Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. officials now admit they are hunting al-Qaida in new Afghan provinces, after nearly a decade of referring to the group as “decimated.”


“Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” President Obama roundly declared at his foreign policy debate with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The U.S. Department of State even claimed al-Qaeda was “severely degraded” in its 2016 country report on terrorism.

But the U.S. military is now hunting al-Qaeda leaders in seven different provinces, indicating a high level of growth since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. John Nicholson admitted to reporters yesterday.

Al-Qaeda operations have increased throughout Afghanistan since the end of U.S. combat missions in 2014. The U.S. assisted an Afghan-led operation in 2015 that destroyed the largest al-Qaeda training camp seen in the history of the Afghan war. U.S.-backed Afghan forces raided another al-Qaeda training base Sept. 19. The base was well stocked with weapons, suicide vests, and fake identification.

“The US government and the military has downplayed al Qaeda’s presence for more than six years, despite evidence that al Qaeda has remained entrenched in Afghanistan some 15 years after the 9/11 attacks,” The Long War Journal noted Saturday.

Nicholson indicated al-Qaeda is increasingly taking advantage of the security vacuum in Afghanistan in remote parts of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented battlefield gains against the U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014. The Afghan forces maintain control over approximately 70 percent of the country, according to testimony by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joesph Dunford before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday.

The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to use Afghan territory in the years leading up to 9/11 to plan attacks on the U.S. Al-Qaeda recognizes the leader of the Taliban as the true leader of the Islamic world. After the U.S. killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri immediately swore his allegiance to the new Taliban leader.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

American, Filipino, and Japanese troops storm the beach

U.S. and Philippine Marines aboard U.S. assault amphibious vehicles launched from the U.S. Navy’s USS Ashland and Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur as part of a counterterrorism and humanitarian response based exercise. The ship-to-shore movement brought the U.S., Philippine and Japanese militaries together to advance amphibious capabilities.

“This is another step forward in working alongside the Philippine Marine Corps and the Philippine Navy as they advance their amphibious capability,” said U.S. Marine LtCol. Michael K. Chankij, lead U.S. exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2. “Last year was the first time the Philippine Navy’s BRP Tarlac, the LD-601, launched AAVs. This year we continued advancing amphibious capabilities and interoperability as the U.S. Navy launched AAVs alongside the Philippine Navy during an amphibious assault.”


One hour after the U.S. and Philippine forces launched, JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade soldiers aboard Japanese AAVs launched from the USS Ashland to support a distinct humanitarian training mission.

KAMANDAG 2 is a 10-day training exercise designed to improve U.S.-Philippine interoperability, increase readiness, strengthen multinational partnerships, and enhance the ability of U.S., Philippine, and Japanese forces to respond to crises.

After the amphibious landing, U.S. and Philippine Marines conducted follow-on live-fire military operations in urban terrain training, fire and movement drills, and fire team attacks, amplifying their proficiency in counterterrorism operations.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jinho Lee presses a combat rubber raiding craft over his head during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“Amphibious operations are a core competency that shapes who we are as Marines,” said Philippine Marine LtCol. Henry R. Espinoza, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Marine Ready Force. “We are anticipating the arrival of our first fleet of AAVs next year. The training we received from the U.S. Marines provides the Filipino AAV operators knowledge on how these amphibious vehicles operate, which is crucial to how our own AAV operators will effectively conduct future operations.”

U.S. participants included components of Seventh Fleet, the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Philippine participants included the Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force. Japanese participants included the JGSDF’s ARDB.

The ARDB was introduced to the JGSDF in March 2018. KAMANDAG 2 is the first time Japanese AAVs have ever operated outside of Japan. During the landing, the ARDB responded to a mass casualty humanitarian crisis scenario, facilitated by AAVs for the transportation of personnel and resources.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. Marines assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conduct an amphibious raid during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“This exercise was a good opportunity to enhance the capability to respond quickly to HADR, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, missions,” said JGSDF LtCol. Yoshiji Aoyama, the lead Japanese exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2 of the Bilateral Coordination Department, Ground Component Command. “It provided us the opportunity to strengthen relationships with U.S. and Philippine forces.”

As part of the training evolution, U.S. and Philippine fixed wing assets also provided aerial surveillance of the beach in support of the landing.

Throughout KAMANDAG 2, over one thousand U.S., Philippine and Japanese forces conducted ground, naval and air training, reinforced counterterrorism and HADR capabilities, and supported real-world humanitarian missions in local communities.

