During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”
The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.
So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.
But the laser was the star.
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)
“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.
Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.
But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.
Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”
“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”
Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.
A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.
For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.
The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.
The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.
Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.
Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.
Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.
Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.
Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.
While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.
While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.
The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.
In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.
Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.
In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.
Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.
Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.
F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses
Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.
While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.
The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.
Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.
Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.
In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.
The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.
These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.
Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.
Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.
In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
F-35 25mm Gun
The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.
The novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It spread throughout the nation in January, and then across the world. Now, there are over 1.2 million confirmed cases across more than 183 countries and regions.
The Chinese state’s slow response to the outbreak and its lack of transparency have led some to claim that Covid-19 will be China’s ‘Chernobyl moment’. These criticisms remain valid despite China’s later mobilisation to contain the virus’s spread, which was largely the result of work by medical professionals and a strong community response. The Chinese Communist Party’s ineffective command and control mechanisms and its uncompromising restrictions on information in the early stages of the crisis helped transform a localised epidemic into a global pandemic.
Chinese authorities only confirmed the outbreak three weeks after the first cases emerged in Wuhan. As the virus spread, the CCP’s crisis-response mechanisms slowly kicked into gear. On 20 January, President Xi Jinping convened a politburo meeting, which put China on an effective war footing. Wuhan and all major Chinese cities were locked down and the People’s Liberation Army assumed command over disease control efforts.
Shortly after the politburo met, an order was issued to the National Defence Mobilisation Department (NDMD) of the Central Military Commission to launch an emergency response to combat the epidemic. The order required the ‘national defence mobilisation system to assume command of garrison troops, military support forces, and local party committees and governments at all levels’.
As ASPI’s Samantha Hoffman has noted, the NDMD ‘creates a political and technical capacity to better guarantee rapid, cohesive, and effective response to an emergency in compliance with the core leadership’s orders’. To that end, the NDMD has subordinate departments at the provincial level responsible for mobilising economic, political and scientific information and equipment and organising militia, transport readiness and air defence.
The CCP’s defence mobilisation system is based on the Maoist ‘people’s war’ doctrine, which relies on China’s size and people to defend the country from attack. The aim is to lure the aggressor deep into the battlefield, wear them down and then strike decisively. In this whole-of-society approach, civilians, militia and the PLA all play a part.
On 26 January, the World Health Organization reported 1,985 Covid-19 cases in China. One day later, premier Li Keqiang, by then in charge of containing the outbreak, visited Wuhan to inspect its disease control measures. On 2 February, Li and Wang Huning (a member of the politburo and one of the top leaders of the CCP) chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic (新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情工作领导小组). Chinese authorities were starting to develop situational awareness as Covid-19 spread to all provinces.
The number of confirmed cases more than doubled from 11,821 on 1 February to 24,363 on 5 February. On 6 February, Chinese state media reported that Xi had referred to a ‘people’s war‘ in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. News of Xi’s declaration reached Western media, which had earlier noted his public absence. On 7 February, Li Wenliang—the doctor detained by police for alerting the public to the virus in November 2019—died of Covid-19, triggering significant public anger and frustration at the Chinese authorities.
The CCP attempted to neutralise this anger by having officials and public figures express sympathy for Li Wenliang on social media. As public discontent waned, Xi took a more prominent role in the national response. His visit to Beijing’s disease control centre was covered by state media outlets, indicating that his ‘people’s war’ declaration was intended to garner public support for his campaign.
The CCP’s next step was to shore up support within the PLA. On 11 February, the PLA’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, ran an editorial explaining the urgency and achievability of the mission and followed that with numerousarticles that sought to boost the PLA’s morale. The messaging was intended to ensure that the party had the military’s absolute cooperation.
The deployment of state-owned enterprises, the militia and the PLA was a major test for the CCP’s mobilisation system. While it proved effective in the middle and later stages of the pandemic, the lack of transparency and poor command and control systems in the early stages heightened the risk to international public health to unacceptable levels.
Effective crisis management requires more than whole-of-society mobilisation. A senior WHO official, Michael Ryan, observed that Covid-19 ‘will get you if you don’t move quickly’. If there’s anything to learn from the CCP’s response, it’s that decisiveness, transparency and rapid response are crucial to effective disease control in a crisis.
