take care of the problem very quickly and Clinton to get into the weeds, which, in turn, will give Trump fuel for his thesis that, for all of her knowledge, she’s failed to keep America safer during her time in government. Trump has stated that he’s unwilling to topple Syrian president Assad, while Clinton has said she is willing to do that.

The other threat Lauer might introduce is the one posed by China, especially in light of recent saber rattling in the western Pacific and President Obama’s poor treatment, protocol-wise, at the G-8 Summit. Trump has been very aggressive with his anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail, particularly around trade practices and currency devaluation, so expect him to be similarly oriented tonight.

5. Vet education

6 things troops always buy after deployment
(Photo: U.S. Army, Capt. Kyle Key)

This topic will most certainly take the form of a question about how the candidates feel about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the comprehensive education benefit made into law in 2009 that was expanded to cover spouses and dependents and has proved to be expensive as a result. As lawmakers continue to fight budget battles on the Hill, some have recently made feints toward narrowing the extent of the GI Bill, and those efforts have been met with stiff resistance from IAVA and other veteran service organizations.

If the subject comes up, and it certainly should, watch for both candidates to strongly support the GI Bill.

6. Vet employment

As important as getting vets the education opportunities they deserve is providing them with rewarding jobs in keeping with their experience and talents. Michele Obama and Jill Biden founded “Hire Our Heroes,” an intiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has created awareness if not actual jobs. Clinton has said she supports government programs aimed at assisting veterans, and Trump generally answers questions on the subject with the claim that he will bring jobs back from overseas, which will benefit all Americans, including veterans.

7. Homeland defense/immigration

6 things troops always buy after deployment
With the help of an interpreter, Capt. Jason Brezler addresses a group of schoolchildren in Now Zad, Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Immigration isn’t necessarily a veteran topic, except as it deals with the 6,000 Afghan interpreters who worked closely with our troops during the war and now would like to immigrate to the United States with their families because they fear for their safety in their homeland. These Afghans — supported by the veterans who fought alongside them — have faced roadblocks in obtaining visas to enter America.

While this topic most likely won’t come up tonight during the CiC Forum, it would be interesting to see how each candidate responds between now and the election.

Wildcards:

Clinton: Benghazi, private email server and classified documents, smashed Blackberrys . . .

Trump: McCain “not a hero,” Purple Heart gaff, Khan (Gold Star) family kerfuffle, Saddam the awesome terrorist fighter . . .

6 things troops always buy after deployment

urther CiC Forum prep reading here.

Have your opinion thrown into the mix tonight by taking the #MilitaryVotesMatter poll. #MilitaryVotesMatter is powered by MilitaryOneClick teamed up with We Are The Mighty, Doctrine Man, Got Your Six and a handful of influencers who want to provide a non-partisan confidential opportunity for the military and veteran community to have their voices heard by sharing where they currently stand in the presidential election.  The poll is short and straightforward collecting information about which state they will vote in, what branch of service they are affiliated with, their current military status, and the candidate they intend to vote for.

Go to militaryvotesmatter.com/poll to take the poll now.
Further CiC Forum prep reading here.
And stay informed all the way to the election by regularly checking out WATM’s #DefendYourVote page here.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how many nukes each nuclear country in the world has

Since President Donald Trump assumed office, there has been an intense focus on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But eight other countries, including the US, have stockpiled nuclear weapons for decades.


A few years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan during World War II — the only time nuclear weapons have been used in combat — Russia began developing its own nuclear capabilities. The United Kingdom, France, and China followed soon thereafter.

By the 1960s, it was becoming apparent that a future in which dozens of countries build and test nuclear weapons would not be safe for the world. This led to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. A handful of countries, including Israel and North Korea, have not signed on to the agreement.

The treaty has been largely successful. But the potential use of nuclear weapons between hostile nations continues to threaten international peace.

Here’s how many nuclear weapons exist and which countries have them, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists:

9. North Korea: 60

For years, the US tried to negotiate with North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program. The Agreed Framework, signed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, ultimately failed. North Korea was cheating.

