The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is the China’s most elite counter terrorism unit, similar to America’s SEAL Team 6. Surprisingly, the unit is a federal police unit and not part of China’s Army.
Tasked with protecting the capital of Beijing, their activities are largely secret. Still, the glimpses the world gets are pretty impressive.
The unit is reported to have been established soon after China’s capital was selected for the 2008 Olympics. From 2002 to 2007, they trained in secret under the name “Snow Wolf Commando Unit.”
In 2007, their existence was finally announced just before a ceremony that changed their name to “Snow Leopard Commando Unit.” That same year, SLCU conducted some flashy training with Russian police.
SLCU continued service after the Olympic’s closing ceremonies. The elite unit is rarely reported on, but they made news in 2013 and 2014 for winning top honors at the Warrior Competition, a sort of combat Olympics held in Jordan every year.
The Chinese police very rarely leave China, but the Snow Leopard Unit does, providing security for Chinese dignitaries. They’ve also been dispatched domestically to stamp out unrest in China’s West.
Paratroopers make a big deal about jumping out of planes from 800 feet, but U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute while the plane was on fire.
And he lived.
Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.
During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.
Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.
The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.
“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”
Magee was able to keep his arm and eventually made a full recovery. He spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.
In 1995, Magee was invited back to France as part of a ceremony sponsored by French citizens to thank Allied service members for their efforts in the war. Magee was able to see monuments to the crew of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, including the nose art which had been used as a Nazi trophy until after the war when a French man recovered it. It was restored in 1989.
In 1987, Jonathan Pollard became the first American convicted of espionage against the United States for a U.S. ally. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
His sentence was lighter than most other convicted spies because of a plea agreement he took to get leniency for him and his wife. Convicted in 1987, he was released in 2015 and was sent to Israel, where he now lives. Once in Israel, he received a hero’s welcome for his spying.
On Mar. 22, 2021, an Israeli newspaper, the Israel Hayom, published an interview with Pollard where he says the United States was intentionally keeping Israel in the dark in many areas.
“I know I crossed a line, but I had no choice,” he told the newspaper, adding that the threats to Israel were “serious.” He also describes himself as a “soldier” for Israel.
Pollard was working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. He was arrested in 1985 after trying to get asylum in the Israeli embassy in Washington. The Israelis told him he had to go through the embassy’s front door – where the FBI was waiting for him.
He initially told authorities he was passing secrets to the U.S. ally in the Middle East because he was adamant Israel was not getting a total intelligence picture, and that the United States was “stabbing Israel in the back” with an intelligence embargo.
But the facts say something entirely different. Pollard wasn’t just passing along gathered intelligence to the Israelis, he was passing on intelligence about the U.S. military. The Defense Department has never released the full extent of what he sold to Israel, because even the list of his sold secrets is so damaging that it’s also classified Top Secret.
Pollard, now 66 years old, blames his Israeli handlers for his capture, claiming they never trained him to be a spy and brushed off his concerns about getting caught. When Pollard was finally captured and tried, the prosecution used security camera footage of Pollard stealing classified documents to win his conviction.
Ron Olive, the FBI agent who apprehended Pollard, said the Israeli spy was on a “spree” of classified document theft from “every intelligence agency in D.C.” Olive believed Pollard should never have been allowed to leave the U.S. and his fear that Pollard would be hailed as a hero came true.
“The problem with the Israelis,” Olive told the U.S. Naval Institute, “They denied knowing anything about Pollard. They literally lied to two or three presidents that they knew nothing about Pollard.”
Then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said Pollard gave Israel information that could cause grave damage to U.S. national security. The most damaging information he sold was the Navy’s 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, which was “in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.”
At his defense trial and even to this day, Pollard claimed it was altruistic support for the Jewish state and an American ally that caused him to pass on U.S. intelligence secrets. But for all his altruistic claims, he was still paid $25,000, along with a near $6,000 monthly stipend, along with other gifts of jewelry, hotel stays, and other luxuries.
