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02 Apr 20. US Army Wants To Train Hundreds of Soldiers in Coronavirus ‘Safety Bubbles.’ Entire companies and battalions could be isolated in the field for a month, Secretary McCarthy said in an interview.
The U.S. Army is working on plans to continue training large groups of troops amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic by creating “safety bubbles” around groups of healthy soldiers, Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a Thursday interview. The idea is to test an entire company or battalion of soldiers, and if none have COVID-19, send them into the field for a month with prepackaged meals to do the kind of collective training exercises that social distancing guidelines have made risky on military bases throughout the United States.
“We’re going to look at how big the size of a cohort can be. This is all brand new for us,” McCarthy said. “These are concepts we’re looking at that we may have to put in play downstream in the very near future. Because, obviously, we can’t wait a year until there’s a vaccine.”
The Defense Department has sought to balance the need to protect troops from the virus while maintaining their readiness to fight. Some critics — including senior commanders within DoD’s own ranks — have argued that a healthy force is an essential part of readiness that is being neglected to prepare for a hypothetical war the U.S. isn’t fighting right now.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, wrote in an extraordinary March 30 letter to Navy leaders begging for help to evacuate and isolate the majority of his 4,800-person crew.
The key to the Army’s plan is pushing more coronavirus testing kits out into the field, McCarthy said. His service has a “substantial amount,” he said, but is still figuring out where to send them. (The first shipments went to deployed troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.) Right now, Army leaders don’t have a clear projection of how many troops they expect to be sickened by the virus. National health experts believe that 100,000 to 250,000 Americans are likely to die of COVID-19.
The Army uses the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotspot models as a baseline and “we’re trying to apply it to our installations,” McCarthy said. But the CDC’s model is “not an apples-to-apples comparison, which is why we don’t have enough data to make a pure determination yet, but we’re getting close.”
The Army has already tested an early pilot model of the “safety bubble” concept. On Tuesday, some 800 soldiers were taken in 32 sterilized buses from Basic Combat training in South Carolina to bases in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. The soldiers were screened for COVID-19 symptoms, but not tested for the coronavirus. The effort required more vehicles than normal because service members maintained social distancing on the buses, which were equipped with bathrooms so that they could travel without making any stops.
The biggest weakness McCarthy sees — the easiest opportunity for the virus to wreak havoc among Army troops — are combat arms units, like infantry battalions, and basic training environments in which recruits live and eat in close quarters.
“I see a lot of challenges there,” McCarthy said.
Over the past two weeks, he said, he spent considerable time with TRADOC commander Gen. Paul Funk looking at the protocols and thinking of ways to adjust.
As of Thursday morning, there were 893 cases of coronavirus among active duty service members, according to the Pentagon’s daily fact sheet.
Some service members have complained that the Pentagon — including Army leaders — didn’t do enough early on to prevent the spread of the disease amongst its servicemembers. In several cases, the Army moved before the Defense Secretary to put travel restrictions and other public health measures in place for its service members, giving the impression of an institution reactively lurching to respond to the ballooning crisis.
McCarthy said communication between senior leaders in the Pentagon has improved in recent weeks, streamlining the building’s response to the crisis.
“This is decentralized because this is a massive organization,” McCarthy said, referring to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 response efforts. “What we’ve done as a collective leadership team is meet more frequently, all the services and all the [combatant commands].”
“Some of it is good because by doing it uniformly with the services and OSD, it’s not, ‘Why are you Charlie?’ ‘Why are you Bravo?’” McCarthy said, referring to health protection statuses that the military designates its installations to dictate public health policy. “We don’t want to confuse anybody. That’s how this has kind of morphed.”
So far, senior leaders across the service branches insist that coronavirus has not reduced force readiness.
“Quite frankly, we’ve weathered the last month pretty well from a readiness standpoint,” McCarthy said.
Navy leaders insisted Wednesday that the Roosevelt remains “fully operational” now, even as over 4,000 of its crew members are being evacuated to shore-side facilities in Guam.
““If the ship needs to go, the ship can go,” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told reporters.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has pushed back on the notion that the military should curtail its defense activities to combat the virus.
