Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.
But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.
Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.
Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.
The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.
The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.
US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.
The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.
With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.
Dan Sherman joined the Air Force in 1982 to be what was then called Security Police (now known as Security Forces). While serving in Korea in 1984, he met another airman who told him about how great it was to be in Electronic Intelligence (ELINT). The man spoke about it so often, it convinced Sherman ELINT was where he wanted to be as well. Sherman was unhappy with being in Security and often told others if he couldn’t cross-train to the ELINT career field, he would get out entirely. His peers told him his job in security was a critically manned field and his chances of cross-training out were zero.
As luck would have in Sherman was approved to train into ELINT, analyzing electromagnetic energy for intelligence value. He went to tech school in 1990 and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While he liked the job, he wasn’t thrilled with Offutt. He wanted to get back to Korea, and told his peers as much, even going so far as to say he wouldn’t re-enlist if he didn’t get orders there. His luck held again. A month later, he had the orders in hand.
He was enjoying his new career field and in 1992 was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland to train in an intermediate-level ELINT course at the National Security Agency (NSA) building there. His first day in town, he was ordered to report to the NSA for what he thought would be a quick introduction. His life was about to change forever.
According to his book “Above Black: Project Preserve Destiny,” Sherman was indoctrinated into an above Top Secret-level program involving what the Air Force called “Greys.” Grey are purported to be extra-terrestrial beings first encountered by the United States in 1947. Since the early 1960’s, it was revealed to Sherman, the U.S. government had been working on a way to communicate with the Greys. That’s where he came in. His mother was “visited by aliens” before he was born. She was the subject of genetic manipulation, the result would be bearing a child who could be more receptive to the way the Greys communicate, receiving transmissions and passing them on.
The Air Force had been waiting for Sherman his entire life. He was part of a new communication plan just coming to fruition. His mother was not supposed to be able to have children. When she was pregnant, little Dan Sherman was not supposed to survive for long. All through his life, people had been telling him how great the Air Force life was, making that life seem to be his own destiny. Now, here Sherman sat, ready to be what the USAF called an “Intuitive Communicator.”
After his regular training courses at the NSA, Dan was taken to an unknown location in a blue Air Force van with blacked out windows. He was given two pills and instructed on how to move waves on electronic screens with his mind. Once he was proficient, he was released and given new orders, now as part of Project Preserve Destiny, or PPD.
His first PPD base established what his life would become. Though he no longer took the pills, he and another airman would sit in a communications van for their shift. Sherman would receive the communication, which included his identifier, 118, a five-digit code, and then what Sherman came to believe were latitude and longitude coordinates. His first handler was a Grey Sherman nicknamed “Spock.”
One day during communication, something startled Sherman and he reached a new “plane.” The alien asked Sherman if this was intentional. When Sherman said it wasn’t, the alien ended the conversation. Sherman would try for months to repeat the situation. Eventually, he was able to, and asked “Spock” some questions about their race and how they were communicating. Sherman’s command was apparently unable to monitor his communications with the Greys, so he was free to ask what he wanted. But after this second meeting, Spock never returned and Sherman was transferred to a new PPD base.
His role at this second base was very similar, but this time “Spock” was gone forever. His new counterpart (whom Sherman nicknamed “Bones”) was more conversational and forthcoming. Sherman asked about how the beings age, procreate, travel through space, and if they had souls. Here are a few more answers from the Greys to questions posed by Sherman:
“You question answers itself.”
They don’t travel through time but around time and from time to time.
“Any entity that realizes its existence has intellect and therefore must have a soul.”
4. Previous visits
They’ve been visiting Earth for a “very long time,” because its much easier to visit the past than it is today. They’ve contributed to the culture and technology of some civilizations.
Sherman believes they interbred with Humans (whom the Greys call “water vessels”), most likely the Basque people of the Pyrenees region of Spain, whose language is completely unrelated to any other and whose genetic makeup is different from most humans.
6. Other Aliens
There are many.
They do it, just different from the way humans do.
They do that too.
9. Life Span
They don’t see time the same way humans do, but they live approximately the same span.
Earth’s sun is unique and one day we will learn to use the same energy on a smaller scale.
When Sherman asked “Bones” about Project Preserve Destiny, the Grey abruptly ended their ongoing discussions. Shortly after that, the nature of the “comms” between the Air Force and the Greys changed. Sherman started receiving what he calls “abduction data,” complete with dates, geographic information, potential for recall (reabduction), and a 1-100 “pain scale.” Rememberign some of the coordinates, he traced some sites to the Florida panhandle, Upstate New York, and rural Wisconsin.
