In its Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) requested 325 “Miniature Aerial Missile Systems” or LMAMS by this summer, the delivery of which has already been completed, US-based Defense One reported.
According to the report, SOCOM has just received 350 of the so-called switchblades — tube-launched drones outfitted with cameras and cursor-on-target GPS navigation — which can be fired from “handheld bazooka-like launchers.”
It cited officials of the California-based company, AeroVironment, which manufactures the drones, further adding that they “can be operated manually or autonomously.”
The drone can fly for about 15 minutes, at up to 100 miles per hour.
The report further cited Army Colonel John Reim, who outfits special operations troops as head of SOCOM’s Warrior program office, as saying that he needs missile drones that can blow up bigger targets.
“We have a good capability right now with the Switchblade. But it’s got a smaller payload. How do you get a little larger?” Reim asled.
“We’re trying to create organic firepower and situational awareness in so many of the places we operate in.”
According to SOCOM commander General Ray Thomas, the US military is not alone in developing the new lethal drones, alleging that “ISIL weaponeers” based in Mosul, Iraq, have converted “an off-the-shelf rotary-wing quadcopter” into a flying 40 mm weapon.
SOCOM has begun working with the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab to convert the devices US troops use to detect an jam improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into drone jammers.
“The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab was able to really help us out,” said Reim. “We’ve made some initial progress. I’ve got an initial capability out now.”
The development comes amid continued US military involvement in Iraq and multiple incidents, in which American forces have targeted Iraqi troops and volunteer defense forces during their operations against ISIL terrorists, triggering protests and calls for US troop ouster from the country, so far to no avail.
The U.S. Air Force says it will have an initial squadron of F-35 fighters ready for combat by the end of 2016. The commanders of the USAF’s Air Combat Command and Air Force Materiel Command reviewed the milestones in the $379 billion weapons program last week and reported their findings to the Pentagon.
There are lingering doubts that the development of the plane’s computer logistics system, called Autonomic Logistics Information System, was on schedule. The complex system, according to military planners, required extra “focus” for the program.
“The actual plane is on schedule and doing well,” Colonel Tad Sholtis, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told reporters on April 13. “The Air Force expects to meet its target window of August through December for declaring an initial operational capability.”
The Air Force says the F-35’s performance exceeds expectations of pilots, but that they are continuing to compare the fighter to other, older aircraft. Sholtis added that the fighter was strong in some areas and less strong in other, but only by fielding the plane to familiarize airmen with the plane and its workings could they fully exploit the F-35’s capabilities.
“We anticipate that side-by-side, air-to-air and air-to-ground tests will be illustrative of the fifth generation fighter’s advanced interdiction capabilities,” Sholtis said. “This aircraft is built to go where legacy platforms cannot.”
Political analysts are buzzing this week over rumors that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously considering a high-ranking former Army general as his running mate. And while many on the right — and even some on the left — are applauding the move, history shows former military leaders don’t necessarily make good political ones.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former top spy for the military, has been a vocal Trump supporter since he left the Army as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, and has recently taken on a role as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. But lately, his name has been floated by Trump associates as a potential vice president for the Republican real estate mogul.
“I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals. We’re thinking about — actually, there are two of them that are under consideration,” Trump told Fox News in reference to his VP vetting process.
A pick like Flynn might appeal to a broad political spectrum. He’s a registered Democrat, has leaned pro-choice on abortion, and has criticized the war in Iraq and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But he’s also been a critic of Hillary Clinton and her handling of classified information and was forced to retire after publically denouncing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
And while a no-nonsense, general officer style might work in a service environment and appeal to voters looking for something new, history shows plenty of landmines for military men who turn their focus from the battlefield to the ballot box.
While two of America’s most senior officers in history, General of the Armies George Washington and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, enjoyed successful careers as presidents after military service, their compatriot General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant led an administration marked by graft and corruption.
On the list of generals-turned-president, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes were respected in their times, but Jackson’s wife died due to illness aggravated by political attacks during his campaign.
So, why do successful general officers, tested in the fires of combat and experienced at handling large organizations, often struggle in political leadership positions?
The two jobs exist in very different atmospheres. While military organizations are filled with people trained to work together and put the unit ahead of the individual, political organizations are often filled with people all striving to advance their own career.
