Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.
He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.
“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.
Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.
Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.
“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.
Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
The US Navy challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea on August 10, Navy officials revealed.
The US Navy conducted the third freedom-of-navigation operation under President Donald Trump in the South China Sea on August 10. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (DDG-56) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island chain, according to Fox News.
A Navy P-8 reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft reportedly flew nearby.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed past Mischief Reef in late May. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands, in July.
Over the past year, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea. China has been constructing military outposts in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and equipping them with armaments to protect its claims to the region, discredited by an international tribunal last year, through force.
China has constructed airstrips and hangars and protected harbors for the air and naval units in the Paracel Islands. The military has even deployed surface-to-air missiles. In the Spratly Islands, China has built airstrips and reinforced hangars, possible missile silos, and point defense systems.
The Chinese military has actually armed all seven of its military outposts in the Spratlys, strengthening its stranglehold on the disputed territories.
While the Trump administration was initially hesitant to rile China, which the president believed was an essential ally in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis, Beijing’s hesitancy to act on the Korean Peninsula has led the administration to target China’s strategic interests.
Five years after a proof-of-concept mission, the MQ-9 Reaper drone has developed into a key asset in California’s fight against wildfires, including the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires, which are currently burning in Northern California.
“It’s a technology I never thought I’d see,” said Jeremy Salizzoni, a fire technical specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was embedded with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, during 2013’s devastating Rim Fire.
More than 250,000 acres burned in August 2013 as the Rim Fire raged in Tuolumne County, California. At the time, it was the state’s third largest wildfire on record. More than 100 structures were lost in the blaze, which took nine weeks to fully contain.
An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. The aircrew conducted fire perimeter scans and spot checks on the blaze, which encompasses the Ranch and River fires.
(California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)
Eleven days after the Rim Fire started, the wing launched a first-of-its kind mission to overfly the fire with an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft and beam back real-time video footage of the fire to Salizzoni and wing intelligence analysts working in an operations facility at March.
Through the Predator’s footage, Salizzoni, who was used to driving for hours through rugged terrain to access overlook points and put eyes on the leading edge of a fire, could see any area of the fire he wanted, in real time and without ever leaving the operations facility.
The remotely piloted aircraft’s thermal imaging camera provided a view of the fire unlike anything he’d ever seen. Traditional aerial assets are important, but encounter limitations due to smoke, fuel, altitude and field of view, he said.
“It was such a dramatic change from anything I’d seen in my career,” Salizzoni said. “It was like being blind and then having vision in the blink of an eye.”
He and his colleagues knew they had a new tool in their firefighting toolbox.
“We saw things over the course of that fire that you couldn’t have made up,” Salizzoni said. “I don’t think there’s a better intel resource at our disposal right now.”
During its eight-day emergency activation for the Rim Fire, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the unit’s name at the time — logged more than 150 hours of fire support and was credited with helping firefighters expedite containment.
MQ-9 Reaper RPA
In the five years since, the 163rd Attack Wing has changed its name and the kind of airplane it flies, but one thing hasn’t changed: the wing’s dedication to domestic disaster response missions right here at home.
RPAs are no longer just trying to prove their worth, said Air Force Maj. Mike Baird, the senior intelligence officer at the 163rd Attack Wing. The wing’s MQ-9 Reaper RPAs — a big-brother to the recently-retired Predators — are an in-demand incident awareness and assessment asset preferred by California’s civil authorities when disaster strikes.
The wing has supported more than 20 wildfires since 2013, but it takes more than just airplanes, Baird said. Keeping California safe takes a wing-wide effort.
“What we’ve been doing behind the scenes from maintenance and communications to refining our deployment and personnel processes has led up to our ability to provide an unprecedented level of MQ-9 support,” Baird said.
