Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.


“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray

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Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?

Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.

Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?

Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?

One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.

A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?

Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.

Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.

Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.

Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?

Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.

So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.

We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)

Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?

Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.

I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.

Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?

Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.

Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?

Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority

You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.

For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?

Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?

Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean letter threatens missile tests and derails peace talks

North Korea warned the US in a recent letter that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart,” adding that it may resume “nuclear and missile activities” if its demands are not met.

President Donald Trump unexpectedly canceled what was expected to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang due to insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The decision was preceded by a “belligerent” letter that criticized his administration for failing “to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported Aug. 28, 2018, citing people familiar with the matter.


The receipt of the letter, which was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, occurred just hours after Pompeo’s trip was first announced in August 2018, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27, 2018. “The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey,” The Post’s Josh Rogin reported.

Pompeo’s last trip to North Korea ended with a message from the foreign ministry characterizing meetings with the US as “regrettable.” Those negotiations came amid troubling reports from multiple outlets indicating that North Korea had yet to suspend its weapons programs in keeping with its commitment to denuclearize.

In recent months, media reports have indicated that North Korea is making infrastructure improvements at nuclear reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites and increasing the production of fuel for nuclear weapons. The North has also reportedly halted the dismantlement of a key facility Kim promised to destroy as a concession to Trump in Singapore.

Over the past few weeks, North Korean media has railed against US attitudes and actions, especially the sanctions that continue to hobble North Korea’s limited economy.

Speaking to the press at the Pentagon Aug. 28, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to suggest that North Korea is acting in bad faith, but he left the door open to the possibility of restarting war games should North Korea’s behavior warrant such a step.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

“As you know, we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said at the briefing. Emphasizing that his team will work closely with the secretary of state, he explained that “at this time, there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”

Mattis added that there are smaller exercises ongoing on the peninsula at all times. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he told the media.

Pentagon officials told Business Insider that there are numerous exercises happening all the time as South Koreans and US personnel train together to enhance their interoperability.

During the briefing, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said they would let diplomacy lead, stressing that they did not want their comments to influence negotiations. “We stay in a supporting role,” Mattis noted.

Mattis said this would be a “long and challenging effort.”

The recent moves and comments from both sides indicate that there is growing frustration between Pyongyang and Washington. For the time being, it appears that North Korea is resistant to denuclearization and the US is hesitant to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War without those disarmament steps.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China may have murdered the president of Interpol

It’s been more than a month since Beijing confirmed that the vanished Interpol president had been detained in China, and we’re no closer to knowing what happened.

Meng Hongwei disappeared after traveling to China on Sept. 29, 2018. Beijing broke its silence over the matter a week later, on Oct. 7, 2018, saying that it had detained him and was investigating him over bribery allegations.


That same day Interpol said it received Meng’s resignation — without specifying the source — and accepted it “with immediate effect.”

Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.

Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.

Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.

Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.

The wife’s fight

Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”

She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.

Grace Meng added that she received a threatening phone call shortly after Meng’s disappearance, in which a man speaking in Chinese warned her not to speak out.

Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.

The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.

Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out

The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.

It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.

“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”

Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.

During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.

Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.

“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.

Earlier in 2018 Chinese authorities publicly disappeared prominent Chinese actress Fan Bingbing for three months after she was accused of evading taxes.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A glimpse at Marine Corps amphibious assault school

Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.

At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.


Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)

The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)

“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)

Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.

“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)

AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.

“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”

Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russia finds new Arctic islands amid power competition with the US

Russia, already the owner of the world’s longest Arctic coastline, has spent the past few years bolstering its presence there.

Now changes wrought by climate change are giving Moscow more territory to work with in the Arctic as the US is still looking for ways to get into the high north.

Russian sailors and researchers explored five new islands around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean off Russia’s northern coast during an expedition in August and September 2019.


The islands, ranging in size from about 1,000 square yards to 65,000 square yards, were first spotted in 2016 but not confirmed until the expedition by Russia’s Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society.

