The top 15 military stories of 2015 - We Are The Mighty
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The top 15 military stories of 2015

It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:


1. The “American Sniper” controversy

The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused  a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
That baby though.

As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.

2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa

In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A local worker walks past rows of boots and aprons drying in the sun after being decontaminated at an active Ebola treatment unit built as part of Operation United Assistance in Suakoko, Liberia. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brien Vorhees)

“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial

The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

See Also: Where are they now? An update on the ‘Taliban 5’ exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.

4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record

Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”

“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:

“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015

See Also: John McCain learned two big things as a prisoner of war

The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe shortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.

“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”

5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again

In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy  flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.

One of the Marines, then-Master Gunnery Sergeant James Tracy told CNN he thought the freeze would last only three years. It lasted for 54. In August 2015, Tracy and the two other Marines, then Gunnery Sgt. Francis East and Cpl. Larry Morris, who lowered Old Glory from its Havana post, returned to the site to raise it up again after a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations saw the two nations exchange diplomats again for the first time in decades.

6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train

In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the Soldier’s Medal to Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard, the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and the Defense Department Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)

As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.

7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs

The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Pew Pew! (Photo from Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.

9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units

The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Female Engagement Team leader, Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, works with infantry units and coalitions forces to work with Afghan women throughout Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nicholson is on her second combat tour here and searches women and children for contraband during missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

See Also: The Marine Corps says it’s not trying to keep female Marines out of combat

The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”

10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart

The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.

11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017

They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017.  When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.

The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.

13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data

In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.

One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.

14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS

In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
It’s really weird that they pose like this.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.

See Also: Pentagon releases name of Delta Force soldier killed by ISIS in Iraq

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 sensor successfully tracks ballistic missile in Hawaii test

The F-35’s Distributed Aperture Sensor (DAS) has performed airborne identification and target tracking of a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii as part of ongoing development of the 5th-generation aircraft’s ability to conduct airborne ballistic missile defense missions.


Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency conducted a demonstration, using a ground-based DAS and a DAS-configured gateway aerial node to locate a ballistic missile launch and flight path. Target tracking information was sent using advanced data links to relay information between the aerial gateway and ground-based command and control locations.

According to Northrop engineers and weapons developers involved with the test, a sensor on the ground transmitted its tracking information to the DAS-equipped Airborne Gateway, which formed a three-dimensional space track which could be transmitted to San Diego.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney

“DAS can perform its mission whether airborne in an F-35 or other aircraft, as well as on the ground or in a ship. In this case, the two DAS sensors in the air and on the ground, respectively, were able to individually recognize the ballistic missile event and generate a two-dimensional track,” Northrop experts told Warrior.

Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.

“DAS communicated precise BMD data from Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii to a test-bed location in San Diego. Seconds after launch, the DAS sensor categorized the rocket and located a ballistic missile launch,” said John “Bama” Montgomery, 5th Generation Derivatives and Improvements, Northrop Grumman. “This re-organizes, re-imagines and re-shapes the battlespace.”

Although the test was in 2014, it has only now been determined that the F-35 can perform BMD – due to years of analysis and test data examination, Northrop developers said. Such a defensive technical ability is of great relevance currently, as many express concern about North Korea short and medium range ballistic missile threats.

Also Read: Hawaii just released a guide on how to survive a nuclear attack from North Korea

An airborne DAS, networked with ground-based Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons, could offer a distinct tactical advantage when it comes to quickly locating incoming missile threats. Air sensors in particular, could be of great value given that, in some envisioned threat scenarios, it is unclear whether there would be enough interceptors to counter a massive North Korean ballistic missile barrage into South Korea. Accordingly, air based detection and target tracking, it seems, could go a long way toward better fortifying defenses – as they might increase the time envelope during which command and control could cue interceptors to locate and destroy attacking enemy missiles.

Using early applications of artificial intelligence, computers and aircraft relied upon advanced algorithms to organize sensor information – which was then transmitted to a pilot.

As a key element of the F-35s much-discussed “sensor fusion technology,” the DAS draws upon a 360-degree sensor field of view generated by six cameras strategically placed around the aircraft. The sensor autonomously fuses data from all of the sensors into a single field of view for the pilot.

“With an automated picture, we can get the pilot everything he needs without him needing to go through every step,” Bama said.