The wing provided real-time full motion video support over a number of fires in 2017, including California’s most destructive fire on record and also its largest fire to date. More than 5,600 structures were damaged and 22 lives were lost during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in October. Two months later, in December, the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to become the state’s largest fire on record with more than 280,000 acres burned.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class James Thompson)
Innovation on the Fly
The wing works to refine its techniques and procedures, and works to expand the detailed real-time incident awareness and assessment data it provides to incident commanders. Innovation on the fly is the name of the game.
An investment by James G. Clark, director of Air Force innovation, and Air Force Col. Chris McDonald from the disruptive innovation division in Clark’s office, helped the wing’s Hap Arnold Innovation Center develop a specialized network to push and pull data from RPAs and other data-generating assets from civilian and military organizations.
The network’s customizable data sets — coupled with the RPAs’ real-time thermal imagery — provide incident commanders and first responders a common operating picture they can access from anywhere, anytime.
RPAs proved “an opportunity for people to make tactical and objective based decisions on real time information,” Salizzoni said.
As the Rim Fire nears its fifth anniversary, RPAs are once again in the sky, flying through smoke to deliver data and protect Californians as wildfires ravage the state.
By July 31, the 163rd was on its fifth fire of the summer.
Throughout July, the wing flew nearly 350 hours to support civil authorities working the County, Klamathon, Ferguson, Carr, Mendocino Complex and Eel fires, and is credited with helping to protect thousands of structures in the process. The MQ-9 provided near real-time full motion video and frequent fire-line updates to decision makers determining where to build up future containment lines.
It’s a marathon pace, but the wing’s airmen up for it, said Air Force 1st Lt. Frank Cruz, officer in charge of the 163rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose unit provides direct support for the MQ-9’s around-the-clock fire operations to aid civil authorities.
“Everyone is 100 percent on board,” Cruz said. “They’re all-in.”
The treaty states: “…each Party shall eliminate its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, not have such systems thereafter, and carry out the other obligations set forth in this Treaty.”
According to a report by the New York Times, Russia has operationally deployed one battalion equipped with the SSC-8 cruise missile. A 2015 Washington Free Beacon report noted that American intelligence officials assessed the missile’s range as falling within the scope of weapons prohibited by the INF Treaty (any ground-launched system with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles).
The blog ArmsControlWonk has estimated the SSC-8’s range to be between 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers (1,242 and 1,553 miles) based on the assumption it is a version of the SS-N-30A “Sizzler” cruise missile.
While it looks like the Russians could be holding onto some banned systems, the U.S. scrapped three systems falling under the INF Treaty.
1. The BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missile
Forget the name, this was really a ground-launched Tomahawk that was deployed by the Air Force. According to the website of the USAF Police Alumni Association, six wings of this missile were deployed to NATO in the 1980s. Designation-Systems.net noted that the BGM-109G had a range of 1,553 miles and carried a 200-kiloton W84 warhead.
2. The MGM-31A Pershing I and MGM-31B Pershing Ia ballistic missiles
The Pershing I packed one of the biggest punches of any American nuclear delivery system and could hit targets 740 miles away. With a W50 warhead and a yield of 400 kilotons (about 20 times that of the bomb used on Nagasaki), the Pershing Ia actually was too much bang for a tactical role, according to Designation-Systems.net.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, this missile had longer range (1,100 miles), and had a W85 warhead that had a yield of up to 50 kilotons. While only one-eighth as powerful as the warhead on the Pershing I and Pershing Ia, the Pershing II was quite accurate – and could ruin anyone’s day.
According to the State Department’s web site, all three of these systems were destroyed (with the exception of museum pieces) by the end of May, 1991.
Marine Corps F-35s recently carried out the first at-sea “hot reload” of ordnance, dropping 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific in rapid succession, the Marines said in a statement.
Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters armed with a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and conducted a strike on a “killer tomato,” a large red inflatable target.
