Military activity is picking up in the quiet waters between the US and Russia - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Military activity is picking up in the quiet waters between the US and Russia

Tensions between the US and Russia and increasing activity in the Arctic have drawn more attention to the countries’ otherwise quiet boundary in the high north.

The Bering Strait, between Alaska and Russia’s Far East, has long been an area of low tension and cooperation on matters like waterway management and fisheries enforcement. But expectations of increased commercial and military activity in the Arctic have raised the strait’s strategic profile.

“The Northwest Passage and the Northern Passage all link through one strategic waterway in the West, and that’s through the Bering Strait,” retired US Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser said at a Wilson Center event in October, referring to sea routes along the northern coasts of Canada and Russia, respectively.

Russia is modernizing its military, and the rejuvenation of its submarine fleet in particular has drawn US military attention back to the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap, through which Russian navy ships would need to pass to strike targets at sea in the Atlantic or in the US and Europe.

US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, top, and Russian-flagged tanker Renda cut through ice in the Bering Sea, January 7, 2012. US Coast Guard/P01 David Mosley

“The issues that we’re facing and talking about in the GIUK Gap, you need to be very cognizant that they could also appear in the Bering Sea,” added Fraser, who led Alaska Command in the mid-2000s.

Fraser is not alone in that assessment. At a Senate hearing in March, the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael Gilday, said he expected the Bering Strait to be “strategically as important as the Strait of Malacca or the Strait of Hormuz.”

The US military has been active in those straits for years, but its activity in and around Alaska is increasing.

In May 2019, a Navy aircraft carrier joined the Northern Edge exercise in the Gulf of Alaska for the first time in decade; months later, the Navy returned to Adak Island, in Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain, for another exercise.

Adak was home to a sprawling Navy base that closed in the 1990s, but Navy officials have discussed again using it for aerial patrols. The Navy’s longstanding Arctic submarine exercises have also taken on new relevance.

Adak Island hosted a Navy base until its closure in 1997. It now is the site of a commercial airport. 
Google Maps

“I think we ought to pay a lot of attention to the Aleutians,” Fraser said at the October event. “They provide, really, a string across the approaches into the Bering, and as more and more strategic activity happens … through the northern approaches, the Aleutians are going to be a strategic and key terrain.”

The Air Force and Space Force will be “key contributors” to addressing issues that arise in the region, Fraser said.

The Air Force has the US military’s largest presence in the Arctic, where it works with Canadian forces on airborne early-warning operations, including intercepting Russian bombers that approach US airspace. That presence will grow as the Air Force adds more F-35s to its bases in Alaska.

Other service branches want to increase their training in Alaska, and lawmakers have pushed for more investment there.

The US Army Corps of Engineers recently approved plans to expand the port of Nome, on Alaska’s Bering coast. That “will not only help from a national-security perspective but … help [local communities] to reduce the cost of living,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said at another event in October.

‘Not so much about signaling’

A naval tactical assault force lands on the coast of the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, August 2020. 
Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia’s Far East and Arctic regions are sparsely populated, and after the Cold War the military infrastructure there deteriorated, but Moscow is refurbishing those facilities.

“The physical proximity to both Canada and Alaska … makes the Far Eastern flank of the Arctic as … important to the Russians as the European flank, or NATO flank, of the Arctic,” Alexey Muraviev, head of the Department of Social Sciences and Security Studies at Australia’s Curtin University, told Insider this summer.

The work includes expanding and upgrading airfields to handle strategic bombers and support all-weather operations, though Russia is “mindful of China” and concerns it may have about such activity near their shared border, Muraviev said.

Russia has renovated Arctic bases to support maritime operations along the Northern Sea Route and added new radars and other installations to detect an airborne attack. The easternmost Arctic radar facility is on Wrangel Island, just 300 miles from Alaska.

Russia’s Pacific Fleet has received a variety of new ships and has increased its exercises. A major naval drill in August led to close encounters between Russian ships and US fishermen near Alaska.

