Aerial combat has been around for a little over 100 years, and during that time there have already been plenty of epic battles in the skies. Here are 7 of the most intense:
1. Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Japanese fleet securing the Marianas Islands in 1944 was in a tough spot. If it gave up any more ground, America would have bases to attack Japan and the Japanese-occupied Philippines. So, when the U.S. Fifth Fleet was spotted on its way to Saipan, the Japanese attacked it.
96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs moved to destroy Syrian surface-to-air missile sites on Jun. 9, 1982, successfully knocking out 17 of the 19 missile batteries in the first two hours. The Syrians launched their own jets to fight back, 100 of them.
And the Israelis stomped them. The air battle ran for two days and the Israelis scored 29 jet kills the first day and 35 the second without the loss of a single fighter.
At the end of the battle, 40 Royal Air Force planes and many crews were lost, but 56 German craft were downed and Germany was forced to cease daylight bombing raids.
4. Black Tuesday over MiG Alley
On Oct. 23, 1951, nine U.S. bombers with 89 jets escorting them stumbled into a group of 150 MiG-15s over MiG alley in Korea. The furious 20-minute battle resulted in six downed bombers and an escort lost. The Americans were able to down four of the Russian MiGs attacking them.
5. The Ofira Air Battle
In one of the first engagements of the Yom Kippur War, Syrian and Egyptian jets moved to bomb the Israeli aircraft at a base near Ofira. Two Israeli F-4s were in the air and took insult at 28 MiGs thinking they could just bomb Israelis whenever they liked.
In the dawn of jet combat, a group of German Me-262 jet fighters attacked an Allied formation of 1,329 bombers and 700 fighters. The numbers reported for the German jets vary, but most estimates are between 35 and 60.
The small German force used air-to-air rockets and jet engines, both new technologies at the time, to down 13 bombers and six fighters. Two German aircraft were shot down.
7. The air battle over the St. Mihiel Salient in WWI
In one of history’s largest and earliest air battles, nearly 1,500 Allied planes under the command of the First U.S. Army Air Force.
From Sep. 12-16, 1918, 610,000 men fought for the ground at St. Mihiel as the air forces clashed overhead. Despite a limited number of fighters and severe losses on the ground, German gave as good as they got in the air battle. They fought for control of the air for the first two days of the battle and killed 62 enemy aircraft while losing 63 of their own birds. The Germans did lose 30 balloons to the Allied loss of 4 though.
The US Navy finally completed the repair work on the propulsion system on its new supercarrier, but two defense contractors are still trying to figure out who has to pay the Navy back for repairs likely to reach into the millions.
Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., the shipbuilder, and subcontractor General Electric Co. are in a dispute over who is responsible for covering the costs incurred by the Navy for fixing the propulsion system, which, among other problems, has delayed delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford amid rising costs for the already over-budget carrier, Bloomberg reported Sep. 4, 2019.
The service announced recently that the repair work for the propulsion system on the Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carrier, has been completed. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, as it still needs to be tested.
The Ford first began experiencing problems with its propulsion system in April 2017, but it started having problems again during sea trials in January 2018, when the crew identified what was later characterized as a “manufacturing defect.”
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
The January incident was tied to a problem with a “main thrust bearing,” with the Navy concluding in a March 2018 assessment that the failure was caused by “machining errors” attributed to General Electric, Bloomberg reported last year.
More propulsion plant problems were detected in May of last year, when the ship was forced to return to port early to be repaired. Then, in March of this year, the Navy revealed that the Ford would spend an additional three months at the shipyard undergoing maintenance, partially due to continued problems with the propulsion system.
After repairs, the system is said to be good to go, but there are questions about who is going to pay the Navy back after it picked up the tab for those repairs with taxpayer funds. And right now, the Navy won’t say how much the repairs cost, with one spokesman telling Bloomberg that publishing “cost information could jeopardize the pending negotiations.”
Huntington Ingalls signaled its intent last year to seek compensation from General Electric, but the issue reportedly remains unresolved. Huntington Ingalls told Insider that “we continue to work with appropriate stakeholders to support resolution of this situation.” General Electric declined to comment.
Gerald R. Ford sitting in drydock during construction.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl)
“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy explained last month when it announced that the Ford’s propulsion system has been repaired. Indeed, the carrier has been something of a problem child as the Navy tries to get leap-ahead technology to work to the high standards of reliability needed for combat operations.
For example, there have been issues with the aircraft launch and arresting gear, and there continue to be problems with the weapons elevators designed to move munitions more rapidly to the flight deck.