In 2003, Pyongyang officially withdrew from the NPT. Three years later, the country conducted its first nuclear test. North Korea has since continued building weapons, despite efforts by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump to slow its progress.

Today, North Korea most likely has up to 60 nuclear weapons, though that number is an estimate.

8. Israel: 80

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Israel’s government will neither officially confirm nor deny it has nuclear weapons. But it’s an open secret that the Middle Eastern country has been building nuclear weapons for decades.

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician and whistle-blower, revealed the existence of Israel’s program.

Western allies, like the US and the UK, have supported Israel’s policy of keeping its program “secret.”

The Guardian reported that in 2009, when a reporter asked US President Barack Obama whether he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, “he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to ‘speculate.'”

7. India: 130

To put it mildly, India has a hostile relationship with its neighbor Pakistan. That tension is compounded by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. For nearly two decades, however, the two nations have avoided any escalating nuclear conflict.

In 2003, India, which is not a party to the NPT, declared a no-use-first policy, meaning it vowed to never use nuclear weapons in combat unless first attacked by another country with nuclear weapons. China maintains a similar policy.

India first began developing nuclear weapons in an attempt to counter Chinese aggression in the 1960s. It has since tested multiple nuclear devices, which caused the US to impose, then later lift, various sanctions.

6. Pakistan: 140

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Contrary to India’s no-first-use policy, Pakistan has not ruled out first-attack use of nuclear weapons.

The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and the threat of India’s burgeoning nuclear weapons capabilities prompted Pakistan to start a nuclear program of its own.

In 2014, Pakistan began developing tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller warheads built for use on battlefields rather than against cities or infrastructure. These weapons are small enough to launch from warships or submarines, which makes them easier to use on short notice than traditional nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is also reportedly nearing completion of its nuclear triad, which would give the country the ability to launch nuclear missiles from the land, air, and sea.

5. United Kingdom: 215

Like all other nuclearized countries, the UK argues that it needs nuclear weapons largely for defense purposes.

Its nuclear weapons deterrent is called Trident and consists of four Vanguard-class submarines that can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight nuclear warheads, The Telegraph reported.

From 2010 to 2015, the UK cut the number of its operational warheads by 40, to 120. It continues to work on nuclear reduction while maintaining its advocacy for minimum nuclear force — just the right amount of force to inflict devastation and achieve combat goals.

4. China: 270

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.

China’s first nuclear weapons test took place in 1964. Like India, Beijing maintains a no-use-first nuclear policy, but some in the international community are skeptical of its intentions.

Beijing keeps its nuclear weapons count secret, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how many the country has. While the East Asian superpower is a member of the NPT, its increasingly ambitious military ventures have been a cause of concern for some countries.

Next year, for example, China plans to unveil its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which will be able to strike anywhere in the world and carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. In 2016, similar long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Guam, a US territory, were revealed, sending shockwaves through the American defense establishment.

3. France: 300

France began developing nuclear weapons during the Cold War, when President Charles de Gaulle believed it needed defense capabilities independent of the US and NATO. De Gaulle feared that neither would come to France’s defense in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union or some other enemy.

While France possesses the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, it claims it has no chemical or biological warfare weapons. It is a member of the NPT.

In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed that the country’s nuclear weapons were not “targeted at anybody.” Rather, they were part of a “life-insurance policy.” Sarkozy also announced a nuclear weapons reduction, cutting its stockpile to “half the maximum number of warheads [France] had during the Cold War.

2. United States: 6,800

6 things troops always buy after deployment

The US ushered in the nuclear era under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 when the military launched the Manhattan Project, which led to the world’s first nuclear bomb detonation.

During World War II, the US forever changed the way the world would look at nuclear technology after dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, instantly killing tens of thousands of civilians.

The US is a member of the NPT but has refused to sign on to a no-first-use policy.

Earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on major investments to boost America’s nuclear capabilities.