“Training with U.S. Marines and the JGSDF is crucial in fostering camaraderie, friendship and the exchange of ideas,” said Espinosa. “KAMANDAG 2 allowed expertise between the U.S. and Philippine forces to be exchanged. Next year we will use our own AAVs in KAMANDAG 3.”

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the United States and Philippine militaries. KAMANDAG 2 will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve combined responsiveness to crises in the Indo-Pacific region, and strengthen both countries’ decades-long partnership.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The U.S. Navy has deployed the MQ-4C Triton for the first time

The two Broad Area Maritime System aircraft arrived in Guam in January.


The U.S. Navy deployed the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime System (BAMS) to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the first operational deployment. According to the official photos, the two aircraft arrived at their forward operating base on Jan. 12, 2020, even though the deployment was announced only on January 26.

The Triton is operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) squadron of the US Navy, in an Early Operational Capability (EOC). VUP-19 will develop the concept of operations for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with the MQ-4C in the 7th Fleet, where it will complement the P-8A Poseidon. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC), planned for 2021, will include four air vehicles with capacity to support 24/7 operations, according to the Navy.

“The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the Seventh Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific,” said Capt. Matt Rutherford, commander of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72. “Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of P-8, P-3 and EP-3 will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives.”

The Triton will bring in the Pacific theater new capabilities with an increased persistence, as wrote in a previous article by our Editor David Cenciotti:

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

An MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) taxis after landing at Andersen Air Force Base for a deployment as part of an early operational capability (EOC) to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a high-altitude, long-endurance system in the maritime domain. Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Triton UAS squadron, will operate and maintain two aircraft in Guam under Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, the U.S. Navy’s lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Brooks)

This first deployment was actually expected to happen in late 2018, after the MQ-4C was officially inducted into service on May 31, 2018. However, in September 2018, VUP-19 had to temporarily stand down its operation following a Class A mishap with the new aircraft. As stated by Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, to USNI News in that occasion, the Triton “had an issue during flight and the decision was made to bring it back to base. While heading in for landing, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly on the runway. No one was hurt and there was no collateral damage.”

The announcement of this first deployment arrived just as Germany canceled its plans to buy four MQ-4C for signals intelligence missions (SIGINT), opting instead for the Bombardier Global 6000, as the Triton would be unable to meet the safety standards needed for flying through European airspace by 2025, as reported by DefenseNews.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Turkey is looking into joining a Chinese- and Russian-led alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Sunday at the end of his official tour of Pakistan and Uzbekistan.


Erdogan said he met with SCO leaders over the weekend and expressed his interest in joining the Eurasian political, economic, and military alliance as an alternative to joining the European Union, which has not been receptive to Turkey’s repeated bids for membership that began in 1963.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

France, Germany, and Belgium — home to Brussels, where the EU is headquartered — have long opposed Turkey’s accession into the EU. Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Creative Commons photo

Thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — have been purged or arrested on suspicion that they were associated with a failed coup in July of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Dozens of journalists, primarily those working for opposition newspapers, have also been arrested since the attempted coup, while several opposition outlets have been shut down altogether.

Erdogan insisted in a recent interview with “60 Minutes” that “these measures are being taken by prosecutors and judges in full accordance with the rule of law.” But the crackdown has led the European Commission to warn Turkey that it is “backsliding” in human rights and democracy — an accusation Erdogan appeared to scoff at.

“From time to time, we see insults directed at myself, claims that there was no freedom of expression in Turkey,” Erdogan said on Sunday. “Meanwhile, terrorists prance around in French, German, and Belgian streets. This is what they understand of freedom.”

A rejection, or a bluff?

Increasing disenchantment with the EU and the perception that he is being lectured to by the US — which supports anti-ISIS Syrian Kurds viewed by Turkey as terrorists — has apparently spurred Erdogan to look east, where his domestic policies have not been heavily scrutinized or condemned.

“Erdogan feels much more comfortable and at home among the authoritarian regimes of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization rather than facing the scrutiny and criticism of the European family of nations,” Aykan Erdemir, an expert on Turkey and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider on Monday.

Joining or even threatening to join the Shanghai bloc — which is heavily influenced by Russia and China — would rattle the West and, as Erdogan said on Sunday, would “considerably broaden” Turkey’s “room for maneuver.”

“If Turkey were to actually join the SCO, it would, of course, drastically alter relations with the US and NATO,” Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst and policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider on Monday.

“It would be viewed as a rejection of the Western alliance and make it incredibly difficult to include Turkey in any type of high-level strategic dialogue, given concerns about Russian expansionism,” he said, adding that Turkey, unlike other NATO members, is already a partner country to SCO dialogue.

