As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.
It’s part of an 18- to 20-month experiment that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade is calling the “Über Squad.”
Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.
The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.
The squad is set to be a miniaturized, weapons-focused version of what the Corps is doing with its “experimental battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced in 2016 that 3/5 would serve as a testing platform for technologies ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to robots mounted with machine guns, all while remaining an operational infantry battalion.
The unit deployed to the Pacific this spring. As part of its experimental efforts, 3/5 Marines have been equipped with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is carried by Marine automatic riflemen, but service officials have discussed the possibility of fielding the weapon as the new service rifle for all or most infantrymen.
Wade has pioneered similar efforts within 2nd Marine Division. He spearheaded an effort last year that put rifle suppressors in the hands of three different companies within 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to assess how troops fared using them on deployments around the globe.
For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.
“This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”
Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well – so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.
“Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.
He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.
Following the kitted-up squad through training and the Corps’ traditional pre-deployment event, the integrated training exercise, or ITX, at Twentynine Palms, California, will give Marines the chance to assess the value of the various gear elements and whether they add net cost or value to the warfighter.
Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.
“For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”
As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.
While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.
“What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”
The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.
While the technology the Marines will carry is not new or experimental the way a gun-wielding robot is, it has never been issued to individual Marines at the squad level.
Wade plans to survey Marines at the start and end of the effort about their personal feelings and perceptions carrying the gear, and will couple those observations with objective data showing how the squad stacks up against other units at exercises such as ITX.
“We want to know what the Marines’ perception is, do the Marines have confidence in [the gear],” he said.
Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.
With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.
But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.
This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”
See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.
As the heavy C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and raced to its first aerial refueling point off the coast of England, more than a dozen U.S. airmen watched the clock, knowing the life of a badly wounded U.S. soldier hung in the balance.
The circumstances were dire. The special operations soldier, unidentified for privacy reasons, had been hit when an improvised explosive device detonated, fracturing his pelvis and gravely injuring his abdomen, arms and legs. It took three aircraft, 24,000 gallons of fuel and about two dozen gallons of blood to sustain the soldier during the 8,000-mile non-stop journey back to the U.S., where he required specialized care.
Nearly a month after the mission, the troops who participated in it are still in awe they were able to get the soldier home alive.
Also amazed is Asia, the special operator’s wife, who is eternally grateful at the way the military mobilized not for combat, but for her husband.
“I knew that they flew straight over, and I knew that they weren’t gonna stop — unless they absolutely had to,” Asia said in an interview with Military.com on Sept. 25, 2019. “They commit 110%.”
A Bona fide bloodline
Early on a Friday morning, Asia was getting ready to take her son to school in Savannah, Georgia, when she got a phone call.
For a moment, time stood still, she said.
Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, and Lt. Col. Scott King, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care air transport team physician, perform an ultrasound on a critically wounded service member during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
“At first, I just stood there, and then I started crying,” said Asia, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “You’re not prepared for this, if you understand what I’m saying. You’re more prepared for a death.”
She snapped back to reality, knowing she’d be waiting for any type of answers the military could provide for the next few days until her husband was back on U.S. soil.
Asia had been with her husband for nine years and married to him for seven. Eight of those years, he had been in the Army.
She knew he’d been hurt, and doctors in Afghanistan called or sent a text message any time they had an update.
Maj. Charlie Srivilasa, a trauma surgeon with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, had already had a busy morning with multiple casualties coming in when the soldier arrived at the facility.
Grievously injured, the operator immediately became a priority.
“We probably had about five or six surgeons working on him at any given time,” Srivilasa said. In the three days before the soldier was transported, Srivilasa and his team performed four operations, including amputations of his right arm and lower right leg.
The frequent surgeries meant the patient needed a steady supply of fresh blood.
Roughly 100 troops stood in line to donate blood outside the hospital quarters.
Over the course of treatment at Bagram, the soldier received more than 195 units of transfused blood, including whole blood and plasma — some 16 times the volume of blood in the average person’s body.
A side effect of the massive transfusions was the possibility that his lungs could fail, said Srivilasa. The soldier also could have succumbed to infection from his wounds, he said.
“He was by far the most critically ill patient [we’ve] seen here in theater [in my] four months,” he said. Doctors knew the best thing was to put him on a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where specialized care would be waiting for him.
