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Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

You may think that when a plane is retired by the Air Force, the Department of Defense is simply done with it. The only options from here are being sold second-hand, getting scrapped, becoming a museum installation, or getting lucky and becoming a civilian warbird. Well, there is another option – planes can continue to serve, but that service usually comes to a fiery end.

That’s because old fighters make for useful target drones. These eight successful fighters all found use well after retirement.


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A F6F Hellcat meets its end at the hands of an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile in 1957, more than a decade after the end of World War II.

(U.S. Navy)

1. F6F Hellcat

Over 11,000 F6F Hellcats were produced, so it’s no surprise that this classic ended up doing target drone duty. In the late 1950s, Hellcats served as targets for the early versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Today, the FAA shows only 11 registered Hellcats.

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The QF-86 Sabre was still in service with the United States military in 1991 – four decades after F-86 Sabres blasted Commies out of the sky.

(U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Bruce Trombecky)

2. F-86 Sabre

The most famous plane of the Korean War didn’t leave service when the Air National Guard retired its last F-86 in the 1970s. Instead, F-86s served as target drones in the 1990s — long after they dominated MiG Alley.

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A F-16 Fighting Falcon takes down a QF-100 Super Sabre in a test of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

(USAF)

3. F-100 Super Sabre

The F-100 Super Sabre also saw years of post-retirement service as a target for missiles. The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile’s deadliness was honed on QF-100 Super Sabres.

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The F-102 served as a target drone into the 1980s.

(USAF)

4. F-102 Delta Dagger

Former President George W. Bush’s old steed saw some service as a target drone for a decade after its retirement. The last of the QF-102/PQM-102s were shot down in 1986.

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The Air Force bought less than 300 F-104s, but some became target drones.

(USAF)

5. F-104 Starfighter

This plane didn’t see much service with the United States, but was purchased in large numbers by American allies. The QF-104 extended the F-104’s otherwise brief service with the United States military.

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The F-106 Delta Dart was replaced by the F-15 in the 1980s, but those that were turned into target drones came within a couple of years of serving into the 21st century.

(NASA photo)

6. F-106 Delta Dart

The F-106 Delta Dart succeeded the F-102 as an interceptor in the 1960s, so it seems natural the QF-106 would succeed the QF-102/PQM-102 force as targets. The Delta Dart’s last mission as a target drone was in 1997.

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The QF-4 Phantom served for over two decades as an oversized clay pigeon for various missile tests.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Jon Hurd)

7. F-4 Phantom

The F-4 was a workhorse for the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for decades. However, it also put in roughly two decades as a drone. It finally flew its last mission in 2016.

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The QF-16 Fighting Falcon will be serving as a target drone for the foreseeable future.

(USAF photo by MSgt. J. Scott Wilcox)

8. F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 replaced some F-4s in active United States Air Force service – as well as in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Now, the first QF-16 target drones are taking flight as targets for missile tests.

The fighters that end up as target drones meet a noble end. Though they no longer fly missions in-theater, they ensure that the missiles used by American military personnel are reliable.

Articles

‘Lt. Dan’ received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

And he did it while thanking World War II veterans for “defeating tyranny”.


Gary Sinise paid tribute to military veterans as he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” actor was joined by members of the armed forces and emergency services during the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard.

The 62-year-old was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Vietnam War veteran Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump and created the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2003 to support servicemen and women.

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On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.

“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.

“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.

“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”

General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.

Also read: 11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about helping vets

Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”

Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.

Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.

Articles

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president. This year will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prior to the 20th amendment, Inauguration Day was always March 4, the anniversary of the Constitution taking effect. January 20 has been “the day” since 1933, unless it falls on a Sunday. This and some of the more modern traditions are the only things that will still be the same. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to ravage the globe and our country. With this in mind, the majority of the inaugural events will be virtual. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has created some special events leading up to the big day. Here’s a partial list of televised events (all times listed are in eastern time).

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Image credit – Adam Schultz

Saturday, January 16 at 7pm there will be a virtual welcome event, American United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers, featuring musical guests and speakers to kick off the festivities. The focus will be on the country’s unsung heroes and the impacts they have made with their work. Sunday, January 17 at 8pm, the inaugural committee will have a concert titled, We the People

Monday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The soon-to-be president has dedicated the day to service. To honor the spirit of King, it has been designated as the National Day of Service. The call to action is for Americans all over the country to engage in a day of volunteerism within their own communities and the event has been titled United We Serve. That evening at 8pm eastern, there will be a virtual event with entertainers and speakers who will celebrate the legacy of King. 

