How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Air Transat Flight 236 was on its routine route from Toronto, bound for Lisbon, Portugal. It was a day like any other for the experienced crew – at least it started off like a normal day. By the end of it, 306 people would be saved from extreme danger, and two pilots would set a world record, all while pretty much arriving at their destination.


Flight TS236 was a late-night flight from Toronto to Lisbon, taking off just before 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 4, 2001. It took off without incident, fully fueled and flew pretty much normally for the first four hours of its flight. But what the pilots didn’t know was the fuel line to their number two engine had ruptured and was leaking fuel the entire time. Still, everything on the instruments read normal – until they didn’t.

The first sign of trouble came with a high oil pressure warning and a low oil temperature warning. With there being no obvious cause of the oil warnings, the seasoned pilots determined it must be a false warning. They reported the situation but continued with the flight. An hour later, they got another warning. This time, the plane was warning them of a fuel imbalance. Easily remedied, the pilots began to transfer fuel from the left wing to the right, pouring the fuel right out through the leak.

Ten minutes later, they radioed a fuel emergency.

At the controls of TS236 were probably the best pilots to be in this situation. First Officer Dirk de Jager was just 28 years old had nearly 5,000 hours at the stick of an airplane, and hundreds of those were with the Airbus 330 he was copiloting. Captain Robert Piché was 48 and had more than 16,000 hours in an aircraft. Luckily for everyone aboard, Capt. Piché was also an experienced glider pilot. He would need those skills in the coming hours.

Five hours after taking off from Toronto, engine #2 on Air Transat Flight 236 flamed out due to lack of fuel. Three minutes later, its other engine flamed out. To make matters worse, without their main power source, the plane’s flaps, brakes, and spoilers were without power. Falling at a rate of 2,000 feet every second, the pilots reasoned they had a good 15 minutes or so before they would have to ditch in the ocean. But luck was on their side, they were coming up on Lajes Field Air Base in Portugal.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Capt. Piché actually had to do a number of turns to lower his altitude before coming into Lajes Field. Almost seven hours after taking off, the plane touched down, and it touched down in a rough way. With no brakes, the landing gear locked up, the tired deflated and the landing gear took massive damage from the impact. A number of the passengers and crew sustained some injuries, but everyone was alive – and in Portugal.

TS236 glided powerlessly and with no fuel for almost 20 minutes, flying some 75 miles, setting the world record for the longest glider flight. The Airbus 330 Piché landed that day is still in service and is now known as the “Azores Glider.”

popular

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The Thrush 710P aircraft is a perfectly capable — and kind of hum drum — agriculture crop duster. It carries a large load of chemicals and is easy to maintain and fly in rural conditions.


Which makes it a great plane.

But some mad engineers looked at crop dusters and wondered what would happen if the payload was changed from pesticides and fertilizers to bombs and missiles.

That’s how the Iomax Archangel was made. It’s a lightweight, cheap to maintain, easy to fly, deadly strike aircraft currently in service with the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

Iomax buys the crop dusters from the Thrush aircraft factory in Albany, Georgia, and upgrades them to military specifications in a North Carolina facility.

Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.

The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.

And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.

The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.

Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

The UAE military has doubled down on the Archangel, purchasing a batch of them in 2014. The UAE had previously purchased 24 Archangels in 2009 that had been modified from Air Tractor 802 aircraft, but Air Tractor refused to make requested changes to the basic aircraft and Iomax started using the Thrush 710P instead of the AT-802.

The Philippines also bought Archangels modified from the 710P as replacements for its aging OV-10 Bronco fleet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Buried in a casino wall, a dark secret from Romania’s Communist past

BUCHAREST — When she was growing up in a small town in southern Romania, Laura Voicila was stigmatized by her father’s past.

In 1949, as the communists tightened their grip on the Eastern European country, Nicolaie Voicila, 17, was arrested and later sentenced to four years of hard labor for “plotting against the social order.”

