This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force's JSTARS - We Are The Mighty
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This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

Flying thousands of feet in the sky and zooming sensors in on enemy movement below, the Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.


Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.

JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information, and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System returns from a mission at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 1, 2014. USAF photo by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi.

The Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements, or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.

The JSTARS mission is of such significance that the Air Force is now evaluating multiple industry proposals to recapitalize the mission with a new, high-tech, next-generation JSTARS plane to serve for decades into the future.

“We have been able to extend the life of some of the legacy ones, but this does not change the fact that we need new platforms as quickly as we can,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Air Force plans for new JSTARS to be operational in 2024.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Airmen with the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, perform pre-flight ops checks on an E-8C Joint STARS. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons

JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force official Capt. Emily Grabowski told Scout Warrior.

Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.

“Combatant Commanders require unique command and control, and near real-time ISR capabilities to track the movement of enemy ground and surface forces,” she explained.

Grabowski emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
A pilot with the 461st Air Control Wing (ACW), inspects a new iPad holder designed for use on the E-8C Joint STARS. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons.

JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.

JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.

Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the pacific theater, Southcom, and Central Command areas of responsibility.

The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System lands at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 1, 2014. USAF photo by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi.

The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.

The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians, and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.

Northrop Grumman is offering a Gulfstream G550 jet engineered with a common software baseline to allow for rapid integration of emerging commercial technologies. By building their aircraft with a set of standardized IP protocol, the aircraft is designed to accommodate new software and hardware as it becomes available.

Sized smaller than other offerings, the G550 is intended to fly at higher altitudes and operate with less fuel, Northrop developers said.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Gulfstream G550. Image from Gulfstream.

“Our G550 business jet can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost. Its agility and size allows it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Vice President, Next-Generation Surveillance and Targeting, Northrop Grumman, told Scout Warrior.

Higher altitude missions can widen the aperture of a sensor’s field-of-view, therefore reaching wider areas to surveil.

Northrop’s G550 JSTARS have flown 500 hours and gone through simulated inflight refueling behind KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft.  Developers say the aircraft has all-weather performance ability, provides VHF/UFH radio operations and optimizes radar performance with a layout creating no blockage from engine cowlings or wings.

The G55O is compliant to wide area surveillance common open architecture radar processing system requirements, Northrop officials said. Along with General Dynamics-owned Gulfstream, L3 is also partnering with Northrop on the JSTARS recap.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
US Air Force aircrew member with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, swaps out imagery discs during pre-flight aboard the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Regina Young

Lockheed’s Bombardier business jet, built by Sierra Nevada, offers a modified Global 600 aircraft with Raytheon-built battle management systems.

The aircraft is 94-feet long and can operate with a 100,000-pound take off gross weight; Lockheed developers claim the Global 6000, which currently flies in the Air Force inventory as the E-11A, can reach a range of 6,000 nautical miles and altitudes of 51,000 feet.

Lockheed also emphasizes that their offering places a premium on common standards and open architecture.

“Rather than using unique or customized hardware and software approaches adapted to an open systems architecture environment, our architecture is truly open and free of proprietary interfaces. This allows us to leverage state-of-the-art commercial technology to expedite integration of capabilities and minimize cost,” a Lockheed statement said. 

Boeing’s JSTARS uses a 110-foot 737 able to reach altitudes of 41,000-feet. Developers say it can cruise at speeds of 445 knots and carry a maximum payload of 50,000-pounds. Like other offerings, Boeing’s jet claims to accomplish an optimal size, weight, power and cooling ratio.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 5th

This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”

The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.

What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.


This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via PNN)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme by Inkfidel)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Shammers United)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY CULTURE

British Army is swapping English breakfasts for avocado toast

The British Army diet is getting a millennial makeover.

While full English breakfasts have long been a staple for troops, this could soon be replaced by everyone’s favorite brunch: avocado on toast.

Alongside a healthy smoothie, the new millennial-friendly breakfast option is being introduced in a bid to tackle obesity amongst troops, the Express reported.

Indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Watts was recently quoted as saying that 57% of soldiers are overweight and 12% fall into the obese category — however, it’s worth noting that BMI tests often class extremely muscular people as overweight as well.


Watts even said that the growing rate of obesity in the army is a “national security threat” because fewer troops are fit to be sent into battle.

