An amended executive order gave the Defense Department the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots to address a personnel shortage.
The Air Force says it doesn’t currently intend to recall those pilots however.
The Air Force says it doesn’t plan to use new authority granted by an amended executive order to recall retired pilots to correct an ongoing personnel shortage.
“The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on Oct. 22. “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”
A Pentagon spokesman said on Oct. 20 that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested the move.
Mattis was expected to delegate to the Air Force secretary the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years.
The Air Force is currently about 1,500 pilots shy of the 20,300 it is mandated to have. About 1,000 of those absent are fighter pilots. Some officials have deemed the shortage a “quiet crisis.”
Under current law, the Air Force was limited to recalling 25 pilots; the executive order temporarily lifts that cap.
The Air Force has already pursued a number of new policies to retain current pilots and train new ones. In August, the service announced that it would welcome back up to 25 retired pilots who elected to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could continue in their current assignments.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
A Russian-born American has been captured in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. These anti-ISIS fighters have captured thousands of defeated Islamic State militants in the country since the fall of its de facto capital of Raqqa in 2017. To them, this is just one more ISIS prisoner.
They have returned the captured American to U.S. troops in the country and now he will stand trial in the United States.
This is not the first instance of Americans who left to join the terrorist state being captured and repatriated to the United States. Two American women and four children have also been captured and returned to the U.S. since the American intervention in the fight against the Islamic State began.
Thousands of ISIS-affiliated persons have been captured in the former “caliphate.”
The SDF in Syria is a force of American-trained and supported fighters, primarily of Kurdish origin. They have captured thousands of ISIS fighters since the fall of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” and returned many to their countries of origin to face punishment. Most of those returnees come from Europe, who struggles with repatriating the fighters and even with prosecuting them. While the United States stands ready to prosecute the fighter, European countries differ on how to handle returnees.
When the U.S. first started planning for the return of captured fighters, the Trump Administration originally planned to incarcerate them at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, Trump is sending returning ISIS-affiliated repatriates to the civilian court system. In June 2019, American-born wives and children of ISIS fighters were captured by the SDF and returned to the U.S.
The status of ISIS-born children is an emerging controversy.
Those affiliated with the Islamic State but aren’t accepted by their former country of citizenship are more likely to be held in vastly overcrowded prison camps in Syria or held in government jails. European countries are refusing the fighters because their justice systems would require gathering sufficient evidence of wartime crimes (being a member of ISIS isn’t enough to secure a conviction), and if tried, there’s a chance the ISIS fighters could walk free. The United States isn’t facing a huge influx of returning fighters but has a different standard of proof.
In the meantime, much effort is expended by all armed forces in the region in returning families of Islamic State fighters to their countries of origin, many coming from nearby Iraq or far-flung places as far as China and Uzbekistan. As the SDF finishes eliminating pockets of ISIS resistance, they are sure to find more and more survivors to send home, wherever home once was.
The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.
Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.
The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.
The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.
Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
On Oct. 22, 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, in partnership with the Missing in American Project (MIAP), provided a memorial service with full military funeral honors for three veterans who donated their bodies for medical education and research.
“Every veteran with honorable service has earned the right to be interred in a national cemetery and has paid the price by their service to this great nation. There is no cost to the family for this service; it simply is the right thing to do,” said Douglas Maddox, Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery assistant director. “I want to point out that these veterans continued to serve their country and their community even after their death.”
The veterans interred were:
Paul Alexander Rogers, Navy veteran (Seaman), who served from July 1951 to March 1953 (Korean War);
Cameron Wayne Scott, Air Force veteran (Sgt.), who served from November 1977 to December 1983;
Lawrence Dale Stout, Army veteran (Spc.3), who served from November 1954 to November 1956 (Korean War).
The service included a rifle salute by the Dallas-Fort Worth Honor Guard, a live bugler and flag presentation. The North Texas Patriot Guard Riders escorted the urns to the committal shelter, with carrying by cadets from the Oak Cliff High School JROTC.
Entrance gate at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
Honor and respect
In conformation with Texas state law, all bodies are cremated upon completion of studies.
“Our mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans. We strive to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes,” said Tyler Carver, from MIAP who organized the service along with Joyce Earnest, the Texas Coordinator for the MIAP.
