There have been many closely-fought battles that could have gone either way.
The Battle of Midway was one. The final outcome of Japan losing four carriers and a heavy cruiser compared to the United States losing a carrier and a destroyer looks like a blow out. But that doesn’t reflect the fact that the Japanese fought off five separate attacks before Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fatally damaged the carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.
Other battles, though, were clearly blowouts from the beginning. As in, you wonder why the losing side even wanted to pick that fight in the first place. Three of these battles were so one-sided, they were labeled “turkey shoots.” Here’s the rundown.
1944: The Marianas Turkey Shoot
Within four days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured Guam. Two and a half years later, the United States Navy brought the Army and Marines to take it back.
In the Yom Kippur War, the Syrians and Egyptians surprised the Israelis with very good ground-based air defenses. The Israelis overcame that to win, but it was a very close call. When Syria and Israel clashed over Lebanon in 1982, three years removed from the Camp David accords, it was the Syrians’ turn to get handled roughly.
In the nine years since the Yom Kippur War, Israel started adding F-15 and F-16 fighters to their arsenal, but the real game-changer for the two-day battle of June 9-10, 1982 was the E-2 Hawkeye, which was able to warn Israeli planes of over 100 Syrian MiGs.
Final score over those two days: Israel 64 Syrian jets and at least 17 missile launchers, Syria 0.
1991: Desert Storm
While the air campaign was noted for what some sources considered a perfect 38-0 record for the Coalition (recent claims that Scott Speicher was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat notwithstanding), there was one other incident called a “turkey shoot.”
Actually, it was March 26, 2019, in the Russian city of Belgorod…
That’s when the music used to introduce the newly elected mayor at his oath-swearing ceremony was the Main Theme from Star Wars.
Video circulating on social media of the March 26, 2019 incident captured the moment when Yuri Galdun, 56, was introduced to take his oath of office after being elected to the post by Belgorod’s city council:
Мэр Белгорода принял присягу под музыку из “Звездных войн”
After Galdun’s name was announced, all of the people in the public hall were asked to “Please stand up.” Then, as Galdun walked out onto the stage, the public- address system blared out a short snippet of the Star Wars theme by composer John Williams – the song heard at the beginning of all the episodic Star Wars films.
Galdun, a former deputy governor of the Belgorod region, did not appear surprised as he placed his right hand on the Russian Constitution and said: “I take upon myself the highest and most responsible duties of the mayor of the city council for the city of Belgorod, I swear.”
Russia’s Baza channel on the Telegram instant-messaging app reported that the music was selected by a group of local officials that included Lyudmila Grekova, who heads the Belgorod city administration’s Department of Culture.
“We decided to replace the music” normally used for oath-swearing ceremonies “in order to make it more modern,” Baza quoted Grekova as saying on March 27, 2019.
Grekova told Baza that the decision was made by the group of city administrators, who listened to the brief snippet of music without knowing where it came from.
“There was no malicious intent,” Grekova said, adding that she usually “demands” Russian culture be represented rather than “foreign content.”
The Star Wars theme is considered the most recognizable melody in the series of Star Wars films. In addition to opening each of the films, it also forms the basis of the music heard during the end credits.
Of the many accouterments on a U.S. Army uniform, nothing lets everyone know that they’re in the presence of a badass like the Combat Infantryman Badge. While the Combat Medic Badge (for medics, obviously) and Combat Action Badge (for everyone else) are highly respected, there’s a certain prestige that comes along with the CIB.
On Oct. 27, 1943, the War Department officially established the Combat Infantryman Badge under Section I, War Department Circular 269. It was created to award infantrymen for their hard work and dedication to their country.
It was also seen, in part, as a recruitment tool, considering that being an infantryman wasn’t a very coveted job at the time. They suffered the worst casualties and received the least recognition. The badge would at least try to address the latter.
Expert Infantryman Badge
Created alongside the Combat Action Badge was the Expert Infantrymen Badge (EIB). It was meant to build esprit de corps among the infantrymen who trained harder than others. On March 26, 1944, 100 NCOs from the 100th Infantry Division were selected to undergo three days of hell to prove their worth. Only ten made it through and were personally presented the award by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair.