And so the healthier “warrior breakfast” options are reportedly being trialed with units of 4 Infantry Brigade at Catterick in North Yorkshire.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

It’s been devised by defense contractor Aramark in collaboration with HQ Regional Command, the Express reported, and will see soldiers offered a light pre-breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and smoothies to start their day, and then avocado on toast as a refuel meal after their morning training sessions.

A spokesperson for the army explained to INSIDER that they take a “holistic approach” to wellbeing, educating recruits in nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. Troops have to pass regular fitness tests too.

The new breakfast forms part of a “Healthy Living Pilot,” which aims to lead to improvements in the areas of nutrition, alcohol, smoking, work-life balance, and mental health, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention of personnel in the military.

But what will the soldiers make of the changes?

A source who spent time as a reserve soldier in the British Army told INSIDER: “Smoothies and avocado would be a pretty drastic turn from army breakfasts as I knew them, which were mostly focused on filling you up — and not costing too much.

“My first breakfast on a British Army base was: sausage, bacon, bread, hash browns, beans, and porridge. There were apples and bananas, but it is fair to say the troops were not that enthusiastic about them.”

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

(Photo by Chris Tweten)

Another source from inside the army, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that the new menu likely wouldn’t go down well with all the recruits.

“It’s an interesting thought and would certainly be welcome in the Officers’ Mess, not so sure about the soldiers though!” he said.

He also explained that one reason obesity is an issue in the army is that the food provided isn’t particularly appealing, which means troops often end up purchasing more delicious — but less nutritious — options.

“One of the main reasons for poor health and obesity is the government’s decision to outsource chefs and cooking to contractors like Aramark,” he said.

“The ‘core meal,’ which they are obliged by the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to provide is a balanced meal but is deliberately bland and uninspiring.

“Soldiers can opt for the more expensive alternative options which are more appetizing but are regularly unhealthy, such as burgers, pizzas, chips, baked beans, etc.”

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

Soldiers are able to order more appetizing but less nutritious meals such as pizza.

(Photo by ivan Torres)

The army spokesperson added that caterers are required to provide food to suit a wide range of dietary requirements, including healthy options.

There’s also been a change in how food is paid for.

“Soldiers now have to pay for their food as well,” our source continued. “The old system had it deducted at source from pay.

“Many soldiers are bad at managing their finances and then end up with no money to pay for food so have to eat rations, which are designed to dump loads of calories into your system to keep you going for high-intensity exercises!”

Breakfast is a little different though — for the “core option,” soldiers can currently eat a cooked breakfast comprising six items including two proteins, but cereal and milk are also deemed one of the six. This means that even if you only want a bowl of cereal, you’re wasting money by not getting a fried egg, a sausage, and beans on fried bread alongside it, according to our source.

He also explained that many of the soldiers and officers choose not to go to breakfast at all because they’d rather sleep longer and they don’t actually want to eat a big meal before doing a high-intensity exercise circuit as part of their physical training.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

Would soldiers be more likely to go to breakfast if it was a light smoothie?

(Flickr/Nomadic Lass)

“Officers used to be able to order soldiers to have breakfast but we cannot order people to spend their own money.”

Perhaps with lighter options on offer to start their day, more soldiers would decide to eat before training.

Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition clinic on London’s Harley Street, said she welcomes the healthier changes to the army diet.

“Regardless of the growing rates of obesity, the army deserves to have a nourishing and fulfilling breakfast that’s going to aid them in their productivity and overall health,” Lambert told INSIDER.

“Focusing on changing their dietary plan owed to obesity is something that should be seen as a positive thing in helping the health of our troops rather than focusing on the question of weight and numbers.”

However, Lambert pointed out that avocado toast isn’t actually the perfect healthy meal many people believe it to be.

“Avocado on toast isn’t actually that balanced as it doesn’t have enough protein in,” Lambert explained. “I would recommend adding a protein source on the top such as nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, or hummus.

“And of course, everyone is completely unique, and lifestyle and activity levels should dictate the diet.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Treaty fight threatens a more important nuclear agreement

At the time, the treaty was landmark, deemed a new cornerstone of strategic stability.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement for the first time eliminated an entire class of missiles and set up an unprecedented system of arms control inspections — all hailed as stabilizing the rivalry between the keepers of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Now, that treaty between Washington and Moscow, known as the INF, is on the rocks, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing plans to abandon the accord, and national-security adviser John Bolton saying in Moscow on Oct. 23, 2018, that the United States will be filing a formal notification of its withdrawal.