His crime was joining a literary club at which members discussed the relatively new communist regime led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and hoped it would disappear.


The high school student was one of the thousands the communists incarcerated in prisons and labor camps after World War II, often simply because they had fallen afoul of the communist regime.

There are no universally accepted figures, but a 2006 presidential commission established to study the communist dictatorship said more than 600,000 Romanians were sentenced for political crimes between 1945 and 1989. Thousands died from beatings, illness, exhaustion, cold, or lack of food or medicine.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

The secret note with political prisoners’ names written in charcoal that was found inside the casino wall.

Early Days Of Communism

Andrei Muraru, a historian and adviser to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, told RFE/RL that in the early 1950s some 100,000 prisoners were sentenced to hard labor on a project called the Black Sea Canal, a 70-kilometer waterway connecting the Danube to the Black Sea. It was also known as the “Canal of Death.”

Voicila toiled there, transporting heavy loads of rock before he was sent to work restoring a casino, an architectural monument to art nouveau in the nearby port of Constanta that had been bombed by the Germans during the war.

He didn’t talk much about those experiences after his release — actually being forbidden from talking about his imprisonment — and his fear of discussing those hard times lingered even after communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ousted and executed during the 1989 Romanian Revolution.

But he did tell family members that political prisoners had scribbled notes and buried them in the walls of the casino.

“When I was growing up, Dad told us: When they renovate the casino, go there and find the documents,” Laura Voicila told RFE/RL.

“Under communism, we discussed things very quietly and never in public,” she said. “Dad listened to Radio Free Europe and I would say ‘Dad, what are they saying in Germany (RFE was based in Munich from 1950-1995)? I even remember the jingle [that went with the news].”

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Nicolaie Voicila in the 1960s after his release from prison.

Secret Note

At school in the town of Gorgota, Laura had top grades, but her father’s past meant she suffered discrimination.

“My teacher told me: ‘You should be the class leader, but we can’t make you one,” she said. “[My father] told me to study and to leave the country if I wanted a chance [in life].”

Laura kept the story about the hidden notes in the back of her mind, until one day in May this year.

Her mother called saying she had seen on the news that restorers had unearthed a scrap of paper hidden in a wall of the casino that was signed by political prisoners.

“When my mom heard a note had been found, she said ‘You have to go and see it.’ She was moved to tears. It was a moment of moral reparation for her [after nearly 70 years]. People saw [the note] was there and it was real,” she told RFE/RL.

In mid-May, after Romania lifted a state of emergency imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Laura went with Apollon Cristodulo — the son of Ion Cristodulo, an architect and political prisoner in charge of restoring the casino — to Constanta to see the note firsthand.

The note — a scrap of paper torn from a cement sack with the names of 17 political prisoners written in charcoal and dated December 31, 1951 — is not much in itself, were it not for the dire circumstances that it was created under and its historical importance.

“It was found rolled up in a ball by a stained-glass window restorer. He was looking for some old shards of glass in the wall and he came across the paper. He felt there was something [special] about it,” Apollon Cristodulo said on July 23.

“It was miraculous that this note was found,” he said. “I wrote about the [hidden note at the] casino many years ago, but nobody believed it; they thought it was just a story, a legend…. But now everything I’ve written has come true.”

Cristodulo’s father died in 1991 aged 66, his health damaged by the harsh years of detention.

“His heart, liver, and lungs were all shot. He died after his fourth heart attack,” Cristodulo told RFE/RL.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Laura Voicila and Apollon Cristodulo outside the casino in Constanta on May 19.

Romania’s Political Prisons

Muraru, the former director of the governmental Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, secured the first ever prosecutions of former prison commanders in Romania.

Alexandru Visinescu, who was in charge of the notorious Ramnicu Sarat prison, was sentenced in 2016 to 20 years in jail for the deaths of 12 prisoners at the institution. One year later, Ioan Ficior received the same term for crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of 103 prisoners at the Periprava labor camp. Both have since died serving their sentences.

