China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer - We Are The Mighty
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China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
Screenshot CCTV News/YouTube


The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.

Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.

The Yichuan, at more than 150 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide, has an estimated load displacement of 7,000 tons.

Although the unveiling was met with fanfare and a parade, Chinese military expert Cao Weidong told China Central Television that the Yinchuan was inferior to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in terms of size and munitions capabilities.

But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China doubles down with anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

Anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems were stationed on Chinese outposts in the contested South China Sea, in yet another signal that China intends to cement its presence on the disputed islands.

Sources familiar with US intelligence reports said the weapons systems were installed on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines, according to a CNBC report.


The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would provide China the ability to engage surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs; and the HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles are expected to have a range of 160 nautical miles, CNBC reported.

“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” a Pentagon official said to CNBC. “The further militarization of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants.”

“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
An anti-ship cruise missile.
(Photo by Jeff Hilton)

“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.

China’s increased military presence in the region comes amid another maneuver, one which exacerbated concerns among the US military and its allies. US officials said that in early April 2018, intelligence officers detected China was moving radar and communications-jamming equipment to the Spratly Island outposts.

“This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook.” Stratfor military analyst Omar Lamrani told Business Insider editor Alex Lockie, when asked about potential moves to jam communications channels. “The US will likely seek to counter this in some way,” he said.

Hotly disputed, $3.4 trillion shipping lane

Six countries, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, are contesting at least part of the chain of islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Located between Vietnam and the Philippines, the natural resources and trade routes that pass through the Spratly Islands are a lucrative venture for the countries — around $3.4 trillion in trade is reportedly transported through the South China Sea every year.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
CSIS/Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

China has been one of the most prominent claimants to territory in the South China Sea since the 1980s. It currently has around 27 outposts throughout the islands and has continued to outfit them with aircraft runways, lighthouses, tourist resorts, hospitals, and farms.

According to some experts, the creation of civilian attractions in the region signals that China is undertaking a two-pronged approach in attempts to legitimize its ownership — by arguing it has a vested interest in the region, both militarily and otherwise.

In April 2018, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, nominated to lead the US’ Pacific Command, said Beijing’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.

Davidson said China could use the bases pose a challenge the US and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.

“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.

AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


Smith was also named the “2019 Airman of the Year” by Air Force Times. As part of the award, the paper interviewed Smith and detailed his actions.

Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.

TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year

www.youtube.com

En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.

The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.

Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.

The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.

Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.

Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.

(Air Force photo)

Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.

Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.

For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.

Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.

“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.

The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones will soon decide who to kill

The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.


Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.

Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states: “I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

An MQ-9 Reaper Pilot.

(US Air Force photo)

Even with these drone killings, human emotions, judgements and ethics have always remained at the centre of war. The existence of mental trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among drone operators shows the psychological impact of remote killing.

And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided. The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes. Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

An MQ-9 Reaper.

(US Air Force photo)

When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.

Grave consequences

The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.

The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities — those which develop products for both civilian and military application — can be attacked in the right circumstances. For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.

With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

Google’s New York headquarters.

(Scott Roy Atwood, CC BY-SA)

Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms — programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect — that the technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given. If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development — how much it still has to learn — at which it can be deployed. In militarised machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.

Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber and Tesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.

If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination. Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.

This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

These days, single-mission ships are not exactly the best of buys. The big reason is they can only do one thing and no matter how well they do that one thing, they can’t handle other missions very well. Versatility can often make or break a purchasing decision. Think of it this way – if a ship (or small boat) can do multiple missions, there is a better chance it will be purchased.

One such versatile boat is being displayed at SeaFuture 2018 in La Spezia. That is the FFC 15, a patrol boat that can do more than just patrol. In fact, according to a release on behalf of Baglietto Navy, it can also serve as a rescue asset, a fast-attack craft, a police boat, and also a landing craft.


