Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam traversed the strait Oct. 22, 2018, US Pacific Fleet confirmed to Business Insider. The US Navy conducted a similar operation in July 2018, sending the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold through the tense waterway.
The pair of US Navy warships conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law,” Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr told BI, adding that the purpose of the mission was to demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and to remind others that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The latest move comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been fighting over a variety of issues ranging from trade to territorial disputes.
The US Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilber.
China, concerned that US military actions around Taiwan will embolden pro-independence factions on the self-ruled island, has bolstered its military presence in the area in 2018. The Chinese military has sailed its aircraft carrier and accompanying escort ships through the Taiwan Strait and conducted “encirclement” exercises involving fighters, bombers and other military assets throughout 2018.
Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence.
The US Navy’s latest challenge to China comes just a few weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, in which a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US Navy warship during an “unsafe” encounter following a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands. That incident followed a string of US Air Force bomber flights through the disputed East and South China Seas, flights Beijing characterized as “provocative.”
Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait Oct. 22, 2018, but the Chinese ships remained at a safe distance.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.
During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.
Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.
Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.
Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.
The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.
By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.
In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.
The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.
The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.
The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.
Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.
Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.
The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.
Ground combat vehicles
David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.
The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.
The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.
It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.
There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.
A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.
Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.
Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.
CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.
Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.
There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.
Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.
Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.
And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.
The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.
Other future weapons
Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.
Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.
The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.
The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.
Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.
The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.
“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”
Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.
The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.
Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.
The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.
Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.
He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.
In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.
Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It’s a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.
Although this film holds a well-documented place in cinematic history, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Vietnam-era classic.
No major movie studio wanted to produce the film
At the time, movie studios were still bitter about the realities of the Vietnam War. Because of this, George Lucas (who worked on the early stages of the film’s development) and John Millius took the script to several studios and were repeatedly turned down.
As a result, the film was put on indefinite hold. Coppola, in the interim, went on to direct a couple of small movies you may have heard of — The Godfather, parts I and II.
After that overwhelming success, Coppola decided to produce his passion project without the help of studios, putting up million of his own money.
A rare film print of Harvey Keitel sharing a laugh with Robert Duvall.
Coppola fired his leading man
Originally, talented actor Harvey Keitel was cast to play the role of Capt. Willard. But, soon after filming started, he was fired and replaced with Martin Sheen, who had his own reservations about taking on the role.
Brando wanted some big bucks to play the role of Kurtz
Coppola convinced Marlon Brando to play the iconic role, one that would become one of his most famous characters. However, Brando wanted a million dollars per week to play the insane colonel. After the production agreed to his request, he was scheduled for three weeks of work. Coppola handed over one million smackeroos as an advance.
After a few weeks of shooting, production began running late. Brando’s people threatened to drop out and keep the million-dollar advance due to rescheduling.
Coppola wasn’t happy but, eventually, everything worked out. The acclaimed director got his villain to deliver an epic performance.
The helicopters that were used in filming were constantly being called away to fight the rebels
At the time of shooting, the Phillipines was in the midst of a rebellion. The pilots that were used during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene kept getting ordered away to fight against rebel forces that were reportedly just 10 miles away from Coppola’s production.
On June 28, 1914, an assassin supplied by terrorists shot and killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, igniting an already tense situation between Serbia and the Hapsburg-controlled monarchy in Vienna. By July 1914, a month later, the world was at war, and by the end of the war, Austria-Hungary would no longer exist, and Germany would be punished in the treaty that ended it.
Even though Germany had nothing to do with igniting “the powder keg of Europe.”
A Bosnian terrorist kills an Austrian noble in Serbia so Germany and Russia go to war. Get it?
It’s a little more complicated than who started what but Germany gets the brunt of the blame for the war because of how the fight between Austria and Serbia escalated so fast, and no attempt was made to de-escalate it. The resulting deaths of millions worldwide along with the destruction wrought on European battlefields and the use of poison gas left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (sometimes literally) throughout the duration of the war.
While Germany didn’t necessarily start World War I, it didn’t do much to stop it, either. In fact, many historians believe Germany actively encouraged the war, despite the systems of alliances in place that should have deterred the European powers from fighting. The Germans knew if Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, the Russians would intervene on Serbia’s behalf. Then Germany would have to come to Austria’s aid.
That’s what the Germans wanted.
Russians were still carrying religious icons into battle instead of modern weapons.
