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Vietnam vet to receive overdue medals thanks to late battle buddy’s nephew

One veteran will receive the medals earned during Vietnam thanks to the nephew of his late battle buddy.
Three years ago, Curtis Sidwell of Watson, Illinois decided to research his uncle Donald Sidwell’s experience in Vietnam.  Donald passed in 2009, and never shared his experiences behind enemy lines with his family.
While searching through his uncle’s effects, Curtis found that Donald had written two letters to the wife of a man named Phillip Taylor. In the first letter, Sidwell had written the worst news any friend might have to deliver to a loved one. Donald’s letter said that Taylor had been killed in a helicopter crash. The second letter corrected the first. It wasn’t true; her husband was not dead. Sidwell had been misinformed. Taylor was in fact, alive.
Stars and Stripes described the situation in an article titled, “A Whisker”:
“Severely injured during a firefight south of Pineapple Forest on Oct. 18, 1968, Taylor waited for an medevac chopper to transport him to a hospital in Chu Lai. When a chopper came, it took fire as it hovered over a row of trees, went into a tailspin, and then crashed. Taylor was thrown from the chopper, and was the only survivor of that accident.”
Curtis Sidwell was able to track down Taylor, and during a phone conversation Taylor recounted his ‘lone survivor’ incident.  He also said that one of his superiors had promised he would receive a citation for how he’d conducted himself. Sadly, decades had gone by and no such thing happened.
“You could tell in his voice that he was bothered about that,” Curtis said in an interview with The Edn. “Knowing the day that Philip had and what he went through for the United States of America and for us, it only seemed fair to get him his medals.”
Sidwell embarked on a three-year effort to ensure Taylor got the recognition he was due, and his work paid off in the form of Taylor receiving a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Star awards, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, a Sharpshooter Badge, and a Marksman Badge. According to The Edn, a review is underway at Fort Knox for a Bronze Star related to Taylor’s bravery.
“It’s the least I can do,” said Sidwell. “And I think my uncle would be tickled if he could know what I’ve done.”
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Trump picks former Army intel officer to be SecNav

President Donald J. Trump today announced his intention to nominate Philip Bilden as the 76th secretary of the Navy.


If confirmed by the Senate, Bilden will replace Ray Mabus, who was the longest serving Navy secretary since World War I.

The announcement follows the president’s nomination of Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary and Vinnie Viola as Army secretary.

“All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. “They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process.”

Pictured: The Navy| US Navy photo

Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.

He was commissioned in 1986 in the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer and served for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain. Bilden’s family includes four consecutive generations of Navy and Army officers, including his two sons, who presently serve in the Navy.

“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come. I am proud of the men and women of our armed forces. The people who serve in our military are our American heroes, and we honor their service every day.”

“I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”

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Here’s what you need to know about China’s new light tank

China has long history of using light tanks – many of which have been discarded. Light tanks have become rarer as people have discovered that they need the same crew as a main battle tank, while offering said crew less protection.


China’s primary light tanks have been the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious light tank. Both feature 85mm main guns (the Soviet/Russian T-34 used a main gun of this caliber as well), and each hold 47 rounds for that gun. But like many light tanks today, they are light in the protection department.

The Type 62 has about two inches of armor at most.

Type 63 amphibious light tank. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has now pushed the light tank to the VT-5. This is a much more powerful system. It is centered on a 105mm rifled gun with up to 38 rounds. This gun is pretty much what was used on the early models of the M1 Abrams, and prior to that, on the M60 Patton main battle tanks. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this tank will weigh between 33 and 36 tons. Secondary armament is a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The last light tank in United States service was the M551 Sheridan. This vehicle saw action in the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm before being retired in the mid-1990s. Called the Buford by some sources, the Army had the XM8 Armored Gun System ready to roll out, but it was cancelled as well.

Today, the United States Army uses the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. It has the same 105mm rifled gun as the VT-5, but only holds 18 rounds.