Using F-35 DAS sensor technology, emerging technology can perform BMD sensing functions without needing to rely purely upon space-based infrared systems. Using LINK 16 and other data-link technologies, an F-35 can relay targeting data to other 5th and 4th-Generation aircraft as well as ground stations. Montgomery explained that MDA laboratory-generated detection, tracking and discrimination algorithms were able to provide 3-D tracking information.

An MDA statement said program officials have been evaluating system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test.

As part of this emerging technical configuration, it has been determined that the F-35s DAS can perform a wide range of non-traditional ISR functions to include not only BMD but other kinds of air or ground-fired enemy weapons. This includes an ability to detect artillery fire, enemy fighter aircraft, incoming air-launched missiles and, of course, ground launched rockets and missiles.

“DAS provides imagery. Instead of looking through a tube, this is a broader perspective of the combat environment, allowing a pilot to act more decisively. It provides a protective bubble to ensure that no aircraft can approach an F-35 without the F-35 knowing it is there,” Montgomery added.

Weapons developers describe this technical advance in terms of something entirely compatible with ship-based Aegis radar, which is also configured to perform BMD functions. Aegis radar was used to track the ballistic missile target as well.

In fact, F-35 BMD sensor technology aligns closely with the Navy’s now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), an integrated system which uses ship-based Aegis radar, an airborne platform relay sensor and an SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles at distances beyond the horizon.

The concept is to give commanders a better window for decision-making and countermeasure applications when faced with approaching enemy fire. The Navy’s layered ship defense system, involving SM-3s, ESSMs, SeaRAM, Rolling Airframe Missiles and closer-in systems such as Close-in-Weapons System using a phalanx area weapon, can best track and destroy targets when a flight path of an attacking ballistic missile can be identified earlier than would otherwise be the case.

The Navy and Lockheed have specifically demonstrated this system using an F-35 as an airborne sensor relay platform. NIFC-CA can be used both offensively and defensively, as it draws upon the SM-6s active seeker which can discern and attack fast-maneuvering targets.

The Navy is already building, deploying and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with NIFC-CA – as a way to bring an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). (Image via Lockheed Martin)

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; it has also been successfully tested from a land-based “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Should the Navy’s future plans materialize, the system would expand further to include the F/A-18 and F-35C.

NIFC-CA gives Navy ships the ability to extend the range of an interceptor missile and extend the reach sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system, Navy developers told Warrior.

NIFC-CA was previously deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf.

Operating NIFC-CA from an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; previous tests have also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A report from earlier this year from the U.S. Naval Institute news quoted Lockheed officials saying an “at-sea” assessment of this NIFCA-CA/F-35 pairing is planned for 2018.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane or F-35, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
The guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke DDG 51, left, approaches the guided missile destroyer USS James E Williams DDG 95. (Image U.S. Navy)

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

Developers said integrated air and missile defense provides an ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time countering air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea.

The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.

Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

Also Read: The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology was the USS John Finn or DDG 113. The ship previously went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

The very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades as well.

NIFC-CA technology is also being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. This involves the integration of new cabling, computers, consoles and data distribution systems.

Existing destroyers and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A DDG 51 destroyer, which was bought instead of the CG(X). | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly

 

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, developers said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system.

The new radar, called the SPY-6, is said by Navy officials to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023.

Articles

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

(Photo: Ward Carroll) Capt. Josh Powers (far left) of the 101st Airborne Division gathers the males of the village for a shura in eastern Afghanistan.


COMBAT OUTPOST YOSEF KHEL – The brief was held in the early morning in front of battalion headquarters in the shadow of a Conex box. The mission was to get the governor of Paktika Province from the capital of Sharana to a shura – a traditional Afghan meeting of regional tribal elders with government officials – at the small town of Yahya Khel 25 miles to the south. Because of the threat of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs along the route, the men of the U.S. Army charged with getting the governor safely to the shura and back elected to use a convoy of four MRAPs.

Also Read: My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead 

Once off of the forward operating base and at Sharana’s town center the American convoy was joined by a handful of up-armored Humvees from the Afghan National Army and nearly a dozen armed pickup trucks from the Afghan Uniformed Police. The Afghan governor was placed in the second MRAP in the convoy along with the American battalion commander and his interpreter (known simply as “Chewy”).

As the convoy started its push out of Sharana, the battalion commander expressed concern to the governor that the sub-governor of Yahya Khel had heard about the shura from an unauthorized source, which in turn was an indicator of possible hostile activity along the route. The colonel’s concerns were somewhat mitigated by a stronger than usual presence of Afghan National Army troops along the roadway, and the convoy made it through the bottleneck hotspots without incident.