That was Russia’s first significant exercise in the region in some time, but it wasn’t clear if it was a response to US actions, according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a nonprofit research group.

“A lot of big Russian military exercises, it’s not so much about signaling,” Kofman told Insider. “It’s much more about them actually being able to do it … to mass forces, to exercise farther away from the actual naval bases.”

Kofman was skeptical that the Bering Strait would take on the same strategic significance as the GIUK Gap but said the sea lines of communication that run through it mean it would be important if the US pursues a sea-control strategy in a conflict, particularly one with China, which brands itself a “near-Arctic power” and is increasingly active there.

“China’s quite interested in the Arctic,” Kofman said, “and the United States is always interested not just in Russia but anywhere China gets interested.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a famous general was arrested as enemy royalty

During the final push of World War I, U.S. and French troops were racing to liberate the French city of Sedan, and the U.S. commanders allowed some units to maneuver around each other in the closing moments to hit German lines. In the chaos, U.S. troops with the 1st Division arrested what they thought was a German officer, maybe even the Crown Prince of Germany, who actually turned out to be a famous general and hero.


Rainbow Division Soldiers Help End WWI during Meuse-Argonne Offensive

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

For this story, it’s important to remember that World War I ended without Allied troops reaching German soil (something that Gen. John Pershing and Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch protested as they believed it would lay the seeds for another war). So, the final clashes took place on French soil, and there was a surge in fighting in the last days as Allied powers attempted to put as much pain on Germany as possible.

On November 6, this push reached the city of Sedan, and the 84th Infantry Brigade managed to push into the suburb of Wadlaincourt. The 84th had been battered by intense frontline fighting in the previous weeks, but its intrepid commander had fought from the front the whole time.

Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had already been nominated for his fifth and sixth Silver Stars, both of which he would later receive. He had suffered injuries in a poison gas attack, survived artillery bombardments and machine gun attacks, and led his men to victory in key terrain.

Then-Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War I.

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

On November 6, he was in Wadlaincourt with his men, taking the fight to Germany even though few brigade commanders would’ve risked being that close to the guns.

And the 1st Infantry Division didn’t know he was there. So when 1st Infantry soldiers saw MacArthur, clad in his grey cape and cap, they thought it was a German officer they were looking at. As Raymond S. Tompkins wrote in 1919 in The Story of the Rainbow Division:

All [the platoon leaders] saw in the gathering dusk was an important looking officer walking around, attired in what looked like a gray cape and a visored cap with a soft crown, not unlike those the Crown Prince wore in his pictures.

Yeah, coincidentally, MacArthur’s common outfit on the front just happened to be similar to the Crown Prince of Germany’s. While none of his own men would mistake the general for anyone else, he was not yet famous enough to be recognized by average members of other units.

And, the German Crown Prince had, in fact, led troops in combat in 1918 on Germany’s Western Front. So it is, perhaps, not so surprising that the mistake could happen on a fast-moving and chaotic front.

The Crown Prince of Germany Rupprecht did lead German troops in the field against his nation’s enemies.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

And so the patrol arrested him, and MacArthur protested his innocence and identity, but the platoon leader wasn’t going to take the word of a probable German officer over his own eyes, so he vowed to take the man to a unit headquarters for identification.

Obviously, the 84th Infantry Brigade headquarters was nearby, since MacArthur was typically found close to his place of duty. So the 1st Infantry Division patrol took him there, to his own headquarters, for identification. Perhaps in a failure of imagination, his headquarters immediately identified him. They really missed a chance at a great prank, there.

It turned out well for them, though. The Armistice negotiations would begin days later on November 8, 1918, and was signed in the wee hours of November 11. MacArthur was made the division commander of the 42nd Infantry Division. He and his men were welcomed back to the U.S. as heroes, and it doesn’t appear that MacArthur held any personal grudges against the 1st Infantry for his short detainment.

Articles

Brits warn of potential ISIS attacks on Antarctica travelers

The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.


The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.

“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”

The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.