Armor Soldiers assigned to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire their Main Gun Systems (MGS) Stryker’s 105 mm main gun during a live fire range 28 March 2011, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. (U.S. Army photo)

Below, you can see video of the VT-5 as it is put through some live-fire paces in Inner Mongolia. A number of military attaches witnessed this performance. Did China build the light tank that units like the 82nd Airborne Division need?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQtH4L0LsDM
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The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

In 1946 George Kennan, an American diplomat in the Soviet Union, wrote to the Truman State Department about his view of the USSR’s aggression. He thought the Soviets were “impervious to logic of reason… highly sensitive to the logic of force.” This outlook became the cornerstone of the United States’ “containment” policy of Soviet and Communist expansion, a policy which almost led to the brink of global nuclear war 16 years later.


After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the presence of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy starting in 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place nuclear missile installations in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempts by the U.S. and its Central Intelligence Agency to invade Cuba. The CIA was tipped off by Soviet spy Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, who passed on war plans, secret documents, and other human intelligence.

On October 14, a U-2 spy plane overflight confirmed the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. For thirteen days, October 16 – 28, 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union faced each other down in a confrontation that would be the closest the world came to nuclear annihilation during the Cold War.

16 October: President Kennedy is informed about the photographic evidence

The President was notified of the presence and confirmation of Soviet missiles in Cuba and received a full intelligence briefing. Two response ideas were proposed: an air strike and invasion or a naval quarantine with the threat of further military action. The President kept to his official schedule to raising concerns from the public.

17 October: U.S. troops begin buildup in the Southeast

Military units flowed into bases in the Southeast United States as U-2 reconnaissance flights showed continued development of missile sites in Cuba, complete with medium and long range missiles, capable of hitting most of the continental U.S. The President met with the Libyan head of state and then went to Connecticut to support political candidates.

18 October: The Soviet Foreign Minister meets with Kennedy

Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko met the President at the White House, assuring Kennedy the weapons were defensive. Kennedy knew otherwise but didn’t press the issue, instead giving Gromyko a warning of “gravest consequences” if offensive nuclear weapons were on Cuba.

18 October 1962 Kennedy meeting with the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Kennedy Library Photo)


19 October: Business as usual

The President stuck to his scheduled travel in the midwestern United States. Advisors continued to debate a response strategy.

20 October: Kennedy orders a “quarantine” of Cuba

The White House called the blockade a “quarantine” because a blockade is technically an act of war. Any Soviet ships carrying weapons to Cuba would be turned back. The President faked a cold as an excuse to end his trip early without alarming Americans and returned to Washington.

21 October: Tactical Air Command cannot guarantee destruction of the missiles

The President attended Sunday Mass then met with General Walter Sweeney of the USAF’s Tactical Air Command. Gen. Sweeney could not guarantee 100 percent destruction of the missiles.

22 October: Kennedy informs the public about the blockade and puts U.S. troops on alert

President Kennedy informs former Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower as well as the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the Cuban Missile situation. He then assembles and Executive Committee  (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council to work out coordinating further action.

After a week of waiting, Kennedy addressed the nation to inform them about the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. He also announced the quarantine of the island to prevent further “offensive military equipment” from arriving, stating the U.S. will not end the quarantine until the USSR removes the missiles.

The EXCOMM assembled by President Kennedy recommended a military invasion of Cuba to end the stalemate, which would have led to massive retaliation from the Soviet Union, and the destruction of all forces on the island. The U.S. moved to Defense Condition (DEFCON) 3.

Kennedy wrote to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev:

“I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would In this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.”

23 October: Organization of American States (OAS) Supports Quarantine

The OAS support for the blockade gave the American move international legitimacy. Cuba was expelled from the OAS earlier in 1962.

U.S. ships moved into their blockade positions around Cuba.

Soviet freighters bound for Cuba with military supplies stopped for the most part but the oil tanker Bucharest continued to Cuba.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Ambassador Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy.

JFK signing naval quarantine authorization

24 October: Khrushchev denounces the quarantine

The Soviet Premier denounced the U.S. quarantine of the island as an act of aggression.