It appears that Xi did too little before it was too late.
Richard Overton just celebrated his 112th birthday in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Unbeknownst to him, identity thieves were using his compromised bank account to purchase savings bonds through TreasuryDirect. Despite his well-known affinity for whiskey and cigars, the supercentenarian and World War II vet still requires round-the-clock care that costs up to $15,000 per month.
“What the hell are these debits?” Volma recalled thinking. Overton’s bank and TreasuryDirect are aware of the transactions are are taking appropriate measures.
Overton is a staple of the Austin community, a well-known personality who receives well-wishers from around the city on his birthday every year. He is featured on one of the city’s murals depicting influential African-American and Latino personalities. On his latest birthday, he received a visit Austin mayor, Steve Adler.
The 112-year-old is reasonably famous, especially among locals and much of his personal information is available online — though not his bank account and social security numbers. The drained account is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to raise money for Overton’s care.
His GoFundMe account keeps Overton in his home and away from having to live in a nursing home. Born in 1906, he has outlived all his closest relatives and requires $480 a day for his constant care.
For some, reunion is a simple and hollow engagement — existing in great frequency, and holding little weight on an individual’s life. For others, it is a sought-after moment, a serendipitous experience that is immediately followed by the feel of a warm embrace and serenaded by sobs of joy. The latter has the undeniable potential of being a rock-solid memory, one that would never be forgotten. This feeling is amplified considerably when someone reunites with the one place that gives them all the comfort and joy in the world; home.
In this case, Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns, from Cali, Colombia, reunited with the country of her birth when the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Turbo, Colombia, Nov. 14, 2018. Burns was born in Cali, Colombia, several hours south of Turbo, and feels that this mission is important to her and all of her countrymen.
“It’s a great experience for me to see all of this,” said Burns. “I always hear about missions like this, but I haven’t done one yet. Especially coming down to Colombia where I know there are so many people in need.”
Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns shows Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, a map during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)
In 1994, Burns moved to the U.S. to follow her mother when she was 13 years old. She lived in New Jersey in her mother’s home and in the community. She barely spoke English before joining the Navy in 1999.
“I was not really exposed to it that much,” said Burns. “All of my friends spoke Spanish. All of my friends were Colombians. You always find the comfort zone and the comfort zone for me was to still be around Colombians and people who spoke Spanish. So, there wasn’t really a need for me to speak English prior to the Navy, because everyone spoke Spanish.”
Fast-forward 19 years and Burns is underway with Comfort supporting Enduring Promise 2018 as the deputy dispersing officer. Along with her daily duties of managing money for the ship and the crew, Burns found a niche that has been highly sought after on the mission; translating for Comfort’s leadership.
Any part she can do to help the Comfort team work to complete the mission at hand, she is happy to support.
“The mission is mainly a medical mission and I am not in that field,” said Burns. “I can’t take someone’s blood pressure. But, it’s an honor to be out here and helping whoever needs it with the little bit I can give to the mission.”
Burns has enjoyed her time being back in Colombia and believes that this mission has been making a great impact on people’s lives in this part of the world.
Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns gives Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, Task Force 49 patch during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)
“I spoke to some of the patients and they are so grateful,” said Burns. “They don’t get tired of telling you how grateful they are. One day, a little boy was onboard and I was translating for him. Everywhere he and his mother went, they kept saying they were so grateful and thanking everyone for everything we were doing for her son. I think that we are making a great difference.”
In a couple of days, Burns will say, “goodbye” to Colombia and will continue to support the Enduring Promise mission in Honduras during Comfort’s next scheduled mission stop.
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.
For Veteran and VA employee Martin Allen, the Burn Pit Registry has been both an inspiration and a way to help other Veterans. For six months, he has been charged with eliminating the backlog of Veterans waiting for confirmation of their eligibility to join the Burn Pit Registry through a manual check of their deployment history.
“It wasn’t until I became familiar with the registry and saw other Veterans who served in the same deployment areas as myself and served during the same time that I realized I was eligible for participation in the registry,” said Allen. “I had heard of the registry but didn’t think much of it because I thought it was primarily for the Veterans serving after 9/11.”
