Spc. Yemima Tarber extended her commitment to the Army during a reenlistment ceremony that was presided over by her mother, Capt. Lisa Campbell at Fort Lee, Va. A new survey by military advocacy group Blue Star Families says most service members with multiple deployments wouldn’t want their kids to go through the same hardship. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class John Brown)
A new report from military family support organization Blue Star Families shows more than half of service members would not recommend military service to their own children. Additionally, slightly less than half of the respondents would not recommend it to other young adults who aren’t related to them.
Blue Star Families has compiled the so called “Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey” reports since 2009, which are widely used by government officials from the White House, Congress, the Department of Defense, and state and local officials to help understand the unique needs and challenges of military families. Data collected from the annual survey often impacts legislation.
This year’s survey respondents consisted of a mixture of 8,390 active duty personnel, military veterans, and military and veteran spouses — a 130 percent increase over last year’s survey.
Of those surveyed, enlisted service members who had been deployed more than three times were the least likely to recommend military service to their own children.
Among officers, those with less than two deployments and an employed spouse were more likely to recommend military service to young people who are not their children, but only if benefits they’d been promised when they commissioned were still in place — and generally only to those who might become officers.
Less than 20 percent of respondents said they would recommend service to anyone if the current trend of cutting benefits continued.
This could be bad news for those who consider military service to be a “family business.”
“The past year has seen new and emerging security threats in numerous regions while Department of Defense budget cuts and personnel downsizing continues,” Blue Star Families said in their summary of this year’s findings. “The resulting operational tempo is very concerning to service members and their families.”
According to the report, almost 60 percent of veterans had at least one parent who served in the military before them, but only 45 percent of currently serving military members had a parent who served prior.
The 2015 report noted that 80 percent of veteran respondents would be “happy” if their children joined the military. While that specific detail about happiness isn’t reported in this year’s survey, when compared to this year’s 67 percent who would not recommend service to their children, it does appear to show a downward pattern of service members who want their children to follow in their footsteps.
“Extended family separations, frequent moves, and outdated expectations that military spouses sublimate their personal, professional, and familial priorities to support their service member’s military service are the most prevalent topics identified as substantially reducing the quality of life and attractiveness of martial service,” Blue Star Families said. “Military families understand that serving may mean making sacrifices in support of service; however, DoD must also examine the military necessity of the burdens it asks military families to bear.”
The survey isn’t all bad news for the family business of military service. Military spouses who are able to maintain a career were 36 percent more likely to recommend it, and a whopping 76 percent of all spouses surveyed who felt that the military had a positive or neutral career impact were likely to recommend service.
There were two surprising findings elsewhere in the report: almost 80 percent of respondents were satisfied with the military lifestyle, and over 80 percent were satisfied with Tricare Standard.
You can view the Executive Summary on Blue Star Family’s website.
“This year’s survey results show a military community at a point of inflection. It shows the country needs to get smarter about what a healthy All-Volunteer Force really looks like—and what it needs it to look like to ensure future success,” Blue Star Families argued. “The All-Volunteer Force was not designed for our current security environment of protracted low-level conflict, nor was it designed for the modern service member—who is better educated, married with children, and living in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.”
Hellenic Navy frigate HN Aegean, front, and US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto in the Mediterranean Sea, July 26, 2020. US Navy/MCS3 Sawyer Haskins
In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).
Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.
The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense
Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.
Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.
Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps
The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.
Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.
The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.
First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.
Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.
Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.
Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.
Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.
The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)
Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.
The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.
Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.
Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.
Implications for the US
The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.
US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.
Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa
The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.
Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.
Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.
If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
After taking the oath of office, Trump remained at the Capitol to sign a number of documents officially nominating his choices for cabinet and ambassador posts and to declare Jan. 20 a “National Day of Patriotism.”
Among the documents was the historic waiver for the 66-year-old Mattis, who led the 2003 invasion of Iraq as commander of the 1st Marine Division, commanded a task force in Afghanistan in 2001, and commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war in 1990.
In 1947, Congress passed a law barring members of the military from taking the Defense Secretary’s post until seven years after retirement to preserve civilian control of the military. Mattis retired in 2013.
The only previous exception to the law was the waiver granted to Gen. George C. Marshall, the five-star Army chief of staff in World War II, who became Defense Secretary in 1950.