Even though Austria was satisfied with Sarajevo’s attempt to smooth things over, Germany convinced the Hapsburg Emperor that he could not only invade and win against the Serbians, but that Germany would have an easy time against all the other European allies. Germany really, really wanted a war with Russia to acquire new territory in the east, but couldn’t justify it. Going to war to back its Austrian ally was more than enough and Austria had a reason to go to war with Serbia. So Germany kept pushing its ally despite calls for peace from the rest of Europe.
Finally, Austria agreed and attacked Serbia, which caused the Russians to come to Serbia’s aid, which forced Germany to back Austria and France to back Russia. Then the Germans invaded France through Belgium, requiring England to intervene in the war as well. So Austria-Hungary technically started the war, but Germany tried to finish it. For four years.
That’s why Germany takes the blame for World War I.
The commander of Sweden’s air force, Mats Helgesson, recently made the bold statement that his country’s Saab Gripen E fighter could beat Russia’s formidable fleet of Sukhoi jets with none of the expensive stealth technology the US relies on.
“Gripen, especially the E-model, is designed to kill Sukhois. There we have a black belt,” Helgesson told Yle at a presentation in Finland, where Sweden is trying to export the jets.
Russia’s Sukhoi fighters have achieved a kind of legendary status for their ability to out-maneuver US fighter jets in dogfights and pull off dangerous and aggressive stunts in the air, but Gripen may have cracked the code.
The Gripen can’t carry the most weapons and has no real stealth. And it isn’t the longest-range, the fastest, or even the cheapest jet. But it has a singular focus that makes it a nightmare for Russia’s fighter jets.
Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that like the A-10 Warthog was built around a massive cannon, the Gripen was built around electronic warfare.
Virtually all modern jets conduct some degree of electronic warfare, but the Gripen E stands above the rest, according to Bronk.
Montage showing the different phases of an acrobatic maneuver performed by a Sukhoi Su-35.
Gripen pilots don’t like to show their cards by demonstrating the full power of the jet’s jamming in training. But the one time they did, it completely reversed the course of the mock battle in training, Bronk said.
“Several years ago the Gripen pilots got tired of being made fun of by German Typhoon pilots and came to play with their wartime electronic warfare and gave them a hell of a hard time,” Bronk said. One of the Gripens was “reportedly able to appear on the left wing of a Typhoon without being detected” by using its “extremely respected” jamming ability, Bronk said.
“It would be fair to assume the Gripen is one of the most capable electronic warfighters out there,” he said, adding that the Gripens that baffled the Typhoons were of the C/D series, which have much less powerful electronic-warfare capabilities than the E series Gripens that Helgesson described.
To defeat Russia’s fearsome fighters and surface-to-air missiles, the US has largely turned to stealth aircraft. Stealth costs a fortune and must be built into the shape of the plane.
If Russia somehow cracks the code of detecting stealth-shaped fighters, the US’s F-35, the most expensive weapons system in history, is cooked.
But Saab took a different, and cheaper, approach to combating Russia’s fighters and missiles by focusing on electronic attack, which gives them an advantage over stealth because they can evolve the software without a ground-up rebuild, according to Bronk.
Saab plans to update the software on the Gripen E every two years, giving it more flexibility to meet evolving challenges, according to Bronk.
Map from 2016 showing Russian air-defense deployments.
But Bronk noted one issue with electronic warfare.
“The problem with basing a survival strategy around an electronic warfare suite is you don’t really know if it’s going to work,” he said. “Even if it does, it’s going to be a constant battle between your adversary and you” to get the edge on the enemy fighters as wave forms and methods of attack continuously change.
However, Sweden benefits from a Russian focus on US fighters. “Sweden is too small really to optimize your counter-electronic warfare capabilities against,” Bronk said.
If war broke out between Russia and the West, Russia would likely try hardest to push back on US electronic warfare, rather than against Sweden’s Gripen Es, of which there would be only a few dozen.
The whole concept of the Gripen E is to “operate in Swedish territory, take advantage of all sorts of uneven terrain under cover of friendly surface-to-air missiles with a superb EW suite which should in theory keep it safe from the majority of Russian missiles and air to air threats,” Bronk said.
Additionally, the Gripen E can fire almost any missile made in the US or Europe.
“If you couple a very effective radar with excellent EW and a Meteor, the most effective longest range air-to-air missile which is resistant against [Russia’s] jammers … There’s no reason not to assume it wouldn’t be pretty damn effective,” Bronk said. “If you’re a flanker pilot, it’s probably a very scary thing to face.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This week, historic news filtered out of North Carolina saying that a female National Guardsman will be the first woman to pass the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course) and will earn the title of Green Beret. While the enlisted soldier has not passed the course yet, officials say that at this point barring a medical injury, she is practically guaranteed to graduate.
