China prepares forces in contested waters for war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command Oct. 25, 2018, again stressing the need build a force that can “fight and win wars” in the modern age. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” he explained, adding that the command has a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.”


“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi said, according to the China Daily, “I hope you can fulfill such sacred and solemn missions.”

The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.

As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The US Navy recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that, like the US military’s frequent bomber overflights and freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, angered Beijing.

Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.

US Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Oct. 29, 2018, that the US Navy will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations and challenge “illegitimate maritime claims.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

Russian undersea naval activity in the North Atlantic has reached new levels, and NATO is worried that the undersea cables connecting North America and Europe and the rest of the world are being targeted.


“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces, told The Washington Post. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

Moscow’s subs appear to be interested in the privately owned lines that stretch across the seabed, carrying insulated fiber-optic cables. The cables are strewn across the world’s oceans and seas, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
A Russian Sierra-class attack submarine. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

Blocking the flow of information through them could scramble the internet, while tapping into them could give eavesdroppers a valuable picture of the data flowing within. The cables are fragile and have been damaged in the past by ships’ anchors, though usually in areas where repairs are relatively easy.

Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, the UK’s defense chief, has also sounded alarm about Russia’s apparent focus on the undersea cables. “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he said earlier this month.

Lennon’s and Peach’s warnings are only the latest about Russian undersea activity in the vicinity of important underwater infrastructure.

The New York Times reported in late 2015 that increased Russian naval activity near the lines led US military officials to fear Moscow planned to attack the cables in the event of conflict. US officials said they had seen elevated Russian operations along the cables’ routes in the North Sea and Northeast Asia and even along US shores.

Many undersea cables are in familiar places, but others, commissioned by the US for military purposes, are in secret locations. US officials said in 2015 that increased Russia undersea activity could have been efforts to locate those cables.

There was no sign at that time that any cables had been cut, and Lennon declined to tell The Post if the defense bloc believed Russia has touched any of the undersea lines.

But elevated Russian undersea activity comes as NATO members and other countries in Europe grow more concerned about what they see as assertive Russian activity on the ground, in the air, and at sea around the continent.

Russian planes have had numerous near-misses with their NATO counterparts over the Baltics in recent months, and Russia’s massive Zapad 2017 military exercises in Russia and Belarus during September had NATO on edge.

A force multiplier

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

Moscow has also pursued naval expansion, with a focus on undersea capabilities. A modernization program announced in 2011 directed more money toward submarines, producing quieter, more lethal designs. Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014, according to The Post.

Among them was the Krasnodar, which Russian officials boasted could avoid the West’s most sophisticated radars. US and NATO ships tracked the Krasnodar intently this summer, as it traveled from Russia to the Black Sea, stopping along the way to fire missiles into Syria. More advanced subs are reportedly in production.

Subs are seen by Moscow as a force multiplier, as rivals would need to dedicate considerable resources to tracking just one submarine.

Subs are also able to operate without being seen, to carry out retaliatory strikes, and to threaten resupply routes, allowing them to have an outsize impact.

Russia now fields 60 full-size subs, while the US has 66, according to The Post.

Adding to Russia’s subsurface fleet are deep-sea research vessels, including a converted ballistic missile sub that can launch smaller submarines.

“We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they’re transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor,” Lennon told The Post.

 

Russian officials have also touted their fleet’s increased operations.

In March 2017, Adm. Vladimir Korolev, commander of the Russian navy, said the Russian navy in 2016 “reached the same level as before the post-Soviet period, in terms of running hours.”

“This is more than 3,000 days at sea for the Russian submarine fleet,” Korolev added. “This is an excellent sign.”

‘Those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats’

Western countries have also pursued their own buildup in response.

While US plans call for curtailing production of Virginia-class attack subs when Columbia-class missile subs begin production in the early 2020s, a recent study found that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-class subs and one Columbia-class sub a year — averting what Navy officials have described as an expected submarine shortfall in the mid-2020s and keeping the fleet ahead of near-peer rivals like Russia and China.

The US is looking to sensors, sonar, weapons control, quieting technologies, undersea drones, and communications systems to help its subs maintain their edge. (Government auditors have said the Columbia-class subs will need more testing and development to avoid delays and cost overruns down the line, however.)