Earlier this week in separate action, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 26-1 to approve Mattis for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. The only “No” vote in the Committee was from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, who praised Mattis but said she was voting against him on the issue of civilian control.
The full Senate was expected to confirm Mattis, possibly later Friday. If confirmed, Mattis was expected to make his first visit as the 26th Secretary of Defense to the Pentagon to meet with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who was staying on temporarily at the Pentagon to assist with management issues.
During the campaign, Trump said he would demand a plan from his commanders within 30 days of taking office speed up and ultimately end the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In his inaugural address, Trump said he would “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth.”
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Mattis also said he would be reviewing plans to “accelerate” the ISIS campaign but gave no details.
Already, there were signs that the U.S. military was moving more aggressively against ISIS and also the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. On Wednesday, in the last combat mission specifically authorized by President Barack Obama, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri struck ISIS camps in Libya.
On Thursday, a B-52 bomber deployed to the region dropped munitions in Syria west of Aleppo against a training camp of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front and linked to Al Qaeda.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said “The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with Al Qaeda on the battlefield.”
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicization of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US, and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.
“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”
However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.
David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, said it was “disconcerting” that Trump appeared to have come to a conclusion about Iran before finding the intelligence to back it up.
“It stands the intelligence process on its head,” Cohen told CNN. “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicized in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”
In another move reminiscent of the Iraq debacle, the US administration is putting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be more aggressive in its demands to investigate military sites in Iran, just as George W Bush’s team pushed for ever more intrusive inspections of Saddam Hussein’s military bases and palaces.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited IAEA headquarters in Vienna to press the agency to demand visits to Iran’s military sites. Haley described IAEA inspectors as “professionals and true experts in their field”.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites, but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”
Unlike the case of Iraq and the Bush administration, where there were deep divisions in the US intelligence community over the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is now a general consensus among US intelligence and foreign intelligence agencies, the state department, the IAEA and the other five countries that signed the JCPOA, as well as the European Union, that there is no significant evidence that Iran has violated its obligations under the deal. Tehran scaled down its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear fuel stockpiles soon after the deal was signed in Vienna.
However, Trump, who denigrated the agreement throughout his election campaign, has appeared determined to torpedo it.
On July 17, the latest deadline for presidential certification of the JCPOA deal required by Congress, the announcement was postponed for several hours, while Trump’s senior national security officials dissuaded the president from a last-minute threat not to sign.
“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on July 25. He hinted it was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had persuaded him to certify the agreement.
“Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply,” the president said. “And so we’ll see what happens… But, yeah, I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”
Trump said his administration was doing “major” and “detailed” studies on the issues.
Richard Nephew, who was principal duty coordinator for sanctions policy in the Obama administration state department and a member of the team that negotiated the JCPOA said government agencies were producing such studies all the time. He said the difference under the Trump administration was that they were being told the conclusions should be.
“Behind the scenes, there is a huge machine that is pumping up reports and updates and status checks for the administration and Congress,” Nephew, now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said. “You have intelligence officers and analysts in a bunch of agencies who spend literally every day scrubbing every single report they have got of what is going on inside Iran trying to find instances of non-compliance.
“What I suspect is happening now is that those intel officers have been asked to go to the cutting room floor, [and are being asked:] ‘What have you forgotten? What have you discounted? What have you said doesn’t really fit and not really relevant?’
“I actually think that’s healthy if it’s an honest question,” Nephew said, but he added: “It seems there is a faction within the administration that is trying to lay the basis for getting out [of the agreement] on the basis of cooked books.”
He predicted that intelligence analysts would resign if they were pushed too hard.
“The intelligence community learned the lessons of Iraq hard,” Nephew said. “And the analysts I know who are attached to this effort I am quite convinced would resign and resign loudly before they would allow… their words to be twisted and turned the way it happened with Iraq.”
Robert Malley, who was a senior US negotiator at the nuclear talks with Iran, said that the Trump administration was discounting the information it was getting from its agencies because it viewed them as the “deep state” or “Obama holdovers.” But Malley predicted it would be harder for Trump to ignore the reservations of US intelligence and US allies and drive towards confrontation with Iran than it was for George Bush to go to war in Iraq.
“The main difference is that Iraq has already happened, which means that both the American public and the international community have seen a similar movie before, and therefore might well react differently than the way they reacted the last time around,” he said.