The new islands are “associated with the melting of ice,” expedition leader Vice Adm. Aleksandr Moiseyev said on Oct. 22, 2019, according to state news agency Tass. “Previously these were glaciers, but the melting of ice led to the islands emerging.”

The discoveries come as Moscow has boosted its military presence in the region, refurbishing Cold War-era bases, setting up new units, opening ports and runways, and deploying radar and air-defense systems.

In all, Russia has built 475 military facilities in the Arctic over the past six years and deployed personnel, special weapons, and equipment to them, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March 2019.

US officials regard Russian activity in the Arctic as “aggressive” and have questioned their Russian counterparts on it.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, upon arrival at the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia, March 29, 2017.

(Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin)

“When I was as at the [Arctic Conference in 2017] and [with] the Russian ambassador … I asked him, ‘Why are you repaving five Cold War airstrips, and why are there reportedly 10,000 Spetsnaz troops up there?'” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said at a Brookings Institution event on Oct. 23, 2019, referring to Russian special operation forces.

“He said, ‘search and rescue, Mr. Secretary,'” Spencer added.

Asked whether Russia was a competitor or partner or both in the Arctic, Spencer said he “would love to say both” but expressed concern.

“I worry about their position there,” he said, pointing to the Northern Sea Route, which cuts shipping time between Europe and Asia by 40% compared to the Suez Canal route but runs through Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In April, Moscow said foreign ships using that route would have to give notice and pay higher transit fees.

“That said, dialogue must remain open. We have to keep those avenues of communication,” Spencer added. “You’ve seen the arguments compared to the Suez Canal, the time and dollar savings by going over north, that’s happened. It’s going to continue to happen. We have to be present.”

Catching up in the high north

The emphasis on the Arctic is a part of the “great power competition” described in the 2018 US National Defense Strategy, which outlined a turn away from two decades of combat against irregular forces in the Middle East and toward revisionist foes like Russia and China.

But the US still has some catching up to do when it comes to the Arctic.

The US has just one heavy icebreaker, the decrepit Polar Star, operated by the Coast Guard. Russia, which gets some 25% of its GDP from the Arctic, has more than 40 icebreakers of varying sizes with more on the way. The Coast Guard recently awarded a contract to build three new icebreakers, but the first isn’t expected until 2024.

Marines have deployed on rotations to Norway since 2017 and taken part in exercises in Alaska with the Army and Air Force in an effort to get used to harsh conditions at higher latitudes. But the Navy’s biggest moves have come at sea.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Sailors and Marines aboard the USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)

“We did Trident Juncture. We went north of the Arctic Circle, [and for the] first time since 1996 we had a carrier strike group and amphib ships north of the Arctic Circle,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.

Trident Juncture in late 2018 was NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War and included the carrier USS Harry S. Truman. One of the Navy ships accompanying Marines to the exercise, the USS Gunston Hall, was banged up by rough seas during the journey.

“We learned a lot, where we had to shore up our learning and where we had to shore up our sets and reps,” Spencer said. “Gunston Hall hit some heavy weather, [which] tore the hell out of the well deck.”

Some sailors suffered minor injuries aboard the Gunston Hall, which had to return to the US. Bad seas also forced another ship, the USS New York, to detour to Iceland, but it eventually made it to the exercise in Norway.

“I’ll write a check for that kind of damage any single time, when I saw what we’d learned from going up there,” Spencer said.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The Truman’s trip above the Arctic Circle after a two-decade absence, like the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s participation in the Northern Edge exercise in Alaska for the first time in a decade, is significant, and recent Navy exercises in Alaska laid the groundwork for future training up there, but whether the Navy will be back for good is uncertain.

“We will be in the Arctic Circle … in the high north in the Atlantic and the high Pacific in the Bering Straits on a regular basis,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.

“Will we have permanent basing up there? I don’t know. Would I like to see a logistic center up there — something like a Nome [in Alaska] — that would be great,” Spencer added.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer with Cmdr. Kevin Culver, commanding officer of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock, in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

As of late September 2019, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which is tasked with finding innovative and cost-effective methods to meet the Pentagon’s high-priority environmental needs, was deciding on proposals to guide Arctic infrastructure projects, according to John Farrell, executive director of the US Arctic Research Commission, who sat in on the panel making the decision.

