The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.
Should the negotiations ultimately fail and the talks fall apart, the Obama administration and any future US president will have what Michael Crowley of Politico describes as an awe-inspiring “plan B” — the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).
According to Crowley, the US has practiced at least three attack runs over the New Mexico desert. These runs have been flown by B-2 bombers and are meant to test the US’ trump card against any attempt to procure a nuclear weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
MOP, which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind,” according to a former Pentagon official who spoke to Politico after watching footage of the tests.
There’s no publicly available footage of the tests, but this footage of a BLU-109 in action gives an idea of how the MOP works. Bunker-buster munitions burst through a target’s defensive layering before the warhead detonates:
The MOP is the world’s largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep under ground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.
In the event that negotiations fail, the US is in a position to launch a series of MOP strikes against Fordow, a once secret nuclear facility contained within a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack. The centrifuges at Fordow are capable of enriching uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.
Destroying Fordow would be a difficult endeavor despite the size and sheer force of the MOP. Politico notes that the total destruction of the facility would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility’s hardened shell before detonating.
But the MOP is supposed to be used in exactly these kinds of coordinated strikes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs’ potent penetration capabilities.
Unnamed officials told The Journal that the MOP’s devastation potential is unlike any nonnuclear weapon ever built.
The weapons have been designed by the US to destroy hardened facilities within North Korea and Iran.
Should the US decide to carry out bombing runs against Iranian nuclear sites, the US could run into substantial difficulties.
Russia has announced that it would be willing to sell the S-300 air-defense system, which can hit aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range, to Iran.
If Iran were to acquire the S-300s, Tehran would be able to set up a formidable ring of defense around its nuclear sites.
This would make Iranian air defenses much more difficult to overcome, raising the scale and the stakes of any US bombing run against the country’s nuclear facilities.
The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds.
Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac are a couple of modern bad asses in their own right. Greg is a C-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and Eli just shredded the 2018 San Diego Supercross. I hate to go all Top Gun on you, but these guys obviously have a need for speed.
“Motocross and Supercross, you’re just in it. We race in rain or shine. The noise from the four-stroke, and you’re in the dirt — it pushes you in every area, whether it’s physically or mentally, it’s the real deal.”
In 2010, Eli was the first rider in history to win his professional debut — since then, he’s continued to prove himself to be one of the fastest riders in the sport. In early 2018, he won his first Monster Energy Supercross, and his brother Greg was there to watch.
“I’m here to support Eli. If it’s a good day or a bad day, the overall goal is to just be a big brother to the guy in the track.”
Greg pointed out the connection between a pilot in his aircraft or a rider on the bike — they’re both about a man and his machine, but neither can do it alone. Pilots and riders require a crew to get their machines going.
“I’m out there as an entertainer [but with] the military…you can’t just go into work and say ‘Oh I’m tired, I’m not gonna ride today.’ You gotta get it done no matter what if you’re in the military so that’s something that I’ll never know…and that’s where I have the utmost respect for everyone that’s in, and that’s for my brother as well.”
Check out the video above to watch Monster’s coverage of Eli’s victory and hear the brothers talk about how they support each other.
NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.
A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.
June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.
Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.
“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”
Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”
Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.
Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.
Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.
Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.
The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.
In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.
In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.
This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.
Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.
“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.
“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”
Aside from the doom and gloom, sometimes the hormones act up, your sailor goggles come on, and the natural thing happens when you’re cooped up for months at a time with members of the opposite sex. It just happens. Yes, it’s stupid, and yes, you should know better. But, if you know better, and you’re still doing it, the following tips will help you and your “boat boo” from visiting the goat locker:
1. Forget about dating on a small ship.
It’s easier to conceal your well deck escapades on larger ships, such as carriers and amphibious vessels.
2. Keep your distance
Keep it professional, don’t make it obvious. No flirting in your shop. Avoid eye contact altogether.
3. Never date in your division.
Keep it secret from your division buddies. One thing is for sure, as soon the wrong person catches wind, prepare to be teased or worse.