Muraru said the fact that the detainees managed to write the note was remarkable.

“This is a rare piece of testimony because prisoners didn’t have access to paper or pencils, but…there was less supervision and the presence of ordinary workers and more humane figures who could provide them with something to write with, and that made it possible for this scrap of paper to be secreted away and put [in the wall],” he told RFE/RL.

“It took decades for the traumatic memory of communism to finally settle,” he added.

Alexandra Toader, the current director of the institute said: “After 70 years, we have material confirmation of what happened [at the casino].”

She said the Securitate communist secret police conducted excavations at the casino in 1986 and may have found other documents which were archived, something Cristodulo also thinks is likely.

“We have 26 kilometers of Securitate archives, a sea of documents; but I’m not sure whether they are digitized or documented,” Toader told RFE/RL.

The institute will hold an exhibition at the casino “dedicated exclusively to this episode,” she said. “Hopefully we can obtain objects they used, letters they wrote to their families, their tools.”

Researchers are investigating the estimated 100 prisoners who worked on the casino, tracking down biographical information to try to find out what happened to them.

“Most prisoners were there for the flimsiest of reasons and they were there for years on end regardless of their age,” Toader said. “It was a pretext to get rid of the so-called ‘enemies of the people.'”

Cristodulo told RFE/RL that the documents about the Black Sea Canal are still classified by the secret service.

“There were 100,000 people who carried out forced labor…the documents need to be declassified,” he said.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Architect Radu Cornescu, Apollon Cristodulo, and Laura Voicila (left to right) at the shell wall inside the casino where the secret political prisoner note was found.

Harsh Conditions

Nicolaie Voicila, who died in 1999 at the age of 66, dreamed of becoming an architect but the communists wouldn’t let him complete his education. He managed to qualify as a sub-engineer and became the manager of a cement site, forever inspired by the work he had done with the architects on the casino.

But he was traumatized his entire life by his past as a prisoner.

“He wasn’t allowed to speak or write down what happened and he thought they’d come and get him, so he had a lack of trust,” Laura Voicila said. “He didn’t trust people. He thought maybe a neighbor would find out about his past and he’d be in trouble.”

He did tell us that when he worked on the canal, prisoners were beaten “and others [were forced] to eat feces,” she said.

“Prisoners had to transport rocks and they’d walk along a 30-40 centimeter piece of wood over the canal with a wheelbarrow full of rubble. And if a prisoner fell off, nobody bothered to rescue him,” Laura Voicila said.

“There are many human bones buried in that canal,” she said.
Muraru added that it is known as “the Romanian Siberia.”

Disappointment

The collapse of communism failed to bring the changes that Nicolaie Voicila and many others had hoped for.

“He realized the old communists had come to power and he lost hope he’d ever see real democracy,” the 42-year-old Laura Voicila, who runs a family fruit and vegetable supply business, said.

“He saw miners attacking anti-government protesters in 1990 and he said: ‘You see? People are being beaten and killed. It’s still the same old people.'”

It’s a sentiment shared by Paul Andreescu, the head of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Constanta.

Andreescu was a political prisoner for five years because he joined a youth organization that wanted to “free Romania from the Russians and their demands, such as making Russian a mandatory language at school and learning the history of the Soviet Union,” he told RFE/RL.

“We are free, but far from what we dreamed of and what we had hoped for in 1989.”

As head of the Constanta branch, Andreescu said: “It’s very important we have this proof [of the note from the casino], even if there are just a few names. They show the ugly past of the Romanian people, when people had to perform forced labor under all kinds of conditions.”

He added: “They are witnesses, even if they are buried in a wall.”

A Warning

Toader says it’s important that Romania knows its past.

“This subject is still largely unknown in schools and books, and detainees didn’t speak of their detention; even their memoirs are truncated out of fear or an attempt to forget,” she said.