What’s next may be the demise of an even bigger, more comprehensive bilateral arms treaty called New START. And experts suggest that if that deal were to become obsolete, it would all but guarantee a new arms race.

“If the [INF] treaty collapses, then the first new START treaty (signed in 2010) and the follow-on New START treaty will probably follow it into the dustbin of history,” Aleksei Arbatov, a negotiator of the 1994 START I treaty, said in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Signed in 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, New START built on the original START I by effectively halving the number of strategic nuclear warheads and launchers the two countries could possess. In February, each country announced it was in compliance.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, sign the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.

Though the treaty is due to expire in 2021, the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.

From Moscow’s side, there is interest. During their meeting in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin suggested to Trump that they extend the pact. From Washington’s side, it’s unclear if there is any interest in doing so.

“If the INF treaty goes under, as appears likely, and New START is allowed to expire with nothing to replace it, there will no verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s,” says Kingston Reif, a nuclear analyst at the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank. “The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.”

After simmering quietly in classified intelligence discussions, the INF dispute moved to the front burner in 2014 when the U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that exceeded treaty limits.

Russia denied the accusations, even as Washington officials stepped up their accusations in 2017, accusing Moscow of deploying the missile.

In November of that year, Christopher Ford, then a top White House arms control official, for the first time publicly identified the Russian missile in question as the 9M729.

Trump has pushed the line that, if Russia is not adhering to the INF, then the U.S. won’t either.

Ahead of Bolton’s meeting with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had violated the INF, saying that “Russia was and remains committed to this treaty’s provisions.”

Following Bolton’s meeting with the Russian president amid two days of talks with Russian officials, the U.S. national-security adviser downplayed suggestions that the demise of the INF treaty would undermine global stability. He pointed to the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from another important arms control agreement: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.

As a top arms control official in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton was a vocal advocate for pulling out of the ABM treaty.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

National-security adviser John Bolton.

“The reality is that the treaty is outmoded, outdated, and being ignored by other countries,” Bolton said, referring to the INF agreement. “And that means exactly one country was constrained by the treaty” — the United States.

In an interview with the newspaper Kommersant published ahead of his arrival in Moscow, Bolton suggested that Trump administration officials didn’t see any urgency in deciding New START’s fate.

“I’m a veteran arms control negotiator myself, and I can tell you that many, many of the key decisions are made late in the negotiations anyway, so I don’t feel that we’re pressed for time,” Bolton said.

“One of the points we thought was important was to resolve the INF issue first, so we knew what the lay of the land was on the strategic-weapon side. So, we’re talking about it internally…. We’re trying to be open about different aspects of looking at New START and other arms control issues as well,” he said.

All indications to date are that the Trump administration is lukewarm at best on the need to extend New START. When the administration in February2018 released its Nuclear Posture Review—- a policy-planning document laying out the circumstances under which the United States would use its nuclear arsenal — there was no mention of extending the treaty until 2026.

In testimony September 2018 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Trachtenberg, the deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration’s review of whether to extend New START was ongoing.

Matthew Bunn, who oversees the Project On Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, suggests that instead of pulling out of the INF, the Trump administration should push for a bigger deal that includes not only dismantling the Russian missile in question but also extending New START and ensuring it covers the new generation of Russian weaponry under development.

“Letting the whole structure of nuclear arms control collapse would bring the world closer to the nuclear brink, roil U.S. alliances, and undermine the global effort to stem the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Both sides are now complying with New START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and the predictability — all the more so while the viability of INF is in question,” Ernest Moniz, U.S. energy secretary under Obama, and Sam Nunn, a former Republican senator and arms control advocate, wrote in an op-ed article. “Losing either one of these agreements would be highly detrimental; without both, there will be no arms control constraints on nuclear forces, which will exacerbate today’s already high risks.”

Ford and other U.S. officials had already signaled that the United States was moving more aggressively to push back on the alleged Russian missile deployment.

Asked whether Washington planned to develop and deploy its own intermediate-range missiles — similar to what happened in the 1980s before the INF treaty was signed — Bolton said the Trump administration “was a long way” from that point.