“You, Mr. President, are not declaring a quarantine, but rather are setting forth an ultimatum and threatening that if we do not give in to your demands you will use force. Consider what you are saying! And you want to persuade me to agree to this! What would it mean to agree to these demands? It would mean guiding oneself in one’s relations with other countries not by reason, but by submitting to arbitrariness. You are no longer appealing to reason, but wish to intimidate us.”

Pope John XXIII appealed to Kennedy and Khrushchev to push for peace.

25 October: Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of missiles in Cuba to UN

The U.S. requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security council, where the Soviet ambassador denied the presence of missiles in Cuba. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson told the Soviet ambassador he was “willing to wait until hell freezes over” for an answer from the USSR. Then he showed the damning reconnaissance photos to the UN.

UN Secretary General U Thant called for a “cooling off” period, rejected by President Kennedy because it left the missiles in Cuba.

26 October: The U.S. Armed Forces prepare for all out war

The U.S. military moved to DEFCON 2. Once the blockade was in place, all Soviet ships bound for Cuba either held their positions or reversed course. Some ships were searched and allowed to proceed.

Missiles on Cuba became operational and construction continued. Soviet IL-28 bombers began construction on Cuban airfields.

Fearing an imminent attack from the United States, Cuban leader Fidel Castro suggested to Khrushchev the USSR should attack first.

A Soviet spy, Aleksander Fomin, approached ABC News’ John Scali to offer a diplomatic solution: The removal of the missiles in exchange for a promise not to invade Cuba.

The Soviet Premier sent a letter with a similar message to President Kennedy stating his willingness to remove the missiles from the island if the United States would pledge never to invade Cuba.

27 October (Black Saturday): Khrushchev offers a new deal to Kennedy

In a second, more harshly worded letter, the Soviet Premier agreed to withdraw the missiles if Kennedy promised to never invade Cuba and to remove the U.S.’ Jupiter missiles from Turkey, contradicting his personal letter to Kennedy.

A U-2 spy plane checking the progress of the missiles was shot down over Cuba, killing the pilot, Major Rudolph Anderson. Neither side escalated the conflict, despite the shoot down.

The U.S. ignored Khrushchev’s public offer and took him up on the first offer, adding they would voluntarily remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey a few months later, voluntarily.

A U.S. Navy ship dropped depth charges at a Soviet submarine under the blockade line. The submarine was armed with nuclear torpedoes, but chose not to fire them in retaliation.

A U.S. plane was chased out of the Kamchatka region by MiGs.

In the evening the USSR and USA, through Robert Kennedy and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, reached an agreement to de-escalate the conflict.

28 October: The USSR announces it will remove missiles from Cuba

The Soviets agreed publicly to remove the missiles in exchange for the promise not to invade Cuba. They do not mention the agreement to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

Radio Moscow announced that the Soviet Union accepted the proposed solution and released the text of a Khrushchev letter affirming that the missiles would be removed.

The missiles were loaded and shipped back to the Soviet Union in early November 1962. By the end of that month, the U.S. embargo on Cuba ended. Soviet bombers left the country before the end of the year and the Jupiter missiles were removed form Turkey by the end of April, 1963. A “hotline” was set up between the USSR and the United States to ensure direct communication between the two superpowers in the future.

 

NOW: 7 times the U.S. almost stumbled into a shooting war with Russia

OR: The 7 scariest weapons Russia is developing right now

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The invasion of Mosul begins…

Iraqi Security Forces launched their counter-attack yesterday to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a statement released by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials.


U.S. forces based at the Q-West airfield have been helping Kurdish and Iraqi forces prep the battlefield for an eventual invasion of the country’s second largest city. (Photo from U.S. Department of Defense)

“The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a separate statement. “We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”

According the the BBC which has a reporter embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga troops, the invasion kicked off in the early morning hours Oct. 17 with sporadic skirmishes along the roads to the east of the city. Iraqi forces pushed north from the so-called “Q-West” air base recently captured from ISIS and where U.S. forces have been helping the Iraqis establish a logistics base for operations to take Mosul.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, OIR commander, said the operation to regain control of Mosul will likely continue for weeks and possibly longer. But it comes after more than two years of Islamic State oppression in Mosul, “during which they committed horrible atrocities [and] brutalized the people” after declaring the city to be one of their twin capitals, the general said in the statement.