The 638-acre Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery opened in May 2000. Since that time, the cemetery has conducted more than 59,000 interments of veterans and eligible dependents. The cemetery scheduled a Veterans Day ceremony honoring military veterans for November 11 at the cemetery.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. For details, visit www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/eligible.asp.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Is Russia really flying combat missions from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov? That is a question percolating as recent satellite photos caught some of the planes that are known to operate from the carrier at a land base, as opposed to operating directly from the carrier.
That airbase, located near the coastal city of Latakia, has become Russia’s main center of operations during its intervention in Syria. Russia also has a naval facility in Tartus, roughly 45 miles to the south of Latakia, that has been used since 1971 under an agreement by the Soviet Union with the regime of Hafez al-Assad.
While it is not uncommon for carrier-based planes to operate from land bases (the n Cactus Air Force at Guadalcanal, which featured planes from the air groups of damaged carriers, is perhaps the most famous instance), this is a sign that Russia’s carrier is less than it seems. In essence, while the Russians are claiming that the Kuznetsov is carrying out a combat deployment and launching sorties, this ship really was more of a glorified aircraft ferry. This is the purported flagship of the Russian Navy.
The Kuznetsov displaces 61,000 tons, and usually carries 15 Su-33 Flankers, but is also capable of carrying up to 20 MiG-29s. One of the MiG-29s crashed earlier this month due to issues with the carrier’s arresting gear combined with an engine failure on the modern multi-role fighter.
The pilot ejected and was recovered, a very unexpected hiccup in Russia’s efforts to showcase the carrier, which has had a reputation for breaking down while on deployment. Since the crash, the MiG-29s have apparently been grounded.
Russia has used the conflict in Syria to test out new weapon systems like the Su-35 “Flanker E” and the SS-N-27 Sizzler. Russia also has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to defend its bases in Syria.
Iran says its ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria was not only a response to deadly attacks in Tehran, but a powerful message to arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the United States, one that could add to already soaring regional tensions.
The launch, which hit Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour on June 18th, appeared to be Iran’s first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict, in which it has provided crucial support to embattled President Bashar Assad.
It comes amid the worsening of a long-running feud between Shiite powerhouse Iran and Saudi Arabia, with supports Syrian rebels and has led recent efforts to isolate the Gulf nation of Qatar.
It also raises questions about how US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had previously put Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. State television footage showed the missiles on truck missile launchers in the daylight before being launched at night.
The missiles flew over Iraq before striking what the Guard called an Islamic State command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, over 370 miles away. The extremists have been trying to fortify their positions in the Syrian city in the face of a US-led coalition onslaught on Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.
Syrian opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is based in Germany but closely follows events in his native Deir el-Zour, said two Iranian missiles fell near and inside the eastern town of Mayadeen, an Islamic State stronghold. He said there were no casualties from the strikes. The IS group did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.
Iraqi lawmaker Abdul-Bari Zebari said his country agreed to the missile overflight after coordination with Iran, Russia, and Syria.
The Guard described the missile strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.
But the missiles sent a message to more than just the extremists in Iraq and Syria, Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Guard told state television in a telephone interview.
“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” he said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”
June 18th’s missile strike came amid recent confrontations in Syria between US-backed forces and pro-government factions. The US recently deployed a truck-mounted missile system into Syria as Assad’s forces cut off the advance of America-backed rebels along the Iraqi border. Meanwhile, the US on June 18th shot down a Syrian aircraft for the first time, marking a new escalation of the conflict as Russia warned it would consider any US-led coalition planes in Syria west of the Euphrates River to be targets.
The Zolfaghar missile, unveiled in September 2016, was described at the time as carrying a cluster warhead and being able to strike as far as 435 miles away.
That puts the missile in range of the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, American bases in the United Arab Emirates, and the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
The missile also could strike Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. While Iran has other ballistic missiles it says can reach longer distances, the June 18th strike appears to be the furthest carried out abroad. Iran’s last foreign missile strike is believed to have been carried out in April 2001, targeting an exiled Iranian group in Iraq.
