US President Donald Trump called for expanded cooperation with Russia on July 9, as a cease-fire brokered by the two powers and Jordan for southern Syria came into effect.
The cease-fire covering three war-torn provinces in southern Syria is the first tangible outcome following months of strategy and diplomacy between the new Trump administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Moscow.
Trump tweeted that the cease-fire, which came into effect at noon July 9, “will save lives.”
“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he posted on Twitter shortly after the agreement came into effect.
A resident and local opposition activist in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, reported an uneasy calm hours into the truce.
“There’s still a lot of anxiety,” said Ahmad al-Masalmeh. “We’ve entered the cease-fire but there are no mechanisms to enforce it. That’s what concerns people.”
Six years of fighting and siege have devastated Daraa, one of the first cities to see large protests against President Bashar Assad in 2011.
It remains contested by US-backed rebels and Syrian government forces supported by Russia and Iran. Large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble by government artillery and Russian air power.
The truce also covers the Quneitra and Sweida provinces, where the government and the rebels are also fighting Islamic State militants, who are not included in the agreement.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of on-the-ground activists, reported calm across the three provinces as dusk fell July 9.
The cease-fire agreement followed weeks of secretive talks between the US, Russia, and Jordan in Amman to address the buildup of Iranian-backed forces, in support of the Syrian government, near the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
Israel has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran, which is a close ally of the Syrian government, to set up a permanent presence in Syria. It has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound forHezbollah in Lebanon.
It has also struck Syrian military installations on several occasions this year after shells landed inside the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said July 9 that Israel would welcome a “genuine cease-fire” in southern Syria so long as it doesn’t enable Iran and its proxies to develop a military presence along the border.
The Trump administration also ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government and Iranian-backed militias, in a break with Obama administration policy. The strikes, including one on a government air base in central Syria, drew only muted responses from Moscow.
No cease-fire has lasted long in the six-year-old Syrian war, and no mechanisms have been publicly set out to monitor or enforce this latest endeavor.
It was announced July 6 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg after a meeting between Trump, Putin, and their top diplomats.
The Syrian government maintains it is fighting a war against terrorist groups. The Al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee is one of the most effective factions fighting alongside rebels in Daraa.
Forget secret agent. If you want one of the most exclusive, top-secret jobs about there, consider becoming a flight attendant.
JANET airlines, the secret airline run by the U.S. government, is hiring flight attendants to shuttle employees and contractors out of a private terminal at McCarran National Airport in Las Vegas to their jobs in places like Area 51.
As Business Insider previously reported, while some joke JANET stands for “Just Another Non-Existent-Terminal,” it may actually mean “Joint Air Network for Employee Transportation.”
The JANET airlines hires will perform all the usual flight attendant tasks, including providing food and drink service, giving pre-flight safety demonstrations, ensuring passenger safety throughout the flight, and providing assistance during emergencies.
And, like flight attendants working for other airlines, JANET flight attendants must have a high school degree or the equivalent diploma, pass flight attendant training, and comply with the airline’s dress code and uniform guidelines, among other things.
But JANET airline flight attendants bear the additional burden of qualifying for and maintaining a top-secret government security clearance and associated work location access.
According to the U.S. State Department’s website, “top secret” is the highest level of security clearance, and having this clearance gives you access to classified national security information.
Every application for security clearance is evaluated on an individual basis, and considerations include a number of deeply personal details including:
On Jan. 2, the Army began administering the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or “OPAT,” to all recruits to assess their fitness for military occupational specialties. The OPAT also will be used to assess some Soldiers who are reclassifying into a different MOS.
Army Recruiting Command estimates that the OPAT will be administered to about 80,000 recruits and thousands of cadets annually. Soldiers moving into more physically demanding MOSs also will have to meet the OPAT standard, said Jim Bragg, retention and reclassification branch chief for Army Human Resources Command.
Under the OPAT, there are four physical demand categories, Bragg explained.
When a Soldier wishes to reclassify to a new MOS, from the significant category to the heavy category, for example, he or she will need to take the OPAT. However, a Soldier whose new MOS falls within the same or a lower level physical demand category will not need to take the OPAT.
The Soldier’s commander will be responsible for ensuring the OPAT is administered prior to approval of a reclassification, Bragg said. As with any reclassification action, the battalion-level or brigade-level career counselor will administer the OPAT.
When it comes to recruiting, Brian Sutton, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command, said the OPAT is not meant to turn away or weed people out.
