Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.
Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.
Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.
The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.
“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.
Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.
“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.
The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.
Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
Peace talks offered
Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.
“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.
The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.
Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.
The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.
A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.
Chinese troops are reportedly operating in Afghanistan, but it is unclear what they’re doing there.
There is evidence that China has security forces operating inside eastern Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is reportedly very aware of their presence. “We know that they are there, that they are present,” a Pentagon spokesman revealed to Military Times, without going into specifics.
Late last year, India’s Wion News Agency released photos of suspected Chinese military vehicles in Little Pamir. Franz J. Marty at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute claimed in February that “overwhelming evidence,” including “photographs, an eyewitness account and several confirming statements of diplomats and observers, among them a Chinese official familiar with the matter,” indicated the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting joint drills in Afghanistan.
The governments of Afghanistan and China have both denied reports of joint patrols. Towards the end of last month, China conceded that security forces have been conducting counter-terrorism operations along the shared border. Ren Guoqiang, a PLA spokesman, intimated that “the law enforcement authorities of the two sides have conducted joint law enforcement operations in border areas to fight against terrorism,” adding that, “Reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts.”
Ren also denied that there were non-military patrols being carried out in Afghanistan, further adding to the mystery of exactly what China is doing in the region.
Although Beijing denies engaging in military operations in Afghanistan, there was a strange, albeit unconfirmed, Chinese media report claiming Chinese soldiers in Afghanistan rescued U.S. special forces. While the story is likely untrue, it suggests that there may be more to Chinese activities in Afghanistan than meets the eye.
China has made its counter-terrorism concerns, particularly in Afghanistan, known numerous times. The Asian powerhouse is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. Beijing fears that Afghanistan will become a base of operations for militant Uighur separatists, specifically the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
China has been working with Afghanistan on countering this threat for several years now.
Afghanistan assured China in 2014 that “it would never allow the ETIM to take advantage of the Afghan territory to engage in activities endangering China, and will continuously deepen security cooperation with the Chinese side.” China agreed to “continue to offer training and material assistance to Afghan military and police” to “strengthen cooperation in aspects such as anti-terrorism, the fight against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and transnational crimes.” The following year, Afghanistan turned several captured Uighur militants over to Beijing. China provided tens of millions of dollars to support Afghanistan’s security forces.
In recent weeks, Beijing has been putting increased pressure on Uighur militants at home. Last Monday, around 10,000 Chinese troops marched on Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in a massive show of force against terrorism. That same day, Uighur militants fighting with the Islamic State threatened to return to China and “shed blood like rivers,” giving China a reason to step up its involvement regional counter-terrorism activities.
Furthermore, the withdrawal of coalition forces has created an eroding security situation in Afghanistan which could facilitate the rise of dangerous militant groups along China’s western border.
Beyond security concerns, China also has significant commercial interests in the war-torn region. China’s massive Silk Road Economic Belt will span parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, possibly including Afghanistan.
China has motive for increased involvement, but it is unclear what China is doing in Afghanistan. China may have soldiers, armed police, security personnel, or some combination of the three in the area. Beijing has, so far, not been particularly forthcoming about its activities and intentions in Afghanistan.
Some observers suggest that Chinese involvement in Afghanistan might actually be beneficial for both the U.S. and China, arguing that China might be considering taking on a greater security role in the region after the U.S. and its allies withdraw; however, Chinese troops are unlikely to push far beyond the shared border as long as the U.S. coalition forces maintain a presence in Afghanistan.
There is also the possibility that China is training its military under the guise of counter-terrorism operations, just as it has used peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions to enhance the capabilities of its armed forces in the past.
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The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.
From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.
But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.
That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.
In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.
“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.
“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”
So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:
1. Delta, what Delta?
With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.
The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.
Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.
Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.
2. Building guerrilla armies.
This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.
So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.
“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”
According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.
3. Assessment and selection.
When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.
But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.
From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.
Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”
The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.
4. Size matters
Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.
The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)
It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.
These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.
And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Lawmakers in the Senate are slamming the brakes on any future plans to develop new camouflage and utility uniforms.