Elsewhere in NATO, Norway and Germany — the latter of which does not currently have any operational subs — recently agreed on a deal to build two submarines for each country.

The response extends to tactics as well. US and NATO personnel have dedicated more time to anti-submarine-warfare training and operations. Transponder data shows that the US Navy has in recent months flown numerous sorties over areas where Russian subs operate, according to The Post.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, told The Wall Street Journal this fall.

As the number of sub-hunting ships that can patrol the North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean has fallen since the Cold War, NATO members are working to deploy more air and sea assets. This summer, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey signed a letterof intent to start development of new submarine-detecting aircraft.

The number of frigates — typically used for anti-submarine warfare — in use by NATO allies has fallen from about 100 in the early 1990s to about 50 today, prompting the US to rush to field more in the coming years.

Attention has also returned to the North Atlantic choke point between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK. The GIUK Gap was a crucial element of Cold War naval defenses, and US anti-submarine planes were based in Iceland for decades before leaving in 2006.

Also Read: This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

The US Navy has been upgrading hangers in Iceland to accommodate new P-8A Poseidon aircraft, however, and the Pentagon has said the US and Iceland have agreed to increase rotations of the US surveillance planes there next year.

As the Russian navy seeks to reverse the contraction it experienced after the Cold War, NATO too is looking to expand its commands after shrinking in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

A recent NATO internal report found that the alliance’s rapid-response abilities had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War” and recommended setting up two new commands to streamline supply efforts.

One, based on the continent, would oversee the movement of personnel and material in Europe, and the other, potentially based in the US, would oversee transatlantic resupply efforts and the defense of sea lanes.

“If you want to transport a lot of stuff, you have to do that by ship,” Lennon, NATO’s submarine commander, told The Journal this fall. “And those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats.”

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Plans for the new commands were approved in early November. More details are expected in February, though current plans include embedding the NATO North Atlantic command with US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We are a transatlantic alliance, and we must therefore be in a position to transport troops and equipment over the Atlantic,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “For that we need secure and open seaways.”

Articles

America’s most expensive warship ever built will undoubtedly change naval warfare

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
An artist’s rendering of a Ford class aircraft carrier. | Public Domain


The U.S. Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class flat-top aircraft carriers are the envy of the world, and yet the Navy has a newer, more powerful, and more advanced carrier in the works: the Ford-class.

Named after U.S. President Gerald Ford, the Navy plans to procure four of these titans of the sea. In the slides below, see how the Fords improve on America’s already imposing fleet of aircraft carriers.

New reactor and an all-electric ship.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
Gerald R. Ford sitting in dry dock during construction. | Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl

The new Ford class carriers will feature an improved nuclear reactor with three times the power-generation capacity as the Nimitz class.

This outsized power-generation capacity provides the Fords an opportunity to grow into new technologies that come up during their service life.

With ample power to draw from, the Fords could one day house directed-energy weapons like the Navy’s upcoming railgun.

Watch an F-35 seamlessly take off using an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

The Nimitz class cruisers use an elaborate steam-powered launch system to send F/A-18s and other planes on their way, but the Ford class, drawing on its huge power-generation capacity, will use an electronic system to do the same.

Not only will the EMALS launch heavier planes, but it will also carefully launch planes in order to reduce wear and tear. Additionally, the increased capacity of these launchers to make planes airborne will allow new plane designs in the future.

Example of a steam-powered launch:

New island.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
A Nimitz class aircraft carrier, on the bottom, compared to a Ford class, top.

Improved technology means that the island, or the tower on the deck of the carrier, can be moved further aft (toward the tail end of the craft).

This smaller, more out-of-the-way island means that there will be more room and accessibility for the aircraft on the deck, which will improve maintenance times and turnarounds.

Navy planners estimate that the new design will help carriers generate an additional 33% more sorties.

“When aircraft land, they’ll be able to come back, refuel, rearm, in kind of a pit-stop model … really modeled after NASCAR,” Capt. John F. Meier, the commanding officer of Gerald R. Ford said of the new design.

Dual Band Radar.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
The Dual Band Radar sensors are housed in flat panels along the sides of the island. | U.S. Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Chris Oxley

The Navy’s Dual Band Radar (DBR) operates simultaneously on two frequencies, enabling the radar to effectively classify low-altitude planes and missiles.