The Ford is billions of dollars over budget with a total cost above billion, and lawmakers have been fuming over the many issues with this project.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, sharply criticized the Navy in July 2019, saying that its failures “ought to be criminal.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The First World War brought a level of destruction that the world had never seen before. At the start of the war, only the French, Russians, English, and Italians stood against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottomans with their respective territories/colonies/provinces each filing in under their protectorate states. Every corner of the world was forced to take sides, officially or otherwise.
Neutral nations would be asked politically at first, but were quickly strong-armed into supporting one side or the other. This same fate could have befallen Afghans — who were distrusting of British India to the East and the Allied Russians to the north — if the negotiations hadn’t gone spectacularly wrong.
Too easy, right? This is only the “Graveyard of Empires” we’re talking about here.
In September, 1915, the Germans saw in opportunity in exploiting the Afghan tribes’ strategic advantage against the Allied troops that had left British India to fight in Europe. Persia had been officially neutral, but swung sides depending on who was more in control (Note: This was before the Turkish Invasion of Persia, which would eventually solidify their anti-Ottoman stance). If Afghanistan would join the Ottomans, the Persians would certainly follow. After all, the Afghan people hated the British and most of the ruling parties. All that stood in the way of a Central Powers-controlled Middle East and a wide-open causeway through India was a hesitant Amir Habibullah Khan, then the leader of Afghanistan.
The Ottomans leveraged much religious control over their fellow Muslim nations. Grassroots protests ran rampant in British-controlled India. Things were at a tipping point and all it would take was some sweet talking by a Bavarian officer, Oscar Niedermayer, on official orders from the Kaiser to go win them over. On paper, the plan was flawless.
Don’t worry. Niedermayer maybe won’t screw things up just yet.
Mahendra Pratap, centre, with (left to right) Maulavi Barkatullah, Werner Otto von Hentig, Kazim Bey, and Walter Röhr. Kabul, 1916
Niedermayer and his team traveled to Constantinople to meet up with their Turkish counterparts. Despite being in friendly territory, the mission was to be highly covert — one that, if compromised, could end in death for everyone involved. Yet, when the Turks showed up to the Pera Palace Hotel, they found the Germans sh*tfaced drunk, openly telling everyone that they’re going on an Afghanistan Expedition. Understandably, the Turks said, “f*ck it” and left, unwilling to be part of a botched mission that would have them executed if gone poorly due to the actions of some drunken idiots.
After the disaster in Constantinople, Berlin sent in Prussian diplomat, Werner-Otto von Hentig, to join in. Von Hentig was a consummate professional and had brought with him Raja Mahendra Pratap, an Indian royal who wanted to take control back from the British, to aid in negotiations. Niedermayer took great offense to this and constantly butted heads with von Hentig.
The combined teams finally reached Kabul to start negotiations anew.
And celebrate they did. In only the truest of German manners.
Von Hentig and Pratap made friends with the Afghan ruler. Meanwhile, Afghan print media started stirring up anti-British sentiment. Months went by and negotiations continued. The war had started to cripple the Allies and Russia was on the verge of collapse after the “Great Retreat.”
In December, Amir Habibullah Khan ordered the drafting of treaty of friendship to establish an agreement between Afghanistan and Germany. By April 1916, things were looking good for the Central Powers. The enemy was getting weaker and they were inches away from gaining a strategic ally. They would, of course, celebrate.
The details of the event are still hazy, but it’s widely assumed that they got sh*tfaced once again — this time, in a Muslim country that strictly forbade alcohol. This turned into strong condemnation from Afghan leadership — even those who once supported their cause.
The Niedermayer–von Hentig Expedition was sent packing. Soon after, Persia was invaded by the Turks, which gave rise to a hard-line hatred of the Central Powers. As history shows, the Central Powers lost WWI. Amir Habibullah Khan was assassinated after the war’s conclusion by an anti-British coup that lead into the Third Anglo-Afghan War — which was lost in spectacular fashion.
All of history as we know it may have been rewritten were it not for one fateful night.
Following in the wake of the US Navy, a British warship recently challenged China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea, provoking a confrontation with the Chinese military and triggering outrage in Beijing, Reuters reported Sept. 5, 2018.
The warship HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship carrying a contingent of UK Royal Marines and one of three Royal Navy surface ships deployed to Asian waters in 2018, was confronted by the Chinese navy — a frigate and two Chinese helicopters — when it sailed close to Chinese-occupied territories in the Paracel Islands in late August 2018, Reuters reported.
The Chinese navy instructed the British vessel to leave the area, and the situation did not escalate further, the report said.
“HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms,” a spokesman for the Royal Navy told Reuters.
Beijing on Sept. 6, 2018, strongly criticized London’s actions, calling the recent incident a provocation.
