A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad - We Are The Mighty
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A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad

“The capability they [military working dogs] bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory.” — Army Gen. David Petraeus

Rrobiek, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, was born to be a hero. He was bred and trained to serve and protect the people he works with. Currently, those people are members of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.


Rrobiek is a patrol and explosive detector dog. He and his human handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, work hard to ensure the safety of everyone inside the entry-point gate at Union III in Baghdad.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Rrobiek, a Belgian Malinois military working dog, and his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, bond with each other during work in Baghdad, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

Rrobiek is one of six dogs who live and work with their handlers at Union III. These dogs work with their handlers to check each vehicle that drives through the entry point.

They also do other behind the scenes work to keep Union III safe.

“While it may not quite be thinking like us, they think,” Ogin said. “This enables them to help us enhance our force protection.”

‘A Great Partner’

Ogin and Rrobiek started working together in 2014, after Rrobiek’s last deployment to Afghanistan.

“At first it was a bit of a rough relationship because it’s two different conflicting personalities,” said Ogin. “But we started meshing, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s a great partner.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Rrobiek, a Belgian Malinois military working dog, and his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, practice bite training after work in Baghdad, Feb. 14, 2017. Rrobiek is a patrol and explosive detector dog who works hard with Ogin to ensure the safety of everyone inside the entry point gate at Union III in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

While on a temporary assignment to Kenya in 2015 the duo began to bond as they lived together for the first time, and formed the connection they needed to become the partners they are today.

Rrobiek was born on June 1, 2010, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. MWDs are either procured or bred specifically for their job. After he was born, Rrobiek lived in a foster home until he was old enough to go back to Lackland for training.

Related: Check out these 17 awesome photos of military working dogs at war

Through his training, which was like dog basic training, Rrobiek learned obedience, patrol and detection. He became an adept asset to his soldier counterparts.

“He’s a piece of equipment in the Army’s eyes, but he has his own personality, his own quirks,” Ogin said. “He’s very set in his ways, kind of like a person.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Rrobiek, a Belgian Malinois military working dog, and his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, play together after work in Baghdad, Feb. 14, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

The relationship that the 72-pound canine and his handler have is mutually necessary. They form a bond that is more effective than any machine at finding explosives, Ogin said.

“You’ve got to understand that he’s doing 90 percent of the work, but without me, he can’t do the 90 percent of the work,” Ogin said.

This partnership enables the two of them to protect their fellow service members and also each other.

“I have a dog that’s loyal,” Ogin said. “He’s willing to work until he dies and he’s willing to defend me. I can’t say that about every soldier … But that dog will defend me until I die.”

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This Navy plane is causing ‘physiological episodes’ in pilots

The U.S. Navy on April 15 said it will allow a fleet of its training jets to fly again under modified conditions while it determines what’s causing a lack of oxygen in some cockpits.


Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said in a statement that its nearly 200 T-45C aircraft will resume flights as early as April 17 after being grounded for more than a week.

Its pilots had become increasingly concerned late March after seeing a spike in incidents in which some personnel weren’t getting enough oxygen. The concerned pilots had declined to fly on more than 90 flights.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Student pilots prepare to exit a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zach Sleeper)

Instructors and students will now wear modified masks in the two-seat trainers. They will also fly below 10,000 feet to avoid use of on-board oxygen generating systems.

The planes train future Navy and Marine fighter pilots. Shoemaker said students will be able to complete 75 percent of their training flights as teams of experts, including people from NASA, “identify the root cause of the problem.”

Two T-45s are now at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland where the teams are taking them apart to figure out what’s gone wrong.

“This will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand all causal factors and have identified a solution that will further reduce the risks to our aircrew,” Shoemaker said.

The Navy operates the training planes at three naval air stations in the Southern United States. They are NAS Meridian in Mississippi, NAS Kingsville in Texas, and NAS Pensacola in Florida.

Related: Navy grounds T-45 Goshawk fleet after pilot protests

Since 2015, the number of “physiological episodes” has steadily increased among personnel who fly in the plane.

Symptoms of low oxygen can range from tingling fingers to cloudy judgment and even passing out, although Navy officials said conditions in the trainer jets haven’t been very severe.

Cmdr. Jeanette Groeneveld, a Navy spokeswoman, told The Associated Press on April 17 that nine people out of more than 100 affected since 2012 have been required to wear oxygen masks after a flight.