Buried inside the recently-passed Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 is a provision that would prevent the Defense Department from developing or fielding any new camouflage utilities until one year after the secretary of defense formally notifies the House and Senate Armed Services committees of the intent to do so.
Lawmakers and Defense Department officials have long had a sticky relationship over the issue of camouflage and the many patterns the various military services use. In 2009, Congress attempted to slip a provision into the defense budget that would require the services to adopt a common ground combat uniform. In 2013, lawmakers again inserted language requiring a common pattern. Some military brass pushed back, however; then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said the Corps planned to stick to its propriety MarPat camo “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”
Development of new camouflage patterns can be costly–the Washington Post reported that the Army’s “universal” Army combat uniform camouflage cost $2.63 million to develop–and not all are great successes. The Navy has taken heat for its blue Navy Working Uniform Type 1 pattern, which is worn aboard ships, and which critics have said will only work as camouflage if sailors fall overboard.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found the Army stood to spend $4 billion over five years as it selected and fielded its next family of camouflage uniforms.
That process is ongoing; the Army is now fielding its Operational Camouflage Pattern, with plans to require its use for all troops by 2019.
The 2017 Senate version of the NDAA must still be reconciled with the House version, which does not include the camouflage provision. That’s expected to happen later this summer.
The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.
Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.
“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”
Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.
Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.
(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)
Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)
Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)
Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)
Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)
The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The long-awaited seventh movie in the Star Wars saga is close to hitting theaters, and nerds everywhere are beside themselves. While most young males in North America grow up with a love of Star Wars (or Star Trek, if you have poor taste), I didn’t really find myself catching onto the movies in the same way as most of my peers did… In fact, what really lured me to Star Wars was the space battles between sleek and mean-looking X-Wing fighters and the various spaceships of the Empire (the bad guys). That interest was further cemented by something I found out about Star Wars’ connection to aviation of the Second World War, which I’m far more a fan of, if we’re being honest.
If you’ve ever seen the original trilogy (Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope), you’ve probably seen the infamous Millennium Falcon spaceship in action, piloted by the gruff, sarcastic Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford, a huge aviation buff), and co-piloted by his massive furry beer buddy, Chewbacca. The cockpit of the Falcon, if you pay close attention, actually seems to resemble another flying vehicle, though one from a very long time ago.
I’m talking about the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, one of the US Army Air Force’s strategic bomber workhorses of the Second World War, and the aircraft most famously associated with dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, decisively ending the war in the Pacific Theater.
George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, apparently developed an affection for the B-29 during the time he spent researching aerial dogfights of WWII to enhance the realism of the space battles fought between X-Wings and TIE Fighters of the Rebels and the Empire respectively. He had set engineers design the cockpit of the Falcon such that it matched the view facing forward from the cockpit of a B-29 (peering over the pilots’ shoulders). After viewing over 25 hours of combat footage and gun camera imagery, Lucas included gunner stations aboard the Millennium Falcon, similar to those you’d find on a B-29 or a B-17 Flying Fortress. A few of the characters used such gun (or laser) turrets to good effect against marauding TIE Fighters in a similar manner to how gunners aboard bombers during WWII would engage enemy interceptor fighters sent up to shoot them down.
Lucas needed his spaceships to possess unique sounds that were fitting of their futuristic nature, so he once again turned to WWII-era aviation to help with meeting his goals. As sounds couldn’t easily be synthesized in the same way that studios can today, Lucas’ sound engineers needed to record other noises and modify them to get what they were after. One engineer was sent out to the Reno Air Races in Nevada, where he was allowed to lay down near a pylon (something you most certainly cannot do today) and record the noise of P-51 Mustang racers screaming overhead. After slowing down the recorded track, they mated it to movie scenes, and thus, the Millennium Falcon was given its unique and ominous sounds.
When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was named the next Air Force Chief of Staff, it was extraordinary for many reasons. As 2020 comes to a close, we examine this leader who was recently named one of Time’s most influential 100 people.
Brown was formerly the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and also led as Executive Director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff and Deputy Commander of United States Central Command. Brown’s legacy of strong leadership and experience made him a strong candidate for the Air Force’s highest position of authority. As the first Black chief of staff to command a force, it was a historic moment for America. His confirmation was cheered far and wide across the country and the military community.
