Keeping your head on a swivel, eyes always on alert, and being prepared for anything are just a few of ways Marines serving in the infantry stay vigilant while forward deployed.
With the constant threat of danger lurking around every corner, many veterans use music as a way to relax and recenter; some, like John Preston, take it one step further and use music to tell their stories and encourage others not to give up hope.
During a tour in Iraq, Preston began his music career by writing the song “Good Good America,” which propelled John into the industry and landed him a record deal upon his return home.
For the next few years, John slowly veered away from music and became a firefighter — but his passion for music didn’t die out.
Luckily, he managed to return to music signing with Pacific Records and quickly released his first single “This Is War” in the fall of 2014. The song became a national media topic after a Marine veteran made a call-to-action to veterans across the nation to make a stand against ISIS.
John’s musical momentum began taking shape once again as his record label released several of his songs in the following months.
“We are taking our message to the public, and today we tell the mainstream that we are here and we are loud. The perception of the broken veteran is a myth that we refuse to buy into,” Preston tells WATM. “My music is about our lives and the real battles we have and continue to fight: on and off the battlefield. We are here to show our community and the general public our talent, work ethic, and our drive to push forward through all adversity.”
Sadly, in January of 2016, John’s brother ended his own life after a hard battle with post-traumatic stress. The action almost convinced Preston to end his music career once again but has instead fueled his passion and his new single “Superman Falls.”
Preston is an executive producer on the album, which climbed to #21 on the iTunes rock charts. The song continues to spread throughout the veteran community as well as the mainstream music scene. To check out the John Preston’s music on iTunes click here.
Currently signed with Concore Entertainment/Universal Music Group, his newest single “Before I am Gone” was released on September 5, 2017. To check out the John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.
John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.
Check out John Preston’s video below to watch his behind the scenes footage.
It was reported earlier this month that during a July 19 meeting with his national-security team, President Donald Trump turned down counsel of his generals, saying he leaned “toward the advice of rank-and-file soldiers.”
As one of those “rank-and-file” soldiers who has sat through countless sensing sessions where dumb asses give the stupidest advice on how to run the Army, I can see plenty of room for error.
Writer’s Note: This is not intended to be a political piece. It’s only meant to shine a light on the humor that would come from giving “Carl” — or the person that has to be THAT f*cking guy in your unit — the ultimate open door policy. Soldiers could have great ideas that could help turn things around in Afghanistan. But not Carl.
1. Every base would get a luxurious boost in MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation).
Soldiers are more ready and resilient if they aren’t bored out of their f*cking minds, right? Some soldiers make it seem like it’s a matter of life and death if they have to twiddle their thumbs for more than 10 minutes at a time. Carl’s first piece of advice?
“Porn, Mr. President. No one can be busy twiddling their thumbs if their twiddling their little rifleman instead. Gonna need tablets and good WiFi for every combat outpost. And make sure to not put some dumb password on it. No one wants to look for a sticky note when they’re trying to get sticky, you feel me?”
2. Get rid of the MREs for junk food.
Did you know there’s a lot of science behind MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)? They have to have at least 5-year shelf life, specific calorie counts, have a variety of nutrients and hold their nutrients through a quick heating process, are specifically pH balanced, stay oxygen controlled, and so much more. But Carl doesn’t realize that.
“Beer and brauts. And make sure they have lots of pork so the locals won’t want to touch us. Come to think of it, put some stickers in ’em that say, ‘Infidel filled with pig,’ so all the enemies will know our blood is unsafe to touch. Yeah, mess with us, lose your virgins. Expiration dates? Nah, we’ll drink ’em before they go bad.”
The last of these were made in ’08. Unless they were kept in a temperature of below a constant 40°F, these f*ckers should all be expired. We should be safe now. (Photo via Wikicommons)
3. Put fast food joints on all FOBs.
I remember my first time at Ali Al Salem Air Base. One of my NCOs took me to the McDonalds. He bought me a burger and told me “Ski, (every service member with a Polish last name has it reduced to the same three letters) enjoy this burger because it’s all down hill from here.” I replied, “But Sergeant, this tastes like cat sh*t flattened in an ash tray.”
“Like I said, all down hill from here.”
And Carl doesn’t get that it’s a problem of logistics and security.
“Here we go, President Trump. What they really need over there is a little taste of home, specifically, a taste of home-fried chicken from Kentucky. Yeah, KFC. Finger-licken good.”