The other principal avenue of attack on the JCPOA being pursued by the Trump administration has focused on the question of inspections of Iranian military sites. Under the agreement, the IAEA can present evidence of suspect activity at any site to Iran and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not accepted by the IAEA, Tehran would have two weeks to negotiate terms of access for the agency inspectors. If the Iranian government refuses, a joint commission of JCPOA signatories could vote to force access, andIran would have three days to comply.
“There is a mechanism, a very detailed one and one of the issues we spent the most time on in negotiation,” Malley said. But he added: “There are people on the outskirts of the administration, and who are pushing hard on the Iran file, saying they should be allowed to ask for inspection at any sensitive site for no reason whatsoever, in order to test the boundaries of the agreement.”
During her visit to Vienna, Haley suggested that Iran’s past practice of using military sites for covert nuclear development work was grounds for suspicion. But Laura Rockwood, a former legal counsel in the IAEA’s safeguards department (which carries out inspections), said the US or any other member state would have to provide solid and contemporaneous evidence to trigger an inspection.
“If the US has actionable intelligence that is useful for the IAEA to take into account, and I mean actual and honest intelligence, not fake intel that they tried to use in 2003, then I think the agency will respond to it,” Rockwood, who is now executive director of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said. “But if they try to create evidence or if they try to pressure the agency into simply requesting access because they can, I think it will backfire.”
Some analysts, however, believe that the Obama administration was too willing to let Iranian infractions slide and that a more skeptical view of the agreement and implementation is overdue.
“Asking the system for knowledge of violations is different than asking anyone to falsify them,” said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. “This is a highly technical subject and the Obama administration downplayed and even hid violations and problems. So, there is a need to establish the true situation and ensure decision makers understand these issues. Spinning this as equivalent to Iraqi WMD claims is not only unfair but highly inaccurate. Certainly, the pro-JCPOA advocates would love to do that.”
Any Iranian objections to new inspections could be cited by Trump if he carries out his threat to withhold certification of the JCPOA in October. It would then be up to the US Congress whether to respond with new sanctions, and then Trump would have to sign them into law, in potential violation of the agreement. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that elements of the program that had been stopped under the agreement could be resumed “within hours” if the US walked out.
Ultimately, Tehran and the other five national signatories to the agreement would have to decide whether to try to keep the deal alive without US participation. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested over the weekend that if the other signatories remained committed, Iran would continue to observe the deal. It is an issue that would split Europe from the US, likely leaving the UK perched uneasily in the middle.
“As a practical matter, you’re not going to have the rest of the international community, you’re not going to have our allies in Europe, you’re certainly not going to have the Russians and the Chinese coming along with us to reimpose real pressure on the Iranians,” Cohen said. “So you’ll have this fissure between the United States and essentially the rest of the world in trying to reinstate pressure on Iran.”
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.
Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.
In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.
Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.
Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.
The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.
Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.
Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.
The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.
After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.
Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.
Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.
During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.
In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.
By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.
However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.
Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.
Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.
The always-candid U.S commander in the Pacific declared that “the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the most consequential region for America’s future.” He added that he did not see any change in the United States’ commitment to his theater as a result of the presidential election or the public turmoil with the leaders in the Philippines and South Korea.
Addressing a Defense One forum Nov. 15, Adm. Harry Harris expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology and “Chinese assertiveness” in the South China Sea, but said “America has critical national interest in the region and must alleviate the concerns of our allies and partners.” He added the need to deter any potential adversaries as well.
“The United States is the guarantor of security in the region and will remain so,” he said.
To support that view, Harris noted that America is sending its best military systems to the region before they go anywhere else.
He cited the decision to send the Marine Corps’ F-35Bs to Japan next year, saying it sends a “signal that we’re sending our most powerful aircraft to the Indo-Asia-Pacific before anywhere else. No other aircraft can approach it. I’m a big fan. But in a bigger sense, it’s a signal that Indo-Asia-Pacific is important.”
Harris also noted that the Navy’s new massive destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, is homeported in the Pacific. The Navy is increasing the number of Virginia-class attack submarines in the theater and sent the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Japan on its first deployment.
Although the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program has been plagued with problems, Harris gave a strong endorsement for the relatively small, fast and modular ships. Recalling the concern he and other Navy officers had during the Cold War over the Soviet Union’s force of small, fast missile craft, the admiral said if the LCS were equipped with anti-ship missiles it would force a potential adversary to spread its defenses against that threat.