He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a historic 98-0 vote.
After being officially sworn in as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, he talked about the men and women of color who came before him saying, “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force Chief of Staff.” Watching in the wings of his swearing in ceremony were the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black unit of fighter pilots who served bravely and faithfully during World War II. The Airmen willingly fought for their country despite facing deep racism and ongoing segregation, creating a legacy that still reverberates today.
Despite the tremendous honor of being nominated as the next Chief of Staff for the Air Force, the appointment came with a tremendous weight for Brown. In his acceptance speech he shares that he alone cannot “fix centuries of racial discrimination in our country” and that despite the hope his nomination brought, it also carries a burden for him.
Months before his swearing in, Brown released a raw and direct video on social media in June of 2020 following the death of George Floyd captured on video at the hands of police. It was a event that sent shockwaves across a country already experiencing deep divisiveness on matters of race and the current pandemic. Brown’s decision to make a statement was nothing short of courageous and admirable. In an interview with Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, Brown shared that his video response to the killing of George Flloyd was promoted by his son Ross. He told Lamothe that he became emotional over their shared experiences as Black men. Despite the looming confirmation hearing and not knowing what current leadership was going to say, he knew what he himself needed to do.
After looking into the camera, he told viewers exactly what was on his mind. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.” He also went on to share experiences where, despite wearing the same flight suit as his fellow pilots, he was questioned on whether he was one or not.
The video has now been seen by millions of people. Not long after his response and other military leaders’ similar and united statements, the Air Force announced plans to review racial disparities within the force as it pertained to military justice. It was a step in the right direction.
Since taking the leadership role of the Air Force, he has focused on change and innovation, from the bottom up. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he encouraged young airmen in particular to focus on creativity and to use their voice without fear of consequences for speaking up. His message of unity and collaboration from the junior enlisted to the ranking highest officer is another reason he has already established himself well among Airmen and the military as a whole.
Seeing Brown’s name among the expected celebrities, athletes presidents and Supreme Court Justices – is an impressive feat in itself. But it is the history and struggles he endured within his story that brings the significance home to so many who are desperate for change. Brown is a symbol of not just courage and strength but also, hope. Hopefully one day soon, we won’t be celebrating firsts anymore. Instead, diversity and inclusion will just be exactly who we are, not just who we promised to be.
The first new National Cyber Strategy in 15 years is built on four pillars: protecting the American people, the homeland and the American way of life; promoting American prosperity; preserving peace through strength; and advancing American influence.
“We cannot ignore the costs of malicious cyber activity — economic or otherwise — directed at America’s government, businesses and private individuals,” President Donald J. Trump said in a statement Sept. 20, 2018, announcing the new strategy. “Guided by this [strategy], the federal government will be better equipped to protect the American people, the American homeland, and the American way of life.
“Through it,” he continued, “we will accomplish critical security objectives while supporting American prosperity, preserving peace through strength and advancing American influence. Informed by the strategy’s guidance, federal departments and agencies will more effectively execute their missions to make America cyber secure.”
The strategy highlights the critical and growing threat that malicious cyber actors pose to U.S. national security. “The Defense Department stands ready, as part of the synchronized whole-of-government approach articulated in the National Cyber Strategy, to preserve peace through strength by identifying, countering, disrupting, degrading, and deterring behavior in cyberspace that is destabilizing and contrary to U.S. national interests,” DoD officials said in a statement, adding that the department’s focus is on preserving U.S. superiority in cyberspace and defending forward to disrupt the activities of malicious cyber actors before they reach U.S. networks.
Cyber professionals discuss best practices for cyber protection teams during Cyber Protection Team Conference 18-1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 27, 2018. U.S. Cyber Command cyber protection teams defend national and Defense Department networks and systems against threats.
(Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
DoD also is strengthening its defensive posture through network hardening, improved cybersecurity and working with its international allies and partners, in addition to its Defense Industrial Base and Defense Critical Infrastructure partners to secure critical information and infrastructure, the Pentagon statement noted.
