The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.
The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Armyuniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.
The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.
“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.
The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.
The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.
The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.
The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.
The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.
Russia is apparently ready to build two terrifying weapons of war: A 100-ton ballistic missile that can destroy countries and a train that can carry and fire six nuclear missiles, according to Pravda, the Communist Party’s outlet in Russia.
The missile and train are “on the level of absolute readiness of the industry for their implementation, should the relevant decision be made to include the projects in the state armament program,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told Pravda.
The 100-ton RS-28 Sarmat nuclear missile, or “Satan 2” as NATO calls it, reportedly holds 10 warheads and is capable of destroying a country the size of France, Newsweek reported. The Satan 2 is an upgraded version of the RS-36M, which NATO called “Satan” in the 70s.
But its production has been put off since 2014. The Russian Defense Ministry also said last week that it wouldn’t test it until late 2017.
The Barguzin trains, on the other hand, will look like passenger trains, be able to travel 1,500 miles a day, and hold up to six 55-ton RS-24 Yars thermonuclear ICBMs. The Barguzin train is also an upgrade of a Soviet design that only carried three nuclear ICBMs.
The US considered putting nukes on trains in the 1980s, but later scrapped the idea. Nuclear trains are beneficial in that they’re mobile and difficult to locate.
However, a 2014 RAND study said that there are shortcomings to nuclear trains. Railways can be blocked by snow, and the enemy simply has to surveil the railways to find the trains. Also, once found, they’re easier to take out.
“Mobile systems that depend on roads or rail lines visible via overhead imagery effectively shrink the target area and could significantly lower the number of missiles required to barrage mobile systems,” RAND said.
Russia currently has about 7,000 nuclear weapons, while the US has about 6,800.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.
“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.
Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”
The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.
The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.
“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.
The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.
Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.
Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.
“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.
Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.
“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”
A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.
Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.
“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.
Effects of sanctions
But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.
“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.
He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”
Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.
“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.
“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.
Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”
“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.
The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.
The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.
In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”
Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”
Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”
On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”
“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was just doing their thing in November, 2017, hunting smugglers and mapping America’s puddles (or whatever it is they do), when they came across the ultimate smuggler: an ancient sea monster with $53 million of drugs in tow.
USCGC Thetis transits past the USCGC Tampa Bay in Key West.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)
The Coast Guard first spotted the drugs with an Over The Horizon small boat, identifying it as a debris patch with contraband likely in it. When the pursuit mission commander arrived at the debris field, he identified both the cocaine and a sea turtle caught in the middle of it.
Despite catching the sea turtle swimming with bales of contraband on it, the commander kept an open mind about whether or not the sea turtle was involved in the underlying crime.
A crewman from the USCGC Thetis prepares to cut a sea turtle free of bales of cocaine.
The Coast Guardsmen identified chaffing on the sea turtle and went to render aid. Speaking of which, seriously guys —do not leave trash lines in the ocean. Slowly dying of infection from chaffing or starvation because you can’t hunt is a horrible way to go.
The Coast Guardsmen cut the turtle free and allowed it to swim away without further investigation, instead concentrating on recovering what turned out to be 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at million. They also recovered the 75 feet of lines and cords which would’ve been a persistent threat to sea turtles and other wildlife.
For some reason, these are the best photos the Coast Guard released of the sea turtle rescue. Not sure if all Coast Guardsmen are limited to smart phones from 2008 or what, but we would include better photos if we had them.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
The encounter was part of Operation Martillo, and USCGC Thetis was on a 68-day patrol where the Coast Guard and its partners ultimately captured 5 million worth of drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana.
USCGC Thetis arrives in Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2010.
(U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta)
And the Coast Guard has done this while being dramatically under-resourced for such a large mission. They can often only put three cutters onto the mission at a time, and are only able to interdict 20 to 25 percent of the seaborne drugs headed into the country.
The U.S. isn’t the only country involved in the efforts. Operation Martillo has been going on since 2012 and has member countries from South America and Europe, and Canadian forces were part of the sea turtle rescue. SOUTHCOM says the operation has scooped up over 693 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 600 sea vessels and aircraft, and nearly 2,000 smugglers since it was launched in early 2012. It’s also nabbed million in bulk cash.