“So long as other countries possess nuclear weapons that could be used against us, we too must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter attacks against ourselves and our allies,” Biden said. “That is why … we increased funding to maintain our arsenal and modernize our nuclear infrastructure.”

Quartz reported that the US would spend approximately $400 billion over a 10-year period to maintain and modernize its arsenal. Another purpose of this investment is to keep pace with Russia’s growing arsenal.

Trump has echoed Obama’s calls for a revamping of the US arsenal.

“I want modernization and total rehabilitation,” the president said. After calling for an increase in the US stockpile on the campaign trail, he said in October 2017 that would be “totally unnecessary.”

1. Russia: 7,000

The former Soviet Union began work on its nuclear weapons program in the 1940s after hearing reports of the US Manhattan Project.

After the Soviet-US arms race during the Cold War, nuclear weapons stored in former Soviet states were returned to Russia, where many were dismantled. But Russia still maintained a vast stockpile of weapons.

Today, Russia appears to be investing in nuclear weapons modernization — much like the US — and growing its arsenal. Last year, President Barack Obama criticized such efforts as impediments to global nuclear disarmament.

“Because of the vision that he’s been pursuing of emphasizing military might,” Obama said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have not seen the type of progress that I would have hoped for with Russia.”

In October, Putin said he wanted to help reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal and “will be striving to achieve that,” but he added that Russia would continue to develop its program so long as other countries continue doing so.

While Russia has the most nuclear weapons of any country, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most powerful.

Also Read: US admiral says he’d nuke China if the president orders him to

“Russia built nuclear weapons that are incremental improvements,” or weapons that would need updating every decade or so, Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider.

On the other hand, Lewis said: “US nukes are like Ferraris: beautiful, intricate, and designed for high performance. Experts have said the plutonium pits will last for 100s of years.” Indeed, the US’s stocks of Minuteman III ICBMS, despite their age, are “exquisite machinery, incredible things.”

“Russia’s nuclear weapons are newer, true, but they reflect the design philosophy that says ‘No reason to make it super fancy because we’ll just rebuild it in 10 years,'” Lewis added.

14,955 nuclear weapons worldwide

Intel

Every Veteran Should Take ‘The Spartan Pledge’

The issue of suicide within the military and veteran community is a serious problem, and a former soldier named Boone Cutler is taking it head on.


Also Read: One Of America’s Most Elite Universities Is Helping Veterans In A Unique Way

“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family,” reads the Spartan Pledge, a new initiative started by Cutler.

The pledge started between Cutler and his battle buddy Nacho who served in Iraq with him. They lost touch after the military, but were brought together after Nacho’s friend – who was also a veteran – committed suicide.

The Spartan pledge was created after they both admitted to each other of having suicidal thoughts and not talking about it. Realizing the disproportional suicide rate among veterans, Cutler started engaging other war buddies with his pledge starting a viral effect.

According to Boone, the pledge ensures that veterans take care of themselves, take care of their own, and maintain a mission focus.

Here’s Boone’s video. He requests that you please pass it along.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nslIi09gCLQ

NOW: This disabled veteran describes his scars of war with incredible slam poetry. Watch the video

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to crown prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017 set the stage for him to pursue aggressive policies that included confrontations with many rivals around the region.

But changes to the royal line of succession and decisions by the 32-year-old crown prince at home and abroad have undermined the kingdom’s longstanding stability and left him in doubt about his own safety, according to Bruce Riedel, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project.

Prince Mohammed is reportedly aware of the growing enmity.


“Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah,” Riedel wrote for Al-Monitor, where he is a columnist.

Prince Mohammed reportedly dropped a half-billion dollars on the 440-foot-long yacht, named Serene, in late 2016 after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France.

He bought it from a Russian billionaire who moved out the day the deal was signed, and the vessel includes two helipads, an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped spa, and three swimming pools.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

(DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

But Prince Mohammed bought it as he helped push severe austerity at home, including major spending cuts and a freeze on government contracts. Such spending is often used to quell dissent.

