Nissan Wants to Block Ghosn’s Relatives From Accessing His Rio Apartment, Destroy Evidence

Nissan is looking to block its former chairman Carlos Ghosn from accessing a Rio de Janeiro apartment, saying that the disgraced auto exec is at risk of destroying or removing incriminating evidence, reports Reuters.

Ghosn has apparently been detained in Tokyo since being arrested Nov. 19 for allegations that he conspired with aide Greg Kelly to hide $44 million (5 billion yen) of compensation—around half of what he actually made—from 2010 to 2015. The latest charges filed this week accuse Ghosn of hiding another $38 million (4.2 billion yen) from 2015 to 2018.

As the maximum period of detention allowed by Tokyo police for the first set of charges expires Monday, Dec. 10, a Brazilian court has granted Ghosn access to his Nissan-owned Rio abode located in the swanky, beachfront neighborhood of Copacabana.

Nissan, however, is trying to reverse this decision saying in a statement, "Nissan has been cooperating with authorities to investigate misconduct on the part of its former chairman, and is working to prevent the destruction of any potential evidence that could occur by allowing access to residences in question."

On Monday morning, prosecutors indicted Ghosn, Kelly, as well as Nissan itself, re-arresting Ghosn and Kelly for the financial misconduct carried out in the last three years.

"Nissan identified serious misconduct related to the reporting of Mr. Ghosn's compensation," a spokesperson for the Japanese automaker continued. "The company has been providing information to the Japanese Public Prosecutors Office and has been fully cooperating with its investigation. We will continue to do so."

There aren't any details on whether Nissan will attempt several moves on Ghosn's other luxury properties spread throughout Spain, France, Lebanon, and other countries.

Prosecutors Indict Nissan, Former CEO Carlos Ghosn, and Aide Greg Kelly for Financial Misconduct

Monday morning Japanese prosecutors issued fresh indictments for Carlos Ghosn and his close aide Greg Kelly. However, it wasn't just the duo who masterminded the underreporting of Ghosn's income that got indicted, but prosecutors have also announced an indictment against the corporate entity of Nissan Motor Co, according to Fortune.

While already jailed on previous charges, Ghosn and Kelly were reportedly re-arrested, this time formally charged with additional counts of financial misconduct alongside their employer. Newest charges allege an additional $38 million (4.2 billion JPY) in underreported income from 2015 until 2018, a number which joins the original accusation of $44 million (5 billion yen) in fraudulently obtained income from 2010 until 2015.

Nissan confirmed its indictment, by issuing a statement parallel to the charges levied against the corporation.

“Making false disclosures in annual securities reports greatly harms the integrity of Nissan’s public disclosures in the securities markets, and the company expresses its deepest regret,” said Nissan, “Nissan will continue its efforts to strengthen its governance and compliance, including making accurate disclosures of corporate information.”

Since his initial arrest in mid-November, Nissan has ousted Ghosn as board chairman, a decision which was swiftly matched by Mitsubishi. The remaining alliance partner, Renault, declined to dethrone Ghosn.

According to reports, Ghosn planned to bring a proposal to Nissan's board which would end the former-CEO's hiatus from being Nissan's management team, effectively overthrowing current CEO Hiroto Saikawa. However, his plans were foiled after tips from a whistleblower resulted in Nissan's investigation, and ultimately Ghosn's arrest.

Over a length spanning nearly nine years, a total figure of $82 million was not reported by Ghosn, who allegedly hid the income by instructing Kelly to circulate memos internally rather than formally report the income on Nissan's financial statements. The income when then funneled through a series of Nissan-established entities staged in tax haven countries and poured into houses and condos around the world.

If convicted, Ghosn and Kelly could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $89,000 (10 million JPY), or potentially both. Nissan faces a fine of up to $6.2 million (700 million JPY).

Driving the 2020 VW Passat at Volkswagen’s Secret Southwest Lair

Follow the sun-baked highway south from Phoenix through the Gila River Indian Reservation long enough, and take the right series of turns through ticky-tacky suburban developments that seem to have sprouted out of the ground like sagebrush, and you’ll see it on the horizon: a wall.

No, not "The Wall," the big, beautiful one the president’s always talking about. It’s just a wall—albeit one tall and imposing enough to play Trump’s on TV. It’s as opaque as the distant Superstition mountains...but if you listen, you might well hear the characteristic whoosh of something big flying past on the other side.