“They were in the midst of making final selection on proposals to directly address this very topic of Arctic infrastructure design — a design tool that would look at the rapid environmental changes that are going on and give guidance to engineers better than the current guidance they have, which is outdated, about how to design infrastructure that will last 20, 30, 40 years in a rapidly changing environment,” Farrell said at a Hudson Institute event at the end of September 2019.

“This is of great importance to places like Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and other bases that we have in the north, not just in the US but pan-Arctic,” Farrell said.

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

Articles

9 things new chief petty officers do when they put on khakis

The US Navy is an institution rich in tradition with its own language and elaborate ceremonies. One of those ceremonies is the Chief Petter Officer initiation.


Ask any sailor what a newly made chief does as soon as they put on the khaki uniform and you’ll get mixed results. Responses vary from the good to the awfully absurd and usually based on a sailor’s time in service.

For example, this sailor on Facebook said that his chief completely changed when he put on the khakis for the first time:

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Ask a chief and he’ll say that it’s one of the hardest and most satisfying jobs in the world:

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WATM did an informal poll of sailors of all ranks to uncover the nine common things that new chiefs do when they put on the khakis:

1. Smile incessantly for about an hour.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Trevor Welsh/USN

They’ve just been made and now have the privilege to do the following eight things:

2. Get a new coffee mug that says “chief.”

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Photo: navychief.com

A good chief’s mug will be respected and left alone. A bad chief will have their mug washed out. Apparently, chiefs have it in their mind that their unwashed coffee mugs have super caffeine powers.

3. Start calling everyone ‘shipmate.’

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/USN

Everyone becomes a “shipmate” once you become a chief. It used to be that they call everyone by their rate (Navy job) and rank.

4. Start calling other khakis by their first names.

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Photo: Chief Mass Communication Specialist Tiffini Jones Vanderwyst/USN

It’s now Frankie and Jane instead of Smith and Martinez.

5. Start eating like a king in the chief’s mess.

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Rumor has it that the chiefs eat better than the officers aboard a ship.

6. Gain weight.

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Everything has a cause and effect.

7. Pass off the ensign to the first-class.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King/USN

They lose an ensign but gain a lieutenant.

8. Wait for the first person to call him ‘sir’ so he can say, “don’t call me sir, I work for a living.”

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Photo: USN

Along with the new position comes treasure trove of cliché terms that they’ve been waiting years to use. (Poor boot, he confused the chief for an officer.)

Also read: 21 of the US military’s most-overused clichés

9. Change their civilian wardrobes to match their uniforms.

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Photo: NavyChief.com

(OBTW: It’s safe to call a chief “a lifer.” If they’ve made it this far, you can expect to get a full 20 years before retiring.)

NOW: 9 WTF? questions Navy recruits have at boot camp

OR: 13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

MIGHTY TRENDING

China warns US to ‘tread lightly’ after US warships patrolled Taiwan Strait

China’s leaders are increasingly on edge as US Navy warships have begun transiting the tense Taiwan Strait on a regular basis.

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer and a fleet oiler through the strait Jan. 24, 2019, the third time in four months the US has sent warships through the closely-watched waterway.

“We urge the US to tread lightly,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded Jan. 25, 2019. She compared the Taiwan Strait to a family home with a yard divided by a road, stressing that while it is reasonable for pedestrians to pass through, it is a different scenario if someone is there to make trouble by engaging in “provocative behavior” and “threatening the safety” of the family.


She noted that China has already raised the issue with the US, adding that China has asked the US to approach Taiwan cautiously so as to avoid damaging US-China relations.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.

China displeasure stems from not only from concerns that US military activity around the island will empower Taiwan’s pro-independence forces but also frustration with the US Navy’s refusal to ask permission before transiting the international strait between China and Taiwan, a democratic island it views as a rogue province.

