The AN/SPY-1 system, more popularly known as “Aegis,” is arguably the best air-defense system sent out to sea. It has been exported to South Korea, Japan, Spain, and Australia. But the U.S. Navy has not been sitting still with the design.
The AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar is planned for use on the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
According to the Raytheon web site, this modular radar system is 30-times more sensitive than the SPY-1D used on the current Arleigh Burke-class vessels. This system can also handle 30 times as many targets as the SPY-1D. The system also used commercially-available computer processors in the x86 family pioneered by Intel.
The AMDR was tested July 27, 2017, by the Navy. According to a Navy release, the system successfully tracked the target — a simulated medium-range ballistic missile — or “MRBM.” According to the Department of Defense, MRBMs have a range between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers, or about 600 to 1,800 miles.
Perhaps the most notable missile in this category is China’s DF-21, which supposedly has a carrier-killer version.
“AN/SPY-6 is the nation’s most advanced radar and will be the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy’s surface combatants for many decades,” said Aegis program official Capt. Seiko Okano.
The first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Harvey C. Barnum (DDG 124), is slated to enter service in 2024. These ships will have a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical launch systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64 cells) capable of firing RIM-66 Standard SM-2 missiles, RIM-174 SM-6 missiles, RIM-161 SM-3 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.
It’ll also be armed with a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters.
You can see a video from Raytheon about AMDR below.
In pretrial hearings Aug. 22, the soldier’s defense team petitioned to remove Gen. Robert Abrams from the case for referring charges to a general court-martial “without considering defense objections to and comments on the report of the preliminary hearing officer” and for burning letters of support for the defense.
Bergdahl’s defense team also says Abrams “faced improper conflicts” as the senior military assistant to then-Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel. The general was responsible for briefing Hagel on Bergdahl’s health and reintegration processes.
While the prosecution maintained the letters weren’t evidence and that Abrams shouldn’t be forced to testify, the judge ruled against those claims.
The Army alleges Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009 where the Taliban captured him and held him in captivity until his release in 2014. The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl’s return in exchange for several high-ranking Taliban insurgents held in Guantanamo Bay.
Bergdahl faces two charges from the Army; Article 85 “desertion” and Article 99 “misbehavior before the enemy.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers have tried before to prove the military mishandled his case, included citing an October statement from Sen. John McCain who said if Bergdahl wasn’t punished, he’d launch a Senate probe. The defense argues McCain’s statements improperly impacted the public perception of the case and violated Bergdahl’s Constitutional due process rights.
The Army Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison reportedly asked McCain to “back off,” saying his statement could allow Sgt. Bergdahl’s defense to show unlawful command influence in his case.
The defense believes the events are part of a pattern of Army meddling in the case, and that the charges should be thrown out or that Bergdahl should receive no punishment if convicted.
This latest revelation, combined with Bergdahl’s attempts to join the French Foreign Legion and his time aboard an Alaskan fishing boat, shows what the prosecution alleges is a “psychological disposition toward adventure.”
Sgt. Bergdahl’s trial is scheduled to start in February 2017.
World of Warcraft, one of the world’s most successful RPGs, is releasing a new expansion where an army of demons invades the world, forcing heroes to fight beside a new demon hunter class to prevent the coming apocalypse.
“World of Warcraft: Legion” is a highly anticipated expansion with tons of changes to gameplay, class structure, professions, and more. Many players have already experienced pieces of the expansion by taking advantage of the pre-order perks. Since there’s so much going on, we’ll just give you a quick overview of new gameplay in Legion.
Legion offers gamers the chance to play as the new hero class, demon hunters — cursed elves who consume the blood and powers of demons to make themselves more powerful.
Drinking the blood grants them the ability to fly around the battlefield, shoot energy from their eyes, grow spiked armor, and explode in waves of fire.
New class abilities for all heroes and artifact weapons help make players feel truly powerful even as they’re facing off against demons larger than most buildings.
A new quest zone, the Broken Isles, has Alliance and Horde heroes facing off against the Legion in a hunt for the “Pillars of Creation” and the Tomb of Sargeras. Sargeras is the creator of the Legion who the demons are trying to revive.
To prevent it, heroes will have to fight through the Broken Isles, attempting to save mortally wounded dragons and topple invading armies to prevent a living hell from consuming the world.
The best thing about questing in the Broken Isles is that Blizzard made the new zones scale to the player’s level. So no matter what order a player fights through the new areas, the enemies there are powerful enough to pose a challenge without feeling impossible.