“It’s a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks,” Riedel wrote of the yacht. “It is also a potential escape hatch.”

‘A foolish and dangerous approach’

The main foreign-policy issues that have raised ire toward Prince Mohammed are the now four-year-old war in Yemen — his signature initiative — and the blockade of Qatar.

Criticism of Prince Mohammed’s bloody and disastrous war in Yemen, which has subjected many Yemenis to famine and disease, has been brewing inside Saudi Arabia for months, according to Riedel.

A video of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — the half-brother of King Salman, the father of Prince Mohammed — publicly blaming Prince Mohammed for the war went viral in the kingdom in September 2018.

Saudi Arabia’s turn on Qatar reportedly came as a surprise to many US officials, frustrating them even as US President Donald Trump castigated the Qataris. The blockade has been unwelcome within Saudi Arabia — one cleric has been arrested and faces execution for criticizing it — and has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, Riedel wrote.

Prince Mohammed’s roundup of powerful business executives and members of the royal family in 2017 may have been his biggest domestic miscalculation. It spooked investors and led to capital flight, diminishing confidence in Prince Mohammed’s ability to manage economic issues.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, March 14, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Among the dozens of businessmen and princes who were arrested was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the leader of the Saudi national guard, the kingdom’s premier fighting force, which, along with the campaign in Yemen, may further alienate Prince Mohammed from the military.

The removal of Prince Mutaib was seen as likely to stir discontent, and Salman’s moves, particularly the roundup, have fed the impression inside the kingdom of Salman “as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement,” according to Rosie Bsheer, a history professor at Yale.

Salman remains the most likely heir as long as his father is alive, but his actions have helped make the kingdom the least stable it has been in 50 years, according to Riedel. Should King Salman, now 81, die in the near future, succession could be disputed, and the process to appoint the next king could turn violent.

“The Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia a blank check and supports its war in Yemen,” Riedel wrote. “The crown prince has been touted by the White House. It’s a foolish and dangerous approach.”

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

popular

Who was the 1st female smokejumper in the US Forest Service?

In 1979, there wasn’t a single woman working a fire season as a smokejumper in the United States. 

Since their beginnings in 1939, the smokejumpers were exclusively an all-male unit, famously known as the wildland firefighters who parachuted from airplanes to fight forest fires. Throughout the years they encompassed unorthodox programs such as the Triple Nickles, an all-Black US Army Airborne unit, which protected the Pacific Northwest against Japanese balloon bombs during World War II. A detachment of smokejumpers was even contracted by the CIA to work as “kickers” to kick out supplies in remote areas all over the world, including in Tibet and during the secret war in Laos. 

For some 40 years the smokejumpers were a boys’ club, unaffected by the evolving wildland firefighting culture of the 1970s and 1980s — one in which women were proving they belonged. In other highly trained units, such as the hotshots and helitack crews, the women excelled. Then Deanne Shulman came along to show why the smokejumpers should be open to women, too.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Deanne Shulman became the first smokejumper in the history of the US Forest Service in 1981. Screenshot courtesy of the Gannett News Service newspaper.

Shulman, a Californian, had begun her career working in the fire community with an engine crew only five years prior. She cut her teeth on a helitack crew rappelling from helicopters to suppress forest fires for the 1975 and 1976 fire seasons. In the two years that followed, she was a valued member of the hot-hots, a hotshot crew where she used chain saws to fell trees and Pulaski tools to dig fire lines. Digging fire lines is a common strategy wildland firefighters employ to set a break between the moving fire and oxygen-enriched vegetation.

When Shulman completed her physical and mental tests to become a smokejumper in 1979, she was kicked out of the program because she was underweight, just 5 pounds below the 130-pound requirement. She filed an Equal Opportunity Commission complaint and was allowed to volunteer again in 1981.