The US has long insisted it doesn’t need permission. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait, it is international waters. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose, as we have done repeatedly in the past, and will do in the future,” retired Adm. Timothy Keating, former head of US Pacific Command (now Indo-Pacific Command), explained in 2007, when the US Navy sailed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk through the strait.

Beijing, however, considers these transits to be purposeful provocations.

“The purpose of US warships is to flex their geopolitical muscle,” the nationalist Global Times, a hawkish Chinese state-affiliated tabloid, wrote in an editorial Jan. 25, 2019, asserting, “China will find the US action irritating, but such actions can never deter China.

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The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

“The US Navy “should refrain from staging military provocation in China’s coastal areas,” the paper argued, suggesting that failure to do so could result in a clash.

US Pacific Fleet said that Jan. 24, 2019’s passage demonstrated “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” as well as US determination to “fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.” The US uses similar rhetoric to characterize its freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber overflights.

The US insists that it is simply re-reinforcing the rules of the road, so to speak, as they pertain to activities in international waters, and Navy leadership has made it clear that the US will continue to transit the Taiwan Strait.

“We see the Taiwan Straits as international waters, and that’s why we do the transits through the straits,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, said recently, adding that the Navy is “just exercising the right to pass through those waters in accordance with international law.”

The admiral suggested that the US could send a carrier through those waters if it wanted to, something the Navy hasn’t done in more than a decade.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

How many airmen does it take to change a cargo aircraft tire? Too many, according to J.D. Bales, Air Force Research Laboratory and Junior Force Warfighter Operations team member of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

The 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, who maintain the US Air Force’s largest aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, contacted the JFWORX team seeking assistance to increase the safety and decrease the manpower requirements of the current tire-changing process.


Each C-5 tire wears down approximately 0.002 inches per landing on an aircraft that has 28 tires. The current tire changing method is performed several times a week. It is a complicated multistep procedure that requires up to five people working together for an extended period of time with a number of safety risks due to the size and weight of the tires and tools.

The design of the hub consists of a single large nut that holds the wheel in place. Heavy tools ensure placement of the wheel (almost 4 feet in diameter). The spanner wrench, used to tighten the nut, weighs 15 pounds and has to be held accurately in position so the nut can be tightened to the appropriate torque specification.

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The rear wheel assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft inside a hangar at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

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Current C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement requires up to five airmen with a multitude of tools to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

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The new C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement platform requires only three airmen with one tool to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

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The nose and main landing gear tires of a C-5M Super Galaxy hang over a parking spot at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Two 30-ton tripod aircraft jacks hold up the nose section of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, remove a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, both crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, install a new C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly to the main landing gear bogie at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman 1st Class Nathan Shull, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, cleans the number four main landing gear bogie assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, front, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects the main landing gear brake assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, rolls a defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

A defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly prior to being taken away for maintenance April 22, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

The primary technical focus of JFWORX projects is the rapid development of customer-centric projects that will provide real-world solutions to existing warfighter needs.

JFWORX develops near term, innovative solutions to warfighter operational needs. Department of Defense organizations interested in working with the JFWORX team can contact the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Corporate Communications team at AFRL.RX.CorpComm@us.af.mil to learn more.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China just added another aircraft carrier to its rapidly growing navy

China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.

The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.

China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.


The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.

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The Liaoning.

The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.

Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.

China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.

The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.

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A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.

The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Our 7 most favorite issued items ever

Everyone has their favorite piece of issued gear. It doesn’t matter why you love it, you just do. And chances are good that you loved it so much, it got “lost” during your last deployment.


Military people are good people, so I don’t like to use the word “theft.” We’ll call it the usual, “Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.”

7. IR patches

Do you know which country’s troops are the toughest in combat? The United States. Now, do you know which country’s troops would be the most lethal for U.S. troops to fight? The United States.

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Those patches on their chests will light up in NVGs.