And while backroom deals are often seen as a failure of character in the military, they’re an accepted part of doing business in politics. One senator will scratch another’s back while they both look to protect donors and placate their constituencies.
Plus, not all military leaders enter politics with a clear view of what they want to accomplish. They have concrete ideas about how to empower the military and improve national security, but they can struggle with a lack of experience in domestic policy or diplomacy after 20 or 30 years looking out towards America’s enemies.
These factors combined to bring down President Ulysses S. Grant whose administration became known as the “Era of Good Stealings” because of all the money that his political appointees were able to steal from taxpayers and businesses. It wasn’t that Grant was dishonest, it was that he failed to predict the lack of integrity in others and corrupt men took advantage of him.
Of course, at the end of the day it’s more about the man than the resume, and Flynn and McChrystal both have traits to recommend them. McChrystal was seen as largely successful as the top commander in Afghanistan where he had to work long hours and keep track of the tangled politics of Afghanistan.
A stampede of wild boars mauled to death three waiting in ambush Sunday in Iraq, Kurdish said Tuesday.
The mangled bodies were discovered by refugees fleeing territory controlled by the about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk, said Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti- forces.
responded by going on a spree of the area’s wild boars, said Brigadier Azad Jelal, the deputy head of the Kurdish intelligence service.
The were preparing an ambush of local tribesmen, al-Assi said. Five other were injured.
“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” he said.
Al-Assi said the executed 25 people attempting to flee three days before the boars .
Anti-jihadist tribesmen retreated to the Hamrin mountains when seized the nearby town of Hawija in 2014.
The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.
Only wing nuts need apply.
Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.
After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.
Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.
Just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since Biden won the Oval Office in 2020, Russian ships conducted the country’s largest military exercises since it was called the Soviet Union – off the coast of Hawaii.
The exercises were so large, it sent the U.S. Air Force scrambling to intercept fighters off the U.S. West Coast.
The Russian Navy was operating in the Pacific Ocean some 300-500 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, in an exercise that included Tupolev long-range bombers, surface vessels and anti-submarine forces. If there were submarines in the area, their presence wasn’t apparent.
From Hawaii, the USAF scrambled F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, though the Air Force says the long-range bombers did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and weren’t intercepted by the stealth fighters.
This all took place just before the two world leaders were scheduled to meet for the first time in Geneva, a dozen or so time zones away. Word of the exercises was released by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Tensions between the Russian Federation and the United States have been high in recent days, mostly over the buildup of Russian forces along its border with Ukraine, where Russia has been fueling an extended insurgency in the Western area of the country.
In 2014, the Russia military suddenly seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, an action that caused its expulsion from the G-7 nations and force the United States to place economic sanctions on the country and some of its leadership
Most recently, President Biden was asked if he considered Vladimir Putin, the de facto ruler of Russia and a former KGB agent a “killer,” to which the President replied, “I do.”
“I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — that there were certain things that he would do or did do,” Biden told a group of reporters on June 14, 2021. “But it’s not — I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”
Putin recalled Russia’s ambassador to the United States in response. The U.S. recalled its ambassador the next month.
Biden attempted to send two U.S. warships to the Black Sea in a gesture of support for Ukraine, but called it off in April 2021. Instead, he put more economic sanctions on Russian officials, more than 36 in all. He also expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the United States.
Putin and Biden met for three hours on June 16, 2021, their first meeting as leaders of their respective countries. They agreed to restart nuclear arms reduction talks and exchange ambassadors once more, though no timeline was agreed to. Biden did warn Putin that there would be consequences for cyberattacks, human rights violations and election meddling, according to The Hill.
That same report noted that although the two leaders disagreed on many points, the tensions between the two sides never boiled over to outright aggression.
Putin is unlikely to concede anything to the United States. The Russian government is still expected to jail opponents and dissidents like Alexei Navalny. It will also likely continue its campaign of cyberattacks, political interference and the routine executions of former Soviet agents abroad.
Featured photo: An F-22 fighter intercepted a Russian “Bear” Tu-95 bomber off Alaska in 2019. Citing U.S. defense officials, CBS said the United States scrambled the F-22s from Hawaii on Sunday in response to Russian bomber flights, but the aircraft did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and were not intercepted.NORAD photo
Boeing’s Harpoon Missile System is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship weapon that is extremely versatile. The U.S. started developing the Harpoon in 1965 to target surfaced submarines up to 24 miles away, hence its name “Harpoon,” a weapon to kill “whales,” a naval slang term used to describe submarines.