Air Force veterans and other military members from other branches rushed to their keyboards to inform the world of how basic training was back in their day, as a female trainee at Lackland was outed using her cell phone to post on Snapchat during training. Current and former service members were quick to criticize the unidentified young woman for her phone usage in basic training, despite the fact that nothing could be more basic than these Snaps.
Other eagle-eyed former airmen, who presumably went through BMT before the widespread use of mobile phones, were quick to ask why her key is hanging on the outside of her PC uniform as other branches questioned what “PC” is and if it’s anything like PT, if BMT is like what the Air Force calls boot camp, and do all airmen trainees wear their hair down like that?
The biggest questions on everyone’s minds were how she managed to keep her phone while the others were presumably locked away and how she was able to sit on the dayroom furniture (while eating!) without moving the chairs or invoking the wrath of the dayroom crew, the dorm chief, or even the house mouse. Meanwhile, Air Force veterans at We Are The Mighty are concerned about the fate of her wingman, who was probably recycled into oblivion, only to emerge just before mandatory retirement.
Of course, everything about the photos (posted for public consumption in the Air Force Facebook Group Air Force amn/nco/snco, who ratted her out to Air Force Basic Training’s Facebook page) is wrong; from her hair and key, to eating in the dayroom while sitting on the g*ddamn furniture. Air Force basic training is just as strict about its cell phone policy as it was in the days of payphones – airmen make three mandatory calls on their personal phones over the course of their training.
The collective selective memories of Air Force veterans from all over came down hard on the young trainee as the shade thrown at the woman was enough to blot out the sun. Of course, no one in the history of the Air Force has ever messed up as hardcore as this airman trainee, who is obviously the worst person ever and doesn’t belong in MY Air Force. #LiterallyHitler.
In all seriousness, every time I’m tempted to comment on what happened back in MY Air Force days, I’m quick to remind myself that Basic Military Training – aka BMT – in MY day was only six and a half weeks, consisted of one week of anything related to carrying a firearm in a deployed location (that was still a rubber-coated M-16, the military equivalent of pinning oven mitts on my hands), and that my first PT test in the active Air Force was on a stationary bike where push-ups and sit-ups were done, but not counted in my final score.
Lighten up, Air Force-trained killers.
As for this airman, luckily an MTI was on hand to fill the world in about current Air Force BMT phone policy. This girl probably just smuggled her phone in using the old prison-style method – and if so, let’s make sure she’s promoted ahead of peers, maybe even give her a BTZ to staff.
America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?
The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?
Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”
The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical factthat the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.
Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.
Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.
Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.
Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.
In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.
On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.
It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.
At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.
Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.
In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)
By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”
The only underground nuclear waste repository in the United States doesn’t have enough space for radioactive tools, clothing, and other debris left over from decades of bomb-making and research, much less tons of weapons-grade plutonium that the nation has agreed to eliminate as part of a pact with Russia, federal auditors said.
In addition, the US Government Accountability Office found that the US Energy Department has no plans for securing regulatory approvals and expanding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico before it reaches capacity in less than a decade.
“DOE modeling that is needed to begin the regulatory approval process is not expected to be ready until 2024,” the auditors said in their report released Sept. 5.
Energy Department officials contend there’s enough time to design and build addition storage before existing operations are significantly affected.
A Senate committee requested the review from auditors amid concerns about ballooning costs and delays in the US effort to dispose of 34 metric tons of its plutonium.
Citing the delays and other reasons, Russia last fall suspended its commitment to get rid of its own excess plutonium.
The US has not made a final decision about how to proceed. However, the Energy Department agrees with auditors about the need to expand disposal space at the repository and devise guidance for defense sites and federal laboratories to better estimate how much radioactive waste must be shipped to New Mexico as the US cleans up Cold War-era contamination.
Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, said he was pleased the auditors acknowledged the space limitations and hoped the report would spur a public discussion about how to handle the surplus plutonium and waste from bomb-making and nuclear research.
“The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, it was never supposed to be the one and only,” Hancock said. “So it’s past time to start the discussion of what other disposal sites we’re going to have.”
The New Mexico repository was carved out of an ancient salt formation about a half-mile below the desert, with the idea that shifting salt would eventually entomb the radioactive tools, clothing, gloves, and other debris.