Her rookie training class was at the McCall Smokejumper Base in Idaho. Among the grueling physical tests required for each candidate to pass was carrying a 115-pound pack 3 1/2 miles to mimic the backcountry conditions smokejumpers often find themselves in. She also had to complete eight jumps to be certified, and when she passed she became the first female smokejumper in the country.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

“When I showed up at McCall, some [smokejumpers] were openly supportive and receptive,” she said, reported the East Oregonian in 2015. “Others withheld judgment until they could see how I did. Some would not talk to me the whole five years I was there.”

The smokejumping community has a certain allure, and those outside it often romanticize the profession. Shulman made sure to not attach any elitism to the blue-collar profession.

“I’ve worked on a lot of different crews and stuff and the main difference is just the transportation to the fire,” she recalled in a 1984 interview. “That’s the main difference. And […] you know, that transportation does require some finesse to it, but we’re all firefighters. I worked real hard on the hotshot crew I was on; I’ve worked real hard on all the crews I’ve been on.”

Shulman is a trailblazer who paved the way for women in the wildland fire community. “It probably will encourage other women just to know other women are smokejumpers,” Shulman said in 1981 after being accepted into the unit. “It would have helped me. It would have been nice to have someone.”

For the women who make up approximately 15% of the smokejumping community in the United States, Shulman became that someone.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Lists

9 text messages from First Sergeant you never want to read

While pretty much all of the veterans here at WATM served in the military fairly recently, we weren’t on first sergeant’s speed dial. If he or she wanted something, he’d send a “runner,” but with technology going the way it has been, it’s probably only a matter of time before troops start getting texts instead.


This is probably not a good thing. Here are nine messages you probably never want to see coming from the phone number of “The Diamond.”

1. Get your ass outside my office. Time: RIGHT F–KING NOW.

He doesn’t need to give you details, because he’s the frigging First Sergeant. But what you can be very sure of just from this very short text: He’s pissed. He’s really pissed… AT YOU.

 

6 things troops always buy after deployment

 

2. We’re going out to the field this weekend. Gear inspection Friday at 1730.

There goes your plans for the weekend. After you read this one, you’ll have to call off your plans to support your local strip club and tattoo parlor. But look on the bright side: At least you’ll be saving money.

3. Gas mask PT tomorrow. Company office at 0500.

Do you hate breathing? Do you like to run? Why not combine both of these things into something your leaders call “Gas Mask PT.”

4. Why was a member of your squad caught drunk and naked at the front gate?

This is a question that really has no good answer. In the first sergeant’s mind, that drunken naked idiot is a direct reflection of your leadership, and anything you say is going to be bad. Prepare to have your butt completely chewed off.

5. Just got call from MPs. Report to my office in dress uniform in 15.

This is more upsetting than a scary movie. A call from military police, and now you have to report in to “the diamond.” What the hell did I do now? Did I not check her ID card?

6 things troops always buy after deployment

 

6. ALL HANDS PISS TEST. Company office in 10.

It’s not necessarily that you did drugs or are worried about popping on the piss test (although that could be a concern). But pissing into a cup as some dude checks out your junk can make anyone nervous. Back off, dude.

7. Too many DUIs in company. Recall formations this weekend at 0600, 1200, and 1800 daily.

Mass punishment. It’s First Sergeant’s favorite pastime. In his mind, you may not have driven drunk, but you could have done something to stop those other guys. Somehow.

8. I’m inspecting the barracks in two hours.

You have a few options: You can try hard to clean your room because first sergeant will probably break out the white gloves to look for dust. Or you can run to the 7-day store and pick up Maxim magazine, Playboy, and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and place them where he’s guaranteed to look. This distraction may just save your life.

9. What are you wearing?

If you get this text from your first sergeant, you should probably be worried. DON’T RESPOND. Let’s just pretend this one never happened.

 

NOW: 8 reasons why ‘Aliens’ perfectly captures Marine infantry life

popular

5 places where dueling to the death is not a crime

So, you’ve found yourself in a disagreement and, to prove your honor and chivalry, you’ve challenged someone to a duel, just like in the days of old. Of course, mutual combat, such as fist fighting, fencing, and even non-lethal, “stun gun” duels have their own rules, but let’s assume we’re talking about a pure, Hamilton-versus-Burr, to-the-death style duel.


