China wants to become east Asia’s dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.
China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A “blue-water navy” would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China’s coastline.
Beijing’s naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):
The largest ship in China’s navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that’s had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.
But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.
There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.
The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China’s coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.
Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.
“The guided missile destroyer Ji’nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons,” China Military Online reports.
“It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation.”
Starting with a base of $534 billion in discretionary funding, coupled with another $51 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding (aka the “war budget”), the Pentagon’s spending power comes to a grand total of $585 billion.
Defense industry giants, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon posted second-quarter earnings on Wednesday (Lockheed Martin earnings released last week).
Here’s a look at how they did…
Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, reported a smaller-than-expected second Q2 loss on Wednesday. The company’s first quarterly net loss in nearly seven years amounted to $234 million.
Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program for the US Air Force is delayed from August 2017 until January 2018 due to test flight problems. Modifications to the aircraft are expected to cost Boeing an additional $393 million (after taxes).
“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” Boeing said in its filing on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Boeing won a US Air Force contract worth $25.8 million to start work on the next fleet of Air Force One aircraft.
The aging Air Force One and it’s twin decoy will be replaced with two Boeing 747-8 and are expected to be operational in 2020.
Up to Wednesday’s close of $135.96, the company’s shares had fallen about 6% since the start of the year.
•Operating cash flow of $1.2 billion (with 28.6 million shares repurchased for $3.5 billion)
•Cash flow of $3.2 billion, (down 2% from 2015)
•Core earnings per share loss of $0.44
•Revenue rose 1% to $24.8 billion (from earlier estimate of $24.5 billion)
• Demand still high with more than 5,700 commercial plane orders still in the works
Reuters contributed to this report.
General Dynamics began their earnings conference call on Wednesday highlighting their “very good second quarter.”
The Falls Church, Virginia-based company announced $7.6 billion in Q2 revenue and achieved $758 million in net earnings.
General Dynamics recognized their aerospace unit (with a revenue of $2.13 billion) and maritime division.
At the end of June 2016, the defense giants’ National Steel and Shipbuilding division won a $640 million Pentagon contract to construct a T-AO 205 Class Fleet Replenishment Oiler. The contract could be worth up to $3.16 billion if the Pentagon decides to buy an additional five ships.
In March, the US Navy announced that General Dynamics will be the prime contractor for development of 12 new submarines.
Shares rose less than 1% to $145.09 in the afternoon and since the beginning of this year, the company’s stock has climbed 5.2%.
•Revenue fell to $7.67 billion (down by $217 million from the Q2 2015)
•Raised 2016’s full-year earnings forecast to $9.70 per share (from $9.20, analysts’ expect $9.52)
•Profit margins could be as high as 13.8% (up from January 2016 estimate of 13.3%)
Reuters contributed to this report.
While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings last week.
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.
Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted a record high of $261.37 in early trading on July 19. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.
“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.
The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.
• Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)
•Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015
•Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations
•Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)
•Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)
Reuters contributed to this report.
Northrop Grumman’s earnings report showed sales reaching $6 billion with the company’s aerospace unit seeing a 4% increase in sales due to higher demand for drones and manned aircraft.
“Autonomous Systems sales rose due to higher volume on the Global Hawk and Triton programs, partially offset by lower volume due to the ramp down on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program,” the company said in a statement.
“Manned Aircraft sales rose due to higher restricted volume and higher F-35 deliveries, partially offset by fewer F/A-18 deliveries and lower volume on the B-2 program.”
It should be noted that Lockheed Martin, is the prime contractor for the F-35 Lightning II, however, Northrop Grumman develops the fifth-generation fighter jets’ center fuselage, radar and avionics suite.
Northrop is also a subcontractor to Boeing on the F/A-18 Hornet.
•Sales increase by 2% to $6 billion (compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 of 2015)
•Earning per share increase by 4% to $2.85
•Earning per share guidance increase to $10.75 to $11.00
•Cash from operations of $604 million
Raytheon, the world’s largest missile manufacturer, announced $6 billion in net sales for Q2 2016, which is up 3% compared to $5.8 billion in the second quarter 2015.
Earnings per share was $2.38 compared to $1.65, this time last year.
