Good morning! Here’s what’s happening around the national security space:
Another of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets exploded shortly after liftoff on Sunday while on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. This latest failure may have serious implications for the company’s military plans.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight to Estonia on April 25, 2017. The F-35s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe.
Airmen conduct a high altitude, low opening jump from a MC-130J Commando II April 24, 2017, above Okinawa, Japan. Kadena Air Base land and water drop zones are suited for multi-pass jump operations which maximize proficiency and limited resources.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from A Company, 1/150th Assault Helicopter Battalion, flies over Belize City while transporting Soldiers and Marines on their way back from Dangriga, Belize, April 10, 2017. The 1/150th is providing lift support and medevac, if necessary, for Beyond the Horizon 2017, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, Army South-led exercise, designed to provide humanitarian and engineering services to communities in need, demonstrating U.S. support for Belize.
A Best Sapper competitor completes an Australian rappel, April 25, 2017, as part of the 2017 Best Sapper Competition being held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
HOMER, Alaska (April 29, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) prepares to moor in Homer, Alaska, for a scheduled port visit. Hopper is visiting Homer in conjunction with its participation in exercise Northern Edge 2017. The biennial training exercise conducted in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and includes participation from units assigned to Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and U.S. Army Pacific.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 30, 2017) Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 run tests on the the MQ-8B Firescout, an unmanned aerial vehicle, aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4).
Reconnaissance Marines prepare to conduct night time helo-casting training operations during the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 24, 2017. The purpose of the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course is to provide the students with the required knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties of a Reconnaissance Team Leader.
Marines with the Silent Drill Platoon perform during an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2017. Col. Tyler J. Zagurski, commanding officer of MBW, hosted the parade and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller was the guest of honor.
Crew members from Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon, an 87-foot Coast Patrol Boat homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida, offload 1,735 kilograms of cocaine, an estimated wholesale value of $56 million and transferred custody of eight suspected drug smugglers to partner federal agencies Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Florida. The contraband and suspected smugglers were interdicted during four separate cases supporting Operation Martillo, a joint interagency and multi-national collaborative effort among 14 Western Hemisphere and European nations to stop the flow of illicit cargo by Transnational Criminal Organizations.
A boat crew for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare gets underway between Cuba and Hispaniola during drug interdiction operations in April, 2017. The cutter Legare’s crew completed a 35-day tour of the strait between Cuba and Hispaniola, completing drug interdiction missions, building partnerships with local agencies and aiding local communities.
A Navy SEAL, killed alongside civilians in a January raid on a village in Yemen. Another SEAL, killed while accompanying Somali forces on a May raid. And now four Army soldiers, dead in an ambush this month in Niger.
These US combat deaths — along with those of about 10 service members killed this year in Afghanistan and Iraq — underscore how a law passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has been stretched to permit open-ended warfare against Islamic militant groups scattered across the Muslim world.
The law, commonly called the AUMF, on its face provided congressional authorization to use military force only against nations, groups, or individuals responsible for the attacks. But while the specific enemy lawmakers were thinking about in September 2001 was the original al-Qaeda and its Taliban host in Afghanistan, three presidents of both parties have since invoked the 9/11 war authority to justify battle against Islamic militants in many other places.
On Oct. 30, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as lawmakers renew a debate over whether they should update and replace that law, revitalizing Congress’ constitutionally assigned role of making fundamental decisions about going to war.
But even as President Donald Trump’s administration moves to ease some Obama-era constraints on counter-terrorism operations, political obstacles to reaching a consensus on new parameters for a war authorization law look more daunting than ever.
Previous efforts collapsed under disagreements between lawmakers opposed to restricting the executive branch’s interpretation of its wartime powers and those unwilling to vote for a new blank check for a forever war. Among the disputes: whether a replacement should have an expiration date, constrain the use of ground forces, limit the war’s geographic scope, and permit the government to start attacking other militant groups merely associated with the major enemies it would name.
Adding to the political headwinds, two of the Republican lawmakers most interested in drafting a new war authorization law are lame ducks and estranged from the White House: Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has proposed a new war authorization bill with Sen. Tim Kaine, D- Va. Both Republican senators, who have announced that they will not seek re-election, have publicly denounced Trump in recent weeks as dangerously unfit to be the commander in chief.
But as the 9/11 war enters its 17th year, questions about the scope and limits of presidential war-making powers are taking on new urgency.
Trump is giving the Pentagon and the CIA broader latitude to pursue counter-terrorism drone strikes and commando raids away from traditional battlefields. Two government officials said Trump had recently signed his new rules for such kill-or-capture counter-terrorism operations, without major changes to an inter-agency agreement first described last month by The New York Times.