To find out what’s behind the wall, you’ll have to pass through the entry gate to the anonymous complex. The buildings are blank and windowless; the guards wear brown uniforms with the logo of a private security company. The only clue as to what’s inside lies on the multilingual warning signs mounted to the fence; uncharacteristically for the American Southwest, they're also written in German. You’ll have to check your cameras at the door, as well as your guns; this is Arizona, after all. (There’s a cement-filled barrel by the guard shack specifically for ejecting chambered rounds into.) Stickers go over all the tiny lenses in everything else: cell phones, tablets, laptops. You’ll have to sign form after form, agreeing to draconian policies designed to discourage people from sneaking any image out of the complex.

Then, and only then, can you enter Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Grounds.

Your humble author was among a small group of auto writers to penetrate VW's testing sanctum sanctorum—only the second group of journalists ever allowed a tour in the nearly 26-year history of the place. The previous group had arrived just last year, to taste the 2019 Jetta for the first time; we were here for similar reasons, to be the first from the media world to sample the new 2020 Volkswagen Passat.

Unlike that all-new Jetta, the 2020 Passat that goes on sale next year is a late-mid-life cycle refresh, an update on the NMS (or New Midsize Sedan, as VW cleverly calls it) platform the carmaker developed specifically for the US market and began cranking out of an all-new factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee back in 2011. That sedan—larger, less expensive, and less sporty than the version sold in Europe—has been good to Volkswagen of America; the company has sold more than 558,000 of them in the last seven years. And while many mainstream manufacturers are abandoning the four-door space to concentrate on more popular, more profitable SUVs and trucks, this refresh shows Volkswagen has no plans to abandon the sedan the way it plans to eventually abandon the internal-combustion engine. (Should things go truly pear-shaped for the midsize family sedan class, of course, VW also makes the Atlas crossover in Chattanooga.)

But while we were officially there to drive the new Passats under extraordinarily controlled conditions—more on that in a bit—the Arizona Proving Ground had appeal all its own. Not the workspace first seen upon entry—an open-office layout of faded whites closing in on yellow, the only color coming from the coffee pot handles and the bright blue poster demonstrating how to identify the area’s myriad rattlesnakes—but the spaces beyond. Step outside into the lots behind the building, and you’re met with a car spotter’s nerdy dream: sure, Passats and Jettas, but also cars from the entire VW portfolio, from all across the world: Seats and Skodas parked next to Chinese-market VW station wagons parked beside Bentleys. Some cars were literally undercover, still-secret new models clad in loose synthetic fabric that tantalizingly clung to the occasional distinguishing detail, panty lines beneath a flowing dress. A cloth hung alluringly off the tail of a new Lamborghini Huracan variant, the edges of its stealthy frame holding the corners of the cover taut.

Of course, most of the prototypes were hidden even further away, cleared out and shoved into hidden back rooms and behind fences wrapped seamlessly and completely in concealment. Mechanics popped in and out of one such chamber of secrets, while I tried in vain to maneuver myself for even the smallest peek inside. No dice. So much for an early Christmas present.

Our tour guide, senior facility director James Marsella, steers us instead over to another set of chambers—the windowless garages used for corrosion testing. Check that; calling them “garages” is a bit of a misnomer. A garage is a structure designed to protect a vehicle from the elements; these custom-made rooms, each one a box big enough for two to four vehicles, exist to blast vehicles with concentrated bursts of it to speed up corrosion. Think of it as a time machine for rust. One regimented 90-day cycle through the chambers, Marsella says, is equivalent to 12 years on America’s East Coast.

The first room we enter is 125º Fahrenheit and 100 percent humidity; amusingly, all the assembled journalists are wearing glasses, which fog the moment we pass from the arid Arizona air to the swampy indoor atmosphere. The second is a cold chamber, the temperature set to -4º F and mighty fans blasting away to keep the air circulating. I step inside and I’m 17 again, working my summer job as a tour guide at the Ben & Jerry’s factory, trudging into the deep freeze to fetch a new batch of Strawberry Cheesecake for the sample room. The third room is what’s described to us as a “salt fog” chamber; the air in there is a thick London fog as opaque as an actual raincoat. Four steps in, arms extended zombie-like, and I can’t see my hands. The fog tastes like fresh oysters.