Players will get access to class halls where they can do quest lines unique to their character type.
Demon Hunters are marshaling armies against the Legion. Druids hunt down nightmares that have invaded their dreamscape. Mages seek to rebuild an elite order of battle mages, the Tirisgarde.
When players want to take some time away from the fight against the Burning Legion to play against each other, they’ll find that class changes have made player versus player combat much easier to enter.
The new, lighter spell books of Legion make it easy to build a toolbar that works for both PVP and player versus enemy content.
Grab the game today from battle.net to go and beat back the vanguard of the Legion. The full invasion comes on August 30.
The Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder might just have been one of the least pilot-friendly aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and that’s saying something, considering that MiG fighters were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor pilot visibility. The very first supersonic bomber to enter service with the Soviet Air Force, around 311 models were produced with a number going to Iraq and Libya as part of large export deals brokered by the USSR in the 1970s. Not only did the Blinder look like something out of a space-age comic book, it seemingly functioned like one as well. I mean, at least with how its aircrew entered the aircraft. Its performance characteristics were anything but next-generation, far from what the Soviets had hoped to accomplish with such an aircraft.
The Tu-22 flew with a pilot, a navigator and a weapons officer as its full complement. Each crewmember sat in front of the other, and had to be “lifted” into the aircraft using a motorized chair. Unluckily for them, they were also firmly strapped to downward-firing K-22 ejection seats, which could not be used at altitudes below 820 feet. The runway handling dynamics of the aircraft were atrocious, leading to numerous mishaps without the Blinder even leaving the ground. But, at least it looked cool, right?
We would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone walked into a room and said, “You know what the world needs more of? Motorcycles with miniguns on them!”
Did the people blessed with this kind of wisdom previously work as Sonny Barger’s life coach? It certainly seems like every 1-percenter’s wet dream. Were they perhaps former department of corrections employees who were fired over suggesting that electric chairs be replaced with electric bleachers?
Perhaps they once pitched an ad-campaign slogan to Honda along the lines of, “You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle with a cannon.”
Wherever the idea came from, it apparently didn’t fall on deaf ears.
What was once only possible in movies has finally been brought to life, and RECOIL was privileged to see it in action. Lane splitting just took on a whole new meaning.
Brainstorming sessions between Dillon Aero and Tailgunner Exhaust led to something that looks like the bastard son of Blue Thunder. The Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X Interceptor, as it’s called, found its way to our email inbox — so we sent our editor, Iain Knievel, out to investigate the situation further. We were all curious to see if this thing was intended for anything other than a potential reboot of Street Hawk (congrats if you even remember that show).
Our research revealed that the M134X was truly an engineering masterpiece. That’s because the brains behind it really know their craft.
You may have seen the work of brothers Cal and Charlie Giordano, proprietors of Tailgunner Exhaust, not only in their Gatling gun-inspired exhaust systems, but creations such as a handmade submarine that have appeared in episodes of Modern Marvels. They decided to approach the minigun gurus at Dillon Aero about creating a promotional conceptual bike.
Unlike many concept vehicles that are all show and no go, this one was engineered to be fully functional and designed for the average rider to operate.
To our knowledge, mounting a functioning minigun to a motorcycle chassis was never attempted until now.
The 300 pounds of recoil generated by the 7.62 NATO-caliber M134 was enough to make people believe that such a feat defied the laws of physics and begged too many unanswerable questions. Even if it could be fired while riding, how long would it take before the frame began to tear? Could it be aimed with any degree of accuracy? Was the driver guaranteed a Darwin Award?
The bike was built not only to defy the naysayers of minigun versatility, but also as a way to deploy the weapon system to the field quickly or to catch a fast-moving vehicle. In order to create a bike that drove and handled well enough to do all this, they chose the proven Yamaha R1 Superbike chassis as the platform. Its aluminum frame and high power-to-weight ratio enables the package to be light on its feet.
To disperse the load, Tailgunner created an aluminum cantilever mount for the gun that attaches where the custom extended swingarm connects. The linear actuator enables the gun to be moved up and down by a switch located where the turn signal formerly resided. The custom fuel tanks were moved to the rear of the bike for better balance. Heavy-duty billet aluminum steering yokes were also specially made for the project. Body panels are all fabricated from aircraft-grade aluminum and covered in MultiCam wrap by Crye Precision. Believe it or not, the whole bike only weighs about 500 pounds.