Iran has described the Tehran attackers as being “long affiliated with the Wahhabi,” an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. However, it stopped short of directly blaming the kingdom for the attack, though many in the country have expressed suspicion that Iran’s regional rival had a hand in the assault.
Since Trump took office, his administration has put new economic sanctions on those allegedly involved with Iran’s missile program as the Senate has voted for applying new sanctions on Iran. However, the test launches haven’t affected Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Israel is also concerned about Iran’s missile launches and has deployed a multilayered missile-defense system. When Iran unveiled the Zolfaghar in 2016, it bore a banner printed with a 2013 quote by Khamenei saying that Iran will annihilate the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa should Israel attack Iran.
On June 19th, Israeli security officials said they were studying the missile strike to see what they could learn about its accuracy and capabilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
“We are following their actions. And we are also following their words,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And I have one message to Iran: Do not threaten Israel.”
Iranian officials meanwhile offered a series of threats of more strikes, including former Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai. He wrote on Twitter: “The bigger slap is yet to come.”
Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.
Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.
Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.
When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”
Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.
A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)
Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:
Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
Purpose begins with passion
Out of many, one
We are fueled by gratitude
Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo
Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.
Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.
“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”
The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.
Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”
By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.
The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.
“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”
Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.
A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.
“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”
Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.
“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”
President Donald Trump has tentatively decided to withdraw the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria once the last remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been eliminated, the White House said April 4, 2018.
The White House statement gave no timeline for a pullout that has been opposed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but said, “We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans.”
“The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” the statement said, adding the U.S.-led coalition remains “committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.”
However, once the mission to destroy ISIS is completed, the U.S. can focus on withdrawal, the statement said.
In the absence of the U.S. military, “We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges,” it continued.
The White House issued the statement after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on April 4, 2018, that Trump had reached a decision on whether to order Mattis to begin planning for withdrawal.
At a breakfast with defense reporters, Coats did not say what the decision was, but said it was reached after “all hands on deck” discussions between Trump and his national security team April 3, 2018, at the White House.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Mattis, who has argued that the U.S. military needs to remain to provide security for recovery efforts, and the return of refugees, attended the discussions on the potential withdrawal, Pentagon officials said.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces after the defeat of ISIS would leave the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to an uncertain fate.
With the backing of U.S. airpower and artillery, the mostly Kurdish SDF has driven ISIS from most of its strongholds in Syria, and in 2017, claimed the so-called ISIS capital of Raqqa after a lengthy siege.
However, the dominant force in the SDF is the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militia that Turkey has labeled a terrorist group.
In January 2018, Turkish forces, and their Free Syrian Army proxies began “Operation Olive Branch” to drive the YPG from border areas. The Turkish offensive is now focused on the crossroads town of Manbij, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in support of the local Manbij Military Council.
At the end of March 2018, Special Operations Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Texas, and British Sgt. Matt Tonroe, 33, were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij while reportedly on a mission to capture or kill an ISIS operative.
On April 4, 2018, as the White House pondered withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were meeting in Ankara to coordinate their next steps in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.
In a joint statement, the three presidents said they would oppose efforts to undermine the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster had once been a key goal of U.S. policy.
(Photo from Moscow Kremlin)
The three presidents said they are against “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Syria,” a possible reference to U.S. opposition to Assad.
At the end of March 2018, Trump said he had lost patience with the costs to the U.S. in blood and treasure of involvement in the Middle East and wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “very soon.”
At a joint White House news conference on April 4, 2018, with the leaders of the Baltic states, Trump said, “I want to get out” of Syria.
“I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” he said. “It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS; we will be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it is time to come back home. And we are thinking about that very seriously.”
However, Trump appeared to leave open the possibility that U.S. troops would remain in Syria if others picked up the costs of their presence.
“We’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision, and I said, ‘Well you know, you want us to stay, maybe you’re gonna have to pay.’ “
At the same time that Trump was speaking at the White House, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, was arguing for a continued U.S. military presence in Syria to defeat ISIS and provide security for recovery efforts.
“The hard part is in front of us,” Votel said at a U.S. Institute of Peace Forum at which representatives of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development spoke of their ongoing efforts to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS.
Votel said U.S. troops in Syria had the mission of “consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, [and] addressing the long-term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done. Of course, there is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase.”
