The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts.
The service published a detailed request for information earlier this week asking companies to signal their interest in producing a future IAR. The current IAR is the M27, based on the Heckler Koch HK416.
Military.com broke the news in November that the Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was testing out broader use of the M27 throughout the battalion as Marine leadership considered using it to replace the current infantry service rifle, the M4 carbine.
The service has been considering fielding the IAR more broadly within the infantry since it introduced the M27 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in 2010, Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com.
Still under consideration is how the weapon might be fielded. At roughly $3,000 apiece, the M27 is a pricier investment than the M4, which costs less than $1,000. Manning said officials are working to determine which jobs within the unit truly needed the enhanced firepower.
“Not every 03XX would get an M27,” he said, using the generic Marine Corps military occupational specialty code for infantry. “There are select billets that would not get it because we don’t believe, based on our requirements, that they need it. But that is something we’ll continue to work with the [infantry] advocate and Marine Corps leadership on what the final mix will be like in an infantry unit. Everything is on the table.”
The 11,000 figure, he said, represents an estimate of how many rifles the Corps needs to purchase to equip the infantry.
Even though the M27 is the current IAR, the request for information is competitive, due to contracting rules and practices. If the Marine Corps gets interest from other manufacturers who can meet existing IAR criteria and produce a rifle that works compatibly with the existing platform, Manning said Systems Command would complete testing and a downselect process to determine a winner.
Among the criteria: The system should accept all Defense Department 5.56mm ammunition, weigh less than 12.5 pounds, and be capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute.
Unlike the standard M4, the M27 has a fully automatic firing option. It also features a slightly longer effective range and a free-floating barrel design that contributes to accuracy.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division said of the IAR in November. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
Manning said the timeline for contracting for and fielding the new infantry service rifles is difficult to estimate because of the variables involved and the possibility of competition.
“We’ll do some sort of testing and a downselect, and then as we finalize, we will actually put a request for proposal out on the street, letting industry know that we are actually going to buy these, we have the money and the finalized requirements for them to come back with an offer to to the Marine Corps,” he said.
Responses to the Corps’ request for information are due March 17.
The Navy’s new next-generation aircraft carrier will likely deploy to the Middle East or Pacific theater, bringing a new generation of carrier technologies to strategically vital parts of the world, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“If you look at where the priorities and activities are now – that is where it will likely go,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
The Navy’s top acquisition official, Sean Stackley, recently told Congress that the new carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will deliver to the Navy in September of this year; following deployment preparations called “post shakedown availability” in 2017 and “shock trials” in 2019, the carrier is slated to deploy in 2021, service officials said. “Shock trials” involve testing the large ship in a series of different maritime conditions such as rough seas and high winds.
The Navy official stressed that no formal decisions have, as of yet, been made regarding deployment and that the USS Ford’s deployment will naturally depend upon what the geopolitical and combat requirements wind up being in the early 2020s.
At the same time, given the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance, it is not difficult or surprising to forsee the new carrier venturing to the Pacific. The power-projection capabilities of the new carrier could likely be designed as a deterrent to stop China from more aggressive activities in places such as the highly-contested South China Sea. The Navy’s plan for the Pacific does call for the service to operate as much as 60-percent of its fleet in the Asia Pacific region.
Also, the continued volatility in the Middle East, and the Navy’s ongoing involvement in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS could very well create conditions wherein the USS Ford would be needed in the Arabian Gulf.
The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.
The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.
As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said. Laser weapons need about 300 kilowatts in order to generate power and fire from a ship.
Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.
The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve an increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.
The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.
The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.
The Navy plans to build Ford-class carriers for at least 50-years as a way to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis. This schedule will bring the Ford carriers service-life well into the next century and serve all the way until at least 2110, Navy leaders have said.
Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.
Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.
For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.
“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.
In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radii of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.
Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report are things already being carefully considered by the Navy.
With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are also things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.
The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”
The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.
While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.
“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”
Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.
At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.
Future Carrier Air Wing
The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.
Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.
Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.