Still, the prospect prompted the European Union’s foreign office to release a statement that criticized both Washington and Moscow.

“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” it said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This ‘El Sal’ soldier kicked *ss with just a switchblade

In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .

 

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Toloza deployed to Iraq in 2004 (via Samuel Toloza)

 

Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.

They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.

“I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me,” Toloza told reporter Denis Gray in 2004.

They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades.

Bad move.

The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.

 

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Toloza after the fighting in 2004. (via Samuel Toloza)

“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.

Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Toloza’s knife in 2014.

 

Toloza had just picked up the switchblade at a quick PX stop before heading out, the BBC World Service reported. It cost him a dollar.

Salvadoran media dubbed him “El Rambo Salvadororeño.”

For the records, Condor’s 6-inch “Toloza” model is 3 inches longer than the actual switchblade Cpl. Toloza used to save his entire unit from annihilation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.

“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”


While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.

Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk
(Photo by JD Lasica)

“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”

In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.

The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.

The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.

“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.

He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
(NASA)

The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.

The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.

SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.

Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.

NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.

While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.

He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.

A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”

The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Meet the most decorated working dog of World War II

Chips, a German shepherd, collie, husky mix, was the most famous and decorated sentry dog in World War II, one of 10,425 dogs that saw service in the Quartermaster Corps’ new “K-9 Corps.” Prior to the K-9 Corps, dogs such as Admiral Wags on the carrier Lexington and World War I canine hero Sergeant Stubby were mascots without any official function.


The K-9 Corps was the culmination of a program begun by the Dogs for Defense, a civilian organization created in January 1942 by a group of notable dog experts and the American Kennel Club. Concerned about the vulnerability of America’s long coastline to infiltration by enemy saboteurs, it offered to provide the Army and Coast Guard with trained sentry dogs. After some initial resistance, the Army authorized an experimental program using 200 dogs. The success of that program caused the Quartermaster General to authorize the acquisition of 125,000 dogs (later reduced). Of the 10,425 dogs that served in the military during the war, most conducted sentry duty along America’s coastline and at military installations. But roughly 1,000 dogs were trained as scout dogs. Chips was one of those dogs.

Also read: A brief history of dogs in warfare

Chips’ owner was Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, who enlisted Chips in the Army in August 1942. After training at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal, Va., he was assigned to Pvt. Rowell. Chips participated in Operation Torch, and was one of three dogs assigned guard duty for the Roosevelt/Churchill Casablanca Conference.

In the predawn hours of July 10, 1943, the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott landed on the shore of southern Sicily near Licata in Operation Husky. Among the troops that hit the beach was the 3rd Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Regiment, containing Pvt. John R. Rowell of Arkansas and his sentry dog, Chips. As dawn broke, the platoon was working its way inland when a machine gun nest hidden in what appeared to be a nearby peasant hut opened fire. Rowell and the rest of the platoon immediately hit the ground. But Chips broke free from his handler and, snarling, raced into the hut. Pvt. Rowell later said, “Then there was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped.” The soldiers heard someone inside the hut fire a pistol. Roswell said he then “saw one Italian soldier come out with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man. Three others followed, holding their hands above their heads.”

Chips suffered powder burns and a scalp wound from the pistol fired at close range. Medics treated Chips and released him to Rowell later that day. That night, while on guard duty Chips alerted Rowell of an infiltration attempt by ten Italian soldiers. Together they captured all ten.

Within days the story of Chips’ heroics had swept through the division. Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. More was to come. The platoon’s commander, Capt. Edward G. Parr put in a recommendation that Chips receive the Distinguished Service Cross for “courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine gun nest and causing surrender of its crew.”

War Department regulations prohibited the awarding of decorations to animals. But in the case of Chips, Truscott’s attitude was “regulations be damned.” He waived them and on November 19 in Italy he personally awarded Chips the Distinguished Service Cross.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
U.S. National Archives

The people back home learned of Chips’ heroism in newspaper stories published on July 14, 1944. While most people were thrilled, acclaim was not universal. The next day the War Department released a statement that it was conducting an investigation, noting the War Department regulations. In addition, William Thomas, the national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, angrily wrote letters to the president, secretary of war, and adjutant general of the U.S. Army protesting that the Purple Heart was a decoration for humans, not animals. Then Congress got into the act. After a debate lasting three months, it decided no more decorations were to be awarded to non-humans adding “appropriate citations may be published in unit general orders.” This meant that at least they would receive honorable discharges.

