Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new petition could help veterans with service animals

Last year the news was full of headlines about veterans and their service dogs being turned away from public places such as restaurants, airports, and, in the case of an Ohio substitute teacher, work. It’s a complicated problem; businesses don’t want to turn people away, but without knowing the difference between a service dog and a pet, their hands are tied when other customers complain.


Why would someone complain about a service dog? Unfortunately, there’s been a good deal of abuse of national service dog laws lately. Anyone can buy a red or yellow vest online, claim their pet is a support animal, and take it places pets aren’t typically allowed. If the animal isn’t well behaved, it gives actual service dogs a bad rep. Also, keep in mind some people are allergic to dogs or afraid of them, and some people just don’t like dogs.

For these folks, seeing a dog in a restaurant or sitting next to them (or their children) in an airport can provoke a strong reaction that leads to confrontation. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for the veteran, confusing for business owners, and upsetting for the community.

Service dogs receive extensive training that allows them to help their handlers in public. (Photo Credit: American Humane)

Veterans who have a service dog say their companion has allowed them to return to “normal” life. Service dogs can help veterans cope with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by recognizing signs of panic attacks, awakening handlers from nightmares, and signaling them to engage in coping mechanisms that break cycles of anger and paranoia. Service dogs can even be taught to block strangers from approaching their handlers with a passive maneuver. Of course, service dogs can also help disabled veterans who have mobility issues.

Also read: Airman returns from humanitarian mission with new dog

This is one problem that is potentially easy to solve. Veterans need their service dogs, and businesses and the community at large want to support veterans in whatever way they can. Service dogs are unobtrusive in public; they do not approach people who aren’t their handlers and, trained correctly, they will quietly do their jobs without causing any disruption in public settings.

Veterans say their service dogs allow them to return to normal life. (Photo Credit: Annie Watt Agency for American Humane)

Most people are surprised to learn there are national laws regarding where service dogs can and can’t go, but no national standard for what qualifies as a service dog. Ending the confusion about what is a service dog and what is a pet is as simple as creating one national standard.

A variety of “service dog” bills have been presented in the House and Senate, but The American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are the first to create a national credentialing standard for service dogs. This measure would allow veterans to keep their service dogs with them in public places without fear of confrontation. This week they are asking everyone to support this standard by signing a Change.org petition that will go to the House and Senate Committees for Veterans’ Affairs.

Service dogs are true partners for their companions. (Photo Credit: American Humane)

If you’d like to help veterans keep their service dogs with them without fear of confrontation, sign the petition, and let lawmakers know you support this common sense solution. The petition can be signed and shared right here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran opens annual military exercise with attack on mock U.S. aircraft carrier

On July 28, 2020, the Iranian military conducted a kinetic offensive drill against a mock-up dummy of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. The live-fire attack against the replica ship marked the beginning of Iran’s Payambar-e A’zam 14, or Great Prophet 14, annual military exercise. Broadcast on state TV, the exercise is held by the Revolutionary Guard Corps and showcases Iranian air and naval power.


The targeted mock U.S. carrier is a scale replica of the USS Nimitz built on a barge. The ship even features fake aircraft. Five years ago, it was used during Great Prophet 9 and sustained enough damage during the attack to take it out of action. It was repaired recently to partake in Great Prophet 14.

Unable to match western superpowers like the United States in a conventional fight, Iran focuses more on asymmetrical warfare. Great Prophet 14 demonstrated these military capabilities. Combat divers placed and detonated a contact mine on the hull, fast boats circled the ship and troops fast-roped from a helicopter onto the ship’s deck.

Iranian forces also launched a number of missiles from the land, air and sea during the exercise. A helicopter-launched Chinese C-701 anti-ship missile targeted the mock carrier and struck its hull. The missile fire put US troops at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE and Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar on alert.

USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group Five (US Navy)

The exercise received criticism from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce,” said Fifth Fleet Spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich.