Sadly, most countries and jurisdictions consider it murder these days, regardless of the circumstances. To define dueling, we’re going by the 1777 Code Duello, which states that if two individuals can’t reconcile their differences, they can meet in the field of honor, but only if they both consent, each has witnesses and doctors, and both agree to use one bullet at ten paces. By modern standards, these concessions simply complicate things. Now, by agreeing to terms beforehand, the possible death is “premeditated,” which isn’t smiled upon in the eyes of the law, and duels aren’t covered by variations of “stand your ground” laws.

Thankfully, you two can still put your honor on the line, but you’re both going to have to travel.

1. Afghan tribal areas

In the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the laws aren’t governed by the respective nations, but by local tribal laws.

Honor plays a huge role in tribal life and nothing is more honorable than a duel. If you’re willing to travel to the war-torn region, have at it. They probably won’t stop you.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
You’d probably have a few more people wanting you dead than just your dueling opponent, though. (Photo By Cpl. Reece Lodder)

2. Pitcairn Island

In the south Pacific lies the world’s smallest nation. So small that it only has two police officers and not a single lawyer.

Since there aren’t many laws governing all of 50 inhabitants, there’s only one law that covers assaulting another person. If they do take offense to your duel, just pay the $100 fine and carry on.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
It’d still take you around two weeks and a couple thousand dollars to get there. The $100 fine is probably nothing at that point. (Image via NOAA)

3. Western Sahara

The laws of the Western Sahara technically fall under Moroccan jurisdiction, but no one really gives a damn because, well, there’s nothing there but desert. The region’s laws are more concerned with maintaining religious customs, which has lead to a rise in terrorism.

When you’re out in the desert, it’s practically lawless — but legality of dueling is probably the last thing you should be concerned about.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Just you, the desert, terrorists, and your dueling opponent. (Image via Flickr)

4. International waters

It’s actually a misconception that anyone can do anything on the high seas. When you’re 12 miles offshore, the laws of the ship are of whichever country the ship is registered to. This is why cruise ships don’t become lawless hellscapes when traveling.

But, if you were to travel to an unclaimed island that doesn’t have bird or bat poop on it, both participants renounce their citizenship. Travel from that island on an unregistered ship and hope that your duel isn’t noticed by the international community. If you’re willing to go that far, however, you might as well talk your differences out.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
And yet, the Coast Guard could still rain on your parade. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

5. Uruguay

While everywhere else on this list leaves dueling in a sort-of gray area, Uruguay made it a national law in 1920. Surprisingly enough, the last duel took place in 1971 between two politicians after one was called a coward. Another came close in 1990 between a police inspector and newspaper editor, but the inspector backed down.

It has since been made forbidden in 1992. However, since dueling played a huge role in their politics and culture, if you could get the consent of their congress and president, you can still take your ten paces.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
They’ll probably say no to keep up positive relations with the US and it wouldn’t look good if an American died there. (DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Bonus facts

After it was wrongly added to a book of “facts,” there was a common misconception that you could legally duel in Paraguay if both participants were blood donors. This falsity was quickly shot down by their government.

Also, the last official duel following the rules of Code Duello was in 1967, in France.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Army just struck ISIS in Syria from a new fire base

A U.S. Army artillery unit is pounding Islamic State fighters inside Syria from a remote desert camp just inside Iraq.

Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment artillery unit have been operating alongside Iraqi artillery units at a temporary fire support base in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border for the past several weeks, according to a recent Defense Department news release.


U.S. soldiers, Marines and sailors helped Iraqi forces build the camp by as part of Operation Inherent Resolve’s support of Operation Roundup, a major offensive by Syrian Democratic Forces aimed at clearing the middle Euphrates River Valley of entrenched, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters.