“We begin the second half of 2016 with continued confidence in our growth outlook, and we have increased our guidance for earnings and cash flow as a result of our strong year-to-date performance,” CEO and Chairman Thomas A. Kennedy said in a statement.
The North Koreans have been provoking the United States for as long as North Koreans have been praising Kim Il-Sung for being birthed from a shooting star.
In the 1960’s the Hermit Kingdom was at the height of its power, which mostly came from the Soviet Union, who both supplied it and protected it from U.S. “intervention.”
The election of U.S. President Richard Nixon changed how Communist nations interacted with the United States in geopolitical affairs. Nixon, a staunch anti-Communist Cold Warrior, was able to provoke the major Communist powers and them off of one another. His famous 1972 trip to China and the subsequent thaw in relations with the USSR are proof that Nixon’s “triangulation” theory had merit.
But in April 1969, mere months into the first Nixon Administration, Nixon’s internationalist savvy was still unproven. That’s when North Korea shot down an EC-121 spy plane over the Sea of Japan. Nixon was furious.
A July 2010 story on NPR featured remarks from Bruce Charles, an Air Force pilot based in Kunsan, South Korea at the time. He recalled being put on alert to carry out his part of the SIOP, the Single Integrated Operational Plan – the U.S. nuclear strike plan for war with the Communists.
Charles was put on alert to drop a 330-kiloton nuke on a North Korean airstrip.
Eventually, the order to stand down was given, and Charles returned to his regular duties. According to the official accounts, Nixon and his advisors mulled over how to respond. In the end, the President opted not to retaliate.
It’s worth speculating that Nixon would have wanted the Communists to believe he actually considered a nuclear strike. In the coming years, the President would even send nuclear-armed bombers toward the Soviet Union while spreading the rumor that he was so insane, he might really trigger World War III.
Of course, he wasn’t insane. And thanks to a 2000 book by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, we know he was just drunk. Not with power, but with booze.
George Carver, a CIA Vietnam specialist at the time of the EC-121 shootdown, is reported to have said that Nixon became “incensed” when he found out about the EC-121. The President got on the phone with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ordered plans for a tactical nuclear strike and recommendations for targets.
Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor for Nixon at the time, also got on the phone to the Joint Chiefs and got them to agree to stand down on that order until Nixon woke up sober the next morning.
A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told the AP that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.
The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”
While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.
Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told the AP.
Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.
On July 23, 1952, a military coup toppled the Egyptian monarchy and seized power.
Led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Society of Free Officers forced the corrupt King Farouk to abdicate and relinquish his power. The revolutionaries abolished the monarchy, redistributed land, and tried politicians for corruption. Nasser led a Revolutionary Command Council to form a new government, create and promulgate a new constitution, and make Egypt a socialist Arab state.
In 1954, Nasser proclaimed himself prime minister of Egypt. He proved himself to be a competent and popular leader, negotiating the creation of a new constitution that not only made Egypt a socialist Arab state, but helped improve the lives of many Egyptians — especially women.
In 1956 he was elected, unopposed, to the new office of president, where he served until his death in 1970. During his 18 years in power, Nasser remained a popular leader who improved the quality of life for many Egyptians and earned him respect throughout the world.
Featured Image: The Egyptian Free Officers in 1953. From left to right: Zakariya Mohieddine, Abdel Latif Boghdadi, Kamel el-Din Hussein (standing), Gamal Abdel Nasser, Abdel Hakim Amer (standing), Muhammad Naguib and Ahmad Shawki.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.
Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.
The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.
Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.
These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%? That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.
The Army has a few ways it breaks down deployments, chief among them is the “Army Force Generation Cycle.” But that looks at how Big Army assigns different units to different missions. Here’s how deployment cycles actually work for soldiers.
1. It starts by getting sweet new uniforms.
For soldiers, pre-deployment is a special time when one can shed the Universal Camouflage Pattern and put on a camouflage that actually works. Also that switch and the IR flags lets everyone know that a soldier is about to go to combat, allowing them to feel really special at the PX and commissaries.
2. Packing, repacking, then packing other stuff
Those new uniforms will get sweaty quickly as the unit packs, repacks, and stows gear for the deployment. Connexes and vehicles traveling by ship go first, then everything moving by plane, and then personal gear has to get packed away. All of it will have to be unpacked for inspection at least once during the process, and probably twenty times.