If you earned both the CIB and the EIB, you are only authorized to wear one.
They may not have been the ones to make the sky blue, but Congress loved the infantry, too.
Between the time it was created in 1943 until 1948, recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge (and eventually the Combat Medical Badge) were awarded an extra ten dollars a month pay. When adjusted for inflation, that’s about $146 a month.
The CIB can be awarded multiple times for fighting in different eras. The four qualifying eras are WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and other Cold War conflicts, and the Global War on Terrorism. Back in the day, it wasn’t too uncommon to find a CIB with a single star above it and, even today, you can still find salty infantrymen who fought in Somalia in 1994. To date, there are 324 recognized infantrymen who have earned the award three times — all for fighting in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
It’s kind of impossible to have earned the CIB for Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terrorism because that’s a 48-year time gap and the soldier with the longest time in service, Gen. John William Vessey, gave Uncle Sam 42 years.
US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.
Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.
These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.
A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.
These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.
Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.
This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.
One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.
A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.
(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.
Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.
“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.
He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.
“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.
A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.
(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.
“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.
The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.
“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It will soon be easier for you to get VA health care in your community without paperwork.
As of January 2020, you won’t have to provide a signed, written authorization for VA to release your electronic VA health information to a participating community care provider.
VA will automatically begin sharing your health information with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange. The electronic system is secure and safe.
This change will make it easier for your health care team to make better decisions about your health care. It can also help you be safer, especially during emergencies.
No action needed
If you are OK with VA sharing your electronic patient information with your community care provider, you don’t have to do a thing. Your information will be shared automatically.
Form needed to OPT OUT of electronic sharing
However, if you do not want to share your information electronically, you must submit VA Form 10-10164 (Opt Out of Sharing).
There is no September 30 deadline to submit your form 10-10164
You can submit your Form 10-10164 at any time. VA will share your information until you submit your form.
If you submitted Form 10-0484 before September 30, you do NOT need to submit Form 10-10164.
You can return VA Form 10-10164 at any VA Medical Center. Just visit the Release of Information (ROI) office. You can also send it by mail. After VA processes your form, your VA health information will not be shared electronically with community providers you see for treatment.
The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.
With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.
The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.
Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.
Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”
id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE
Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.
Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.
The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.
Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.
What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.
A BLUE-SKY OPERATION
The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.
Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.
Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.
Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.
Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.
I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”
FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS
M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.
She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”
To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.
Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.
Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.
Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”
OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY
It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.
Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”
Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”
By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.
On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.
Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”
Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.
Joseph V. Micallef is a best-selling military history and world affairs author, and keynote speaker. Follow him on Twitter @JosephVMicallef.
Of all the world’s commodities, petroleum best epitomizes the geopolitical consequences of natural resources. Countries that were fortunate to possess large reserves of hydrocarbons found themselves with incredible wealth and in control of a powerful driver of economic development. Countries that were unable to produce enough oil and gas for their needs found themselves vulnerable to supply disruptions and at a major geopolitical disadvantage.
The oil and gas industry had a significant Achilles heel, however. Oil and gas development had significant up-front development costs but, in many cases, relatively low operating costs. Once a well was brought into production, the cost of keeping it operating was relatively low, even if the revenue was insufficient to amortize the development cost. The result was that, historically, the oil and gas industry has been subject to volatile swings in pricing.
In 1919, the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) was charged with setting production levels among Texas oil producers in order to control the supply and stabilize prices. From 1930 through 1960, the TRC was largely responsible for setting the price of oil worldwide.
In 1960, a group of oil-producing countries, led by Saudi Arabia, adopted the TRC model and formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate oil production and stabilize prices. OPEC did not eliminate oil price volatility, but its willingness to regulate its production levels helped moderate some of the pricing instability. Between 2000 and 2020, average yearly oil prices varied from a low of .99 per barrel in 2001, to a high of 2.58 per barrel in 2011. The average price in 2019 was .92 per barrel. Currently, average oil prices are approximately per barrel.
