Upon taking the highest office in the land, President-elect Donald Trump will need to address the growing North Korean missile threat “almost immediately.”
“More often than not, we measure the mettle of presidencies by the unexpected crises that they must deal with,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For President Bush, this was clearly the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which completely changed every element of his presidency. For President-elect Trump, this crisis could very well come from North Korea.”
Speaking on a panel at CSIS’s Global Security Forum, Cha added that the North would “challenge the new administration almost immediately upon taking office.”
The normally aggressive regime has been exceptionally busy in 2016 with an increased tempo in testing. The North has launched 25 ballistic missiles this year and remains the only country to have detonated nuclear devices in this century.
“Every launch that he launches, he learns more. He gets more capability,” retired US Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, a former commander of US Forces-Korea said during the panel.
“UN Security Council resolutions have been numerous that have told him he cannot do this, and I personally think it’s time to start enforcing this,” Sharp said.
The acceleration and frequency in testing shows not only the North’s nuclear ambitions but also that the rogue nation has developed something of an arsenal.
The following graphic from CSIS’s Missile Defense Project illustrates specifications and ranges of North Korea’s ballistic-missile arsenal.
Army occupational therapist Maj. Erik Johnson will use anything that works to help wounded warriors. One of the big problems he faces is how to get his patients involved in their own therapy.
Therapists have historically used activities like working with leather and copper tooling to engage patients, but that doesn’t appeal to soldiers from the Xbox generation. Johnson, a gamer and former Army rehabilitation patient himself, found a way to incorporate games into therapy.
“If I threw, you know, macrame in front of a soldier he might laugh at me,” Johnson said in an interview with WATM. “But if I threw him at a video game, he’d be like, ‘Yeah man. I love this dude. Hell, I’m gonna go like do everything I can to optimize my treatment.'”
The games used in therapy are carefully curated by Johnson who identifies what needs each could fulfill. DJ Hero and Big Brain Academy, for instance, are good for soldiers who have suffered brain traumas.
“One of the biggest things with concussions is that you have what we call executive dysfunction or basically, a big issue with cognition,” Johnson said. “So like, your memory is not as good as it was. Or you have issues with problem solving. Or maybe you have issues with delayed response with your brain thinking to your hands moving.”
So, Johnson can put soldiers recovering from a concussion or another brain injury in front of DJ Hero, which requires that the player keep to a rhythm, watch symbols on a screen, and anticipate the actions of others.
Big Brain Academy allows players to work on memory, statistics, analysis, math. And, it allows them to measure their progress.
“And the thing with Big Brain Academy is that it kept a record of everything you did,” said Johnson. “So, if you built a profile, and you’re like, ‘Okay, yesterday was the very first time I worked on this, I was terrible. Today I’m a little bit better and in a week I’m doing fantastic.’ Even if that’s not standardized, you can still see them improving.”
Big Brain Academy payed off big for Johnson and the soldiers under his care when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 to set up a brain injury program inside a deployed brigade combat team. Stuck on an austere forward operating base, a simple game that could be set up in a hooch was a good tool to help soldiers recovering from a concussion or TBI.
When Johnson got back to the states, systems like the Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii allowed him to target physical therapies with video games as well. For amputees who lost one or both legs, cardio is an issue.
“Our lower extremity amputees have a big issue with cardio. They haven’t been able to run, and they start gaining weight and running is a lot more challenging for them. How are we going to engage them in a good cardio regimen?
“One of the things we noticed was we could put them on Wii Boxing and set them up on a therapy ball and they have to balance on the therapy ball which would strengthen their core and then also, they are doing a lot of engagement with their upper extremities. And, anybody that has played any kind of Wii sport-type game that takes a lot of that effort knows that real quickly it gives you a good workout.”
Amputee patients also got help from Ken Jones, an engineer who runs Warfighter Engaged and builds custom controllers for amputees.
“He’ll modify game controllers or systems so that anybody could play on them,” Johnson said. “Let’s say you lose your left hand, well, he’s going to bring all those buttons on your Xbox controller over to the right side.”
Jones even made a custom controller for a quadruple amputee.