An air intake was built into the mount and two external air filters were mounted up high to allow for better filtration and easy maintenance. The bike is powered by a Yamaha 1,000cc inline-four with a twin nitrous oxide system. It’s all mated to the six-speed Yamaha transmission. The electronics are powered by a 12-volt battery that runs the motorcycle, with a separate 24-volt battery mounted inside the swingarm to operate the gun. A large Samsung smartphone in front of the driver serves as instrumentation to keep it simple.
The motorcycle doesn’t have to be running to fire. The gun can be armed with a switch on the console in front of the driver. The trigger is very appropriately located where the horn button was. Aiming is accomplished by moving the cantilever up or down and steering the bike right or left. Although that’s really dead reckoning in terms of accuracy, a laser sight and gun-mounted camera may be added in the future, with reticles appearing on the smartphone.
After two years of trial and error, a finished bike finally met the standards of all parties involved. The M134X will be put up for sale when its promotional duties are completed, and it is, in fact, street legal (without the gun, of course, unless you have the proper permits). Tailgunner could even create a replica if the money’s there. Civilian and law enforcement versions are already in the works.
Not only have the minds involved disproven the notion that mounting a minigun on a motorcycle was impossible, but they showed that it could be done in a practical way. Who knows, maybe we’ll see M134Xs roaming the battlefield one day with additions such as smoke screens, oil slicks, or caltrops. It seems the fellas at Tailgunner figured out a way to channel the spirits of Richard Gatling and Burt Munro. Nice to know guys who can come up with things like this are on our side. Check out the full videos on RECOILtv to see the M134X in action.
Don’t think the fun stops there. Cal made this super shorty Timemachinist AR-M134X to complement the Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X project. It’s an all-billet build based on a Sharps lower and a custom-made Timemachinist/Tailgunner Gatling-style upper.
Since the motorcycle itself and miniguns are nearly unobtainable to the public, you might be seeing AR Gatling Gun-inspired full-float tubes for sale in the future if the interest is there. The barrels don’t spin, but this pistol version has a Noveske 7.5 Diplomat barrel inside it.
While the AR-M134X was designed to look like a minigun barrel assembly, it was engineered to function as a high-performance handguard. Check out more of Cal’s work, such as his custom watches, at www.timemachinistwatches.com.
A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.
It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.
The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.
“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.
The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.
While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.
Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.
Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.
Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.
The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.
The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.
Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.
Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.
Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.
The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.
Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.
This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.
It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.
Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.
Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.
“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.
Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.
“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”
Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.
Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.
“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.
“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.
Griest and Haver are following the same path.
Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.
“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.
Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.
“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”
Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.
“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”
Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.
So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.
The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.
At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.
Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.
The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.
It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.
Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.
The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.
You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.
Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.
So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.
As everyone watches the event in Oregon, which so far isn’t really a standoff, reporters are trying to figure out who the 12-150 people in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building are.
Ryan Payne speaks with Youtube vlogger Pete Santilli about the militia occupation of federal buildings at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Youtube/Pete Santilli Show
Ryan Payne, a former soldier, is among them. He has been a prominent presence in the buildup to the occupation of the buildings in Oregon and claimed to have lead militia snipers who targeted — but didn’t fire on — federal agents during the showdown at the Bundy ranch in Nevada in 2014.
Payne claimed to be a Ranger on internet forums and during interviews early in the Bundy ranch standoff, but it’s been pointed out by a number of stolen valor sites that Payne never earned a tab.
“It’s all in the Ranger handbook,” Payne once said. “The Ranger handbook is like the quintessential fighting man’s story. You know, how to do this—everything to be a fighting guy. And having served in that type of unit, that was my Bible. I carried it around on me everywhere I went.”
The only Ranger-type unit Payne was in was the West Mountain Rangers, a militia that is likely not associated with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Payne did serve in the Army and likely did some awesome stuff as a member of the 18th Airborne Corps Long Range Surveillance Company during the invasion of Iraq. The LRS is comprised of paratroopers who move behind enemy lines and conduct reconnaissance on enemy forces. But any paratrooper knows the difference between being Airborne and being an Airborne Ranger.
The difference is at least two months of grueling training, longer for the 34 percent of graduates who have to recycle at least one phase of the 61-day course. The difference is an assignment to one of the three battalions of the storied Ranger Regiment. The difference is earning the scroll, tab, and beret that are worn by actual Rangers.
It was after members of the Ranger community called him out that Payne switched from touting his fictional credentials as a Ranger to his actual “achievements” of targeting federal police officers with sniper rifles.