Still, many analysts are skeptical that Erdogan is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. He has been flirting heavily and publicly with Russia since the summer, but it is unclear whether a closer alliance with Russia and China would benefit Turkey politically or economically.

“Erdogan’s weather vane foreign policy characterized by frequent U-turns is based neither on values nor principles,” said Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament. He noted that Erdogan made the same announcement about possible SCO membership during a November 2013 meeting with Putin, yet never acted on it.

Michael Kofman, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs and fellow at the Wilson Center, said the SCO is “not a cohesive economic or political bloc” and would offer little to Turkey in practice other than to “instill the perception that the West is somehow ‘losing Turkey’ and should chase Erdogan to get it back.”

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Creative Commons photo

‘A rogue and dysfunctional’ ally

Complicating the Western temptation to write off Erdogan’s comments as empty threats, however, is Turkey’s recent deal with the EU to help stem the flow of refugees trying to enter Europe from Syria.

“Erdogan knows that the EU views Turkey as critical to staunching the flow of refugees into Europe,” Koplow said. “He has a long history of making these types of threats in order to pressure Europe into concessions of various sorts. It’s a gambit that will probably be successful if recent history is any guide.”

Over the summer, the EU agreed to pay Turkey €3 billion ($3.2 billion) — and German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to speed up Turkey’s EU bid — if Turkey pledged to harbor the vast number of refugees and migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

Turkey’s entry into the SCO would also complicate its relationship with NATO.

“In theory, SCO membership would not require Turkey’s exit from NATO,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Tuesday. “In practice, however, it would severely strain Ankara’s ties with other NATO members.”

Ultimately, however, Bremmer believes Erdogan is just looking for leverage.

“Erdogan wants the US to rely less on the Syrian Kurds and to extradite [Fethullah] Gulen rather than a signal of a historic and strategic shift away from the West,” he said, noting that many existing SCO members don’t necessarily want Turkey to join.

“Erdogan himself said yesterday relations with the US and NATO are on track, so I think there’s lots of smoke, no fire here,” he added.

Erdogan told CBS over the weekend that Turkey is “moving in the same direction with NATO that we have always done.” But July’s failed coup appears to have made him only more determined to stomp out dissent, whether from his own citizens or the international community.

Erdemir, meanwhile, predicted that Turkey’s “gradual drift from NATO” would continue.

“Putin will make sure that this is a slow and painful process for Turkey and the transatlantic alliance,” he said. “He knows that as a rogue and dysfunctional NATO ally, Turkey is of greater use to Moscow than as a defector to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

Articles

7 powerful ways American culture has changed the world

America is the dominant world power since World War II. Chinese propaganda claim that China will replace the United States in the new century. However, if the Chinese Communist Party is advancing by leaps and bounds, why isn’t Mandarin the universal world language? While it is true that China is the world’s largest manufacturer, the fact remains the world sees American culture as genuine. The Chinese way, like their products, is just a knock off. This is how American culture changed the world in a way the communists never will.

1. Jeans

The iconic American trouser was invented in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. The pants were originally developed for miners because their clothes would rip when working. Davis and Levi devised a trouser made of denim with rivets at high-stress points and a button at the waist. The patented trousers called jeans were worn by blue collar individuals and were romanticized by Western films. When the patent ran out, other competitors copied the science but changed the design.

The Blue Jean spread around the world like wildfire for its practicality and style. Some countries, such as North Korea, have banned jeans because ‘it symbolizes American imperialism.’ I don’t see countries en masse adopting Chinese pants and culture.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
To be fair, we might owe the world an apology for the skinny version on men (Wikimedia Commons)

2. Pop Music

America has the best musical artists in the world. Nobody says “put the top 100 in China” as a Spotify playlist. When I was in Afghanistan I told an A.N.A. (Afghanistan National Army) soldier, who was listening to Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop” passed away years ago. Not only did he not believe me but he became irate. Imagine if I would have brought up the allegations against him when he was still alive. Regardless, the world listens to our music even if they can’t understand it.

3. Capitalism

The theory of exchanging goods and services for money has been around since ancient Babylon. However, America has become synonymous with the idea of capitalism and free trade. The alternative is state-run enterprises that give the illusion of private ownership, such as in China. Regardless, the American way of commerce does have its weaknesses that cause recessions. By the same virtue, capitalism can also recover – and it does.