There are some baseball utility players who look at this boat with sheer envy at its versatility. According to a handout provided on Baglietto’s behalf, this boat comes in at 20 tons, almost three times the size of the legendary Higgins boats. But it has a top speed of 45 nautical miles an hour and can go 330 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

The FFC 15 can hold up to 24 troops, and has a top speed of 45 knots.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat is not only capable of operating on the open ocean, it can also navigate up and down rivers. The boat can also be hauled by a transport like a C-5 Galaxy (which hauls various Navy patrol boats) or C-17 Globemaster III. If the roads are good enough, this boat can also be hauled in by trucks. It can also be hauled in on various ships.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

Inside the troop compartment of the FFC 15, where up to 24 personnel can be carried from an amphibious ship to a quiet out-of-the-way place to sneak ashore.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat has a crew of four and can haul as many as 24 personnel. The bow is equipped not only for beaching (through a reinforced prow), but it also has a bow ramp. There are also two positions for heavy machine guns like the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

The FFC 15 features two positions for gunners on top of its superstructure. Despite being able to haul 24 troops, it can be carried on C-5 and C-17 transports, or by truck.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

So far, no orders for this boat have been made. That said, this fast and versatile vessel could very well find a lot of orders for a lot of missions with a lot of countries.

Articles

These are the best military photos for the week of September 2nd

Our hearts go out to the lives lost and to everyone who were displaced and had their lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. I would like to dedicate this ‘Photos of the Week’ to all of the brave service members in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.


Of course, our troops are always training and are still fighting. This week, we will highlight how each branch is doing its part to aid in these troubling times.

Air Force:

Personnel from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepare their equipment to accept patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, in response to the devestation caused by Hurricane Harvey, August 30, 2017. The 59th MDW is part of a larger Department of Defense presence in an effort to aid eastern Texas following a record amount of rainfall and flooding.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez

Brian Archibald, a rescue specialist assigned to the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta in McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., points to a someone who may need help August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. The SC-HART are specialized in search and rescue and are capable of recovering people in distress.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez

Army:

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Class Richard Call and members of New Jersey Task Force 1, assist evacuees into a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) to during water rescue operations in Wharton, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017, due to devastating effects caused by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Harvey made landfall into the Texas coast last week as a category 4 hurricane.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shelley

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Carnahan (front) and Staff Sgt. Tym Larson, Detachment 2, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, crew members of a UH-60 “Blackhawk”, strap down cargo, Seguin Artillery Airfield, Tx., Aug. 30, 2017. This crew is taking Meals-Ready-to-Eat to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Joseph Cannon

Navy:

An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to the HM-15, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, flies over Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

U.S. Navy AWSC Phillip Freer, assigned to the HM-14, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, guides a forklift loading a pallet of water onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon for Hurricane Harvey relief support at Katy, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

Marine Corps:

A Marine with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, along with a member of the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas State Guard, escort a man to higher ground, Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey landed Aug. 25, 2017, flooding thousands of homes and displaced over 30,000 people.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee

Marines with Company C, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, load Hurricane Harvey victims aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles during rescue operations and immediate response missions in response to Hurricane Harvey at Galveston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. The Marines and Sailors with Marine Forces Reserve are posturing ground, air and logistical assets as part of the Department of Defense support to FEMA, state and local response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
Photo by Sgt. Ian Ferro

Coast Guard:

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami, carries a boy away from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. An aircraft crew working out of Air Station Houston transported a group of people from a shelter to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer working out of Air Station Houston, prepares to deploy and rescue stranded people in Vidor, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Anderson Cooper, anchor with CNN, accompanied the aircraft crew on their rescue missions Thursday.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

Articles

ISIS is running for the hills — literally — as its Afghan leader is killed in strike

The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.


Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.

ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.

Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS  “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Iran’s ace-in-the-hole in war with U.S. Navy

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal signed with Iran and five other countries in 2015, Tehran has responded with one of its most frequent threats: closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 30% of world’s oil flows.

“If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz,” a Revolutionary Guards commander said in July 2018.


Coastal defenses and naval vessels would have a big role in that effort, but it would most likely revolve around one of Iran’s favorite military assets: sea mines, a vicious weapon that presents an acute challenge for a US Navy that is shifting between old and new mine-countermeasure systems.

Iran has laid mines at sea in past conflicts, and even these much less sophisticated weapons have disabled and nearly sunk US Navy warships.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the Strait of Hormuz in May 2012.

(Photo by Alex R. Forster)

An asymmetric threat

“As far back as the early 1980s, Iran was mining waters in the Gulf to prevent oil tankers from coming in or out of ports in the Arab part of the Gulf — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. — and it has extensive experience in trying to also menace warships,” said Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation.

Sea mines remain “a big part of the Iranian approach,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The sea mines Iran used at that time were relatively unsophisticated — the mine that almost sank the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device — but mines it can deploy now are more advanced and more dangerous, with some warheads weighing nearly 2,500 pounds.