As the lead vehicles made it to the bazaar at Yahya Khel – the largest in the province – The colonel suggested to the governor that he lead the meeting that would take place before the shura, thereby furthering the impression that the governor was fully in charge. The governor agreed.

Once inside the confines of the combat outpost at Yahya Khel, the parties dismounted their vehicles. While the security forces set about bolstering the perimeter, the military and civilian officials made their way to the “pre-brief,” joining a handful of their peers who’d preceded them.

Inside the small room the participants sat on weathered chairs and rugs and pillows against the far wall. Sun-faded posters of Afghanistan and Harmed Karzai dotted the plaster walls. Several attendants dutifully poured milky tea into clear mugs as officials got into place.

The governor took the lead as the American colonel had suggested.

“Can somebody explain the situation to me?” he asked in Pasto. “How many of the enemy do we have?”

The sub-governor answered matter-of-factly: “The government cannot guarantee the security of the people against the Taliban.” With that, the discussion grew heated, with various officials either pointing fingers at other agencies or explaining that they couldn’t do their jobs because of improper resources. The sub-governor complained that the ANA didn’t listen to his needs. The Afghan Uniformed Police chief said one of the ANA generals told him he couldn’t have ammunition because the police force was “not for fighting.”

A U.S. Army company commander, the American military officer most keenly focused on the area around Yahya Khel, added his thoughts during a brief lull in the discussion: “The main problem is a population that is willing to work with the Taliban because many of the Taliban are from the area.” He also pointed to a lack of Afghan-generated intelligence fusion around Yahya Khel, which kept forces from seizing the initiative and proactively preventing attacks on the district center and surrounding areas.

After several displeased officials walked out in the middle of a discussion about cell phone tower security, the governor bemusedly declared the meeting over. The group shuffled out of the pre-brief room and walked down a dirt and gravel alley bordered by high walls and guard towers pockmarked with large-caliber bullet holes and RPG shrapnel. Inside an adjacent building the district elders had gathered for the shura.

With the help of an interpreter (center), First Lieutenant Marcus Smith (right) discusses the needs of the village of Mest with tribal elders. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

The elders (a misnomer of sorts as some of them appeared relatively young) crouched on the dusty concrete floor in front of the governor, who stood behind a modest table at the front of the room.

“I am here to hear your problems,” the governor pronounced. He considered the faces of those before him and asked, “Why are you so sad? You have to be happy. Afghanistan is not like it was 30 years ago. Other countries are spending money in Afghanistan. Don’t send your children to Pakistan or Iran to work. They need to stay here.”

The governor went on to outline his strategy and what he needed from the elders and their charges. He asked them to help the security forces and not work with the Taliban. He urged them to send their children to school. And, like any good politician, he reminded them of the election coming up and told them that they were a very important part of the process.

The governor finished his opening remarks by insisting that the insurgents are not as numerous as their propaganda might have indicated, and further, they were not true Muslims. “Stop an insurgent and ask him to recite one of Muhammad’s speeches,” he said.

The governor was followed by several government officials – the chief of police and the education minister – who shared a common theme: “Tell us your problems and we will work to solve them.”

But when the floor was turned over to the elders, one-by-one those who stood up emphatically said they had asked the government for help but their requests had fallen on deaf ears.

The elders’ airing of grievances was suddenly interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion in the distance followed by another and another, each sounding closer to the city than the last. There were four total. Uniformed personnel (including American forces present) hurried out of the entrance to investigate as the elders exchanged concerned glances. Governor Sameen continued the proceedings, expression underselling the potential threat the explosions might have posed to those in attendance.

The governor ended the shura with a simple sentiment: “Right people always win; wrong people always lose.”

Meanwhile, as the elders and government officials sat for a traditional post-shura lunch, the American military forces were in the tactical operations center busily trying to figure out from which direction the mortars had been fired. The TOC’s laptop computer screens showed images broadcast from high-powered cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras repeatedly moved side to side, scanning the surrounding fields and tree lines but came up empty.

On the roof gunners focused along their designated fields of fire. The American Army company commander explained that one of the enemy’s common tactics was to lob mortars into the fields to the north as a misdirection play followed by small arms fire and RPGs from the wooded grove to the southwest. Overhead a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet awaited tasking from the radio-laden Air Force tactical air controller standing next to the Army captain.

