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February 2010

Has the last fighter pilot already been born?

(Written while watching my six for Pinch and his compatriots)

I was told that was true by a former commander of TOP GUN who obviously was highly invested in the whole fighter pilot mentality and world, and this was five years ago. It becomes more pertinent the more capable and ubiquitous drone aircraft become. I am not sure it is true, but we are at a point where having a human in the cockpit for the vast majority of the combat missions flown in our current wars can be more of a hindrance than a help. Humans have physical needs and consequently can't remain on station as long as drones. In most cases any ordnance fired is guided electronically and the pilot only ends up pushing a button. That can happen in a cockpit 20,000 ft. above the battlefield, or 10,000 miles away in Las Vegas. From a WaPo article:

Predator crews spent more than 630 hours searching for Zarqawi and his associates before they tracked him to a small farm northeast of Baghdad.

Minutes later, an F-16 fighter jet, streaking through the sky, released a 500-pound bomb that locked onto a targeting laser and killed Zarqawi.

The F-16 pilot, who faced no real threat from the lightly armed insurgents on the ground, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the same honor bestowed on Charles Lindbergh for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Predator pilots, who flew their planes from an Air Force base outside Las Vegas, received a thank-you note from a three-star general based in the Middle East. Senior Air Force officials concluded that even though the Predator crews were flying combat missions, they weren't actually in combat.

No offense to the F-16 pilot but that is ridiculous. A DFC for a mission that carried no more danger than a training run? Granted taking out Zarqawi was huge, but you may as well have given that medal to the freakin' 500 lb. J-DAM. And to completely stiff the drone operators is sorry.

I think that we do need human fighter pilots for now, but that we are not far from the time where fighter drones are a better answer. When was the last dogfight? Vietnam? And even if we must take on 4th and 5th generation Russian and Chinese fighters, aren't we going to be doing so at sensor range? Won't the determining factor be the ability to detect and launch on the other guy from the furthest away. If so wouldn't we be better served by having many more drones that can carry the same weapons and can stay on station longer?

Human frailties also greatly affect the design of fighter aircraft. We have this pesky need for blood to circulate and can only take a certain amount of force before our flesh and bones give out. Aircraft that aren't limited by the need to keep a pilot alive can fly a much bigger performance envelope and ought to be able to out fly the Russians and Chinese. With the administration cutting the F-22 and with the F-35 a weak alternative doesn't it make sense to put our money into existing programs working on these fighter drones? They are exponentially cheaper to build and you can't convince me we can't figure out how to make them work effectively. Until our enemies can field aircraft that can evade our missiles, we can simply put a fleet of drones that can see them long before the enemy closes for a shot and we can focus on the sensors and missiles. I wouldn't want to fly against that and I doubt our enemies would either.

Noah Shactman's team over at Danger Room has looked at landing fighter drones on aircraft carriers and making them see like pilots.

Juicebox Mafia TweetFight- The racism inherent in the system

There is a current kerfluffle going on over how many lawyers at the Justice Department previously worked trying to free all the innocent goat herders we have shackled in dank caves at Gitmo. It is a significant number and many of them hold important positions. Now advocates from the left and defenders of the foul craft of lawyering will find no problem with them moving from representing one interest to repping it’s polar opposite. Lawyers are noble creatures they say, able to look past their own feelings and worship only the truth that is law. Well BS to that. That may fly when you are talking about lawyers for grain companies moving to the Ag Dept. but this is our national security and I don’t think having a bunch of folks who are actively rooting for the other team is too smart.

Now Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, KKK) has been attempting to do his duty conducting oversight of a highly-politicized Justice Dept and for months has asked Mr. Holder for the names of the lawyers in our employ who were batting for the other team last season. Holder has been stonewalling and tap dancing. Grassley pointed out the names of two of the lawyers who we already know were working for the terrorists. One of them is of Indian descent and my main Attackerman, Spencer Ackerman, makes a quantum leap of dumbassery and deploys the race card against Grassley. All of the highly reasoned arguments he uses to fail epically in making his point as well as an entertaining TweetFight are arrayed for your delectation here.I added this to a new feature called Racist's Corner, because well I must be a racist too, right? I open up with a look at that intellectual powerhouse Maxine Waters.

Punching Out, Where It Counts

Winds of Change has an important post on the subject of something very basic:  having a rifle and a doctrine that can engage the enemy at the range where he is usually encountered.  In Afghanistan, that's out to about six hundred meters.

While the infantryman is ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan, his current weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate.

Comments from returning non-commissioned officers and officers reveal that about fifty percent of engagements occur past 300 meters. The enemy tactics are to engage United States forces from high ground with medium and heavy weapons, often including mortars, knowing that we are restricted by our equipment limitations and the inability of our overburdened soldiers to maneuver at elevations exceeding 6000 feet. Current equipment, training, and doctrine are optimized for engagements under 300 meters and on level terrain.