3. Being jammed like sardines into a flying can
Finally, the soldiers get to actually deploy. To do this, they get on a plane with limited access to hygiene facilities and then jam themselves in so tight that they can barely breath without inhaling each other’s sweat. Ladies, tell us again how you like a man in uniform, but go ahead and cover your nose while you do it.
4. “OMG, this place is so hot/cold/wet/dry!”
Coming off the plane is always punctuated with a lot of curses for the local weather. This is kind of dumb since complaining won’t help and the weather isn’t going to change. But in troops’ defense, it really is stupid hot, cold, wet, and/or dry, and sometimes all four at once somehow.
5. No sleep till fully mission capable
Arrival in country kicks off a long series of briefings, gear checks, travel, acclimation, orientation, set-up, and more. Sleep is hard to come by until all of this is done. Sometimes, troops get lucky and are replacing a unit that streamlined the process. More often, the sergeant major decides the previous unit built the base wrong and orders it redone from scratch.
6. “Groundhog’s Day”
Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a school in the morning instead of the district center, but that’s about it.
6. “Groundhog’s Day”
Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a battalion base in the morning instead of the shura, but that’s about it.
Oddly, getting down to the last 100 days of a deployment is generally considered a bad thing. This is because troops can get cocky or lazy as they dream of heading home. First sergeants have to walk around saying, “Complacency kills,” and “It’s just as easy to die on the last day as it was on the first.”
8. Social media offensive
As the time dwindles down, troops will start spending more time on Facebook, Tinder, and anywhere else they can find people who might want to party once they land. They have to create a long list of potential “Welcome Home!” partygoers, since only about 10 percent will show up and at least half of those will leave once the first staff duty runner is tossed over a barracks railing.
9. Packing, flying, and partying
Getting to that “Welcome Home!” banner is basically repeating steps two and three. Pack, pack, pack, get onto a crammed plane, build up a thick layer of funk, and then march into a hangar to hug family members and friends. Then, party.
Some people joke that “Marine” stands for “My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment.”
Surely that’s been the case. To get to Iwo Jima, the Marines needed to sail in on transports. And what was true in 1945 is no less true in 2017.
Later this month, Marines will be testing a lot of new technology, from landing craft to robots. But the new gear won’t just be painted green. The big gray pieces of Navy equipment that Marine butts ride in are also changing. When the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) entered service in 1989, the AV-8B Harrier was very young – the AV-8B+ with the APG-65 radar and AIM-120 AMRAAM capability was still years away from a test flight.
Today, the Wasp is nearing 30 and she has six sisters, and a half-sister, the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in service with her — plus the USS America (LHA 6), the lead ship of a new class of big-deck amphibious assault ships. Everything on board will have to go in by air. Both the America and later the Tripoli will lack well decks for the hovercraft (LCACs) used to land troops, making them, in essence, light carriers on the order of Japan’s Izumo or the Italian Conte di Cavour.
Oh, each still holds 1,871 Marines, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.
The LHA 8 and LPD 28 represent the future of amphibious ships. LHA 8 is the first of the more permanent class, while LPD 28 is going to be a transition vessel from the San Antonio-class amphibious transports to the LX(R) program that will replace the Whidbey Island and Harper’s Ferry landing ships.
The LHA 8 will correct an omission in the first two America-class amphibious assault ships: It will have a well deck capable of holding two LCACs. Getting that means a bit of shuffling – Huntington Ingalls notes that 1,000 compartments have been eliminated, added, or moved around. The ship will have a smaller hanger than the USS America (18,745 square feet versus 28,142 square feet), but it will have over 12,000 more square feet to store vehicles.
Over 1,600 Marine butts will ride in this ship.
The LPD 28 is a San Antonio-class ship. But in some ways she is a lot like the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, a half-sister to USS San Antonio and her 10 other sisters intended as a bridge to the LX(R) program. Huntington Ingalls is proposing a version of the San Antonio hull for the LX(R) program – largely to avoid growing pains.
The most visible change is her masts – LPD 28 will have traditional masts as opposed to the stealthy masts on the other San Antonio-class ships. She will also have simpler roller doors for her helicopter hangar, and an open upper stern gate. She will carry 650 Marines to their destination.