“It is designed to put the right people in the right jobs and to ensure we keep our recruits safe while doing so,” he said.
OPAT scoring is gender neutral, he added. All Soldiers, male and female, must pass the same physical standards for their desired career field.
The test will be administered to everyone coming into the Army: officer, enlisted, active, Reserve and Guard. It will be administered by any command responsible for Soldier acsessions — including Recruiting Command and Army Cadet Command — after the Soldier swears in but before he or she begins training.
OPAT measures muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, explosive power and speed. It consists of four individual tests:
The “standing long jump” is designed to assess lower-body power. Participants stand behind a takeoff line with their feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. They jump as far as possible.
The “seated power throw” is designed to assess upper-body power. Participants sit on the floor with their lower back against a yoga block and upper back against a wall. They hold a 4.4-pound (2-kilogram) medicine ball with both hands, bring the medicine ball to their chest and then push or throw the medicine ball upwards and outwards at an approximate 45-degree angle. The throw is scored from the wall to the nearest 10 centimeters from where the ball first contacts the ground.
The “strength deadlift” is designed to assess lower-body strength. Participants stand inside a hex-bar and perform practice lifts to ensure good technique. They then begin a sequence of lifts starting with 120 pounds, working up to 220 pounds.
The “interval aerobic run,” always performed last, is designed to assess aerobic capacity. The evaluation involves running “shuttles,” or laps, between two designated points that are spaced 20 meters apart. The running pace is synchronized with “beeps,” produced by a loudspeaker, at specific intervals. As the test progresses, the time between beeps gets shorter, requiring recruits to run faster in order to complete the shuttle. Participants are scored according to the level they reach and the number of shuttles they complete.
Here is a quick breakdown of the four physical demand categories incorporated into the OPAT:
“Black” is for MOSs with heavy physical demands, like those of the combat arms branches, that require lifting or moving 99 pounds or more. To attain black on the OPAT, the recruit or Soldier would need to achieve a minimum of 5 feet, 3 inches in the standing long jump; 14 feet, 9 inches for the seated power throw; 160 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:14 minute mile over the course of 43 shuttles.
“Gray” is for MOSs with significant physical demands that require frequent or constant lifting of 41 to 99 pounds and occasional tasks involving moving up to 100 pounds. To attain gray on the OPAT, the recruit or Soldier would need to achieve a minimum of 4 feet, 7 inches in the standing long jump; 13 feet, 1 inch for the seated power throw; 140 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:20 minute mile over the course of 40 shuttles.
“Gold” is for MOSs with moderate physical demands, such as cyber, that require frequent or constant lifting of weights up to 40 pounds or when all physical demands are occasional. To attain gold on the OPAT, the recruit or Soldier would need to achieve a minimum of 3 feet, 11 inches in the standing long jump; 11 feet, 6 inches for the seated power throw; 120 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:27 minute mile over the course of 36 shuttles.
“White” is unqualified. A recruit or Soldier who attains white has failed to meet OPAT’s minimum standards.
Sutton noted that if a recruit fails the OPAT, he or she can request to retake the test. If the recruit cannot eventually pass the OPAT color designator for his or her MOS, it may be possible to renegotiate the contract to allow the recruit to enter an MOS with a lower physical demand OPAT category, the minimum being gold.
Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”
A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.
He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.
We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.
“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”
We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.
As government and health officials scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, events around the country are being shut down or modified. Officials, after seeing the spike in cases (and fatalities) in Italy and the subsequent shutdown, are now implementing the same measures to major events in the U.S., whether it be canceling, postponing or barring fans.
This is major news in that sports, entertainment and travel are very important keys to the national economy. The loss of revenue to the teams, leagues, television partners and corporate partners will be big but there are many others too that will have a rough couple of months.
Hotels, airlines, arena workers, concession workers, arena security , front office employees, merchandise vendors, food and beverage companies, Uber and Lyft drivers and local establishments all canceled events….The list goes on.
We Are The Mighty will continue to update this list, but here are major national (and some international for fans) events that so far have been affected by the coronavirus.
A full list of all sports events that have been canceled can be found here. This list is mostly international but gives an idea of the scope of event cancellations.
A coronavirus conference in New York was canceled because of the coronavirus.
MLB operations suspended indefinitely
NHL season suspended
NBA season suspended
MLS season suspended
NCAA Tournament canceled
NCAA Women’s Tournament canceled
Big Ten Tournament
Pac 12 Tournament
Big 12 Tournament
Conference USA Tournament
American Conference Tournament
UEFA Champions League (Tuesday matches postponed)
Serie A (Italian soccer)
La Liga (Spanish soccer)
Formula 1 has had the McLaren team withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix this week. Next week the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to be raced with no fans.