Protecting America’s networks
Officials said the strategy will:
Protect American networks by securing federal networks and information and the nation’s critical infrastructure;
Combat cybercrime and improve incident reporting;
Promote American prosperity by fostering a vibrant and resilient digital economy;
Protect American ingenuity from threats such as intellectual property theft;
Develop a superior cybersecurity workforce through education and recruitment; and
Stand up to destabilizing behavior in cyberspace by promoting responsible behavior among nation states, working to ensure consequences exist for irresponsible cyber behavior, launching an international Cyber Deterrence Initiative and exposing and countering online malign influence and information campaigns.
The National Cyber Strategy will promote an open and secure internet by encouraging other nations to advance internet freedom and advance a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance, officials said, and also will promote open, interoperable, reliable and secure communications infrastructure in addition to opening overseas markets for American ingenuity and building international cyber capacity.
Protecting the people, homeland, way of life
The strategy notes that pursuing the objectives of the first pillar will require the U.S. government, private industry and the public to take immediate and decisive actions to strengthen cybersecurity, with each working on securing the networks under their control and supporting each other as appropriate.
For the government’s part in that effort, the strategy says, the administration will act to further enable the Department of Homeland Security to secure federal department and agency networks, with the exception of national security systems and Defense Department and Intelligence Community systems.
The government also will align its risk-management and information technology technologies, improve risk management in the federal supply chain, strengthen federal contractor cybersecurity, and ensure the government leads in best and innovative practices.
Promoting American prosperity
The strategy’s second pillar seeks to preserve U.S. influence in the technological ecosystem and the development of cyberspace as an open engine of economic growth, innovation and efficiency.
To enhance the resilience of cyberspace, the administration expects the technology marketplace to support and reward the continuous development, adoption and evolution of innovative security technologies and processes and will work across stakeholder groups, including the private sector and civil society, to promote best practices and develop strategies to overcome market barriers to the adoption of secure technologies.
Preserving peace through strength
Challenges to U.S. security and economic interests from nation states and other groups, which have long existed in the offline world, are now increasingly occurring in cyberspace, the new strategy notes, adding that this now-persistent engagement in cyberspace is altering the strategic balance of power.
As part of the National Cybersecurity Strategy’s third pillar, cyberspace will no longer be treated as a separate category of policy or activity disjointed from other elements of national power. The United States will integrate the employment of cyber options across every element of national power to Identify, counter, disrupt, degrade, and deter behavior in cyberspace that is destabilizing and contrary to national interests, while preserving United States overmatch in and through cyberspace.
Advancing American influence
In outlining its fourth pillar, the strategy says the world looks to the United States, where much of the innovation for today’s internet originated, for leadership on a vast range of transnational cyber issues.
The United States will maintain an active international leadership posture to advance American influence and to address an expanding array of threats and challenges to its interests in cyberspace, the strategy says. Collaboration with allies and partners is part of this pillar, which the strategy says is essential to ensuring continued benefit from cross-border communications, content creation and commerce generated by the internet’s open, interoperable architecture.
This pillar’s objective, the strategy says, is to preserve the internet’s long-term openness, interoperability, security, and reliability, which supports and is reinforced by U.S. interests.
Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.
“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.
“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.
During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.
The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.
A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”
“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.
F-35A “Sensor Fusion”
The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.
Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.
“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane. You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.
Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.
“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment
Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.
Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was supposed to fill multiple roles for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and US foreign partners.
The jet — the most expensive US weapons project of all time — was designed to have aerial combat, close-air support, and long-range-strike capabilities.
But that’s not how the plane’s turned out so far. A string of damning reports have seriously called the $1.5 trillion plane into question, specifically it’s “dogfighting” ability when matched against less sophisticated aircraft. And now, one expert has made a convincing case that the fighter’s long-range capabilities don’t measure up to expectations either.
In a report for War Is Boring, military analyst Joseph Trevithick writes that in a long-distance engagement, the F-35 would have to rely on stealth to avoid enemy-radar detection while maneuvering close enough to engage enemy air and ground targets.