After dropping its payload, the aircraft quickly returned to the ship, refueled, reloaded, and set out on a second attack run on the floating target.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters also opened fire with their GAU-22 cannon, which can uses four barrels simultaneously to fire 3,300 rounds per minute. The 25 mm gun is, according to Military.com, carried on an external pod on the Marine Corps’ F-35 variation, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on the amphibs, basically small aircraft carriers.
At-sea hot reloading is a critical capability that allows for the surge offensive air support for strike missions in this theater, where US forces are increasingly training to fight in contested environments. While the training is not directly aimed at any particular adversary, the US military is focused on great power competition and is training for a high-intensity conflict with China and Russia.
“Our recent F-35B strike rehearsals demonstrate the 31st MEU’s lethality and readiness to address potential adversaries.” Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Wasp, said in a statement. “The speed that we can conduct precision strikes with devastating effects while providing close air support to our Marines is nothing shy of awesome. Bottom-line; the F-35B defines shock and awe!”
An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese, aviation ordnance officer with the 31st MEU, said that the troops are learning to “rain down destruction like never before.”
Marine F-35Bs with the 31st MEU achieved another milestone earlier this year, flying in “beast mode” and conducting strike missions with externally-loaded inert and live munitions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Matt Perry wouldn’t be the first active-duty Sailor to make the jump to NASCAR, but he would be the first to make his debut by crowdfunding it.
The south Georgia native has been bombing around dirt and asphalt since the tender age of six. As a teen, he became an amateur drifter, making his way around the region while drag racing in the dirt of northern Florida. When he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming a fourth-generation service member.
His passion for motorsports never went away, though. He competes in AutoCross while training for the big time at places like Willow Springs International Raceway and Irwindale Speedway.
Perry’s first stock car race came in September 2017, when he competed in the Whelen All-American Series at Meridian Speedway. He made history by becoming the first enlisted U.S. Navy Sailor to compete in NASCAR. He finished in the top ten as a NASCAR rookie.
Matt Perry is now looking to enter the 2018 season racing Super Late Models as well as Modifieds in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and he strives to make the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. But he needs helps — an enlisted sailor doesn’t make a lot of money.
“It has been an incredible journey to make it into NASCAR,” Perry says. “But sadly, the cost to race is too high for me to manage it by myself. I have a lifelong dream to make this a full career and won’t stop until we, as a team, have reached my goal.”
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
Over the weekend, you may have heard that the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan, and its crew of 44 sailors, has gone missing. This is not unusual. In 1968, the Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) went missing – and was declared “overdue and presumed lost.”
Let’s be honest about submariners. They are doing a very dangerous job – even in peacetime. They are taking a ship and deliberately going underwater – where immense forces are acting on the vessel. When submarines sink – either by accident or due to an act of war, the usual outcome is that all hands are lost.
Sometimes, though, the crews beat the odds, like for about half the crew of USS Squalus (SS 192). They survived the sinking of their vessel, and were later rescued. In fact, one device first developed and proven in the rescue of the Squalus survivors, the McCann Rescue Chamber, is still in service today.
According to a release from Southern Command, this chamber can reach a submarine as far as 850 feet below the surface of the ocean. Six sailors can be brought to the surface at a time. While this is a good start, keep in mind, some submarines can have as many as 155 personnel on board.
That said, there are parts of the ocean that are a lot deeper than 850 feet where a submarine could still maintain enough integrity to keep crews alive. For those rescues, the Navy can turn to the Pressurized Rescue Module. This can reach submarines as far down as 2,000 feet, and it can retrieve 16 personnel at a time. These are known as the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System. Both systems have been deployed to render aid to any survivors on the San Juan, assuming the sub can be located in time.
Now, you may be wondering, “Where are the DSRVs?” Well, that’s the bad news. The United States had two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, named Avalon and Mystic. Those vessels could go as far down as 5,000 feet and could pull up 24 personnel at a time.
The United States sent a NASA P-3 and a Navy P-8 to help look for the San Juan. Hopefully, the sailors can be found and rescued.