U.S. Women’s and Men’s friendly matches canceled
Coachella postponed until October
Stagecoach postponed until October
E3 video game concert
Pearl Jam tour postponed
Adam Sandler tour postponed
Indian Wells 2020
Universities have been either moving classes online, telling students to move out of dormitories and postponing spring classes and canceling classes outright in some instances.
Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”
The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”
“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.
Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.
“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”
Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.
The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.
Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”
When you think of airborne troops, there’s one unit that comes to mind because of its place in both history books and pop culture: the 101st Airborne Division. Nearly every major World War II film features — or at least mentions — the bravery and tenacity of the Screaming Eagles that jumped into action on D-Day.
Even after the triumphant stand of Easy Company at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the 101st Airborne kept performing heroics that would land them in history books. This happened in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and again in the Global War on Terrorism.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately recognize the iconic 101st patch — the Screaming Eagle. And when civilians see that patch, they immediately think of elite paratroopers. Here’s the thing: we technically haven’t been an airborne unit since 1968, but you’ll still find the words “AIRBORNE” above Old Abe — here’s why.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Screaming Eagles have largely been re-designated away from the airborne world since their reactivation following Post-WWII restructuring. Fun fact: During the Korean War, the 101st was actually a training unit out of Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, until 1953.
The unit bounced around a little before landing at Fort Campbell and being made into a “pentomic” division — meaning it was structured to fight with atomic warfare in mind. As the possibility of nuclear war grew, the role of the paratrooper in war shrank. The airborne infantrymen of the 101st were still needed — mostly involved in rapid deployment strategies — but the training was shifting with the times, and the times were changing indeed.
Then, on July 29th, 1965, the 1st Brigade landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and the 101st adapted to their new role in the jungle. Now, we’re not saying that combat jumps into Vietnam didn’t happen — they definitely did — but the 101st wasn’t conducting them.
In case you’re wondering. Yes. It did have a loudspeaker to blast Ride of the Valkyries or Fortunate Son for Charlie to hear.
The Screaming Eagles were tasked with one of the largest areas of operations during the early days of the Vietnam War. Given the terrain and the nature of the enemy, airborne insertion at one point and moving from town to town just didn’t make good sense. They needed an alternative. They needed a way to get from place to place faster, efficiently, and safely. Enter the helicopter.
Helicopters saw use in the Korean War, but it was fairly rare — mostly just for medical evacuations. In the jungles of Vietnam, however, The UH-1 (or “Huey”) Iroquois and the 101st Airborne Division were like a match made in military heaven. The division designated itself as an airmobile division in mid-1968 and became the Air Assault division it is today in 1974.
If you really want to be technical, the airborne tab itself isn’t isn’t given to the troops. That still has to be earned individually. Think of the tab in the same vein as a unit citation.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Doheny)
That leaves the 101st Airborne Division legs in everything but name. The air assault capabilities of the 101st are the contemporary evolution of the paratroopers of old. Now, don’t get this wrong: There are still several units on Fort Campbell that are still very much on airborne status, such as the 101st Pathfinders
Today, the Screaming Eagles are the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — with “Air Assault” in parentheses. It’s a more accurate description of the unit, since we’re still involved with airborne operations — just not the paratrooper, jump-out-of-planes-and-into-combat type. Screaming Eagles just fast-rope from a helicopter or wait for it to make a solid landing for insertions.
The reason “airborne” is still in the name (and on a tab above Old Abe) is because it’s difficult as hell to change a division’s name while it’s still active. Go ahead and ask the 1st Cavalry Division about the last time they rode horses into combat or the 10th Mountain Division about when they last fought on an arctic mountaintop.
The names and insignia are historic. They’re part of a legacy that still lives on within the troops.
At least one of the military services says it’s looking for members of the Individual Ready Reserve to come back into the fold — and the call goes beyond just those who served in medical specialties.
As the country faces a potentially monthslong emergency over the novel coronavirus crisis, the military services could turn to a pool of veterans who thought their days in uniform were behind them.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month giving the Pentagon the authority to recall some members of the IRR to active duty — a move that likely sent many veterans rushing to check their discharge papers. Veterans can typically be recalled to active duty for eight years after the start of their service contracts, even once they’re out of uniform.