4. If the person you’re seeing is in the same division, volunteer for TAD (Temporary Additional Duty).
Yes, everyone hates it, but volunteering to crank in the galley might save you from getting caught. Once you’re called back to your division, it’s your partner’s turn to reciprocate.
5. Share no more than one meal per day.
6. Pass notes like you’re freakin’ teenagers.
You’ve been there before, so take a page from your high school days. Also, if you have a network of trusted friends to pass along your letters, seal your notes with candle wax for an extra layer of protection. It sounds medieval, but it’s effective.
NOTE: Don’t be stupid; don’t save your notes. The goats – Navy speak for chiefs – will use them as evidence if you get caught.
7. Visit common spaces together.
The library is a great common space to meet and pass notes.
8. Have a buddy in supply or any division with access to storage spaces.
This one is extra risky, but if you feel the urge to take it to the “next level,” your best friend is your buddy in supply. Supply personnel have access to storage spaces, which could be used to lock you in for an hour or two. Beware, you risk not showing up for emergency musters, such as GQ or man overboard. You’re at the mercy of your supply buddy since storage spaces are locked from the outside.
9. Wait for “darken ship” to meet at the bottom of ladder wells and corners.
10. Volunteer for roving watch and rendezvous on the fantail.
… or a dark catwalk.
11. Find another couple to provide you with a shore-buddy alibi.
12. Go out in groups.
13. Have an open relationship. (And good luck with keeping that from getting messy.)
Acronym cheat sheet:
HM1: Hospital Corpsman, E6 pay grade
HM3: Hospital Corpsman, E4 pay grade
DRB: Disciplinary Review Board
CMC: Command Master Chief
WATM editor’s note: Let’s be clear, you should never date on a Navy ship. There’s too much to risk, such as being demoted, or even worse: getting the boot. For clarification, read the Navy’s Fraternization Policy.
Tens of thousands of NATO troops have converged on Norway for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.
The exercise officially starts on Oct. 25, 2018, but the arrival of thousands of troops and their equipment in the harsh environs of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia hasn’t gone totally smoothly.
On Oct. 23, 2018, four US soldiers were injured in a roadway accident as they delivered cargo to Kongens Gruve, Norway, in support of the exercise.
“The accident occurred when three vehicles collided and a fourth vehicle slid off the pavement and overturned while trying to avoid the three vehicles that had collided,” the US Joint Information Center said, according to Reuters.
One of the soldiers was released shortly after being hospitalized, and as of late Oct. 23, 2018, the three others were in stable condition but still under observation, according to the information center. The troops and their trucks were assigned to the Army’s 51st Composite Truck Company, stationed in Baumholder, Germany.
A US Army Stryker vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
US ships taking part have also encountered trouble.
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, part of a group of ships carrying a Marine Corps contingent to the exercise, returned to port in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22, 2018, after heavy seas caused damage to the ship and injuries to its sailors.
The US 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Atlantic around Europe, said the ship’s well deck and several of the landing craft aboard it were damaged. The Gunston Hall returned to port for a damage assessment, though there was no timetable for its completion, the fleet said.
The sailors who were injured received medical treatment and returned to duty.
A landing craft enters the well deck of the USS Gunston Hall to embark for Trident Juncture 2018, Oct. 3, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
The amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, also on hand for the exercise, also returned to Reykjavik “as a safe haven from the seas until further notice,” the fleet said.
A 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times that the seas were challenging “but not out of the [Gunston Hall’s] limits” and that the USS New York “will remain in port until it is safe to get underway.”
The Gunston Hall and the New York were part of a group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima that left the US in October 2018, carrying some 4,000 sailors and Marines.
US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo)
It’s not clear if the absence of the Gunston Hall and the New York will affect the exercise, the 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.
Trident Juncture will include some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and other personnel from each of NATO’s 29 members as well as Sweden and Finland. The drills will be spread across Scandinavia and the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic.
Massing men and machines for such exercises rarely goes off without problems.
The B-2 Spirit is perhaps the most expensive bomber ever built, costing over $1 billion per aircraft (when all the R&D costs are factored in). For that money, though, there is a lot of capability this plane brings.