The "easy" solution is to buy a bunch of Grendel kits for the M4, and ramp up production of the round so that we can have it in the industrial quantities we need. By "easy," I mean, "not even a little bit easy, but still easier than the alternatives." Nevertheless, Doc Russia -- a former Marine rifleman, who is now a medical doctor -- has often endorsed the Grendel round to me, and I'm prepared to believe that he is uniquely positioned to understand the issues involved.

Two Marines

Two short pieces about Marines - the first from a brand new Officer and the second one from our own Major Pain:

Via Seamus comes this piece by Marine Officer Candidate Jordan Blashek, Princeton Class of 2009, who decided to turn down acceptance to medical school to join the U.S. Marine Corps and enter its Officer Candidate School, from which he graduated in December 2009. Written originally as an explanation of his decision for his high school classmates, it is worth reading – and appreciating – by us all.

You Joined Us” -- That phrase is carved into a steel plaque that tauntingly guards the entrance to the Officers’ barracks at Camp Barrett in Quantico, VA. As I hobbled inside, exhausted from another 15-hour day, my roommate half-jokingly pointed to the plaque, “Why did we do that again?” I smiled. Today had been a long day. Waking at 4 AM, we spent the next 9 hours outside in the pouring rain learning hand-to-hand combat and outdated bayonet techniques. Without warming layers, hats or gloves, our hands quickly went numb and our bodies started shaking uncontrollably in the 30-degree temperature. Finally, we were sent back inside to clean our rifles, which must be spotless before we can wash off our bodies. As 8 PM rolled around and we were still cleaning on a Friday night – when my high school and college friends were out at Happy Hours – I thought about that plaque on the wall: Why exactly did I join, again?

It’s a question I have tried to answer many times for my family and friends, but never feel as though I have fully conveyed my reasons. I made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the start of my senior year at Princeton, turning down an acceptance to medical school in the process. I kept the decision to myself until I broke the news to my shocked parents over Christmas Break. I ran through the litany of justifications for them: I wanted to serve my country. I wanted the camaraderie and the pride of being in the Marine Corps brotherhood. I needed the challenge to test my true capabilities and strength. I would receive the best leadership training on the planet, which would help me in any future career I chose. I wanted adventure and the chance to be a part of history in Iraq or Afghanistan. I wanted to exude that same confidence that I saw in every Marine officer I have met. Whether I convinced them or not, in the end, none of these “reasons” alleviated my parents’ understandable anxiety.

When I told my plans to anyone else, I felt as though I were talking to a brick wall – the Military, especially the Marine Corps, was simply outside their reality. My closer friends would nod their heads and say something to the effect of “Wow, that’s cool;” but since I was the perennial flake of the group, most did not take my decision very seriously. And to be honest, even I was not quite sure that I would follow through with the choice. In the comfort of my college dorm, the decision to become a Marine Corps officer seemed glamorously abstract. However, on October 1, 2009 my decision suddenly became very real when I arrived at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, VA.

My OCS experience was surreal. Along with 407 other “Candidates” – all college graduates with newly shaved heads – I ran around for 10 weeks carrying an M16 rifle, while the Marine Corps’ famous drill instructors screamed increasingly creative insults at us. In reality, we were beginning the painful, yet deliberate process of transforming from civilians into Marine officers through some of the most intense training that exists in the US military. Meanwhile, the drill instructors continually evaluated our leadership potential as part of the time-honored tradition whereby enlisted Marines select the officers that will eventually lead them in combat. After nearly half of the officer candidates were dropped or dropped out on their own, we emerged from OCS standing a little taller and a little straighter on graduation day, December 11, 2009. That afternoon, I raised my right hand to swear the oath of office and receive my commission as a second lieutenant. That oath obligates me to serve a minimum of four years in uniform.

Ultimately, I joined the US Marine Corps because I believe that officers bear the most solemn responsibility in our nation, and that was a duty I could not, and should not, leave for others to assume. To say that I wanted that responsibility is not quite right, because being a Marine officer is not about one’s self, wants or needs; it is about guiding the young 18 and 19 year-old Marines fighting this country’s wars on our behalf. I decided that serving them was the highest honor and responsibility I could have at this point in my life. As one speaker at my commissioning ceremony explained:

“As second lieutenants, you must have a strong sense of the great responsibility of your office; the resources which you will expend in war are human lives. This is not about you anymore. This is about the young Marines who will place their lives in your hands. It is your job to take care of them, even when that means placing them in mortal danger. That awesome responsibility – the weight which now rests on you – is reflected in those gold bars which you will soon place on your shoulders.”

That is why the plaque hangs in every portal through which we pass – You Joined Us. We chose to bear this responsibility and we must make absolutely sure we are prepared to fulfill it, because young American lives are at stake. If that means being cold and miserable; studying for ungodly hours; and going for days without sleep, then so be it. That is the price of the salute we receive from our Marines.