Most of the services say they’re still assessing their needs in the wake of Trump’s new order. But Lt. Col. Mary Ricks, a spokeswoman for Army Human Resources Command, said they’re seeking volunteers who served in at least four fields outside medical jobs.
“The Army is also looking for soldiers who served in the areas of logistics, aviation, as drill sergeants or recruiters,” Ricks said. “Protecting our citizens from coronavirus is a whole-of-nation call, and we need the help of our Individual Ready Reserve and our Retired Soldiers to maximize this critical effort.”
The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, she added, is an “extraordinary challenge [that] requires equally extraordinary solutions.”
The Navy and Marine Corps are still reviewing whether there’s a need to recall members of the IRR, spokesmen for those services said.
The Air Force expects to target medical personnel for mobilization first, but it could expand to other specialties. That includes command-and-control elements and logistics personnel, said Sean Houlihan, an Air Force Reserve Command spokesman.
While there’s not an immediate plan to tap former airmen who served in those fields, Houlihan said the Air Force has the authority to do so.
“[Air Reserve Component] members must be prepared for mobilization at any time,” he said.
This wouldn’t be the first time the military has turned to voluntary or involuntary recall to carry out a critical mission. The Army notified around 21,000 members of the IRR they were needed during Desert Storm, Ricks said. About 18,000 of them reported for duty.
The Marine Corps got the authority in 2006 to recall up to 2,000 members of the IRR for a one-year period, said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a Marine Corps Forces Reserve spokesman. That was in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., when combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq ramped up.
The military services have activated at least a portion of the Reserves to carry out missions tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The Army Reserve has several sustainment, logistics and civil-authority units providing services in Utah, as well as New Orleans and other U.S. cities.
The Navy has nearly 200 reservists serving on hospital ships in New York and California, said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale, a Navy Reserve Force spokesman. Dozens more Navy reservists are serving on COVID-19 response missions across the joint force, he added.
If the pandemic requires a large-scale military response, officials say there are a host of benefits to being able to tap into the IRR to recall service members.
“It is a pre-trained pool of manpower that is available for recall on short notice to fulfill service requirements,” Hollenbeck said. “This means that most IRR Marines will require only minimal screening and training in order to return to active duty.”
Ricks said former soldiers and retirees possess the skills, training and education to augment the Army’s COVID-19 responses.
That could prove invaluable, she added, “to ultimately win this fight.”
The likelihood of involuntary recalls being used will probably depend on how many veterans who recently left the service volunteer to fill in-demand requirements.
The Army over the last several weeks has seen an influx of volunteers after asking medical professionals in eight specialties to return to service to backfill hospitals after troops were called on to fill emergency field facilities in areas hard hit by coronavirus outbreaks. More than 25,000 retired and former soldiers have offered to return to their former uniformed roles.
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-59-MC (S/N 73-1203) of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing from Clark Air Base, Philippines, flying out of Misawa Air Base, Japan, during "Cope North 80." (U.S. Air Force photo).
The air-to-air missiles of the F-4 Phantom II were notoriously unreliable in the skies over Vietnam. If the Phantom a pilot was flying was an early model and those missiles failed them in a dogfight, it was time to hightail it out of the sky.
Luckily for Col. Phil “Hands” Handley, he was flying a U.S. Air Force F-4E on June 2, 1972, when he and his wingman were surprised by two enemy MiG-19 fighters. That day, Handley would score the highest-speed air-to-air gun kill ever, breaking the speed of sound to do it.
Handley and three other F-4E Phantoms were flying out of Ubon Air Base in Thailand in support of a search and rescue mission near Hanoi. The Americans were looking for a pilot who was shot down 23 days prior.
Low on fuel, two of the F-4Es departed to rendezvous with an aerial tanker. Handley and his wingman kept flying the mission. The two were taken by surprise when two North Vietnamese MiG-19s appeared out of nowhere.
Neither pilot wanted to leave the other, but Handley’s wingman immediately went high. Turning hard into the pursuing enemy fighter planes, Handley turned on his afterburners and turned again, this time to the rear of the enemies. He made ready to fire his missiles.
Handley’s F-4E Phantom was carrying a total of four missiles. Two of them were AIM-4 heat-seeking missiles and two were AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. This didn’t bode well for the pilot or his wingman, because the AIM-7 Sparrow had a 10% probability of killing the target. The AIM-4 was much worse, with only a 5% probability of killing the target.