Developed by Raytheon in 1989, the FGM-148 Javelin is a large, shoulder-mounted, infrared-guided missile system capable of piercing 600mm to 800mm steel armor.
The Javelin is a medium-range missile system that fires up to 1.5 miles, weighs about 50 pounds, and costs about $126,000 — plus $78,000 for each missile.
Once the soldier has locked onto a target using the infrared guided system, he or she simply squeezes the trigger and then can take cover, according to the National Interest, because it’s a fire-and-forget system. This means the operator doesn’t have to make any adjustments to the missile flight after firing — as they do with most long-range systems.
Ultimately, it’s “one of the premier portable anti-tank missile systems in the world,” the National Interest said.
Reports have shown that Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas have Russian T-34, T-64, variants of T-72B, and even T-90 tanks.
Javelins can take out all of these, except possibly the T-72B3Ms and T-90s. The latter two sport new Relikt armor, which consists of an explosive layer of armor on top of another layer. They also have grenade and flare decoys that can divert missiles.
Either way, the Javelin has never been tested against Relikt armor, and therefore it’s unknown if the missiles can take out the T-90s and T-72B3Ms.
In any event, President Donald Trump still needs to sign off on the plan — which could take months — to send Ukraine the Javelin and other defensive weapons.
There also remains speculation about the plan’s intentions. “This idea doesn’t flow from a policy or strategy” and could be a political move rather than military one, Michael Kofman, a Wilson Center senior fellow, told the Washington Post.
Questions also remain about whether or not providing weapons to Kiev will inflame the conflict. While France and Germany are concerned that fighting will increase, some US officials, such as Kurt Volker, the US special representative to Ukraine, think it will decrease the fighting.
Russia — which has used Syria to test out its new armaments — and even some US generals, however, are champing at the bit to test how the east and west weapons match up against each other.
At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.
Whenever the Pentagon sends troops abroad it’s about demonstrating resolve, reassuring allies or confronting potential opponents – or some combination of all three. But for the A-10 Warthogs and their crews in the Philippines, their biggest message might be one for critics back home.
On April 16, the U.S. Air Force announced that four of the venerable ground attack jets would remain in the Philippines after taking part in the annual Balikatan training exercises with Manila’s forces. Three HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and an MC-130H Combat Talon II tanker would round out the new air contingent at Clark Air Base.
“The Air Contingent will remain in place as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem necessary,” MSgt. Matthew McGovern, the Operations Division Manager for the Pacific Air Force’s public affairs office, told We Are the Mighty in an email. “Our aircraft, flying in and around the South China Sea, are flying within international airspace and are simply demonstrating freedom of navigation in these areas.”
The deployment at Clark is one part of a deal between Washington and Manila called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Signed on April 28, 2014, the arrangement opened a number of Philippine military bases to American troops and outlined plans for increased cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces.
The EDCA would “help strengthen our 65-year-old alliance, and deepen our military-to-military cooperation at a time of great change in the Asia-Pacific,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told reporters during a visit to the Philippines on April 14. “In the South China Sea, China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”
As Carter noted, Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea is the major concern for the Philippines and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Effectively claiming the entire body of water as its sovereign territory, China policy has brought it near close to skirmishing with Manila’s ships.
In 2012, the Philippines found itself in a particularly embarrassing stand-off with unarmed Chinese “marine surveillance” ships near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, less than 250 miles west of Manila. While Beijing’s vessels ultimately withdrew, they blocked the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar – an ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutter and the largest ship then in the Philippine Navy – from moving into arrest Chinese fishermen.
Since then, Chinese authorities have used their dominant position to harass Philippine fishermen in the area. More importantly, Beijing began building a series of man-made islands – complete with air defenses, ballistic missile sites and runways able to support fighter jets and bombers – throughout the South China Sea to help enforce its claims.