Service members wait in line to donate blood at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2019, as part of a “walking blood bank” for a fellow service member being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
Up in the air
Maj. Dan Kudlacz, a C-17 evaluator pilot with the 436th Airlift Wing out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a planned stop at Bagram that August weekend when he got word the mission would no longer mean picking up basic cargo. Kudlacz was the commander of REACH 797, the call sign for the mission, and one of four pilots and three loadmasters. One of the pilots in the group was also in training, meaning Kudlacz was working on certifying his fellow pilot in addition to keeping the aircraft steady.
At Ramstein, 18 medical professionals came on board, including personnel from Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) and Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), as well as a team out of San Antonio’s 59th Medical Wing. Members of the 59th specialize in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO.
ECMO machines oxygenate the blood and simultaneously removed carbon dioxide, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, a trauma surgeon and one of the specialists dispatched for the flight.
“The ECMO team here in San Antonio is the only DoD team,” she said.
By the time the specialists arrived, fortunately, ECMO was no longer needed, she said. But kidney dialysis was.
“His kidneys did not recover immediately, so in order to stabilize him … we had to have dialysis continuously,” Sams said. The teams borrowed one of Craig Joint Theater Hospital’s dialysis machines for the return home.
Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
Finishing up their necessary crew rest in Afghanistan, the personnel geared up for the 19-hour flight. Another patient also came on board; that service member was ambulatory, able to move about for the duration of the flight, Sams said.
Kudlacz said the aircrew consistently monitored speed and altitude, knowing there were sensitive medical machines on board keeping the soldier alive. The pilots kept a cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, a few thousand feet lower than expected. “Over a 19-hour flight, [that] can make a considerable change in your total fuel,” he said.
He added that, had the critical soldier taken a turn for the worse, the plan was to divert back to Germany.
Asia, the soldier’s wife, was praying that wouldn’t happen.
“I was told that, if they would have had to stop in Germany, it was because something medically was going wrong,” she said. Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC), stood by to provide backup assistance.
During the first refuel near England, there was a close call.
Connecting the C-17 to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling boom almost sent the two aircraft bobbing and weaving. The KC-135, flying on autopilot — which controls the trajectory of the aircraft — started to change the plane’s pitch, which moves the nose up or down.
Kudlacz and his co-pilot disconnected, backed off and tried again.
“To make the situation even more challenging, it was at night, so you don’t have all the visual cues of a horizon. And then we just happened to be right at the top of a cloud layer,” he said.
In the back of the aircraft, the medical teams were monitoring the soldier’s oxygen level, ventilation, blood pressure and kidney function.
“Regular AE and CCATT [teams] cannot do renal replacement therapy; maybe there are some that have just isolated familiarity with the renal replacement machine,” said Lt. Col. Scott King, CCATT physician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Ramstein.
With the help of the ECMO team, “I think it was a coordinated and collaborative effort among all of the members that brought in different pieces together to allow this mission to be accomplished,” King said.
The C-17 had eight hours until its next refuel near Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, maintenance crew chiefs with the second KC-135 hurried to get the aircraft, which had a gauge problem on one of the engines, ready to fly, said Maj. Jeffery Osgood, chief of 6th Operations Group training and the aerial refueling mission commander from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
“Adapting to the mission is probably the biggest takeaway. It’s just making sure you have everything ready to go with all the people that you need and all the support from leadership,” Osgood said. A backup tanker was on standby just in case, AMC officials said.
The second tanker caught the C-17 around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Together, the two tankers offloaded 24,000 gallons of fuel.
Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, performs an ultrasound to monitor a patient during a direct flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and this [is] not something I’ve ever experienced,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, an AE member with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. The duration and double refuel was not an easy task for the parties involved, he said.
With the amount of equipment and coordination needed, “rarely does it ever work out so perfectly,” he said.
The next journey
Sams, the trauma surgeon, said she’s hopeful the soldier — who has required orthopedic treatment as well as treatment in the burn unit — will be out of intensive care soon. He has months of physical therapy ahead, she said.
Asia is relocating her family to Texas to be closer to her husband as he goes through treatment.
This “is a new normal,” she said. “It’s about four to five months inside the hospital, and then, after that, I would say it’s another six months. So I would say it’s [going to be] a year total.”
Their son will stay with family and friends in Illinois for the next few weeks until Asia and her husband feel he’s ready.