4. Social Media

Americans are trendsetters. All of the original social platforms were developed in America.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Now that’s power (Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay)

5. The Internet

Speaking of what is on the internet, the internet itself was made in America. The government developed the ARPANET (Advanced research Projects Agency Network) building on the technology of computers already available. The first network, for all intent and purposes, was between USCLA and Stanford University. The first message sent was “Login,” but only the two first letters arrived. Task failed successfully. Communication is always key on the battlefield. Even now, you the reader and I the author, are communicating using this technology that has proliferated the world. There isn’t a country on earth where our culture of technology hasn’t reached out and touched someone.

6. Airplanes

Fun fact: out of the two Wright brothers, one (Orville) lived until 1948. Imagine inventing the concept of flight then watching the Axis use it to try to conquer the world. Then, by the time the war is over, the U.S. Government develops the jet engine in 1939. You set out to live your dreams with your sibling and all of this happens in the span of your lifetime.

7. Basketball

Baseball may have held the claim of “America’s pastime” for most of the 20th Century. However, I see infinitely more people playing basketball than any other sport. In the military, it’s the easiest team sport to round up the platoon and get to the courts on short notice.  In fact, the Army helped spread the sport to Europe and China during the first World War. The sport was started in a YMCA in Massachusetts but is played in even developing countries around the world – even North Korea.

Feature image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

Articles

The first openly-gay service member fought the Air Force to a standstill

Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.


Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)

Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.

In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.

He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Matlovich receiving the Bronze Star while deployed to Vietnam as an Airman 1st Class. (leonardmatlovich.com)

His supervisors called him “dedicated, sincere, and responsible,” and “absolutely superior in every respect.”

Matlovich received  a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Leonard Matlovich recovering from his wounds in a Vietnam field hospital.

That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.

He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.

In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.

All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.

He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Matlovich with his honorable discharge certificate.

Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.

When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:

“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Matlovich’s tombstone in Congressional Cemetery.

Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.

Articles

Navy looking for more lethal deck-mounted guns

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Joshua Adam Nuzzo | U.S. Navy


The Navy is seeking longer-range precision weapons for its deck-mounted “5-inch” guns to better destroy enemy targets, defend maritime forces on the move in combat and support amphibious operations.

Every Navy Cruiser and Destroyer is armed with “5-inch” guns to attack land and sea targets from the deck of a ship. In existence since the 70s, the weapon can be used to attack enemy targets or lay down suppressive fire so that maritime forces can better maneuver or reposition while in battle.

However, the 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of only about eight or nine miles, and the current rounds lack precision so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed.

A new Raytheon-developed GPS-guided Excalibur N5 round, however, can pinpoint target out to about 26 nautical miles, Paul Daniels, Raytheon business development, Excalibur, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“We’re more than tripling the max effective range of the Mk 45 five inch guns and providing Excalibur precision with less than 2-meters miss distances at all ranges,” he said.  “Think of the area that you can cover as a commander of a ship — that is about 8 nautical miles, 200 squared nautical miles around your ship to more than 2,000 square miles,” Daniels said.

The new round, which recently destroyed a target in a test at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., is being offered in response to a 2014 Navy Request for Information to industry for precision-guided technology for the services’ 5-inch guns.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Wikipedia

The initiative to develop longer range precision weapons is entirely consistent with the Navy’s often discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. The idea is to not only better arm the fleet with more lethal and effective offensive and defensive weapons but also enable the fleet to better “distribute” its forces across wider swaths of geography, Navy leaders explain.

Longer range weapons could increase the distances at which Navy forces could operate, be less at risk of enemy fire, and still hold an enemy at risk with precision-guidance technology.

The prospect of dispersing and aggregating forces will allow the fleet to better confuse potential adversaries and make it more difficult for enemy precision weaponry to pinpoint and attack U.S. Navy ships, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Director of Surface Warfare, said Jan. 12 at the Navy Surface Warfare Association National Symposium, Arlington Va.

“When we talk about distributed lethality, we are not backing away in any sense from the requirement to ensure the continued defense of our aircraft carriers, ensure the continued defense of our amphibious ready groups, ensure the continued defense of our logistics train,” Rowden said at the symposium.

The extended range of the Excalibur N5, Daniels explained, could prove valuable for amphibious Marine Corps forces in need of fire support while approaching shore.

“It is also a critical capability to support Marines ashore which is naval surface fire support. This is a longstanding capability gap the Marines have had. They want extended range and they want precision to support amphibious operations. Now they can use Excalibur to support their operations ashore,” Daniels explained.