Increasingly isolated from the outside world, Sherman began to grow increasingly frustrated with his PPD work. He wanted to go back to ELINT or to get out entirely. The response from his command was that he could not only never go back to ELINT, but he could never separate from the Air Force now that he was part of PPD. He did the only thing he knew to do. In the book, Sherman says “the way I obtained my discharge is not a secret. Anyone can go back and see the reason emblazoned on my discharge papers. But certain self-incrimination legalities keep me from discussing it here.”
According an interview with Sherman on the website Exopolitics, which (*sigh*) studies the communications of aliens with humans, Sherman’s twelve years of Air Force service were exemplary. He earned an Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as three Air Force Achievement Medals and four Outstanding Unit Awards. he also served in the Persian Gulf War.
Sherman concluded his story with this:
I only wish I could have continued an otherwise wonderful career of which I was extremely proud. I miss serving my country and being part of the most sophisticated and well-trained military in the world.
U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.
Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.
One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).
Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.
According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.
“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.
Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.
For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.
The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”
The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.
“War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.
In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”
IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.
US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.
According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.
The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.
The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.
China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.
With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”
Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.
According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.
The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.
Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.
FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.
Strange as it may seem (though maybe not so much, considering America’s basic love of all things military), today’s generation of kids probably know more about military strategy than many generals of a hundred years ago. Why? In a phrase: “Video games.” From World of Warcraft to Halo, Modern War to Fallout 4, gamers these days get quite the education in military strategy well before they’re old enough to attend West Point.
Maybe that’s kind of a natural thing for a nation that proudly boasts the largest and most powerful military in human history. All things considered, it shouldn’t be that weird. And yet somehow, we bet you’ll be surprised by exactly how many of these classic military strategies you already know. You might not know the names of the strategies themselves, or the history behind them. But you’ll probably find at least half of these strategies oddly familiar.
Vote up the most genius military strategies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
When many of us think of wounded warriors, we think of service members injured or wounded downrange, during a deployment or in combat. Pfc. Kyia Costanzo, and her Team Army family participating in the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games would say otherwise. Costanzo was injured while in Basic Combat Training, suffering multiple severe injuries, leading to a long journey that has brought her to the DoD Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.
“My team is comprised of so many incredible soldiers, who have made so many sacrifices for this country, and for me, have been incredible about the fact that I did not complete training. They told me we all signed up to do the same thing, you just got hurt in the process after volunteering to serve your country. You deserve to be here,” Costanzo recalled. “That was really significant to me beyond words.”
Now a soldier at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion, Costanzo took up adaptive sports to help cope with her injuries, sharpen her focus, and motivate herself towards the next steps ahead of her. Costanzo is competing in the archery and swimming events at Warrior Games.
U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo laughs with fellow competitors during archery practice at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, June 18, 2019, during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
(Photo by Spc. Katelyn D. Strange)
“When I first got to the WTB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I heard about adaptive sports, and I was curious as to how injured soldiers can still do sports like basketball and volleyball. Then I saw it in person and was amazed! The more I got introduced to the programs, the more fascinated I became. It’s been life changing. When you are told that you will have limitations on you for the rest of your life, and you can’t do certain things ever again, programs like this are life changing,” said Costanzo.
“Adaptive sports for me, has built confidence and makes me feel as if I’m still doing something to raise awareness in the community about wounded, injured and ill soldiers. It was painful to say goodbye to things like hiking that was painful initially. But getting involved in adaptive sports gave me a new outlet, like I didn’t lose something, but gained new physical activities I could do,” Costanzo added.
U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo attends athlete training for the archery event, June 17, 2019, at MacDill Airforce Base during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
(Photo by Pfc. Seara Marcsis)
WTBs similar to Costanzo’s are the cornerstone of the Warrior Care and Transition Program and play a vital role in helping our wounded, ill and injured soldiers as they pursue to recover and overcome. The U.S. Army has established WTBs at major military treatment facilities at 14 military installations. The DoD Warrior Games are a culmination of adaptive sports reconditioning that takes place in the WTBs, in the form of an adaptive sports competition for the athletes selected to participate.
“Being a part of this program keeps you part of Team Army,” Costanzo said. “I can’t tell you how much adaptive sports, the Warrior Games, and specifically Team Army have helped me stay positive on what’s happening and to be excited about what’s going to happen for me in the future.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo speaks with Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville June 22, 2019 at the Bobby Hicks Swimming Pool during a training session for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
(Photo by Spc. Evens Milcette)
The 2019 DoD Warrior Games will run from June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Florida. The athletes participating in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces are also competing in this year’s DoD Warrior Games.
While the world focuses on Syria and Iraq, the menace of Islamic State is quietly expanding into Southeast Asia.