Canada, Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, all significant oil producers, were among the oil-producing countries that did not join OPEC. The U.S., a major producer, began to import oil in 1959. Although the U.S. still imports oil, it has been a net exporter of both refined petroleum products and crude oil since November 2019.
OPEC’s share of the global oil market peaked at slightly more than 50% in 1973. In 2019, it was approximately 30%. Energy conservation; new discoveries; improvements in drilling and production technology; and, most significantly, the development of horizontal drilling to open “tight” oil- and gas-bearing formations and the development of the Canadian tar sands, have all cut into OPEC’s market share. In addition, Asia, principally China, India and Japan, have now become the main market for OPEC’s exports.
In 2017, Russia, along with 10 other non-OPEC oil-producing countries, agreed to coordinate production cuts with the group in order to stabilize prices. The countries were referred to as the “Vienna Group” and the arrangement as OPEC+. The agreement represented a strategic alignment of Saudi Arabia and Russia to rationalize prices. It lasted through March 2020.
One of the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp drop of approximately one to two million barrels per day (BOPD) in world demand for petroleum. In early March, OPEC agreed to extend its current cutbacks of 2.1 million BOPD and to reduce production by an additional 1.5 BOPD to a total of 3.6 million BOPD.
OPEC requested that Russia and the other 10 oil-producing countries in the OPEC+ group decrease their production by an additional 500,000 BOPD. Russia refused to accept the additional production cuts, arguing that any production cutbacks would simply be made up by American shale oil producers.
In retaliation, Saudi Arabia declared that it would flood world oil markets in a quest to regain lost market share and indirectly punish Russia for its unwillingness to cooperate.
Within a matter of days, world oil prices cratered by approximately 60%. The collapse of oil prices, coupled with rising anxiety over the economic consequences of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, triggered widespread economic turmoil and a marked decline in financial markets.
U.S. Strategic Interests and OPEC
The governments of both Russia and Saudi Arabia are heavily dependent on petroleum exports to fund the bulk of their expenditures. In Riyadh’s case, oil exports supply 70% of its revenues; in Moscow’s case, the number is approximately 46%. Both countries have sovereign funds designed to cover shortfalls in government revenues from falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund had 0 billion in assets, while Russia’s National Wealth Fund had approximately 4 billion at the end of 2019.
The Trump administration was quick to characterize the Saudi and Russian decisions to increase oil production as a thinly veiled attack on American shale oil producers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that 7.7 million BOPD, or about 2.81 billion barrels, of crude oil were produced from tight oil formations in the United States in 2019. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production last year.
This was not the first time that Saudi Arabia had tried to use low prices to force the producers of the more expensive shale oil out of the market. In response, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would buy up to 77 million barrels of oil from American producers for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Funding for these purchases was not, however, included in the recently passed 2020 Cares Act. In the meantime, the TRC announced that it would consider limiting Texas oil production to stabilize prices. Texas represents 40% of U.S. oil production.
Pundits were quick to take positions on which country, Saudi Arabia or Russia, would be able to hold out the longest in the ensuing price war. Meanwhile, television commentators pointed out that lower gasoline prices represented a boon for American consumers.
The more germane questions, however, are where does the U.S. interest lie? Is the U.S. better off from lower or higher petroleum prices? What are the consequences of lower oil prices on America’s strategic interests around the world?
From the 1960s through 2013, the U.S. was the largest net importer of petroleum in the world. Lower petroleum prices were in America’s interest as they decreased the balance of payments deficit created by oil imports and represented savings to American households. Today, gasoline costs represent around 2% of average household income. So even significant reductions in gasoline prices are not going to represent a major change in a family’s income — certainly not in respect to the current economic turmoil.
Moreover, given that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and natural gas, lower prices reduce its export earnings. Additionally, over the last two decades, the U.S. shale oil industry has emerged as an important driver of economic development and a source of high-paying blue-collar jobs. On balance, the U.S. economy would be better off if prices returned to their -to- pre-crash levels than if they continue at their current depressed levels.