“Just by like pushing switches and big toggles and different elements like that, he basically made it to where anybody could engage in therapy. Well, I call it therapy, they call it gaming.”
Glen Banton, the CEO of OSD, met Johnson and asked for his wish list, everything Johnson would need to create the perfect setup for treating wounded warriors with video games.
“So I started to do a lot more writing down, research on games. I would want this particular game for this application. I would want this for this application. And I started going down this list of different games that would do different things.”
“So Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and blew me away,” Johnson said. “I mean, like way more than I had asked for, way more than anticipated. My office is full of gaming stuff right now that I’m now trying to build an entire huge gaming center within out therapy gym so that it’s actually almost a piece of medical equipment, that is its intended use. Before, we had roving televisions and we’d throw a system on it. Now it’s like, I’m going to actually have a specified space where we go and do therapeutic gaming.”
Of course, not all of Johnson’s patients are video gamers. But for the ones that are, they have a therapist who not only wants to engage them with their chosen hobby, but has an awesome suite of tools to do it with.
The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.
The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, “Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).
Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
“This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons,” said Liberty.
Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.
The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.
The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member’s ability to perform gunnery-related skills.
The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.
Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.
The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.
Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.
“This is the first time I’m doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons,” said Liberty.
“We’re not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they’re getting qualified, they’re getting fed, they’re getting rooms,” he added.
Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.
Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.
“We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first,” Miyamoto said.
His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.
“Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?”
Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier,” Safety is number one,” Orosco said.
For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it’s his first time operating these types of weapons.
He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.
“I like the MK 19 because there’s a boom at the end,” said Jacang-Buchanan.
Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.
Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, “It’s a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it’s for everyone to learn. It’s exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It’s always good to learn, especially these weapons.”
“I’d recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel,” he added.
Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. Ünal flew with the 1st Helicopter Squadron during a U.S. visit to build U.S. – Turkey relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)
On Apr. 6, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal smiled and waved as the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took him on an aerial tour of the Washington, D.C. area. What Ünal’s hosts probably never mentioned was that their “White Top” UH-1N Twin Hueys are getting dangerously old.
The flying branch bought their first Twin Hueys nearly five decades ago. Despite numerous attempts to replace the choppers, the UH-1Ns continue to fly security missions around nuclear missile fields, shuttle dignitaries around the nation’s capital and stand ready to help out after a disaster or other emergency.
“[The] UH-1N doesn’t satisfy many assigned mission requirements,” Air Force officials wrote in a presentation for defense contractors in August 2015. “Emphasis is on expedited fielding of replacement aircraft.”
We Are The Mighty obtained a redacted copy of this document through the Freedom of Information Act. According to the “rules of engagement” section, the hosts banned attendees from recording the industry day gathering or taking photographs.
First flown in 1969, the Bell UH-1N has a top speed just shy of 150 miles per hour and a range of over 300 miles. Compared to earlier Hueys, the N models have twin Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshafts – hence the “Twin” nickname.
Depending on the internal configuration, the Twin Huey can carry up to 13 passengers in addition to its crew of three, at least on paper. Unfortunately, temperature and other weather conditions can dramatically change how much any helicopter can lift.
The briefing highlights three missions that were driving the push to replace the choppers. The first two were convoy escort and security response operations around missiles silos and related sites. The third, but equally important mission was carrying “distinguished visitors” like Ünal in and around Washington, D.C.
So, since the release of the Pentagon’s latest budget in February, and with serious concerns about these limits and overall age of the Air Force’s UH-1N fleet, American lawmakers have begun to demand action. But the safety of the country’s nuclear missiles has been at the center of the outcry.
“I look at the helicopters and I see glaring weaknesses and vulnerabilities which put our nation and … the mission at stake,” Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Republic congressman for Montana, said in a statement on Mar. 9. “This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”
Armed with fast-firing miniguns and rocket pods, the Air Force originally rushed the UH-1Ns to Southeast Asia to schlep commandos around South Vietnam and Laos during the final years of the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the flying branch had largely replaced them in the special operations role with the more powerful HH-60G Pave Hawk.
Of the 62 UH-1Ns, 25 eventually wound up serving with squadrons guarding nuclear sites across the western U.S. The 582d Helicopter Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming oversees those units and their missions.
