Top Pentagon leaders are warning that the long war is going to get even longer.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told Senate leaders on Wednesday that even after ISIS is defeated in Syria and Iraq, U.S. troops will be stationed in the region for at least a few years afterward.
“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” Mattis told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense.
“I don’t see any reason to pull out again and face the same lesson,” he added, referencing the removal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011.
Though President Barack Obama in 2008 campaigned on a promise to pull troops out of Iraq, the move has been criticized by conservatives in the years since as helping fuel the rise of ISIS.
In 2014, as ISIS militants seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, one senior military officer told Business Insider the rise of the terror group in the wake of U.S. troop departures was inevitable.
“We said we won some success but this is reversible,” the retired senior U.S. military officer said, on condition of anonymity. “So what we’re seeing now is exactly what we forecasted.”
So far, Mattis seems more comfortable placing troops closer to harm’s way than his predecessor.
Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of U.S. ground troops in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.
Green Berets flood a room while practicing close quarters combat techniques. (3rd Special Forces Group)
In addition to roughly 500 U.S. special operations forces, the military has sent conventional ground troops inside Syria, to include a contingent of Army Rangers, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, and artillerymen from 1st Battalion, 4th Marines to provide fire support just 20-30 miles from Raqqa, the ISIS capital.
“The Iraqi security forces will need that kind of support for years to come,” Dunford told the Senate committee.
Tahseen claims to have killed at least 173 fighters since joining the Shia militia in May 2015, but that number could have gone substantially higher since the filming of this video.
His first mission is to push ISIS from the Makhoul Mountains, and he’s determined to get as many kills as possible before the war is over. Tahseen’s story has also inspired others to take up arms against the enemy.
This video shows the veteran shooting militants in the mountains of Iraq.
If you fly a killer drone and you’re thinking of pulling chocks when your commitment ends, the Air Force has some cold hard cash to entice you to stay.
Top Air Force officials announced Aug. 10 that Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators who re-up for another five-year contract would receive $35,000 per year in bonus cash. That nets out to a whopping $175,000 when all is said and done and is $10,000 more than previous bonuses.
“The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we’d like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots.”
Drones are some of the most sought-after air assets for ground commanders worldwide, from launching missiles at bad guy convoys to snooping around insurgent bases and scooping up radio chatter, the RPAs can go deep behind enemy lines without risking the lives of American pilots and crew.
But as the demand increases, so does the pace of pilot operations and both the drones and their crew are burning out fast, Air Force officials say.
“What we are doing in the world of our RPAs [is] to try to lessen some of the strain and improve quality of life,” said Air Force Sec. Deborah James. “With respect to our ‘get well plan,’ is that it is proceeding at pace. It is not all done yet, but there is a lot going on – a lot in process.”
To relieve the stress, the Air Force plans to establish a new MQ-9 Reaper aircraft wing and is in the midst of surveying potential bases to host it. Officials say the service is also supplementing drone crews with Air National Guard pilots and has hired on contractors to fly some surveillance missions.
The service has also doubled the number of drone pilots in the force since 2015.
“Producing more pilots of course means a better quality of life for all of our RPA airmen, because it will give them more family time and more opportunities to pursue developmental opportunities,” James said.
On Aug. 10, 1961, the U.S. Army used Agent Orange in Vietnam for the first time.
Agent Orange was a chemical herbicide used to destroy forest cover used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. In what became a program codenamed Operation Ranch Hand, the U.S. sprayed more than 19 million gallons of the chemical over 4.5 million acres of land, including roads, rivers, forests, crops and military buildings.
It should come as no surprise that Agent Orange was later revealed to cause very serious health problems, including tumors, birth defects and cancer among U.S. and Vietnamese personnel and their families.
In addition to Trichlorophenoxyacetic and Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Agent Orange also contains Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. TCCD is known for being extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. When troops serving in Vietnam came home, many reported side effects of cancer, congenital disabilities in their children, miscarriages and skin diseases among others.
According to the History Channel, evidence of Agent Orange can still be found in many areas where the chemical was dropped decades ago.