“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”

The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.

Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just ordered more Massive Ordnance Penetrators

The Air Force has given Boeing a $20.9 million contract to procure the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator — a bomb designed to destroy hardened underground targets like those found in North Korea or Iran.


The announcement does not disclose how many bombs were ordered, but it did say the work is expected to be done by July 31, 2020. Boeing is to get the total amount of the contract at the time of award.

The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is the US’s largest nonnuclear bomb. A GPS-guided bunker-buster, it is “designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” the Air Force fact sheet for the weapon states.

Also read: This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

That includes fortified positions and underground targets, like bunkers or tunnels. It is designed for operational use by the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can carry two at a time, but hasn’t been used in combat, and its deployments, if any, are not known.

‘Hard and deeply buried targets’

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency Massive Ordnance Penetrator conventional bomb being off-loaded at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, March 2007. (Image from Defense Threat Reduction Agency)

Under a 2011 contract cited by The Drive, the Air Force paid Boeing $28 million for eight of the bombs, as well as for additional parts and for a redesign of the B-2’s bomb bay. But the latest order comes after the Pentagon successfully tested and deployed an upgraded version, the GBU-57D/B, which may have a different unit cost than previous models.

The latest upgrade, the fourth for the bomb, “improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Bloomberg in January 2018. The spokeswoman said the upgrade had been completed and the current inventory was being retrofitted.

Related: How the B-2’s stealth technology beats ground radar

Few details about the upgrade have been released, but, according to The Drive, it likely includes a modified fuse, which is responsible for detonating the weapon. The fuse is a complicated component that needs to function with precision after a fall from high altitude and the shock of burrowing through earth or other barriers.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal year 2017 report, that the GBU-57 had successfully completed several tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico over the past year, dropped from B-2s on “representative targets” that “demonstrated effectiveness of the Enhanced Threat Response (ETR)-IV weapon modifications.”

A weapon that ‘boggles the mind’

(Image from Boeing)

The GBU-57 is 20.5 feet long, 31.5 inches in diameter, and carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. Much of the remaining weight is a high-performance steel casing that, along with its narrow diameter, is meant to help the weapon burrow into the ground. Some estimate it could penetrate up to 200 feet of earth before detonating.

“What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” B-2 pilot Lt. Col. Justin “Vapor” Grieve told The Kansas City Star. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”

A former Pentagon official who saw footage of GBU-57 tests during 2014 and 2015 told Politico in 2015 that the weapon “boggles the mind.”

Those tests came amid a period of heightened tension with Iran, which developed an extensive underground network of labs and other facilities involved in nuclear-weapons development.

A US B-52 bomber dropping the GBU-57 during a test. (Photo from DoD)

More recently, US tensions with North Korea — which has an extensive network of underground tunnels, command-and-control bunkers, and missile and nuclear facilities — have again raised the possibility the GBU-57 could used over a battlefield.

In fall 2017, B-2 bombers and other aircraft were heard during an exercise over Missouri that appeared to simulate airstrikes on airports in the state, according to a recording obtained by The Aviationist.

More: The Air Force wants to fly the B-2 Bomber into the 2050s

During one night of the exercises, an aircraft involved radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site,” whose coordinates pointed to a Jefferson City airport hanger. It’s not clear whether the use of unsecured radio channels was a mistake or done on purpose.

Three B-2 bombers arrived in Guam in January 2018 in what the Air Force called a planned deployment.

Iran and North Korea are not the only countries that have developed extensive underground infrastructure. China’s strategic missile forces have a 3,100-mile network of tunnels under mountains in the northern part of the country. According to a 2009 Jamestown Foundation report, Chinese state media refer to the complex as an “underground Great Wall.”

Articles

The Albanians are selling MiGs at bargain-basement prices

A former AAF Shenyang J/F-6, rusting away at Kucove Air Base. Photograph by Rob Schleiffert, 2007


If you’re in the market for a used fighter jet that can still fly, the Albanian Air Force would like to talk with you in the near future before they run out of stock!

