Austrian authorities have questioned a recently retired military officer under suspicion of spying for Russia for almost 20 years, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and canceled an upcoming trip to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, Kurz added.
“We demand transparent information from Russia,” Kurz said on Nov. 9, 2018, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he said.
Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April 2018 for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.
“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” Kurz added.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Austria’s ambassador on Nov. 9, 2018, to demand an explanation about the accusations, Russian news agencies reported.
Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light “a few weeks ago” as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.
Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.
“We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive more accurate information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps,” Kurz said.
Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, due to the espionage case.
Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.
The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.
Navy announced Feb. 21, 2018 that Sailors serving on sea duty in Japan, Guam, and Spain now have an increased set of incentives available to them, in NAVADMIN 042/18.
According to the NAVADMIN, Sailors who voluntarily extend their sea duty at the listed locations to a minimum of 48 months, will have any remaining sea time left on their prescribed sea tour waived and be allowed to rotate to shore duty for their next assigned tour. Those who extend their tours by 12 months or more will be given preferential consideration for announced billets in Career Management System/Interactive Detailing (CMS/ID).
Eligible Sailors who extend their sea tours for at least 12 months still have the option of Sea Duty Incentive Pay. The Overseas Tour Extension Incentive Program also remains an option for eligible Sailors.
Additionally, with the release of this NAVADMIN, first-term Sailors in grades E-3 and below are now authorized accompanied orders to overseas locations where dependents are authorized.
“Our goal is to reward those Sailors who volunteer to extend to meet the demands from the fleet,” said Rear Adm. John Meier, director, Career Management Department, Navy Personnel Command (NPC). “In addition to the incentives already in place, which remain options for Sailors who meet extension criteria, these additional incentives should make it easier for Sailors who make the decision to extend.”
Sailors interested in taking advantage of these incentives must request an extension by submitting an Enlisted Personnel Action Request (NAVPERS 1070/7 Rev. 1/03) 18-14 months prior to their Projected Rotation Date. For assistance, Sailors should contact their command career counselor.
For more information, read NAVADMIN 042/18 at www.npc.navy.mil, or contact the NPC Customer Service Center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (827-5672) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.
The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.
According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.
Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”
Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.
Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)
The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.
Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.
Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.
Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.
The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.
The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.
(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)
A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.
(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)
The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.
In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.
But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Among the stolen intel were 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs that Netanyahu claimed showed Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions and deceived powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Netanyahu said that stash was made up of 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files stored on 183 CDs. He said the haul collectively weighed half a ton.
Netanyahu didn’t confirm how Mossad, known for its stealthy missions, obtained the material, but did say they had been stored in “a dilapidated warehouse.”
“Few Iranians knew where it was — very few,” Netanyahu said.
And now more details on the Iran mission have since emerged. A senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Mossad first discovered the unnamed warehouse in Tehran in February 2016, and began its surveillance from there.
The official also claimed that Mossad agents broke into the building one night in January 2018, took the 110,000 documents, and returned them to Israel that same night.
Iranian media has remained quiet on the raid, likely embarrassed that the spy agency stole an incredible number of documents under the cover of night.
But the value of the stolen documents that have so far been made public is up for debate.
While the White House said Netanyahu’s presentation provided “new and compelling details” about Iran’s past behaviours, some experts disagreed.
“Everything he said was already known to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and published,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted.
“There is literally nothing new here and nothing that changes the wisdom of the JCPOA.”
JCPOA stands for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and is the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.
The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.
The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.
When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.
“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”
Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.
They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.
The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.
The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.
Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.
This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.
Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.
We received the following mail response:
“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.
The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.
As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.
Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.
Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.
Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.
What Do We Know About The Agreement?
The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.
The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”
The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.
RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.
Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.
According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.
Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.
Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.
Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.
“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”
“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.
Why Is The Treaty Controversial?
The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.
The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.
A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.
A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.
Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.
“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”
She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”
What Are The Critics Saying?
Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”
Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.
Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.
The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.
Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.
The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”
What Are Iranian Officials Saying?
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.
Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.
President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.
Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.
The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.
In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.
“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.
In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.
At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.
“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.
In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”
In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”
Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.
Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.
However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.
“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”
Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.
In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.
On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.
“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.
“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.
Ryan Parrott was a Navy SEAL on his first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. Parrott was launched out of the vehicle and suffered a mix of first-degree and second-degree burns – and he got the nickname “Birdman.”