The facility resumed operations earlier this year following a shutdown that followed a 2014 radiation release caused by inappropriate packaging of waste by workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The release contaminated part of the underground disposal area and caused other problems that further limited space.
Federal auditors say another two disposal vaults would have to be carved out to accommodate the waste already in the government’s inventory. More space would be needed for the weapons-grade plutonium.
The initial plan called for conversion of the excess plutonium into a mixed oxide fuel that would render it useless for making weapons and could be used in nuclear reactors.
However, the estimated cost of building a conversion facility at the Energy Department’s Savannah River site in South Carolina has grown from $1.4 billion in 2004 to more than $17 billion. About $5 billion already has been spent on the facility.
Estimates also show it would take until 2048 to complete the facility.
Faced with the skyrocketing cost, the government began considering whether it would be cheaper to dilute the plutonium and entomb it at the plant in New Mexico. No final decisions have been made.
Federal auditors say without developing a long-term plan, the Energy Department may be forced to slow or suspend waste shipments from sites across the US and compromise cleanup deadlines negotiated with state regulators.
The unmanned tank couldn’t operate as far away from its controllers as expected, had problems firing its 30mm gun, and couldn’t fire while moving, amid other problems, according to Popular Mechanics, citing the Defence Blog.
But in Syria, it could only be operated from about 984 to 1,640 feet from its operators around high-rise buildings, the Defence Blog reported, citing reports from the 10th all-Russian scientific conference “Actual problems of protection and security” in St. Petersburg.
The robot tank’s controller also randomly lost control of it 17 times for up to one minute and two times for up to an hour and a half, Defence Blog reported.
Uran-9 combat unmanned ground vehicle
The Uran-9 is heavily armed with four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missile launchers, six 93 millimeter-caliber rocket-propelled Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers, one 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon, and one 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.
But its 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon delayed six times and even failed once, Defence Blog reported, and it could only acquire targets up to about 1.24 miles away, as opposed to the expected four miles.
Apparently the tank’s optical station was seeing “multiple interferences on the ground and in the airspace in the surveillance sector,” Defence Blog reported.
The unmanned tank even had issues with its chassis and suspension system, and required repairs in the field, Defence Blog reported.
“The Uran-9 seems to have proven to be more about novelty than capability, but that doesn’t mean these tests are without value,” SOFREP reported. “In time (and with funding) a successor to the Uran-9 may one day be a battlefield force to be reckoned with.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
With up to 90% of its territory lost, ISIS appears effectively defeated as a conventional foe. But while the black flag of ISIS is being lowered, another may soon take its place — the white flag of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
A new report in the Wall Street Journal details HTS’ rise as it consolidates power in northwest Syria. Led by a former Al-Qaeda militant, HTS is mostly based in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and has taken advantage of the US-led coalition’s focus on ISIS in the East, as well as the Syrian government and Russia’s focus on other parts of the country.
HTS came into existence when Jabhat Fath al Sham, previously known as the Al Nusrah Front and Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria until its re-branding in July of 2016, announced a merger with four other islamist groups operating in Syria.
Combined with the other groups, HTS — or the Assembly for Liberation of the Levant — was created.
The reason for its existence, according to its propaganda, is “to unite our banners and to preserve the fruits and the jihad” of the revolution against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, so that it can “be the seed of unifying the capacities and strength of this revolution.”
The group’s leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, has said that he wants his followers to engage in “a war of ideas, a war of minds, a war of wills, a war of perseverance,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and that he will conquer Damascus — Syria’s capital — and implement Sharia law.
The group announced in February 2018, that it had defeated the remnants of ISIS militants in Idlib, and a month later said that they had taken control of up to 25 villages in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
It has created a religious police force in its territory, similar to ISIS’ Hisbah. They enforce Sharia law, control services like electricity and water, and collect taxes from citizens.
The group has also been fighting forces from the Syrian government in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. But while the terror group continues to grow and solidify its control, the Syrian government and US-led coalition have their attention elsewhere.
“The area seems to be out of focus for Western powers,” Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told the Wall Street Journal. “The jihadis are having a honeymoon there.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.