Five months into my service commitment, I have not regretted my decision for a moment. I already have unforgettable memories from my experience and new friendships with diverse and exceptional peers from all over the country. We have had moments of pure fun together and laughed harder than I ever thought possible. We have also been humbled by the stories and portraits of brave Lieutenants – those who fought and died after roaming the very halls where we now stand and their portraits hang. Most of all, I am immensely proud to bear the title of ‘United States Marine,’ an honor that I will carry with me my entire life.

Semper Fi.

And Major Pain (over at his blog "One Marine's View") talks about what the Marines are bringing to Afghanistan, a place that Lieutenant Blashek is sure to visit in the short future.


...I can tell you first hand, although tragic and inconceivable, of the pain experienced by the fellow family members when their loved one is lost, I know their sacrifice is not wasted. The enemy here despises us as we are kicking the living dog shit out of them. It’s not the superior technology in this type of war that wins, it’s the Marine conducting the light infantry skills he was born to know. We continue to cut off the enemy's decision making ability faster than they can make it, find IED cells while processing materials and destroying them before 90% of them ever make into the ground, and of those 10% that make it into the ground, we find over 80% of those before they are detonated.  The enemy capitalizes on the coward ways of indiscriminate tactics like IEDs that wound innocent kids, and when they do muster enough intestinal fortitude to face us one on one they shoot from behind innocent civilians.  Know your young warriors utilize the utmost discipline and skill to bring the wrath onto the enemy and when they have them in their sights, it’s not the stealth aircraft above, the millions of dollars in technological equipment, it’s the smart young warrior that hunts the enemy down and doesn’t allow them to escape...

Read the whole piece at Major Pain's blog.

Should crimes against veterans carry stiffer punishments?

Recently, criminals in Colorado broke into a car and stole irreplaceable personal effects from the widow of a fallen veteran of Afghanistan. When I posted on the incident, one of our readers posted that "military veterans should receive special legal privileges and protection similar to hate crime legislation that protects homosexuals, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, etc."

Should they?

To those who have sworn an oath to "support and defend the Constitution," I direct you to the Fourteenth Amendment: "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

My take on this is that the race, color, creed, religion, sexual preference, or in this case the occupation of the victim should not affect the sentencing of a criminal act. If a veteran of Vietnam or Afghanistan is murdered, they are just as dead as someone who hasn't served, right? To me, if someone steals the photos and dog tags of a fallen hero from his widow, the punishment of theft in general is not sufficient to deter the act. After all, did the thieves break into the car because the victim was a veteran's widow?

In my state, first responders are a "protected" category - if someone attacks me while I am working, it becomes a felony assault and battery. Why am I more equal under the law than, say a pizza delivery driver (who get mugged FAR more often than firemen)? And since I am a veteran, should that crime carry an even stiffer penalty?

I say no. But the purpose of this post is to open up the dialogue to the Blackfive readership. Looking forward to your responses.

This Week in American Military History

Military Milestones from Sackville to Suribachi (from W. Thomas Smith, Jr.'s Human Events Series)

Feb. 22, 1909:  One-hundred-one years ago today, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet” –a four-squadron armada of white-painted warships manned by some 14,000 sailors and Marines – returns to Hampton Roads, Virginia after sailing around the world in a grand show of American Naval power. According to the Naval Historical Center, an anonymous sailor may have said it best: “We just wanted to let the world know we were prepared for anything they wanted to kick up. We wanted to show the world what we could do.”

Feb. 22, 1967:  The U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts the first and only mass parachute jump of the Vietnam War. The jump is but one element of the much broader airborne (primarily heliborne assault) and infantry “search and destroy” operation, Junction City. The operation will continue through May.

Feb. 22, 1974:  Lt. J.G. Barbara Ann Allen Rainey becomes the first female Naval aviator. In 1982, she will be killed in a crash while training a student pilot.

Feb. 23, 1778:  Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Army officer – arguably the father of American drill instructors – arrives at Valley Forge with the task of whipping the Continental Army into shape.

Continue reading "This Week in American Military History" »

My favorite politician

It is fairly well known that I am not a fan of politics or politicians. I think the kind of people who infest our Parliament of Hoors are by and large low and base. Well I have been exposed to a wonderful gentleman who serves as a Member of the Euro Brothel. The Right Honorable Ass-Kicker Nigel Farage is a treasure. I have a video of him welcoming the new Euro Prez to work and another of him ripping pretty much all the Euroweenie ruling class a new one. Bravo Sir!

Dems torture our interrogation capabilities

I expect little from our Parliament of Hoors, and they have managed to dig a tunnel beneath those expectations. The House has an amendment in the Intelligence Bill that would criminalize just about anything you could do to a terrorist other than give him ice cream. Seriously, it makes putting a hood on them a federal crime, punishable by up to 15 years. I am not joking.