That huge gap between killing and failure was on full display when Handley fired his missiles. All either flew wide, flew up, dropped to the ground or didn’t leave the rail at all. Undoubtedly, there was no one more disappointed by this than Handley, except for maybe his wingman, who had two MiG-19s bearing down on him.
With his wingman critically low on fuel over “Thud Ridge” and unable to engage the enemy, his only chance was Handley’s 20mm cannon. It was a shot that had never been done before.
Closing in rapidly, which is an understatement considering Handley was flying at Mach 1.2, he fired a high deflection shot, a three-second burst from the plane’s M-61 Gatling gun into a MiG’s flight path.
300 rounds from the Phantom lit up the MiG-19, which exploded into a flying ball of fire. Handley’s own speed and flight path put a lot of distance from the remaining enemy fighter, which broke off its attack. His wingman met his date with the tanker and they all returned to Ubon Air Base.
It was the first time a pilot used his cannon at supersonic speed to down an enemy fighter. As if breaking a combat record wasn’t great enough, when the F-4E pilots returned to base, they learned the pilot they were searching for had been found and rescued.
“Hands” Handley would be in the United States Air Force for 26 years, retiring in 1984, still holding the record for the highest-speed guns kill in aviation combat history and the only supersonic guns kill ever made. To this day, he still holds that record.
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
Afghan government forces have retaken most of Ghazni from the Taliban as clashes continued for a fourth straight day after the militant group launched an assault on the eastern city, officials say.
Security forces recaptured some 90 percent of Ghazni after reinforcements were sent to the city, Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Javed told RFE/RL late on Aug. 13, 2018.
Javed said clashes continued into the evening on Aug. 13, 2018, in Ghazni’s Baghe Bahlool area, one of the last pockets that remain under Taliban control.
Earlier on Aug. 13, 2018, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami said that some 1,000 additional troops had been sent to Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, and were trying to clear the city of Taliban militants.
“With the new measures in place, we expect that there will be a considerable development in the next 24 hours in the situation in Ghazni,” Bahrami told reporters in Kabul.
“We hope there will be a good development,” he added.
Afghan officials were quoted as saying that U.S. Special Forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations but that was not confirmed by the U.S. military.
Ghazni is a strategic city located on the main road linking the capital, Kabul, with southern Afghanistan.
Three days after the militants launched their assault on the city of 270,000 people early on Aug. 10, 2018, information was difficult to verify with telecommunications services being shut down due to the clashes.
Bahrami said the ongoing battle had killed about 100 police officers and soldiers, as well as at least 20 civilians. He also said that 194 Taliban fighters were killed.
Officials at the Interior Ministry were quoted as saying that the fighting also left at least 15 civilians dead and more than 400 others wounded.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called on the parties to “protect the lives and rights of civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure,” particularly medical facilities.
“Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming very scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment,” Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
He also said it was “unsafe” for people to travel to larger cities where medical facilities are available.
Food supplies in the city were “reportedly running low,” he added.
Shah Gul Rezayee, a lawmaker from Ghazni, told RFE/RL on Aug. 13, 2018, that the “Taliban has torched many parts of the city.”
Some Ghazni residents who fled to other cities described panic and fear in the city, Rezayee said, speaking by phone from Kabul.
“They say dead bodies are laying uncovered in the streets, people are facing a shortage of food and drinking water, and there is no electricity in the city,” she added.
A communications tower was destroyed by the Taliban, cutting off cell-phone and landline access to the city.
“People can’t contact their relatives and friends, and it has added to the fear and panic,” Rezayee said.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.
Man, military photographers take some great photos sometimes. Sand tables, missile launches, rifle ranges. So many great images of American might and military readiness. But they’re always missing something, and the Twitter user Military Giant Cats has figured it out.
Yeah, the pics were always missing giant cats. Giant, giant cats that welcome Marines home from long ruck marches. Or, maybe the Marines are marching there to attack the cat? Look, the context isn’t clear, but you would definitely buy a ticket if that was a movie, right?
Come on, you would follow this cat into battle. You would face the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with swords, and send those goons to their lords, if this cat was leading the charge. And he’s so intense about it.
Not all cats take their duties so seriously. Some are plenty patriotic but don’t feel the need to pursue the enemy all the time. They take a little time to relax, to consider their past achievements. And more than likely, to bat around a few of the tiny humans walking around his armor.
This cat is willing to brave the perils of the deep for your freedom. He will do battle with the Nautilus, he will spend weeks submerged. And if duty calls, he will claw his way through entire Russian fleets and survive on nothing but kelp to secure the seas for democracy.