Excalibur Modifications

The new Excalibur N5 emerged as a result of making several modifications to an Army 155mm precision-guided artillery round called Excalibur 1B; this weapon, in service now for many years, has been used more than 800 times in combat and successfully helped commanders complete attack missions during the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The round has been particularly effective against terrorist and insurgent targets, including force positions, IED-making facilities and enemy bunkers. Precision is of particular relevance in a counterinsurgency type of combat environment and battles against forces such as the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents.  In these types of scenarios, targets often quickly move, shift in close-in urban settings and at times deliberately blend in with civilian populations.

“We are leveraging all the technology and investment that has been developed by the Army and brining that to this Navy Mk45 five-inch gun. We are re-using 100-percent of the guidance and navigation unit from the Army projectile, 70-percent of all parts and 99-percent of the software,” Daniels said.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Photo by Spc. Evan D. Marcy | U.S. Army

In order to produce the Excalibur N5 round, Raytheon engineers simple take the front end of the round off the production line of the existing Excalibur 1B round and re-use the technology for the new munition.

“It has all the electronics that make the projectile work. It is engineered so that the electronics can survive the extreme forces of gunfire. We are talking about upwards of 15,000 Gs. The Army has spent a lot of time and money developing a consistent weapon,” Daniels said.

The Army and Marine Corps 155mm artillery shell is configured to fire from a 6-inch barrel, whereas the Navy’s ship-based guns are 5-inch guns. As a result, the body of the Excalibur N5 round has been slightly tweaked in order to accommodate the Navy guns.

For instance, the “canards” or fins at the front end of the round that help guide and correct the weapon’s flight path, called “control actuation systems,” have been slightly modified for the new round, Daniels explained.

The Excalibur N5 could be operational within several years. The explosive in the weapon can detonate using three different methods; point detonate allows the weapon to explode upon impact, delayed detonate gives the weapon an ability to break through up to four inches of concrete before detonating – and “height of burst” detonate mode allows the weapon to use a sensor to determine it is near the desired target and explode in the air, Daniels said.

The weapon often lands on a steep vertical trajectory, allowing the kinetic energy of impact on a target to break the round through up to 4-inches of concrete before exploding, he added.

As part of its development of both variants of the Excalibur weapon, Raytheon has engineered the weapon with a dual-mode seeker which can alternate between GPS and laser guidance technology.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Raytheon

During a recent weapons test, the Excalibur round was launched with GPS guidance and then, at a given point in its trajectory, it used its laser-guidance seeker technology to find a different target location while in flight.

“It handed off from GPS guidance to the laser guidance and destroyed the target at the very first test,” Daniels added. “This is important in a land attack circumstances because may there is an urban environment.”

Laser guidance technology could be particularly relevant in a fast-moving urban combat circumstance wherein targets might quickly move – and the utmost precision is called for.

When it comes to maritime targets, however, the Navy might be interested in what is called “millimeter wave” seeker technology, Daniels said. This guidance technology is able to help the weapon guide its way to a target in bad weather or conditions where a target could be obscured such as rough seas.

“The Navy would like to be able to fire in a maritime environment against things like fast-moving boats in bad weather in rough seas. They would potentially rather not have a laser designator but might prefer a fire and forget, millimeter wave approach. You can hand off from GPS guidance to a millimeter wave seeker,” Daniels explained.

The Excalibur round is also capable of functioning in a GPS jamming environment, although details about how this works are not publically available.

Leveraging Army technology is also a way to minimize costs in a budget constrained environment, Daniels said.

Costs of the round can vary depending upon the quantity purchased, however previous Excalibur rounds have sold for about $ 68,000 per round, sources indicated.

More from Warrior Scout:

This article originally appeared at Warrior Scout. Copyright 2016.

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This is how a ship’s crew eats during combat

When ships are fighting, the battles can take a long time. To give one example, the battle between a German wolfpack and convoy ONS 92 lasted from May 11 to May 14 — three days of constant ASW. Combat can take a toll on a crew, but so can not eating.


Back in World War II, the usual plan was to fix the crew sandwiches they could eat at action stations, usually with some (typically strong) Navy coffee. That tends to help — but sandwiches and strong coffee aren’t exactly the most nutritious of choices.

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HDMS Iver Huitfeldt, the lead ship of the class HDMS Peter Willemoes is in. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Today, it runs a little differently, given the higher expectations that sailors have about their food. Let’s look at one of the newest warships in the Danish Navy, the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes. This frigate is powerful, carrying 32 RIM-66 SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a pair of 76mm guns, and a 35mm close-in weapon system. It also can operate a MH-60R helicopter and carry up to 165 personnel.