The radar works both to track incoming aircraft and missiles and to support outgoing weapons and planes.

Only the first Ford class carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will carry the DBR. Navy planners are currently evaluating candidates to provide an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, which they estimate could save $120 million.

Advanced arresting gear (AAG).

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
An artist’s conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a US carrier. | General Atomics Image

Another improvement on the Nimitz design, the AAG on the Ford class will help accommodate a broader range of aircraft and offer a less jarring landing than the Navy’s current Mk-7 Mod 3 and Mk-7 Mod 4 designs.

But like other systems on board, the AAG is facing problems. Recently the Navy said it was considering alternatives for future carriers, but that the USS Gerald R. Ford would still carry the system.

Advanced Weapons Elevators.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing 14, assemble on an aircraft elevator for a wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of the sailors who fought and died at the Battle of Midway. Midway is a great moment in US Navy history and is considered by many to be the turning point in the battle of the Pacific during World War II. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac

It may seem like a simple change, but the new carriers will use electromagnetic fields to raise and lower platforms instead of cabling. This allows a simpler design to compartmentalize the different areas of the ship, which will help reduce maintenance and manning costs over the life of the ship.

Also, new cargo elevators will replace cargo converters, which were labor intensive.

Conclusion.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
H Ingalls

Individually, the changes made between the Ford and Nimitz classes seem isolated and inconsequential. But when taken together, the Ford line of aircraft carriers shows the direction forward as envisioned by the U.S.’s naval planners.

The development of the Ford class carriers has been fraught with cost and time overruns, but this is to be expected with a first-in-class vessel.

The great success of the Ford class will not be defined by any one innovation on board, but by the foresight displayed by the designers who are boldly creating a carrier to launch planes that haven’t even been designed yet, to fire weapons not yet built, and to secure the U.S.’s interests at sea for decades to come.

Articles

Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGsdaqpq-5w
MIGHTY MOVIES

This ‘M*A*S*H and the Coronavirus’ episode is must-see TV

We knew the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) were well-equipped to handle any situation, but this new hybrid from five episodes of the popular 1970s series is showing us how to handle COVID-19 as well.

While the sun may have set after 11 seasons on the beloved characters stationed in South Korea during the Korean War, their advice on everything from how to wash your hands, hoarding in a time of toilet paper shortage and social distancing seems almost prophetic.


In the M*A*S*H montage put together by Frank Vaccariello, we see unbelievably timely themes: How to wash your hands from the episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” social distancing from the episode,”Cowboy,” don’t touch your face from the episode, “War of Nerves,” working from home from the episode, “Hepatitis,” and yes, even a toilet paper shortage from the episode,”Crisis.”

When asked what prompted his creativity, Vaccariello said that he started comparing the guidance the nation is receiving on protecting ourselves from COVID-19, to scenes from M*A*S*H in his head. “I have been a M*A*S*H fan since the days it originally aired,” he said in an interview with WATM. “I loved the show, the writing and the acting. I can actually be said to be more of a M*A*S*H freak,” he admitted. “I had intended just to make a couple memes, but then last Saturday morning I woke up and decided to create the video.”

MASH and the Coronavirus

www.youtube.com

Mash and the Coronavirus

Vaccariello has a soft spot for M*A*S*H and the military community. His dad was an Army veteran and Vaccariello served on the board of directors for a veteran-focused charity.

In his Facebook post where he first published the video, Vaccariello commented, “No matter what question or problem comes up in life, M*A*S*H always has the answer.”

Ain’t that the truth. Bravo, Frank!

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you should know about Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

Marines are known for their proficiency in fighting, but not many people know that they’ve developed their own hand-to-hand fighting system, called the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. MCMAP combines several different styles with close-quarters combat techniques and Marine Corps philosophies to create something new.


While many, varying opinions exist on the program, it’s important to understand one simple thing: it’s only as effective as its wielder. In short, if you weren’t any good at fighting before you learned MCMAP, you’re still not going to be much good after you earn that tan belt.

So, for all of you who have no idea what MCMAP is all about, here are the broad strokes:

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

A Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer demonstrates an arm bar.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

It’s comprised of several different fighting styles. 