The T-45C was built by Boeing based on a British design. It has been operational since 1991. Production stopped in 2009, according to Groeneveld.

Each plane cost $17.2 million to produce, according to the Navy’s website.

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SEAL Team 6 vet agrees to pay feds profit from bin Laden raid book

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad


After a four-year legal battle, Matthew Bissonnette, a former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has agreed to forfeit to the Justice Department all of the proceeds from “No Easy Day,” his first-person account of the raid written under the pen name “Mark Owen.”

“I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in a formal apology, as reported by NPR. “It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat.”

“No Easy Day,” co-written by military journalist Kevin Maurer, was the first public account from someone who actually participated in the high-profile raid to kill the al Qaeda leader. That impact was enhanced by the fact that not only did it deal with the killing of the terrorist mastermind, but it was written by a member of SEAL Team 6, the one of the nation’s top special operations units whose methods and techniques are highly classified and seldom written about.

The book was a bestseller, and that as much as anything is what got the author in trouble with the Pentagon. Officials claimed that Bissonnette had violated a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as a Navy commando and also failed to have the book’s manuscript reviewed by proper authorities before it was published.

“Ironically, Matt didn’t want the book to be about him,” co-author Maurer said in an exclusive interview with WATM. “He always intended for it to be a tribute to his teammates and one that would allow readers to truly understand what SEALs do. It was also supposed to be a nod to the CIA, helicopter pilots, and Rangers — all the elements of these sorts of missions.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad

Maurer, who sat down with Bissonnette in Virginia Beach five days a week for a month recording the story before writing it out, said the former SEAL was focused on security.

“He was never cavalier about the details,” Maurer said. “We talked a lot about things we weren’t going to include. It was a conscious decision.”

After experiencing firsthand the hew and cry from veterans — as well as members of the special operations community displeased that one of their own had broken ranks by socializing their tactical world on a grand scale — Maurer said he understood the Justice Department ruling. But he added that “the real travesty is that the money [estimated at more that $6 million according to court documents, as reported by NPR] is now going to the government instead of veteran charities as Matt had always intended.”

Bissonnette’s current lawyer, Robert Luskin, hinted that his client had been made a scapegoat by government officials embarrassed by the information that has come out about the bin Laden raid and other operations in the wake of “No Easy Day” landing on shelves.

“The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure,” Luskin said in a statement. “But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price.”

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The US is ‘ready to confront’ China in the Pacific with the world’s most lethal combat plane

Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday that the US was “ready to confront” China should it continue its aggressive course in the South China Sea.


China has spent years building artificial islands to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a resource-rich area through which about $5 trillion in shipping flows each year.

Also read: What the US should have built instead of the F-35, according to a former Navy Commander

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the head of US Pacific Command. US Navy

In the past, China has unilaterally declared “no sail” and “no-fly zones” in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.

China flouting international law has strained relations with the US.

Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China’s “massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”

In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a “message” to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.

Harris characterized Beijing’s activity as “aggressive” and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.

In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in “disaster.”

“We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

These statements coincide with Harris making public a deployment of F-22 Raptors to Australia. The F-22, a very low observable aircraft, has unique features that make it ideal for piercing through and operating inside heavily contested airspace, like the skies above China’s military installations in the South China Sea.

While Harris maintained that diplomacy was the best way to reach China, he stressed “the absolute necessity to maintain credible combat power,” according to Breakingdefense.com

In August, the US deployed nuclear-capable bombers to Guam in an effort to deter aggression in the region and to demonstrate its commitment to stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

“The US fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation,” Harris said. “This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight.”

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The real ‘Batmen’ served during World War II

In 1942 the California State Guard was trying to protect the state from Japanese invasion and organized a unit of “bat-men” paratroopers.


A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Photo: California Military History Facebook

The idea started in an Aug. 1941 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, a now-defunct magazine that ran until 2001. Former Army Maj. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson wrote an article about all the elements of “Yankee ingenuity” that would allow America to emerge victorious from World War II.

Nicholson correctly identified two of the biggest problems paratroopers face in an assault. First, troops are vulnerable during their descent from hundreds of feet. Second, the soldiers are spread out over a large area by the nature of the drop.

The former cavalry officer suggested that “Bat-Men,” paratroopers fitted with special wingsuits that had become popular at airshows, could safely open their parachutes at lower altitudes, making it harder for ground troops to kill the attacking forces. These Bat-Men would also be able to steer themselves in the air, allowing them to land closer together and form up for their assault more quickly.