For instance, the B-2 is capable of dropping precision-guided weapons, namely the Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The GBU-31 is a 2,000-pound bomb, with the smaller GBU-38 packing a 500-pound warhead. Either can use Global Positioning System guidance to hit within about 35 feet of a target. Let’s just say your day won’t go well after that, nor will you have any chance of future improvement.
Its stealth technology also means that the only warning someone has that a B-2 is overhead with hostile intentions will be when the bombs hit.
A few years ago, the Air Force ran one test of the B-2 with the 500-pound JDAMs. The plane was loaded with 80 inert versions of the GBU-38 and was sent to hit a simulated airfield in Utah. In addition to two runways, there were other targets simulated, including a SA-6 “Gainful” missile site, a SS-1 Scud launch site, an aircraft revetment, a hangar, and the other accoutrements that one finds around an airfield.
Think of it as a stealthy version of an Arc Light.
A video of the test not only shows the number of bombs a B-2 can carry, but it also shows just how accurate JDAMs are. Note, the runways are also thoroughly cratered, meaning any planes that survived the pass of the first B-2, will be kept at the field until the next strike arrives.
Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230 birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.
1. Writers, take heart.
Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots, was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)
2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.
Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks, and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath, or being tossed around by high waves.
3. Flags for all occasions.
The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.
4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.
Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.
5. Protecting the US is just a small part
In addition to protecting the United States coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.
6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big
With roughly 40,000 Active Duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. But what the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.
7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources
Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.
8. It’s not easy to join
The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such few recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying. Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swim for 100 meters, and then tread water for five minutes.
So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!
Moments after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the U.S. House Majority Whip, was shot in the hip during an attack on a practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game, an Iraq War vet was treating his wound.
“You never expect a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone in Iraq, but this morning it did,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup tweeted. The Ohio Republican congressman later told an aide the only difference between the Alexandria shooting and Iraq was being “without his weapon.”
According to a report by WLWT.com, Wenstrup began to treat his wounded colleague after Scalise dragged himself off the field. Wenstrup had seen wounds like that before he had ever entered politics.
According to the official biography on his web site, that is because Rep. Wentrup is also Col. Wenstrup in the U.S. Army Reserve – and he’s has served in the Army Reserve since 1998, after his sister had a battle with leukemia. During a tour in Iraq with the 344th Combat Support Hospital, Wenstrup was a combat surgeon, which he described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the best thing I ever got to do.”
“I remember one Marine we lost on the table, and the anesthesiologist saying, ‘I had breakfast with him this morning.’ Or having to tell a group of Marines their buddy didn’t make it. Those were the tough days,” he told the college’s magazine.
He had good days, too, including helping to treat a four-month old girl who had pneumonia. Eventually, the doctors figured out the girl also needed gluten-free formula, and raised over $400 to help make arrangements for a U.S. company to send the girl’s father the right baby food.
The 1911 pistol has been around for over 100 years. It is beloved by many for its ergonomics, accuracy and heavy-hitting .45 caliber round. In fact, some versions are still in service with the Marine Corps as the M45.
When something’s been around for so long, it’s also a safe bet that people are tinkering with its design. You can find 1911s in various calibers aside from its original .45 ACO, including 9mm NATO, 10mm Auto, and .22 long rifle.
In an article at PopularMechanics.com, Ian McCollum of ForgottenWeapons.com noted that during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services wanted something that could allow commandos and other secret agents to kill sentries quietly and at a distance.
This is actually very important because if the sentry sees you and sounds the alarm, he’s won. It doesn’t matter if he’s hit the alarm with his dying effort. That alarm could even be him dying very noisily.
The key to this was a two-part system that could be added to just about any M1911 pistol that was called “Bigot.” The rear portion was inserted through the ejection port. It had to be set up right to allow the M1911’s slide to close. Then, the piston would be screwed in. After that, a variety of darts – or even mini grenades – could be inserted for use in silently dispatching a sentry of the two-legged or four-legged variety. The darts and grenades would be fired by a .25 ACP blank.