4. The definition of “hazing” would get a lot more intense.
“But like, they were super mean to me. One of ’em said I should go get the keys to the drop zone for the airborne guys. But, get this, there’s no such thing! Yeah, so no more snipe hunts, Mr. President. And also, no more hard stuff right after lunch. I need time to digest my KFC.”
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.
President Donald Trump announced “precision strikes” on Syria on April 13, 2018, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed dozens of people there earlier this month.
Britain and France have joined the US in the military operation, Trump said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was suspected of orchestrating a chlorine attack against the rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital of Damascus, on April 7. Although exact figures were unclear, the attack is believed to have killed dozens, many of them children. The New York Times said at least 43 of the victims showed signs of having been exposed to “highly toxic chemicals.”
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” Trump said on Friday.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price)
Trump called the incident a “heinous attack on innocent” Syrians and vowed that the US would respond: “This is about humanity; it can’t be allowed to happen.”
Trump also accused Russia and Iran of being “responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing” Assad’s regime: “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children,” Trump asked.
“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep,” the president said. “No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”
Trump continued: “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran. But maybe not.”
Britain and France join in the military action
In a statement on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
“History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.”
An international uproar over chemical weapons
The chemical attack prompted several nations to respond, including the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. Trump had reportedly talked to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron this week, both of whom believed that the Syrian regime should be held accountable.
“I just want to say very clearly, that if they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Although Trump reportedly advocated for a broad military strike that would punish Syria, and to an extent, its allies Russia and Iran, he is believed to have been met with resistance from Mattis and other military officials, who feared the White House lacked a broad strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The latest chemical attack follows the suspected Syrian-sponsored sarin attack in April 2017, which reportedly killed 89 people. The US responded by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that was suspected of playing a role in the chemical attacks.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the government’s involvement in the attacks, Syria has denied responsibility for both incidents.
In addition to Assad’s denials, Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, has also dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” and said its own experts found no “trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.”
On Tuesday, Russia took its response a step further and vetoed the US-backed United Nations resolution that condemned the apparent chemical attack.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley rebuked the decision and called it a “sad day.”
“When the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this council to act, one country stood in the way,” Haley said. “History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.”
A 19-year-old Arkansas native faces charges of maliciously attempting to destroy a vehicle in a Pentagon parking lot at the Pentagon on Monday morning.
The Justice Department said in a statement that a Pentagon police officer witnessed Matthew D. Richardson using a cigarette lighter to ignite a “a piece of fabric” that was inserted into the gas tank of a vehicle.
The vehicle belonged to an active-duty service member who did not know Richardson.
The Pentagon officer approached Richardson, who then told him he was trying to “blow this vehicle up” with himself. The officer attempted to detain Richardson, who fled and jumped over a fence into Arlington National Cemetery.
He was eventually detained by an emergency response team from the Pentagon near the Arlington House, a memorial dedicated to the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Officers searched Richardson and found a cigarette lighter, gloves, and court documents related to a previous felony assault arrest made two days prior.
If convicted, Richardson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
World War II Veteran Alyce Dixon, affectionately known as “Queen Bee” by those who know her and care for her at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, is now 108-years young.
Cpl. Dixon has quite a story and quite a personality. Rocking a tiara on top of her head for the occasion, she was queen for the day at the D.C. VAMC. Fellow Veterans, volunteers, staff and family members celebrated her life at a special ceremony held Sept.11.
“God has been so good,” Dixon said. “He left me here with all these lovely people and all these nice things they’re saying. I hope they mean it.”
Dixon is now the oldest living female World War II veteran according to VA records. She joined the military in 1943 and was stationed in both England and France with the postal services. She was one of the first African-American women in the Army as part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion – the only unit of African-American women in the WAC to serve overseas during WWII.
“This has been a marvelous day. I feel real special,” Dixon said regarding the celebration that included flowers and gifts from family and friends.
North Korea announced April 17, 2019, that it had tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” leading to a lot of speculation about what North Korea, a volatile nation known for its nuclear and missile tests, may have actually fired off.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would only go so far as to say that the weapon “is not a ballistic missile” in his discussions with the press April 18, 2019. He added that there has been “no change to our posture or to our operations.”
The South Korean military, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency, concluded that North Korea was experimenting with a “guided weapon for the purpose of ground battles.”