And despite the usual naval focus of his vast command, Harris praised the Army’s increasing strength and capabilities in the Pacific.
What the Army brings, he said, “is what it always brings: mass and fire power.”
Harris said he also encourages Army leaders to contribute more to what he called “cross-domain fires,” which would include cyber and information warfare.
He added, “I think the Army should be in the business of sinking ships with land-based ballistic missiles,” which is similar to what the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force is planning to do in response to China’s aggressive claims in the East China Sea.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently declared anti-ship weapons as a necessary Army capability. And the Marine Corps, in its recently released Operating Concept, said the Corps should be able to support the Navy’s ability to project power by developing anti-ship systems.
Harris said he thought that if the Army would put those kinds of weapon systems in place, it would be “a threat to potential adversaries in the Western Pacific,” which apparently referred to China.
While criticizing China’s “assertiveness” and its construction of military facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea, Harris said his personal relations with his Chinese counterparts were good and he stressed the importance of continued military-military contact.
The admiral also insisted that, despite the anti-American rants of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, there has been no change in U.S. access to bases there and no orders to remove Special Operations forces advising Philippine troops in their anti-terrorist actions.
Harris carefully avoided any questions about the possible changes in his command due to the election of Donald Trump, but said, “America never has a lame-duck commander in chief…I continue to serve President [Barack] Obama until January 20, at which point I’ll serve President Trump.”
“That said, I have no doubt we will continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
Investigators with France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, who published their report in early April, found that once the man was in the air, he became so stressed by the ride that he pressed the ejector button in panic and was thrown from the aircraft, where he then parachuted down to the ground.
According to the investigation, the man, whose name has been withheld in the report, had no experience with military aircraft and had no interest in flying in a Dassault Rafale B jet before his company surprised him with the ride.
He was wearing a smartwatch at the time of the flight, which allowed investigators to record him having a heart rate between 136 to 142 beats per minute just before taking flight. A normal heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.
Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.
The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.
“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”
The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.
As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.
In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.
According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.
A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.
The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”
The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.
The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.
The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.
“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.
Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.
With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.
Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.
China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.
The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China has announced plans to begin production of a new two-seat variant of the Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighter that would, according to Chinese officials, dramatically increase the platform’s offensive capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of China’s other significant J-20 announcement this week, relating to China’s decision to stop sourcing Russian engines for their stealth fighter. China will instead modify an existing domestic power plant for its purposes.
The J-20 “Mighty Dragon” is China’s first operational stealth aircraft, entering active service in March of 2017. The J-20 is indeed stealthy, though there remains some debate about just how effective the jet’s design may be. Some still argue that its front canards could potentially offer a weapons-grade lock on the jet when it’s flying horizontally across an aircraft’s field of view. Like all other fifth-generation fighters, the J-20 isn’t just sneaky, it also boasts a secure data link and the sort of advanced avionics one might expect from a data-fusing flying computer of its ilk. It has, however, suffered from long delays in its purpose-built engine program, forcing the Chinese to utilize Russian-sourced AL-31F engines.
Earlier this week, China announced plans to stop using the Russian power plant and to discontinue efforts on their purpose-built WS-15 engine that had been slated for the advanced fighter. Instead, China will now work to modify its existing fourth-generation fighter engine, the WS-10C, for the stealth jet. According to Chinese claims, the WS-10C will be as capable as the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine that powers America’s top air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor. This goal is hardly surprising, as the development of the J-20 was based largely on stolen plans for the F-22 in the first place.
The planned engine change is intended to offer the J-20 the same sort of thrust vector control the Raptor uses for acrobatic maneuvers during aerial warfare–a change that was already announced for the J-20B currently in production. In order to match the F-22, these modified engines will also have to offer super-cruising capabilities, or the ability to maintain supersonic speeds without the use of an afterburner, on par with that offered by the Raptor. Supercruising allows a fighter to fly further faster, while still keeping enough gas in its tank for a lengthy fight once it arrives.
But new engines aren’t the biggest change on the horizon for China’s J-20. A design change of a much broader stroke announced by the Chinese government earlier this week would see the aircraft modified to serve as a fighter bomber, adding a second seat in the cockpit for an onboard weapons officer and potentially increasing the aircraft’s payload capacity as a result of the design changes required to accommodate another crew member.