Eight thousand miles from the Middle East frontline, the Philippines has become the region’s main transit hub for Jihadists traveling to Syria, complete with a network of terror training camps.
Not that this is widely known – even by those living in the country. Contrasting against strong-armed efforts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Filipino government – preferring to label terrorists as ‘criminal gangs’ or ‘bandits’ – has appeared weak.
Until now, that is. Enter the new president: Rodrigo Duterte.
Known as “Duterte Harry” or “the Punisher” after allegations of vigilante killings to cut crime in the city of Davao, where he served as mayor, the President’s pledges include dumping a hundred thousand gangsters’ corpses in the Manila Bay. Gangs, bandits or terrorists – the growing number with affiliation to Islamic State warrant his immediate focus.
Myriad Militant Problem
Terrorism is nothing new to the Philippines. Separatists, Communists, Islamists have all utilised the southern island of Mindanao and the surrounding Sulu Sea archipelago as a remote safe haven for decades.
Today’s is a myriad militant problem riddled with competing interests, egos and continual splits.
The plethora of rival groups plays into the hands of more entrenched and radical elements with a global agenda and deeper financing. Islamic State has taken up where Al-Qaeda left off in building links to militias such as Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Justice Movement.
Islamic State’s motive in the region is clear. The Philippines is the only immediately viable launch pad for its Southeast Asia aspirations. Obtaining a foothold here would facilitate a satellite province, or wilayat, endorsing the Islamic State’s objective of a “borderless sphere of influence in Asia.”
Quite how this ambition plays out will be determined in part by a political decision looming June 30 on autonomy for the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao.
Amidst all the infighting, groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been supporting the legal process to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
The aspiration for the Bangsamoro Basic Law has significantly reduced terrorism in Mindanao. For now, the region’s separatists are likely to resist ties to Islamic State for fear it could derail progress toward autonomy. Any failure to enact the law, however, is almost certain to trigger a resurgence of attacks and a search for scale.
Islamic State has demonstrated an ability to seize opportunities offered by regional extremist conflicts. It operates by first requiring a proposal detailing the local militia’s governance strategy. The next stage is identifying a collectively chosen leader.
Among its quarrelsome Filipino members – whose rival leaders have on occasion ordered their men to shoot at each other – this is likely to be the biggest sticking point in any affiliation with IS.
Nevertheless, the potential rewards for both side are big enough to motivate solutions. The porous nature of maritime routes into Malaysia and Indonesia, and a lack of security around the Mindanao islands, offers Islamic State extensive supply and logistical routes.
Despite declarations to the contrary from the Philippine government and security agencies, Islamic State has already made in-roads to some of the local jihadist groups in Mindanao.
A stronghold of conservative Sunni Islam, the Mindanao people are largely impoverished, long politicised, disenfranchised and aggrieved. They’re a Muslim minority in a country that is 87% Roman Catholic. Parts of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago once belonged to the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, founded in 1405 – a reference point not lost on Islamic State’s recruiters. The Black Standard synonymous with al-Qaeda and now Islamic State has been seen with the words ‘Islamic State of Mindanao and Sulu’ on several videos and social media pages of Filipino extremists this year.
The area is fertile ground for Islamic State’s efforts to spread its Salafist ideology, and can become a base for further allegiances across Southeast Asia. Such ties are already taking root, as demonstrated by the attacks on Jakarta in January, the arrest of suicide bombers during planning phases in Kuala Lumpur the same month, and the ongoing internment of suspected jihadists across Malaysia since the middle of last year.
Should the Bangsamoro Basic Law pass on June 30, turning the region historically referred to as Bangsamoro, or ‘region of the Moros,’ into a politically autonomous province, then Islamic fundamentalism will be championed by lawful separatism. It should help to slow the local aspirations of Islamic State.
Failure to ratify, on the other hand, could be a catalyst for resurgent separatist terrorism. As in the past, Mindanao could become a total no-go zone for the government. Without doubt, this would serve to benefit the plethora of radical jihadist militants and their aspirations, including Islamic State.
The new President has expressed support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law and wants to move toward federalism to bring peace to Mindanao.
If he can achieve this, the Punisher would warrant a new name: the Peacemaker.
But such rational thinking might be too much to expect. This is, after all, a president who publicly entertained rape fantasies and called Pope Francis a ‘son of a whore’ after the papal entourage tied up traffic in the already-busy streets of Manila last year. His unapologetic stance toward the Vatican, though distasteful toward many of his Catholic constituents, may be an indication of his refusal to back down from the more existential threat posed by Islamic State.
The authors of this report are Phill Hynes and Hrishiraj Bhattacharjee, analysts at ISS Risk, a frontier and emerging markets political risk management company covering North, South and Southeast Asia from its headquarters in Hong Kong.