From Washington’s standpoint, the strategic implications of low oil prices around the world are mixed. On the one hand, low oil prices are a significant constraint on the Russian government and on the Kremlin’s ability to fund the expansion and modernization of Russian military forces. Russia needs oil prices at around a barrel or higher to balance its budget, and closer to to finance the more ambitious social and military programs that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to implement.
On the other hand, low oil prices threaten to destabilize countries that are American allies and to create new areas of regional instability or aggravate existing ones. This is particularly true of the Gulf region, but also of countries such as Nigeria and Mexico. Roughly one-third of Mexico’s federal budget comes from oil exports.
The average cost of producing a barrel of oil in the world is around . It’s a difficult number to pin down because operating costs are typically in local currency and are affected by exchange rates, as well as each country’s relative market share. Costs per country, however, can vary dramatically.
The U.K., whose North Sea oil fields are mature and declining, has a production cost of per barrel. Norway, whose oil fields are in a similar position, has an operating cost of .10 per barrel. On average, the amortization of capital costs typically represents about 50% of operating costs. Direct production, overhead, taxes and transportation costs represent the other half.
The U.S., where oil shale production represents two-thirds of output, has an equally high cost at .20. Brazil and Canada, whose new oil production is particularly capital intensive, have costs of .80 per barrel and per barrel, respectively. Russia’s average production cost is around .20, although the cost of new production, especially in its Arctic oil fields, is much higher.
At the other extreme, Saudi Arabia has a production cost of .90 per barrel, while Kuwait has the lowest production cost at .50. Across OPEC, the average production cost is probably between and per barrel. That means, at current prices, most OPEC producers’ costs exceed revenues after they factor in capital costs.
Only Iraq, Iran and the UAE have costs comparable to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. In short, current oil prices are unsustainable long term. Even those countries that can produce oil profitably at these levels cannot produce enough to make up in volume the revenues they need to fund government expenditures. In the short term, prices may drop even lower but, in the long term, low prices are both unsustainable and extremely destabilizing politically.
The trends that produced the current instability in petroleum markets are not new. They have been in process for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated those trends and brought them to a culmination faster and more dramatically than would otherwise have been the case. Ironically, instead of dealing with the consequence of “peak oil” and skyrocketing prices, today we are dealing with too much production capacity and insufficient demand.
For much of its existence, OPEC has been an American nemesis, a position underscored in 1973 when the Arab members of OPEC (OAPEC) embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. in response to American aid to Israel. Historically, as a net consumer of oil, the U.S. wanted lower prices, while producers wanted higher prices. Today, however, it’s a different world, one in which the interests of OPEC and the U.S. are more closely aligned.
Prices in the to range are sufficient to keep the U.S. shale oil industry economic and afford OPEC members a basis of financial stability. It’s also in Russia’s interest, as it stabilizes the Kremlin’s finances, even if it falls short of Moscow’s more ambitious goals. In the meantime, the U.S. petroleum industry will continue to innovate and to bring down its shale oil production costs, while continuing to expand its liquefied natural gas export capability. Moreover, the U.S. would likely get Canada, Brazil, the U.K. and Norway to participate, even if unofficially, in such an arrangement. The Alberta provincial government is already limiting oil production.
In light of the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. and the global economy, stabilizing the oil market and a key American industrial sector would be a first step in repairing the economic damage. It’s time for Washington to make a deal with OPEC and Russia to stabilize the oil market, even if that means the U.S. must agree to some production cuts or export curtailment to ensure price stability.
The Pentagon just can’t or won’t say how many troops are deployed to Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
The long-running controversy over how many and where troops are in harm’s way came to a point Nov. 27th where Pentagon officials were disputing their own required quarterly report on deployments worldwide from the Defense Manpower Data Center.
“Those numbers are not meant to represent an accurate accounting,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said of the DMDC’s report. “They shouldn’t be relied upon.”
He said that the DMDC’s quarterly reports were “routinely over and under” the actual count of troops on the ground and only gave a “snapshot” in time. There was a general reluctance to give out actual numbers for fear of “telegraphing or silhouetting to the enemy” U.S. troop strength, Manning said.