As of 2012, Iran was believed to have grown its supply of sea mines from about 1,500 during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to more than 6,000, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That stockpile is not as vast as those of North Korea, China, or Russia, which also rely on anti-access or area-denial approaches to limit movement in contested areas, but it includes an array of mines, such as cheap, conventional ones and more advanced “smart mines,” which may be able to track multiple targets, discern different types of ships, and avoid detection by lurking on or near the seafloor.

Advanced mines can be triggered by sound, pressure, or magnetic influence. But even conventional ones that require contact to detonate are a threat to US warships and other commercial vessels. Iran also has an array of ships to lay them — some can even be deployed through submarine torpedo tubes.

Iran’s naval forces are no match for the US Navy, but sea mines are asymmetric weapons that a weaker side can use to foil a stronger opponent — even one with the world’s strongest navy. They can be deployed to deny access or freedom of movement and can be used to escalate tensions more incrementally than would a cruise-missile attack on an enemy warship.

“The Iranians see [mines] as a good tool for them to be able to threaten to close the strait and do it in a way that they can threaten it and you don’t know that the mines are really there,” Clark said, “and then if they do have some mines out there, the damage they’re going to inflict is going to be more in terms of preventing people from freely going back and forth rather than having to kill a lot of people to make a point.”

“You can threaten the use of mines and actually not have any out there,” Clark added. “However, a very small number of mines … in a place where someone’s likely to run into one, and then that damages a ship, and then you can say that you’ve got a much larger field, even though you may not.”

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

The USS Avenger off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Speed and scope

The US has previously said attempts to deploy mines would draw a military response, but the Navy also has means to counter mines.

The service keeps several of its 14 Avenger-class ships stationed in Bahrain all year.

The ships are designed for anti-mine warfare, using sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device to neutralize mines. Their hulls are made of wood covered with fiberglass for lower magnetic resonance. The engines are also designed to lower the ships’ magnetic and acoustic signatures. This is exceedingly dangerous work for these ships and their explosive ordnance disposal teams, which involves getting close to lurking mines to find and neutralize them.

The Avenger-class ships based in Bahrain are “immensely capable” and have multiple capabilities for and approaches to mine warfare, Rand’s Savitz said. They are lightly armed, however, and would require escorts.

But the Avenger class is aging, and the problem for the US Navy is that the mine threat looms as it struggles to move from those ships and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany them to a newer platform that uses unmanned systems deployed aboard littoral combat ships.”

The US is in this transition from a more traditional minesweeping approach, where a minesweeper goes out and either drags minesweeping equipment behind it that physically entangles the mines or sets them off by magnetic influence,” Clark said.

“Now they’re transitioning to the use of unmanned vehicles to do a lot of this,” he added. “So they’ll have an unmanned ship drive out … sweep gear behind it to pick up mines, and they’ll have unmanned vehicles go around and hunt for mines that might be on the seafloor” or otherwise submerged.

Littoral combat ships are already in service, and there’s been recent progress with LCS-based mine countermeasures, such as the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle and the helicopter-mounted Airborne Laser Mine Detection System. That progress, amid struggles with littoral combat ships, may mean these systems end up being deployed aboard other ships, Clark noted.

But other cost overruns, delays, and malfunctions — like the cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System after nearly a billion dollars and almost two decades of work — have hindered the mine-countermeasure program.

Mine-countermeasure systems in general “don’t get as much attention as they need,” Clark said. “It’s not a sexy part of the Navy.” Older systems, he said, “could’ve been replaced a long time ago, or at least improved before this became an issue.”

The shift between older platforms and newer systems with limited capabilities is “a huge liability” for the Navy, Clark said.

“They’re in the middle of this transition, so they don’t have these unmanned systems really completely tested out and fully fielded, and so there’s still a lot of the traditional sweep gear and traditional approaches,” he said.

The Sea Dragon, which is the Navy’s oldest helicopter in service, was supposed to retire in 2005. But the service has yet to find a replacement for the heavy-lift helicopter, which can haul a variety of minesweeping gear and deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. The Avengers, introduced in the early 1990s, have also had their service lives extended, requiring upgrades.

Those ships and helicopters remain capable, but they aren’t “scalable,” meaning they “can’t ramp it up when there’s a minefield,” Clark said. Those systems aren’t necessarily a problem because they’re old, he added, they’re “just limited in speed and scope.”