While Big Army doesn’t seem to have ever embraced the idea, the California State Guard created a test unit to try out the suits in 1942. They were led by Mickey Morgan, an air show performer who was famous in the 1940s.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion before a jump. Photo: US Army

But if the unit ever saw any action, it seems to have been lost to history. While California suffered a few Japanese attacks during World War II, mostly firebombings by balloons and submarine-based aircraft, the fires were either put out by local firefighters or the smokejumpers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. No “Bat-Men” appear to have flown outside of training.

Oddly enough, Nicholson has a tenuous connection to the famous DC Comics character Batman. After Nicholson resigned his Army commission due to a series of high-profile squabbles with military leadership, he started National Allied Publications.

NAP became Detective Comics at the end of 1936 and Detective Comics released the first issue with the Batman character in 1939. But Nicholson had no part in creating the Dark Knight. He had left the company in 1937.

(h/t California Military History and i09)

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It’s almost time for Russia’s annual display of weapons and World War II pride

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
T-72s roll along Red Square during last year’s Victory Day parade. (Photo: AFP)


It’s the biggest event that happens every year in Moscow, a Russian extravaganza that rolls out weapons new and old and continues the war of words between Russia and the United States.

On Monday, Russia will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II – known there as The Great Patriotic War – with it annual Victory Day celebrations and parade.

More than just a commemoration of Russian sacrifices during the war, since Soviet times the celebration is part of a carefully crafted military spectacle intended to tell the U.S. and the West that Russia is a world power worthy of respect – and even fear.

That’s a message that Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin wants the United States to hear loud and clear.

“The Victory Day parade, with all its loudly trumpeted pomp and technology, is also a clear message to Russia’s perceived threats and enemies that Russia is not to be trifled with militarily,” Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former U.S. military attaché to Russia, told We Are The Mighty.

“The 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is the underlying theme, but in reality these recent parades are a robust display to the world and also Russia’s domestic population of Russia’s modern military might,” Zwack said.  “While initially there are vehicles and troops in commemorative World War II battle dress, overwhelmingly this is an aggressive assertion of today’s Russian military which has had recent, widely publicized successes in Syria.”

Russians hold the impressive parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Traditionally, the parade is in three parts: a procession of the Ground Forces, the “military hardware demonstration” that showcases weapons systems new and old, and the “fly-by of the air forces.”

One of the ways Russia asserts its might is the tradition of rolling out new hardware for the entire world to see. This year’s parade and aerial flybys will be no different – and the Kremlin uses its Twitter and Instagram presence to gain maximum publicity.

According to the Kremlin’s recent English-language social media postings, at least one new example of Russian military hardware will appear for the first time during the Victory Day celebration on Monday.

It is the Su-35s fighter, which is reportedly an upgraded version of the tried-and-true Flanker multirole air superiority fighter. Earlier this year, the Russian government placed a $1.4 billion order for 50 of the fighter planes to expand the Russian Air Force.

In February, the Russian military deployed four of the Su-35s to Khmeimim air base near Latakia for combat operations in Syria, according to a Russian news report.

The Kremlin says altogether 128 pieces of military equipment will participate in this year’s Victory Day parade. That also will include reappearances by hardware that debuted last year such as the T-14 Armata tank.

T-90 main battle tanks, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and several other classes of armored vehicles will also appear.

Zwack said that in recent years Putin revived much of the Soviet-era pomp associated with the celebration as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to bolster Russian pride. But not only will rolling tanks and soaring aircraft be on display – so will the Russian political leadership.

“Vladimir Putin is always front and center of the Victory Day parade with his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu,” Zwack said “He is clearly the ‘Alpha Leader’ in charge, and he conveys that he will at all costs and any sacrifice protect and defend the Russian populace against all threats. In his mind he benefits internationally, and most importantly, domestically from this full blown display and resurgence of Russia’s military capability and competence.”

Celebrated since 1946, День Победы – Victory Day – displays the exceptional status that Russians believe they possess because of their sacrifices during the war. It is even celebrated on a different day than Victory in Europe Day – otherwise known as VE Day.

As far as most Russians are concerned, the celebration of their victory over Nazi Germany and the commemoration of the nearly 25 million soldiers and civilians who died during World War II is an affirmation of the eternal validity of Russian nationalism, the importance of Russian identity, and the necessity of Russia’s place in the constellation of “great power” nations.