The government claimed he also attempted to sell U.S. Navy secrets to South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. They estimate Pollard stole more than a million classified documents to Israel, calling him the “most damaging spy in U.S. history.”
Pollard was paroled in 2015 and spent five years on probation before being allowed to leave the United States for Israel.
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay is part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that generally otherwise pay them more in the civilian sector.
Each hazardous duty incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.
Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1, outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a and 310 specifically address Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay, respectively.
HDIP is payable to both enlisted and officers of all the service branches unless specified.
Section 301 (a) addresses the following S&I:
1. Flying Duty (crew members)
Who: Flight crew who are not aviators and regularly fly.
How much: $110 – $250 per month, determined by rank
2. Flying Duty (non crew members)
Who: Anyone on flying duty who isn’t crew, but still performs duties related to flight.
How much: $150 per month
3. Parachute Duty
Who: The crazies who jump out of perfectly good planes.
How much: $150 per month, except for High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps at $225 per month
Who: Navy personnel who are part of a team that conducts VBSS in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations — basically modern-day American pirates on the good guys team.
How much: $150 per month. Commence to booty jokes.
Section 310 Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay
Who: Those who are subject to hostile fire, explosions of hostile mines; on duty at/ deployed to areas where their status as a service member could put them at risk of threats of physical harm as a result of civil unrest, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions
A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.
Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.
“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.
In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.
To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.
But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.
He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”
The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.
Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.
“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”
The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.
Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.
“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.
Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.
“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.
The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.
Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.
The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.
“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”
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.
A Navy Littoral Combat Ship destroyed an attacking swarm of small boats using a wide range of assets and weapons such as 57mm guns, radar, drones and helicopters, service officials said.
“We did a firing against swarming boats using installed 57mm guns in combination with the ship’s 30mm guns to take out unmanned remote-controlled boats,” Capt. Tom Anderson, LCS program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The swarming small boat attack, which took place off the coast of California, was a key part of an operational test and evaluation of the USS Coronado, or LCS 4.
The test attack was designed to access and demonstrate the LCS’s layered defense system which seeks to use a host of assets and integrated technologies as a way to identify and destroy approaching threats, Anderson explained.
During the scenario, at least four armed fast-moving small boats raced after the USS Coronado in an attempt to attack, destroy and overwhelm the ship, he said.
The system of layered defenses, however, worked as intended, Anderson said. Operators on the ship adjust their weapons based upon the range of the threat, he added.
“The way it works is you want to have visibility of those swarms coming in as far off as you can. This visibility can come from other ships, helicopters up or the Fire Scout (drone),” he said. “Longer range assets passes information off to the ship and then the ship’s radar picks it up as the threat comes in.”
The next layers of defense are then a ship-based medium-range missile, followed by 57mm guns and 30mm guns for the closest-in threats.
“We worked on taking out those incoming swarms including multiple swarm boats coming at the ship. They were controlled from the beach. We had mannequins on board. When we fired on them and attempted to get to mission kill, we assessed whether we hit the engine, hit the control consul or hit the human being,” Anderson added.
The medium-range missile used on the LCS is a Hellfire Longbow weapon, a 100-pound guided missile also fired from helicopters. At the same time, Navy program managers are currently exploring the prospect of adding a longer-range over-the-horizon missile to the LCS arsenal as well.
Tactics were also a key factor in destroying the small boat swarms. Anderson added that the 40-knot speed of the LCS gives it a mobility advantage when it comes to thwarting attacks from small boat swarms.
“The beautiful thing about LCS is that it is fast enough, so when swarms are coming in you can almost out-pace the small boats. You can get them in a position where you have the longer range weapon,” he said.
The 15-foot wake of ocean that trails behind a fast-moving LCS is often itself large enough to swamp small boats before they can ever reach the ship, Anderson added.
Nevertheless, small boat swarms could be a particular threat in shallow, smaller waterways such as straights, water near the shoreline or areas of the ocean described as heavily trafficked “choke points.”
“It is predominately a littoral threat in areas where there are choke points. Swarms of small boats could be used as one of the tactics instead of having a large surface combatant come out to threaten a ship. They can be lower cost and are very disruptive,” Anderson explained.