Parrott would serve eight years with the SEALs, but when he left the military, an encounter would change his life’s direction. Parrott met an Army Ranger who had suffered third-degree burns while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was angered when the Ranger told him that things were as good as they would get after three dozen surgeries.
“I decided I could continue to serve my country away from the battlefield,” he told the online media outlet. Decided to channel his anger at the Ranger’s difficulty at getting treatment into action, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag, a non-profit organization intended to help fund research into burn treatments, and to also train doctors on how to treat patients suffering from burns.
Since it was founded in 2012, Sons of the Flag has connected over a thousand burn survivors to treatment. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the charity does. It also has provided direct support to burn survivors and families, including rent assistance, utility assistance, travel costs, and assistance with special medication needs not covered by insurance.
Families of burn victims also receive “go bags” filled with essentials like water bottles, chargers for cell phones, snacks, toiletries, and a new blanket for while their loved one is being treated. The charity also steps in to help children and teenagers who suffer serious burns, providing items used for entertainment and rehabilitation as well as establishing pediatric “burn camps” for young survivors who may face bullying as a result of the lasting scars from serious burns.
In roughly five years, this charity has been making an impact, primarily in the Texas area. For more information on Sons of the Flag, go to https://sonsoftheflag.org/. One thing for sure – with this SEAL on a mission, survivors of serious burns have a much better chance at a good life.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has Boeing’s latest and most powerful version of the highly successful F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter on its wishlist, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Funding for this potential purchase will come directly from the new Memorandum of Understanding reached with Israel in September, 2016 that spans 2019 to 2028, allotting $3.8 billion USD every year for that period. Signed under the Obama administration, this new memorandum which begins when the old one (worth $30 billion over its lifetime versus the new one which is worth $38 billion) expires in 2018, maintains provisions that allow for funding to be used specifically for the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth strike fighters, and to update the Israeli Air Force’s slowly-aging fleet.
Israel aims to have two squadrons of F-35I Adirs (its own designation for the Lightning II) by 2022, but the Adir is aimed more so towards eventually replacing the F-16C/D/I Barak-2020/Sufa multirole fighters which have formed the backbone of the IAF since the 1980s.
There are no planned successors to the F-15 Eagles and F-15I Ra’ams (essentially modified F-15E Strike Eagles) that the IAF currently operates in the air superiority and strike roles, however, and that’s probably where the push for newer, updated F-15s come in. The War Zone reported last February that the IAF was slated to receive 10 F-15Ds (two-seater Eagles) from the United States, all of which were retired US Air Force fleet types.
At the time, Israel had taken delivery of eight of those jets in the deal. But older fighters with significant usage in their airframes are definitely no match for newer freshly-built fighters.
What this could possibly mean is Boeing finding its first customer for the most advanced version of its Strike Eagle, based off the F-15B/D two-seater model. Marketed as the F-15 Advanced (very original and creative name, as you can see), it comes with a number of upgrades and new features that the Strike Eagle didn’t originally come with. This includes a Raytheon AN/APG-63(V)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar, a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) sensor system, allowing for a “first sigh-first shot-first kill” capability, when squaring off against enemy fighters, and a revamped cockpit with large area displays (LAD) with helmet cueing system integration.
Also included in the F-15 Advanced is a fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), which completely replaces the original electro-mechanical FCS which used to be the standard for all F-15s McDonnell Douglas (and later, Boeing) produced. Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), known as FAST Packs on F-15Es, would be a part of the package, extending operational range without taking up vital space on weapons stations under the wings or belly of the aircraft. “Quad Packs”, attached to said weapons stations, would also allow for expanded weaponry carriage.
Boeing previously offered Israel, along with a number of other customers, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, an export-only stealth version of the F-15E with internal weapons carriage and a considerably-reduced radar profile, though not much interested was generated. Eventually, this led Boeing to shelve the project and invest more time in the F-15 Advanced, while incorporating technologies and hardware used in the SE into the Advanced.
Boeing also developed the 2040C upgrade package, which it proposed to the US Air Force last year, though 2040C is meant to be an upgrade for existing F-15Cs, adding in all of the hardware mentioned above as well as the ability to sling 16 air-to-air missiles, virtually doubling the Eagle’s combat payload. There’s no word on whether or not Boeing will offer the 2040C package to Israel as well, for its single-seater F-15s still in service with the IAF.
Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, will more than likely bring up the subject of buying new F-15s when meeting with US defense officials this week, when he visits Washington DC. The F-15 production line recently just got a lifespan boost from Qatar in the form of an order for 70+ Eagles.
A further order from Israel would keep the line active even longer. Additionally, also using funding from the aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding, the Israeli Defense Ministry has also expressed interest in buying new helicopters to replace its Sikorsky CH-53 Yas’urs (Sea Stallions) heavy-lift helicopters, the oldest of which are just a few years away from reaching 50 years of continuous service with the IAF. The US government would probably put the CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the Sea Stallion, on the table to replace the Yas’ur.
A total of 259 Veterans registered to compete, including 81 women Veterans. The Veterans represented 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 61 VA medical centers. Veterans received a total of 100 gold, 75 silver and 69 bronze medals across eight age categories
Veterans competed in gender, wheelchair, visually impaired and recumbent cycling categories.
VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.
Pictured above with her bicycle is OEF/OIF Veteran, Air Force Veteran and nurse Therese Kern. Kern represented the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner at VA.
Here’s a great video about the games including the opening and a terrific slide show of previous participants from all the states. (Montage photos and videos are from 2019: pre-COVID, pre-masks.)
Welcome to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 National Veterans Golden Age Games at HOME
Feedback from Veterans has been overwhelmingly positive and many expressed their gratitude. Here are some comments:
“Though we were all at home in 2020, I can truly say I had the time of my life and enjoyed every day of the fitness challenge and 20k cycling event. I would love to be able to participate in 2021 alongside all the other cyclists in the 20k cycling event,” said David Warren. He was a first-time participant who represented the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
“Thanks to the national staff for finding a way to allow us to compete this year. Can’t wait to see my medals in person, and to get my T-shirt. Congrats to all the athletes that medaled and to those who competed! I had a blast. On top of getting in better shape after having to walk or ride bike every day for 30 days!! I also lost some weight,” said Coast Guard Veteran Nadine Lewis. She represented the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System.
“I wanted to say thanks for putting the at-home competition together and for giving us an opportunity to compete in the virtual challenge,” said Lenny McNair. He is an Army Veteran who represented the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Competition and reflection
Korean War and Army Veteran Phillip Joseph Dimenno, 88, served as a rifleman with the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Regiment. Joseph represented the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He took gold in the powerwalk and wastebasket basketball and silver in javelin, discus and shot put.
Here’s a video interview of Joseph from several years ago as he returned to Korea.
At least officially, there are no existing prototypes of the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force’s next stealth bomber built by Northrop Grumman and destined to replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.
In 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that showed a concept quite similar to the B-2’s flying wing design; then, more recently, on Mar. 3, 2018, Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, publicly announced that the aircraft will be tested at Edwards: “the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” he said in his address at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference.
The fact that the aircraft will be tested “in the near future” seems to suggest that a prototype of the new platform has already been built or is about to be readied for testing.
Meanwhile something interesting, that might confirm the B-21 is something more than a concept, popped up on eBay: journalist and photographer Steve Douglass, has just found a B-21 Combined Test Force patch.
Flying units under the 412nd Operations Group of the 412nd TW are called flight test squadrons (FTS) and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.
“The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.
Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.”
For instance, the 411th Flight Test Squadron acts as the F-22 Raptor CFT whereas the 419th FTS acts as the Strategic Systems (B-52, B-1, B-2) CFT. Provided it is genuine, the new patch may suggest the existence of a B-21 CTF dedicated to the new bomber.
Interestingly, the patch features the text “Praenuntius” that means “Harbinger” and the Roman numerals XVII (17) with the latters [speculation on] possibly pointing to a squadron: the 417th FTS, officially inactivated on Feb. 14, 2012, formerly part of the 412th OG at Edwards AFB….
The seller has explained that organizations, personnel and infrastructure at Edwards AFB are all beginning to stand up in preparation for the testing and he purchased the patch there from personnel who are standing up the testing of the new aircraft. We don’t have many details about the aircraft but collectors can get the patch ahead of the unveiling.
By the way, at the time of writing the patch costs $31 (6 bids) but it is probably going to become more expensive…
The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.
Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.
Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.
The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.
About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.
The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.
A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.
Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.
Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.
He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.
Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.
Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.
Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.
The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.
The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.
Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.
The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.
Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.
“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.
Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.
Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.
Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.
A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.
The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.
The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.
Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.