Allen is a Navy and Air Force Veteran who deployed to the Persian Gulf on a naval ship in 1990. He admits the shortened, everyday name of “Burn Pit Registry” reinforced the erroneous idea that the Burn Pit Registry wasn’t for Gulf War Veterans like him. The full name of the registry is the “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”
“Once I found out that I could join, I really wanted to be a part of the registry so I could understand the Veteran participant experience,” said Allen. “Joining the registry has been really helpful. Not only do I help Veterans with their eligibility checks, I sometimes walk them step-by-step through the process of signing up.”
Many Veterans who deployed after 1990 can join the registry. The registry is a way for these Veterans to document their concerns about exposures to burn pits and other airborne hazards. For Post-9/11 Veterans, joining the registry is easier than ever. The registry is linked to more current and complete DoD deployment records. This enhancement reduces or eliminates possible delays in joining the registry resulting from the performance of manual checks of deployment histories for Pre-9/11 Veterans by VA to confirm a Veterans’ eligibility to join the registry.
The Burn Pit Registry is also a way for Veterans to be evaluated for any concerns that they might have related to exposures. Despite the opportunity of a free medical evaluation after completing the registry questionnaire, less than four percent of registry participants have been evaluated by a provider. The reasons for the low uptake are unclear, but may indicate Veterans are waiting to be contacted by VA.
“Don’t wait. Once Veterans have submitted their questionnaire, they can immediately schedule a medical evaluation for the registry,” said Allen. “This evaluation is different than a compensation and pension exam for disability claims. Veterans shouldn’t confuse the two.”
Participants who wish to have an exam should contact a local Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule an appointment. These coordinators will guide registry participants through the next steps and work with VA’s environmental health clinicians to address any exposure-related health concerns.
In many ways, the initial in-person registry evaluation is similar to any encounter between a clinician and a Veteran. The evaluation is tailored to each Veteran. To help you prepare for your visit, use these tips:
• Bring a copy of your completed Registry Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) to your visit;
• Have your questions written down;
• Tell your provider and team why you are in the clinic;
• Be prepared to discuss:
◦ Important deployment history and exposures of concern
◦ Important symptoms and health history
◦ Current symptoms-intensity, duration, onset, what makes them better or worse
◦ How the symptoms interfere with daily life
◦ Established health conditions, including onset and work up to date
◦ Concerns about the possible causes
◦ Other factors that may affect the management plan or overall health or mental health concerns such as tobacco, alcohol, or other substance use and family history
The U.S. Army is getting closer to mounting lasers on vehicles for protection against incoming enemy rocket, artillery, and mortar fire.
The Army awarded Raytheon Company a contract worth up to $10 million to develop a “100 [Kilowatt] class laser weapon system preliminary design for integration onboard the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles,” or FMTV, according to a July 2, 2018 press release from Raytheon.
The High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstration program is part of the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 initiative.
“The beauty of this system is that it’s self-contained,” Roy Azevedo, vice president of Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Systems at Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems business unit, said in the release. “Multi-spectral targeting sensors, fiber-combined lasers, power and thermal sub-systems are incorporated in a single package. This system is being designed to knock out rockets, artillery or mortar fire, or small drones.”
(Photo by Monica K. Guthrie)
In the next phase of the program, the Army will award a system development and demonstration contract valued at $130 million to a company to build and integrate a weapon system on the FMTV, according to the release.
The contract award is expected in 2019, the release states.
Over the past decade, the Defense Department has shown great interest in solid-state laser technology, which can be used to direct high levels of heat energy toward targets.
The directed energy can strike a specific spot on enemy drones or missiles and cause several failures at once. Once perfected, the technology could provide a low-cost alternative to weapon systems that require expensive ammunition, military officials say.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
UN inspectors are examining more than 2,500 AK-47 rifles and other guns seized by the crew of a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Yemen to determine whether the weapons originated in Iran or Somalia.
U.S. authorities said they invited the UN inspectors on board on Oct. 25, 2018, to determine whether the weapons provide proof that Iran is smuggling arms to allied Shi’ite Huthi rebels that are battling the Yemeni government in a four-year civil war. Iran has denied providing weapons to the Huthis.
The United States — in debates at the United Nations — has repeatedly charged Iran with illegally smuggling weapons to the Huthis, in violation of UN resolutions against arming the Huthis.