“It’s just a process,” she said. “[But] I feel as though his determination to live and to fight, to come back home, to see me and to see his son has been the number one thing that has kept him alive; and then the good Lord and all the doctors and the medical team.”
She’ll never forget their persistence to save his life.
“They literally put their whole heart in it, their body and soul, and they do what they need to do to get loved ones back [home],” Asia said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Throughout the course of human evolution, the spear, as a weapon, has provided extra reach against powerful opponents. Back then, the fierce opposition typically had four legs. Today, the spear is antiquated technology. It’s a still a great tool in a pinch, but since the introduction of firearms, better war-fighting tools have taken its place.
But there is a “spear” today that could prove extremely effective in modern warfare.
To be fair, the spear we’re talking about is much more than a sharpened stick. In this case, we’re talking about the SPEAR 3 missile (“SPEAR” actually stands for Selective Precision Effects At Range).
This mock-up of the MBDA SPEAR, on display at SeaAirSpace 2018, shows the wings that help give this missile an 80-mile range.
(Photo by Harold Hutchison)
The SPEAR 3 is an upgrade to the SPEAR 2, which was also known as the Brimstone 2, and comes with three big changes. First, the SPEAR 3 weighs just over twice as much as its predecessor (roughly 220 pounds). The SPEAR 3 uses a turbojet engine as opposed to the rocket motor of the Brimstone. And, finally, a wing kit has been added to the missile, which, according to a handout, gives the SPEAR a “beyond-horizon reach.”
So, how far can this precision weapon go? By some estimates, as far as 80 miles. The missile is pretty small and is intended to be used to engage tanks, naval vessels, and just about any target in between. The SPEAR 3 uses a combination of inertial navigation and GPS guidance as well as a multi-mode seeker and a two-way datalink to accurately find its target.
This rack holds four SPEAR missiles, and can fit with an AIM-120 AMRAAM or a MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile inside a F-35’s weapons bay. Let’s see a S-400 battery survive that!
With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.
The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”
The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.
The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.
That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.
According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.
Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.
So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?
Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.
That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.
This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.
A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.
The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.
Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.
Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.
That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. joined the Army so he could do something different. But first, he had to do something extraordinary.
Just seven months ago, the 6-foot-1-inch teenager was overweight at 317 pounds and unable to pass the Army’s weight requirements.
The former high school football offensive lineman admitted his diet was full of carbohydrates, but he vowed to slim down so he could sign up.
Luis, 18, recalled being part of something bigger than himself while playing on his football team, and he craved for that again with the Army.
“I transferred that same mentality over to life after high school,” he said Aug. 14, 2019.
Initially, his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long, was skeptical, but still supported his goal.
Long, who has served as a recruiter for almost four years, said he often sees potential recruits struggle to pass requirements even when they only have a few pounds to lose.
“They never put the effort into it,” he said. “They never actually care enough and they don’t go anywhere. And then you turn around and you got someone like Luis.”
Before and after shots of Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., who lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. Luis enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
Luis was born in Oakland, but later grew up in Peru and Las Vegas. He currently works as an electrician at construction sites, but recently decided he wanted to be the first in his family to serve in the U.S. military.
“You’ve got one life. I don’t want to wake up and do the same thing every single day,” he said. “There’s a whole world out there.”
Before he could sign the enlistment papers, he cracked down on his diet and stepped up his fitness to cut his weight.
Cardio was his toughest hurdle, he said. He began to do high-intensity interval training where he switched between jogs and sprints to improve his run time.
“Running wasn’t my strong suit,” he said. “Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time.”
As the months dragged on, he extended his interval training. He now runs 1 mile in just six minutes and 30 seconds — about half the time he ran it when he first started.
His mother also motivated him to hit the gym, especially on those days when he felt like taking an off day.
“One thing she told me is to just show up,” he said. “Just show up and don’t worry about the workout that’s to come. You show up at the gym and once you’re there, you’re already there so might as well just get it over with.”
The near-daily workouts began to pay off and he shed pound after pound — 113 of them to be exact.
Now at 204 pounds, Luis has also seen a positive change in his attitude.
“When I was big, I was really insecure,” he said. “Now I’m walking with my head up high.”
His recruiter said Luis’ dedication to lose over 100 pounds should be an inspiration to others.