The U.S. military previously made use of rapidly built fire bases to insert artillery power earlier in the campaign against ISIS. In 2016, a detachment of Marines departed the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group to establish such a location, Fire Base Bell, in northern Iraq. The position, which was later renamed and manned by Army forces, helped U.S. troops intensify the assault on the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags in a convoy.
(Militant website)

It would come under enemy attack soon after its establishment, resulting in the death of Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, the first Marine to die in combat against ISIS.

Little has been made public in recent months about the U.S. military’s use of temporary fire bases to continue the ISIS fight. But NPR published a brief report July 2, 2018, about a “remote outpost” on the border of Iraq and Syria that seems to be the one described in the recent Defense Department release.

Some 150 Marines and soldiers are stationed there, NPR reported, in addition to Iraqi forces.

In the release, troops stationed at the fire base described the satisfaction of working side-by-side with Iraqi units.

“The most satisfying moment in the mission, so far, was when all three artillery units, two Iraqi and one U.S., executed simultaneous fires on a single target location,” said Maj. Kurt Cheeseman, Task Force Steel operations officer and ground force commander at the fire support base, in the release.

Language barriers forced U.S. and Iraqi artillery units to develop a common technical language to coordinate fire missions that involved both American and Iraqi artillery pieces.

“This mission required the use of multiple communications systems and the translation of fire commands, at the firing point, directing the Iraqi Army guns to prepare for the mission, load and report, and ultimately fire,” 1st Lt. Andrea Ortiz Chevres, Task Force Steel fire direction officer, said in the release.

The Iraqi howitzer unit used different procedures to calculate the firing data needed to determine the correct flight path to put rounds on target.

“In order to execute coalition fire missions, we had to develop a calculation process to translate their firing data into our mission data to validate fires prior to execution,” Cheeseman said in the release.

Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Hawthorne, Task Force Steel master gunner, added that Iraqi forces are “eager to work with the American M777 howitzer and fire direction crews and share artillery knowledge and procedures,” according to the release.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
M777u00a0Howitzer

It’s not clear from the release when the base was created or how long it has been active. With little infrastructure and no permanent buildings, troops face temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert.

“They are enduring harsh weather conditions and a lack of luxuries but, unlike previous deployments for many, each element is performing their core function in a combat environment,” Cheeseman said in the release. “The fire support base is a perfect example of joint and coalition execution that capitalizes on the strengths of each organization to deliver lethal fires, protect our force and sustain operations across an extended operational reach.”

Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units provided planners, personnel and equipment to create the austere base, built on a bare patch of desert and raised by hand. Coalition partners from several different nations participated in the planning and coordination of the complex movement of supplies.

“Supplies were delivered from both air and ground by the Army, Air Force and Marines, and include delivery platforms such as medium tactical vehicles, UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks, CV-22 Ospreys, C-130 Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster,” 1st Lt. Ashton Woodard, a troop executive officer in Task Force Longknife, said in the release. “We receive resupply air drops that include food, water, fuel, and general supplies.”

One of the most vital missions involved setting up a security perimeter to provide stand-off and protection for the U.S. and Iraqi artillery units.

“Following 10 days of around-the-clock labor in intense environmental conditions, the most satisfying moment was seeing the completion of the physical security perimeter,” said one Marine working security at the fire base, according to the release.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Boeing’s new autonomous fighter

Boeing has a new plane that is sure to raise eyebrows around the world. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System is boringly named, but it’s also an autonomous fighter jet that could protect human pilots and assist on missions as early as 2020.

Yup. Robot fighter planes are in flight, and they’re about to come to market.


First, a quick look at the weapon’s missions. It’s supposed to fly in combat, perform early warning missions, and conduct reconnaissance. So, basically, it’s a jack of all trades. According to a Boeing press release, the plane will:

— Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles
— Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare
— Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.

Boeing hasn’t announced the plane’s exact capabilities which, since they want to eventually sell it around the world, is probably a good idea. No one who buys the plane is going to want all their adversaries to already know its limits, even if there is no pilot to kill.