Forty Cold War-era fighter jets have been put up for auction by the Albanian government with the goal of eventually selling all of its retired fixed-wing fleet to whoever has the highest bid. Of that forty, eleven fighters parked at the old Rinasi air base near Tirana are currently open for immediate sale, with opening bids beginning at 1.1 million to 1.9 million leks. Yes, million, and no, that’s not actually a lot of money when you do the currency conversion. Overall, it comes to the grand range of $8,600 to $14,800 USD, according to the Associated Press.

That pretty much means anybody with a job could probably afford to buy one of these fighters… not including transportation, maintenance, and insurance costs. Not to mention operational costs if you decide to actually fly these aircraft.

It’s somewhat unclear whether or not these fighters up for sale are actually MiGs or the Chinese clone copies, though a closer inspection of each aircraft will undoubtedly reveal their source. The Albanian Air Force originally fielded Soviet-built MiG-15s, -17s, and -19s, though it began to procure Chinese-made clones after Albanian relations with the USSR ended in 1961. Albania eventually bought large numbers of Shenyang J-5s and J-6s (MiG-17s and MiG-19s respectively) and a smaller fleet of Chengdu J-7s (MiG-21s).

Before you tell your wife you’re about to take out a second mortgage on your house, or your college roommates that you just found something really sweet to pool your money on, you should probably be aware of the fact that the Albanian Air Force had an astoundingly high accident rate with its fighters. When the USSR ended diplomatic ties with Albania, it became incredibly difficult to find parts and the appropriate jet fuel for their MiG fighters, so Albania spurred on its industry to attempt to produce a similar fuel composition to keep their fighters flying. The fuel wasn’t similar enough, and apparently wreaked havoc on the engines it was burned in, shortening their lifespans, and in some cases, outright blowing up aircraft while in-flight.

If the test sale of the 11 MiGs (or Shenyangs?) is successful, the remaining fighter fleet will be opened up for sale. Prospective bidders include museums around the United States and Europe, as well as private bidders who just want the aircraft to add to their collections. I can’t say with certainty that the TACAIRNET team won’t try to bid on one, either… So you’d better hurry if you’re looking to have a MiG-17 parked in your driveway by the end of this year!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will test its newest carrier with underwater explosions

The US Navy is planning to finalize weapons integration on its new USS Ford carrier and explode bombs in various sea conditions near the ship to prepare for major combat on the open seas, service officials said.

Service weapons testers will detonate a wide range of bombs, to include a variety of underwater sea mines to assess the carrier’s ability to withstand enemy attacks. “Shock Trials,” as they are called, are typically one of the final stages in the Navy process designed to bring warships from development to operational deployment.


“The USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trails and testing, culminating in full-ship shock trials. The ship will then work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation,” William Couch, an official with Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

Testing how the carrier can hold up to massive nearby explosions will follow what’s called a Post Shakedown Availability involving a final integration of various combat systems.

“The Post Shakedown Availability is planned for 12 months, with the critical path being Advanced Weapons Elevator construction and Advanced Arresting Gear water twister upgrades,” Couch added.

The Navy’s decision to have shock trials for its first Ford-Class carrier, scheduled for deployment in 2022, seems to be of particular relevance in today’s modern threat environment. In a manner far more threatening than most previously known threats to Navy aircraft carriers, potential adversaries have in recent years been designing and testing weapons specifically engineered to destroy US carriers.

USS Gerald R. Ford
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

One such threat is the Chinese built DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship missile. This weapon, now actively being developed and tested by the Chinese military, can reportedly hit moving carriers at ranges up to 900 nautical miles.

Accordingly, unlike the last 15 years of major US military counterinsurgency operations where carriers operated largely uncontested, potential future conflict will likely require much more advanced carrier defenses, service developers have explained.

A 2007 Department of Defense-directed Shock Trials analysis by the non-profit MITRE corporation explains that many of the expected or most probable threats to warships come from “non-contact explosions where a high-pressure wave is launched toward the ship.”