Seventeen styles, to be exact. That’s right, seventeen different fighting styles cultivated from around the world were pulled together to create MCMAP. It includes techniques borrowed from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Krav Maga to name a few. Keep in mind, however, specific techniques were pulled from each and then adapted to be applicable for Marines in combat.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

A green belt with a tan Martial Arts Instructor tab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan M. Bowyer)

There are five belt levels

Before you walk across the parade deck at MCRD, you will earn your entry-level, tan belt. The other belt levels are, in ascending order, gray, green, brown, and black. A black belt, as in other martial arts, has varying degrees — 6, in the case of MCMAP. While most of the belt levels can be the subject of mockery, we highly recommend you don’t mess with a black belt.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

Sometimes you get a lecture, sometimes you run across base.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)

You learn about more than just fighting

MCMAP is also about studying warrior ethos and understanding that fighting is not just throwing a better punch than your opponent. To quote Marine Corps Order 1500.54A, which officially established the program in 2002,

“MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence.”
China prepares forces in contested waters for war

If you’re a grunt, you’ll likely be forced to ground-fight in rain.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Infantry Marines are generally required to earn a green belt

Or at least a gray belt. Typically, if a commander sees there’s open space in the training schedule and the armory is too busy to make you stand in line for 3 hours, you’ll be ordered to practice MCMAP. Most grunts earn their gray belt by the end of their first pre-deployment training cycle. Some are required to earn their green by the end of their second.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

The red tab indicates an MAIT.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

There are different types of instructors

There are Martial Arts Instructors then there are Martial Arts Instructor-Trainers. The main difference is a standard MAI can train other Marines to “belt up,” while an MAIT can train a Marine, whose belt level is at least green, to become an instructor.

To become an MAI, you must attend the grueling and unforgiving Martial Arts Instructor Course. To become an MAIT, you must attend the even more painful, more advanced Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer Course. Either way, your soul will never be the same.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army will get first light tank prototypes in 2020

The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.

The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.


The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.

“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.

“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.

The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.

Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.

The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.

The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air Force C-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.

(US Air Force photo)

Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.

GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.

“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.

The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.

“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”

The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.

“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kabul says it’s freed 149 hostages from Taliban

The Taliban has reportedly rejected an offer by the Afghan government for a cease-fire, with militant commanders vowing to carry on their attacks after Taliban fighters in the north seized nearly 200 hostages from a convoy of passenger buses.

A Taliban spokesman said Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada on Aug. 20, 2018, rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s offer a day earlier of a “conditional” cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.


The cease-fire was meant to begin on Aug. 20, 2018, and run for three months, conditioned upon Taliban participation.

But the Taliban spokesman told Reuters by telephone on Aug. 20 that Akhunzada had rejected the new offer on grounds that it would only help the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.

“Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a cease-fire now,” the Taliban spokesman said, declining to be identified.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada

An official in Ghani’s office said the Afghan government would continue its military operations against the Taliban if the militants did not respect the cease-fire.

Rescue Operation

Afghan officials say government security forces on Aug. 20, 2018, freed 149 people who had been taken hostage by the Taliban several hours earlier in the northern province of Kunduz.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the militants continued to hold 21 others hostage on Aug. 20, 2018, after they ambushed a convoy of passenger buses traveling to Kabul for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

He said fighting in the area had halted while Afghan authorities used local elders as intermediaries in negotiations with the Taliban for the release of the remaining hostages.

The buses were stopped in the province’s Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control — prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.

Rahimi said the rescue operation had killed at least seven Taliban fighters before the militants fled the scene. He said the Taliban had left behind the 149 freed hostages because the militants were unable to transport all of the group due to the rescue operation.

Rahimi said the remaining 21 hostages were taken by the Taliban to an undisclosed location. He said none of them were government employees or members of Afghanistan’s security forces.

However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.

Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said earlier on Aug. 20, 2018, that the buses “were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police” among those taken hostage.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said he thinks the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, the police chief in neighboring Takhar province, says the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happened when Communist China gave steroids to a Russian transport

When it comes to aviation, original ideas are few and far between. Much of the progress that happens in the space can be considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. The F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighter, for instance, was an evolution of the F-15 Eagle, an air-superiority fighter. This is often the case with transport planes, too.