Four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at a comrade fleeing into South Korea and hit him five times in the first shooting at the jointly controlled area of the heavily fortified border in more than 30 years, the South’s military said Nov. 14.
South Korean soldiers did not fire their weapons, but the Nov. 13 incident occurred at a time of high animosity over North Korea’s nuclear program. The North has expressed intense anger over past high-profile defections.
The soldier is being treated at a South Korean hospital after a five-hour operation for the gunshot wounds he suffered during his escape across the Joint Security Area. His personal details and motive for defection are unknown and his exact medical condition is unclear.
South Korea’s military said he suffered injuries in his internal organs but wasn’t in a life-threatening condition. But the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul said the soldier was relying on a breathing machine after the surgery removed the bullets. Lee Guk-jong, a doctor who leads Ajou’s medical team for the soldier, described his patient’s condition as “very dangerous” and said the next 10 days might determine whether he recovers.
On Nov. 13, he first drove a military jeep but left the vehicle when one of its wheels fell into a ditch. He then fled across the JSA, with fellow soldiers chasing and firing at him, South Korea’s military said, citing unspecified surveillance systems installed in the area.
Suh Wook, chief director of operations for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that North Korea fired a total of about 40 rounds in a shooting that his office suggested started while the soldier was in the jeep.
The solider was found beneath a pile of leaves on the southern side of the JSA and South Korean troops crawled there to recover him. A U.N. Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou medical center, according to South Korean officials.
The North’s official media haven’t reported the case as of Nov. 14. They have previously accused South Korea of kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The JSA is jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and by North Korea, with South Korean and North Korean border guards facing each other only meters (feet) apart. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which forms the de facto border between the Koreas since the Korean War. While both sides of the DMZ are guarded by barbed wire fences, mines and tank traps, the JSA includes the truce village of Panmunjom which provides the site for rare talks and draws curious tourists.
Monday’s incident was the first shooting at the Joint Security Area since North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire when a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the JSA in 1984. A North Korean soldier defected there in 1998 and another in 2007 but neither of those events involved gunfire between the rivals, according to South Korea’s military.
The 1984 exchange of gunfire happened after North Korean soldiers crossed the border and fired, according to the U.N. Command. In Monday’s incident, it wasn’t known if the North continued firing after the defector was officially in the southern part of the Joint Security Area. The U.N. Command said Tuesday that an investigation into the incident was underway.
The Joint Security Area was the site of some bloodshed during the Cold War but there hasn’t been major violence there in recent years. In 1976, North Korean soldiers axed two American army officers to death and the United States responded by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate the North.
The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.
These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.
“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”
The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.
Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology, and engines.
Official U.S. Air Force Artist Rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Heavy Bomber.
The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.
A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.
“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.
Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.
The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.
It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Hackers screened for their good intentions found 138 “vulnerabilities” in the Defense Department’s cyber defenses in a “bug bounty” awards program that will end up saving the Pentagon money, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.
Under the “Hack The Pentagon” program, the first ever conducted by the federal government, more than 1,400 “white hat” hackers were vetted and invited to challenge the Pentagon’s defenses to compete for cash awards.
Of the 1,400 who entered, about 250 submitted reports on vulnerability and 138 of those “were determined to be legitimate, unique and eligible for bounty,” Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.
The lessons learned from the “Hack The Pentagon” challenge, an initiative of the Defense Digital Services started by Carter, came at a fraction of the cost of bringing in an outside firm to conduct an audit of the Pentagon’s cyber-security, he said.
The awards going out total $150,000 while a full-blown cyber audit would have cost at least $1 million, he said. In addition, “we’ve fixed all those vulnerabilities,” Carter said.
No federal agency had ever offered a bug bounty, he noted.
“Through this pilot we found a cost-effective way to supplement and support what our dedicated people do every day,” Carter said.
“It’s lot better than either hiring somebody to do that for you or finding out the hard way,” he said. “What we didn’t fully appreciate before this pilot was how many white-hat hackers there are.”
Carter said the Pentagon had plans to encourage defense contractors to submit their programs and products for independent security reviews and bug bounty programs before they deliver them to the government.