MITRE’s report, interestingly, also identifies the inspiration for Shock Trials as one originating from World War II.

“During World War II, it was discovered that although such “near miss” explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the MITRE assessment, called “Navy Ship Underwater Shock Prediction and Testing Capability Study” states.

The MITRE analysis further specifies that, following a nearby explosion, the bulkhead of a ship can oscillate, causing the ship to move upward.

“Strong localized deformations are seen in the deck modes, which different parts of the decks moving at different frequencies from each other,” MITRE writes.

The existence and timing of USS Ford Shock Trials has been the focus of much consideration. Given that post Shock Trial evaluations and damage assessments can result in a need to make modifications to the ship, some Navy developers wanted to save Shock Trials for the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy. The rationale, according to multiple reports, was to ensure the anticipated USS Ford deployment time frame was not delayed.

Gerald R. Ford on the James River
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

However, a directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan, following input from the Senate Armed Services Committee, ensured that shock trials will occur on schedule for the USS Ford.

Data analysis following shock trials has, over the years, shown that even small ship component failures can have large consequences.

“A component shock-qualification procedure which ensures the survivability of 99% of the critical components still is not good enough to ensure a ship’s continued operational capability in the aftermath of a nearby underwater explosion,” MITRE writes.

Also, given that the USS Ford is introducing a range of as-of-yet unprecedented carrier-technologies, testing the impact of nearby attacks on the ship may be of greater significance than previous shock trials conducted for other ships.

For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

In addition, stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons, and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said.

Several years ago, the Navy announced that the V-22 Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Board Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

V-22 Osprey

However, despite the emergence of weapons such as DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of the weapon like this to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away.

Targeting, guidance on the move, fire control, ISR, and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology, which travels in carrier-strike groups, combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon.

The Navy is also developing a new carrier-launched tanker, called the MQ-25A Stingray, to extend the combat range of key carrier air-wing assets such as F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The range or combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets, therefore, is fundamental to this equation. If an F-35C or F/A-18 can, for instance, only travel roughly 500 or 600 miles to attack an inland enemy target such as air-defenses, installations, and infrastructure – how can it effectively project power if threats force it to operate 1,000-miles off shore?

Therein lies the challenge and the requisite need for a drone tanker able to refuel these carrier-launched aircraft mid-flight, giving them endurance sufficient to attack from longer distances.

As for a maiden deployment of the USS Ford slated for 2022, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven the ship will likely be sent to wherever it may most be in need, such as the Middle East or Pacific.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Godsmack was used in Navy recruitment ads is kinda awesome

You couldn’t turn on your television in the mid-2000s without seeing one of the adrenaline-pumping recruitment ads created by the United States Navy. Keith David’s majestic yet empowering voice tells you that being a civilian is overrated and that life in the Navy is freakin’ badass — a message delivered atop a crushing guitar riff from Godsmack’s Awake.

Keith David signed on because, despite having never served, he’s an avid supporter of the military and veteran community. In fact, many of his most well-known roles are of him portraying troops across many different branches.

Godsmack, on the other hand, got on board because someone asked politely.


I mean, Keith David is the unofficial go-to military actor. I’m highly confident he has a first-look deal with anything relating to the military somehow.

(Street Justice Films)

At the turn of the century, the Navy was having trouble connecting with younger generations. Previous recruiting campaigns were falling flat, so the Navy worked with Campbell-Ewald, the advertising firm that came up with Ford’s “Like a Rock,” to develop something inspiring to young adults who sought high-tech adventure.

They came up with, “Accelerate Your Life.”

The Navy recruitment office signed Keith David on to what would become a sixteen-year spokesman deal and things were almost set. The only remaining piece to the puzzle was music.

As the story goes, a young sailor at the recruitment office simply got in contact with Sully Erna of Godsmack. The conversation was as simple as the sailor asking, “do you mind if we use Awake?” The band was cool with it and that was that. The band was very supportive of the troops and the fact that one of their fans was a sailor resonated with them.