Tuesday, January 19, will be a somber day; the day is dedicated to American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is inviting cities and communities across the country to join in on a moment of unity and remembrance at 5:30pm, by lighting their buildings and ringing their church bells. In Washington, D.C., there will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 

As in years past, Biden will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. Capitol alongside his soon to be Vice President, Kamala Harris. The attendance at the event will be minimal, with only congressional members present in accordance with safety protocols. But all across the National Mall there will be 200,000 American flags waving in the wind, in the place of Americans who would normally be there to witness the momentous event.  

Following the swearing in ceremony, the new president will make his address to the nation. The last part of this event will include the pass in review, a longstanding military tradition to reflect on the peaceful transfer of power. After that, the newly sworn in president and vice president will head to Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath on the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama, President George W Bush, President Bill Clinton and their spouses. 

Instead of the traditional parade to the White House that Americans are used to, the new president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will receive a presidential escort to the White House by representatives from every military branch. There will then be a full televised virtual parade, showcasing communities and citizens from all over the country. At 8:30pm, Tom Hanks will host Celebrating America, a prime-time television event in lieu of the traditional inaugural balls. President Biden and Vice President will offer remarks as well as a host of other speakers that represent the diversity of America. After that, President Biden and Vice President Harris will go to work.

To watch all of the inauguration festivities planned for the next five days, click here. Be sure to watch the swearing in LIVE on the We Are The Mighty Facebook page.

MIGHTY HISTORY

See how the Army evacuates wounded working dogs

Look, you all know what military working dogs are. Whether you’re here because they’re adorable, because they save lives, because they bite bad guys, or because they bite bad guys and save lives while being adorable, we all have reasons to love these good puppers. And the military protects these warriors, even evacuating them when necessary.


And so that brings us to the above video and photos below. Because, yes, these evacuations can take place on helicopters, and that requires a lot of training. Some of it is standard stuff. The dogs can ride on normal litters and in normal helicopters. But medics aren’t always ready for a canine patient, and the doggos have some special needs.

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Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

One of the most important needs particular to the dogs is managing their anxiety. While some humans get uncomfortable on a ride in the whirly bird (the technical name for a helicopter), it’s even worse for dogs who don’t quite understand why they’re suddenly hundreds of feet in the sky while standing on a shaking metal plate.

So the dogs benefit a lot just from helicopter familiarization training. And it’s also a big part of why handlers almost always leave the battlefield with their dogs. Their rifle might be useful on the ground even after their dog is wounded, but handlers have a unique value during the medical evacuation, treatment, and rehabilitation. If a dog is already hurt and scared when it gets on a helicopter, you really want it to have a familiar face comforting it during the flight.

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Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

But it’s not just about helping the dogs be more comfortable. It’s also about preparing the flight medics to take care of the dogs’ and handlers’ unique needs. Like in the video at the top. As the Air Force handlers are comforting and restraining the dogs, the helicopter crew is connecting handlers’ restraints because the handlers’ hands are needed for the dogs.

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Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

The personnel who take part in these missions, from the handlers to the pilots to the flight crews, all get trained on the differences before they take part in the training and, when possible, before any missions where they might need to evacuate a dog.

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(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Yarborough)

Of course, ultimately, the dogs get care from medical and veterinarian teams. Don’t worry about this good dog. The photo comes from a routine root canal.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The low-tech, fun way the Air Force is improving cyber defenses

As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.

Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.

To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.


“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”

In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.

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The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.

The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.

“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”

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The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.

Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.

As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military arrives to help US citizens hit by super typhoon

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the lead for Task Group Tinian, consisting of several hundred service members belonging to each branch of the U.S. military. The joint force, led by U.S. Marine Col. Robert “Bams” Brodie, is executing crisis-response in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to assist the U.S. citizens of Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, recover from Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 3, 2018.