Those backward flags worn U.S. military uniforms keep blue-on-blue accidents from happening at night. While in the field, they’re worn on the chest or arm. When the wearer transitions to veteran status, it goes on their ball cap.

6. Multi-tools

No matter which brand you prefer, Gerber or Leatherman, this is one of the most useful things troops deploy with. The range of use is astonishing. You can use it for one of its many on-label functions, like a screwdriver. Or maybe you need to bend the lower receiver on a .50-cal back into place. Or maybe you need to pull some shrapnel out of your battle buddy. The multi-tool is what you need.

In your post-military life, your Gerber is likely to end up constructing Ikea furniture.

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Or, in my case, breaking Ikea furniture.

5. Gen-III cold weather fleece

Everyone knows a fleece jacket is both comfortable as hell while making you look 20 pounds heavier. The Army’s extreme cold weather fleece has the same problem with the added benefit of being a part of a bigger cold weather system that actually works.

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I am warmer just looking at this photo.

The old issued M-65 field jackets were just like coats, in that you wear them, but they were about as protective as flip-flops.

4. Angle-head flashlights

In the event of nuclear war, two things will survive: cockroaches and your old, angle-head flashlight. These old things are beloved by veterans of many eras. Sure, they update the issued lights, they switched to surefire flashlights, and they even updated the angled heads on some models, but there’s a reason these are so iconic.

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And it’s not just because of how many movies and video games they’re in.

You may not have a daily use for a signal light, but chances are good this is in your home or car emergency kit — or even your bug-out bag.

3. The KA-BAR

This one only applies to Marines, but the KA-BAR is pretty much the utility knife. For whatever reason they might need a utility knife, Marines will always say their issued KA-BAR is indispensable. And none of them ever want to give it up at the end of the day.

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Do not try to steal one of these from a Marine. You might get to know the pointy end very fast.

2. Woobie

Not every branch refers to the poncho liner as the “woobie,” but everyone can appreciate how useful this blanket is. It now even has a cult following of troops and veterans who turn their woobies into everything from smoking jackets to snuggies.

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This guy looks like he’s running for office and, frankly, I want to vote for him. (Facebook photo from The Woobie Smoking Jacket)

1. Camelbacks

If you don’t think the Camelback is an amazing advance in issued military equipment, try to remember what it was like to haul around a canteen on your LBV.

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Me too.

You know what else is great about taking a camelback on a deployment? Or hiking, or boating, or literally anywhere else where you need to carry a lot of water? It doesn’t taste like sh*tty canteen water.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

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But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

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Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany’s newest warships are total duds

The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.

In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.


Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.

The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.

Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive
The Baden-Wu00fcrttemberg, lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.

In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.

During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.

For starters, the new ships are drastically overweight.

The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive
The Baden-Wurttemberg, the lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.

Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.

To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.

In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.

There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.

And you thought the LCS was bad…

MIGHTY MOVIES

Jason Cabell: a profile in passion, courage, and breaking down barriers

Jason Cabell finished his mainstream directorial debut with the film “Running with the Devil,” starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne. The film is inspired by Cabell’s service with the Navy SEALs, dealing with the drug trade.

With completing “Running with the Devil,” Cabell becomes a rare breed in Hollywood and the military- a combat veteran Navy SEAL who wrote and directed his own feature film. The cast thoroughly enjoyed working with him; Laurence Fishburne shares details about his experience on RWTD.

Fishburne: [It was] one of the best experiences I have had in recent years, especially with a new director. Jason is incredibly well-organized and beyond enthusiastic. His script was so clever, fun and simplistic. The best things usually are simple and his simplicity brought an elegance to the story. Jason was just incredibly well prepared, which is one of the most important things a director can be. He has incredible leadership abilities because he knows how to follow. Overall, one of the best experiences I have had in recent years.


Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Cole Hauser, Jason Cabell, Barry Pepper and Laurence Fishburne on set of “Running with the Devil.” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Even with his career highlights in special operations and hard earned success as a filmmaker, he is a salt of the earth type of guy. Cabell comes from humble beginnings having been born in Chicago a couple of years after the 1968 Democratic Convention. The riots took place right across the street from where he lived. His father transferred to Colorado to get away from the inner city.