So, how can they quickly feed that crew, while still keeping a combat edge? Well, for one thing, the crews don’t get a lunch hour — they get six minutes to eat. That restriction means that the cooks can fix that meal and clean everything up in a grand total of 74 minutes.

 

As a result, that crew is refueled and ready to take on the enemy, whether in the air, on the surface, or underwater. The video below helps show how this is done – quickly and efficiently, so this ship can fight!

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Lack of cyber talent remains a national security threat

The massive shortage of cyber professionals is a national security threat, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Cyber personnel from the private and public sectors are America’s frontline of defense because critical infrastructure sectors, including water, healthcare, and elections, rely on a resilient cyber infrastructure, explained Rob Karas, associate director for Cyber Defense Education and Training from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.


“America’s cybersecurity workforce is a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” he said.

However, there is not enough talent in the field, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“Estimates place the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at approximately three million people worldwide, with roughly 500,000 job openings in the United States,” Karas said. “This global shortage means American organizations, whether in the private sector or in the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments, compete with employers all over the world as well as with each other to find cybersecurity talent. … CISA sees the cybersecurity workforce shortage as a national security issue.”

Army Lt. Col. Julianna M. Rodriguez is a cyber warfare officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She is the offensive cyberspace operations division chief in the Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Section.

Though she did not take a direct path to her current position, her preparation and adaptability enabled her to take advantage of opportunities for the evolving cyber field.

In high school, Rodriguez took advanced classes, focusing on math and science up to AP Calculus BC and AP Physics. After graduating, she attended the United States Military Academy, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Systems Architecture.

In addition to earning a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through Columbia Engineering, she earned two technical certifications: Mirantis OpenStack Certification Professional Level and SaltStack Certified Engineer, and is preparing for the Army Cyber Developer Exam.

For Rodriguez, changing career fields was a process of discovering where she could best serve.

“I started in Air Defense Artillery because [in 2003] it was one of the few combat arms branches in which women officers could lead,” she said.

Rodriguez served in ADA units as a battalion intelligence officer and headquarters battery commander, eventually attending the MI Officer Advanced Course. She also deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan and taught at the USMA before transferring into the cyber branch.

When advising others interested in cyber, Rodriguez gives feedback based on her experience.

“Our citizens can best serve when they use their innate skills and interests for our national good [and] improve daily in learning and practicing related skills. For those who have an interest in computing, information technology, and network communications, committing to engage that interest in service to our nation can meaningfully impact our nation’s security,” she said.

However, she cautioned how the field is not a good fit for those who like routine and clearly defined work. She also described the Army’s cyber branch as highly competitive, so if an individual wants to join, she recommends:

  • Learn programming languages C, Python, R, or JavaScript (Not markup languages like HTML)
  • Obtain technical certifications like OSCP, OSCE, CISA, and CCNP
  • Do networking or security projects
  • Stay current on technology advances and policy impacts

Rodriguez adds specific backgrounds make a good fit for the field, including those with strong computer and IT skills.

“Soldiers from a variety of other branches and MOSes, including signal, aviation, and field artillery,” she said.

Because of the critical need for cyber talent, the Army created the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program. It is actively recruiting “software engineers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, hardware and radio frequency engineers, vulnerability researchers, and other computer-based professionals,” Rodriguez said. “I encourage anyone who has a deep interest in technology, a penchant for learning and change, and a commitment to our nation’s security to pursue a career in cyber with our military.”

For those interested in CISA cybersecurity education programs, check out:

FedVTE (Federal Virtual Training Environment): Free online cybersecurity training

CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service: DHS/CISA scholarship for bachelors, masters, and graduate cybersecurity degree programs in return for service in federal, state, local or tribal governments upon graduation

President’s Cup Cyber Competition: Competition for federal and Department of Defense cyber workforce to promote and recognize top cyber talent in government service

National Centers of Academic Excellence: 190+ academic institutions that DHS/CISA and the National Security Agency have designated for cybersecurity-related degrees

Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program: Cybersecurity curricula and education tools for K-12 teachers

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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Here’s a good way for troops to fight predatory lenders but still get money in a pinch

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The American Forces Press Service reports that payday loans have become a $40 billion business and are especially prominent outside military bases. David VanBeekum, a market manager for a local bank near Hill Air Force Base helps to educate Airmen about how payday loans work. He said Utah has 350 payday lenders and almost 10 percent of them are located just outside the base’s gates.