A half hour passed without any follow-on attacks or any sign of where the original attack had emanated from. Without any coordinates to offer, the controller requested that the Super Hornet perform a “motivational pass.” The carrier-based Navy jet complied, roaring loudly overhead at about 500 feet then pulling dramatically into a climb.

The post-shura lunch concluded, and the security situation was deemed stable enough to allow the convoy to man-up and move out, back-tracking along the route it had taken a few hours earlier. In the command vehicle the colonel asked the governor if he shared his sense that the elders had done a lot of complaining about those trying to help them while letting the Taliban off the hook. The govenor pushed back a bit, pointing out the stat he had put out during his opening remarks that the Taliban were killing one elder a day – 30 a month. In return the governor pronounced the shura a qualified success.

And as the convoy snaked and bumped its way north, the insurgents re-initiated their attack on Yayha Khel, this time more brazen. They pinned down a U.S. Army dismounted patrol on the outskirts of the city with small arms fire while their mortars fell into the bazaar and closer to the observation post. Reports crackled over the radio that the walls to the city had been breached. Units in adjacent areas were put on alert and made ready to assist their comrades. A Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter answered the call for airborne firepower, but by the time it had arrived American ground forces had pushed the insurgents back into the ether from which they’d emerged.

The enemy message associated with the timing and intensity of the attack was unmistakable: Shuras don’t mean peace.

NOW: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded 

OR: 6 Reasons Why The Korengal Valley Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In Afghanistan 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remember: All troops and DoD civilians can get TSA Precheck

Service members are trusted to defend the nation, surely they can be trusted when boarding a plane.

This is the thinking of the Transportation Security Administration, which is pushing to ensure that service members and DOD civilians know they can use the TSA Precheck program.

“Service members are already enrolled in TSA Precheck, but many do not know they are,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a recent interview. Pekoske, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral, wants all those eligible to use this free program.


Smart security

All service members of all components of the armed forces and students at the armed forces’ service academies are automatically enrolled in TSA Precheck. Their DOD ID numbers — a 10-digit number that should be on the back of your Common Access Card — serve as their Known Traveler Numbers.

Civilian employees must opt into the program using milConnect website at https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/. Their DOD ID number is also their KTN.

Again, there is no cost for military members or civilians. For the general public that enrolls in the program, the cost is .

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2014. The event highlighted TSA’s new initiatives which include efforts to hire more veterans and to make travel easier for service members and veterans.

“This is a real benefit for being a member of the armed forces, and it is good for us from a security perspective,” Petoske said.

To obtain their positions, service members and DOD civilians undergo background checks, and most have security clearances. They are trusted to carry weapons in defense of the United States or to safeguard America’s secrets. So the TSA decided that there was no need for them to take off their shoes and belts at a checkpoint to get on an aircraft.

Using TSA Precheck

All travelers must add their DOD ID number to their Defense Travel System profiles to access TSA Precheck while on official travel, but eligible service members and civilians can also use it on personal travel, Pekoske said.

“If you go on any airline website, when you are making flight reservations, there is a box for the KTN and that is where they put their DOD number in,” he said. “Once you put the number in — especially if you are a regular flier on that airline — every time you make a reservation, or a reservation is made by the DOD travel service for you, they will automatically pick up that number.”

“The effort makes sense from an agency perspective and it is also a way to say thanks to members of the military and the civilian members of DOD and the Department of Homeland Security who sacrifice so much,” the administrator said. “It’s a really good program and it provides a direct benefit to those who keep us free.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The 30,000-pound bomb that could be used against Iran ‘boggles the mind’

Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.


Should the negotiations ultimately fail and the talks fall apart, the Obama administration and any future US president will have what Michael Crowley of Politico describes as an awe-inspiring “plan B” — the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Photo: US Air Force

According to Crowley, the US has practiced at least three attack runs over the New Mexico desert. These runs have been flown by B-2 bombers and are meant to test the US’ trump card against any attempt to procure a nuclear weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

MOP, which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind,” according to a former Pentagon official who spoke to Politico after watching footage of the tests.

There’s no publicly available footage of the tests, but this footage of a BLU-109 in action gives an idea of how the MOP works. Bunker-buster munitions burst through a target’s defensive layering before the warhead detonates:

The BLU-109 has a 535-pound warhead and weighs about a ton. The MOP carries about 5,300 pounds of explosives, giving it an explosive yield about an order of magnitude greater than the weapon in the video.