“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.
Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.
The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.
The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.
While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.
“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.
At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.
The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.
“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.
“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.
Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.
The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.
“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier). This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.
After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.
The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”
“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.
The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.
It should be noted that China boycotted the process.
The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.
The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.
One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.
The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.
Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.
The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.
In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.
It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.
The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.
Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.
Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.
Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.
Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.
At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.
The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.
Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.
Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”
Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”
Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.
The Yazidi women who have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be the subject of a new feature film in production by Amazon Studios and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.
This will mark Shapiro’s feature film directorial debut.
According to a report by Deadline.com, the exact plot details are unclear, but Shapiro has done much research into the plight of the Yazidi. Among the stories Shapiro has looked into is that of captured humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.
The report notes that Mueller was forced into sex slavery and a marriage to ISIS leader Abu Bake al-Baghdadi, and that both the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders and the Obama Administration failed to negotiate for her release.
Mueller’s parents claimed they were told that if they did make an offer to the terrorist group, they would risk prosecution. Details of Mueller’s captivity were provided by at least one former sex slave who escaped ISIS, and a letter smuggled to her family.
Mueller died in February 2015, with ISIS claiming she had been killed in an air strike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, after being held for 18 months. Earlier this month, some reports claimed that Al-Baghdadi was also killed by an air strike.
Shapiro is also reportedly researching the so-called “European jihadi brides” in preparation for the project. Some of the worst torture suffered by Yazidi sex slaves has been at the hands of the spouses of ISIS fighters.
Shapiro is best known as the creator of the Lifetime series “UnREAL,” starring Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, and also worked behind the scenes on the ABC Reality show “The Bachelor.”
Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.
The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.
As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.
Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”
Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.
Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.
“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”
Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”
By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.
Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.
This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.
The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.
“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.
Why does it matter?
The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.
Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.
The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.
What could happen next?
No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.
Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.
Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.
After ten years of silence, the Pentagon has offered a lukewarm confirmation on the exoneration of a group of special operations Marines wrongfully accused of committing war crimes during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007.
Even though it ostensibly appears to be a gesture of goodwill from the Pentagon towards the falsely accused Marines, it has done little to mitigate the public humiliation these elite commandos have endured in the decade since a routine mission went horribly wrong in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
On the morning of March 7, 2007, a platoon of MARSOC Marines of Task Force Violent was dispatched to Shinwar District within Nangarhar to meet with local elders and build rapport. What the Marines of Violent didn’t know was that they were rolling into a carefully-planned ambush and would soon find themselves in a fight for their lives.
Upon moving into town, a suicide bomber in a van drove into the column of Humvees, his vehicle packed with explosives. Within seconds, gunmen hidden in nearby houses and on rooftops began raking the convoy with small arms fire. Quickly getting themselves out of the kill box, the MARSOC element drove off in a hurry, returning fire to cover their egression to safety.
Before the Marines had even made it back to their forward operating base, a grim and chilling story emerged of an intoxicated American fighting force brutally slaughtering civilians — children, women, and elderly men — at random in Shinwar.
MARSOC, short for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was the newest addition to US Special Operations Command in 2006. TF Violent, made up of 120 Marines from MARSOC’s Fox Company and helmed by Maj. Fred Galvin, would be sent overseas to Afghanistan the following year for its initial deployment.
With operators drawn from the remnants of the Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance units, MARSOC boasted highly-trained asymmetric warfare specialists, capable of taking on and executing missions analogous to those carried out by the US Navy’s SEAL teams or the Army’s Special Forces.
Just as Galvin and the platoon made it back to their post, tall tales abounded of American troops entering homes and shooting indiscriminately in a frenzied fury. Death tolls varied with some capping off at 19 or 20 civilians killed in cold blood by Marines.
The situation rapidly disintegrated into a mess. Galvin was relieved of command and TF Violent was recalled to the United States. USSOCOM leadership, worried about another My Lai Massacre on its hands, went on record saying that there was nothing to support the veracity of TF Violent’s account of the ambush and attack.