“This is very relevant for the young generation, as some are nostalgic about communism,” she said in an interview at her Bucharest office.

“Extremes can’t be allowed, neither left nor right. The rule of law must prevail.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A look at one of the most inspiring speeches in history

Throughout World War II, Winston Churchill gave a number of speeches that galvanized the British public in the face of extreme hardship and convinced them to keep fighting that good fight against Adolf and his cronies.

Perhaps the most famous speech Churchill ever gave was the one he spent the longest time agonising over — “This was their finest hour,” where he stated in part,


What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The speech was delivered just a month after Churchill became Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was reeling from the news that France had fallen (effectively leaving the British Empire to fight the Nazi war machine alone, until Hitler turned on the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Yanks joined in about six months after that). The speech had to somehow rally the entire country during what Churchill would eventually come to call “The Darkest Hour.” This is a goal the speech is generally accepted as having accomplished and then some, with Churchill’s words deeply resonating with the British public. In particular, Churchill’s sentiments about the British Isles standing strong in the face of what appeared to be impossible odds.

THEIR FINEST HOUR speech by Winston Churchill [BEST SOUND]

www.youtube.com

The speech, which lasted around 36 minutes, was first given in private to Parliament on June 18, 1940, and later to the British public via radio and it’s noted that Churchill was making revisions to it until quite literally the last possible moment. For example, when the Churchill Archives Centre dug up the very same copy of the speech Churchill used when he addressed Parliament, they found that it was covered in random annotations, some of which appear to have been made leading right up to just before he gave the speech.

Impressively, some of these literal last minutes additions ended up being amongst the most memorable lines from it. For example, the line “All shall be restored” which was noted as inspiring many a Britain to do their bit for the greater good of Europe, was a line Churchill scribbled in the margins of the speech when he sat on a bench in the House of Commons waiting to be called to speak.

It’s also noted that Churchill simply winged it at some points, making up some of the lines in the speech on the fly. This was something that was facilitated by Churchill’s insistence on printing the speech in blank verse format, which some experts believe allowed Churchill to read and visualise the speech as a piece of poetry, allowing him to better improvise and more comfortably find a natural rhythm when speaking.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Winston Churchill

Of course, no matter how good something is, even in the days before internet comments there’s always someone to criticize and, despite “This was their finest hour” being considered one of the finest oratory performances ever given, Churchill’s own secretary, Sir Jock Colville, was wildly unimpressed. Among other things, he noted in his diary that the speech was too long and that Churchill sounded tired when he read it. Given that the speech is often ranked alongside things like the Gettysburg Address, Sir Colville’s opinion evidently wasn’t one shared by many others, however.

Finally, because we kind of have to mention this, when Churchill delivered the speech to the British public via radio, he reportedly did so while smoking a comically large cigar which he kept burning in his mouth for virtually the entire time he was speaking…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

A brave Titanic officer somehow survived to rescue troops from Dunkirk

On Apr. 15, 1912, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After helping as many passengers and crew as he could into lifeboats, he refused an order to escape on one of the final boats to make it off the ship. As Titanic’s bridge began to sink, he attempted to dive into the water and to the safety of one of the crew’s collapsible boats.

Except the Titanic sucked him down with her.


How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912

(NARA)

Lightoller was no landsman. He had been at sea for decades and, as a result, he’d seen and heard everything. Titanic wasn’t even his first shipwreck, but it was the first time a sinking ship tried to take the officer down with it. As a grating pulled him to the bottom, the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean finally reached the ship’s hot boilers, and they exploded. The force propelled Lightoller to the surface and to the safety of his fellow crew’s boat.

He was the last Titanic survivor rescued by the RMS Carpathia the next day. He was also the most senior officer to survive the shipwreck. Later, during World War I, Lt. Lightoller would take command of many ships in the Royal Navy, leaving the service at the war’s end. By the time World War II rolled around, Lightoller was just a civilian raising chickens. His seaborne days confined to a personal yacht.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

The Titanic’s officers. Lightoller is in the back row, second from the left.