Though they took away his medals, that didn’t make Chips any less a hero. Among those who honored Chips was Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. But, when Eisenhower leaned down to pet him, Chips, only knowing that Eisenhower was a stranger and possibly stressed from the attention he had been receiving, nipped the general’s hand.

Chips remained with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the war. Shortly before he was honorably discharged, the men in his platoon unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with arrowhead for an assault landing and eight battle stars. He returned home to the Wren family in December 1945.

Chips died seven months after coming home from complications of his war injuries at the age of 6. He is buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, United States of America.

Articles

ISIS just suffered a major defeat in Iraq

Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.


Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.

“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.

Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.

Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.

A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.

Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.

“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”

Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.

IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.

Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
Photo from DoD.

The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.

A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.

“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”

Intel

This Army veteran and NASCAR fan got the surprise of a lifetime

When Army cavalry veteran Rick Groesbeck was invited to the Hendrick Motorsports race shop, he probably suspected he would get a bit of a thrill. He couldn’t have expected everything that was about to happen.


From USA Today:

Groesbeck, 46, had shown up to the Hendrick shop at the request of Charlotte Bridge Home, which helps area veterans transition back to civilian life after their military service has concluded. Groesbeck was told a camera crew wanted to talk to a veteran who was also a NASCAR fan, but he had no clue what was about to happen.

First, the 11-year Army veteran and his six-year-old son were given a personal tour of the shop and Rick Hendrick’s car collection by Rick Hendrick himself.. Then, he met Xfinity Series Champion Chase Elliott and was able to ride with Elliott in a race car on Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Finally, he learned he would be waving the green flag to start Saturday’s Bank of America 500.

“What they did that day and what I get to do this weekend, you see that happening to other people,” Groesbeck told USA Today. “You never think what I did was anything compared to what other people did, and you think there’s other people out there who deserve it more than you. So to have all that happen, I’m truly humbled by that appreciation and gratitude.”

To learn more, check out the original article at USA Today or watch the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEENvCBXLQQ

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 ships sunk at Pearl Harbor fought in World War II

While “salvage operations” aren’t usually stories of perseverance and ingenuity, the actions of brave sailors and officers after the Pearl Harbor attacks formed a miracle that is legitimately surprising. While the battleships Utah, Arizona, and Oklahoma were permanently lost after the Pearl Harbor attacks, seven combat ships that were sunk in the raid went on to fight Japanese and German forces around the world and at least three non-combat ships saw further service in the war.


In all, 21 ships were labeled damaged or sunk after the attack. Nine of them were still afloat and were either quickly repaired for frontline duty or sent to the U.S. West Coast for repairs and new equipment. But another 12 were sunk and some of those were even declared lost. Before the war closed, seven of the sunken ships would see combat and another three served in peacetime roles.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS West Virginia burns on December 7 thanks to Japanese attacks. It would go on to punish the Japanese forces across the Pacific. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS West Virginia was declared lost three years before entering Tokyo Bay

The USS West Virginia was one of the worst hit in the raid. The “Weevie,” as it was called, had been hit by up to seven torpedoes, but no one could be certain exactly how many torpedoes hit it, really, because the damage was so severe. At least two torpedoes flowed through holes in the hull and exploded inside against the lower decks.

Salvage crews were forced to create large patches that were held in place with underwater concrete. As seawater was pumped out, it was expected that the ship’s electric drive would be unusable or would need extensive repairs but, surprisingly, it turned out that seawater hadn’t reached the main propulsion plant. The alternators and motors were repaired, and the ship headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.

The ship received much better anti-aircraft armament and defensive armor and headed back into the fight in the Pacific. At the Battle of the Surigao Strait, Weevie fired ninety-three rounds into the Japanese fleet. It later hit Japanese forces ashore on Leyte, served at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and was the first of the older battleships to sail into Tokyo Bay to witness Japan’s surrender in 1945.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS Shaw explodes at Pearl Harbor on December 7. It later fought across the Pacific. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS Shaw attacked Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Philippines

The destroyer USS Shaw was only 6-years old when the Pearl Harbor attack began, but the modern warship was in overhaul on Dec. 7, 1941, and had all of its ammo stored below decks. So it was unable to protect itself as dive bombers struck it, shredding the deck near gun number 1, severing the bow, and rupturing the fuel oil tanks. All this damage led to a massive fire in the forward magazines which then blew up.