However, nearly as many Twin Hueys are busy transporting “distinguished visitors” at home and abroad. The 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews owns 20 of the choppers, while the 459th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan has another four aircraft.
Commonly known as “White Tops” because of their striking blue and white paint jobs, the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s choppers fly foreign officials like Turkey’s Ünal around on a regular basis. On top of that, the unit is prepared to act if a natural disaster or major terrorist attack threatens the most powerful city in the free world.
In 2011, the 479th‘s white and gray UH-1Ns got put the test after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan. The choppers and their crews help moved critical American and Japanese personnel around the disaster area – including near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to survey and assess the situation.
On Feb. 29, the Air Force announced that two of the Twin Hueys in Japan had gotten new hoists to help rescue trapped or injured individuals in a crisis. Unfortunately, on the same day, the service admitted that one of the UH-1Ns had made a “precautionary” landing at Chofu Airport in Tokyo after experiencing engine trouble.
If a UH-1N were to crash while carrying an American or foreign government official, it would be a major embarrassment for the Air Force and Washington as a whole, if nothing else. Depending on who was involved and if there were any fatalities, the fallout could be just as devastating as a breach of nuclear security.
Unfortunately, Pentagon and the Air Force have had serious problems trying to fix the problem. Since 2004, the service has repeated pushed back the plans due to budget cuts, competing priorities and delays with other projects.
Had these sailors saved this Huey in ’75 (pushed overboard to make room on the flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon) it might still be flying VIPs around DC today. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
In 2009, the Pentagon dealt one of the biggest blows to the plan by canceling the program to replace the HH-60G rescue choppers. Three years earlier, the flying branch had hired Boeing to supply new HH-47 Chinooks.
Other competitors quickly filed official complaints accusing the service of mismanaging the contracting process. After the Government Accountability Office sided with the protesting companies, the Air Force tried and failed twice more to jump-start the program.
Ultimately, the flying branch inked a deal with Sikorsky to supply an updated HH-60W version of their iconic Black Hawk. But the Connecticut-based company, now part of Lockheed Martin, doesn’t expect to deliver any of those aircraft to the Air Force before 2019.
There’s no guarantee that these new aircraft would free up any of the older Pave Hawks either. In their 2015 briefing, the flying branch was willing to consider upgrading the choppers as a possible solution.
The Air Force made it clear that they wanted a single, common replacement for all the UH-1Ns scattered across the service, including another dozen assigned to training and test units. But, at the time, the presenters added that there was no program of record or funding stream for any replacements for the aging choppers.
On Feb. 26, Zinke and 13 other legislators co-signed letters to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee asking them to put money for new helicopters in the 2017 budget. Their proposal would involve adding to an existing U.S. Army plan to purchase HH-60M Black Hawks, but sending the extra aircraft to the Air Force.
“By adding Black Hawks … we can address the problem immediately rather than more delayed action,” the messages explained. “Not only does the Huey create security vulnerabilities, it has been proven inefficient and costly to operate and maintain.”
Neither congress nor the Pentagon has made a final decision on how best to proceed. In the meantime, foreign officials like Ünal will have to continue riding in the old Twin Hueys when they visit Washington.
Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 7 crowd this amphibious assault ship’s gym at all hours of the day and night.
Still, some faces in the gym are more common than the rest. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cary Chase is one of those faces.
“I needed to change my habits,” said Chase, the disbursing chief of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31, who hails from Bonire, Georgia. “I wasn’t happy with where I was physically, but now the gym is my home away from home where I can tune the world out for a while.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cary Chase, from Bonire, Georgia, is the disbursing chief of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonah Baase)
Rigorous Gym Schedule
Finding that a rigorous gym schedule reinforced the discipline required to manage financial accounts for the 31st MEU’s Marines and sailors, Chase goes to the gym twice a day, every day, and studies nutrition to focus her food intake.
Chase’s ambitions did not stop with becoming more fit. Her passion for weightlifting continued to grow as she won three bodybuilding competitions in gyms from Tokyo to Okinawa, Japan.