The DMDC numbers, first reported by Military Times, gave evidence of what has been widely known and occasionally confirmed by Pentagon officials for years — that the official counts, or Force Management Levels (FMLs), on the numbers of troops in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are well below the actual numbers of service members in each country.
According to the DMDC’s quarterly report, there were a total of 25,910 U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan — more than 11,000 above the official number given by the Pentagon for the three countries of 14,765.
In Syria, there were 1,720 U.S. troops, more than three times the FML level the Pentagon repeated on Nov. 27 of 503.
The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Defense Department tally of 5,262.
In Afghanistan, DMDC said there were 15,298 troops, as opposed to the 14,000 figure given earlier this month by Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
In addition to the 15,298 U.S. troops, there were also 1,202 DoD civilians in Afghanistan, for a total reported U.S. footprint in Afghanistan of 16,500.
The troop cap in Afghanistan under the Obama administration had been 8,500 but the Pentagon later acknowledged there were about 11,000 on the ground.
Two weeks ago, McKenzie said the 3,000 additional troops authorized for deployment in August by President Donald Trump had arrived in Afghanistan, boosting the troop strength to 14,000.
McKenzie and Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, have pledged to give a more accurate account of the numbers of troops in Iraq and Syria.
Among members of the Air Force, there’s a tendency to be interested in aircraft. More than just aircraft, though, aircraft in aircraft is the type of idea that has the potential to harken back to the science fiction imaginings of many early childhoods. But true to form, science fiction in the military scarcely stays fiction for long.
From Jan. 11 to 13, 2019, it was the job of the C-5M Super Galaxy aircrew and aerial port specialists at Travis Air Force, California to join in efforts with the Army to transport four UH-60 Black Hawks from California to the helicopters’ home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
“Accomplishing the feat took no small measure of cooperation between the two sister services,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Chase, 60th Aerial Port Squadron special handling supervisor. “You figure some of the C-5M aircrew who are transporting the Black Hawks have never even seen one before,” Chase said. “It’s because of that, having the Army here and participating in this training with us is so important. Coming together with our own expertise on our respective aircraft is what’s vital to the success of a mission like this.”
Chase went on to explain that in a deployed environment, Black Hawks are usually ferried around on C-17 Globemaster IIIs because of their tactical versatility.
US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Which is great, he said, but in respect to total force readiness, sometimes a C-5M is the better choice for airlift.
“Our job as a military isn’t only to practice the tried and true formula — it’s to also blaze and refine new trails in the event we ever need to,” he said. “By allowing us to train on mobilizing these Black Hawks, the Army is giving us the opportunity to utilize not only the C-17s in our fleet, but also our C-5Ms. As it pertains to our base’s mission, that difference can mean everything.”
The difference Chase speaks of is one of 18 aircraft — over five million more pounds of cargo weight in addition to the 2,221,700 afforded to Travis AFB’s mission by the C-17. In terms of “rapidly projecting American power anytime, anywhere,” those numbers are not insignificant.
The Army, likewise, used the training as an opportunity to reinforce its own mission set.
“The decision to come to Travis mostly had to do with our needing a (strategic air) asset to facilitate our own deployment readiness exercise to Elmendorf,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, C Company platoon leader. “Travis was the first base to offer up their C-5M to get the job done, so that’s where we went.”
Amarucci’s seven-man team supervised the Travis AFB C-5M personnel in safe loading techniques as well as educated the aircrew on the Black Hawks’ basic functionality to ensure the load-up and transport was as seamless as possible.
Amid all the technical training and shoring up of various workplace competencies, the joint operation allowed for an unexpected, though welcomed, benefit: cross-culture interactions.
“It’s definitely been interesting being on such an aviation-centric base,” said Private 1st Class Donald Randall, 2-158th AHB, 15 T Black Hawk repair. “Experiencing the Air Force mission
Airmen and soldiers offload a UH-60 Black Hawk from a C-5 Galaxy at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
definitely lends to the understanding of what everyone’s specialties and capabilities are when we’re deployed.”