Once the cars make it through their three months of CIA black site torture in the chambers, they move to the final room, a tall, white room filled with strobe lights and a bank of computers. Here, VW’s experts rip the cars apart, spot weld by spot weld—no saws, no jaws of life allowed—to peel back each layer of metal in search of corrosion. Like archaeologists on a dig, they painstakingly document every single piece of metal, photographing and cataloging it, at which point a team of experts working on computers grade how bad the corrosion is. All 355 models the VW Group makes has or will come through here at some point in their life cycle—except a Bugatti, Marsella says with a smile—and after the analysis is done, the engineers who developed the car will be summoned to see what the guts of their creation will look like after a dozen years in Boston.

The appetizer has been unexpectedly delightful, but it’s time for the main course, so Marsella and the rest of the VW team walk us over to the pair of 2020 Passats nearby. The crew peels off the thick black disguise fitted over it, like a triumphant auto show debut…only to reveal that the cars are still wrapped in a dazzle camouflage pattern, obscuring almost every detail. Still, a few things are clear; the new front end is indeed more Jetta-like, with a hint of the broad waterfall grille appearance found on the Arteon. That grille appears larger than the old version, while the lower fascia brings what seem to be faux air intakes beneath the headlights. Out back, the biggest apparent change on the camouflaged cars was the new taillights—everything else looks more or less unchanged.

Inside, to keep us from glimpsing what the company’s reps swear will be an elegantly revised dashboard setup, VW cloaked the whole area in black felt, obscuring everything but the instrument panel. That said, they didn’t say anything about touching the dash, prompting me to slide my hands underneath the Muppet-skin cover at the first possible opportunity. Based on my fingertips' impressions, the strip of plastic patterned to resemble Audi's elegant pinstriped gray wood trim found on the car's doors and alongside the steering wheel runs across the whole dash, blending into the air vents where they crop up. Entertainingly enough, even the logo on the steering wheel is covered; subsequent fingertip analysis of the shapes beneath the black tape is enough to confirm, however, that VW has no plans to ditch the logo it's used since the end of World War II.

The route prepped for the journalists gives us an amuse-bouche of the facility’s various driving tests: washboard dirt roads to test for shakes and rattles; a dirt-and-gravel oval for determining stability on slippery surfaces; a short handling track with a couple of abbreviated S-turns and two or three very tight curves, all of which are capable of demonstrating that the 2020 Passat has roughly the same level of handling acumen and ride comfort as the existing car. (VW admitted, before we even climbed into the cars, that they kept the driving dynamics of the previous version much the same; most of the changes amount to style and trim tweaks.) And, of course, the big kahuna, the part of the facility you can probably see from the International Space Station with a decent set of binoculars: the 4.7-mile oval made for high-speed testing. The curves on either end are banked at a steep-enough angle to let cars negotiate it at more than 130 miles per hour with the steering wheel centered. Each of the lanes has a different approved range of speeds; the minimum for the far left is 100 mph.

At the advice of the VW watcher riding in the Passat’s back seat, I drop the hammer on the 1.8-liter turbo-four as soon as we pull onto the straightaway, moving left lane by lane as the speedometer sweeps past Arizona's 75-mph highway speed limit towards unlimited-autobahn territory. While the legacy inline-four’s torque rises to 207 pound-feet for the 2020 model year, total horsepower stays at 174; still, even with three full-grown men aboard, the car picks up speed relatively briskly, churning out the familiar four-pot buzzing of a modern VW in the process. The car keeps gaining velocity well into triple digits, only slowing as the speed glides up to the soft 114-mph governor. While the steering is typically modern-VW breezy, it's more than capable of keeping of the minute corrections needed to keep the car centered on the track's curve, which, from my vantage point inside it, is banked steeply enough to bring to mind the bobsled-POV shots from Cool Runnings.

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat, based on my short time behind the wheel of a camouflaged prototype, is unlikely to shock anyone who's grown used to the current Tennessee-built NMS model. The automotive landscape, like so many ecosystems these days, is in flux; while staid Toyota has gone sporty, VW has banked hard to the mainstream, forgoing some of its athletic European roots for staid, all-American simplicity and space. It may have cost the brand a piece of its soul, but at least it keeps the company alive in an ever-more competitive landscape where carmakers are forced to preemptively eat their darling young in order to stay alive through the next extinction-level event that always seems around the corner.