But expect aviation media to keep a firm eye on the plane. One of the biggest selling points of autonomous fighters is that the planes won’t be limited to speeds, turning rates, and altitudes where humans can survive. See, the human meat sack in the middle of the plane is often the most fragile and valuable part of it. So everyone wants to know what the plane can do without a pilot.

“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”

6 things troops always buy after deployment

In the ALPHA AI program, developed with a team from University of Cincinnati an artificial intelligence running on a cheap computer defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

While the announcement has made a lot of waves, it’s not a huge surprise for people keeping track. Robots began beating experienced human pilots reliably in simulators a few years ago, and they’ve only gotten better since.

And the Air Force already began packing the computers into older jets to test the concept, leading to a 2017 test where an empty F-16 flew in support of human pilots. The program, Have Raider II, was ran in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and their Skunk Works program, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if Lockheed unveiled its own proposal soon.

There are legal limits on autonomous fighting systems, but the key component is that they ascribe to at least “man-in-the-loop” protocol where a human makes the final decision for any lethal engagement. But Have Raider II and the BATS envision robot fighters flying next to human-crewed planes and under the direction of the human pilots, so both will likely be accepted on the international stage. And, Boeing hasn’t said that BATS will necessarily have lethal weapons.

6 things troops always buy after deployment

Weapons like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 are sold across national boundaries to American allies. Boeing has developed an unmanned fighter that it hopes to sell across the world as well.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

BATS was developed in Australia and, as mentioned above, Boeing hopes the final iterations will have a place in the air forces of U.S. partners around the world. But there is some downside to the new robot paradigm for the U.S. and its allies.

China’s military is improving at a great rate, growing larger and more technologically advanced by the week. One factor that’s holding them back is a shortage of pilots and good candidates for the training. So if China is able to develop a similar breakthrough, they can pump new planes into the air as fast as the factories can crank them out. And they’ve already made Dark Sword, an autonomous stealth drone with some fighter characteristics.

No matter how few pilots they can train.

Articles

75th anniversary of Battle of Midway marked in San Diego

On June 5th, seven veterans of the Battle of Midway joined about 1,000 people aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier to mark the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Ocean theater.


Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes, blocked by clouds, thundered above the USS Midway, a Navy carrier that was commissioned in 1945 to commemorate the battle. The carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and has been in a military museum in downtown San Diego since 2004.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Well-wishers lined up to shake hands with 102-year-old Andy Mills and other wheelchair-bound Midway veterans after a 90-minute ceremony that recounted how the landmark battle unfolded. One Midway veteran came from hospice care.

The 1942 battle occurred six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor after Navy code breakers broke complex Japanese code to reveal a plan to ambush US forces. The Japanese planned to occupy Midway, a strategic U.S.-held atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, and destroy what was left of the Pacific fleet.

When Japanese planes began bombing Midway, American torpedo planes and bombers counter-attacked in waves, bombing and sinking four Japanese carriers on June 4. The fighting continued for another three days before the United States proved to be victorious.

6 things troops always buy after deployment
The USS Maryland received little damage during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the hull of the capsized USS Oklahoma and the burning USS West Virginia are visible in this photo with it. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations, told the audience that a string of “effective but decisive” actions led to a victory with razor-thin room for error.

“In hindsight, when you review the Battle of Midway, you can see like a series of strokes of amazing luck. And when you put those strokes together, it’s like a miracle occurred at Midway. It trends towards the miraculous,” he said.

Anthony J. Principi, who served as secretary of veterans affairs from 2001 to 2005, wrote in the Military Times that that Navy commanders made “coordinated, split-second, life-and-death decisions.”

6 things troops always buy after deployment
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“We won because luck was on our side, because the Japanese made mistakes and because our officers and men acted with great courage amidst the chaos of battle,” he wrote.

The Midway, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, has hosted college basketball games, parties during the Comic-Con pop culture extravaganza, and TV tapings for shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

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