But you don’t have to physically go to the stores. The Internet has 2.5 million links for payday loans, 4 million for cash advance sites; and 31 million for check advance sites. In addition, the Hill Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center, which offers financial counseling services for military members, found that in California the payday loan outlets outnumber McDonalds and Burger King restaurants combined.

Typically, payday loans are for relatively small amounts of money in increments of $100, up to $1,000. It’s easy to obtain one of these loans. All anyone needs is a bank account, proof of a steady income such as a pay statement, and a simple form of identification. It takes about 20 minutes to secure a loan.

Payday lenders target women, those who earn $25,000 or less per year, minorities, and military members. The borrower writes a personal check or grants electronic access for the amount of the loan and a finance charge. However, these loans are not long term and become due on the borrower’s next payday, either in one or two weeks. The interest compounds quickly and calculates to an average of 390 to 780 percent annual percentage rate. There’s no payback installment plan so the borrower must pay the entire amount due in order to avoid another finance charge associated with an extension of the entire loan principle.

This style of business traps the borrower into a repetitive cycle. On average, a person choosing a payday lender ends up with eight to 12 loans per year. A successful payback of the loan is not reported to the credit bureaus and there are documented cases of companies resorting to unlawful or questionable collection tactics.

Each state establishes its own regulations, finance fees and interest rate limits, not the federal government, Mr. VanBeekum said. There’s even a lender in Utah who charges as much 1,335 percent, and even though they’re required by law to advertise the interest rate, 75 percent of them do not.

The Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit advocacy group, has studied the payday loan industry for the past 10 years and said the industry meets the criteria for predatory lenders who have abusive collection practices, balloon payments with unrealistic repayment terms, equity stripping associated with repeated refinancing and excessive fees, and excessive interest rates that may involve steering a borrower to a higher-cost loan.

Besides the high interest rates, CFA surveyors found they misrepresent themselves as check cashers even though they are not registered with the state as a check cashing entity. They will not cash your personal check. Instead, they are only willing to hold your check until payday. The lenders will threaten or badger the client into paying the loan and many people end up rolling over the entire balance of the loan, and thus incur the finance fees again. A number of payday lenders have also ignored the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and found ways to access a consumer’s account when not authorized or when authorization was withdrawn.

The PenFed Foundation’s Asset Recovery Kit (ARK) provides a no-interest alternative to predatory lending for active duty, reserve, and National Guard military.

Fees for predatory payday loans can be an astronomical $19 for each $100 borrowed until payday. Through ARK, one can borrow up to $500 with a flat fee of $5 and no interest for one month.

ARK is a hassle-free, confidential, and smart way to deal with money problems.

  • Active duty, reserve, and National Guard military are eligible 
  • No credit report is pulled because those with emergency cash needs have already exhausted their options.
  • No interest is charged, just an application fee of $5. With ARK, you don’t fall further into debt.
  • Immediate cash loans up to $500 (or 80 percent of net pay) are available for one month.
  • There’s minimal paperwork just a simple one-page form.
  • It’s completely confidential, meaning we don’t tell anyone who has come to see us.
  • Up to three loans in six months are available, but after the first ARK loan, the recipient must sit down with a local Consumer Credit Counselor identified by the foundation.

ARK was designed to be as easy as a payday loan, but without the negative consequences. The goal is to rebuild or repair credit, improve cash flow and increase money-management skills.

PenFed partners with credit unions across the country to bring the ARK program to military men and women. They welcome new credit union partners. Please contact them to learn more.

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5 other WWII battles that kicked off the war in the Pacific

When the Japanese attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, they did so in a coordinated effort that spanned across the Pacific.


Having been weakened by sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese sought to deliver a crushing blow to the U.S. and its allies, claiming much of the territory in the East and leaving little means for resistance.

These are the five battles that occurred simultaneously (though on December 8 because they were across the international date line) as the attack on Pearl Harbor, effectively beginning the war in the Pacific:

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The Americans would not recapture the island until 1944. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

1. Battle of Guam

Along with the air attacks at Pearl Harbor the Japanese also began air raids against the island of Guam on the morning of December 8, 1941. Two days later an oversized Japanese invasion force landed on the island. After quickly defeating the local Insular Guard force, the Japanese moved on to the under-strength Marine Corps detachment led by Lt. Col. William MacNulty. After a brief resistance, the Marines were ordered to surrender by the islands governor. However, six men from the U.S. Navy fled into the jungle in hopes of evading capture. Five were eventually captured and executed but one, George Ray Tweed, managed to hold out with the help of the local Chamorro tribe for over two and a half years until U.S. forces retook the island in 1944. To the locals he represented the hope of an American return to the island. When the Americans returned he was able to signal a nearby destroyer and pass on valuable targeting information.