Ultimately, this new Passat will be nothing more than a steeping stone to the electric car future the Volkswagen Group has staked everything on—another evolution of internal-combustion dinosaur dropped into the ecosystem even as the asteroid bears down on the planet. The VW Group has already made clear its plans to begin winding down production of ICE cars and crank out EVs in the millions before today's kindergartners go to prom.

But whatever form those cars of tomorrow may take...odds are good you'll find them being tortured in the Arizona desert, right where this new Passat was.

Elon Musk Says He Doesn’t Respect SEC, Tweets Fall Under ‘First Amendment’

On Sunday night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared in an interview with 60 Minute's Lesley Stahl to discuss the electric automaker's rise and current standing. Throughout the interview, an emotional Musk talked about familiar topics, one of which was his recent $20 Million settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that cost him his Board Chairman position.

As part of Tesla's separate, but additional, $20 Million settlement, the company would need to appoint a new Board Chairman (ultimately choosing Robyn Denholm for the spot), hire two independent board members, and police Musk's Tesla-related Tweets to ensure that they would not affect stock movement. The last point was almost immediately touched on by Stahl after Musk had informed her that Tesla was, in fact, not policing the CEO's Tweets as required by the settlement.

"The only tweets that would have to be, say, reviewed", would be if a tweet had a probability of causing a movement in the stock," Musk explained, "Otherwise it's 'Hello, First Amendment'. Freedom of speech is fundamental."

"But how do they know if it's going to move the market if they're not reading all of them before you send them?" Stahl rebutted, questioning just how Musk could be awarded judgment to decide which of his Tesla-related tweets are actually monitored.

"I guess we might make some mistakes, who knows? Nobody's perfect," said Musk, briefly snickering before putting on a serious face for his next comment. "I want to be clear; I do not respect the SEC. I do not respect them."

To be clear, Musk is free to tweet about his personal life without a hitch. Below is a perfectly fine example of something which wouldn't be subject to Tesla's Twitter policing:

But, according to the terms of the settlement, any tweets pertaining to the automaker, such as one claiming that Tesla will "soon" be roadworthy for completely driverless interactions, would likely fall under the clause pertaining to mandatory "oversight of communications" before being sent to the world (Specifically, the settlement calls out Twitter by name).

Musk is no stranger to mocking the SEC. In October, just after the settlement had been accepted, the CEO egged on the regulatory body by calling it the "Shortseller Enrichment Commission," causing shares to plummet almost immediately.

Later in the interview, Musk continued to slam the SEC's decision to strip him of his Board Chairman title. Presumably inadvertently, Musk undermined his successor, indicating that Denholm was not put in place to watch over Musk and had virtually no power due to the CEO having the majority fiscal stake in Tesla.

"I am the largest shareholder of the company" Musk proclaimed, "And I can call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want."

2019 McLaren 720S Spider: A 710-HP Retractable Observatory

Year, Make, Model: 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

Topline: As promised, McLaren has pulled the wraps off of the droptop 720S Spider. It adds a fancy, fast-acting, glass retractable hardtop to Macca's blisteringly accomplished supercar.

What's New: The 720S Spider's convertible roof is quite a bit more advanced than your run-of-the-mill retractable hardtop you'd find on a Miata. The carbon-framed roof can be had in electrochromic glass that can be switched from tinted to transparent at the touch of a button and can be raised or retracted in 11 seconds at a maximum speed of 31 miles per hour. The rear buttresses are also glass, making for an extremely airy top-up greenhouse reminiscent of a Jetsons-style spaceship or a Peel Trident bubble car. Sort of.

Unlike the 49cc Peel, however, Macca's latest Spider will go quite a bit faster than 28 miles per hour. In fact, the convertible 720S will hit 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds—the exact same advertised time as the Coupe despite a 108-pound weight penalty. The sprint to 124 miles per hour, however, takes 7.9 seconds while the standing quarter mile is dealt with in 10.4 seconds—0.1 seconds slower than the Coupe in both instances.

Roof latched, the Spider matches the Coupe's top speed of 212 miles per hour. With the roof down, the car is limited to "just" 202 miles per hour. Probably has something to do with aerodynamics rather than keeping the driver's hat/wig/combover intact.