Check out more in-depth reporting and analysis from Frontera News here.
In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.
The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.
Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”
“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”
Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.
Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.
Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.
Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.
NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.
The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.
Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.
“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”
Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.
“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.
Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.
But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.
Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.
The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.
“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.
Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.
“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.
The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.
During the Korean War, the U.S. military learned the dangers of naming supplies after easily confusable products. In 1950, at the North Korean Chosin Reservoir, a group of U.S. Marines was running very low on ammunition in the middle of battle. They called in for a drop of 16 mm mortar rounds and the codename of these bullets, you guessed it, was Tootsie Roll. Instead of ammunition, the Marines received a bunch of those oblong, taffy-like, chocolate logs, which, we can assume, was probably quite a disappointing shock for those troops. However, this miscommunication would prove to be vital to the soldiers’ escape — no, they didn’t use the Tootsie Rolls as bullets.
When soldiers, airman and sailors are injured by enemy fire, ambushed or pinned down by dangerous attacks, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters are tasked with the risky combat mission of flying in behind enemy lines — to save imperiled service members.
“We’ve made a promise to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and that promise is we will always come get you,” Brig. Gen. Eric Fick, Director of Global Reach Programs, Air Force Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview earlier this year.
However, the Pave Hawk fleet has been taxed by recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fleet has been decimated by loss, damage and the wear and tear of consistent high-risk combat missions. As a result, the Air Force is deeply immersed in a crucial effort to restore the fleet to its needed operational strength, Fick explained.
“Due to the constant operation since 9-11, we have suffered loses of those helicopters in an operational sense. The objective is to bring back the fleet to full strength,” Fick said.
Facing the regular threat of Taliban or insurgent RPG, Pave Hawks are armed with .50-cal machine guns and 7.62mm weapons. They are also built with extra armor to defend against small arms fire and various kinds of enemy attacks.
“We are outfitted to go into a hostile environment to recover people, which is why we need extra armor and guns. The mission incorporates more than just recovering the downed airman, it could also include someone who is injured by and IED. We are outfitted to go recover them bring them back and give them the aid that they need. We can do MEDEVAC but also MEDEVAC behind the forward lines,” Fick explained.
Upgrades to the “life-saving” Pave Hawk helicopters include the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“This is most likely on a daily basis saving the lives of soldiers, airmen and sailors. When they get in trouble these are the guys (HH-60G) that come get them. These are the aircraft that let them do it,” he added.
Pave Hawk Upgrades
At the moment, the Air Force operates 97 embattled Pave Hawks; the goal is to restore the fleet to 112 helicopters.
The Air Force Pave Hawk restoration and upgrade is progressing along a two-fold trajectory involving the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawks and existing HH-60Gs into new models called Operational Loss Replacement, or OLR, helicopters.
The Army Black Hawks are given new communications technology, navigational systems, radar warning receivers and hoist refueling probes allowing the aircraft to refuel mid-mission. In addition, they are engineered with an infrared jammer and flare countermeasure dispensing system. The converted helicopters are also given longer range fuel tanks and increased armor for combat rescue missions, Lt. Col. Charles Mcmullen, HH-60 program element monitor, told Scout Warrior.
In total, 21 Army Black Hawks will be converted into upgraded models. Three of them will be configured as test models and 18 will go to three different guard units and then to active duty forces, Fick said. The first UH-60 helicopter has already been converted into a Pave Hawk, he added.
The creation of OLR models from HH-60G helicopters includes the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“A new color multi-function display on the dashboard can switch between an active moving map and infrared imaging system which can be used in low light to land the helicopter and pick up injured service members,” Fick added.
The new “picture in picture” color display allows pilots to merge separate laptop and control panel screens into a single screen designed to better expedite navigation and decision making while lowering the pilot’s workload.
All existing Pave Hawks will be transformed into OLR models within the next several years. The restoration of the Air Force Pave Hawk fleet is designed to preserve operational rescue helicopters until the services’ emerging new Combat Rescue Helicopter arrives in the mid 2020s.
“The mods will start next year. The challenge is we want to get the OLR birds out first. We are working the phasing and the timing of those mods to make sure we do not reduce readiness,” Fick added.
The Sikorsky-built helicopter operates two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines, weighs 22,000 pounds and reaches speeds up to 184 miles per hour. It has an operating range of 504-miles.
Pave Hawk History
Pave Hawks combat missions began in Operation Just Cause. During Operation Desert Storm they provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition forces in western Iraq, coastal Kuwait, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Air Force statements said.
They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy SEAL teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.
During Operation Allied Force, Pave Hawks provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.