“Competitions were the next step to prove to myself that I was making progress,” Chase said. “You don’t see results overnight, and this was how I wanted to test my strength.”
The demands of life in the Marine Corps make physical fitness vital to any Marine’s success. At any time a Marine may be called to get the job done no matter the mission, whether it’s combat or humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
“It’s more than a routine,” Chase said. “It helps me prepare physically and mentally to support my Marines whether it be in a combat zone or day to day operations.”
Once Chase started working out with Sgt. Theresa Batt, a finance technician with CLB-31, from Cleveland, Ohio, Batt said she learned how to be a stronger leader, inside and outside the gym, taking her time to provide mentorship and guidance to her Marines to support their personal and professional goals.
“We became frequent gym partners,” Batt said of Chase. “She corrected my form and wouldn’t let me off the bench until my sets were completed. She doesn’t quit on her Marines, she’s full of energy and always motivates Marines she works and trains with.”
Chase continues to stick with her rigorous workout schedule, training with Batt to ensure they’re ready to meet any challenge.
“We need to be prepared for anything with the world we live in,” Chase said. “A Marine needs to be proficient at their job, and that includes pushing themselves and their peers to be the best they can.”
Iran says it has informed the UN nuclear agency that it has launched the process of increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the 2015 agreement that curbed its nuclear program collapses.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on June 5, 2018, that a letter was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to inform it of the decision.
But he also said Iran will continue adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal and that the country’s nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal that set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
The other signatories to the accord — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.
“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at [the Natanz enrichment plant], we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges,” Salehi said, quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
This “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges,” he insisted.
Salehi said the move was in line with instructions from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ordered preparations for the resumption of unlimited uranium enrichment should the nuclear deal — known by the acronym JCPOA — fall apart.
“If the JCPOA collapses…and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation…centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” Salehi said.
During a visit to Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iranian plan to increase its nuclear-enrichment capacity was aimed at producing nuclear weapons to be used against Israel, its archrival.
“We are not surprised [by Iran’s announcement],” he said in a video statement. “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use.
The nuclear agreement allows Iran to continue 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, far below the roughly 90 percent threshold of weapons-grade.
Vietnam veteran Brian Delate won a screenplay competition by the MVP Foundation for his script “Dante’s Obsession” on Friday, at We Are The Mighty Headquarters in Los Angeles.
The Staff Sgt. John Martin Veteran Writing Competition was open to active military personnel and veterans.
“Dante’s Obsession” follows the story of a young lieutenant fighting in the tunnels around Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War and the beautiful Viet Cong spy he falls in love with who attempts to steal information from him. It was previously a finalist at the 2015 G.I. Film Festival.
Delate works as a writer, actor, and director for film, theater, and TV. He recently performed a play, “Memorial Day,” that was also about his experiences in Vietnam. In 2014, he performed the play in Hanoi on the National Stage in front of Vietnamese and American veterans of the Vietnam War, including his former enemies.
The second place prize in the competition went to Navy Veteran Joshua Katz for his script, “The Ivory Coast.” The screenplay is about a Kenyan Wildlife Services official investigating the slaughter of a family of elephants in a national reserve.
Third prize went to Michael Brown, an Iraq War veteran and former Marine Corps platoon commander. Brown’s script, “Broken, in the Land of Dragons,” tells of a Navy SEAL who meets a local school teacher in Pakistan and works with friendly fighters to defend her school from a concerted attack by religious extremists.
The contest and award ceremony were put on by the MVP Foundation, a charitable corporation that supports veterans in the arts. It was founded in 2014 by Iraq War veteran and Army officer Brian J. Martin. WATM Co-Founder and CEO David Gale was one of the judges.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Even after 340 days in zero-gravity weakened his muscles, astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly successfully returned to Earth strong enough to give a fist pump and thumbs up.
Kelly’s 144 million-mile star trek ended when his Souyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan.
“The air feels great out here,” Kelly reportedly said as he was lifted out of the capsule.
His yearlong stay on on the International Space Station (ISS) gives him more days in space than any other U.S. astronaut. While on board, he worked alongside Russian, European, and Japanese personnel, circling the Earth 5,440 times.