While he did survey the German coast in 1939 for the Royal Navy while disguised as an elderly couple on vacation, his fighting days were long gone. But the very next year, the British Army in France was on the brink of ruin, as 400,000 Allied troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy could not reach them, and they were slowly being annihilated by the Nazi forces that surrounded them. Operation Dynamo was on.

The Royal Navy ordered Lightoller to take his ship to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take control and ship off to Dunkirk to rescue as many Tommies as possible. But Lightoller wasn’t having it. He would take his ship to Dunkirk himself. The 66-year-old and his son departed for France as soon as they could in a 52×12-foot ship with a carrying capacity of 21.

The Lightollers picked up 130 British soldiers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New guided missile frigates will be ready for war by 2025

The Navy is now strengthening and extending conceptual design deals with shipbuilders tasked with refining structures and presenting options for a new Navy multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate — slated to be ready for open warfare on the world’s oceans by the mid 2020s.

Navy envisions the Frigate, FFG(X), able to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat, according to service statements.


In early 2018, Naval Sea Systems Command chose five shipbuilders to advance designs and technologies for the ship, awarding development deals to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.

The service has now modified these existing deals, first announced in February 2018, to enable the shipbuilders to continue their conceptual design work and “mature their proposed ship design to meet the FFG(X) System Specification,” according to the deal modifications.

The Navy expects that new weapons and sensors will better enable the ship to destroy swarming small boat attacks, support carrier strike groups, conduct dis-aggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile, and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare, service statements specify.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Lockeheed Martin’s conceptual design for the FFG(X).

“These Conceptual Design awards will reduce FFG(X) risk by enabling industry to mature their designs to meet the approved FFG(X) capability requirements. The Navy has not changed its FFG(X) capability requirements,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Service Command, told Warrior Maven.

The Navy hopes to expedite development to award a production contract in 2020 and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. For this reason, bidders were required to submit designs that have been “demonstrated at sea” and already paired with a shipyard for rapid production, according to the previous service solicitation.

“The Conceptual Design effort will inform the final specifications that will be used for the Detail Design and Construction Request for Proposal that will deliver the required capability for FFG(X),” the Navy’s contract announcement said.

Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.

“The FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking (ISRT) efforts,” Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) documents said.

The “blue force sensor” language is explained by Navy developers as integral to the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept which, as evidenced by its name, seeks to enable a more dispersed and networked attack fleet suited for dis-aggregated operations as needed.

Also, by extension, longer range sensors will be needed to identify enemy attackers now equipped with long-range precision strike weapons and enable command and control across vast distances of open water and coastal patrol areas.

The Navy vision for the ship further specifies this, saying the “FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”

Along these lines, the Navy’s FFG(X) Request for Proposal identifies a need for a netted sensor technology called Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).

CEC is an integral aspect of key emerging ship-defense technologies aimed at “netting” sensors and radar technologies in order to better identify and destroy approaching threats such as anti-ship missiles, drones and enemy aircraft.

“CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information such that the superset of this data is available to all participating CEC units,” a Raytheon statement said.

Current analysis is no longer restricted to the idea of loosely basing the “hull design” upon the LCS, as was previously the case, Navy officials say.

Designs for the ship no longer merely envision a more “survivable” variant of an LCS. Previous FFG(X) requirements analyses conducted by a Navy Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team examined the feasibility of making the ship even more lethal and survivable than what previous plans had called for, Navy officials said.

Existing plans for the Frigate have considered “space armor” configurations, a method of segmenting and strengthening ship armor in specified segments to enable the ship to continue operations in the event that one area is damaged by enemy attack. Discussions for Frigate technologies have included plans for an MH-60R helicopter, Fire Scout drone and ship defense technologies such as SeaRAM.