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Most of the F4F Wildcats defending Wake Island were lost in the initial attack. The remaining would also fall to the Japanese, but not before sinking the Kisaragi battleship. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

2. Battle of Wake Island

When the Japanese first launched their air attacks on Wake Island, they caught the U.S. off guard and managed to destroy precious aircraft on the ground. However, when the Japanese invasion came on Dec. 11, 1941, the Americans were ready and threw back the initial Japanese landing attempt. The Japanese proceeded to lay siege to the island. Aerial bombardment continued but Wake Island became a bright spot in the Pacific as American forces were pushed back elsewhere. The media dubbed it the “Alamo of the Pacific.” Eventually, on Dec. 23, 1941, the Japanese launched another assault on the island. Again the defenders put up a staunch resistance. With no more flyable planes, the Marine aviators — as well as civilians trapped on the island — joined in the fight. Capt. Henry Elrod would become the first Marine aviator to earn the Medal of Honor for his actions there. Despite the intrepid defense, the island was surrendered. The defenders joined the others across the Pacific in their brutal treatment by the Japanese.

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Prisoners on the march from Bataan to the prison camp. None would survive the war. (U.S. National Archives)

3. Battle of the Philippines

When the first Japanese forces hit the islands north of Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, brought out of retirement for just such an occasion, had over 31,000 American and Philippine troops under his command. These forces put up a determined resistance throughout December, but on Christmas Eve MacArthur called for a fighting withdrawal to the Bataan Peninsula. Once his forces were consolidated on Bataan and the harbor islands of Manila Bay, they dug in to make a final stand against the Japanese onslaught. For several months they held out until shortages of all necessary war supplies dwindled.

The survivors were rounded up and subjected to the brutal Bataan Death March on their way to POW Camps. A lucky few were able to withdraw to Corregidor. A defensive force centered on the 4th Marine Regiment and, augmented by numerous artillery units numbering 11,000 men, prepared to defend Corregidor from the Japanese. That attack came on May 5, 1942. The next day Gen. Wainwright, in the face of overwhelming odds and no prospects of relief, decided to surrender the American forces in the Philippines.

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Japanese fire artillery at the British colony of Hong Kong. (Photo: Veterans of Foreign Wars)

4. Battle of Hong Kong

The Americans were not the only targets of the Japanese and so at 8:00 a.m. local time, Japanese forces from mainland China attacked the British Commonwealth forces defending Hong Kong. British, Canadian, and Indian troops manned defensive positions but were woefully undermanned.

Initial attempts to stop the Japanese at the Gin Drinker’s Line, a defensive line to the north of Hong Kong island, were unsuccessful due to a lack of manpower. The defenders also lacked the experience of the Japanese troops that were attacking. Within three days, the defenders had withdrawn from the mainland portion of the colony and set up defenses on the island of Hong Kong.

The Japanese quickly followed and, after British refusal to surrender, attacked across Victoria Harbor on Dec. 19. Less than a week later, on Christmas day 1941, the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese. The survivors endured numerous atrocities at the hands of the Japanese.

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One of Singapore’s 15 inch coastal defence guns elevated for firing. The guns were supplied with armor-piercing shells instead of high explosive ones, and were therefore not very effective against the invading infantry. (Wikimedia Commons)

5. Malayan Campaign and the Battle of Singapore

Another British target of the Japanese was Singapore for its important strategic location and because it was a strong base for British resistance. In order to capture Singapore, the Japanese launched the Malayan Campaign on Dec. 8, 1941. On the first day of the campaign the Japanese also launched the first aerial bombardment against Singapore.

In an attempt to intercept the Japanese invasion force, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk by Japanese aircraft. This left very little in the means of naval power for the British fleet in Singapore.

On land the Commonwealth forces fared no better. The Japanese stormed down the peninsula, forcing the defenders back towards Singapore. By the end of January 1942 the entire peninsula had fallen and the British set in to defend Singapore. The Japanese launched their assault on Singapore on Feb. 8, 1942. Some 85,000 troops stood ready to defend the city but could only hold out for a week before capitulating. This ended British resistance in the Pacific area.

The British lost nearly 140,000 men — the vast majority of whom were captured — in the campaign. As with the fighting elsewhere, the campaign was marked by Japanese cruelty.


Feature image: National Archives

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This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

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Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

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According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

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The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

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