For example, the general appearance of transport planes hasn’t changed much over the decades. There’s a huge, mostly hollow fuselage, high-mounted wings, and, at the very least, a rear ramp used to load vehicles or pallets of cargo. In developing cargo planes, the real issue isn’t figure out how to transport something, it’s figuring out how to transport that much.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

A Y-20 in flight. This plane is based on the Russian Il-76 Candid transport.

(Photo by Alert5)

When the Chinese Communists were looking for a solution for massive-scale logistics, they decided to develop an aircraft based on the Il-76 “Candid” family of planes. They took this already-impressive aircraft and put it on a metaphorical steroid regimen, just like the ones former baseball sluggers Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez used to bulk up.

The Il-76 can haul 44 tons of cargo. Communist China’s Y-20, their ‘roided-out version of the Russian plane, hauls up to 66 tons. The Y-20 has a top speed of 572 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,796 miles. The Il-76 can go for 2,734 miles at a top speed of 559 miles per hour.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

China has acquired 30 planes in the Il-76 Candid, 22 of which are transports similar to this Indian Air Force Il-76.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Now, that still doesn’t quite match up with the United States’ logistical powerhouse, the C-17, which can carry up to 85 tons of cargo up to 2,400 nautical miles. Additionally, the C-17 can be refueled in flight, so it can reach anywhere in the world. But compared to the baseline Il-76, the Y-20 is a substantial improvement, and gives Communist China a better plane — even if it’s still waiting on the WS-20 engines.

Watch the video below to see this plane go through some of its paces.

www.youtube.com

Articles

A German man was arrested and fined for his massive collection of World War II weapons

We all have our strange collections. Some people collect tiny spoons from tourist gift shops for some reason. Others collect everyday minutiae like stamps and coins. Those people do not get hefty fines and prison time for their collections. One unnamed German citizen-turned-inmate just got both for his collection. 

German privacy laws prevent the unnamed defendant from being outed – he was named only as Klaus-Dieter F. in German reports – but he somehow managed to keep a collection of Nazi-era weapons that included a tank, a flak cannon and a trove of heavy machine guns. For his effort, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined the equivalent of $300,000. 

He was also forced to sell or donate the 45-ton tank and anti-aircraft guns to a museum. 

In 2015, police in northern Germany were investigating how two bronze horses that were once displayed in front of Adolf Hitler’s Reich Chancellery could somehow have ended up in a black market sale along with other Nazi-era artwork. The investigation led them to the unnamed man’s storage unit. 

Authorities raided the storage unit later that same year. Inside, they seized not only the 45-ton tank and anti-aircraft weapons but a horde of Wehrmacht militaria. The seizure included machine guns, automatic pistols and at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition, according to an Associated Press report. 

The report also says the man never hid the fact that he had all of the weapons, including the tank, which he once drove out of the storage unit to use as a snow plow during one particularly bad winter storm. As he was sentenced, the man’s lawyer read a confession on behalf of the accused. 

Weapons restrictions in Germany are very clearly defined. Rifles, handguns and black powder muskets are all actually common, but are strictly controlled by the government, as Germany has seen a spike in mass shootings in recent years.

German law allows for gun ownership and possession, so long as the owner has a proper permit. To own or buy a firearm, Germans need to get a weapons possession card (Waffenbesitzkarte). To use or carry one, they need a weapons license (Waffenschein). Hunters, for example, would require both.

The weapons possession card only allows for the transportation of the gun. To transport one, it must be unloaded and inside a locked case in public. Even for minor firearms like pellet guns or flare guns, they would need to acquire a minor firearms card. 

For all these cards, Germans need to have liability insurance for injury and property damage for at least $1.1 million and gun owners under 25 years old must have a psychological evaluation before purchasing one. 

When it comes to weapons of war, German law makes a very clear distinction between the two types of firearms. Germany’s War Weapons Control Act prohibits ownership of any weapon of war, including pump-action shotguns, machine guns and tanks. Collectors must procure a Red License, which has criteria of its own.

Red Licensees are firearms experts and collectors who can purchase weapons without prior approval. Getting a Red License means the collector must provide the state with the “theme” of their collection, explain why they want to collect with that theme, and which guns the applicant wants to collect. 

Tanks, machine guns and other fully automatic weapons are expressly forbidden, even for those with a Red License. 