US intelligence, CNN reported, has assessed that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, not a new, fully-operational weapon. The US determined that the weapon was, as CNN worded it, “inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.”
Satellites and aircraft operating nearby did not detect any evidence that the North launched a short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile. US officials told reporters that had North Korea fired an operational weapon, US sensors would have detected it.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on May 5, 2017.
Meaningful or not, the test, which was reportedly “supervised” by Chairman Kim Jong Un and comes just a few months after the failed summit in Hanoi. Some North Korea watchers believe it was intended to send a message to the Trump administration, as the announcement was accompanied by a call from the North Korean foreign ministry to remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from all future nuclear negotiations.
“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” a State Department spokesperson said.
North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, when it tested what analysts suspect was a thermonuclear bomb, and the country’s last ballistic missile test was the successful launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November that year.
Amid negotiations with Washington, Pyongyang has maintained a strict moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. North Korea has, however, engaged in lower-level weapons testing to signal frustration during these talks.
Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
Following an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart in November 2018, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The country apparently tested an artillery piece, most likely a multiple rocket launcher. Nonetheless, that test was the first clear sign that North Korea is willing to restart weapons testing if necessary.
The North Korean leader suggested as much in his New Year’s address. “If the U.S. does not keep the promises it made in front of the world, misjudges the patience of our people, forces a unilateral demand on us, and firmly continues with sanctions and pressures on our republic, we might be compelled to explore new ways to protect our autonomy and interests,” Kim explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You can talk about them but you can’t talk without them — that’s pretty much the commo creed. One U.S. Army information technology specialist took to the mic to remind everyone just how important that is.
The signal specialist here is known as Mark Vision, aka Marcus Twitty, a Germany-based soldier and Christian rapper who woke up one morning wanting to rap and ended up writing an entire EP. His track about being a commo soldier is called “This Is The Life (S6 Anthem),” and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.
For those not in the know, the ‘S’ in S6 means staff and the ‘6’ means communications. In the case of the U.S. Army, the S6 is the signal officer at the battalion or brigade staff level. In the song, he also mentions a “25 Uniform,” referring to the Army MOS 25U, Signal Support Systems Specialist, who works with radio and data, provides technical support for computers and networks, and maintains comms-related terminals, equipment, and data.
The song goes through the most common questions an IT specialist comes across on a daily basis, like:
What’s the wifi password?
Why can’t I login?
Why is my account disabled?
Also mentioned in the song is why people ask him about their account status while he’s eating lunch, second lieutenants trying to throw their rank around to get better service, and that TKS, the leading cable and telecomms service provider for U.S. troops in Germany, set up their civilian wifi and not the Army – but soldiers come to him for help anyway.
This is hilarious because we all know it’s 100 percent true. Be good to your communications staff: These are the kind of things they have to put up with every day.
Ground combat in the Vietnam War was a lot more than random ambushes in heavy jungle and the Air Force bombing the hell out of jungle canopies. At places like Ben Het, the North Vietnamese Army even attacked in force with tanks and armored personnel carriers.
After getting into a conventional battle with the United States Army at Ia Drang, the NVA learned to stick to the tactics it knew best: infiltrations, hit-and-runs, ambushes and surprise attacks. Even major offensives relied on surprises in timing and troop strength after that.
By the time the United States got involved in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had been fighting against colonial-style rule from outsiders since the end of World War II, an astonishing 20 years or so. They were a battle-hardened army with veteran leadership, fighting on their home turf. They knew the jungle like the American troops could not. To top it all off, Communist supporters and sympathizers were all over the “democratic” south – the Viet Cong.
The United States wasn’t just fighting a uniformed, trained force along a united front, it was also fighting the Viet Cong and its brutal campaign of intimidation and violence throughout the south VC fighters could hit South Vietnam and civilian targets in the south, then blend into the crowd of civilians.
That ability to blend into their surroundings and hide in plain sight was also apparent in the jungle fighting outside of Vietnam’s major cities.
Small units operating in the jungles had problems fighting that only those who are familiar with that kind of terrain would know. The dense jungles and triple canopies made seeing the enemy next to impossible, from either the ground or the air.
The Viet Cong also employed complex tunnel systems in areas throughout the country that allowed them to move and hide underground. On those kinds of battlefield, the VC could decide when and where the shooting starts and ends.