“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter added in his comments in Manila. “We’re continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
So, it’s no surprise that the A-10’s first mission was a show of force over the Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island and claims as its own. With plans to develop the narrow strip of land into a tourist destination, Beijing was incensed to see the Warthogs fly by.
“This threatens the sovereignty and national security of the relevant coastal states, as well as the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement according to People’s Daily, an official organ of the country’s Communist Party. “We must express our concern and protest towards it.”
Though originally built to blast hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, the blunt nosed attackers are a threat to small warships and other surface targets. The aircraft’s main armament is a single, massive 30-millimeter cannon that can fire up to 70 shells per second.
On top of that, the straight-winged planes can carry precision laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles. On March 28, 2011, Warthogs showed off their maritime skills when they destroyed two Libyan patrol craft during the international air campaign against the country’s long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
After the Pentagon announced the Warthog would stay in the Philippines, the Air Force released shots of the jets sitting at Clark, each loaded with targeting pods, training versions of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod has a laser designator and a powerful infrared camera that can also double as a surveillance system if necessary.
Over Scarborough, the A-10s sported a LITENING on the right wing and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic jamming pod on the left. All four Warthogs, along with two of the Pave Hawks, went out for the initial maritime patrol.
But the Warthogs made an even bigger statement just by flying the mission at all – and not to officials in Beijing, but to critics back home. The deployment comes as the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to retire the low- and slow-flying planes without a clear replacement available.
To hear the flying branch tell it, the aircraft are inflexible, dated Cold Warriors unable to survive over the modern battlefield. Unlike multi-role fighter bombers like the F-16 or up-coming, but troublesome F-35, the A-10 is only good at one thing: close air support for troops on the ground.
The A-10 “is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane,” then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in February 2014. “There’s only so much you can get out of that airplane,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, chief of Air Combat Command, declared more than a year later.
The Warthogs’ trip to the Philippines stands in stark contrast to these claims. According to the Air Force itself, the A-10s and HH-60s will fly missions providing air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery, combating piracy and otherwise keeping anyone from denying access to “the global commons” in the South China Sea.
The flying branch didn’t randomly pick the A-10 for the job either. “Selecting the A-10C and HH-60Gs for this mission was strategically and economically the right decision,” Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF’s director of air and cyberspace operations, told Air Force reporters after the detachment stood up at Clark.
“PACAF considered multiple options for what aircraft to use, however, the A-10Cs were the right choice for a number of reasons,” McGovern explained further. “A-10Cs also have a proven record operating out of short and austere airstrips, provide a flexible range of capabilities, and have a mission profile consistent with the air and maritime domain awareness operations the air contingent will conduct.”
The Warthog’s ability to stay airborne for long periods of time was another point in its favor. Of course, the fact that the jets were already in the Philippines for Balikatan didn’t hurt.
Still, the A-10 is cheap to operate in general. Compared to around $20,000 per flying hour for the F-16 or more three times that amount for bombers like the B-1 and B-52, the Air Force has to spend less than $20,000 for every hour a Warthog is in the air.
“With a relatively small investment we were able to deepen our ties with our Philippine allies and strengthen our relationship,” McGovern added. “The aircraft involved in subsequent deployments will be tailored to airfield capability and capacity and desired objectives.”
In February, the Air Force announced plans to start retiring the A-10s by 2017 and have the entire fleet gone by the end of 2022. Hopefully deployments like the one to the Philippines will show both the Chinese and the Pentagon that the Warthogs still have a lot of fight left in them.
The Islamic Republic of Iran officially unveiled the Bavar 373 system earlier this month. The system is supposedly a domestic long-range surface-to-air missile intended to provide area defense against aircraft and missiles.
According to a report by the Times of Israel, images released by Iranian state news agencies showed Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and minister of defense, Hossein Dehghan in front of the system, which bears a strong superficial resemblance to the Soviet-era SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300).