From the Navy’s perspective, it was an easy win. The band’s main demographic, males between 18 and 30, overlapped perfectly with the demographic targeted by the Navy. The band received plenty of praise from the military community in return. Godsmack would go on to perform on countless military installations (having an obvious fanbase within the Navy). They even headlined the Rockin’ The Corps concert held at Camp Pendleton and perform at countless USO shows.

Rock on, Godsmack. Keep loving the troops and we’ll always have your back. ​

But those outside the military community weren’t so happy. Godsmack front-man Sully Erna received plenty of flack for signing two separate contracts, each allowing one of their songs to be used in recruitment ads. Awake was authorized between 2001 to 2004 and the contract was again renewed to allow for use of their latest song, Sick of Life, between 2004 and 2007.

The band has officially remained politically neutral, but that didn’t stop them from being outspoken supporters of the troops. Erna was confronted about this in an interview with Arthur magazine. The interviewer, Jay Babcock, was very confrontational in suggesting the band played a role in the Global War on Terror by helping recruit young adults into a war.

Erna response was unapologetic:

It’s energetic music. It’s very athletic. People feel that they get an adrenaline rush out of it or whatever, so, it goes with whatever’s an extreme situation. But I doubt very seriously that a kid is going to join the Marines or the U.S. Navy because he heard Godsmack as the underlying bed music in the commercial. They’re gonna go and join the Navy because they want to jump out of helicopters and f*ckin’ shoot people! Or protect the country and look at the cool infra-red goggles.
Articles

SEALs punished over Trump flag

The consequences have come for Navy SEALs who flew Trump flags from their vehicles earlier this year.


According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, the unidentified personnel, who were assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two, were reprimanded for flying blue Trump flags off their vehicles while they were convoying between training locations.

A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (YouTube screenshot)

“It has been determined that those service members have violated the spirit and intent of applicable [Defense Department] regulations concerning the flying of flags and the apparent endorsement of political activities,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell told Newsline.com.

At the time, We Are The Mighty covered the incident, noting that in July, 2016, the DoD had reminded military and civilian personnel, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

Video of the event spread rapidly over social media, and was picked up by a number of media outlets in addition to We Are The Mighty, including the Daily Caller. One of the videos is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbOd-gnWLt8
MIGHTY TRENDING

3 countries where Russian mercenaries are known to operate

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in April 2018, that the US killed hundreds of Russians during a large firefight in Syria in early February 2018.

“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” Pompeo said. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”


The Russians were part of Wagner Group, or Vagner Group, a private mercenary company reportedly contracted by the Syrian government to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

The Wagner Group started getting attention in 2014 when its mercenaries fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, before moving to Syria.

While little is still known about the shadowy mercenary group, they are believed to be operating in at least the following three countries:

1. Syria

1. Syria

There are currently about 2,500 Wagner mercenaries in Syria, according to the BBC, but the figures have varied.

In 2015-2016, Wagner mercenaries moved from Ukraine to Syria, Sergey Sukhankin, an associate expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv, told Business Insider in an email.

The mercenary group was contracted by Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp to capture and secure gas and oil fields by ISIS, reportedly being given 25% of the proceeds, according to the Associated Press.

A Russian journalist who helped break the story about the mercenaries killed by the US military in February died earlier this month after mysteriously falling from a balcony.

2. Sudan

Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan in early January 2018, according to Stratfor.

The Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan “in a conflict against the South Sudan” to back up Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government “militarily and hammer out beneficial conditions for the Russian companies,” Sukhankin said.

The mercenaries are also protecting gold, uranium and diamond mines, Sukhankin said, adding that the latter is the “most essential commodity.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a cozy relationship with al-Bashir. The two leaders met in Moscow in late 2017, where al-Bashir asked Putin for protection from the US.

The Hague has had an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir since 2009 for crimes against humanity.