The MOP is the world’s largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep under ground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Photo: Boeing

In the event that negotiations fail, the US is in a position to launch a series of MOP strikes against Fordow, a once secret nuclear facility contained within a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack. The centrifuges at Fordow are capable of enriching uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.

Destroying Fordow would be a difficult endeavor despite the size and sheer force of the MOP. Politico notes that the total destruction of the facility would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility’s hardened shell before detonating.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Photo: US Air Force Gary Ell

But the MOP is supposed to be used in exactly these kinds of coordinated strikes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs’ potent penetration capabilities.

Unnamed officials told The Journal that the MOP’s devastation potential is unlike any nonnuclear weapon ever built.

The weapons have been designed by the US to destroy hardened facilities within North Korea and Iran.

Should the US decide to carry out bombing runs against Iranian nuclear sites, the US could run into substantial difficulties.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Photo: Google Satellite of Iran’s Fordrow Facility

Google Sat. ImageIran’s Fordow facility.

Russia has announced that it would be willing to sell the S-300 air-defense system, which can hit aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range, to Iran.

If Iran were to acquire the S-300s, Tehran would be able to set up a formidable ring of defense around its nuclear sites.

This would make Iranian air defenses much more difficult to overcome, raising the scale and the stakes of any US bombing run against the country’s nuclear facilities.

The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Army plans to ditch its transport fleet

The legend about the Army having more boats than the Navy hasn’t been true since World War II, but the Army’s fleet of about 130 ships support combat and logistical operations around the world, especially in inhospitable or underdeveloped environments.

According to several reports, the Army plans to scuttle much of its boat fleet and reassign the soldiers manning them.


At least 18 of the Army’s more than 30 landing craft utility — versatile, 174-foot-long workhorses capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo — will be sold or transferred, and eight Army Reserve watercraft units that train soldiers and maintain dozens of watercraft are to be closed, as first reported by maritime website gCaptain.

An Army memo obtained by gCaptain said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau [Army Watercraft Systems] capabilities and/or supporting structure.”

Plans to ditch the aging fleet come amid warnings about the US military’s lack of transport capacity and as the Pentagon’s focus shifts to a potential fight against a more sophisticated adversary, like Russia or China.

Below, you can see what the Army’s large but relatively unknown fleet does and why it may not be doing it much longer.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army Logistics Support Vessel-5, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, capable of carrying up to 2,000 tons of cargo, arrives at a port in the Persian Gulf for the Iron Union 17-4 exercise in the United Arab Emirates, Sept. 10, 2017.

(US Army photo Staff Sgt. Jennifer Milnes)

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet includes eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Source: The War Zone

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for the construction of 36 modern landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light).

Source: Defense News

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Army watercraft “expand commanders’ movement and maneuver options in support of unified land operations,” the service says. Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or degraded ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.

Source: US Army

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Waves crash over US Army Vessel Churubusco on the Persian Gulf, during training exercise Operation Spartan Mariner, Jan. 9, 2013.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

“When higher echelons receive something like redeployment orders, they will not be restricted in their ability to just travel by land or air. They will also understand the Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

Source: US Army

The top 15 military stories of 2015

USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Despite what the Army’s watercraft bring to the fight, the service thinks it can do without them. In June 2018, Army Secretary Mark Esper ordered the divestment of “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget. At that time, Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The top 15 military stories of 2015

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

“The Army is assessing its watercraft program to improve readiness, modernize the force and reallocate resources,” Army spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas told Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The top 15 military stories of 2015

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

The Army would be ditching its boats at a record pace. Most units picked for deactivation are identified two to five years in advance.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The top 15 military stories of 2015

The Military Sealift Command Vessel Gem State transfers a container to the US Army watercraft Logistics Support Vessel 5 (LSV-5) Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross during an in-stream cargo transfer exercise in the Persian Gulf, June 13, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“What makes this situation different than other in-activations is the short notification, the number of units and positions identified, and the unique equipment and capability being in-activated,” according to notes accompanying a PowerPoint presentation dated January 8, obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The top 15 military stories of 2015

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The deactivations and unit closures laid out in the slides would affect at least 746 positions. Recruitment and training of Army mariners would also be put on hold until a final decision is made about the service’s watercraft. Decisions about what, where, and how to cut are still being made.

Source: Stars and Stripes, Army Times

The top 15 military stories of 2015

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The Army Reserve oversees much of the service’s marine force, managing about one-quarter of the fleet. The memo seen by gCaptain said soldiers now in the maritime field would be “assessed into units where they can best serve the needs of the Army Reserve while also being gainfully employed.”