The coalition can’t predict how long it will take for the ISF to retake the city, Townsend said, “but we know they will succeed — just as they did in Beiji, in Ramadi, in Fallujah and, more recently in Qayyarah and Sharqat.”

Mosul is still home to more than a million people — despite hundreds of thousands reportedly having fled the city since 2014 — according to United Nations estimates.

The OIR coalition will provide “air support, artillery, intelligence, advisors and forward air controllers,” Townsend said in the statement, adding that the supporting forces “will continue to use precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians.”

During the past two years of ISIL control in Mosul, OIR efforts have expanded to include a coalition of more than 60 countries, which have combined to conduct tens of thousands of precision strikes to support Iraqi operations, and trained and equipped more than 54,000 Iraqi forces, the general said.

“But to be clear, the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis,” Townsend said in the statement.

Carter, in his statement, called it a “decisive moment” in the campaign. Townsend said it’s not just a fight for the future of Iraq, but also “to ensure the security of all of our nations.”

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Army JLTV armed with lethal 30mm cannon

Army and Marine Corps may add a more-lethal 30mm cannon to its new JLTV to improve lethality for the emerging high-tech platform and better prepare it for large-scale, mechanized force-on-force warfare.


The Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.

Also read: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.

As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.

US Army photo

As part of this effort, the Army is looking at options to up-gun JLTV with more lethal weapons such as a 30mm cannon. JLTV maker Oshkosh recently unveiled a 30mm cannon-armed JLTV at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium last Fall.

In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.

Several reports, from Breaking Defense and Military.com, have said that the Army is preparing to use its JLTV for missions previously slated for a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or LRV. The LRV mission sets, can be met by a better armed JLTV, allowing the Army to forgo construction of a new lightweight vehicle and therefore save money.

The Army has received the first 7 “test” vehicles from by Oshkosh Defense at different sites around the force.

A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country. In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said.  The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.

“It’s on schedule,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”

JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.

Oshkosh Defense

The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.

With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.

The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.

Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.

Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.

The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.

Oshkosh Defense

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.

Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.

Army Future Strategy

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. | US Army photo by Gary Sheftick

While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.

As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.

Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain as has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.

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The Pentagon is worried about the missile threat from these countries

The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.


North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.

“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.

The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.

The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.

Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.

A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.

High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.

Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.

“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.

Photo from Tasnim News Agency.

Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.

Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.

North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.

North Korean Missile. (Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Brian Alfano, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates an overt method for marking a drop zone during a bundle drop training flight at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

First Lt. Matthew Sanders, a 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot, prepares for a combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 17, 2016. Airmen assigned to the 421st EFS, known as the “Black Widows,” are deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support missions.

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), completes a routine safety measure in preparation for a static line jump from a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, on to St. Mere Eglise Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 6, 2016.

U.S. Army photo

Soldiers, assigned to the US Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, conduct a training jump over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Muncy, The National Guard

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, United States Army Europe – USAREUR, conducts convoy operations with Stryker armored combat vehicles during Exercise Allied Spirit IV at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 20, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

NAVY:

CHANGI, Singapore (Jan. 13, 2016) Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class James Strotler secures a bolt in place for the retractable bit for towing aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). Currently on a rotational deployment in support of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance, Fort Worth is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region’s littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 14, 2016) Marines and sailors aboard the USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) unload boxes during a replenishment at sea in the Gulf of Oman. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is embarked on the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and is deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a deck shoot during Sustainment Exercise aboard the USS Boxer, January 18, 2016. SUSTEX is designed to reinforce and refine the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group/MEU’s execution of mission essential tasks in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hector de Jesus

Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose MAGTF – CR – CC, recover a simulated casualty as part of a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise at an Undisclosed Location in Southwest Asia Jan. 12, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

COAST GUARD:

The HC144 Ocean Sentry prepares for an evening training flight at Air Station Cape Cod. Frequent night flights like this one allow crews to remain proficient and ready to respond no matter the time of day or night.