“That’s a human. He lost the equivalent of a human in seven months,” Long said.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. with his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long. Luis lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. With help from his recruiter, he enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
With help from his recruiter, Luis was able to enlist as a 14E — responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, one of the world’s most advanced missile systems.
The new job also came with a ,000 bonus.
Luis plans to report to basic training in early September 2019. He started future soldier training this week to learn what to expect in the weeks ahead as well as in his Army career.
He also blew past the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which the Army now administers to new recruits to ensure they can physically perform a certain job.
“Every event was like it was made for him; it was easy,” Long said.
Whatever the challenge Luis may face in the Army, his recruiter has no doubt he can overcome it.
“To have that heart and that drive to keep pushing forward, it’s impressive. It got him to where he can enlist in the Army,” Long said. “That mentality is going to carry him through his career and through life and he’ll be extremely successful.”
Luis said he looks forward to the extra physical training within the Army lifestyle, as he now aims to drop down to 190 pounds.
“Hitting my goal weight definitely isn’t my end goal,” he said. “There’s still way more to come. I still want to get better.”
But for now, the wardrobe the Army plans to issue him should at least accommodate his current figure.
“I pretty much use my old shirts for blankets at this point,” he said, laughing.
Kaj Larsen with VICE News went on an airborne operation with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and filmed a 360-degree video of what it’s like to climb onto the plane and conduct a jump from 1,000 feet.
Check it out below. Computer users can click and drag in the video to look around. Phone users should play the video full screen and then turn their phone to look in different directions.
With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.
Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during the Vietnam war to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops.
Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.
The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966, where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian task force.
Yes, the makers of the legendary M82/M107 .50-caliber Long Range Sniper Rifle have sold another rifle to the U.S. Army. On March 30, 2021, Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey awarded a $49.9 million contract to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. of Christiana, Tennessee. The contract is for the Army’s new sniper weapon system, the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design rifle.
The MK22 MRAD is part of the Army’s Precision Sniper Rifle Program. Included in the PSR program is the Leupold & Stevens Mark 5 HD scope and an accessory kit. The Army intends to replace both the venerable M107 and the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle with the PSR. Its aim is to become the “primary anti-personnel sniper weapons system” for Army sniper teams according to Army budget documents.
The Army plans to acquire approximately 2,800 MK22 MRADs. To live up to its name, the rifle is configurable in three different calibers. With a simple barrel swap, snipers will be able to select .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, or 7.62x51mm NATO as their mission dictates.
Additionally, the MK22 MRAD can be equipped with a slew of attachments to further increase the capability of Army snipers. While attachments like sound suppressors are a given on a sniper weapon system, the MK22 MRAD will accept direct view optics with fire control capabilities. This “allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition,” noted Army budget documents.
The MK22 MRAD was previously acquired by USSOCOM as part of their Advanced Sniper Rifle program. “The Army PSR program is adapting the rifle selected under the SOCOM ASR program,” said Army Program Executive Office Soldier spokesman Alton Stewart. “The initial rifle selected (the MK21 Precision Sniper Rifle based on the Remington MSR) did not conform to SOCOM requirements at the time and the program was re-competed with the Barrett MRAD selected as the rifle solution.” The Marine Corps is also looking at acquiring the MRAD.
The MRAD contract includes the procurement of rifles, spare parts, accessories, tools, and conversion kits. U.S. Army Contracting Command, New Jersey is the contracting activity. The contract’s estimated completion date is March 29, 2026.
Taiwan lost one of its largest diplomatic allies when the Dominican Republic cut ties to officially establish relations with China instead.
Within the communique to create diplomatic relations with China, which was signed by the Dominican foreign minister in Beijing on May 1, 2018, was the declaration that “the Government of the Dominican Republic severs ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day.”
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said his government is “deeply upset” about the two countries new ties.
Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as the democratic island is self-ruled, and a pro-independence party has been in power since 2016.
But Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified.
As a result, China refuses to have diplomatic relations with nations that deal diplomatically with Taiwan, as that treats the island like an independent country. And if Taiwan’s global recognition increased, that could jeopardize China’s claim to the island.
A statement released by the Dominican Republic confirmed the nation’s changed allegiances.
“The Dominican Republic recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” the statement read.
Without the Dominican Republic, there are only 19 remaining countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, notably Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Haiti.