Mars is a 2.5 year round-trip journey. Trouble starts with muscular atrophy.
Maintaining muscle is tough in zero gravity. Astronaut calf muscles compared after a six month mission on the ISS show even after aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and power both still decrease significantly. In one of the more extreme cases, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after two months and had to undergo strength training for a few weeks to re-acclimate to Earth’s gravity.
Kelly is part of a NASA experiment on the effects of extended time in space on the human body. It just so happens his brother Mark is also an astronaut, but more importantly, he’s a genetic twin. Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was the control subject on the ground. Both gave blood, saliva and urine samples, ultrasounds and bone scans, received flu shots and more, to be compared when Scott returned.
While in space, Kelly sent more than a thousand tweets, including beautiful images of Earth.
And he watched as the newsworthy events of the year unfolded from his high perch.
He stood with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though his feet couldn’t reach the ground.
And he saw epic sunrises we on Earth could only dream.
The U.S. military has considered training with DroneDefender, a point-and-shoot, electromagnetic, rifle-shaped weapon that disrupts communications of a remote-controlled drone and its operator.
The system provides a safer and more accurate alternative than other methods, such as shooting drones with a rifle. “Pull the trigger and it falls out of the sky,” said Capt. Michael Torre, an electronic warfare officer for the 29th Infantry Division.
“It reminds me of playing Duck Hunt. It’s like using a video game controller with a real-world application,” he added.
DroneDefender can target a drones’ control signal. The drone controller can be a hand-held device operated by a person or a command module attached to the drone itself.
Staff Sgt. Richard Recupero, a cyberspace electromagnetic activities noncommissioned officer with the 29th Infantry Division, shared his expertise in disrupting drone operations when discussing enemy devices currently in the Middle East.
“You know it’s working because the system is no longer responding appropriately to the operator and doing something the operator doesn’t expect it to do,” Torre said, describing multiple visual disruption indicators.
“From the time I pulled the trigger, it was almost instantaneous,” Torre added.
Operation Spartan Shield subordinate units such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have also gone through the training as part of an effort to provide commanders with increased force protection options.
The US Navy’s efforts to develop a powerful electromagnetic railgun are a lesson in what not to do, a top US admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.
The US has “a number of great ideas that are on the cusp,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that “some of these technologies are going to be absolutely decisive in terms of defining who wins and who does not in these conflicts and in this new era” of great power competition.
But the US needs to accelerate the process because its adversaries are moving faster, he said. The admiral called attention to the railgun, a $500 million next-generation weapon concept that uses electromagnetic energy to hurl a projectile at an enemy at hypersonic speeds.
The US Navy has been researching this technology for years, but the US has not armed a warship with the gun. China, a rival power, appears to have mounted a railgun on a naval vessel, suggesting it may be beating the US in the race to field a working railgun with many times the range of existing naval guns.
Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
“I would say that railgun is kind of the case study that would say ‘This is how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,'” Richardson said. “It’s been around, I think, for about 15 years, maybe 20. So ‘rapid’ doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about timeframes like that.”
He said that the US had learned a lot from the project and that “the engineering of building something like that, that can handle that much electromagnetic energy and not just explode, is challenging.”
“So we’re going to continue after this, right? We’re going to install this thing. We’re going to continue to develop it, test it,” he said. “It’s too great a weapon system, so it’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
The admiral compared the railgun to a sticky note, which was invented for an entirely different purpose, to illustrate that the US had learned other things from its railgun research.
The hypervelocity projectile developed for the railgun, for instance, “is actually a pretty neat thing in and of itself,” he said, and “is also usable in just about every gun we have.”
“It can be out into the fleet very, very quickly, independent of the railgun,” he said. “So this effort is sort of breeding all sorts of advances. We just need to get the clock sped up with respect to the railgun.”
Guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) transits the Pacific Ocean while underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
And it’s apparently a concept the Navy is considering for the Zumwalt-class destroyers, the guns for which do not work and do not have suitable ammunition.
These hypervelocity projectiles are fired through the barrel via sabots that hold the round in place and harmlessly fall out the end of the barrel after firing. The sheer power of the electromagnetic pulse and the round’s aerodynamic profile allow it to fly much faster than normal rounds to devastating effect — the US Navy has said its experimental railgun could fire these bullets at seven times the speed of sound.