The Navy already plans for the new Frigate to be integrated with anti-submarine surface warfare technologies including sonar, an over-the-horizon missile and surface-to-surface weapons, which could include a 30mm gun and closer-in missiles such as the HELLFIRE. An over-the-horizon missile chosen by the Navy for the LCS is the Naval Strike Missile by Kongsberg-Raytheon.

Navy plans for the FFG(X) also call for advanced electronic warfare tech along with both variable depth and lightweight sonar systems.

The new ship may also have seven 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats for short combat or expeditionary missions such as visiting, searching and boarding other ships.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.

In addition, Navy developers explain that the ship will be configured in what’s called a “modular” fashion, meaning it will be engineered to accept and integrate new technologies and weapons as they emerge. It certainly seems realistic that a new, even more survivable Frigate might be engineered with an additional capacity for on-board electrical power such that it can accommodate stronger laser weapons as they become available.

The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. This strategic approach, in development for several years now, emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed to respond to fast-emerging near-peer threats.

Part of the rationale is to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increases its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against emerging high-tech adversaries.

Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed. Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Kim Jong Un dying may not be a good thing

As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.

To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.


Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin

(Kremlin)

Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant

While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.

While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.

As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump

(White House Photo)

Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war

As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.

Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

There seems to be no clear line of succession

While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.

While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)

A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button

If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.

A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.

A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea

(WikiMedia Commons)

A refugee crises in the making

Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.

In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.

(UNC)

The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.

If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The devil you know

There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.

In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

That time US sailors got a bounty for capturing a Nazi ship

Prior to America’s official entry into World War II, the U.S. Navy was involved in “short of war” operations against Nazi Germany. In some cases this involved escorting merchant ships that were steaming to help supply England.


Tensions between the U.S and Germany increased after a Nazi submarine fired on the destroyer USS Greer (DD 145).

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record
Theodore E. Chandler, the commanding officer of USS Omaha during the Odenwald incident. (US Navy photo)

But, as Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out in the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the U.S. was still operating under neutrality legislation. So, when they did stuff to Nazi vessels, they needed to have some legal grounds outside of a war declaration.

On Nov. 6, 1941, the light cruiser USS Omaha (CL 4) and the destroyer USS Somers (DD 381) were on patrol in the South Atlantic looking for a German raider. Two months had passed since the Greer had been fired on, and since then, the destroyer Kearny (DD 432) had been torpedoed and the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) had been sunk.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record
USS Omaha (CL 4) in 1943. (US Navy photo)

The Omaha and Somers then came across a ship claiming to be an American merchant vessel out of Philadelphia. The interaction with the vessel drew suspicions, and the Omaha, under the command of Capt. Theodore E. Chandler, ordered the vessel to stop. A boarding party came aboard just as scuttling charges went off. The boarding party kept the ship from sinking, and determined its true identity as the German blockade runner Odenwald.

The ship was taken to Puerto Rico, where the cargo – over 6,200 tons, including 103 truck tires and lots of rubber – and the vessel were sold off. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, the Navy justified the intercept by claiming that the Odenwald was a suspected slave trader.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record
The Navy prize crew on board the Odenwald. Each of them received $3,000 in 1947. (US Navy photo)

In 1947, the Odenwald’s owners sued the Navy over the seizure. It didn’t pan out for them at all. The boarding party and prize crew assigned to the vessel, though, made out big-time: $3,000 each. Crew on board the Omaha and Somers got two months of pay and allowances.

That’s a prize worth as much as $34,000 today.

Chandler, though, never got that bonus. Although he was promoted to rear admiral, in January 1945, his flagship, the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA 28), was hit by kamikazes off Iwo Jima. While assisting in fighting fires, his lungs were badly injured, and he died of his wounds soon after.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Radicalized In Pakistan

The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

‘We Were All Scared’

Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

U.S.-Led Invasion

The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

Negotiating An End To War

In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

Road Map For Afghanistan

The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

Red Lines

The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The Army is accelerating its efforts to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022, and hypersonic weapon prototype by fiscal 2023.