Cabell was born into a mixed family where he came to realize differences among his friends growing up. His father, an African American, was a World War II vet in the Navy as a 20mm gunner on an ammo ship. He served in the battle of Midway and Guadalcanal. After returning from WWII, he played football at Western Michigan University and tried out for the Chicago White Sox but wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse at the time due to his race. Cabell’s dad met his mom while she was working as a nurse.

Cabell’s mother was first generation from Norway. Her family fled Norway when the Nazis invaded. Cabell recalls her kindness and love throughout his childhood. “My mom always encouraged me and said I could be anything I wanted to if I worked hard enough. We always went to the movies together. That was our thing. She loved Dr. Zhivago and from an early age always took me to the Oscar contenders,” Cabell said.

Cabell’s grandfather was a carpenter and settled the family in Skokie, IL. His grandpa built houses in the Skokie area. When visiting Skokie with his family, Cabell would work for his grandfather and remembers noticing the tattoo on his tenants’ arms from concentration camps, as Skokie was a Jewish hub where many Jewish people had relocated from Europe post WWII.

His parents stressed traditional values: be polite, be courteous, always be present for Sunday dinner, have family values, obey the golden rule, be respectful to elders and others and give respect where respect is due. His parents wanted the children to take pride in their appearance and focus on details like not missing belt loops. Cabell recalled that as a military man, “My father wanted us to make our bed and be disciplined in all things.”

Cabell said his parents taught him to “Take the hard right over the easy wrong. Do what you say you will do. Be reliable. Don’t commit to anything that you can’t do. Be honest with yourself and other people. You have to deliver every time and be a man of your word.” Cabell was always close to his family. Both of his parents have passed but he continues to model their values with his own two children. Cabell pressed forward from his youth in Colorado to the next big adventure- the Navy SEALs.

Cabell had a call to adventure which led to him to the to the SEALs, where he wanted to explore the world. At the time he joined in the late ’80s, no one really knew about the SEALs. He was living in Arizona and saw an Air Show with the U.S. Navy Parachute Team- the Leapfrogs (a group of SEALs). After seeing the Leapfrogs he went to sign up for the Navy SEAL program without knowing how to swim. To learn, he worked with a coach before heading out to the Navy.

Cabell said, “In training you play with your life every day. Things are pretty dynamic, spending 320 days-a-year with your teammates. You constantly ask yourself, would I train and put my life on the line for these people? I got to see and experience the world with these guys.”

He went to well over 100 countries and got to experience places like Iwo Jima, Wake Island, and even stopped to see different atolls from WWII. One of his most memorable training events took place in Monashka Bay in Alaska. The team did a maritime training mission in the area where they experienced a really big weather front but still had to go through with the training mission. Cabell got frostbite from the mission and still has a scar from it.

His foray into the filmmaking business may surprise some people, but he believes he is on the right path. “I always seem to end up where I am supposed to be. If you listen to the universe and head in the right direction, then 1,000 hands will push you along,” Cabell said.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Nicolas Cage and Jason Cabell on set of “Running with the Devil” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

There were not any barriers for him in transitioning from the SEALs to being a filmmaker despite having no film school education. Throughout his journey, Cabell has gained many fans and industry professionals that appreciate his work. One is Andrew Ruf, managing partner at Paradigm Talent Agency, who shares this on working with Cabell:

Ruf: Having exceptional rapport is a two-way street that requires constant collaboration to build a strong, positive relationship. When Jason and I first met, we bonded over shared personal experiences and a mutual passion for actors and storytelling. Jason is a down to earth guy who genuinely has great instincts for the work we do and has an incredibly focused drive. His work ethic is unparalleled.

Cabell led a 77-person combat assault force in Baghdad during the height of the war, which helped him tremendously in life and leadership. His leadership experiences prepared him for leading on set. On the set of “Running with the Devil” in Colombia, they had a 250-person crew, which beckons for a person that knows how to get things done.