Military members from across the Indo-Pacific region, spearheaded by the 31st MEU and Combat Logistics Battalion 31, began arriving here en masse on Oct. 29, 2018, four days after the historic storm swept directly across the isolated island, to enable the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission here. Led by FEMA officials and partnering with local government leaders and local law enforcement, the 31st MEU began categorizing urgent needs and establishing a base of support for partner and military units, including the U.S. Navy’s Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

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The dock landing ship USS Ashland sits idle off the coast during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We have effectively opened the door and laid the groundwork for long term forces of military members and federal aid workers to continue helping the Americans here on Tinian,” said Brodie, commander of the 31st MEU. “I am incredibly proud of the work these Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers have done in such a short time — it is incredible seeing the progress in only four days.”

Marines with the 31st MEU, U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-1 and 36th CES completed several imperative projects beginning Oct. 29, 2018, including purifying and distributing over 20,000 gallons of water; clearing two public schools, government buildings and the municipal power facility of downed trees and debris; and restoring emergency services’ capacity to respond to medical emergencies. All efforts lay the groundwork for the arrival of the dock landing ship USS Ashland, which arrived today with a well-equipped force of Marines belonging to CLB-31 and additional Seabees to augment existing capabilities already at work here.

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Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 walk along a cleared road during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“With the arrival of the Ashland and all its embarked Marines, sailors, heavy equipment and supplies, we can continue building our support capacity for both FEMA and local leaders’ priorities, not the least of which is helping establish temporary shelters for displaced families who lost everything to Yutu,” said Brodie. “This storm is historic — it had devastating effects on this island — but the people of Tinian are resilient and we’re glad to lend a hand to help them get back on their feet.”

During DSCA operations, the U.S. military provides essential, lifesaving and preserving support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. Led by FEMA, the U.S. Government’s domestic emergency response agency, the 31st MEU continues to partner with both local agencies and FEMA to address critical shortfalls of material and supplies to support the people of Tinian. The next steps include re-establishing semi-normalcy on Tinian, including set-up of temporary FEMA shelters for families with homes destroyed by Yutu.

“We are working with the Tinian Mayor’s office and FEMA to prioritize which families will receive temporary shelters because their homes were destroyed just more than a week ago,” said Brodie. “The 31st MEU’s Marines and Navy Seabees of NMCB-1 are the muscle for this important work, and we’re honored to work hand and hand with the resilient and courageous Americans on Tinian.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The original ‘Memphis Belle’ is now restored and on display

The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.

Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.

Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.


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The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.

(USAF)

According to an Air Force release, restoring the bomber has taken over 55,000 man-hours since 2005. She was saved from the scrapyard by the city of Memphis for a grand total of 0 in 1945. After that, the plane spent most of her days stored outside, left exposed to the elements, as she awaited proper preservation. In 2004, the Air Force reclaimed the bomber.

Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.

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The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.

(USAF)

The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.

Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be a woman in North Korea’s military

North Korea isn’t turning a lot of people away from military service. Men are universally drafted for service around age 17. If you’re in the political elite, chances are good your kids are safe. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. The lowest castes of the Korean hierarchy are also exempt – why would they fight for a system that hates them?

For women, the system is much, much different. The process is a little more selective and can be unsurprisingly horrifying.


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It can always get worse.

Women are stationed exclusively with other women, sleeping 30 to a barracks. Like in U.S. military basic training, they sleep in bunk beds with only a cabinet to hold their belongings. Their cabinets, however, also contain small photos of the leaders of North Korea. Lee So-yeon, a North Korean defector whose job was to infiltrate the south and relay artillery coordinates in the event of a war, had photos of deceased ex-President Kim Il-Sung and then-living Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il.

When she first arrived to her duty station in the early 1990s, the chow halls actually had menus of food items to choose from. In reality, they were just for show. The troops got bowls of rice with bits of corn. For special events, they would get bits of meat and little candies. Troops like Lee would slip into apple orchards to steal their fill.

Still, life among the troops was a proud life. War with the U.S. and South Korea is the paradise on earth they are promised from day one. Then there are other, less traditional positions.

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Especially for North Korea’s Harvey Weinstein over here.

The North’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung created a women’s pleasure squad, the kippumjo. The pleasure squads, sole job was to perform for the Leader, the leadership of the Korean Workers Party, and even sometimes the country’s honored guests. The 2,000-strong unit was said to have been disbanded by Kim Jong-Un after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011.