The SA-10 was the Soviet Union’s main area-defense surface to air missile since it was entered service in 1978, and has continued in Russian service since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Depending on the version, it has a maximum range of up to 121 miles. The system has been constantly upgraded, and more modern versions, like the SA-20 and SA-21 are entering service with Russia.
“We did not intend to make an Iranian version of the S-300 — we wanted to build an Iranian system, and we built it,” Minister of Defense Dehghan said. The Iranians had been trying to address delays in the acquisition of SA-10s from Russia, which only reauthorized delivery in 2015 after the Obama Administration made a highly controversial deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran claimed back in May to have operable SA-10 systems.
Iran has been developing some weapon systems on their own. Most notable in this regard are the Jamaran-class frigates. These ships, based on the 1970s vintage Sa’am-class frigates, are armed with a 76mm gun, four C-802 anti-ship missiles, and SM-1 surface-to-air missiles. While nowhere near a Burke-class destroyer in terms of capability (or even the Al-Riyadh and Al- Madinah classes in Saudi service), the vessels are with sanctions lifted, the Iranians could acquire other weapon systems for future vessels.
Iran has also built two fighters, the Azarakhsh and the Saeqeh. The first is a reverse-engineered version of the Northrop F-5E Tiger, a late 1960s day fighter. The second is an advanced version of the first plane and bears a slight resemblance to the F/A-18 Hornet, albeit it is much less capable, with only half the bombload of the Hornet and lacking a multi-mission radar like the APG-65. Iran has also copied the C-802 anti-ship missile and the SM-1, made improved variants of the MIM-23 HAWK, and even reverse-engineered the AIM-54 Phoenix used on the F-14 Tomcat. Perhaps most impressive is Iran’s ability to design not just upgrades to the M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks, but also develop its own main battle tank, the Zulfiqar.
In short, the Bavar 373 is just the latest in Iranian weapons innovation. Last month, high-ranking officials of that regime threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. The development of the Bavar 373 means those threats may not be idle.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that as part of his Afghanistan strategy, warfighters would see restrictions lifted and authorities expanded. Now, there is a sense of just what he meant in his Aug. 21 speech.
According to multiplereports, Taliban forces no longer have to be engaged with American units or with Afghan units being advised by Americans to be hit with air strikes.
Looser rules of engagement have long been advocated by a number of officials.
“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit. In April, prior to Trump’s speech, the United States used the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb to hit a Taliban tunnel complex.
Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat. American aircraft can often only provide close-air support when the units have American advisors.
“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”
The Secretary of Defense also noted that the tendency that the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan have shown to hide among civilian populations means that American forces will still need to ensure that they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.
The US Army issued an warning against “fraudulent” text messages that claimed the recipients were selected for a military draft.
A spokesperson from US Army Recruiting Command (USAREC), the organization responsible for attracting prospective soldiers, told Insider the text messages were being sent “across the country from different brigades” this week.
USAREC said it received multiple emails and calls about the text messages, and that it was in no way associated with the US Army; the people behind the emails claimed to serving in the Army.
The text messages claimed that the sender was “contacting you through mail several times and have had no response,” according to photographs obtained by Insider.
The messages, which advised the recipient to “come to the nearest branch” in the Florida and New Jersey area, falsely claimed that the recipient would be “fined and sent to jail for a minimum 6 years” if there was no reply.
U.S. Army recruits wait in line for their initial haircut while still partially dressed in their civilian clothes during basic combat training.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)
The decision to enact a military draft is initiated by the Selective Service Administration. All American males between 18 and 25 years of age are required by law to register with the organization. The database for these individuals are compiled in the event Congress declares a military draft.
“The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” the Selective Service System previously said in a statement. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”
The text messages comes amid the US airstrike against Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday. Following the attack that also killed the leader of the Shiite Iran-backed militia responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq, search queries like “World War III” and “military draft” began trending on social media platforms.
The last time the draft was implemented was in 1973, during the Vietnam War.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.