Built around the Monocage II-S carbon fiber tub (an evolution of the 720S Coupe's Monocage II), the Spider apparently requires no additional strengthening elements and thus retains all of the non-convertible's handling chops.

Quotable: "The new McLaren 720S Spider offers an unparalleled blend of extreme performance, crafted luxury, driver involvement and daily usability—all with the additional exhilaration of open-air driving whenever required," said McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt.

What You Need to Know: McLaren's second 720S variant uses the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 as the Coupe, making 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. According to recent internet findings, the British supercar's seven-speed dual-clutch auto is fast and smooth enough to confuse advanced VBox data loggers.

For the lucky few who read about these kinds of cars for more than thinly-veiled entertainment, the McLaren 720S Spider will cost $315,000, is available to order now, and will start making its way to owners in March 2019.

See What the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Looks Like Decorated With Millions of Holiday Lights

As we've said before, Indy eats; sleeps; and breaths racing—and just because the Indy 500 is long gone it doesn't mean the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is taking a break from tradition. The third annual Lights at the Brickyard invites race fans and all families alike to drive their own vehicles on the world-famous yard of bricks while enjoying a dazzling array of Christmas, patriotic, and racing-inspired holiday lights.

The Drive recently had the chance to see the awesome light formations in person, most of which range from the traditional poinsettias and Santa Clauses to the full evolution of the Indy car. Two words: must see.

For starters, imagine the largest sporting venue in the world filled with lights—it's astonishing. Second: imagine driving through the same tarmac where the likes of Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt have made history. And while not the entire perimeter of the track is decorated (because that would be crazy), a lap of Lights at the Brickyard lasts over 10 minutes and surpasses anything your one-upper, neighborhood holiday lights aficionado has ever done or will ever be able to do. The only downside? No racin' and no bumpin'.

More than 500,000 lights were added to this year's production, totaling over 3 million holiday lights plastered across the track's road course, the oval's Turn 4 to Turn 1, Gasoline Alley, and of course, the yard of bricks.

Compared to previous years, this year's event offers a wider variety of displays to make sure every member of the family sees something they fall in love with. For us, it was the evolution of the Indy car located along the main straight, which depicted the nine most iconic race car shapes dating back to 1911, when the first Indy 500 took place. Directly in front of the LED racers was a touching memorial for Mari Hulman George, the track's head honcha who passed away earlier this year. Of course, a 20-foot-tall Santa, an 18-foot-tall Iwo Jima Memorial, and a 45-foot tall Borg-Warner Trophy were pretty cool, too.

While most of the decorations are kept offline for obvious reasons—after all, the Speedway wants families to pay the price of admission to see them in person—the kind folks at IMS allowed The Drive to publish several photos so folks who don't live near the track could also experience some the magic. If you're left craving for more, you can do a virtual race-day lap of the 2-mile oval courtesy of Google Maps.

If you live in the in the vicinity (or wouldn't mind roadtripping to Indy), Lights at the Brickyard is already open to the public and will remain so until Dec. 30. Pricing and other details can be found on the track's website.

Audi E-Tron GT Will Go Into Production Almost Unchanged, Says Audi Design Boss

Audi's head of design confirmed in an interview at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show that the e-tron GT concept, which it debuted in LA, will arrive in showrooms almost unaltered from its current form.

"This is a metal sheet body already, and you can imagine how close it is with a metal sheet body," stated Audi's head of design, Marc Lichte, in a conference as reported by Motor Authority. "We started working on the e-tron [GT] two years ago when I first saw the Taycan, and we thought about, 'what if we use this platform, and do an Audi version on top of it without sharing detail in the exterior or interior?'"

Lichte called the e-tron GT's design "very, very, very, very, very close to production" according to Green Car Reports, and stated that only some details will change. 22-inch concept wheels will shrink in the wash to 21 inches, and the door handles will become something more traditional.

Despite sharing a platform with the Porsche Taycan, Audi and Porsche designers reportedly met regularly to ensure the two cars would have divergent designs in and out, the only shared part reportedly being the windshield. It is uncertain how much of the two models' powertrains will be shared, as Porsche has bragged of a 311-mile range from its Taycan, while Audi has offered a more conservative 250-mile WLTP range estimate from the e-tron GT's 96-kilowatt-hour (kwh) battery pack. Power output claims vary as well; Porsche says over 600 horsepower, Audi says 590.