The Shaw was declared a total loss, but the Navy found that much of its machinery was still good. Damaged sections were cut off, a false bow was fitted, and the ship steamed to Mare Island in California for permanent repairs just two months after the attack.

The overhauled USS Shaw fired on Japanese forces at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. It served out the war before being decommissioned in October 1945.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS Nevada fires its guns at the Normandy shore during D-Day in June 1944, about 30 months after the ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS Nevada shelled Normandy

The USS Nevada was one of the few ships in the harbor that was ready to fight on December 7, and its official reports indicated that the crew first opened fire at 8:02, about 60 seconds after the attack started. It was able to down between two and five enemy planes, but still took one torpedo and six bomb hits that doomed the ship. An admiral ordered the ship to beach itself to protect the channel and the ship from further damage.

While Adm. Chester E. Nimitz was pessimistic as to the Nevada’s chances, salvage leaders were quite hopeful. Most of the holes were small enough to patch with wood instead of steel. It took extensive work to get the ship capable of sailing to the West Coast. When it arrived at Puget, it received new anti-aircraft guns and a full overhaul.

The Nevada took part in the Aleutian Islands Campaign just one year after Pearl Harbor before going on to fight at Normandy on D-Day. It headed back to the Pacific and fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The battleship USS California sits in drydock in 1942 as crews prepare to begin major repair operations. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS California slammed a Japanese Fuso-class battleship with shells

The California crew was able to get into fighting position as Japanese bombers closed in, but that just left officers in perfect position to watch the track of the torpedo that hit the ship in the opening minutes. As damage control got underway, a second torpedo hit the ship followed by a single bomb. All this was made worse when the crew had to abandon ship as the fires from the USS Arizona floated around the California.

But the crew came back and kept the ship afloat for three days before it finally sank into the mud. Salvage operators had to build cofferdams to begin repairs so that crews could access previously flooded areas. As the ship emerged from the water, caustic solutions were used to remove corrosion and seawater. It sailed for the West Coast in October 1942.

By the time the California left the Puget Sound Navy Yard in late 1943, it had nearly all new parts, from the engine to many weapons. It used these to fight at the Marianas, bombard Saipan and Guam, and then slam a Fuso-class battleship at Surigao Strait with over 90,000 pounds of munitions.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS Downes on left and USS Cassin, capsized on right, sit on the partially flooded floor of Drydock No. 1 on Dec. 7, 1941, after suffering multiple bomb hits and internal explosions. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS Cassin

The destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes were in drydock on December 7. So they were essentially impossible to damage with torpedoes, but were highly susceptible to bombs. Guess what Japan hit them with? Bombs passed entirely through the Cassin and exploded on the drydock floor, and both ships were set on fire and struck by tons of fragments. Cassin even toppled off its blocks and struck the drydock floor.

The USS Cassin’s keel and hull were warped by the damage, and the hull was filled with holes. The shell plating was wrinkled. Crews disassembled the ship and sent most everything but the hull to Mare Island where they were installed in a new shell. Despite the entirely new hull, the Navy considered the resulting ship to still be the USS Cassin.

The Cassin was sent against Marcus Island, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Palau, and the Philippine Islands. Yeah, it had a pretty busy war for a ship “lost” on December 7.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS Downes sails away from Mare Island to serve against Japan in World War II on Dec. 8, 1943, almost exactly a year after the Pearl Harbor attack. (U.S. Navy)

USS Downes

The Downes arguably suffered worst than the Cassin in drydock as the fires caused sympathetic detonations in the Downes’ torpedoes and other weapons. It was also twisted by damage, and it had massive holes from the explosions. Downes had aluminum plating on its deckhouse that was completely destroyed.

Like the Cassin, the Downes had its hull scrapped and most of its innards installed in another hull in the shipyard on Mare Island.