But experts argue that the railgun is inherently problematic technology, saying that regardless of who gets there first, the guns are likely to be militarily useless.
Railguns are “not a good replacement for a missile,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”
He added: “It’s not useful military technology.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard had been turning away recruits for years during the Great Depression. But, the Seattle office found itself with seven openings in September of that year and admitted seven new men to the force. One of them was future Signalman First Class Douglas Munro who would go on to earn a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He is the only Coast Guardsman to earn the award to date.
Douglas Munro was born to American parents in Vancouver, Canada in 1919, but grew up in Washington State. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He volunteered for service aboard a Coast Guard cutter and was promoted. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Coast Guard to man certain positions on Navy ships, Munro volunteered for service on the USS Hunter Liggett.
Munro saw service on different Navy ships, gaining rank and changing commands until becoming a signalman first class aboard the USS McCawley. Meanwhile, U.S. military planners had their eyes set on Guadalcanal, a strategic island chain in the Pacific that was part of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was especially important because Japanese forces were building an airstrip on the island.
The Marines began their campaign on August 7, 1942. The airstrip was quickly captured but Japanese defenders maintained control of the westernmost portion of the island. A river separated most of the U.S. and Japanese territory. Repeated attempts by the Marines to cross the river were rebuffed by Japanese forces.
The Marines adopted a new plan, commanded by none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, for three companies of Puller’s Marines to land at Port Cruz, a position north of the Japanese forces, and push their way south.
Munro commanded the ships for the assault, and things initially went smoothly. The Marines landed with no resistance and quickly pushed 500 yards inland without major incident. After dropping off the Marines, all but one ship returned to the American base.
But the Marines had walked past hidden Japanese positions, and their counterattack was brutal. A friend of Munro was in the landing craft that remained at the beach. Then-Signalman Raymond Evans described what happened next in a Coast Guard video.
“In the meantime, all our boats had gone back to the base except the major had requested we leave one boat behind, for immediate casualties. And so I stayed, I elected to stay behind and I had a coxswain named Sam Roberts from Portland, and the two of us were laying to in this LCP. Unfortunately, we laid too close to the beach and the Japanese fired an automatic weapon at us and hit Roberts, hit all the controls, the vacuum controls on the boat. I slammed it into “full-ahead” and we tore out of there and I tore back to the, to the base, four miles, and when I got to the base, I pulled it out of gear, but it wouldn’t come out of gear, so we ran up on the beach, which is a long sloping sand beach. Ran up on the beach the full length of the boat before it stopped.”
Roberts died during a medical evacuation. Soon after Evans returned to the American base, word came down that the Marines at Port Cruz were to be evacuated. Puller headed out to sea to personally supervise the Naval artillery fire covering the evacuation while the Coast Guard hopped into their boats to go and pick up the Marines. Evans moved into Munro’s boat for the return mission.
When the Coast Guard arrived at the beach, it was clear that the Marines were in a desperate position. They had 25 wounded and were under heavy fire. The beach was only five to six feet wide from the water to the jungle, and the Japanese were using the jungle for cover and concealment while firing on the Marines.
All of the Coast Guard boats were made of plywood and were susceptible to enemy fire. To allow the other ships time to load Marines and move out, Munro and Evans began laying cover fire with the .30-cal. machine guns, the heaviest weapons the small landing force had. Under the cover of the Naval bombardment and the Coast Guard machine guns, the Marines were able to scramble onto the small craft.
When the other ships were clear, Munro and Evans began their own slog back to the American parts of the island. On their way, they saw one of the landing craft stuck on a sand bar. Munro again ordered the ship stopped to assist the beached craft even though the nearby shoreline was controlled by Japanese forces.
Munro, Evans, and an engineer managed to pull the ship back into the water so it could make good its escape. Once Munro’s craft was finally headed out, Evans spotted Japanese forces placing a machine gun. He yelled a warning to Munro, but the engines drowned out his yell. Munro was struck in the base of the skull by a single bullet and died before reaching the operating base.