For starters, the Army is fast-tracking the development and procurement of the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, or MMHEL system, said Lt. Gen L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition.

The MMHEL is a 50-kilowatt laser retrofit to a modified Stryker vehicle, designed to bolster the Army’s maneuver short-range air defense capabilities, according to officials with the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.


The Army is slated to field a four-vehicle battery by late fiscal 2022, Thurgood said. The new system was meant to be maneuverable, while protecting brigade combat teams from unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery, and mortars.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

A 5-kilowatt laser sits on a Stryker armored vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by Monica K. Guthrie)

Further, the Army will consolidate efforts with the other services and agencies to help improve directed-energy technology, the general added. While the Army is executing a demonstration of 100 kW high-energy laser technology on a larger vehicle platform, it is working with partners to exceed those power levels.

Hypersonic weapons

In addition to the MMHEL, the Army is expected to field a four-vehicle battery of long-range hypersonic weapon systems the following fiscal year.

Four modified heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTTs, will be equipped with a launcher. Each vehicle will carry two hypersonic weapon systems — totaling eight prototype rounds, Thurgood said.

“The word hypersonic has become synonymous with a particular type of missile,” he explained. “Generally, hypersonics means a missile that flies greater than Mach 5 … that is not on ballistic trajectory and maneuvers.”

The hypersonic system will also rely on the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen, for command and control.

“Within the Army’s modernization plan, there is multi-domain, and there is the Multi-Domain Task Force. Part of that task force [includes] a strategic-fires battalion and in that strategic fires battalion [will be] this [hypersonic] weapons platform,” Thurgood said.

“It is not long-range artillery. It’s a strategic weapon that will be used … for strategic outcomes,” he added.

Residual combat capability

Overall, the MMHEL and hypersonic systems will both move into the hands of soldiers as an experimental prototype with a residual combat capability, Thurgood said.

“When I say experimental prototype with residual combat capability, and as we build the battery of hypersonics … that unit will have a combat capability,” Thurgood said. “Those eight rounds are for them to use in combat if the nation decides they want to apply that in a combat scenario. The same [applies] for directed energy.”

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

US Army rocket artillery.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

In addition to providing an immediate combat capability, soldiers will have an opportunity to learn the new equipment and understand the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” required to use each system during combat, the general added.

Further, the Army will also receive valuable feedback to help shape potential broader production of each system after they transition to a program of record.

The Army has already initiated the contract process to develop the prototype hypersonic systems. Senior leaders plan to award vendors by August, Thurgood said.

With both systems, “what we’re trying to create [is an] an opportunity for a decision, based on actual use by a soldier,” he said. “Does this thing do … what we needed it to do? Do we want to continue and make it better, or do we want to have other choices?”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard leadership is sounding off about the shutdown

Thirty-three days into the US government shutdown, the only military branch affected has missed one paycheck and is on the verge of losing its next.

The Coast Guard and its roughly 41,000 active-duty members are part of the Homeland Security Department, which wasn’t funded before the government shut down last month. The other branches are part of the Defense Department, which is fully funded.


Officials found a way to pay Coast Guard members on Dec. 31, 2018, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019. Legislative action is needed this week to make sure a check comes on Jan. 30, 2019. Pay and benefits for Coast Guard civilian workers and retirees are also on the line.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Evans, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami rescue swimmer, conducts a free-fall deployment from a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter east of Miami Beach, June 6, 2017.

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodal)

‘We are in uncharted waters’

Some Coast Guard operations, like safety boardings and license services, have been curtailed, but missions related to saving lives and national security continue. Now the service’s current and former commandants have weighed in, rebuking the inaction prolonging the shutdown.

In a video posted Jan. 22, 2019, commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members that he, the service’s leadership, and the public “stand in awe of your continued dedication to duty and resilience and that of your families.”

“We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You as members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder this burden,” Schultz said.