“The relevant actions by the British ship violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters. “China strongly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with the British side to express strong dissatisfaction.”
“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” the ministry added, according to Reuters. “China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
Royal Marines assault craft exiting the stern of HMS Albion during amphibious operations in 2010.
The US military regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, often sending both warships and bombers past contested territories in the area. And Washington has been pressing allies and international partners to push back on Chinese efforts to dominate the strategic waterway.
London appears to be answering Washington’s call, and Beijing may be particularly upset because it could encourage others to do the same.
In August 2018, the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted joint military exercises in the South China Sea, putting on a show of force with aircraft carriers and other weapons systems in China’s backyard.
Gavin Williamson, the British defense secretary, said on June 3, 2018, — one day after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea — that the deployment of the Albion and other vessels to the region sent the “strongest of signals” on the importance of freedom of navigation.
“We believe that countries should play by the rules,” Williamson said in a clear reference to China.
Increased pressure by the US and Britain has not curbed China’s ambitions in the waterway, through which trillions of dollars’ worth of trade pass annually.
Over the past year, China has significantly increased its military presence in the region by deploying jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles at its outposts in the South China Sea. Chinese bombers have also become much more active in the area.
China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Sept. 6, 2018, that it would continue to dispatch ships and planes to confront countries outside the region that “continue to send warships to the South China Sea to stir up trouble.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Kremlin says it will study any British request to question the two men London suspects of trying to murder a former spy, in strict accordance with Russian law.
But spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no such request has been received so far.
Britain has charged two men, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, with attempting to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
British authorities accuse them of spraying a military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on Skripal’s front door in Salisbury in March 2018.
Peskov on Septe. 14, 2018, reiterated that the Kremlin denied any Russian state involvement in the poisoning.
Peskov’s comments come a day after the two men appeared in an interview on Kremlin-funded RT television station to proclaim their innocence.
The two denied they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU and said they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.
“Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city,” Petrov said in the interview.
“They have a famous cathedral there,” Boshirov said, adding: “It is famous for its 123-meter spire.”
James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as “lies and blatant fabrications.
“More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack,” he said.
British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of it on the front door of Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.
The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.
The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.
“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.
“The customs are checking everything.They would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”
They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.
“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.
In a statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.
“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said.
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March,” the statement also said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”
The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.
“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018.
Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.
The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.
“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during amassive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.
“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”
Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”
Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.
Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.
“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”
Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.
“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”
The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”
All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.
The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.
The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.
In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.
“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.
“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.
Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.
That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”
Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.
If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.
Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.
“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”
Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.
If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.
Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.
For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.
Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.
“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”
Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.
“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”
Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.
It doesn’t have to be North Korea. Russia, Iran, or even China could attack Hawaii and not necessarily have to take on all of NATO. Article V of the Washington Treaty, the foundational document of the 29-member alliance, outlines the collective defense triggers of the member states, but doesn’t just list the member states as a whole. The fine print, as it turns out, has one glaring omission.
Basically, if Japan ever wanted to go for round two, NATO would not have to come help the United States.
Aloha. But also, Aloha. Sorry.
The text of the treaty specifically delineates parts of the world that bind members to collective defense doesn’t cover those actual parts of the world. That portion of the treaty is covered in Article VI, which states “an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:”
• on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
•on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”
Which leaves out one thing: Hawaii.
When NATO was first formed in 1949, Alaska and Hawaii were still ten years away from gaining statehood. When the two territories became states in 1959, Alaska was covered by the NATO agreements, Hawaii was not. When the error was first raised in the public eye in 1965, the U.S. State Department dismissed the notion as a technicality.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any attack against the United States, whether directed at Hawaii or another state which would not be part of a major war,” Assistant Secretary of State Douglas MacArthur II told reporters. “In that event, the consultation and/or collective defensive provisions of the North Atlantic Treat would apply.”
But that sort of thinking didn’t materialize for Great Britain, which considers the Falkland Islands to be very much a part of its sovereign territory. When Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, NATO support didn’t materialize, and the United Kingdom swooped in unilaterally to take the islands back.
This doesn’t mean that NATO countries can’t get involved in defending a NATO member from an attack by another country but it does mean that Chinese bombers can rain death on Honolulu and as long they don’t hit military targets, NATO can stop at sending thoughts and prayers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Jan. 25 that modernized strategic bombers will boost Russia’s military power.
Speaking on a visit to an aircraft-making plant in Kazan, Putin said the revamped version of the Soviet-designed Tu-160 bomber features new engines and avionics that would significantly enhance its capability.
The Russian leader attended the signing of a 160-billion-ruble (about $2.9 billion) contract that will see the delivery of 10 such planes to the Russian air force.