3. Central African Republic

In early January 2018, Stratfor reported that Wagner mercenaries might soon be sent to CAR, and Sukhankin said that there are now about 370 mercenaries in CAR and Sudan.

Sukhankin said that Wagner mercenaries have the same general mission in CAR — protecting lucrative mines and propping up the government regime.

In December 2017, the UN allowed Russia to begin selling weapons to the CAR, one of the many ways Moscow is trying to influence the continent. The CAR government is trying to combat violence being perpetrated by multiple armed groups along ethnic and religious lines.

“Russian instructors training our armed forces will greatly strengthen their effectiveness in combating plunderers,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera said in early April, according to RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“The Russian private sector is also seeking to invest in the country’s infrastructure and education,” RT reported.

“Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive [in Africa],” Stratfor reported.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

“Potentially, the Balkans if any conflict erupts,” Sukhankin said. “The Russians had sent PMC’s in 1992 to Bosnia. In case something occurs, this might happen once again.”

Wagner mercenaries might also soon be sent to Libya, one Wagner commander told RFERL in March 2018.

“There are many fights ahead,” the commander told RFERL. “Soon it will be in Libya. [Wagner] is already fighting in Sudan.”

Russia has been engaging more and more with Libya since 2016, supporting the faction led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, NATO backs the the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Wagner commanders said that demand for their mercanaries will continue to grow as “war between the Russian Federation and the United States” continues, RFERL reported.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy and Coast Guard divers look for torpedoes under Arctic ice

Divers from U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) One, and the U.S. Coast Guard braved harsh Arctic waters to play a critical role during a torpedo exercise as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018.


ICEX 2018 is a five-week biennial exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations.

During the exercise, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) each fired several training torpedos under the ice. Training torpedoes have no warheads and carry minimal fuel.

Also read: Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

“The primary objective of this year’s ICEX is to test new under-ice weapons systems and validate tactics for weapon employment,” said Ryan Dropek, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, Rhode Island Weapons Test Director. “Once the divers recover these torpedoes, we can extract important data about how they perform and react in these conditions.”

After the submarines fire the torpedoes, helicopters transport gear and personnel to the location where the positively-buoyant torpedo is expected to run out of fuel. Each torpedo has a location device in order to assist in the search. Once found, a 3-4 person team will then drill a series of holes for the divers to enter and exit, as well as one hole for the torpedo to be lifted by helicopter.

Chief Hospital Corpsman Kristopher Mandaro, assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, surfaces from a waterhole during a torpedo exercise in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

“Once we know the location of the torpedo and drill holes, our divers slip into the water to begin placing weights on a line attached to the tail end of the torpedo,” Chief Warrant Officer Michael Johnson, officer-in-charge of MDSU-2 divers, explained. “The weights help shift the torpedo from a state of positive buoyancy to neutral buoyancy under the ice.”

Related: The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

Once the torpedo is neutral, the divers place brackets with cables to the top and bottom of the body of the torpedo. A helicopter then connects to the torpedo before lifting it vertically out of the hole.

The three dive teams completed additional training in preparation for diving in the unique environment of the Arctic Ocean.

“To prepare for ICEX, we completed training at the Coast Guard’s Cold Water Ice Diving (CWID) course and earned our ordnance handling certification from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center,” said Johnson. “Additionally, each unit completed MK48 Torpedo recovery training and Unit Level Training (ULT) classroom training on hypothermia, frostbite, ice camp operations, dry-suit, and cold-water ice diving.”

The USCG CWID course is a two-week course in Seattle, Washington hosted by the USCG instructors at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) which focuses on the use of equipment and diving operations in harsh Arctic waters. During the course, divers complete a diving practical in Loc de Roc, British Columbia at 5,000 ft. elevation to put environmental stresses on the divers and equipment to acclimate to the cold and altitude.

“Our underwater construction teams have always had the ice-diving capabilities, so it was awesome to be invited out to this exercise to make sure we’re keeping up with something that we say we can do,” said Builder 1st Class Khiaro Promise, assigned to Construction Dive Detachment Alfa.