USCG Photo

Air Station Cape Cod is the only airfield whose maintenance and operation is entirely run by the Coast Guard. As a result, planes and helicopters aren’t the only heavy machinery that we get to manage!

USCG photo

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6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

The Air Force’s announcement that the MQ-1 Predator will be retired from service is an interesting development. But what will be done with the 150 retired Predators in the Air Force inventory (per an Air Force fact sheet)?


First, let’s crank up some music from Dos Gringos, a couple of F-16 pilots whose call signs were “Trip” and “Snooze.” Their single, “Predator Eulogy,” seems like appropriate music for this list.

So, crank up the volume, and let’s see where these retired Predators could find a second life.

1. Hand them over to other federal agencies

Other government agencies are using unmanned aerial vehicles. The CIA and United States Customs and Border Protection both use this UAV.

A MQ-1 Predator with US Customs and Border Protection. (Department of Homeland Security photo)

What other agencies might like this UAV? How about the Coast Guard, which has the duty of securing maritime borders much longer than the U.S.-Mexico border? CBP could get a larger UAV fleet as well. Perhaps the DEA would like some as well.

This surplus AH-1 Cobra found a new home with the United States Forest Service. (USDA photo)

2. Give them to state and local law enforcement

The DOD has a long tradition of handing over surplus gear to state and local law enforcement. The last Huey in the Army inventory, in fact, was handed over to the Louisiana State Police.

3. Sell them to allies

MilitaryFactory.com notes that Predators are in service with several U.S. allies. Italy, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco all use the MQ-1. Some of the retired birds could be sent as attrition replacements or spare parts sources.

4. Sell them to media outlets

Media outlets who currently use helicopters like the Bell 206 (the civilian version of the OH-58) could find the Predator very useful for traffic reporting. Or, for the really important items: The ratings-boosting high-speed pursuits. Predators have much more endurance.

The P-51 and P-47 sit side-by-side. (Photo by Alan Wilson via WikiMedia Commons)

5. Civilian warbirds

It’s happened with P-51s, the F4U Corsair, and a host of other planes (even including Soviet MiGs). So, why not see some of these retired Predators become civilian warbirds?

A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)

6. Target drones

This is what every manned fighter pilot would have as the favored use for retired Predators. The fleet of 150 retired Predators could last for a little bit being expended as live-fire targets.

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This is how piracy became totally legal during wartime

What’s the difference between pirates and patriots? A government to be loyal to, of course. Such was the case during the age of sail, when warring nations would literally hire pirates and other captains to raid enemy shipping.


When officially endorsed by a belligerent nation, pirates were issued a Letter of Marque – the marque being a pledge to fight for one nation…at least for the time being.

Such was the case with England’s “Sea Dogs,” hired by Queen Elizabeth I to raid gold-laden Spanish treasure fleets sailing from the New World. Capturing a ship meant money for both the ship and her crew as well as the Marque-issuing government.

The Catholic King Philip of Spain was determined to flip Protestant England back to Catholic control. The English Protestants and their Queen were having none of it. For some 19 years, the two countries were bitter rivals, fighting a series of battles on both land and sea that saw little else but money change hands.

For the crews who shared the prize money, life was harsh. Disease and starvation were common among sailing crews at the time. For the Sea Dogs’ commander, a few good prizes could make them rich. One pirate would become the second highest-earning pirate of all time.

That Sea Dog was Sir Francis Drake, a Protestant captain with a distaste for Spanish Catholics. Perhaps one of the greatest English leaders of the age, Drake led the expedition that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and took his piracy tour to the Pacific for the first time in history.

The Spanish put a price on his head that would be the modern equivalent of almost $7 million.

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and the war ended the next year. Drake would also not survive the war, dying of dysentery after attacking Puerto Rico. Though the peace restored the status quo, the war was a disaster for Spain.