In short, these new ships will continue to haul Marine butts to their eventual destinations. Even as technology changes, some things will remain the same.
It’s NFL playoff time — the part of the season that TV sports commentators refer to as “life or death” for teams that still have a chance to win the Super Bowl. But in the league’s history a number of players have learned about real matters pertaining to life and death as a result of serving in the military during wartime.
Records show that 638 NFL athletes joined the military during World War II. Of those, 23 died. Over 200 NFL players fought during the Korean War, but there were no casualties. Twenty-eight players fought in Vietnam; two of them were killed in action. And one NFL player — the only one to sign up — was killed during the War in Afghanistan.
Here are details of four of these heroes of the gridiron who sacrificed their lives while answering a call that extended well beyond the lines on the field:
1st. Lt. Jack Lummus, Marine Corps, (end, New York Giants, 1941-1942) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945
Lummus was a defensive end for the New York Giants before earning his commission in the Marine Corps. In March of 1945 he fought with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theater of World War II, helping his platoon take out well-fortified enemy positions despite being wounded. He was eventually felled by a landmine, and before succumbing to his wounds he famously told the medic that was trying to save his life, “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today.”
Lummus posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Major Don Steinbrunner, Air Force, (Cleveland Browns, 1953) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1967
Steinbrunner, who joined the ROTC while in college, was called to active duty following his rookie season with Cleveland in 1953. Upon completion of a two-year tour of duty as an Air Force navigator, he considered returning to the Browns but opted to pursue a military career due to concerns that he would aggravate a knee injury he’d sustained during his first season.
In 1966, Steinbrunner received orders to Vietnam. Not long after his arrival, he was shot in the knee during an aerial mission. Due to his injury, he was offered an opportunity to accept a less dangerous assignment, but declined, preferring to return to his unit. On July 20, 1967, Steinbrunner’s C-123 was shot down over South Vietnam during a defoliation mission that involved spraying Agent Orange on the jungle canopy.
Posthumously, Don Steinbrunner was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read in part, “Disregarding the hazards of flying the difficult target terrain and the opposition presented by hostile ground forces, he led the formation through one attack and returned to make a second attack. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Major Steinbrunner reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
2nd Lt. Bob Kalsu, Army, (guard, Buffalo Bills, 1968-1969) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1970
Kalsu entered the Army as a second lieutenant following his promising rookie season with the Bills. Unlike many professional athletes who were draft eligible or had ROTC military commitments during those years, Kalsu did not seek the help of the Bills organization to arrange for a non-combat assignment in the reserves.
On July 21, 1970, following eight months of heavy fighting with enemy troops, Lieutenant Kalsu was killed when his unit came under heavy fire while defending Ripcord Base on an isolated jungle mountaintop. Two days later back in Oklahoma City his wife gave birth to their second child.
Cpl. Pat Tillman, Army, (defensive back, Arizona Cardinals, 1998-2002) – Killed in Afghanistan in April 2004
Pat Tillman gave up a multimillion-dollar contract to serve his country, motivated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When he enlisted and started his training that eventually earned him his Ranger Tab, Tillman was just 25 years old and entering his fifth NFL season with one All-Pro season under his belt.
On April 22, 2004 Tillman was on his second combat tour when he was killed by gunfire in Afghanistan near the eastern border. The incident was originally reported as enemy action but eventually the Army admitted that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire during a patrol where another element of his squad lost spatial awareness and directed fire toward him. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (that the Army justified in spite of the fact it was awarded before the facts emerged) and Purple Heart.
The global proliferation of Russian and Chinese weapons massively increases the likelihood that US Army forces will confront tanks, drones, electronic warfare systems, precision munitions, armored vehicles and artillery made by near-peer competitors.
Although the prospect of major-power mechanized ground war between the US and Russia or China may not seem likely, the US Army is tasked with the need to be ready for any ground-combat scenario. What this means, Army leaders explained, is that the current and future combat environment the globe is both increasingly urban and armed with Russian and Chinese-made tanks and weapons.