Some of the boats currently managed by the Reserve component could be reassigned to the active-duty forces. Others could be decommissioned, stripped of military markings, and sold off.

Source: Stars and Stripes, gCaptain

The top 15 military stories of 2015

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Staff Sgt. Yohannes Page, a watercraft operator, makes an adjustment on a sensor on a component of the Harbormaster Command and Control Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story, May 15, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by 1st Sgt. Angele Ringo)

At the end of 2018, the Army’s logistics staff told Congress that declining sealift capacity — exacerbated the aging of transport vessels — could create “unacceptable risk in force projection” within five years if the Navy doesn’t take action.

Source: Defense News

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army Spc. Kayla Pfertsh fires an M2 machine gun at an inflatable target known as a killer tomato during a sea-based gunnery range aboard Logistics Support Vessel 5, Jan. 24, 2017

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“The Army’s ability to project military power influences adversaries’ risk calculations,” the Army G-4 document said, according to Defense News, which described it as “reflect[ing] the Army’s growing impatience with the Navy’s efforts to recapitalize its surge sealift ships.”

Source: Defense News

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Watercraft operator Sgt. Rebecca Sheriff fires at a target in the Pacific Ocean during a waterborne range aboard Logistics Support Vehicle-2, about 40 miles south of Pearl Harbor, Oct. 4, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

But even if the sealift fleet were fully stocked and trained, many of its ships, which are tasked with transporting gear for the Army and Marine Corps, can’t unload in underdeveloped or contested ports and waterways, particularly areas where enemies could attack or project force.

Source: Army Times

The top 15 military stories of 2015

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a Logistics Support Vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“My fear is the Army doesn’t understand what we have or what we’re getting rid of,” Michael Carr, a retired Army Reserve mariner and author of the gCaptain report, told Stars and Stripes. “I am concerned the Army will have to respond to something in Southeast Asia or South America, somewhere with hostile shores or underdeveloped ports, and we will need this capability and we won’t have it.”

Source: Army Times

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US strikes Syria over chemical weapons attack

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.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land-attack missile on April 7, 2017.
(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.

Also read: What you can do to help people in war-torn Syria

“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.”

This story is developing. Refresh this post for updates.

Articles

This was America’s first operational supersonic strategic bomber

America has seen some supersonic strategic bombers serve. Notable among these is the FB-111A Switchblade and the B-1B Lancer. But one bomber blazed the trail for these speedsters with a pretty huge payload.


The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first operational supersonic strategic bomber in American service. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that Strategic Air Command was looking for a high-performance bomber.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Convair B-58 Hustler at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-58 made its first flight in 1956, but didn’t enter service with the Strategic Air Command until 1960, due to a number of hiccups, and wasn’t ready to stand alert until 1962. However, when the bomber entered service with the 43rd Bomb Wing, it was soon proving it had a lot of capability.

However, in 1961 and 1962, even as it dealt with the teething problems, it set numerous aeronautical records. The plane had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude, a maximum range of 4100 nautical miles, could carry five nuclear bombs (it never had a conventional weapons capability), and reached an altitude of 85,360 feet.

It also had a M61 Vulcan cannon in the tail with 1,200 rounds of awesome.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

A 1981 Air University Review article outlined that the Hustler had a lot of problems. To load the weapons, the plane actually needed to be de-fueled and then re-fueled. And before the loading, the ground crews would need to hand a four-ton weight on the Hustler’s nose. Forget that step, and the plane would tilt back onto its tail.

Maintenance crews also came to dislike the plane, due to the complexities the plane’s high technology imposed on them.

The plane’s teething problems, the development of surface-to-air missiles like the SA-2 Guideline, and the increasing costs killed hopes for newer versions, especially since the B-58 was optimized for high-altitude operations.

One of the proposed new versions, the B-58B, was to add significant conventional capabilities to the Hustler. Proposed passenger/cargo versions never took off, either, and a planned export sale to Australia didn’t happen (the Australians did eventually get the F-111).

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Hustler memorial plaque in Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ultimately, the B-58 was retired, and replaced by the FB-111A. The FB-111A not only was supersonic, but it was able to operate at low altitudes and carry conventional bombs – addressing the B-58’s two shortcomings.

Most B-58s went to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where they entered the boneyard and were eventually scrapped.

Articles

Did you know that US troops can take a 3-year break from their service?

In a little-known personnel policy, members of the armed forces can take a so-called “intermission” from their service contract if they feel that the military is holding back their personal development.