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

During ICEX, the divers conducted dives using two different types of diving methods. UCT-1 and the USCG dove with SCUBA equipment, which provides divers with an air supply contained in tanks strapped to the backs of the divers. The divers equip themselves with a communication “smart rope” which is a protected communication cable to the surface that acts as a tending line so support personnel on the surface has positive control of the divers and so they can quickly return to the dive hole.

More: The Coast Guard is outnumbered 20-to-1 in the Arctic

MDSU-2 divers used the diving system DP2 with configuration one, which provides voice communications and an air supply provided by the surface. This configuration allows the divers to swap the composite air bottles without the diver resurfacing and without interrupting their air supply.

“We decided to use the DP2 system because it performs in arctic conditions very well,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Davin Jameson, lead diving supervisor for MDSU-2. “The ability to change our air supply during the dive is critical and allows us to stay under the water a lot longer.”

Not only did the divers have an essential role in torpedo recovery, they were also essential to camp operations. “Prior to torpedo retrieval dives, all the divers on ice helped set up the camp and in the building of two runways (one 1,300 and one 2,500-ft),” Senior Chief Navy Diver Michael McInroy, master diver for MDSU-2. “In the camp, everyone has responsibilities to keep operations on track. The divers worked hard to do their part in and out of the water.”

A Sailor assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) mans the sail after the boat surfaces through the ice cover March 10, 2018 in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

MDSU-2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story (JEBLCFS) in Norfolk, Virginia. The unit deploys in support of diving and salvage operations and fleet exercises around the world. The primary mission is to direct highly-mobile, fully-trained and equipped mobile diving and salvage companies to perform combat harbor clearance, search and expeditionary salvage operations including diving, salvage, repair, assistance, and demolition in ports or harbors and at sea aboard Navy, Military Sealift Command, or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.

Related: The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

UCT-1 is also homeported at JEBLCFS and is worldwide deployable to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations. Seabees operated off the coast of Alaska for the first time in 1942 when they began building advanced bases on Adak, Amchitka and other principal islands in the Aleutian chain.

ICEX divers and their support elements are a proven and vital component to the success of this five-week exercise. The partnership between the Navy and Coast Guard builds on the foundation of increasing experience and operational readiness even in the one of the harshest regions of the world.

“The brotherhood in diving means we have a lot of trust in that other person when you go underwater, and you get close to your coworkers, it’s more of a family,” Promise said.

Articles

China’s military is approaching ‘near parity’ with the West

China’s military is fast approaching “near parity” with western nations, according to a new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.


In its 2017 Military Balance report, which focuses on global military capabilities and defense spending, IISS experts say that China has made significant progress in research and development and improved its military capabilities, putting it close to on par with the US and other allies.

Related: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the US in the South China Sea

“Western military technological superiority, once taken for granted, is increasingly challenged,” Dr. John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of IISS, said in a statement. “We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West.”

A Chinese tanker soldier with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base, China. | DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

Instead of its usual practice of working on systems that imitate Soviet and Russian technology, China has shifted its efforts (and budget) to domestic research and development. Its Navy is currently working on three new advanced cruisers, 13 destroyers, and outfitting other ships with better radar.

But China’s efforts on new aircraft have been the most effective.

China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

China has its own stealthy J-20 and J-31 fighters, helped in part by stolen technical details of the F-22 and F-35, though it still seems to lack many of the capabilities of its US counterparts. But Beijing has made up for that in the development of a long-range air-to-air missile that has no western equivalent.

“Seen on exercise last year and estimated at near-six meters in length, this developmental missile likely has the task of engaging large high-value and non-maneuvering targets,” Chapman said. “With a lofted trajectory, an engagement range around 300 kilometers would appear feasible.”

That long range makes that kind of missile particularly deadly to aircraft that supports short range fighters, such as aerial tankers and AWACS, which provide an airborne radar platform.

Interestingly, the report notes, China’s progress is “now the single most important driver for US defense developments.”