One member of this unit was Mi Hyang, who provided an incredible trove of information on Kim when she defected to the South years ago. She described a much different man than the propaganda made him out to be. She was recruited based on her looks and her height. Kim Jong-Il was very short, so any woman over 5’5″ was excluded. Like any other conscript, she was recruited in high school. Officers visited her school and took the prettier girls aside, asking if they’d ever been with a man and inspecting their bodies for scars and blemishes.

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Are we creeped out yet? Here’s how their service ends.

After they’re drafted, they trained for six months before being interviewed by the Dear Leader, who would then decide if he liked them. If he did, they could serve him until they turned 25, a period of ten years.

Other conscripts must now serve until age 30 but get none of the benefits of the kippumjo, like new appliances and a ,000 stipend. No one knows if the unit exists in any form under Kim Jong-Un. For the regular Army, their lives were dirty (they had no real ways to clean themselves, save for a garden hose that was sometimes filled with frogs), and a bed made of rice casings, only to wake up and perform the manual labor of cooking and cleaning.

Articles

Thousands of troops overseas won’t know if their votes were counted on election day

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Service member fills out an absentee ballot during the 2008 presidential race. (Photo: DVIDS)


One of the presidential candidates has been on the campaign trail making claims about how the election is “a rigged deal.” And while Donald Trump tries to make a linkage between perceived media bias against him and his declining poll numbers as evidence of this so-called “rigging,” history shows that the American voting process is not as much rigged as it is flawed in some ways.

And nowhere is this truer than with military absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots started during the Civil War when Union soldiers complained that they couldn’t exercise their right to vote because they were stationed along battle lines far away from their home states. President Lincoln, knowing it was going to be a close election and sensing he enjoyed the support of the troops because he was commander-in-chief, pushed to make absentee voting possible. States responded along party lines; Republicans passed laws allowing soldiers to mail ballots home from the war, and Democrats resisted such laws.

The idea died after the war but came back to the attention of lawmakers some 85 years later during World War II. Both Democrats and Republicans figured GIs would support President Roosevelt, which is why Democrats liked the idea and Republicans did not. Most states passed a law allowing absentee ballots, and as a result, nearly 2.6 million service members voted during the 1944 election, according to Donald S. Inbody of The Washington Post.

Demand grew in the decades that followed and processes for absentee ballots, including those used by the military, varied from state to state. Finally, Congress passed overarching guidance in the form of the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986.

That guidance was imperfect, however. States often mailed ballots out too close to the election to be returned from overseas in time to be counted. As a result, service members grew disenfranchised and often chose not to participate fearing that to do so would be a waste of time.

This sense came to a head during the controversial presidential election of 2000 between Bush and Gore. Gore, the Democratic candidate, conceded only to take it back after discovering that he was actually winning the popular vote and the count in the crucial state of Florida was only separated by several hundred votes. The Democrats demanded a recount, and lawyers sprang into action across polling places statewide. Suddenly words like “hanging chads” (referring to stuck cut-outs on punch cards used to tally votes on antiquated machines) were part of the national lexicon.

Several thousand military absentee ballots came into play in this winner-take-all scenario. Once again lawmakers came down along party lines. Democrats — fearing the military voters were mostly Republican — tried to have the ballots thrown out because they had arrived past the deadline or weren’t postmarked. The Bush campaign ultimately got the ballots counted, which allowed W. to win the election and become the 43rd president.

Because of that chaos, Congress created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to better provide information about elections and passed the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act of 2009, which forced states to overhaul election laws to allow troops to request ballots and register to vote electronically. States were also required to have ballots ready to mail 45 days before an election to ensure enough time for the service member to get it back to be counted.

But these actions have far from fixed the problem. As Eric Eversole wrote in The Washington Times, during the 2010 election cycle many local officials missed the 45-day-prior deadline by more than two weeks. The result was upwards of 40,000 military absentee ballots sent only 25 days before election day, not enough time to make it out to ships at sea or forward operating bases and then back to the U.S.

And that’s not the only problem. Military absentee ballots are supposed to be tallied by home states and sent to the EAC, which is charged with reporting the results to Congress, but an independent study of EAC data conducted by the Walter Cronkite School’s News21 national reporting project found that 1 in 8 jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received, or rejecting more ballots than they received.

According to News21, some local voting officials think the EAC’s forms for recording military overseas participation are confusing.