This morning, the New York Times reported that in 1980, a woman named Kate Wilder did indeed graduate the course but was told the day before graduation she was not allowed to graduate with her class, because of her gender. Ms. Wilder fought back and six months later was finally given the certificate stating she had earned the right to wear the Green Beret, but Wilder had already left the Fifth Special Forces Group and eventually transitioned to the Reserves.
Prior to now, only a few women have passed the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course but none of them passed the year long Q-Course. The soldier is going to be an 18C or Engineer Sergeant.
According to the Army, the Special Forces Engineer Sergeant is a construction and demolitions specialist. As a builder, the engineer sergeant can create bridges, buildings and field fortifications. As a demolitions specialist, the engineer sergeant can carry out demolition raids against enemy targets, such as bridges, railroads, fuel depots and critical components of infrastructure.
The New York Times also reported a second female soldier is working through a longer Q-Course (the course length will depend on the prospective Green Berets MOS) as a 18D or Medical Sergeant.
This is no small feat. As we all know, making it into the Special Forces required many attributes including superior physical fitness, an ability to handle traversing rugged terrain, weapons proficiency and strong mental aptitude to solve problems on the fly. Green Berets deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security force assistance. Also, passing the Q-Course is one thing. The constant tempo of deployments and training while keeping up with high physical fitness standards and training can take a toll on even the most seasoned Green Berets.
There is no doubt the newly minted Green Beret will have tough challenges in her career in the Special Forces. And there will probably be resistance from a few people that struggle to accept that a woman made it through such an arduous course. (The course has been modified due to feedback from active Green Berets so it could be more compatible with deployments and retention but the standards are still the same.)
However, the potential benefits to having women as part of the Special Forces community are too great to ignore.
Retired Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, a 42-year Army veteran who spent 16 years with the Green Berets said, “I applaud and celebrate the fact because half of the world that we have to deal with when we’re out there, half of the people we have to help, are women. The days of men fighting men without the presence of women is long gone.”
When it comes to unconventional warfare, it’s safe to say pretty much every engagement we are involved with nowadays is unconventional. The role of women has expanded dramatically during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and women have been decorated for bravery on the battlefield.
In recent years, we have seen ISIS be thoroughly beaten when engaged by Kurdish forces comprised of women. Having a female advisor in those units would allow better access, more trust, and better control when it comes to directing forces to defeat our enemy.
The same can be said for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. The Green Berets were some of the first troops to go into Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese who were fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong and many other insurgent troops have used local females as fighters, transporters and for intelligence gathering. Having a female Green beret engage local women could potentially make counter insurgency easier.
When it comes to reconnaissance, we all know there are places that are harder to get close to because men would stick out like a sore thumb. Certain places in the Middle East and elsewhere have places where men can’t get into and having a highly trained female would be a great way to circumvent that potential issue.
William Denn, an Army Captain who served multiple combat tours said in an interview with the Washington Post that, “Most Iraqi men were reticent to speak with us for fear of retribution from al-Qaeda. Iraqi women, often fed up with the violence in their neighborhoods, could be persuaded to provide information, but first we had to bridge the gender gap, build rapport and earn their trust, all of which took valuable time.” Denn went on to write that “including women in front-line units would be more than an exercise in social equality; it would be a valuable enhancement of military effectiveness and national security.”
While we won’t know her identity anytime soon, it will be awesome to see the path she trailblazes for other women who seek to serve in the Special Forces and how it can help us earn victories in the toughest environments.
“This is a great adventure we are embarking on today,” so says the official Space Force trailer that dropped on May 5 for Netflix’s new series featuring Steve Carrell and an all-star cast. How else is everyone’s favorite sixth branch of the military, Space Force, referred to in the trailer? “It’s a complete shitshow.”
Launching May 29, the made-for-Netflix series pairs an already awesome cast with sarcasm, hilarity and the best topic ever: the Space Force.
The show centers around four star general Mark R. Naird (Carell), whose ambitions included running the Air Force, not so much the newly created Space Force. With wife (Lisa Kudrow) by his side and a star-studded comedic-gold line up (John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Jimmy O. Yang, Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, Tawny Newsome, Diana Silvers, Alex Sparrow and Don Lake to name a few), the acting promises to be as equally entertaining as the writing – as Space Force marks the first time long-time friends Carrell and creator Greg Daniels have worked together since they parted ways on, you guessed it, The Office.