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar being brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during testing of the mine-warfare mission module package in 2012.

Timelines and risks

The issues facing US mine-countermeasure systems do not mean Iran has a clear advantage, however.

“While the Persian Gulf is not wide, it’s big enough that Iran would have to cover a swath in order to prevent ships from going through it without encountering mines,” Savitz said. “So it would be challenging for them.”

Moreover, because it lacks refining capacity, Iran needs to be able to ship oil and refined products in and out.

“It would be cutting its own throat if it tried to shut down all traffic in the Gulf,” Savitz said. “If it leaves open a significant pathway, then others can potentially use it too.”

If Iranian ships start behaving in ways that indicate they’re laying mines, “that can be interdicted,” Savitz added. And the US would watch closely for any effort to reseed minefields that had been cleared.

“That’s the best mine-countermeasure solution of all, is to catch the adversary laying the mines or to detect roughly where the mines are laid,” to focus mine-countermeasure efforts, Savitz said.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

A naval aircrewman preparing a Q-24 sonar side-looking vehicle to be lowered into the Persian Gulf from an MH-53E Sea Dragon during mine-countermeasure training on May 18, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

But the scalability issue would loom over any effort to track down and clear mines from the area.

“Mine countermeasures is also typically a slow area of warfare that requires intense attention to detail, so it also entails thinking about trade-offs between timelines and risk,” Savitz said. “How quickly a water space can be opened up after … mine countermeasures have begun depends on what level of risk is acceptable.”

Former Adm. James Stavridis, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe before retiring in 2013, told CNBC in July 2018 that, should Iran try to use its military to close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and its partners “would be able to open it in a matter of days.”

That time frame is not so certain. It depends on how large the Navy and its partners believe the affected minefield to be.

“If it’s the whole Strait of Hormuz, the Navy says that could take weeks,” Clark said. While many modern tankers have features like double hulls that could mitigate some mine risks, closing or restricting access to the Gulf would upend the global economy.

Stavridis may have meant the US and its partners could clear a “very narrow channel” through a minefield during that period, Clark added, but that would slow down traffic, and each ship would need an escort. There would be “much less access than was previously available,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Must watch: Army ranger’s visual-poem ode to wounded warriors is incredible

One More Wave, the nonprofit that provides wounded and disabled military veterans with customized surfing equipment and community, recently launched Salt Speak, a new space for creative writing. The first installment is an incredibly powerful and poignant poem written and performed by Ranger medic and poet, Leo Jenkins.

“We don’t want to be a Sarah McLachlan charity,” Salt Speak editor-in-chief G.P. Scheppler told Coffee or Die Magazine. “We want people to see what we are doing and say, ‘I want to be a part of that!’”

With a lineup of accomplished veteran poets and writers already in the tube, Salt Speak aims to make waves in the veteran art space. 

Jenkins’ ode to One More Wave is overlaid with a gorgeous video edited by Nick Betts, with amazing footage of Jose Martinez, an Army veteran, triple amputee, and adaptive athlete crushing waves with his custom surfboard. We dare you to watch this transcendent production and not be moved.

Read Next: One More Wave: The Navy SEALs Helping Disabled Veterans Heal with Custom Surfboards

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force issues its first Space Force guidance

Air Force leaders have broken their silence following President Trump’s order to create a new military service branch for space.

Leaders issued a message to airmen telling them to stay the course as the process of implementing the president’s guidance moves forward. Trump gave the order on June 18, 2018, during a speech to the National Space Council at the White House.

In a message to all airmen sent June 19, 2018, service brass including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein confirmed that, as rumored, the new “space force” would be established as a military service inside the Air Force.


It’s an idea that Wilson and Goldfein have previously opposed publicly as too costly and presenting too many organizational challenges for the service.

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, and Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, center, speak with 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen and joint coalition partners during a town hall event held at the base theater, Aug. 20, 2017, in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jonathan Hehnly)

In the new message, the leaders voiced agreement with Trump’s position that the U.S. military approach to the space domain must become more robust to meet current and future challenges.

“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position — space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”

Trump offered few details about the implementation of a space force in his announcement June 18, 2018, though he did say the Air Force and the proposed new service would be “separate, but equal.”

Air Force leaders told airmen they should not expect any “immediate moves or changes” in the wake of the announcement, saying creation of the new force would take time.