Every 5th generation fighter in operation on the planet is a single-seat aircraft, from the original F-22 Raptor to the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even Russia’s troubled Sukhoi Su-57 Felon. It’s unlikely that China will produce only two-seat J-20 variants in the future, but the addition of a J-20 fighter bomber could offer a new level of capability to China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Single-seat aircraft tend to be smaller and highly capable in the air, and while all fifth-generation fighters are considered multi-role in their range of capabilities, a two-seat J-20 could improve the aircraft’s survivability in contested airspace as well as its ability to effectively engage ground targets.
While a single-seat fighter has one operator tasked with managing everything from flying the jet to identifying and engaging targets, two-seat fighters have a second crew member to offload some of those responsibilities on. Most two-seat fighters utilize a single pilot and a second weapons officer (think Maverick and Goose, respectively, in Top Gun). While the pilot manages the battlespace, the weapons officer or co-pilot can manage weapons systems, communications, and electronic warfare capabilities.
Two-seat fighters are, however, much heavier than single-seat jets on average, so the added capability comes with a trade-off in performance.
“An upgraded twin-seat J-20 could carry more offensive weapons and have stronger air-to-ground attack capabilities, so … it would become both a fighter and a bomber,” Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said to the South China Morning Post.
Of course, building a two-seat J-20 isn’t as simple as just stretching the fuselage and bolting a new chair in. The aircraft itself will likely have to undergo significant modifications to support both the new crew member and any added capabilities the PLA wants incorporated into a new J-20 fighter bomber.
If China manages to bring its WS-10C engine into full fifth-generation maturity, it will offer a significant capability increase for the fighter itself, and it will almost certainly find a home in the two-seat J-20 as well. However, despite China’s headline-grabbing announcements over the past week, all of these changes should be regarded as notional at best right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean to discount the potential capability of the J-20 in the future, but as far as claims about military superiority go, China’s reputation is almost as compromised as Russia’s.
Heading off to Navy boot camp can seem like a scary thing for any young man or woman who hasn’t left home before. Before you know it, you’re going to land at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and get picked up by a couple of sailors who are sporting their serious faces.
Once everybody is accounted for, the recruits get packed onto a bus and drive about 45 minutes to the Recruit Training Command’s Golden Thirteen building in in Great Lakes, Illinois for processing.
You’ll spend around eight weeks there learning the basics of how to be a sailor. When you get home, your family will not only see a dramatic change in your personality, but in your stature as well.
During your stay at RTC, it’s your fellow recruits that will help you make that change — or maybe not.
The Question P.O.
You know how they say, “there aren’t any dumb questions”? Yeah, that’s not true while you’re in boot camp. There’s always that guy or gal that asks the dumbest questions at the worst times. Because of their awful decision making, the division labels this recruit as the “Question Petty Officer.”
If you think you’re the only one who looks like you in the world, think again. Sure, your doppelganger’s personality might be different, but holy sh*t do they look exactly like you.
The guy or gal that falls asleep everywhere
Every recruit has to keep an extra eye out for this one because if the Recruit Division Commanders spot them copping even just one “Z,” everyone gets in trouble.
BUD/s students participate in a team building exercise this spring at the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command in Coronado, Calif.
(Photo by MC1 Lawrence Davis)
The one who is headed to BUD/s next…
… and he wants everyone in the recruit division to know.
Since the Navy is pretty small, chances are that you’ll see that sailor again out in the fleet. If you didn’t get along with him in boot camp, you’ll probably ask how SEAL training was since they, apparently, didn’t pass (and maybe didn’t even even go).
Most recruits want to look like badasses in boot camp, and trying to impress everyone by throwing around the word “SEAL” is supposed to do the trick.
Sorry — that only works after you complete the intense training.
The guy who needs to make weight to graduate
Every branch has people who are borderline overweight. That’s just the society we live in today. Before recruits can graduate, they need to complete training evolutions, pass a few written tests, and be under a specific weight, based on height.
Since the Navy is one big team, everyone in the division must do their part to help each other succeed. Sometimes, this includes cheering them on and skipping out on dessert for solidarity’s sake. Bummer.
The big teddy bear
This person is super tall and wide. They either have huge muscles or they’re just slightly overweight. Regardless, this recruit will probably be the sweetest and most helpful person you’ll ever meet. They are considerate as hell but could smash your face in if they wanted to — but they’re just too damn nice to get angry.