In an ideal situation, the F-35 would eliminate its targets before detection and leave. But as Trevithick notes, Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighters have been outfitted with infrared sensors that can pinpoint a plane’s heat signature over fairly vast distances. The F-35 has a single, large rounded engine nozzle that leaves a larger heat signature than the flat nozzles of other stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 or the B-2.
This infrared signature could tip off enemy fighters to the F-35’s location, negating any benefit it may have from its stealth design.
Stealth may offer diminishing returns anyway. The technology isn’t foolproof, and radar technology is improving around the world.
“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said during a speech in February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”
The F-35 may be more detectable at distance than the plane’s advocates claim, meaning the plane might have questionable utility during long-range aerial combat and attack runs. On top of that, the F-35 could find itself outgunned in a potential missile engagement with rival Russian or Chinese fighters.
The F-35 is supposed to be outfitted with AIM-120 Slammer missiles, which have a comparable range to Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles.
However, as Trevithick notes, the F-35 may actually turn out to be slower than its Russian and Chinese rivals. It’s lagging speed means that it cannot launch the missiles with as much force as enemy jets. Moving at supercruising speed, a sustained speed exceeding the sound barrier, an enemy aircraft could “potentially fling its missiles farther than a missile’s advertised range.”
The difference in missile range might not actually be that important. If the F-35’s stealth capabilities are as good as advertised, or if enemy aircraft don’t have the weight load or sophistication to carry longer-range missiles, the plane will be able to maintain its expected supremacy over other fifth-generation models. Additionally, in a war gameconducted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, the F-35 beat the advanced Russian Su-35s in a long-range aerial engagement.
But in that simulation, the F-35 wasn’t armed with the AIM-120 but with the Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). No concrete figures have been released on the BVRAAM’s range, but it is thought to be greater than that of the AIM-120 and any current air-to-air missile in either the Chinese or Russian arsenal.
Unfortunately, as a different War is Boring article notes, any integration of the BVRAAM with the F-35 is years off. The F-35 will not be able to use the BVRAAM until Lockheed releases its next software update for the F-35, which is still in early development. Until that time, the F-35 may find itself in a challenging position relative to Russia and China’s own upcoming fifth-generation fighters.
The F-35 has questionable abilities at shorter range, too. A leaked report from an F-35 test pilot obtained by War is Boring noted that the aircraft was incapable of outmaneuvering and besting an F-16 in a simulated dogfight. The F-16 first entered service in 1978 and is one of the planes that the F-35 is being built to replace.
In response, Lockheed Martin wrote in a July 1 press release that “the F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances.”
Eleven militants were reportedly killed and no coalition forces were killed or wounded, according to US Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho. She added that two of the militants were wearing suicide vests.
“The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region,” Reho said in The Times. “There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred.”
But according to an anonymous military official familiar with the incident, the mission was to sweep through a potentially dangerous area so that Nigerien troops would be able to build an outpost.
Though Reho did not disclose why the Defense Department did not notify others of the incident, a House Republican aide told The Times that other lawmakers were notified of the December 2017 attack after it occurred.
Lawmakers previously pressured the White House and Pentagon for more information on the circumstances surrounding the ambush in October 2017, after military officials appeared to leave several congressional leaders in the dark.
“That’s not how the system works,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said to CNN in October 2017. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
The firefight was initially referenced in an unclassified report given to lawmakers this week as part of a broader report on the legality of using military force, according to The Times. The report notes that US-Nigerien troops were attacked “by elements assessed to be part of ISIS,” and that coalition forces “responded with armed force in self-defense.”
US Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, the former commander of US Special Operations in Africa, said that US troops and local training partners were attacked around 10 times from 2015 to 2017, The Times reported. Though enemy combatants were killed in these attacks, no US troops were reportedly killed.
The incident highlights some of the danger in conducting military operations in West Africa, just as military officials aim to curb the number of riskier missions. US Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson were killed in October 2017 after they were ambushed by ISIS-affiliated militants.
Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.
I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.
I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.
(Photo by Michael Gregory)
The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.
I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.
A classic case of the slay fest.
(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)
How I loathed unit PT…
I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.
I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.
Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.
I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.
Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.
A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.
Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.
Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?
In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.
This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.
Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.
Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.
(Photo by Jeremy Graves)
I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.
Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.
As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.