While the exercise showcased a number of Iranian military assets attacking the mock carrier, it is highly unlikely that these tactics would be effective against the real deal. Between airborne early warning aircraft, combat air patrols, destroyer escort screens and its own defense systems like the Phalanx CIWS, an American aircraft carrier is one of safest places to be during an Iranian attack. To paraphrase the late, great Bruce Lee, mock carriers don’t fight back.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force secretary’s cry for help over a service under strain

The Air Force has over the past few years grappled with operational demands that have drained its resources and strained its personnel.


Wars in the Middle East, ongoing tensions in Europe and Asia, and budgetary issues are a few of the issues that confront a leaner Air Force.

In recent months, the service, which celebrates its 70th birthday on Monday, is looking at personnel and administrative shakeups to streamline the way it recruits, trains, and deploys.

“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Air Force Times at the end of August.

“We have readiness issues at home already, and if we were to have to continue next year, either on a continuing resolution that [keeps Air Force funding] flat from last year or, even worse, under a sequester … it would be devastating, and [it would take] years to recover from it,” she added.

Members of Air Force Special Operations weather teams participate in a training scenario on a CH-47 Chinook during Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on March 7, 2012. (USAF photo)

According to the Government Accountability Office, less than 50% of the Air Force’s units were at acceptable readiness levels. The highest-profile personnel issue facing the service may be its shortage of qualified pilots.

While the Air Force expanded its ranks during the 2016 fiscal year, as of April 2017 it was still short of its mandated 20,300 pilots by 1,555 — 950 of whom are believed to be fighter pilots. It also reported a shortage of 3,400 aircraft maintainers.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, called the shortfall a “quiet crisis” in July 2016.

To reverse that trend and keep pilots in uniform, the service plans top boost pay and bonuses, ask retired pilots to return and bring more support staff to free fliers from administrative duties, increase the number of pilots it trains each year, and give personnel more say in their rotations.

The Air Force is also outsourcing some of its “red air” needs by bringing in outside pilots to play the role of rival aircraft. It is also converting mothballed F-16s into training aircraft for manned and unmanned exercises.

U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin

But pilots are not the only Air Force members who find themselves taxed by a high operational tempo.

Air Force Special Operations Command has borne the brunt of 16 years of military operations. About 1,200 AFSOC personnel are deployed to over 40 countries at any given time, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb told Air Force Times. With only 14,461 active-duty officers and airmen in the the command, the scale of those deployments “can obviously create demands on them and their families,” Webb said.

“We have many airmen who have deployed more than a dozen times in the last 15 years. That’s a deployment rate our nation has not seen before,” Webb said, noting that his command has had to get waivers from the secretary of defense to allow more frequent deployments.

For regular airmen, demand is high as well. The pace of deployments was high in 2017 and is expect to remain the same in years to come.

“We can anticipate that the thickness of the training events and exercises that occurred in 2017 will be equally as thick in 2018, and we think those numbers of events are just about right,” Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, said on September 8.

An Air Force Special Tactics airman surveys a remote landing strip in his offroad motorcycle. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

The more than 30,000 Air Force personnel in Europe now are enough to meet the service’s needs, Wolters said. Despite concerns about pilot shortages and the amount of downtime, he added, “We certainly have the right number of airmen in theater at this time, when you take into account the ones we rotate in on an episodic, periodic basis.”

The Air Force is also looking to fill gaps in its ranks of officers and enlisted personnel through promotions.

This month, it said 2,001 enlisted airmen had been picked for supplemental promotions, which are typically given to airmen who face extended temporary duty assignments or are deployed to work on contingency operations.

In December, the Air Force will also offer 100% promotion opportunities to officers at captain rank.

As long as they’re qualified, recommended for promotion, and have an unblemished conduct record, the promotion is assured.

Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015. Following his promotion to senior airman minutes earlier, Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant by order of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. According to Air Force Instruction 36-502, the chief of staff of the Air Force has the authority to promote any enlisted member to the next higher grade. Stone became the recipient of the rare honor following his heroic actions in August when he and two friends thwarted a potential terrorist attack on a train traveling to Paris. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

The sweeping promotion opportunity comes in response to mission demands requiring more field-grade officers, which includes majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. The Air Force is currently at 92% manning for field-grade officers and 74% manning for non-rated field-grade officers, who typically fill support roles.