He said the upgraded bomber is a “serious step in the development of high-tech industries and strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities.”
The four-engine supersonic bomber developed in the 1980s is the largest combat plane in the world. During Russia’s campaign in Syria, the military used the Tu-160s to launch log-range cruise missiles at militant targets.
Putin also suggested that the plant develop a supersonic passenger jet based on the Tu-160, saying that Russia’s vast territory would warrant such a design.
The state-controlled United Aircraft Corp. said in a statement carried by Tass news agency that preliminary work has started on designing such a plane.
The Soviet-designed Tu-144 supersonic passenger jet that rivaled the British-French Concorde saw only a brief service with Aeroflot after Soviet officials decided it was too costly to operate. Concorde entered service in 1976 and operated for 27 years.
The Department of Veterans Affairs warned June 14 it was unexpectedly running out of money for a program that offers veterans private-sector health care, forcing it to hold back on some services that lawmakers worry could cause delays in medical treatment.
It is making an urgent request to Congress to allow it to shift money from other programs to fill the sudden budget gap.
VA Secretary David Shulkin made the surprising revelation at a Senate hearing. He cited a shortfall of more than $1 billion in the Choice program due to increased demand from veterans for federally-paid medical care outside the VA. The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until early next year.
“We need your help on the best solution to get more money into the Choice account,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”
The department began instructing VA medical centers late last week to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors so it can slow spending in the Choice account. Some veterans were being sent to Defence Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA,” according to a June 7 internal VA memorandum.
The VA is also scrambling to tap other parts of its budget, including about $620 million in carry-over money that it had set aside for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs, according to a call the department held with several congressional committees June 13.
It did not rule out taking money from VA hospitals.
Shulkin on June 14 insisted that veterans will not see an impact in their health care. He blamed in part the department’s excessive use of an exception in the Choice program that allowed veterans to go to private doctors if they faced an “excessive burden” in traveling to a VA facility. Typically, Choice restricts use of private doctors only when veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.
Medical centers were now being asked to hew more closely to Choice’s restrictions before sending veterans to private doctors, Shulkin said.
He described the shortfall in the Choice program as mostly logistical, amounting to different checking accounts within the VA that needed to be combined to meet various payments.
Some senators were in disbelief.
They noted that VA had failed to anticipate or fix budget problems many times before. Two years ago, the VA endured sharp criticism from Congress when it was forced to seek emergency help to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall due in part to expensive hepatitis C treatments, or face closing some VA hospitals.Congress allowed VA to shift money from its Choice account.
“I am deeply concerned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., explaining that VA should have “seen this coming.” She said veterans in her state were already reporting delays in care and being asked to travel to VA facilities more than 4 hours away.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, expressed impatience.
“For months we’ve been asking about the Choice spend rate and we were never provided those answers to make an informed decision,” he said. “No one wants to delay care for veterans — no one — so we will act appropriately. For that to happen this late in the game is frustrating to me.”
Major veterans’ organizations said they worried the shortfall was the latest sign of poor budget planning.
Carl Blake, an associate executive director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA has yet to address how it intends to address a growing appeals backlog as well as increased demands for care. “The VA could be staring at a huge hole in its budget for 2018,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we have enough money, that we can move it around. That is simply not true.”
The shortfall surfaced just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured the Choice program was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over in the account on Aug. 7, when the program was originally set to expire. That VA estimate prompted Congress to pass legislation last March to extend the program until the Choice money ran out.
Shulkin said he learned about the shortfall June 8.
Currently, more than 30 per cent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2014, as the VA’s 1,700 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more choice in seeing outside providers.
Navy investigators who looked into the event tallied up at least eight drinks for the admiral for the night of Apr. 7. Security cameras filmed Baucom stumbling around the hotel and hitting his head on a barstool during the night. He also wet his pants at one point, according to the Stars and Stripes.
Eventually, a hotel employee collected Baucom and took him to his room, said the Washington Times. But Baucom awoke and reemerged naked from the room hours later and his room door locked behind him.
Baucom later told a colleague he hadn’t packed pajamas because his suitcase was full and he didn’t want to pay a baggage fee for another bag, the Washington Post reported.
Two women staying at the hotel saw the admiral walking around the hotel and searching for a towel. They reported it to hotel employees and Baucom was led back to his room.
The admiral checked himself into a drug and alcohol program when he got back to his base, the Navy Times reported. He also has a medical condition that contributed to the incident.
Still, the Navy knows a drunken sailor when they see one and determined that his actions had more to do with his intoxication than his medication. The 34-year veteran was removed from his post and reprimanded for his behavior.