“There seems to be this narrative out there that we should just shut down the entire US military and address the problem that way. That’s not feasible,” Esper said during the White House’s daily coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday. “Our mission is to protect the United States of America and our people… I’m confident that the commanding officers and senior noncommissioned officers are taking every reasonable precaution to make sure that we practice as best we can social distancing, sanitizing environments, etc, consistent with that mission.”
It was not immediately clear who was suggesting that the military should “just shut down.” (Source: Defense One)
01 Apr 20. US and Japanese members carry out Pacific Weasel exercise. US Air Force (USAF) members have joined forces with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members for Pacific Weasel exercise over Draughon Range.
The exercise saw participation from members of the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons of Misawa Air Force Base (AFB), Japan. As reported by US technical sergeant Chris Jacobs from 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, the exercise’s iteration included F-16 multirole fighting Falcons from the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons and command and control assets assigned to the 610th Air Control Flight.
It also included surface-to-air missile simulators from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) 101st Antiaircraft Artillery Unit from Camp Hachinohe.
35th Operations Support Squadron operations assistant director Major Daniel House said: “Each (Pacific Weasel) provides opportunities to train in a larger event with other aircraft than we would be able to train with in standard day-to-day training.”
In 2018, the 35th Fighter Wing commenced practices for the large-force exercises. Each exercise iteration was enhanced and improved upon.
13th Fighter Squadron electronic combat pilot Captain Peter Magness said: “The (Pacific Weasel) exercises are a great time for us to fully mission plan, execute and debrief a mission set that is essential to Misawa and our host nation partners.
“We had the opportunity to train with SAM site operators. Misawa (AFB) is fortunate to have a series of emitters at Draughon Range that we get to train with, but the incorporation of the JGSDF into (Pacific Weasel) gives us an extra layer of realistic training for our Wild Weasel mission.”
The 35th Fighter Wing hosts the only units in the Indo-Pacific region whose mission includes suppression of enemy air defences or the Wild Weasel mission. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
01 Apr 20. Sweden pushes back after allies ditch military exercise. The Swedish military says it is against canceling a major military exercise in May even after several allies have pulled out. The Aurora 20 military drill is scheduled to be held from May 11 through June 4 on air, land and sea in the southern Skane region with some 3,000 international troops.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports Canada and Germany have canceled participation and Austria is considering not coming. Britain will substantially scale down contribution. The United States and Nordic neighbor Finland have said they will attend Aurora 20.
Spokesman Marcus Nilsson from the Swedish Armed Forces told SVT it was utterly important for Sweden to arrange the drill in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic to show that “when the society is in a crisis, the defense must be at its strongest.”
Many national and international military exercises in Europe have been called off in the past weeks due to the spread of COVID-19.(Source: Defense News)
30 Mar 20. Ukrainians wrap up Ugandan aircraft upgrade. A team of 14 Ukrainian pilots, engineers, and designers from the Odessa Aviation Plant (OAP) have returned home from Uganda after repairing and upgraded six training and combat aircraft, Ukraine’s state-owned defence conglomerate UkrOboronProm announced on 28 March. It said the team was put in quarantine for 14 days due to the Corvid-19 epidemic. The work was carried out at Gulu Air Base under a contract awarded to Progress, a UOP-owned company. UkrOboronProm did not report the type of aircraft involved, but released supporting photographs showing Ukrainians in front of three Ugandan Aero L-39 Albatros training and light-attack jets. Ukrainian media and defence portals have reported that, under a 2018 agreement, eight Ugandan L-39ZA jets have been overhauled and modernised by OAP. (Source: Jane’s)
31 Mar 20. US and Israel complete joint F-35 training exercise. The airforces of the US and Israel have completed a joint training exercise called the ‘Enduring Lightning’ involving F-35 jets. The exercise included Israel’s ‘Adir’ (F-35I) aircraft from the Israel Air Force’s (IAF’s) 140 squadron (Golden Eagle) and the US Air Force’s F-35 aircraft from its 34th Fighter Squadron. Additionally, the IAF’s 122 squadron (Nahshon), which operates the Gulfstream G-500 aircraft, participated in the exercise held over southern Israel.
During the drill, the teams practised various sorties against a range of strategic aerial and ground threats. The exercise involved only aerial drills without face-to-face encounters between Israeli and US teams.