“The work directed by the President will be a thorough, deliberate and inclusive process,” they wrote. ” … Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy.”

Policy experts told Military.com that building a new force could take years and would require major legislation and planning, even if it’s staffed by current service members and takes advantage of existing infrastructure.

The message to airmen concluded on an upbeat note.

“We remain the best in the world in space and our adversaries know it,” it said. “Thank you for standing the watch. We’re proud to serve with you!”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the President talked about invading Venezuela

President Donald Trump reportedly floated the idea of invading Venezuela to both senior administration officials and world leaders multiple times in the past year.

According to the Associated Press, Trump first proposed taking over the country to top aides at an August 10, 2017 meeting held in the Oval Office to discuss US sanctions on the country.

The backdrop was the South American nation’s rapidly deteriorating economy and the perilous state of law and order there.


The previously undisclosed meeting, on which the White House has declined to comment, was anonymously revealed by a senior administration official speaking with the AP, and by two high-ranking Colombian officials familiar with the meetings where Trump raised the idea. When asked for comment, a National Security Council spokesman told the AP that all options would be considered to restore stability or democracy in Venezuela.

Trump’s suggestion reportedly stunned people at one meeting, including Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, then the secretary of state and the national security adviser.

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Rex Tillerson
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

The AP said those in the room, including McMaster, then spent five minutes taking turns warning Trump how military action could backfire and lose him support among other Latin American governments.

Despite his aides’ warnings, Trump reportedly continued to talk of a “military option” to remove Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s president.

At a private dinner held around a UN General Assembly meeting in New York a month later, the AP said, Trump proceeded to ask the leaders of four Latin American countries whether they would accept military action. The only one of the leaders named by the AP was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Trump reportedly prefaced the conversation with the leaders with the phrase: “My staff told me not to say this.”

He then went around the table to ask the leaders whether they were certain they didn’t want the US to invade Venezuela, to which each leader said clearly that they were, the AP reported.

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u200bVenezuelan president Nicolu00e1s Maduro

Venezuela’s inflation rose above 41,000% in June 2018, making almost all goods unaffordable, and the UN human-rights office declared a breakdown of law and order in the country, citing reports that security forces had killed hundreds of anti-government demonstrators while protecting some suspected of criminal activity from prosecution.

Venezuelans have also been fleeing to countries including Brazil, Colombia, Chile, the US, and Spain.

Trump said publicly in August 2017 that a military option was not out of the question for dealing with the Venezuelan crisis, but details of the president’s seriousness about the issue had not been reported until July 4, 2018.

His administration levied new sanctions on dozens of Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, in May 2018.

Trump’s bullish stance against Venezuela could actually bolster Maduro’s standing at home, however, as Maduro’s supporters have long lamented Washington’s involvement in domestic affairs and used anti-US sentiment to unite against his opponents.

Maduro’s son, also named Nicolas, said in 2017: “Mind your own business and solve your own problems, Mr. Trump!”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

22 photos inside ‘Dustoff’ — the Army’s life-saving medevac crews

Army soldiers count on the elite medics assigned to air ambulance crews to pull them out of combat when they are wounded. These crews, called, “Dustoff,” fly unarmed choppers into combat and provide medical care to patients en route to US field hospitals. This air medical evacuation saves lives and bolsters the confidence of soldiers in the field.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Travis Zielinski


When the terrain is too rough for even a helicopter to land, hoists are used to lower medics or raise patients.

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Rasheen A. Douglas

US Army Dustoff crews typically consist of a pilot, copilot, flight medic, and crew chief. Some teams, especially those on the newer UH-72A aircraft, will have a firefighter/paramedic in place of the crew chief unless a hoist operation is expected.

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Photo: Department of Defense

Flight medics will train other soldiers on how to properly transfer patients to a medevac helicopter.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ashley Moreno

When possible, the crew chief or flight medic will leave the bird to approach the patient, taking over care and supervising the move to the chopper.

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed

This training is sometimes done with foreign militaries to ensure that, should the need arise in combat, the US and other militaries will be able to move patients together. Here, Republic of Korea soldiers train with US medics.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lou Rosales

Medics going down on a hoist are supported by the crew chief, an aviation soldier who maintains the aircraft and specializes in the equipment on the bird.

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Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Harley Jelis

Of course, not all injuries happen during calm weather in sunny climes. Medevac soldiers train to perform their job in harsh weather.