Yet U.S. forces patrolling the waters around Yemen have managed to seize only a handful of weapons caches like the one seized by the USS Jason Dunham in late August 2018.
“It’s one big traffic corridor,” Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, told reporters on board the vessel on Oct. 25, 2018, speaking of the Gulf of Aden and other waterways around Yemen.
Stearney declined to say if he thought Iran was responsible for the weapons seized by the Dunham’s crew, but he said the UN inspectors were experts on illicit weapons from Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)
The U.S. destroyer’s crew while on patrol in the region in August 2018 noticed large bags being transferred from a dhow about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen into a smaller skiff. A dhow is a traditional ship that commonly sails the waters of the Persian Gulf region.
The Navy ship intercepted the skiff and, after talking to the crew on board, determined they were smuggling weapons.
The rifles, in bundles of four or five, were wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in styrofoam and hidden in green burlap bags, according to Navy Commander John Hamilton, commander of the Dunham.
A small number of reporters on board the ship were allowed to see the assault rifles, which were heavily rusted after nearly two months at sea. The weapons had been unpacked and piled up, and were ready to be inspected by the UN team.
Hamilton said the crew on the dhow told them they were carrying flour and wheat, but he said none of the foodstuffs were found on board.
Navy Captain Adan Cruz, commodore of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the weapons could have been shipped from Somalia rather than Iran. The UN inspectors, he said, will determine the guns’ origin and “see first-hand the weapons flowing into the region.”
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in calling for a crackdown on Iran at the UN, has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying the Huthis. in 2017, she displayed the remnants of missiles that the Huthi rebels fired at Saudi Arabia, which is backing the Yemeni government in the civil war, saying they provided “undeniable evidence” that Iran was illegally supplying weapons to its Yemeni allies.
April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”
Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”
In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.
Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.
By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).
This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.
“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.
The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.
A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.
Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.
The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.
Leno picked Laberge at random out of a number of wounded soldiers to show his appreciation for those who serve. The former late night host may not be able to do something for everyone in uniform, he said, but he wanted to introduce the world to just one of them.
“Hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all soldiers,” Leno said.
In the video, Leno takes Laberge and some of his fellow soldiers out and shares some common ground around cars. Then, he takes him for a ride in the insanely fast Hellcat. As you would imagine, it was a pretty fun ride.
But the drive doesn’t end there. Over lunch, Leno talks with Laberge about what led him to join the Army, and how his recovery is going. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like,” Leno said.
And then, the best part. Getting out of the vehicle, Laberge comments that he wouldn’t mind having the Hellcat, to which Leno responds: “It’s yours. It’s yours.”
“Really?” the shocked soldier asks. “Oh man. That is awesome. Thank you.”
“America loves you,” Leno tells him. “Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”
The US Army has failed to monitor over $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International said in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.
The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defense audit was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.
The audit reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.
Some records were incomplete, while duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and the lack of a central database increased the risk for human error while entering data.
“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” stated Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher in the report.
The rights group stated in its report that its own research had “consistently documented” lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which had resulted in arms winding up in the hands of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep occurring,” Wilcken said.
‘Irresponsible arms transfers’
The military transfers were part of the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, a program that appropriated $1.6 billion to provide assistance to military and other security services associated with the government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces.
The transfers included small arms and heavy weapons, machine guns, mortar rounds, and assault rifles.
“This effort is focused on critical ground forces needed to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL in Iraq, secure its national borders, and prevent ISIL from developing safe havens,” the DoD said in a report justifying ITEF.
“If support is not provided American interests in the region would be undermined.”
In response to the audit, the US Army has pledged to implement corrective actions.
“This occurred during the Obama administration as well, and groups such as Amnesty International repeatedly called on irresponsible arms transfers to be tackled, as the weapons were not only falling into the hands of groups like ISIL but also pro-Tehran Shia jihadists fighting for the Iraqi government,” Tallha Abdulrazaq, Security Researcher at the University of Exeter told Al Jazeera via email.
“While ISIL certainly needs to be fought, if this is achieved by hurling arms at groups that are just as extreme as the militant group, how does that resolve the situation?”
Amnesty International has urged the US to comply with laws and treaties to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.