The Air Force is launching its third iteration of the “Career Intermission Program,” or CIP, which allows airmen to take a sabbatical from their Air Force career while they pursue what Air Force Times calls “personal goals.”

“Some women leave the Air Force because they want to start a family,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox told the Times in 2014. “So why don’t we have a program that allows them, in some cases, to be able to separate from the Air Force for a short period, get their family started and then come back in?”

The Air Force does not consider the reasons for wanting to take time off when deciding who to admit into the new program, which has been in development for a few years. While starting a family was one of the primary ideas for implementing the pilot program, higher education quickly became the primary motivation.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Capt. Tamiko Gheen carries her son, Gavin, while hiking. Gheen is taking three years away from the Air Force through the service’s Career Intermission Program. She’s expecting her second child and hopes to get a master’s degree while spending more time with her family during the break.

In the first year of the CIP program, 70 percent of airmen opted to go back to school with the remainder leaving to start families or take care of ailing relatives.

All branches of the military were authorized for such programs in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), at the Navy’s request.

The Marine Corps started its program in 2013 with the Army following suit in 2014. The Navy program offered retention of full health and dental coverage, continued commissary and base shopping privileges and a payment of a small reserve stipend. Other branches used that as a guide for their own programs.

Career Intermission puts participants into the Individual Ready Reserve with limited benefits before they are returned to active duty at the end of their program. They are also required to maintain all service branches’ health and fitness standards and periodically check in to their respective services. The catch is that any military member in their service’s CIP is required to serve an additional two months of Active Duty for every month on the CIP.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Leiby took the time to start a family.

In 2015, 59 airmen — 22 officers and 37 enlisted — applied to the Air Force program. The application window for the second round closed at the end of August 2015, and a panel convened at the end of September to choose who will begin those sabbaticals. The program is limited to 20 enlisted and 20 officers per service.

Congress may potentially extend the program to 400, again, at the Navy’s request. Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey thinks the caps in place are there for a reason.

“You don’t want to punish people for doing it, but you don’t necessarily want to sell it, either, because not everybody can do it,” Dailey told the Army Times. “There’s always going to be a limit to those things.”

Troops in critical functions or accepting critical skills retention bonuses are not considered for the CIP, although exceptions can be made for hardship situations. It’s also important to check the service-specific guidelines for application. The Army’s CIP is limited to NCOs. Acceptance and benefits to the program are at the discretion of the individual service secretaries.

 

The window to apply for the third iteration of the Air Force CIP is now open.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled veterans now eligible for Space-A travel

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act was recently signed, which included a measure that will allow fully-disabled veterans the ability to utilize Space-Available travel.

Under the Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100 percent will be able to travel in the Continental United States or directly between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa (Guam and American Samoa travelers may transit Hawaii or Alaska); or traveling within Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands on flights operated by Air Mobility Command.


Prior to this authorization, only military retirees, meaning those with a blue DD Form 2, and current service members were entitled to this benefit. This particular piece of legislations was originally introduced by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2016.

According to lawmakers, this proposal will allow travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense and without aircraft modifications. Additionally, data from the Government Accountability Office noted that roughly 77 percent of space-available seats in 2011 were occupied by only 2.3 percent of the 8.4 million eligible individuals for the program.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

(Department of Defense photo)

Travelers should contact their local Passenger Terminal for further details and review travel information found on the AMC Travel Page for specific details on the Space A travel program.

Editor’s note: Passengers seeking Space-Available or Space-A travel must keep in mind that there is No Guarantee you will be selected for a seat. Be aware that Space-A travelers must be prepared to cover commercial travel expenses if flight schedules are changed or become unavailable to allow Space-A travel. Per DODI 4515.13, Section 4, Paragraph 4.1.a, Reservations: There is no guarantee of transportation, and reservations will not be accepted or made for any space-available traveler. The DOD is not obligated to continue an individual’s travel or return the individual to the point of origin or any other point. Travelers should have sufficient personal funds to pay for commercial transportation, lodging, and other expenses if space-available transportation is not available.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

7 quotes that perfectly capture the US Army

The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:


1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

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(Photo: Public Domain)

The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.

2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams

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(Portrait: Public Domain/Herbert Abrams)

America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.

3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell

This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.

4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender

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(Photo: Public Domain)

U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.

5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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(Photo: US National Archives)

Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.

6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I

When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.