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Photo: U.S. Army

The crews also train to rescue wounded soldiers at any hour, day or night.

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Photo: Department of Defense

Some medevac pilots even train to land on ships for when that is the closest or best equipped hospital to treat a patient.

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Photo: Department of Defense

Dustoff crews also care for service members who aren’t human. The most common of these patients are the military working dogs.

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Photo: US Army

The Dustoff helicopters are launched when a “nine line” is called. When this specially formatted radio call goes out, medevac crews sprint to ready the choppers and take off.

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Photo: US Marine Corps

The medevac is eagerly awaited by the troops on the ground who request it.

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Photo: US Navy HMC Josh Ives

The flight medics can provide a lot of care even as they move a casualty in the air. Most patients will get a saline lock or an intravenous drip to replace fluids.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson

Flight medics have to deal with turbulence, loud noises, and possible attacks from the ground while they treat their patients.

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Photo: US Army

Another challenge flight medics often face is providing treatment in low light or no light conditions.

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Photo: Department of Defense

No light conditions require the use of NVGs, or night vision goggles.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Duncan Brennan

Medical evacuation helicopters also face challenges while picking up their patients. The tactical situation can be dangerous where these birds operate.

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Photo: Department of Defense

Ground soldiers have to secure the landing zone.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin M. Mason

When the medevac bird returns to the base, the casualty is rushed into the hospital so they can be treated.

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Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

If a soldier’s injuries are severe enough, they’ll be stabilized and prepped again for transport to hospitals outside of the deployment zone.

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Photo: Department of Defense

The mission of those under the Dustoff call sign can be challenging, but it provides great comfort to the troops on the ground.

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Photo: Georgian Army National Guard Maj. Will Cox

 

Articles

A writer discovers ‘ranger panties’ that troops have used for years

Whether you call them silkies or Ranger panties, the overly-tight short-shorts of the military are here to stay.


Just about every military member has experienced either wearing — or much worse, viewing — troops in silkies. They are so well known, some Marines even have a Facebook page dedicated to them. So it was quite amusing to see one of the uninitiated discover the shorts at the tech website Gizmodo.

“Clearly all you need is a fresh pair of Ranger Panties and a patriotic spirit and you’re ready to take on the world,” writes Adam Clark Estes.

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After finding his black Ranger Panties on Amazon, he reads some reviews. The top one, which he cites in his decision to buy, comes from a reviewer who claims to be a U.S. Marine stationed in Cairo: “If you love bald eagles, freedom, and flexing your quads at strangers for the simple pleasure of gauging their reaction, then I highly encourage you to hop on the freedom train and purchase these shorts,” the reviewer writes. “They do not disappoint.”

By the way, there are many more hilarious reviews of silkies that it’s worth just reading through for many more gems. There’s the guy who says normal, non-silky shorts make you look like a circus clown. And another dude claims that chicks dig them.

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On the Ranger Panties Amazon page, this was a related product. You should definitely wear this when wearing your silkies.

“If you have not experienced these shorts, they will change your life,” writes another reviewer. For the record, I’ve worn silkies and my life was not changed. Still, that’s besides the point.

Estes orders a medium-sized pair (dude, don’t you know they are supposed to be way tighter than that?) and tests them out. Turns out, even civilians can love them. What comes next is an 1100-plus-word explainer and review of the Soffe-brand classics.

Now, the review — much like silkies — could have been much shorter, in my opinion. Something like: The military silkie-shorts, also known as “Ranger Panties,” are physical training shorts that are so short they belong only on NBA basketball players in the 1970s. But people still wear them anyway.

But I digress.

After his girlfriend doesn’t allow him to leave the house to test the shorts out in social engagements, he does get a chance to take them on some athletic endeavors. Estes writes:

Nevertheless, I was able to try my Ranger Panties out in various athletic environments. While the shorts are ideal for running, they’re less than ideal for a crowded yoga class. Just as I’d read on Amazon, the inner liner is a thin shield between being appropriately clothed and “[wanting] the world to see your twig and berries.” I appreciated the presence of the lining in my first yoga class, but I definitely double bagged it in public after a few close calls there.

In the end, Estes says he loves his Ranger Panties and urges you to buy some too. But he does concede that the danger of your “twig and berries” popping out is a legitimate concern.

And frankly, that’s enough for me to urge you not to buy them. Because that’s not a world I want to live in.

Read his full review here

OR READ: This video shows how ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was made

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