A large destroyer, by contrast, may be equipped to address a small boat threat but cannot operate in shallower waters and lacks the speed and maneuverability ideally suited to counter small, fast-moving boats, Anderson described.
Potential LCS Modifications
The Navy is exploring the prospect of making some modifications to the structure of the LCS in order to accommodate a longer-range missile. Service ship developers are also looking at adding more armor protection onto some of the weapons systems, sensors and magazines.
Improving the electronic warfare capacity of the ship is also a key consideration, along with “hardening” the combat systems such that they are better able to withstand attacks and remain functional if the ship is hit by enemy fire. This could involve making adjustment to the power and cooling systems aboard the ship, Anderson explained.
Overall, the Navy plans to acquire as many as 32 LCS ships broken down into two variants; an Independence variant with a trimaran hull and a Freedom variant with a flat-bottomed mono-hull. The service plans to have 24 LCS ships delivered by 2019.
The Independence variants are also armed with a ship-defense interceptor missile called SeaRAM, a weapon designed to destroy approaching drones, aircraft, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles. The defensive weapon is already installed on the Independence variant of the LCS and will be integrated onto the Freedom variant from ship number 17 and forward, Anderson explained.
The LCS ship is engineered in what Navy engineers call a “modular” fashion, meaning it is designed to more readily and quickly swap out technologies and system and more efficiently integrate new technologies as they emerge, Anderson said.
The ships are configured with so-called “mission packages” for anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and countermine operations. The idea is to have swappable groups of integrated technologies able to move on and off the ships as dictated by mission requirements.
“The ship can be built at the right pace of construction and the weapons can be developed base on the threat in the real world,” Anderson added.
For the swarm boat test, the USS Coronado was configured with the “surface warfare” package – a group of weapons and technologies which includes an MH-60 helicopter, 30mm gun and 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.
In 2016, the USS Coronado is slated to deploy to Singapore.
Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.
The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.
That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.
A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.
In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.
“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”
The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.
Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.
The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.
The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.
Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.
Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.
The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.
Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”
The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.
DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.
The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.
The U.S. Navy has suspended its search for nine missing sailors from the USS John S. McCain after looking in vain for more than 80 hours.
Despite help from other countries, the Navy was unable to find the nine sailors within a 2,100-square mile area. However, the Navy will continue to look for any sailors who may have been trapped inside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, which collided with a Liberian merchant vessel Aug. 21 east of the Malacca Strait.
In the aftermath of the collision, divers recovered the body of another one of the sailors, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, a 22-year-old from New Jersey.
Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, from Missouri
Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, from Texas
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, from Maryland
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, from Ohio
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, from Maryland
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, from New York
(no official photo available)
Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, from Connecticut
Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, from Texas
Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, from Illinois
The Navy is still investigating the collision, and following the crash, the commander of the 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was dismissed Wednesday, a rare event. Notably, Aucoin was set to retire in just a few weeks.
Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer has subsequently assumed command.
An investigation is still underway into the incident, but a Navy official told CNN that the USS John S. McCain was hit by a steering failure and the backup steering system was not activated.
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Several al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab members were killed in a joint US-Somalian raid July 13, the Associated Press reports.
US Africa Command confirmed a “advise and assist” mission took place but offered no details to the AP. The raid is the latest in a series of escalating actions against the terrorist group under new authorities provided by President Donald Trump.
Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities” in late March, giving the US military greater autonomy in green-lighting airstrikes.
A US Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia in May during a similar raid, marking the first US combat death in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident that killed 18 service-members. Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 5 the US keeps approximately 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist the Somalian army.
Al-Shabaab famously carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The US joined a coalition of several African nations after the attack in an attempt to curtail the terrorist group.
Al-Shabaab continues to remain active in Somalia’s rural areas despite nearly four years of combined US coalition efforts. The terrorist group’s stated mission is to take the Somali capital of Mogadishu and impose its interpretation of Islamic law on the population writ large.