In 1944, the Allies fought their way from the beaches of Normandy towards German soil. Their sites were firmly set on pushing all the way to Hitler’s capital Berlin and putting an end to WWII. Success in Europe required soldiers with a wide variety of skills. Robert Weiss was a US Army forward observer. His mission was to move ahead of the troops and find targets for the artillery, but being out in front placed him closer to the enemy and a greater risk of being cut off from his comrades. These are his experiences In His Own Words.
Every time the Olympics roll around, we’re proud to cheer for the American veterans who make the team. Not only have they made their country proud with their service; as world-class athletes, they’ll represent the United States and try to bring home the gold.
For the 2018 Winter Olympics, three of the current 102 American competitors are U.S. Army soldiers, part of Army’s World Class Athlete Program. They are Sgt. Emily Sweeny, Sgt. Taylor Morris, and Sgt. Matt Mortensen.
Sgt. Emily Sweeny — Women’s Singles Luge
Sweeny was the first soldier to secure a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. She is a military police officer in the New York National Guard. After joining the Guard in 2011, she took on more of a leadership role within the USA Luge team where she not only competes, but helps identify and recruit talented youth to the sport.
She won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Winterberg Germany World Cup sprint race. Currently, she is ranked 8th in the world for women’s luge.
Sgt. Taylor Morris — Men’s Singles Luge
Morris secured his place at the Olympics when he earned the Bronze medal at the Lake Placid World Cup sprint race. He solidified his position on the USA Luge team after his career-best run. He joined the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Human Resource Specialist in the New York National Guard.
Sgt. Matthew Mortensen — Doubles Luge
Mortensen is an Engineer out of the New York Army National Guard, joining in February 2010. He is a two-time Olympian who missed the bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by a mere 0.005 seconds with his luge teammate, Sgt. Preston Griffall. For PyeonChang, Griffall chose to focus on his studies and Jayson Terdiman stepped into his role.
Mortensen and his new teammate finished the 2016-2017 seasons ranked 3rd internationally and together have won three straight Norton National Championships.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 9, 2018 and end on Feb. 25, 2018.
An ISIS expert claims there is a glaring “Achilles heel” present in the US strategy in Iraq and Syria, stating that the lack of any planning for the political future of the region after the terrorist group is wiped out will nullify the military gains made against the group.
“Only a fool would call this a victory,” Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and the co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” told The New Yorker. “It’s only the expulsion of ISIS fighters from a wasteland. It’s not a victory, not only because of the destruction. It’s also not a victory because there’s a shameless lack of a political track to supplement the military track. That’s the Achilles heel of Operation Inherent Resolve. They don’t have a political vision about what will happen after ISIS.”
The destruction Hassan mentions is almost total in Raqqa. The activist journalism group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently claims that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting between ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and the US coalition.
The group has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes and 1,873 civilian deaths throughout the urban battle, and says 450,000 people remain displaced from the city.
Yet Hassan’s main argument is that the main threat to the success of the US-led mission is that there is no political plan for what will come after ISIS’s territorial defeat.
Professor Robert Pape, the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, said he agrees.
“When we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003 we created ungoverned space for Sunni Arabs in Iraq which then spilled over in nearby Syria,” Pape says. “The worry here is that as that area of Iraq and Syria now could remain ungoverned space from the perspective of the Sunni Arabs, this problem may just simply fester and continue.”
ISIS, and the war to defeat it, has inflicted enormous violence upon the Sunni Arabs of the region, and its effects will stick with the Sunni populations of Iraq and Syria for generations.
And throughout the campaign to liberate Sunni regions previously under the the rule of ISIS, Iraq has employed Shiite militias with ties to Iran, called the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have been suspicious of Sunni villagers in conquered ISIS territory. Iraq’s own security forces have also frequently resorted to brutality against civilians in places like Mosul, which was an ISIS stronghold until recently.
Meanwhile, vast swaths of eastern Syria remain controlled by Kurdish-led militias in the form of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or by the Shiite-led Syrian government.
An additional yet significant ethnic challenge lies in how to divide power between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis in Syria and Iraq after the dust settles. Already, Iraq’s central government is asserting itself in regions controlled by Kurds around Kirkuk and Mosul, where clashes have occurred.
Such post-conflict realities in the Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria have led to widespread distrust between locals and the governments and militaries that now control them and have deepened the same feelings of political isolation among Sunnis that led to the rise of ISIS between 2007 and 2013.