Embracing the Sea Dogs was a disaster for England as well. After the war, they joined the raiders of the North African coast, continuing their anti-Catholic piracy careers alongside the Turkish corsairs of the Barbary States.

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Bergdahl will face a general court-martial after all

Photo: US Army


Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — infamous for having walked off his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 — will face a general court-martial by order of the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.

Gen. Robert B. Abrams decided to convene a general court-martial for Bergdahl despite Army lawyers recommending against it, said CNN.

The special court-martial that Army lawyers recommended would have been able to impose up to a year of confinement. The general court-martial Bergdahl will face instead can impose a life sentence if he is convicted of misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl testified that he left his outpost in an attempt to reach a U.S. base 18 miles away so that he could report what he saw as failing leadership in his platoon. He was instead captured quickly by the Taliban who held him for almost five years before he was traded in a prisoner exchange that saw five Taliban detainees released from Guantanomo Bay, Cuba.

There was speculation that the case would end without significant prison time after two senior officers assigned to the investigation recommended against it.

The officer in charge of the investigation into Bergdahl, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, testified that jail-time would be inappropriate for Bergdahl. His investigation found no evidence that troops died while specifically searching for the sergeant or that Bergdahl was attempting to reach India, China, or the Taliban, said the New York Times.

The Army lawyer who presided over a preliminary hearing into the case also recommended against a court-martial. Lt. Col. Mark Visager had recommended the special court-martial that could have only imposed a 1-year prison sentence.

Abrams held the final decision about whether to convene a general court-martial, and he did so despite the recommendations against it.

Bergdahl’s case is currently the focus of season 2 of “Serial,” a podcast that became extremely popular in its first season where it investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee.

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A Navy SEAL has died in the fight against ISIS

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.


Navy SEALs fight against insurgents in Iraq in this 2007 photo. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johansen Laurel

Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.

ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.

The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.

Two other U.S. service members have died in the fight against ISIS. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed Mar. 19 by an ISIS rocket attack while securing a newly-established U.S. base with other Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The fighter who most likely killed Cardin was later killed in a U.S. drone attack.

Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.

Roughly 3,700 troops are deployed to Iraq and 50 have been deployed to Syria. An announced deployment of 250 more troops to Syria will bring the total there to 300.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has said that the fight against ISIS is serious, and America isn’t backing down.

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Navy SEALs team up with Israeli special forces

Elite soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Shayetet 13 special operations unit joined forces with U.S. Navy SEALS in late March for a joint exercise between the two allies.


According to an IDF statement, the exercise was designed to improve upon the operational capabilities of the special forces of the IDF and of the militaries of Israel’s allies, such as the United States. The drill also included knowledge sharing between fleets, strengthening of common language, and operational cooperation in the field.

On the Israeli side, a Saar 5 missile ship (Eilat), Naval Special Warfare vessels, and other navy crafts took part in the training event. Troops practiced parachuting over the sea and carrying out a nighttime raid on a ship and rescuing hostages in enclosed areas.

Members of U.S. and Israeli Special Operations Forces prepare rigid-hulled inflatable boats prior to participating in a water jump training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Juniper Falcon 17, on March 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by SSG Russell Gilchrest)

Following the drill, the head of operations of the Israeli Navy, Rear Adm. Ido Ben Moshe, said that “the cooperation between the two fleets is reflected in annual drills, reciprocal visits and operational mutuality. During the joint exercises, professional relations are created that contribute to both sides on the strategic level.”

In 2016, IDF Special Forces and U.S. Marines held a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert in part aimed at coordinating techniques for combating terrorist activities. Dubbed ‘Noble Shirley,’ the drill involved special units from the Israeli Air Force and Navy, and ground forces.

During the drill, the troops practiced simulating helicopter landings behind enemy lines, urban warfare both above and below ground, as well as close-range combat and military takeover techniques. The troops also held exercises concentrating on medical response to injured troops in hostile territory as well as the coordination of U.S. and Israeli medical networks.