This new and improved USS Downes fought at Saipan, Marcus Island, and Luzon. Like the Cassin, it had been declared lost after the Pearl Harbor damage.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS
The USS Oglala is visible in the foreground, mostly submerged on its side as other ships burned in the background on December 7 at Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy)

 

USS Oglala

The minelayer Oglala technically didn’t suffer a hit on December 7, but a torpedo passed under it and hit the USS Helena. The blast from that crippled the old Oglala which had been built as a civilian vessel in 1906. The crewmembers took their guns to the Navy Yard Dock and set them up to provide more defenses. They also set up a first aid station that saved the lives of West Virginia crewmembers.

The ship suffered horribly, eventually capsizing and sinking until just a few feet of the ship’s starboard side remained above water. It was declared lost, and the Navy even considered blowing it up with dynamite to clear the dock it had sunk next to. But the decision was made that it could destroy the dock, so the Navy had to refloat it. At that point, it made sense to drydock and repair it.

After repair and refit at Mare Island Navy Yard, the Oglala was re-launched as a repair ship and served across the west Pacific. It actually joined the Maritime Reserve Fleet after the war and wasn’t scrapped until 1965, almost 60 years after its construction as a civilian passenger liner.

(Author’s note: Most of the information for this article came from The Navy Department Library’s online copy of Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin. It can be found online here.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

We Are The Mighty joins forces with Article 15 at the Boot Comedy Jam red carpet

The Marines from Camp Pendleton had a night to remember filled with laughs made by some the funniest celebrities Oct. 28. A-list comedians included Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Leslie Jordan, and more.


“Comedy Boot Jam” was a private troops-only event put on by Boot Campaign and celebrity supporters to celebrate active and veteran service members. We Are The Mighty’s Weston Scott and Article 15’s Jarred Taylor covered the event from the red carpet at the famous Hollywood Improv!

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

US Air Force fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with apparent guided cluster munitions, weapons that may capable of tearing apart Iranian small boat swarms.

“F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are flying air operations in support of maritime surface warfare,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing revealed this week, explaining that “their role is to conduct combat air patrol missions over the Arabian Gulf and provide aerial escorts of naval vessels as they traverse the Strait of Hormuz.”

The F-15E, which can reportedly carry almost any air-to-surface weapon in the Air Force arsenal, is a dual-role fighter able to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.


This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron refuels from a KC-10 Extender June 27, 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

Looking at the accompanying photos, Joseph Trevithick, a writer for The War Zone, noticed that the F-15s were carrying cluster munitions. It is unclear what type of munitions the aircraft are flying with, but given their mission is focused on maritime security, it would make sense that the submunitions contained within are one of two suited to a strike on Iran’s swarm boats.

The F-15s in the photos appear to be carrying Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers, a GPS-guided canister that can be loaded with different submunitions depending on the mission type, The War Zone reports, noting that the aircraft are likely carrying either the CBU-103/B loaded with 202 BLU-97/B Combined Effect Bomblets or the CBU-105/B filled with ten BLU-108/B Sensor Fuzed Munitions.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

An F-15E Strike Eagle sits while waiting for an upcoming mission July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The submunitions contain four separate warheads with their own independent sensors to detect and eliminate targets, and would be well suited to targeting the small Iranian gunboats that have been harassing commercial vessels.

Cluster munitions, while controversial, allow the user to eliminate multiple targets with one bomb. A single CBU-105, for instance, could theoretically achieve 40 individual kills against an incoming small boat force. The US military had initially planned to stop using cluster munitions, but these plans were put on hold until suitable alternatives could be developed.

This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

An F-15E Strike Eagle weapons load crew team prepares munitions July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The F-15E Strike Eagles with the 336th EFS currently assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates carry a “robust assortment of air-to-ground munitions” and fly “with various configurations to ensure an ability to respond effectively to dynamic situations,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing explained.

These fighters are “currently conducting Surface Combat Air Patrol (SuCAP) operations to ensure free and open maritime commerce in the region.”

July 2019, Iranian gunboats attempted to seize the British tanker “British Heritage,” but the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose intervened, turning its guns on the Iranian vessels. One week later, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero, an unguarded vessel which Iran has not yet released.

The US has also accused Iran of attacking commercial vessels in the region with limpet mines, as well as targeting and, in one case, shooting down US unmanned air assets.

Western countries have not yet come to a consensus about how they should deal with the serious threat posed by Iranian forces in the region.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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