Afghanistan set new records for opium production in 2016 despite an $8.5 billion USD counternarcotics campaign investment by U.S agencies, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) stated in its latest quarterly report to Congress.
The report said that opium production increased 43 percent in 2016, while poppy eradication hit a 10-year low and was “nearly imperceptible.”
It said that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conduct an annual survey with financial contributions from the United States and other donors.
UNODC estimated that the potential gross value of opiates was $1.56 billion USD — or the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in 2015.
“The latest 2016 UNODC country survey estimates opium cultivation increased 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares, from the previous year,” the report said adding that “the southern region, which includes Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Daykundi provinces, accounted for 59 percent of total cultivation. Helmand remained the country’s largest poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis and Kandahar.”
“Deteriorating security conditions, a lack of political will, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ ineffective management all contributed to the paltry eradication results in 2016,” the report said.
Poppy “cultivation remained near historically high levels compared with the past several decades.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s “narcotics industry — coupled with rampant corruption and fraud — is a major source of illicit revenue,” the report said.
The “opium trade provides about 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding.”
“Since the collapse of the Taliban government, the opium trade has grown significantly and enabled the funding of insurgency operations. Taliban commanders collect extortion fees for running heroin refineries, growing poppy, and other smuggling schemes,” according to the report.
“Powerful drug networks, mainly run by close-knit families and tribes, bankroll the insurgency and launder money. There have been media reports and allegations of corrupt government officials participating in the drug trade,” it said.
The Taliban is an Islamic extremist group that ruled Afghanistan until the U.S military intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack in New York and Washington, D.C. that killed more than 3,000 people. The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as its training base for attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.
“Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations,” the report said.
Afghanistan “remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter — producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s heroin.”
John Sopko, head of SIGAR, recommended that President Donald Trump establish “a U.S counternarcotics strategy, now years overdue, to reduce the illicit commerce that provides the Taliban with the bulk of their revenue.”
Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.
“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.
Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.
The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.
Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.
“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.
“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.
There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.
“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.
Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”
As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.
Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:
— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.
— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.
— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.
“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.
“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”
Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.
“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”
Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”
“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”
Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.
“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.
The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.
Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.
In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.
In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.
In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”
Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.
“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”
When Leif Babin was training to become a US Navy SEAL officer, he didn’t expect to spend so much time working out combat mission briefs in Powerpoint presentations, he explains in his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.”
It was a common feeling, and the reason why in training sessions, he and other officers-in-training had a tendency to create briefs with the intention of impressing their instructors, as opposed to crafting plans that would actually be valuable to an entire team.
When Babin joined Task Unit Bruiser in 2006 as the officer in charge of Charlie Platoon, his commander and future co-author Jocko Willink told him to forget about Powerpoint. As part of a final exercise that would determine if they would be sent to fight in an incredibly dangerous part of Iraq (a desirable scenario for them), Babin and another platoon commander needed to create a mission brief that was more impressive than two other task units.
“The true test for a good brief is not whether the senior officers are impressed,” Willink told them. “It’s whether or not the troops that are going to execute the operation actually understand it. Everything else is bull—.”
Babin and his fellow platoon leader stopped worrying about being impressive and focused on how to make their mission brief as clean and easy to follow as possible. They worked with their subordinates to ensure that if they had to put the brief into action, every member of the team would clearly understand the mission required of him.
The commanding officer in charge of judging the briefs determined Task Unit Bruiser had the most understandable and thus the best of the three, even if the others had more impressive-looking PowerPoint slides. It placed an emphasis on what Willink calls “Commander’s Intent,” which is when the team understands its commander’s purpose and the mission’s endstate so thoroughly that they can act without further guidance.
Task Unit Bruiser was sent to Ramadi, where it became the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.
It was a valuable teaching experience for Babin. In “Extreme Ownership” he outlines the planning checklist that he used as platoon commander:
Analyze the mission. Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission.
Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available.
Decentralize the planning process.Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action.
Determine a specific course of action.Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action.
Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action.
Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation.
Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible.
Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. Stand back and be the tactical genius.
Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation.
Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. Emphasize Commander’s Intent. Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand.
Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning.
Babin writes that this checklist can be easily adapted to the business world, and it’s what he and Willink have taught executives they’ve worked with through their leadership consulting firmEchelon Front since 2011.
“Implementing such a planning process will ensure the highest level of performance and give the team the greatest chance to accomplish the mission and win,” Babin writes.