Classified communications devices were used for debriefings and briefings the teams due to Covid-19 threat. IAF International Exercises Department head Major T said: “I see great importance in cooperating on the most advanced plane in our collection with us as hosts.
“The IAF finds it important to work together with the Americans, leaders of the F-35 project, see how they operate, learn from them, and strengthen cooperation in the field of cutting-edge aviation technology.”
Earlier, Israel’s Adir participated in two such exercises that involved foreign F-35 jets. In June last year, the Isareli aircraft took part in the joint training exercise Tri-Lightning that involved US Air Force and Royal Air Force. Furthermore, in November, Adir featured in the international ‘Blue Flag’ exercise that hosted Italian F-35s.
However, this is the first time American F-35 aircraft participated in a joint training exercise above Israeli skies.
Major T added: “We intend to create an exercise so it will eventually become a home court exercise. In other words, we aspire to train like we did yesterday with American forces here in Israel regularly.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
30 Mar 20. Cobham/SRC Announce T-6A Fleet ADS-B Out Upgrade Completion. Scientific Research Corporation deployed Cobham’s RMS 555 solution.
Scientific Research Corporation (SRC) and Cobham Aerospace Connectivity are announcing the on time completion of ADS-B Out compliance for the U.S. Government’s Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) fleet of T-6A aircraft. SRC, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has successfully retrofitted over 500 aircraft and aircrew training devices with new ADS-B Out-compliant transponders and Cobham’s upgraded RMS 555 Radio Management System.
Cobham’s RMS 555 software/firmware upgrade significantly reduced installation costs and simplified the aircraft modification work by minimizing changes to the aircraft configuration and pilot operations.
John Payne, General Manager North America, Cobham Aerospace Connectivity: “This successful program is indicative of Cobham’s commitment to full life-cycle product support by helping our customers adapt to changing technological and regulatory requirements. Completion of this program on-time and on-budget stands as a notable achievement for this business, for our partner SRC, and our mutual end customer, the JPATS program operations.” (Source: ASD Network)
27 Mar 20. French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle deploys to North Sea region for first time in 10 years. Key Points:
- The French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle is conducting its first deployment to the eastern North Sea region in a decade
- As part of the deployment, the carrier strike group exercised with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1
The French Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle has returned to the eastern North Sea for operations for the first time since 2010. As part of the deployment, the carrier strike group (CSG) exercised with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) in waters off Jutland, Denmark between 19–22 March.
“By deploying one of its most high-value maritime capabilities in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, France intends to demonstrate that this area is of strategic interest, as expressed in its  Strategic Security and Defence Review,” a CSG spokesperson told Jane’s on 27 March. (Source: Jane’s)
27 Mar 20. Draken begins flying refurbished Mirages in Aggressor role. Draken International has begun flying its Dassault Mirage F1M/B aircraft recently acquired from the Spanish Air Force, the company announced on 26 March. The contractor-based training company is now utilising the aircraft for ‘Red Air’ aggressor flying against US military and allied aircrews, following an extensive refurbishment and modification effort by South Africa’s Paramount Aerospace Systems, with much of the work being reassembly.
The first sorties out of Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada saw the radar-equipped and supersonic F-1M/Bs go up against unspecified ‘4th and 5th-Generation aircraft’ in the Nevada test and Training Range to develop and hone tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).
Draken acquired 22 single-seat Mirage F1M and twin-seat F1B fighter aircraft, which were certified at Draken’s Lakeland maintenance facility in Florida following the work carried out by Paramount.
Draken International already fields a fleet of Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, MiG-21s, Aero L-39s, and Aermacchi MB-339s, and the acquisition of the Mirage F1M/Bs coupled with the most recent purchase of 12 Denel Cheetah fighters in December 2017 have increased the company’s fleet size to more than 150 fighter aircraft. The trainer provider is looking to expand this fleet further, and is currently evaluating a number of options.
In June 2018 the US Air Force awarded Draken International a five-year USD280m contract to provide continued contractor-based ‘Red Air’ training. The indefinite-quantity contract for adversary air aggressor services continued to support the company’s provision of contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) “tactically-relevant aircraft” for air-to-air tracking, targeting, and adversary air (ADAIR) operations.