Germany signed a surrender agreement in France with the Allied Powers on May 7, 1945 – but the Soviet Union wanted a separate peace with Nazi Germany for a variety of political reasons.

While the rest of the world celebrated VE Day on May 8, Nazi representatives and the Allies repeated the surrender in Berlin where supreme German military commander Wilhelm Keitel, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and others signed the instrument of surrender.  It was May 9 in the Moscow time zone when the agreement took effect – hence the date for Victory Day.

Since last year, one of the themes repeated by Moscow is the United States does not respect the sacrifice of the Russian people during World War II. It appears that is also a message that will accompany this year’s Victory Day celebration.

For example, the message from the Kremlin to the United States regarding the upcoming anniversary is bitter. Its English-language social media site recently published photographs of post-war banners that said in Russian “Americans will never forget the heroic deeds of Russians” and “America says ‘Hi’ to our valiant Russian allies.”

The Moscow-written tag-line to the recent post is: “How sad that you’ve already forgotten.”

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The Army is close to fielding a weapon sight straight out of science fiction

In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.


First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.

The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.

Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Photo from US Army

Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.

Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.

Rapid Target Acquisition

“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”

Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Photo Credit: PEO Soldier

“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”

Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.

A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.

In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Army photo by Jalen Brown

“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.

Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.

Steep Learning Curve

At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.

Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Army photo by Jalen Brown

Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.

“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.

Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.

“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”

Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
USMC photo by Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”

A Family of Sights

The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.

The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.

Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.

For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.

“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”

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Navy Secretary said the F-35 will likely be the last manned strike fighter

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Photo: Wikimedia


Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will likely be the last manned strike fighter ever bought or flown by the Navy.

“Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas. For example, as good as it is, and as much as we need it and look forward to having it in the fleet for many years, the F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly,” said Mabus, speaking to the Navy League’s 2015 Sea Air Space symposium at National Harbor, Md.

Citing unmanned systems as a key element of needed innovation in a fast-changing global technological environment, Mabus said he plans to stand up a new Navy office for unmanned systems and appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems. The new office, called N-9, will seek to streamline various unmanned systems efforts and technology, Mabus told the crowd.

Mabus specified 3-D printing as an example of encouraging progress in innovation, holding up a small hand-held drone called the Close-In-Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, or CICADA.

“This Close-In Autonomous Disposable Aircraft can be made with a 3-D printer, and is a GPS-guided disposable unmanned aerial vehicle that can be deployed in large numbers to ‘seed’ an area with miniature electronic payloads, such as communication nodes or sensors,” he said.

“The potential for technology like this- and the fact that we can print them — make them – ourselves, almost anywhere, is incredible.  This is going to fundamentally change manufacturing and logistics, not just in the Department of the Navy, but also in the entire U.S.”

The creation of a new Navy UAS office could carry implications for a handful of high-profile developmental programs for the service. For instance, it could impact the ongoing debates about needed requirements for the Navy’s carrier-launched drone program, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program (UCLASS).

Some members of Congress are demanding the platform have maximum stealth and weapons capability so the drone can penetrate advanced enemy air defenses and deliver weapons as well as conduct long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, missions.

In addition, Mabus’ comments seem to indicate that the Navy’s conceptual developmental effort to envision a new carrier-launched fighter to replace the F/A-18 Super Hornet – called the F/A-XX program – may wind up engineering an unmanned platform for the mission.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, told Military.com he supported Mabus’ announcement to create a new UAS office and Deputy Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems.

“Creating a senior post focused on unmanned aviation is an important recognition by the Navy that this technology will do much to determine the service’s future and requires senior leadership within the Department to ensure its successful utilization. The future of the Carrier Air Wing is linked with the development of an unmanned system able to execute long-range, penetrating strike missions in anti-access environments. I am hopeful that whoever fills this new post will take a holistic, strategic look at the Navy’s unmanned portfolio and be a strong advocate for that vision moving forward,” Forbes said in a written statement.

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The journalist behind ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ loved embedding with the troops

To be clear, Paramount’s new film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not a war movie; it’s a memoir about a journalist covering a war zone. Specifically, that journalist is Kim Barker, whose book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the basis for Tina Fey’s new film.