One advantage the U.S. had was in terms of firepower from air support and artillery. North Vietnamese forces had to negate that advantage on the battlefields. The primary way they did that was to hit American infantry units when it was most advantageous for them. Often, the communist forces would wait until the Americans were mere yards away in the least visible sections of jungle territory before opening up on them. Well-hidden and disciplined, the NVA could cause maximum damage and before withdrawing, often using only small arms and mortars, and often at night.
During nighttime raids and ambushes, communist ambushes were extremely difficult to fight against because they were extremely difficult to see. The NVA and VC were both well-versed in cover and concealment, despite what Americans see in movies. The dense jungle made it even easier for them. At night, the Americans could only return fire at vague muzzle flashes and maybe tracer rounds.
Some Veterans will tell you that they never saw the enemy – even if they were 30 feet away.
Conventional tactics were a loser for North Vietnamese forces. Americans won those battles through superior firepower and training. The same can’t be said for small-unit combat in the jungles. In the end, the drawn out war and the communists’ political strategy (along with supplies coming from other communist countries) became too much for the American public.
American victories in Vietnam were overshadowed by the divisive nature of support for the war at home. Many of the social and societal rifts caused by the prolonged war can still be felt to this day.
The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.
When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able to elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.
James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.
“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.
At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
U.S. Air Force
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.
“Storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Dec. 22.
And as diplomats try to resolve the nuclear standoff, he told soldiers that the US military must do its part by being ready for war.
Without forecasting a conflict, Mattis emphasized that diplomacy stands the best chance of preventing a war if America’s words are backed up by strong and prepared armed forces.
“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis told several dozen soldiers and airmen at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a two-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.
The stop came a day after Mattis visited the American Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, becoming the first defense secretary to visit in almost 16 years.
Mattis’ comments came as the UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling nations to sharply reduce their sales of oil to the reclusive country and send home all North Korean expatriate workers within two years. Such workers are seen as a key source of revenue for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.
President Donald Trump and other top US officials have made repeated threats about US military action. Some officials have described the messaging as twofold in purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear arsenal, and to motivate key regional powers China and Russia to put more pressure on Pyongyang so a war is averted.
The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that the Trump administration had had “dramatically” stepped up preparations for a “bloody nose” attack to send Pyongyang a message.
Also this week, when asked about the US’s stance toward the stand-off with North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, said the US had “to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”
For the military, the focus has been on ensuring soldiers are ready should the call come.
At Fort Bragg, Mattis recommended the troops read T.R. Fehrenbach’s military classic “This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness,” first published in 1963, a decade after the Korean War ended.
“Knowing what went wrong the last time around is as important as knowing your own testing, so that you’re forewarned — you know what I’m driving at here,” he said as soldiers listened in silence. “So you gotta be ready.”
The US has nearly 28,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but if war came, many thousands more would be needed for a wide range of missions, including ground combat.
The retired Marine Corps general fielded questions on many topics in his meetings with troops at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Thursday and at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Friday. North Korea seemed uppermost on troops’ minds as they and their families wonder whether war looms.
Asked about recent reports that families of US service members in South Korea might be evacuated, Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy could still avert a crisis. He said there is no plan now for an evacuation.
“I don’t think it’s at that point yet,” he said, adding that an evacuation of American civilians would hurt the South Korean economy. He said there is a contingency plan that would get US service members’ families out “on very short notice.”
Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupting the Winter Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.
“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to take on the whole world by killing their athletes,” he said.
Mattis repeatedly stressed that there is still time to work out a peaceful solution. At one point he said diplomacy is “going positively.” But he also seemed determined to steel US troops against what could be a costly war on the Korean Peninsula.
“There is very little reason for optimism,” he said.
Mattis is not the only senior military official cautioning troops to be ready for conflict.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marines in Norway this week that he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, cautioning them to remain alert and ready. Neller said he believed the Corps’ focus would soon shift away from operations in the Middle East toward “the Pacific and Russia.”
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told Marines in Norway according to Military.com.
The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.
Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.
However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.
Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.
Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.
In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.
“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”
However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.
Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.
Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.
It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.
KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.
“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.
A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.
After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.
“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.
“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.
In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”
Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.
“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.
“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.
Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.
“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.
Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.
“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”
According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”
Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.
Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.
Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.
Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.
Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.
Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.
“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.
“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”
An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”
Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.
After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.
On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.
“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.
F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.
At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.
Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.
“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”
Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”