“Aggressor sorties are generated by COCO flight operations, to provide combat air training services that include tactical profiles, to include beyond-visual-range engagements, operational test support, dissimilar air combat manoeuvres, offensive and defensive within-visual-range manoeuvres, multi-ship tactics, merges, and flight. ADAIR sorties will integrate as part of the Air Force aggressor force in support of ADAIR requirements,” the contract award notification said. (Source: Jane’s)
27 Mar 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) has installed a new Predator Mission Trainer (PMT) at its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The aircraft flight simulator, produced by CAE, will be used to train operators of MQ-9 Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). GA-ASI offers a range of pilot and sensor operator training at the FTTC for operators of GA-ASI’s family of RPA systems. The new PMT extends the training capability of the FTTC, which already features a Block 1 simulator and Ground Control Systems (GCS).
“The Predator Mission Trainer will be used to advance the quality and capability of our RPA training at the FTTC,” said David R. Alexander, President, GA-ASI. “The PMT will increase training efficiency because it allows us to focus our training and repeat training events in the simulator more easily than on an actual flight system.”
The PMT provides very high fidelity training across the full spectrum of mission training, allowing GA-ASI to update its syllabus to rely more heavily on simulator training and reduce potential airspace and weather impacts.
“We believe the new Predator Mission Trainer will be a great training asset for our customers,” said Alexander.
GA-ASI anticipates this PMT will be the first of several to be fielded for its customer base.
01 Apr 20. Australia halts Marine Rotational Force deployment due to Covid-19. The Australian Government has paused the 2020 Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) deployment due to the ongoing restrictions associated with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Australia and the US plan to devise options for a possible deployment in the future. This is subject to an improvement in the virus containment situation and the viability of such a deployment proceeding.
The decision to postpone 2020 MRF-D is not expected to affect Australia’s commitment to host MRF-D rotations in the coming years.
Australia Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said in a statement: “I remain fully engaged with Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner on this matter.
“I have also reiterated to Chief Minister Gunner that the government is committed to supporting the Australian defence industry during this difficult time, including businesses in the Northern Territory.
“Our ability to host such deployments, alongside the unmatched degree of interoperability we enjoy, is clear testimony to the enduring strength and sense of purpose of the Australia-US alliance.”
The MRF–D initiative involves the annual rotation of US Marines through Northern Australia for about six months during the dry season.
During the initiative, a range of training activities will be undertaken unilaterally with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and other Indo–Pacific nations.
The first rotation was conducted in 2012 with 200 US Marines. The deployment provides opportunities to deepen interoperability with the ADF. The MRF–D 2019 rotation, which consists of 2,500 US Marines, includes an enhanced command element headed by a colonel, a ground combat element, and a logistics combat element. (Source: naval-technology.com)
Meggitt introduces the next generation of immersive training — the FATS® 180MIL.
Delivering 180° high definition projection and 5.1 surround sound, the FATS 180MIL increases training realism, heightening awareness and proper use of force responses. Three borderless screens fit into almost any space with at least a 10’ tall ceiling, providing a 150” X 84” (16:9 aspect ratio) borderless projection surface. It also includes:
- Military Validation – The same high-fidelity ballistic engine validated by the US Army, USMC and other military customers.
o Provides accurate ballistic characteristics in flight.
o Supports and enforces the proper fundamentals of marksmanship.
- Immersive Training – Supports both 3D Marksmanship and Judgmental training.
- Courseware – Delivered with full array of training courseware.
- Hit Detection System – Three digital cameras interface directly with Off-CPU real-time (OCR) processor used by FATS® 100 system for easy upgrade path.
- Projectors – Ultra short throw projectors provide freedom of movement, displaying stunning visuals in 180°environment.
- Low-Light Subsystem (optional) – Practice in simulated low-light conditions with hand-held and weapon-mounted flashlights.
- Rack – Uses same transportable rack as the FATS 100 system.
- Realistic Sounds – Self-powered audio system plays scenarios in 5.1 surround sound. Using directional sound effects board, the instructor can incorporate unsettling sounds from any direction, including barking dog, crying baby, gunshots and more to elevate situational awareness.
- Supports up to 60 simulated weapons, including FATS weapons and ammunition types. Up to 4 simulated weapons can be assigned to a single user.
With the FATS 180MIL, users feel they’re in the action, facing decision-making pressures while maintaining situational awareness.