Instead, Stilwell spent most of the war in what was an important backwater, the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. Stilwell was in the middle of preparing Operation Gymnast, the landings of North Africa which would later be conducted as Operation Torch, when he learned that he was on the short list to command U.S. forces in CBI.
Stilwell didn’t want the job. He hoped to invade North Africa. From there, he would have a decent shot at commanding the European theater or at least all troops taking the fight to Italy.
This was a reasonable expectation. Operation Gymnast became Operation Torch and was passed to then-Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s success in North Africa led to an appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A few years later, he used his status as a war hero to run for president.
He was facing a tough job, but Stilwell dove into it. He assumed control of an integrated force in Burma in 1942 and prepared an offensive against the Japanese.
But it was too late for that. Before Stilwell could lay the groundwork, a new Japanese thrust overcame Chinese forces and sent them reeling back. The rest of the Allied forces in the area, mostly Americans under Stilwell, were forced to follow. This caused the loss of Burma and a severing of important logistical corridors.
But Stilwell didn’t want to disrupt the Japanese in Burma, he wanted it back. In 1944, he was able to lead a force that retook the region. One of the most famous units in the effort was Merrill’s Marauders, led by Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill. Merrill was one of the survivors that left Burma with Stilwell. Merrill had survived the evacuation despite suffering a heart attack.
Stilwell was finally removed from CBI in 1944, mainly due to staff and national politics. He was sent to the Ryukyu Islands where he took over the 10th Army on Okinawa. It was in this position that he was tapped to lead the invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall.
Luckily for him and his men, though not for his career and legacy, the invasion was made unnecessary by the Japanese surrendering to MacArthur in 1945.
The Navy is nearing completion of its first two new, high-tech ship-to-shore connectors for amphibious operations designed to transport large numbers of Marines, equipment and weapons to shore from beyond-the-horizon, senior Navy officials said.
The service plans to build 73 Ship-to-Shore Connectors, or SSCs, to replace the existing fleet of 72 Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, Navy Director of Expeditionary Warfare, told Scout Warrior.
With some of the existing fleet of LCACs approaching 30-years of service, the Navy needs to begin replacing them with new ones, service officials said.
“We have two (SSCs) under construction to deliver in 2017 and two more that will begin construction in March of 2016. This is an upgrade to the current LCAC,” Owens said in an interview last year.
While the SSC design will be very similar to an LCAC, the new craft will incorporate a number of innovations and upgrades which will give in more speed, greater range, more payload capacity, improved digital controls and a new engine, Owens added.
“The new craft will have a greater load capacity so we can return to carrying M1A1 battle tanks aboard them,” he explained.
In addition, the SSCs will have a new Rolls Royce engine – the same one currently used in an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Owens said.
The new SSCs also increase the strength of the deck and improve the propellers when compared with existing LCACs, he said. The new SSCs can carry up to 74-tons across the ocean, enough to move an M1A1 Abrams tank with a mine plow, officials said.
The Navy’s 72 LCACs, in service for decades since the 80s, can transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.
LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well, service officials said.
The Navy contracted with Textron Systems to build an in-house Navy design for the SSCs through an initial construction deal to deliver up to eight new craft by 2020. The contract has a potential value of $570 million.
Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain – even driving right up onto the shore.
In order to bridge the gap from existing LCACs to the new SSCs, the Navy implemented a special service life extension program for the LCACs – many of which are now approaching three decades of service.
The LCACs were re-engined with new engines, given new rotating machinery, new command and control systems, new skirts and fixes to corrosion issues. The effort is designed to put another 10 years of life back into the LCAC, Navy officials described.
The idea with the service life extension is to bridge the time-lapse or gap until the new SSCs are ready to enter the force in larger numbers, Owens explained.
Some of the enhancements being engineered into the SSCs are designed to address the changing threat landscape in a modern environment, a scenario that is expected to change how amphibious operations will be conducted in the future.
Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them.
This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”
“One way of dealing with an anti-access type threat is to have a distributed threat deployed it is able to quickly aggregate and then rapidly move from ship to shore,” Owens said.