Russian-built T-72 and T-90 tanks, Chinese drones, fighters, and missiles are now part of Armies around the world who might wind up in conflict with the US. In particular, Pakistan is armed with Type 85-IIAP Chinese-built tanks and Iran is equipped with Russian-made T-72s. Even smaller countries, such as Bangladesh, have Chinese tanks. In addition, a far greater number of smaller countries such as Cuba, India and Lybia have Russian tanks. North Korea, not surprisingly, has both Russian and Chinese tanks.
Also, senior Army officials explained that if US Army ground forces wind up on the ground in Syria, they will definitely wind up confronting Russian-built weapons. Although such a scenario may or may not happen, the prospect presents a very real threat to Army analysts and trainers.
“If the Army goes into ground combat in the Middle East, we will face equipment from Russia, Iran and in some cases China,” a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.
Re-focused Army Training
The Army’s “live-fire” combat exercises involve large-scale battalion-on-battalion war scenarios wherein mechanized forces often clash with make-shift, “near-peer” enemies or enemy weapons using new technologies, drones, tanks, artillery, missiles and armored vehicles.
The Army is expanding its training and “live-fire” weapons focus to include a renewed ability to fight a massive, enemy force in an effort to transition from its decade-and-a-half of tested combat experience with dismounted infantry and counterinsurgency.
Recent ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an experienced and combat-tested force able to track, attack and kill small groups of enemies — often blended into civilian populations, speeding in pick-up trucks or hiding within different types of terrain to stage ambushes.
“The Army has a tremendous amount of experience right now. It has depth but needs more breadth. We’re good at counterinsurgency and operations employing wide area security. Now, we may have to focus on ‘Mounted Maneuver’ operations over larger distances,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While senior Army leaders are quick to emphasize that counterinsurgency is of course still important and the service plans to be ready for the widest possible range of conflict scenarios, there is nonetheless a marked and visible shift toward being ready to fight and win against a large-scale modernized enemy such as Russia or China.
The Army, naturally, does not single out these countries as enemies, train specifically to fight them or necessarily expect to go to war with them. However, recognizing the current and fast-changing threat environment, which includes existing tensions and rivalries with the aforementioned great powers, Army training is increasingly focused on ensuring they are ready for a mechanized force-on-force type engagement.
At the same time, while large-scale mechanized warfare is quite different than counterinsurgency, there are some areas of potential overlap between recent warfare and potential future great power conflict in a few key respects. The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a period of more than a decade, involved the combat debut of various precision-guided land attack weapons such as GPS guided artillery and rocket weapons.
Weapons such as Excalibur, a GPS-guided 155m artillery round able to precisely destroy enemy targets at ranges greater than 30-kilometers, gave ground commanders an ability to pinpoint insurgent targets such as small gatherings of fighters, buildings and bomb-making locations. Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or GLMRS, is another example; this precision guided long-range rocket, which can hit ranges up to 70-kilometers, was successful in killing Taliban targets in Afghanistan from great distances, among other things.
These kinds of precision munitions, first used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the kind of weapon which would greatly assist land attack efforts in a massive force-on-force land war as well. They could target key locations behind enemy lines such as supplies, forces and mechanized vehicles.
Drones are another area of potential overlap. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a veritable explosion in drone technology and drone use. For example, the Army had merely a handful of drones at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, the service operates thousands and has repeatedly relied upon them to find enemy locations, spot upcoming ambushes and save lives in combat. These are the kinds of platforms which would also be of great utility in a major land war. However, they would likely be used differently incorporating new tactics, techniques and procedures in a great power engagement.
“This is not back to the future…this is moving towards the future where Army forces will face adaptive enemies with greater lethality. This generation of Army leaders will orchestrate simultaneous Combined ArmsManeuver and Wide Area Security” Smith said.
Nevertheless, many Army leaders now experienced with counterinsurgency tactics will need to reexamine tactics needed for major conventional warfare.
“You have a generation of leaders who have to expand learning to conduct simultaneous ‘Combined Arms’ and ‘Wide Area Security” Smith said.
“The Army has to be prepared across the entire range of military operations. One of these would be ‘near-peer’ operations, which is what we have not been fighting in recent years,” Smith explained.
Massive Land War “Decisive Action”
The new approach to this emerging integrated training is called “Decisive Action,”senior Army leaders explained.