Schultz said he was heartened by assistance being officer to service members. “But ultimately I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome, Aug. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)

Paul Zukunft, who retired in June 2018 as an admiral after his four-year term as commandant, was more blunt in a column for the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine titled “Breaking Faith with America’s Coast Guard.”

Despite the service’s extensive and varied responsibilities and continuous operations, the Coast Guard is often overlooked by the public and by congressional appropriators, Zukunft writes.

“To add insult to injury, the Coast Guard is no longer ‘doing more with less,’ but ‘doing all with nothing,'” Zukunft says. “I have served shoulder to shoulder with our service members during previous government shutdowns and listened to the concerns of our all-volunteer force. This current government shutdown is doing long-term harm and is much more than pablum to feed the 24-hour news cycle.”

“We are now in uncharted waters given its duration and the hardship it’s causing, particularly at many Coast Guard installations that reside in high-cost communities along the US coastline where service personnel already live paycheck-to-paycheck to pay the bills and meet childcare costs that can exceed ,000 per month for one child.”

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

‘We can only take it day by day’

For the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard — about one-third of the active-duty force — base pay is considered to be at or just under the poverty level, three former master chief petty officers said in an op-ed, adding that most of them don’t have the resources to live without pay “over any extended period.”

“We chose to make some sacrifices when we signed up or married into the Coast Guard,” Coast Guard spouse Susan Bourassa told Military Times. “We’re proud to be there. But part of making those sacrifices is that we thought there was a paycheck we could count on, through thick or thin.”

Communities have rallied to support Coast Guard families — including in Alameda, California, home to four of the service’s new national-security cutters.

In January 2019, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway of everything from fresh fruit to diapers. The cutter Bertholf and its more than 100 crew members left Alameda for a months-long Pacific deployment. The Defense Department will reimburse the Coast Guard for the mission, but the personnel won’t be paid until the shutdown ends.

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit charity that assists the service, had increased the value of and expanded eligibility for interest-free loans it was offering.

Mutual Assistance is partnering with the Red Cross to distribute those funds, Schultz said in January 2019. CGMA has “secured sufficient funds to put money in your hands to bridge through your personal financial challenges,” Schultz said in his video message. “That is your fund. That is your safety net.”

Ray’s letter said the service was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”

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

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This is what happened to the real ‘Black Hawk Down’ pilot after his rescue

Mike Durant is a prime example of an individual who took a terrible situation and turned it into a positive life experience.


He’s the real “Black Hawk Down” pilot shot down and captured during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Today, he credits his harrowing ordeal for his success in business and his personal life.

Durant — a young chief warrant officer at the time — was part of a Special Operations aviation unit deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S. forces during the peacekeeping mission there. The country was ripping itself apart by clans and militia groups vying for power after strongman, Mohamed Siad Barre’s downfall.

His unit’s objective was to capture Somali clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid and to provide security to relief organizations trying to aid the starving locals. As a result, Durant’s team had several successful operations, capturing about two dozen warlords.

Related: Hussein Farrah Aidid left the Marine Corps to become a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid

But everything went pear shaped on October 3, 1993, while providing air support to the troops hunting Aidid’s senior militia leaders. A man on a rooftop fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Durant’s slow-moving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter causing it to spin toward the earth from 70 feet in the air.

“In my mind, I died,” Durant told National Geographic. “When we crashed, I was knocked unconscious, and I think psychologically that was the end for me.”

Durant had been trained at survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but nothing could compare to the real experience. He’s thankful to Delta Force operators and Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for sacrificing their lives while attempting to rescue him. He almost suffered the same fate but was taken prisoner instead.

“I have tried to raise the bar on myself, elevate my game, do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that experience,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that stray outside the lines for me, but I did them because I realize I already have a second chance, I’m not going to have a third. So, I’m going to take full advantage of what’s been offered to me.”

Watch Durant explain his mission, captivity, and how it turned his life around:

National Geographic, YouTube
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