“Plus, the Air Force’s food is better,” he laughed.
Chase also acknowledged the push to bring the Air Force and Army’s similar, yet subtly different cultures to a broader mutual understanding during the times socializing was possible, an admittedly infrequent opportunity, he said.
“Outside of theater, there aren’t too many opportunities to hang out with members from other branches,” he said. “So when the chance to do so kind of falls into your lap, there’s this urge to make the most out of it. A lot of the differences between branches are very nuanced, like how the Army likes to be called by their full rank and stuff like that, but knowing them and making an effort to be sensitive to those differences can pay huge dividends when it comes time to rely on them during deployments.”
Along with finding room in our demeanors to give space for cross-cultural interactions, Chase also underscored the importance of a positive mindset to ensure successful interoperability.
“It’s the idea of taking an opportunity like this that was very sudden and probably pretty inconvenient for a few people’s weekend plans and asking, ‘Well, I’m here, so how can I help — what lessons can I learn to help benefit my team and take what I’m doing to new heights?'”
In 1983, Rangers were on the point of the spear during a mission to protect American citizens in Grenada in 1983, attacking a key airfield that was being expanded by Cuban engineers. When the Rangers began to fight the engineers, the Rangers hotwired bulldozers and then used them as assault vehicles.
The fighting was part of Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada after a coup threatened the lives and security of U.S. citizens in the country who were there to study medicine. Reagan ordered 2,000 troops to the island, and U.S. Army Rangers were sent to seize the airfield at Point Salines.
But the mission quickly ran into problems. A lack of aircraft forced some Rangers to stay at the airfield, unable to take part in the assault and cutting the combat power of those who would make the jump. Then, plans for the assault changed in the air.
See, while Rangers and paratroopers often want to conduct combat jumps, earning uniform swag and bragging rights for life, the safer and tactically superior option to airborne operations is “air-land” operations. In air-land, the commander cancels the jump and the planes land instead. Paratroopers or Rangers, without their chutes, rush off the back. That way, they’re already concentrated for the fight and don’t have to struggle out of their gear.
As the Rangers were flying to their target on Oct. 24, intel said that the runways were clear of debris, and that air-land was an option. The commander ordered the Rangers out of their parachutes. Then, only 20 minutes from the target, they learned that enemy defenses were ready to go, so the Rangers were rushed back into their chutes and then had to jump without being able to have Army jumpmasters or parachute riggers inspect their harnesses.
When the Rangers reached their target, they jumped in waves at only 500 feet above the ground. That low jump allowed them to fly under the worst of the enemy defenses, but meant they would fall for only 17 seconds and have no chance to pull a reserve chute if anything went wrong in the air. Luckily, the jump went well, and the Rangers went right into combat mode.
In addition to the expected Grenadian troops, though, the Rangers ran into 500 Cuban engineers who were there to help the Grenadians expand the airfield. The Cuban engineers put up an impressive base of fire against the Rangers. They would later learn that Fidel Castro had sent advisors to the country the day before to plan and improve the defenses ahead of the American invasion.
Now, the 1st and 2nd battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment, were on the ground and fighting. It’s not really a question whether or not they could’ve defeated the engineers and other defenders. But the Rangers don’t risk casualties when they don’t have to.
They had spotted several abandoned bulldozers on the airstrip, and some of them knew how to hotwire the simple machines, so they did so. Ranger fire teams advanced using the bulldozers for cover, firing on the defenders as they found them.
Over 100 Cuban soldiers and 150 other defenders surrendered to the Rangers, and the entire airfield was taken in just one day. An evening counterattack against the Rangers failed. Point Salines belonged to the U.S. forces.
But the airfield seizure didn’t come without cost. Five Rangers were killed in the assault, and another six were wounded. Additional troops, including Rangers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were lost assaulting a nearby prison where political prisoners were being held.
China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.
The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.
India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.
The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.
“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”
Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.
If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.
“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.
For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.
If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.