Class-action lawsuits were filed on behalf of Vietnam war veterans and their families that were exposed, and finally President George H.W. Bush signed into law an act mandating that conditions resulting from exposure be treated by the VA.
400,000 Vietnamese citizens were killed or injured by Agent Orange and millions more suffer from cancer or related illnesses. When Vietnamese citizens filed lawsuits against chemical companies responsible for the chemical, however, federal judges in the U.S. dismissed the suits.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland (Photo: Duncan Hunter)
Late Thursday night, Martland won the fight against the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which gives the boot to soldiers with black marks on their records. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the Green Beret’s performance history and pulled his name from the QMP list.
Martland admitted that Capt. Dan Quinn and he assaulted the Afghan official during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play” — an Afghan practice where young boys in sexual slavery are often dressed up as women and forced to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but experienced a rebirth after the Taliban’s ouster by NATO forces and U.S. troops were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. When the Afghan confessed to raping the boy and beating the child’s mother for telling local authorities, Quinn “picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his official statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”
The line removed from his Army record read: “Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member. Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”
Hundreds of veterans and other concerned citizens wrote letters and started petition drives in Martland’s defense. Even actor and Marine veteran Harvey Keitel got involved and urged California Congressman Duncan Hunter to intervene.
Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and San Diego-area congressman, immediately came to Martland’s defense, calling the Army’s actions “totally insane and wrong,” and adding that Martland’s case “exemplifies the problems with the Army.”
An Army spokesman confirmed to Fox News that Martland will no longer be forced out.
“In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,” Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said.
Quinn, now a civilian, said, “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks.”
“I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,” Martland told Fox News. “I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, did for me.”
That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, including broader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.
The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide “red air,” or adversary training, support.
According to a release issued on August 25, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.
The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.
“Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation’s enemies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We continue to swing away at this issue and we’re looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots.”
Two other initiatives were announced on August 25.
Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.
Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.
The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.
“The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.
“The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired,” Grosso added.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.
“We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers,” Wilson said in the release.
In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force’s loss of pilots.
With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.
Britain Lockhart, the teenage treasure hunter and American history preserver behind the YouTube channel “Depths of History,” recently made his most important and dangerous discovery to date — a live 20-pound Civil War-era Parrot artillery shell.
The teenager found it while scanning for bullets and canister shots left behind by Union and Confederate soldiers in the Tennessee countryside. He nearly missed his discovery because he’d dug so deep that he wanted to quit.
“I got about 20 inches, and I was like, I gotta give this hole a break,” Lockhart said in his video. “I went over there and dug up one more bullet, and I was like, okay we can come back to it.”
“So I removed a rock, then we went into another field and started hunting, and I came back to it and ya’ll can’t even believe this,” the excited teen added. “I think I have a whole shell down in the hole.”
Lockhart was right; the shell was 3 feet under the earth. He pulled the entire live round to gasps of astonishment from onlookers off camera. “That’s the biggest find out here,” said an off-camera voice.
Worried that the round could explode, Lockhart took it to expert Steve Phillips to defuse and preserve the shell. Phillips is a relics legend who has defused over 2,000 cannon balls, according to Lockhart.
“People think that if they drill one under water, it can’t blow up,” said Phillips. “That’s not true, people have been blown up under water while drilling them with their hand.”
While cautiously preparing the shell to drill, Pillips wisely summed up his experience, “you just have to think it might blow up.”
This YouTube video shows how Britain Lockhart finds, defuses, and preserves a Civil War-era artillery shell.
First World War hero Sgt. Stubby, a Boston Terrier who fought in the trenches with the American 26th Infantry Division and was credited with saving many of their lives, is the titular character and focus of a new animated movie hitting screens in 2018.
Then-Pvt. Robert Conroy assumed responsibility for Stubby and smuggled him onto the SS Minnesota with the 102nd. Stubby served predominantly as a mascot when the unit arrived in France, but began to take a more active role as a sentry.