Tests with a quickly-made reproduction were kind of iffy (only one-third of the darts broke a glass target eight feet away). It’s probably why the Bigot never saw any real action.
Still, if Buffy needed a little extra edge to dust some vamps or if 007 wants a gadget that makes for great cinematic eye candy, it’s probably a good choice. Watch the video below to hear Ian relate what we know about this nifty-looking piece!
When a pilot is taking off, the last thing they should have to worry about is the ability to breathe clean air, or having contaminated fuel in the aircraft. Without quality assurance checks, they may not have the peace of mind needed to perform at the highest level.
A small unit, consisting of only Maj. Kevin Pastoor, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory commander, and two technicians are responsible for all of Pacific Air Forces oxygen and fuel testing. The laboratory is part of the Air Force Petroleum Office, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The AFPET consists globally of more than 100 individuals throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, with only one-third of employees being service members. The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory can not only provide that peace of mind to pilots but also firefighters throughout PACAF.
“The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory is primarily responsible for performing quality assurance for PACAF fuels, aviator’s breathing oxygen and compressed air for firefighters,” Pastoor said.
The laboratory tests everything from water, fuel and oil contamination to aircraft incidents, which can make for many long-shifts based on the samples and tests needed.
Tech. Sgt. Shanice Spearman, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge, explained that as a petroleum, oil and lubricants troop by trade, she typically helps refuel aircraft. Working in the laboratory allows her to learn how to do multiple tests on fuel enabling her to use skills that she otherwise wouldn’t in her normal trade.
With a unique set of challenges specific to maintaining quality standards on oxygen and fuels, it’s a task to keep everything running and ready to produce test results at a moment’s notice.
“The hardest part of the job is maintaining this laboratory,” Pastoor said. “We put a lot of time into maintaining, calibrating, and ensuring our laboratory equipment is operating as it’s supposed to.”
Despite being a small, 3-man shop, the unit makes sure the mission is completed on time.
In the case of major incidents, the laboratory can quick-turn tests in four to eight hours, Pastoor said.
With a global presence, AFPET makes certain Air Force firefighters and pilots can breathe easy and perform the mission.
“The importance of what we’re doing here comes down to safety,” Pastoor said. “We provide assurance that the fuel and oxygen within PACAF is safe to use.”
The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete
Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.
America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?
And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.
The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.
The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”
And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):
“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”
As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.
Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:
“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”
From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:
“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”
Two F-22As in close trail formation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)
Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.
As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:
“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”
How Should America Respond?
So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?
First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)
However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,
“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”
Indeed, only time will tell.
(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Air Force spent a lot of time trying to mothball the A-10 Thunderbolt II over the past few years. After realizing there is no reliable close-air support (CAS) alternative to the airframe, however, Congress fought the Air Force at nearly every turn.
The plane, dubbed the Warthog for its snoutlike nose and the distinctive sound of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the aircraft is built, is slower than other tactical jet aircraft. Its max speed is 439 mph, while the F-16 tops out at 1,350 mph. What the Warthog lacks in speed, it makes up for in durability, featuring 1,200 pounds of titanium armor plating around the cockpit and its necessary systems. The A-10’s ability to take a beating from ground fire while providing such close support makes it the perfect CAS aircraft.
The move to retire the A-10 came while American forces were pulling out of Afghanistan and were already out of Iraq. Under budgetary pressure, the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 mission with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose abilities were designed for the entire battlespace. The rise of ISIS and new combat roles for ground forces in the region saved the Warthog from the boneyard. The A-10 was designed to work in tandem with ground forces and theater commanders are seeing more and more demand for the unique support the bird provides.
“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”
The Pentagon is due to submit its 2017 budget proposal to Congress next week and officials tell Defense One the life of the plane will be extended because of that demand. Congress criticized the Air Force for attempting to retire the A-10 without a replacement plan.
As part of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress mandated the Air Force couldn’t retire the plane without an independent study to find a replacement with the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units … the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”