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New Avengers: Endgame trailer is beginning of the end

The first trailer for Avengers 4 is finally here. We’ve got a real-deal title, too: Avengers: Endgame. Captain America has shaved his beard, Tony Stark is lonely, Hawkeye is back, and it looks like Ant-Man is going to be the key to it all, just as we predicted!

Be warned this trailer is super-emotional and we’re already crying. Watch the trailer a few times, and then take a breath. Okay, you good? Let’s dig into this a little bit.


First of all, even though “Endgame” is a really boring and generic subtitle, the trailer itself is excellent, possibly more thrilling than any other Marvel trailer ever. Unlike the Captain Marvel trailers (which are fine by the way) this trailer really gives the audience what they want without actually spoiling the movie. Though if you somehow missed Infinity War, this trailer weirdly makes watching that movie slightly unnecessary because Black Widow sums up the plot of the previous installment with one line “Thanos did exactly what he said he was going to do: he wiped-out 50 percent of all living creatures.” (Side question: does this include cockroaches, rats, and pigeons? Is there a vermin-version of the Avengers who are grieving right now, too? I mean we all cried for Spider-Man, what about actual spiders?)

Marvel Studios’ Avengers – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, this trailer is really great. Chris Evans is clearly going to give the performance of his life in this movie and its rad to see him clean-shaven, like pretty much saying to the audience that yeah, he’s back and he’s going to do whatever it takes to fix all of this stuff. The return of Hawkeye is super-dope, too, and that coda with Ant-Man pulling up in his van is great and totally teases the idea that the post-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp will be the key to saving all the Avengers.

Seems like May 3, 2019, can’t get here fast enough.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This is what the potential US Space Corps could look like

A sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces may be a reality soon. But it will likely still be decades before “Star Trek’s” Starfleet becomes a thing.


On June 21, The House Armed Services Committee proposed forming the U.S. Space Corps. Both Republican and Democrat representatives suggested cleaving the current Air Force Space Command away from Big Blue and forming its own branch of service.

Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers is spearheading the Space Corps into the 2018 Defense Authorization Bill. Rogers spoke with NPR and said “Russia and China have become near peers. They’re close to surpassing us. What we’re proposing would change that.”

Opposition to the Space Corps comes from the confusion that it would create at the Pentagon. Both Air Force Sec. Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein argued against the proposal. Gen. Goldfein said in May “I would say that we keep that dialog open, but right now I think it would actually move us backwards.”

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
Photo via Wikimedia

The formation of new branches of the military isn’t new. The Air Force was of course part of the Army when it was the U.S. Army Air Corps. Even still, the Marine Corps is still a subdivision of the Navy.

Funding for the Space Corps would be coming from the Air Force. The budget for the existing Air Force Space Command would increase before it would become its own branch.

With the ever growing sophistication of war, the “red-headed step children” of the Air Force would be in the spotlight. The Space Corps would most likely be absorb The Navy’s space arm of the Naval Network Warfare Command into its broader mission.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
As an integral part of the 21st Space Wing, Cheyenne Mountain AFS provides and employs global capabilities to ensure space superiority to defend our nation and allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

There has not been a proposed official designation for Space Corps personnel yet.  Air Force personnel are Airmen so it would be logical for Space Corps troops to be called spacemen.

The life of spacemen wouldn’t likely be too different from the airmen in Space Command and sailors of the Naval Network Warfare Command already. There are only a few bases that would garrison spacemen. Their mission would likely remain the same as it is today — “to provide resilient and affordable space and cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation.”

To crush the dreams of every child, the fighting would mostly be take place at a desk instead of space. It costs way too much to send things and people into space. Until there’s a great need to send troops into space, Spacemen won’t be living out any “Halo,” “Starship Troopers,” or “Star Wars” fantasies.

China prepares forces in contested waters for war
But we can still dream, right?

In all likelihood, spacemen would focus their efforts on the threats against cyber-security, detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and maintenance of satellites in the early days. No major changes from what currently exists today, but the Space Corps would have more prestige and precedent in future conflicts.

Yet, President Donald Trump has recently reestablished the National Space Council. Trump made clear his goals of a “Deep Space Gateway” to help astronauts reach more distant locations along with his goal of reaching Mars “by the end of his second term.

The concept of the Space Corps is still up for debate. It would still need to pass the Senate Armed Services Committee and then to President Trump.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information