Dollar diplomacy may have been a factor
The statement released by Taiwan’s foreign ministry hints at the nation’s growing frustration at China.
While being headlined and initially formatted the same as similar statements in the past, it’s roughly twice the normal length and overtly calls out China’s method of picking off Taiwan’s allies.
“We strongly condemn China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies,” the statement read. “Developing nations should be aware of the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China.”
China has a pattern of picking off Taiwan’s allies when a democratic party is in power, and using what’s commonly called “debt trap diplomacy” to offer aid and loans for infrastructure to poorer countries in an effort to build its global Belt and Road Initiative.
But it appears Beijing may be using the same techniques to now lure countries away from Taiwan, with what the island calls “false promises of investment and aid.”
“This was the result of China’s efforts in offering vast financial incentives for the Dominican Republic to end their 77 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also follows China’s actions last year in establishing diplomatic relations with Panama.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry warned that former allies Costa Rica and Sao Tome and Principe have yet to receive more than $1 billion worth of assistance from China.
May 1, 2018, The Australian reported that the Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s six allies in the Pacific, is looking to China for investment for an airport, a move that could worry Taipei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia must scrap its Novator 9M729 missile systems and launchers or reduce their range to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and prevent a U.S. withdrawal from the Cold War-era pact, U.S. officials say.
Andrea Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters on a teleconference call on Dec. 6, 2018, that the weapons system has a range that is not in compliance with the 1987 INF pact.
She added that Moscow must “rid the system, rid the launcher, or change the system so it doesn’t exceed the range” to bring Russia back “to full and verifiable compliance.”
“The ball’s in Russia’s court. We can’t do that for them. They have to take the initiative,” she added.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that Washington would abandon the INF, citing alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.
U.S. officials have said Russia’s deployment of the 9M729, also known as the SSC-8, breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
On Dec. 4, 2018, the United States said it would suspend its obligations under the treaty if Moscow did not return to compliance within two months.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision after NATO allies meeting in Brussels “strongly” supported U.S. accusations that Russia violated the terms of the INF.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo said.
Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands, and President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that Moscow plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.
Russia has alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the treaty, which Washington denies.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, who was on the briefing call with Thompson, insisted that a U.S. withdrawal from the INF did not mean “we are walking away from arms control.”
“We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly,” he said.
“We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating.”
He said “one can only surmise” that Moscow is attempting to “somehow seek an advantage” with the missile — “a little bit like violations we’re seeing with other treaties, whether it’s the Open Skies Treaty or whether it’s the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to “yes.”
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
“I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans,” said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC’s success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC’s second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
“After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week,” said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. “This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully,” he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. “Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that’s why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits,” said the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office explained, “Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation’s Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population.”
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare, revealing admission when discussing the state of his country with South Korean President Moon Jae-in: He’s “embarrassed” by his country’s infrastructure.
As Kim and Moon held a historic summit on April 27, 2018, the South Korean president told North Korea’s supreme leader he’d like to visit his country in order to climb Mount Paektu, a mountain that plays a significant role in Korean folklore. Kim then said, “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” BBC reports.
This was an out-of-character moment for Kim, as North Korean leaders have long been well-known for boasting about their country (and themselves) in an exaggerated fashion.
Relatedly, in December 2017, North Korean state media reported Kim had climbed Mount Paektu and seemed to suggest he has the power to control “nature” given the good weather at the time. Images of the alleged climb also showed Kim in dress shoes and slacks, with no mountaineering equipment.
North Korea is notoriously impoverished. When a North Korean soldier defected to South Korea in 2017, doctors removed an 11 inch parasitic worm from his stomach and also discovered he’d consumed corn kernels, offering a glimpse into how difficult life can be in North Korea. Correspondingly, Chinese tourists have been known to visit the reclusive country almost solely to see how poor North Koreans truly are.
At April 27, 2018’s summit, Kim and Moon made a joint announcement the Korean Peninsula would be completely rid of nuclear weapons and also pledged to work toward formally ending the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing since fighting ceased via an armistice in 1953.
Later in the day, as President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington DC, Trump sounded cautiously optimistic about his impending meeting with Kim. But he said the US would continue its campaign of “maximum pressure” until the Korean Peninsula is completely denuclearized.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.