7. Front toward enemy

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(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 25

Guys, there are so, so many memes on the internet. Here are 13 of our favorite military ones:


1. So vicious. Much danger.

(via Air Force Nation)

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And seriously, who puts their 1-quart on their back?

2. “Guys. Guys, this is going to be so funny.”

(via Do You Even Jump?)

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SEE ALSO: Vietnam War Huey pilot Charles Kettles awarded Medal of Honor for saving 40 soldiers

3. Every soldier is a part of the total fight. No job is more important than any other (via The Salty Soldier).

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Take pride in your service, private. You’re doing the Lord’s work.

4. The one on the left who’s just pointing at the drowning stuffed animals is the future officer (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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Why weren’t the bunny and kitty cat wearing life vests?

5. Just 27 more months. Just 27 more months. Just —

(via Team Non-Rec)

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6. “No, sergeant. I’m completely caught up. Are you going to send me home?”

(via Grunt Style)

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7. “You give your dog bones? We make the bird find its own.” (via Military Memes)

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8. “There, there, sir. How about a nice box of apple juice?”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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9. “Hooked on phonics worked for me.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

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Once he can read, he can go anywhere in his imagination.

10. You tell him, Seaman Dobby (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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That’s what chief gets for throwing you that nasty sock.

11. Am I misreading this or is the helicopter being sent to rescue a stranded Coast Guardsman?

(via Coast Guard Memes)

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Having to rescue doesn’t seem like a real point of pride, but whatevs, guardians. You do you.

12. We remember, too, Pepperidge Farm! It was back when it was called the “Army Air Corps.”

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

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Fine, the Air Force was pretty impressive in Vietnam and Korea.

13. Every Marine is a (insert whatever the Corps needs at this moment).

(via Devil Dog Nation)

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Jacks of all trades, masters only of amphibious warfare.

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New Navy amphib craft will deliver Abrams tanks to shore

The Navy is nearing completion of its first two new, high-tech ship-to-shore connectors for amphibious operations designed to transport large numbers of Marines, equipment and weapons to shore from beyond-the-horizon, senior Navy officials said.


The service plans to build 73 Ship-to-Shore Connectors, or SSCs, to replace the existing fleet of 72 Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, Navy Director of Expeditionary Warfare, told Scout Warrior.

With some of the existing fleet of LCACs approaching 30-years of service, the Navy needs to begin replacing them with new ones, service officials said.

“We have two (SSCs) under construction to deliver in 2017 and two more that will begin construction in March of 2016. This is an upgrade to the current LCAC,” Owens said in an interview last year.

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A landing craft air cushion embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan departs the Haitian coast after delivering supplies. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera

While the SSC design will be very similar to an LCAC, the new craft will incorporate a number of innovations and upgrades which will give in more speed, greater range, more payload capacity, improved digital controls and a new engine, Owens added.

“The new craft will have a greater load capacity so we can return to carrying M1A1 battle tanks aboard them,” he explained.

In addition, the SSCs will have a new Rolls Royce engine – the same one currently used in an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Owens said.

The new SSCs also increase the strength of the deck and improve the propellers when compared with existing LCACs, he said. The new SSCs can carry up to 74-tons across the ocean, enough to move an M1A1 Abrams tank with a mine plow, officials said.

The Navy’s 72 LCACs, in service for decades since the 80s, can transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.

LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well, service officials said.

The Navy contracted with Textron Systems to build an in-house Navy design for the SSCs through an initial construction deal to deliver up to eight new craft by 2020. The contract has a potential value of $570 million.

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A U.S. LCAC carries U.S. Marine Corps equipment from the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry to White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan. | US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua J. Wahl

Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain – even driving right up onto the shore.

In order to bridge the gap from existing LCACs to the new SSCs, the Navy implemented a special service life extension program for the LCACs – many of which are now approaching three decades of service.

The LCACs were re-engined with new engines, given new rotating machinery, new command and control systems, new skirts and fixes to corrosion issues. The effort is designed to put another 10 years of life back into the LCAC, Navy officials described.

The idea with the service life extension is to bridge the time-lapse or gap until the new SSCs are ready to enter the force in larger numbers, Owens explained.

Some of the enhancements being engineered into the SSCs are designed to address the changing threat landscape in a modern environment, a scenario that is expected to change how amphibious operations will be conducted in the future.

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them.

This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”

“One way of dealing with an anti-access type threat is to have a distributed threat deployed it is able to quickly aggregate and then rapidly move from ship to shore,” Owens said.