Carell said that the show came around in a rather “atypical way.'””Netflix had this premise that they thought might make a funny show — the idea made everybody laugh in a meeting, an idea of a show about the origins of a fictitious Space Force. I heard about the idea through my agent, and Netflix pitched the show to me, and then I pitched the show to Greg, and we all had the same reaction to it. There was no show, there was no idea aside from the title. Netflix asked, ‘Do you want to do a show called Space Force?’ And I pretty much immediately said, ‘Well yeah, sure. That sounds great.’ And then I called Greg, and I said, “Hey, you want to do a show called Space Force?” And he said, “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do it.” And it was really based on nothing, except this name that made everybody laugh. So we were off and running.”
Daniels added after this call, he and Carell created the character and figured out what they wanted to say about the notion of making space more military. “We realized that the story had beautiful visuals and a mythic quality, and it echoed some of America’s best moments. It had a lot of heroism and yet it also had a strong satirical element. Suddenly everybody has realized that there are riches to be had on the moon, and we’ve got to stake our claim. It feels like there’s now a scramble to colonize space. The contrast between that and the super hopeful early days of NASA, when it was just such an achievement for all of mankind to get a person on the moon, is a good subject for satire,” said Daniels.
Technically, there are five branches of service to choose from if you’re thinking about joining the military (including the Coast Guard). There’s a high level of rivalry among branches that can spark a lot of friendly sh*t talking. As veterans, we still love to take cheap shots at one another — but it’s always in good fun.
We’ve said it time-and-time again that the military has a dark sense of humor and we flex those comedic muscles at the other branches as often as possible. Since the U.S. Navy is hands-down the most dominant force to ever patrol the high seas, sailors do things that no other branch can do: kick ass while floating in the middle of nowhere.
The Army and the Air Force can’t compete with the Navy since they have no ships. The Marines can’t conduct business without the Navy navigating them around the world. Lastly, The Coast Guard is a bunch of land-hugging puddle jumpers.
Since we managed to sh*t talk to everyone (in good fun), it’s time to nail each of them, once again, through memes making you reconsider why you didn’t join the Navy instead.
No matter how badass and powerful you might think you are, remember, the U.S. Navy is way freakin’ bigger… and they’re coming for you.
The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.
Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.
A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.
Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.
Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.
The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”
If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.
Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.
China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.
The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.
“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”
Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”
State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”
The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.
Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.
US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.
The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.
India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.
Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”
“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.
Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.
This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.
China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”
As fires ravaged a U.S. Navy weapons and supply installation in Vietnam one March day in 1968, Lt. j.g. William Carr, USCG, ran into an ammo storage unit looking for a missing Navy sailor.
“This is stupid,” Carr remembers thinking to himself. “You are going to die.”
He never found the sailor. Carr, then 24 years old, was in command of the 82-foot patrol boat Point Arden and its ten-man crew. He and his men led the effort to control the fires, secure the ammo stockpiles, and tend to the wounded. Six to nine servicemen were killed that day, and 98 were wounded. He received a Bronze Star for that action.
It’s not widely known the Coast Guard served in Vietnam – and every armed conflict since 1790. This 1968 attack targeted the Naval Support Activity Detachment along the Cua Viet River, just south of the North-South Vietnam DMZ. North Vietnamese Artillery hit the base, catching buildings, supplies and ammunition on fire. The attack destroyed 150 tons of ammunition.
“Were we frightened? You bet your butt we were,” Carr said. “We just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time.”
He never told anyone about what he did and the aftermath, not even his wife. He suffered what he believes are the effects of post-traumatic stress.
“I didn’t realize how much trauma I had buried inside,” Carr said about finally opening up about his war experiences. “I was honored to be in Vietnam. It changed my life.”
In 2015, more than 47 years later, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut honored Carr for his service with a plaque placed on the Wall of Gallantry in the school’s Hall of Heroes. He graduated from the academy in 1965.
Carr, now 72 years old, spoke to 900 cadets along with three other inductees. “It was all very confusing after that,” he said. “Every one of the crew members took matters into their own hands. It was incredible how they all did their duty.”
“Heroism is not something for which you train,” Carr continued. “Rather, what happens is we sometimes are confronted with extraordinary circumstances. We do our duty. And sometimes people recognize that as heroism.”
We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.
For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.
But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)
Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.”
In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.
It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.
The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.
“Out on a hike all day, dear
Part of the army grind
Weary and long the way, dear
But really I don’t mind
I’m getting tired so I can sleep
I want to sleep so I can dream
I want to dream so I can be with you
I’ve got your picture by my bed
‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head
To keep me company the whole night through
For a little while, whatever befalls
I will see your smile till reveille calls
I hope you’re tired enough to sleep
And please sleep long enough to dream
And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”
Click play on the video below and try to sing along.
(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.