The Audi e-tron GT's final design will reportedly be revealed in late 2020, presumably meaning the car's upcoming cameo in Marvel's The Avengers 4 will still be in concept clothes. Tony Stark has always liked his Audis, so it wouldn't be a surprise for Audi to canonically grace the superhero with ownership of a concept car.

Chris Gabehart Confirmed as Denny Hamlin’s New NASCAR Crew Chief

Chris Gabehart will be the new crew chief for Denny Hamlin on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for 2019, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Thursday. He replaces Mike Wheeler, who has moved to Leavine Family Racing to be crew chief for Matt DiBenedetto on the No. 95 Toyota team.

JGR promoted Gabehart to the Cup Series from its NASCAR Xfinity Series program. Along with Gabehart, Joe Gibbs Racing also promoted Eric Phillips from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series to serve as car chief on Hamlin’s No. 11 team.

“With such a short offseason it’s important to start work toward the 2019 season immediately and we are proud with the teams we have assembled now, both in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and in the Xfinity Series,” JGR owner Joe Gibbs said in a press release. “With Chris Gabehart joining Adam Stevens, Chris Gayle, and Cole Pearn on the Cup side, we believe we have the right leaders in place to benefit our entire organization."

Gabehart was a crew chief for JGR in the Xfinity Series for three seasons, most recently working with driver Brandon Jones. In 98 races as an Xfinity Series crew chief, Gabehart won nine, seven of them with Erik Jones. He guided Hamlin to an Xfinity Series win at Michigan International Speedway in 2017.

Gabehart has been crew chief for one Cup Series race, filling in for Mike Wheeler atop Hamlin’s pit box at Richmond Raceway in Virginia in 2017. Together, he and Hamlin finished fifth.

Jeff Meendering replaces Gabehart as crew chief of JGR’s No. 19 team in the Xfinity Series after working for Stewart-Haas Racing as Cole Custer’s crew chief on the No. 00 Ford team in the Xfinity Series in 2017 and 2018. Ben Beshore is the new crew chief on Joe Gibbs Racings’ No. 18 team in the Xfinity Series, replacing Phillips. Beshore formerly was an engineer on JGR”s No. 18 Cup Series team of Kyle Busch.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride in our accomplishments in the Xfinity Series and are excited to have Jeff Meendering and Ben Beshore join Jason Ratcliff to lead our efforts there,” Gibbs said.

Conga Lines Of USAF Airlifters Filled The Night Sky Across U.S. For Joint Forcible Entry Drill

It's that time a year again! Air Mobility Command's airlifters have hit the skies en masse under the cover of night to fly across the U.S. and into the vast military training ranges in the American Southwest. The goal is to simulate prying open the enemy's back door and setting up combat shop on their lawn as part of an annual drill called Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (JFEX).

Our plane tracking friends started catching the peculiar streams of Air Force cargo aircraft popping up on their flight tracking software earlier in the evening. Within a short amount of time, it was clear that a major exercise was underway and the timing is perfect for this iteration of JFEX.

At this same time last year, social media was flooded with videos of lights filling up the night sky as strings of C-17s and C-130s crossed the U.S. on their way primarily to the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) in desolate Southern Nevada. This unique large force employment exercise (LFE) is among the most complex drills the USAF executes and it combines assets of all types, including fighters, surveillance aircraft, electronic warfare platforms, and throngs of ground troops and equipment that are dropped into or dropped off in simulated enemy territory.

Here is a taste of JFEX action seen during a daylight portion of the exercise from a few years back. The C-17s are working out of Keno Airstrip in the NTTR. As you can see, it is one impressive display of airpower. Also, keep in mind that there are so many other moving parts you don't see in the video. It is literally the tip of the operational iceberg:

Beyond being fantastic training for all involved, the exercise works as part of the capstone project for the graduating class of the U.S. Air Force's prestigious Weapons School. The soon to be minted Weapons Instructors (also called 'Target Arms' in some flying communities) put all their new and old knowledge to the test to successfully orchestrate what is among the most complex aerial combat ballets on the planet. You can read all about this exercise and how it fits into the Weapon's School's larger aims in this past article of ours.