In essence, USSOCOM had just publicly admitted that one of its own had committed a major war crime before any form of investigation or inquiry had proven their guilt. Galvin and his fellow officers were relieved and shuffled around. The Marines of Violent were held in limbo, their futures uncertain. If found guilty, they would face dishonorable discharges and a lengthy incarceration at Fort Leavenworth’s military detention facility.
In record time, negative press, including an article from the New York Times likening Shinwar to the infamous killings at Haditha, worsened matters for the shamed members of Violent. Public opinion slanted against all Americans present at Shinwar that fateful day.
Then-Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, Deputy Commander of USSOCOM at the time, lashed out against TF Violent, taking legal actions against its members after determining that they apparently did not come under fire from enemy irregulars in Shinwar. Kearney would quickly be accused of unlawful command influence in his efforts to discredit TF Violent.
However, in the following months, the prevailing story surrounding Shinwar began to crumble. Preliminary investigations convened by the military determined that the Marines of TF Violent used excessive force and appeared, at a first glance, to be very guilty of the war crimes they were accused of committing.
An ensuing NCIS investigation and a court of inquiry convened by none other than then-Lieutenant General, James Mattis, absolved the Marines of TF Violent of any wrongdoing. There was little evidence to support that they had carried out a massacre of the civilian populace. Conflicting accounts from Afghan locals in Shinwar derailed the narrative and Navy investigators determined that only a handful of military-aged males were killed. A woman and a young boy did sustain minor injuries, but none as horrible as stories coming out of Shinwar claimed. Nevertheless, the Marines of Violent and the United States were the subject of weighty condemnations by the Afghan government, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.
Of the 120-strong complement of TF Violent, seven Marines, including Galvin, were singled out for charges and punishment, each due to their perceived role in what occurred in March 2007. Known as the MARSOC 7, these Marines were subject to threats, coercion, and even attempts at forced confessions through blackmail.
But by 2008, the Marines of TF Violent were released of any suspicion and absolved of all wrongdoing. The crimes they were accused of simply did not hold any water. Even after being declared innocent, in the past decade, the MARSOC 7 have suffered considerably from the stigma of being falsely accused of war crimes.
Unable to find jobs in the civilian world as a result of being labeled war criminals and faced with dead-end military careers, many were left to fend for themselves by a Corps that seemed to care more about its public image than its warfighters.
Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina has led a bipartisan effort to get these Marines a public apology and exoneration to once and for all put down the ghosts of Shinwar, so that the Marines can move on with their lives. Maj. Galvin, now retired after 30 years of service in the Corps, has been instrumental in getting the Pentagon to issue confirmation of Violent’s pardon.
To that end, the Pentagon quietly confirmed to Jones that Galvin and his men had been found to be fully in the right on that fateful March day in 2007, and had executed the mission to the best of their training. Even still, this confirmation seems to be far less than what the Marine Corps and the Pentagon could do to fully clear the names of these MARSOC Marines.
Even with this latest move by the Pentagon, albeit a quiet and almost unnoticeable action, why was the Marine Corps so reticent about fixing the tarnished reputations of its most elite commandos?
The answer may lie within the considerable friction between MARSOC and the Army-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), its overseer during its initial deployment. According to a Marine Corps Times series on the Shinwar affair in 2015, TF Violent’s Marines were generally under-supplied and ill-prepared for the environment they were thrust into.
While MARSOC Marines had to live a spartan lifestyle, feasting on packaged Meals Ready to Eat and going without replacement uniforms and gear, other special operations units operating under CJSOTF-A’s umbrella were provided with hot meals and well-stocked logistics and a supply chain.
During the March 7 attack itself, CJSOTF-A officers were seemingly unconcerned that a MARSOC platoon had been hit by an IED and was taking heavy fire. Though it was later recommended that officers manning the CJSOTF-A’s command post be charged with dereliction of duty, they were left uncharged.
By the end of 2007, public opinion was firmly against the actions of TF Violent and the MARSOC 7 were faced with a worsening uphill battle, nearly impossible to win.