He remained at the front and later caught a German spy attempting to slip into the American lines in the Argonne Forest. Stubby held the spy until humans could complete the capture.
Despite the grenade wounds and damage from multiple gas attacks, Stubby continued to serve until the end of the war and was once again smuggled across the ocean. Back in America, he rose to prominence as a celebrity.
He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, Red Cross, and YMCA. The YMCA even put him on a three bones a day salary in exchange for his assistance recruiting members. General of the Armies John J. Pershing, former commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, personally pinned a medal on Stubby’s vest.
That vest has been well decorated with awards, some granted during the war and some, like the gold medal presented by Pershing, were granted after the war.
Stubby continued to live with Conroy until he died in the veteran’s arms in 1926.
The Pentagon’s research and development shop is moving one step closer toward building a hypersonic space plane that could shuttle satellites or people into space in record time.
In an announcement on Wednesday, DARPA said that Boeing, which was selected for phase one of the project, would keep working on its advanced design for the Experimental Space plane (XS-1) program with additional funding for phases two and three.
While Phase One of XS-1 was more of a drawing board/concept phase, phases two and three are all about actually building a space plane and conducting flight tests, demonstrations, and hopefully, delivery of a satellite into orbit.
Here’s how DARPA describes what it hopes XS-1 may one day pull off:
The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.
Since it’s DARPA, the project is focused on national security, and there’s no doubt the Pentagon could save plenty of money and time by launching satellites via a low-cost space plane. But the agency also notes in its announcement that another goal is to “encourage the broader commercial launch sector,” and it will release testing data out to companies who are interested during phases two and three.
So it looks like the military won’t be the only ones having fun flying planes into space, Mr. Skywalker.
DARPA has been behind a number of huge technological advances that have made their way to the private sector, like the Internet, a ton of the components of modern-day computing, and GPS, just to name a few.
“We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”
The idea of limiting warfare and its effects on soldiers and civilians have roots that can be traced back to the American Civil War. Shortly before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Lieber Code. Named for a Prussian professor from South Carolina, Lieber was a former Prussian soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. He aimed to convince the Union to adjust its battlefield conduct to bring a sharper end to the war, and thus, slavery.
On April 24, 1863, President Lincoln issued the finished code as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, General Order No. 100. The code featured 157 articles in 10 sections and covered everything from martial law to the treatment of deserters, women, prisoners of war, partisans, scouts, spies and captured messengers.
Prisoner exchanges, flags of truce, battlefield looting, and assassinations were also covered. Most importantly, the code governed the treatment of POWs, treatment of rebels, and the respect for human life (especially those of slaves and former slaves fighting for the Union).
The Lieber Code was the foundation text for the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Although many of the provisions of the Hague Conventions were subsequently violated during World War I, the conventions still stand as the standard for modern day arms limitation and battlefield conduct agreements.
Subsequent arms agreements include the Geneva Conventions of 1925 and 1949, The 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, to name a few.
After more than 150 years of arms control treaties, countries have invented, used, and then banned weapons designed to choke, maim, and otherwise kill warfighters in an inhumane fashion (as ironic as that sounds).
1. Poisonous Gases
There are five types of chemical agent banned for use in warfare. Blood agents are toxic and fast acting. They’re absorbed into the blood (hence the name) and cause a long, violent death, usually from respiratory failure. Phosegene Gas and Hydrogen Cyanide are two kinds of blood agent. Next are blister agents that cause severe chemical burns on the skin and eyes. Blister agents like Mustard Gas can be fatal if ingested or inhaled.
Nerve agents like VX and Sarin gases break down the neurotransmitters that make organs function. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Victims slowly lose control of their bodily functions, their limbs start jerking involuntarily, and death comes from respiratory failure. A choking agent impedes the victim’s ability to breathe, causing a buildup of fluid in the lungs, and eventually death by drowning. Phosgene gas can also be considered a choking agent. A final type in nettle agents. Nettle agents irritate the skin, but do not cause blisters.