“I was always more curious about what it was like to live through war than what it was like to die in it,” Barker says. “You’ve got aspects of real people in the movie and things that actually happened … but they make Tina Fey braver than I ever was.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad

Barker, who is now a Metro reporter at the New York Times, was a war correspondent covering Afghanistan for the Chicago Tribune starting in 2002. Her time in the field was her first real experience with U.S. troops. Sometimes, those deployed soldiers talked to her as if she was their therapist.

“I love to embed with the troops,” Barker recalls. “But I found that they just wanted to talk to me about living, their lives back home, and how grueling this was on relationships to have deployment after deployment after deployment.”

In her time embedded with deployed troops, Barker saw the stress of fighting two wars take its toll on the U.S. military and those who served.

“It made me so grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories and were super honest with me,” she says. “Those were the stories I really loved to tell, not going out and getting shot at — because I’m a chicken, and I’m not that reporter.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad

Barker looked for stories that described the daily life of troops and everyday Afghans, the people who lived the war day in and day out for years.

“You wanted to be true to what they were telling you and not censor yourself, yet you really cared about the people that you were meeting there,” Barker adds. “Watching them adjust to going from Afghanistan to Iraq and back again… the stress that’s been put on our military fighting two fronts at the same time changed my view of my troops because I actually got to know them.”

Many of the Afghans in her circles want Western troops to stay in Afghanistan longer. While Barker admits she’s a reporter and not a Washington policy maker, she says the troops do provide stability for the coming generations of Afghan people.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Kim Barker with warlord Pacha Khan in 2003. Khan’s forces ousted the Taliban from Paktia Province during the 2001 invasion, with American backing. (Photo by Ghulam Farouq Samim)

“They [Afghans] are a bit more modern, they live in the cities,” she says. “I think their feeling is, ‘Hey, just give us enough security and enough civility here to let the next generation take over, and to let some sort of stability to come underneath democratic institutions.'”

For anyone who might be anxious to get out and do some war reporting in this environment, Barker believes it’s a great opportunity, but cautions the uninitiated against going in completely unprepared.

“There are openings to be able to sell stories,  great stories,” she says. “When I went overseas the first time I had no clue, but I had these people around me who did, and I had a newspaper that would back me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I worry about folks going into these places without any kind of safety net at all.”

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” opens in theaters on Friday, March 4th.

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Here are Hillary Clinton’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

1. What key policy positions does your party hold that make you choose to be affiliated with it?

Though I have been a Democrat for decades, I grew up in a Republican household in Illinois. Regardless of who I vote for, many of my guiding principles have come from my Methodist faith—including the idea that you should “do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of e Pluribus Unum: “out of many, we are one.” I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

2. In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

My father was a World War II veteran, having served as a Navy chief petty officer. Growing up, I learned from his experiences, but I understand that our service members, veterans, and their families experience many different challenges today. The issues facing our service men and women are vast and varied, but we will take important steps to ensure that our country is aligning the demands of a military career with the realities facing 21st-century families. We must not only recognize the sacrifices that our service men and women make but how their efforts keep us safe and allow us to prosper at home.

In an era of uncertain budgets, we need to ensure our military has the resources and support they need to cope with the nearly two decades of conflict they have faced. While I am all for making sure we are stretching our dollars and cutting the fat out of budgets, we cannot impose arbitrary limits on something as important as our military. We will work to end the sequester and get a budget deal that supports our military, our families, and our country.

We need to ensure we are modernizing all branches of service and investing in new technologies, so that we remain an agile force, ready to meet all challenges be they land, air, space, or cyber.

We must ensure that we are not only caring for our service men and women physically but that they have access to the mental health care they needed. I will ensure we enhance Defense Department programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues. With this expansion in services, we must also provide our veterans the support they need when it comes to battling homelessness and addiction, and the far too many instances of veterans attempting and committing suicide.

We must do more to support military families as they prepare for deployment or care for a wounded warrior. That is why I am committed to extending paid family and medical leave policies. For families that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country—our Gold Star Families—we must also ensure that they have ongoing access to benefits, and enhanced gratuity payments for surviving spouses.

3. What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

In addition to my experience being raised by a proud veteran, I have had the privilege of working with and on behalf of our military members, veterans, and their families throughout my career in public service.

As First Lady, I fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized, to ensure our service members received the care they required.