According to Hassan, the “Achilles heel” of the US-led coalition’s strategy is that it makes no preparations to resolve these complex problems, and focuses solely on a military victory over ISIS. In his view, such a limited approach will only hasten the return of another Sunni insurgent movement in the region.
One of the most revered military leaders of our time, Admiral James Stavridis served for thirty-seven years in the United States Navy, including his last four as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Admiral Stavridis joins Adam to share the best lessons he has learned over the course of his illustrious career, from how to lead and inspire others to how to lead your own day and life. Admiral Stavridis and Adam discuss the Admiral’s core leadership principles, misconceptions about military leaders, and job interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
China just released a gallery of photos showcasing their airborne military might. The images depict Beijing’s domestically made jet fighters flying in impressive aerial formations. Some of the planes are fully armed.
These pictures, released by China’s state news service, Xinhuanet, reveal the extent of China’s domestic military aircraft development, a crucial element in its efforts to become Asia’s unquestioned military and strategic power.
The Chinese Chengdu JF-17 is a multi-role fighter introduced as an upgrade to the J-7, a reworking of the 1950s Soviet Mig-29.
The J-11s also are based on Soviet models — they strongly resemble the Sukhoi-30, which debuted in 1989.
Here’s what an armed J-11 looks like.
Here, J-11s fly in formation above the Chinese countryside.
Chinese J-11s fly in formation.
J-11 jets streak across the sky.
Here are two J-10s, multirole aircraft meant to replace the older J-7.
J-10s ascend in tight formation, using colored smoke to create a brilliant aerial display.
A view of the J-10s from the ground
This is a JH-7 “Flying Leopard,” a lightweight, twin engine fighter/bomber that was introduced into service in 1990.
A multimillion-dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior operatives of Hezbollah is part of ongoing US efforts to “demonize” the group, a party official said Oct. 11.
The new US measures, including recent sanctions, will not affect Hezbollah’s operational activities, the official added.
He was reacting to the US State Department’s announcement Oct. 10 of an up to $7 million reward for information on Talal Hamiyah, who it says leads Hezbollah’s “international terrorism branch” and who the US claim has been linked to attacks, hijackings and kidnappings targeting US citizens.
Another $5 million is being offered for information on Fu’ad Shukr, a member of Hezbollah who runs the group’s military forces in southern Lebanon. The State Department said he played a key role in Hezbollah’s recent military operations in Syria.
The total of $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of the two comes as part of tougher US action against Iran, Hezbollah’s patron.
Shukr and Hamiyah are believed to have worked alongside Mustafa Badreddine running the party’s military operations after the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Badreddine, one of the founders of Hezbollah in 1982, took a leading role in the group’s military wing after the death of his brother-in-law, Mughniyeh, in Syria in February 2008.
Badreddine was indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a key suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005, but was himself killed in Syria in 2016. Media reports speculated that internal Hezbollah power struggles had led party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah himself to order Badreddine’s death, although a party spokesman denied the claims in March of this year.
The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah leaders in a decade, and come against the backdrop of heightened US-Iran tensions resulting from President Donald Trump’s threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
An avowed critic of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump has called it one of America’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. US officials have said he is looking for ways to pressure Tehran. Under the new policy, the White House is focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah – two Iran-backed entities that have long elicited scorn from much of the West.
The Hezbollah official dismissed the accusations, saying the US should be “the last state” to designate people on terror lists and accusing it of supporting terrorist organizations and sponsoring states and regimes “that have a long history in financing and supporting terrorism.”
“It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with party regulations.
Later Oct. 11, MP Hussein Musawi – a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc – said the “US is the mother of terrorism.” He continued: “The plan’s aim is to encourage Muslims to kill each other and to make peace with the criminal Zionists.”
All efforts to distort Hezbollah’s image and show a different image about Iran will fail, he added in a statement. “Remaining silent about this [American] interference may take Lebanon downhill toward collapse. This is what the enemies of Lebanon want.”
Musawi went on, saying: “We advise those concerned not to take any American dictates, by maintaining the policy of constructive dialogue between all political forces and components.”
Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s ongoing civil war. The group has been fighting ISIS inside Syria and along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was a highly classified, special ops unit that conducted unconventional warfare during the Vietnam War. SOG carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia. The Task Force also engaged in clandestine intelligence, propaganda and psychological operations. J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy were members of this elite group.
Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.
But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.
We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.
The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.
From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.
Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.
To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.
Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.
SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.
SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.
CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.
Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.
When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.
Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.
The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.