In addition to tonight's mass migration of cargo haulers, the Nellis Test and Training Range has been very active over the last week or so as the Weapons School, which services all types of combat aircraft and their communities, enters into the final phase of its curriculum. The full gamut of surveillance aircraft, from RQ-4 Global Hawks to RC-135 Rivet Joints, have been tracked flying orbits around the range complex as the Weapons Instructors put their carefully evaluated war plans into motion.

JFEX has become far more relevant in recent years as the U.S. has started to come to terms with the reality that winning an expeditionary fight against a peer state competitor is an increasingly dubious challenge. Anti-access and area-denial strategies have left the services scrambling to adapt to having to fight an enemy over long distances and breaking open new avenues into their increasingly expansive and fortified domain. Being able to use the Pentagon's potent but limited airlift capacity to rapidly open up new bases of operation and vectors of attack even at very austere and remote locales in becoming a key tenet of future combat operations. This is exactly what JFEX is all about, punching into contested territory over long distances by surprise and setting up a foothold for expanded operations.

So if you look up in the sky tonight and see a long string of blinking lights, no it's not Santa on a dry run, it's your U.S. Air Force practicing to make good on its own naughty or nice list.

We will keep you update as more information and photos from this iteration of JFEX emerge.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Volkswagen Teases All-New, Eighth-Generation Golf Via Design Sketch

A teaser sketch of the upcoming Mk8 Golf was revealed to employees and investors during a recent annual meeting in Germany. The image reveals that the eighth-generation Golf will be lower, wider, lighter, and slightly longer than the current model. It also reveals that the Golf will adopt VW's latest headlight design as seen on the European-Spec Touareg. The all-new hatch is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2019 ahead of the fully-electric I.D. hatchback.

While VW has not spilled any additional beans on the upcoming Golf hatchback besides this sketch, the automaker has confirmed to Auto Express that the Mk8 Golf will start rolling off the line at the manufacturer's Wolfsburg plant in June 2019.

In terms of importance, Ralf Brandstätter, VW's chief operating officer said that it is on par with the introduction of the company's range of I.D. electric cars.

"The next Golf will take Volkswagen into the era of fully connected vehicles with extended autonomous driving functions," said Karlheinz Hell, Volkswagen's small car boss. "It will have more software onboard than ever before. It will always be online and its digital cockpit and assistance systems will be the benchmark in terms of connectivity and safety."

In the Golf's 43 years of existence, the Mk8 will undergo one of the biggest transformations as the automaker prepares to roll out hybrid technology, slim down the model lineup and completely overhaul the interior design and layout. However, like the current Golf, the eighth-generation Golf will ride on the same MQB platform and feature many of the current engine and transmission pairings. For Klaus Bischoff, VW's design boss, the interior design of the Mk8 Golf had to be a total rethink and a revolution. If that is true, then it means that the digital instrument panel will become a standard feature across the Mk8 Golf model ranger rather than being an optional feature on higher-end models.

While VW is scheduled to launch at least five dedicated battery-powered vehicles by 2025, the next Golf remains the brand's focus according to Herbert Diess, Volkswagen's CEO. In 2017, Diess told Auto Express that the Mk8 Golf will be the brand's main core product and the company is committed to its development despite the firm's shift towards a greater number of electric vehicles.

With the implementation of additional lightweight materials during construction, the Mk8 Golf will be at least 70 kilograms (154 pounds) lighter than its predecessor. Design wise, the exterior of the Mk8 won't change dramatically when compared to the Mk7, but the new hatchback will feature a lower hood, wider fenders, and slimmer LED headlights and taillights.

Along with conventional gasoline and diesel engines, the Mk8 Golf will be the first VW model to feature mild hybrid technology with the implementation of a 48-volt electric system on certain variants. Mr. Diess said that "Mild hybrid systems will play a major role in the next generation of Golf; that will be the first application."

While the current 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine is carried over into the Mk8 Golf, the 1.6-liter turbocharged diesel engine will be replaced by a new 1.5-liter mill. Additionally, the GTI and Golf R variants will also get a bump in the power output up to 250 and 350 horsepower respectively.

In Europe, the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid will still be offered, but the e-Golf is dead due to the arrival of the I.D. family, Diess confirmed.

As of now, VW has not announced when the eighth-generation of the Golf will go on sale in North America. However, based on the fact that the Mk7 Golf went on sale in North America a year after it was offered on sale in Europe, we expect to see the Mk8 Golf going on sale in North America sometime in 2020.