As a senator, I served on the Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to opportunity to continue those efforts to improve care and expanding military health benefits. During my tenure, I fought to make affordable health insurance available to more National Guard and Reserve members and their families and to expand services for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries . I worked across the aisle to expand benefits for our service members, increase survivor benefits and pass the post-9/11 G.I. bill. I worked with Senator McCain to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. These funds were critical in building the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio.

I also lead a successful effort to block the Department of Defense’s plan to close schools on military bases in the middle of wartime. I continued to fight for our bases and the military communities they supported. I fought to protect Fort Drum, securing continued funding and support for its community. In 2005, the base was supporting over 110,000 people and, given the human and economic impact, I knew the people of New York could not afford to lose this important resource.

Finally, as Secretary of State, I worked alongside President Obama, offering advice and support as he made decisions regarding our military personnel. I had the privilege of meeting and working alongside service members in our embassies and bases around the world.

4. In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

I was outraged by the scandals at the Veterans Administration. Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they have access to a system that puts their needs first. We must reform veterans’ health care to ensure that all our veterans have access to care that is both timely and high quality. The Veterans Health Administration must be a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. We must ensure our veterans receive care from providers who understand the unique challenges they face. This includes improving care for our female veterans and expanding care for our Native Veterans, many of whom live far away from existing medical centers. We must tackle the epidemic of veteran suicide, and expand services for mental health issues. Far too many former servicemen and women face addiction and homelessness. I will encourage states to require licensed prescribers to have a minimum amount of training so that our veterans can benefit from better prescriber practices.

As president, I will also ensure that we streamline efforts between the Department of Defense and the VA when it comes to coordinating inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, synchronizing procurement, and ending the delay in developing a fully functioning electronic health record system.

We must take these important steps to improve care, while blocking the efforts to privatize the VA. Privatization will not solve the problems facing the VHA, and our veterans deserve better. Health care is only part of the reforms we must make across the federal government to modernize our veterans’ benefits. We must improve the processing of disability claims, secure veterans’ educational benefits, and strengthen tax credits and programs that help veterans transition into new careers. Finally, we must provide the VA with the budgetary certainty it needs to provide consistent and quality care for our veterans, and encourage a culture of accountability.

5. Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12-26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

While we fight to ensure no person should have to choose between serving their country and preserving their family, military families often make amazing sacrifices alongside their service members. In addition to the impact moves have on the careers of military spouses, military children often face numerous moves throughout their school careers.

The unemployment and underemployment of military spouses is not good for our country and costs our economy up to $1 billion per year. To help support military families, I will promote policies that help break down the difficult state credentialing processes that often serve as barriers to job opportunities for military spouses.

I will also work with states to standardize licensing requirements and reduce barriers for those looking to work across state borders. I will fight to expand public hiring preferences and engage industries to favor spousal hiring, as they have done with our effort to hire veterans. We must also devote resources to help expand work-from-home positions. We will promote financial readiness by expanding consumer protection and prohibiting bill collectors from contracts that service federal loans. We will also expand financial training initiatives targeted at military spouses to ensure they have tools to prepare for their future and the future of their families.

Further, for those families with two service members, we will work to reform the assignment process, not only increasing tandem assignments but ensuring that we are allowing these partners to continue to progress in their careers. All Americans deserve a good-paying job, and the opportunity to succeed in their careers—our military spouses and service members are no exception.

6. Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Small businesses across the country are growing and hiring, creating nearly two-thirds of new American jobs. As president, my administration will take steps to ensure it is easier to start a business and make that business profitable. For businesses that safeguard public health and safety, I will dedicate federal funding to support innovative programs and offset forgone licensing revenue. I will expand the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to ensure that we are providing entrepreneurship training, counseling, and small business loan guarantees for our veterans.

I will ensure that entrepreneurs in our underserved communities have access to training and mentorship programs, partnering with local business leaders, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions. I will fight to streamline regulation and cut red tape for our community banks and credit unions to ensure our veterans have the capital they need to start their business. Far too many dreams die in the parking lots of American banks. We will also expand and streamline the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program—providing lenders the low-cost capital they need to invest in small businesses in their communities.

We will also make it cheaper and easier to file taxes and pay for tax relief, allowing small business owners to focus on growing their company instead of spending large amounts of time on paperwork. We will make it easier for these entrepreneurs to work with the federal government by guaranteeing faster response time when they inquire about federal regulations, help them loan support, and increase federal contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. We need to encourage our veterans to harness the skills they learned in leadership and apply them to civilian life. These reforms are only the start of ensuring we are providing them the tools they need to succeed following their service.

7. Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

I strongly believe that when our families are strong, America is strong—and when military families are strong, our military is strong. To ensure we have strong military families, we must take steps to remove any barriers to a good education for our children. I will ensure that Defense Department schools are strong and focused, that we are candidly assessing where we need to improve these schools, and that we take the concrete steps to correct any problems. For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For military families looking to pursue higher education, I will ensure that we are protecting the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, especially the provision that allows these educational benefits to be transferred to spouses and children of military personnel. I will also continue efforts to crack down on for-profit schools that have exploited tens of thousands of students, including our veterans.

8. What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

I have held a variety of roles that gave me important insight into the role of Commander-in-Chief. As a Senator from New York, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to develop relationships and work alongside leaders in our military. I also stood with the people of my state as we reeled from the tragedy of the September 11 terror attacks and worked to rebuild. While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

9. Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

The responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief are not ones I take lightly. I want military families across the country to know that if elected, I will ensure that our country honors and respects them throughout their service, and beyond. As president, I would make a solemn oath to ensure our military is the best trained, best equipped, most capable fighting force in the world. Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing

Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing high-quality care for our veterans.

Most importantly, I want our military families to know that I will listen. I will not only listen to your needs, and the needs of your service members—I will also listen to my advisors and the military leadership with whom I will work closely. The decisions of a Commander-in-Chief must be made with careful consideration, and I promise to be thoughtful and deliberate in all my efforts—especially those that impact our military personnel and their families.

10. Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces—an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

As president, I will make Joining Forces a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President. This initiative has done too much good work—building partnerships across sectors to better support our military and veterans—to allow it to discontinue. The Obama Administration has made great strides to lift up and support military families, and I will ensure that if elected, my administration continues and builds upon this important work.

These efforts will include creating a standing President’s Council on Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families. I will also direct White House and Defense Department leadership to conduct town hall meetings across the country—allowing us to hear directly from a diverse set of military families about their needs and where our government can better serve them. Based on these town halls, I will ensure we develop an implementation plan to focus on the areas they have highlighted as needed for improvement. By engaging federal, state, and private sector resources, we will ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our military families.

11. What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

I have had the immense privilege of spending many years of my life serving the American people. I have traveled across the country and around the world from my time as First Lady of Arkansas, to First Lady of the United States, to Senator, to Secretary of State, and now as the Democratic Nominee for President. On these trips, people have allowed me into their homes and introduced me to their families. It is important for me to listen to these stories, and I draw my motivation and understanding from what is going on in people’s lives.

And I have tried to share my life in return. Before anything else, I am Chelsea’s mother and Aidan and Charlotte’s grandmother. Though I have dedicated my career to the American people, my family will always remain my priority and greatest accomplishment.

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Is the new Iranian fighter a paper tiger?

Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.


But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Lineart of the Qaher-313 mockup based on estimations. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.

The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)

The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Public Domain

The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Iran has reportedly made a killer drone based on a secret U.S.-designed RQ-170 Sentinel.

This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.

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Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Syria still possesses chemical weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Israel on April 21, warning against the banned munitions being used again.


At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes following the cruise missile attack earlier in April in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas.

Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.

He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.

“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.

A soldier and his military working dog bond in Baghdad
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.

Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.

In response to the April 4 attack, the United States fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base it said was the launching pad for the attack.

Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.

“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.

Related: US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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Today in military history: Battle of Midway begins

On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway began when a Japanese fleet of almost 100 ships, led by the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, attempted an even more overwhelming attack that would have kicked the U.S. out of the Central Pacific and allowed the empire to threaten Washington and California. Instead, that fleet stumbled into one of the most unlikely ambushes and naval upsets in the history of warfare.

Thanks to quick and decisive action by key sailors in the fleet, the U.S. ripped victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat.

The Kido Butai, which was the largest fleet in the world at the time, had successfully fended off a variety of land-based attacks from American carriers. Just as they were about to mount a counter-attack three of the fleet’s carriers – the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu – were hit by dive bombers from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.

The fourth carrier, the Hiryu, would carry out two strikes that would leave the Yorktown crippled. 

Japan’s carrier air arm would never fully recover from the events of June 4, 1942. The Battle of Midway was truly the turning point of the Pacific Theater.

Featured Image: Devastators of VT-6 aboard USS Enterprise being prepared for takeoff during the Battle of Midway.

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