He said, “You have to possess extreme discipline to be the best.” Cabell read over 1,000 scripts, studying both the good and bad examples, to get the beat pattern down. His experiences on a SEAL team taught him to learn quickly and taught military skills like, skydiving, flying an airplane, calling for fire, calculus and dive physics. Cabell thinks the military education system is the best education system in the world. Actor, writer, director Peter Facinelli worked with Jason on RWTD and shared his thoughts on the experience.

Facinelli: Jason’s military background was apparent; he is a commander on-set and you are part of his troop. I felt protected and that he would have my back, due to his confidence under stress. I never saw a lack of confidence at any point. Jason won’t let people see him sweat. He is efficient and keeps things moving like clockwork. He keeps the “troops” informed and lets the actors know what is expected from them- a well-run set. I have worked with a lot of directors and he has earned my respect.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Facinelli and Cabell on the set of “Running with the Devil.” (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Cabell got his start on the creative side of the industry by writing scripts. He started small by directing an 0,000 movie, “Smoke Filled Lungs.” He produced a TV movie for MarVista titled “2020,” and just kept learning and moving.

He said, “My father always taught me you can do anything you want if you are willing to sacrifice and put the work in.” He made a lot of sacrifices to begin a new career where reinventing oneself is tough and becomes harder as age increases.

“One of the things nowadays is making excuses and being a victim,” said Cabell. “People fetishize being a victim in our culture as opposed to being a success. No one will give you anything. You have to work for it. You have to work beyond exhaustion and failure, or you will never succeed.”

He believes there are many people that are victims from societal pressures. He said, “To succeed you need to stay away from negative people that crap on your dreams. If you have the talent and are doing the right things, then keep doing it.” Cabell has never been the fastest or strongest but has found a way to grind it out.

Producer and executive Lauren Craig also experienced working on set with Cabell.

Craig: I worked with him from the beginning to the end of production. He was professional, open to ideas and it was easy to follow through on what he wanted because he was so direct with his vision. Jason found a way to separate who he is as a SEAL and who he is as a filmmaker, which greatly benefited the production. He focused on his vision and story and tried to make it as universal as possible… Jason was always trying to boost the morale of everyone on set. We were in the snow, desert, and urban areas. No matter the situation, he was always encouraging and trying to bring everyone up. Jason is the consummate professional; we were all on a team together even though he was the director. He made us feel like we were a part of something bigger.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Jason Cabell on set in the Sandia Mountains (NM) with Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne and AP Lauren Craig. (Photo courtesy of: Jason Cabell)

Fishburne had positive insights into Cabell’s directing abilities.

Fishburne: A little bit of Eastwood comes through in Jason’s directing. His enthusiasm is similar to John Singleton’s enthusiasm. John was a first-time director when I worked with him. Jason’s experience as a veteran plays into his abilities as a director. He has a young man’s spirit with an older man’s wisdom. Jason is the kind of guy that will tell you he was afraid of something and he is also wise enough not to show it. Showing fear will not get you through it; moving through your fear is what truly helps you.

Fishburne provides a final thought on Cabell’s trajectory within the next 5 years. He said, “I will see Jason on set working somewhere and calling “Action,” saying “Very good, Mr. Fishburne, can we do another one?”

With the success of the film that has such a high level cast, the continued work ethic of Cabell and the agency behind him, Ruf is highly positive on Cabell’s upward trajectory.

Ruf: Jason is a very promising artist in Hollywood. I can see him being one of the highly sought after directors/writers in this industry in both film and television and running his own production company. His adaptability and leadership abilities will allow him to reach new heights in whichever field he decides to pursue but his passion for entertainment is certain and this is where I see him scoring. He is incredibly talented and knowledgeable when it comes to what the audience wants to see on screen, and we, here at Paradigm, look forward to what he has in store next.

This article originally appeared on Annenberg Media. Follow @AnnenbergMedia on Twitter.


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