It was a slow moving project at first until the Six-Day War of 1967 between Israel and Egypt. During the war, Egypt sunk the Israel destroyer INS Eilat from 14 miles away with Soviet-made Styx anti-ship missiles launched from a tiny patrol boat. It was the first ship in history to be sunk by anti-ship missiles.
The surface-to-surface destruction shocked senior U.S. Navy officers; after all, it was the height of the Cold War, and the weapon indirectly alerted the U.S. of Soviet capabilities at sea. In 1970 Admiral Elmo Zumwalt—then Chief of Naval Operations—accelerated the Harpoon project, strategically adapting it for deployment from air and sea. Seven years later, the first Harpoon was successfully deployed.
Today, the U.S. and its allies—more than 30 countries around the world—are the primary users of the weapon. 2017 marks its 50th anniversary, and it’s only getting better with age. Over the decades, the missile has been updated to include navigation technology, such as GPS, Inertial navigation system (INS), and other electronics to make it more accurate and versatile against ships and a variety of land-based targets.
This Boeing video describes the incredible history behind the Harpoon Missile System and its evolution throughout the years.
At the Starbucks at the Langley headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency it might be best to just remember your drink order because the baristas won’t remember your name.
“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” a food services supervisor at the CIA, told the Washington Post. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”
The agents don’t have to leave the building to get their daily fix, but they won’t get stars to add to their gold card requirements either. Tracking the agents preferences is strictly prohibited, as the Agency fears its data could be used to out secret agents. The receipts just say “Store Number 1.”
The baristas for what is now known as the “Stealthy Starbucks” go through a rigorous background investigation, but still can’t leave the Starbucks without a handler. They are frequently briefed about security risks. During the day, the vanilla latte is the winner. For agents working long hours and night shifts, double espressos and Frappuccinos are what the agents of the world’s most secret intelligence agency need to keep going.
“There’s caramel-macchiato guy” and “the iced white mocha woman,” one barista said. “But I have no idea what they do, I just know they need coffee. A lot of it.”
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Marine Corps is proving the potential of its newly established rapid capabilities office with an early purchase: a tactical decision-making kit, invented by Marine grunts, that blends a range of cutting-edge technologies to allow infantry squads to compete against each other in a realistic simulated training environment.
The service inked a $6.4 million contract March 31 for enough kits to outfit 24 infantry battalions with the technology. The contract came just 51 days after Marine leaders identified the technology, invented in a Camp Lejeune barracks room, as a valuable capability for the service, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, Walsh said leathernecks from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, decided to turn space inside one of the battalion’s barracks facilities into a makeshift warfighting lab, combining a handful of technologies already in use by the Corps into a sophisticated mission rehearsal system.
The North Carolina-based 2/6 created what it called a tactical decision room, linking computers equipped with deployable virtual training environment simulation software already in use by the service.
The Marines used quadcopters to create a 3D map of a real training area, which was then uploaded to the simulation. They could then run and re-run the same realistic mission in the simulated environment. They added in the Corps’ Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System equipment, technology that allows tracking of battlefield movements and simulated fires using lasers, allowing for realistic training and complex after-action feedback for the warfighter.
“So now what we’re seeing these guys do is, they’re gaming in their barracks, squad-on-squad — gaming back-and-forth on decision-making,” Walsh said. “… They all get to take it 3D, plug it into what they look at virtually, figure out how they’ll attack it, then go conduct the mission.”
In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, four platoon leaders from 2/6, all second lieutenants, described how they saw the system they helped create fitting into infantry training.
“As infantrymen, we do not spend as much time in the field as we would like,” they wrote. “The decision room is a way to maximize our training and tactical prowess garrison … we can optimize the natural technical aptitudes of millennials while not requiring units to purchase additional materials.”
The Office of Naval Research assisted with pulling the software components together and making them communicate as a complete system, Walsh said. Ultimately, top Marine leadership, including Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, designated the system as a candidate for investment through the Corps’ rapid capabilities office, which activated late last year.
Col. James Jenkins, director of Science and Technology for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the value of the system is in the ability of squads and small units to run and re-run the same scenario with detailed after-action feedback.
“Here’s the debrief, here’s who shot who when, and here’s why, and go back and just get better every time,” he said. “It’s all about that sets and reps.”