Live-fire combat at Riley, Kan., affords an opportunity to put these new strategies into effect, service officials said.
“Every morning I could put a battalion on the north side and a battalion on the south side – and just joust working “Combined Arms Maneuver.” I can do battalion-on-battalion and it does involve “Combined Arms” live fire,” a senior Army official said. “Because of the airspace that we have here – and use the UAS – I can synchronize from 0-to-18,000 feet and do maneuver indirect fire.”
This includes the use of drones, Air Force air assets, Army attack aviation along with armored vehicles, artillery, tanks and infantry units equipped for small arms fire, the official explained.
Some of the main tactics and techniques explored during “Decisive Action” live fire exercises include things like “kill what you shoot at,” “move to contact,” “synchronize indirect fire,” and “call-in 9-line,” (providing aircraft with attack coordinates from the ground), Army leaders said.
Army developers explained that “live-fire” combat exercises now work to incorporate a wide range of emerging technologies so as to better anticipate the tactics, weapons and systems a future enemy is likely to employ; this includes the greater use of drones or unmanned systems, swarms of mini-drones in the future, emerging computing technology, tank-on-tank warfare tactics, electronic warfare, enemy aircraft and longer-range precision weaponry including anti-tank missiles, guided artillery, and missiles.
In order to execute this kind of combat approach, the Army is adapting to more “Combined Arms Maneuver.” This warfare competency seeks to synchronize a wide range of weapons, technologies and war assets in order to overwhelm, confuse and destroy an enemy force.
Smith likened “Combined Arms” to being almost like a symphony orchestra where each instrument is geared toward blending and contributing to an integrated overall musical effect.
In warfare, this would mean using tank-on-tank attacks, indirect fire or artillery, air defenses, air assets, networking technologies, drones, rockets, missiles and mortar all together to create a singular effect able to dominate the battlespace, Smith explained.
For example, air assets and artillery could be used to attack enemy tank or armored vehicle positions in order to allow tank units and infantry fighting vehicles to reposition for attack. The idea to create an integrated offensive attack — using things like Apache attack helicopters and drones from the air, long-range precision artillery on the ground joined by Abrams tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in a coordinated fashion.
Smith also explained how preparing for anticipated future threats also means fully understanding logistics and sustainment — so that supplies, ammunition, and other essentials can continue to fortify the war effort.
Current “Decisive Action” live fire training includes an emerging emphasis on “expeditionary” capability wherein the Army is ready to fight by tonight by rapidly deploying over large distances with an integrated force consisting of weapons, infantry, armored vehicles and other combat-relevant assets.
At the same time, this strategy relies, to some extent, on an ability to leverage a technological edge with a “Combined Arms” approach as well, networking systems and precision weapons able to destroy enemies from farther distances.
In order to incorporate these dynamics into live-fire training, Army trainers said the battalion -on-battalion combat exercises practice a “move to contact” over very large 620 kilometer distances.
“This builds that expeditionary mindset,” he explained.
When you think of men and women in uniform during the holiday season, it’s often a soldier in red from America’s Salvation Army ringing a bell in a call for aid to those in need.
But another service working to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate has been at it for nearly 70 years, working day and night to solicit and distribute donated toys for young kids who may not have the benefit of a joyful holiday.
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program was established in 1947 by then-California Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and was formally adopted by the Marine Corps a year later.
Officially run by Marine reservists and with help from their Navy brethren, in the years since its founding, Leathernecks have been collecting donations and distributing toys to deserving children throughout the country.
In 2015, Marines distributed 18 million toys to 7 million kids in 782 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And Toys for Tots has become as much a Marine Corps tradition as its legendary warfighting capability.
To get a sense of the importance of the program to the Corps, take a look at the video below.
The U.S. Army has just announced that Captain Kristen Griest’s request to change her military occupational specialty from Military Police to Infantry has been approved, according to a report posted by the Ledger-Enquirer.
“Like any other officer who wishes to branch transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” Fort Benning Spokesman Bob Purtiman said. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army over the weekend.”
Griest, a West Point graduate, was one of three women to successfully complete Ranger School last August. She is scheduled to graduate from the Captains Career Course at Fort Benning this week. The Army has not announced her next assignment.