In the wake of Shinwar, the higher echelons of MARSOC appeared to be concerned with petty issues surrounding Violent and Fox Company’s officer leadership. Some critics argue that the leaders of the fledgling special ops outfit were trying to save face.
In doing so, they turned the MARSOC 7 and the Marines of TF Violent into scapegoats.
Galvin and Jones have spearheaded an effort over the years to publicly restore the names of the Marines of Violent and, to that end, Jones has introduced a Congressional resolution that would permanently set the record straight on Shinwar and the actions of Fox Company’s warfighters.
Between 2007 and the present day, MARSOC has evolved into a highly competent and effective special operations asset. Now referred to as the Raiders — a tribute to the Marines’ WWII-era unconventional warfare force — with their own special insignia, they undergo deployments around the world as directed by USSOCOM.
Though the first of the new Raiders, Galvin and the MARSOC 7 have neither been awarded the title nor the insignia, largely due to the false allegations that just won’t go away.
Officers from both MARSOC and CJSOTF-A who were involved in attempting to wring confessions out of the MARSOC 7 and discredit their actions were allowed to continue their careers with their respective branches with no mark or mention on their record noting their at-all-costs crusade against the Marines of TF Violent.
While the Pentagon’s quiet confirmation of TF Violent’s innocence has been the most these Marines have had to alleviate some of the burden of the past ten years, there is still far more the Department of Defense and Marine Corps can do to right this wrong.
The Northrop T-38 Talon is one of the oldest aircraft still serving in the United States Air Force, functioning as an advanced jet trainer for future fighter pilots who’ll eventually make their way to the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, or F-22 Raptor. The Talon gives trainee pilots a feel for what it’s like to fly and fight in a supersonic aircraft that can mimic the handling characteristics of current 4th generation fighters to a fair degree. But with the impending advent of the Air Force’s brand new F-35A Lightning II, and the upcoming F-X Next Generation Tactical Air fighter, which will supersede the F-22 and F-15, it’s time for a new lead-in trainer. One that’s better suited to adapting future fighter pilots to the ultra-modern cockpits of the next level of fighter aviation.
Well, that, and the Talon is just plain old. Having taken to the skies for the first time in early 1959, and with full-rate production ceasing in 1972, the T-38 is due to be retired and replaced in the coming years with an aircraft that’ll be able to serve the needs of the Air Force going into 2020 and beyond. Though the formal program to replace the aging T-38 hasn’t yet started, Lockheed Martin has already taken the initiative to showcase its proposal for a prospective T-X trainer.
Working closely with Korea Aerospace Industries to redevelop their FA-50 Golden Eagle (which Lockheed Martin helped fund back in the 1990s), they came up with the T-50A. The Golden Eagle was actually built from the ground up as a supersonic light fighter, similar to the T-38’s fighter variant, the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger II. Modifications that’ll meet T-X specifications include a new dorsal refueling receptacle, designed to mate with the typical boom/probe setup used by Air Force fighters, and a state-of-the-art glass cockpit similar to the one found in the F-35 Lightning II, featuring a large area display (LAD). The T-50A will also be equipped with the FA-50’s integrated EW (electronic warfare) suite, but will likely lack the 20mm .
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.
The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.
Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.
China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.
Here’s what the parade looked like:
48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.
As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
76 aircraft also took part in the parade.
Such as J-15s.
And even helicopters.
Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.
Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.
While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.
China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.
China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”
The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.
In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.
According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.
“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.
“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.
Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.
Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.
In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.
US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)
The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.
In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.
Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.
“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Russian Air Force plans to purchase a dozen Su-57s fitted with the AL-41F1 engines in 2019, and over “the next eight years … will continue to purchase small numbers of these planes for testing,” CNA senior research scientist Dmitry Gorenburg recently wrote.
Production of the Su-57, which made its maiden flight in 2010, has not only been hampered by budgetary problems, according to The Drive, but also “delays, accidents, and rumors of massive design changes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.
The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.
Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.
Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).
The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.
This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.