“How am I supposed to account for ballots that are sent to domestic addresses but are returned from overseas?” asked Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in a Florida county with a large population of active duty Air Force personnel. “There are just too many potential anomalies in the way we have to provide service to these voters.”

The process is also complicated on the service member’s side, mostly because of the inherent challenges of the mail systems at the far reaches of America’s military presence around the world but also because the availability of voting information varies between commands.

Matt Boehmer, the director of DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, told News21 that service member confusion “is exacerbated by the fact that military voters never receive confirmation that their ballots were counted.” FVAP has recommended that state election officials notify troops when their ballots are counted.

But in spite of all of the issues challenging the military absentee ballot process, military leaders urge their subordinates to participate in the voting process.

“It’s what you raise your hand to do, support and defend the Constitution,” Capt. Yikalo Gebrehiwet, a company commander at Ft. Bragg, told News21. “The best way to do that is by voting.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force test launches Minuteman III missile

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 1:13 a.m. PST Oct. 2, 2019, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and reassure our allies. Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.


“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is fully in place. Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:13 a.m. PST, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.

Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB were selected for the task force to support the test launch. Malmstrom is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity for Malmstrom (AFB’s) team of combat crew and maintenance members to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS and 30th Space Wing,” said Maj. Kurt Antonio, task force commander. “I’m extremely proud of the team’s hard work and dedication to accomplish a unique and important mission to prepare the ICBM for the test and monitor the sortie up until test execution. The attention given to every task accomplished here reflects the precision and professionalism they — and our fellow airmen up north — bring every day to ensure the success of our mission out in the missile field.”

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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:13 a.m. PST, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

popular

This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

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Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

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Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the Marines’ new Night Vision Devices

An updated helmet-mounted night vision system is beginning to make its way to infantry units. Marine Corps Systems Command accelerated the acquisition of about 1,300 Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles using existing Defense Logistics Agency contracts.

“We have employed a bridge capability to give Marines the best gear right now available in the commercial marketplace,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons. “A final procurement solution will allow a larger pool of our industry partners to bid on the program.”


Army/Navy Portable Visual Search devices, or AN/PVS, have been employed by the military since at least the 1990’s and upgraded with next-generation systems as funding and technology became available.

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Marines took delivery of the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles during new equipment training in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(Photo by Joseph Neigh)

The move to the SNBVG is expected to enhance the infantry’s lethality and situational awareness in reduced visibility. It combines two systems: a binocular night vision device and an enhanced clip-on thermal imager.

“It’s a little bit lighter than the current system, and gives Marines better depth perception when they are performing movements,” said Joe Blackstone, Optics team lead at MCSC.

Marines took delivery of the equipment and learned how to use them in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Known as NET, the new equipment training entails teaching Marines about the operations, characteristics, maintenance and use of the new devices.

“The lethality that it’ll bring is exponential [sic],” said Cpl. Zachary Zapata, a Marine who participated in the training. “With these new [BNVGs], having the ability to not only use thermal optics along with it, but just the entire depth perception and speed that we can operate in is going to significantly increase, as opposed to what we were able to do in the past.”

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron James B. Vinculado)

The initial buy and follow-on procurement is being funded with Marine Corps dollars as prioritized by the Department of Defense Close Combat Lethality Task Force, which concentrates on the squad-level infantry and is aimed at ensuring close combat overmatch against pacing threats. The SBNVG acquisition strategy is to procure the devices incrementally and concurrently as the Corps looks toward future technologies.

“Right now, we are participating with the Army on their next generation night vision systems, both the Enhanced Night Vision Device-Binocular and Integrated Visual Augmentation System Programs,” Hough said. “We are eager to see the maturation of these capabilities for adoption to improve the effectiveness of our Marines.”

The program office plans on releasing a final request for proposals to procure an estimated 16,000 additional systems on the basis of full and open competition. According to program officials, a draft request for proposals was posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website in mid-November 2018, and closed on Dec. 19, 2018. The Government is currently adjudicating comments and anticipates release of a final RFP in the near future.

Additional fielding of the systems is planned for September 2019. While the devices may eventually make their way to the entire Ground Combat Element, for now the first priority is given to the Marine Rifle Squad, program officials said.

“This program office is committed to bolstering the combat lethality, survivability, resilience and readiness of the GCE,” said Hough.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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