2. Non-Detectable Fragments
The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons bans the use of non-metallic fragment in war because they can’t be found by using X-rays. The fragments are said to cause unnecessary suffering. Surgeons have to go through the body by hand looking for these fragments
While plastic itself isn’t prohibited in weapons production, using plastic as the primary effect is.
3. Land Mines
The failure of a total ban of anti-personnel mines in the 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons led to the Ottawa Treaty, which did. This treaty doesn’t cover anti-tank mines, booby traps, and remote mines.
Say goodbye to everyone’s Goldeneye N64 fun.
Previous treaties have demanded the anti-personnel mines be able to be remotely deactivated, to shut down after a certain time period, or to be removed by the implementing party once the conflict ends.
4. Incendiary Weapons
The use of weapons designed just to burn or set fire to large areas which may be full of civilians are also prohibited. The ban covers actual flame, heat or chemical reactions, so this limits the use of flamethrowers, napalm, and white phosphorus. You can still use a flamethrower, you just can’t use it near civilians, which, on today’s battlefield, might be a tall order.
Napalm is that the substance itself isn’t banned as a weapon, but using it on anything other than a concentrated area where the enemy is using foliage as concealment is banned.
5. Blinding Laser Weapons
This covers any laser designed to cause permanent blindness, but it does say that if the laser in question just happens to cause blindness, you can’t be held responsible for that.
6. “Expanding” Ordnance
Technically, this covers “bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body,” which were developed by the British in India at the time of the Hague Convention in 1899. The delegates to the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 wanted to limit warfare to only the combatants. They reasoned that if weapons were deadlier, there would be less suffering. Since exploding bullets under 400 grams would only kill one man and that ordinary bullets would do, why create exploding ones?
Today, this prohibition covers hollow-point bullets, which are designed to remain in the body and limit collateral damage.
7. Poisoned Bullets
In the earliest known arms agreement, the Holy Roman Empire and France agreed not to use poisoned bullets on each other. At the time, troops stored bullets in unclean planes, like corpses. It would be another 100+ years before the idea of germs spreading disease caught on in the medical world, so the infections caused by these bullets were a serious hazard to injured troops.
8. Cluster Bombs
A cluster bomb releases a number of projectiles on impact to injure or damage personnel and vehicles. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions banned these for two reasons. First, they have wide area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Second, cluster munitions leave behind large numbers of dangerous unexploded ordnance.
9. Biological Weapons
The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention was the first treaty to completely ban a whole class of weapons. It prohibits the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons, though has no governing body to enforce compliance.
Biological weapons are some of the oldest weapons of mass destruction known to have been used by man. The Mongols tossed rotting bodies over the city walls at the 1343 Siege of Caffa, spreading disease and infection throughout the city.
The AN/SPY-1 system, more popularly known as “Aegis,” is arguably the best air-defense system sent out to sea. It has been exported to South Korea, Japan, Spain, and Australia. But the U.S. Navy has not been sitting still with the design.
The AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar is planned for use on the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
According to the Raytheon web site, this modular radar system is 30-times more sensitive than the SPY-1D used on the current Arleigh Burke-class vessels. This system can also handle 30 times as many targets as the SPY-1D. The system also used commercially-available computer processors in the x86 family pioneered by Intel.
The AMDR was tested July 27, 2017, by the Navy. According to a Navy release, the system successfully tracked the target — a simulated medium-range ballistic missile — or “MRBM.” According to the Department of Defense, MRBMs have a range between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers, or about 600 to 1,800 miles.
Perhaps the most notable missile in this category is China’s DF-21, which supposedly has a carrier-killer version.
“AN/SPY-6 is the nation’s most advanced radar and will be the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy’s surface combatants for many decades,” said Aegis program official Capt. Seiko Okano.
The first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Harvey C. Barnum (DDG 124), is slated to enter service in 2024. These ships will have a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical launch systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64 cells) capable of firing RIM-66 Standard SM-2 missiles, RIM-174 SM-6 missiles, RIM-161 SM-3 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.
It’ll also be armed with a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters.
You can see a video from Raytheon about AMDR below.