Jenkins said the first system will be delivered early next month, with planned delivery of four tactical decision-making kits per month until all 24 battalions are equipped. Jenkins said the kits will be delivered strategically when a unit has time to learn the technology and incorporate it into training, not during pre-deployment workups or other kinetic seasons.
This summer, between June and July, the Corps plans to publicly promote the tactical decision kit within the service, describing the innovation process at 2/6 and how relatively junior-ranking grunts came up with something of value to the greater institution.
“It was truly bottom-up, how could we make this better,” Jenkins said.
Walsh said the purchase illustrates the need for the rapid capabilities office and funding for fast prototyping and development. Ideally, he said, he would like to have around $50 million available to invest in new ideas and technologies.
“Is it the 100 percent solution? Probably not. We’re going to have to keep adjusting,” he said of the 2/6 invention. “But it’s now getting every squad in the Marine Corps wargaming, experimenting and doing tactics and learning from them.”
Marines are heading back to Helmand province, Afghanistan this spring for an advisory mission that will put them back in the thick of the fight between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces.
In preparation for the upcoming mission, the 300-man contingent of Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest spent a day honing foreign weapons skills to familiarize themselves with the arms the Afghans use every day. On Jan. 17, the Marines practiced firing two well-known Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons: the PK general-purpose machine gun and AK-47 rifle, according to a news release from II Marine Expeditionary Force by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins.
Hopkins noted in the release that these weapons are used by both allies and enemies in the region, making it important for the Marines to understand them and their use.
“We want these Marines to familiarize themselves with weapons they might find down range,” Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Scott, the foreign weapons chief instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, said in a statement. “They need to be able to talk intelligently about them to their foreign security force, and that’ll help them build rapport and hopefully help them become successful in the long run.”
The weapons course also included live-fire ranges with weapons systems more familiar to Marines: the Mk-19 machine gun and the 60mm mortar.
Before the Marines deploy, they will also train with hired Afghan roleplayers–a mainstay of military cultural training.
“I find it… inspirational that I get to help and be a part of the step that gets Marines back into Afghanistan,” Sgt. Hayden Chrestmen, a machine gun instructor with the Division Combat Skills Center, said in the release “As an Afghanistan veteran, it’s extremely important they know how to operate these weapon systems because they’re protecting their brothers to the left and right of them.”
The longest war in the history of the United States will finally come to an end, 20 years to the day after the terror attack that sparked it.
Officials from the Biden Administration confirmed the plans on April 13, 2021. The original withdrawal date was set by the Trump Administration for May 1, 2021, and this time, it’s “set in stone.”
“The president has been consistent in his view that there’s not a military solution to Afghanistan, that we have been there for far too long,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. President Biden is expected to give remarks about the withdrawal plan in the coming days.
After May 1, there will be just 3,000 U.S. troops in the country. Their ongoing mission will be to protect diplomats and other American officials still doing ongoing work there. A senior official who first leaked the news said that if the Taliban decide to attack, “we will hit back hard.”
Turkey announced that it will hold a peace talks summit for all the warring parties in Afghanistan on April 24, 2021, but the Taliban said it would not participate unless all foreign forces were out of the country at that time. An intelligence report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. was unlikely to succeed within the coming year.
According to the same intelligence reports, the pullout is good news for the Taliban, who stand to make decisive gains against the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan once the United States is gone.
“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield,” it said.”The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support. Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory.”
The ODNI report, called the Annual Threat Assessment, was distributed before the news of the pullout came from the White House later that same day.
“Afghan security forces remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or reestablish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020,” it said. In March 2021, a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), agreed.
The Taliban “have not significantly changed their tactics,” says SIGAR. “Each quarter since the (U.S.-Taliban) agreement was signed has seen a higher average number of enemy-initiated attacks compared to the same quarters in 2019.”
Critics of the war have long believed that the Taliban had no interest in really signing a peace agreement, believing they could simply wait out the Americans as support for the war waned back home. Critics of the peace deal hit the Biden Administration almost immediately in response to the news.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Biden “plans to turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan… Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake.”
Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe, called it “a reckless and dangerous decision.”
Whether a good call or bad, 2021 will mark the end of America’s longest war after 20 years of fighting. There’s a good chance the United States will enter a new phase of wartime preparation — the great power conflicts looming with Russia and China.