“There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a release announcing the promotion opportunity.

Those promotions come as the service is also reviewing and implementing other changes meant to adjust the administrative burden faced by airmen, as well as the strain service puts on their personal life.

“We strive across the command to encourage our airmen to achieve work-life balance,” said Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Air commandos are proud of what we continue to accomplish alongside our joint [special operations] partners, but we also know the importance of resiliency.”

US airmen “are doing some amazing things,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the Air Force’s top enlisted man, told Air Force Times. But they’re also dealing with manpower shortages, a lack of funding and resources, a high operational burden, and a plethora of extra duties, all of which has inspired frustration and stress.

Staff Sgt. Leland Hastings, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, monitors the Raven-B, a four-by-four foot unmanned aerial system, through a laptop computer at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., Aug. 4. The 919th SOSFS brought the UAS to demonstrate its capabilities to other security forces units involved in a large field training exercise at the camp. The Raven-B has the ability to take photos, video in day or night, and even designate locations via an IR laser. It also provides coordinates, magnetic azimuths, and linear distances creating a birds-eye view to topographical map. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

“We can’t ask the world to calm down and not be so unstable,” Wright added. “Absent that, the best thing we can do to make our force more efficient and more effective and lethal is, with some of these additional requirements that we’ve levied upon them over the years, let’s slowly take them away, right?”

Wright said the Air Force is weighing the elimination with some performance evaluations and some units have pursued programs to improve mental health and resiliency. The Air Force has lost 62 airmen to suicide this year and looks set to match the 100 suicides seen in most years.

In addition to mental-health and professional-development initiatives, Grosso said the Air Force has started a broad overhaul of its personnel information technology systems.

The service’s personnel operations run on 200 applications using 111 different systems that date to the 1990s. Streamlining those operations will ease the manner in which airmen can handle personnel issues, like problems with paychecks that roughly 5,000 airmen deal with each month.

U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Grosso also said the service was looking at a two- to three-year overhaul of its performance management and evaluation systems.

“We’re not trying to speed through this,” Grosso told Air Force Times this month. “We need to get this right.”

The operational demands the Air Force faces look unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite a series of victories against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, partner forces there will need support going forward.

That, coupled with the potential expansion of Air Force duties in Afghanistan, will come as the US military faces heightened tensions in Eastern Europe and northwest Asia.

“Owning the ultimate high ground is continually going to be important as we go forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.

“Air superiority is not an American birth right. It’s actually something we have to plan for, train for, fight for and win,” he added. “I see it as nothing short of a moral obligation that when any soldier or airman hears a jet noise overhead, they don’t look up. They know it’s us.”

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This is what you should know about the sport of swordsmanship

Sports come in all levels of intensity. Basketball, American football, and rest-of-the-world football (aka soccer) fans all love to believe that their sport of choice is the most hardcore and dangerous. None of these hold a candle to combat sports.


Traditional martial arts in which contestants fight one another without weapons need little explanation. Though particulars change a bit depending on the style of fighting, you generally follow the rule of trying to hit your opponent more often and more powerfully than they hit you. Fairly self-explanatory, sure, but mastering it takes years. But what is perhaps more intriguing is when the fight does involve weaponry and how the fighters spar without lopping off each other’s heads like Roman gladiators.

Many traditional swordsmanship styles, such as Kendo and fencing, are still practiced today and fuel highly-publicized events. Then there’s SCA heavy combat, which is more akin to intense, live-action role-playing because contestants use the “honor system” for scoring points.

www.youtube.com

The next level of badassery is Historical European Martial Arts — though the name is now a misnomer as the sport allows use of a wide-variety of weapons from many eras and cultures. Training begins with wooden or plastic weaponry that can be purchased from sites like Purpleheart Armory, but when the fighter is ready, it’s time to grab their steel and enter a Combat Con tournament.

There are several championships held for different styles of weaponry: Longsword, sword and buckler, and rapier are just a few of many.

All participants must wear proper armor, the weapons must be dulled, and all commands from the referees are final. Shy of that, the fighters have 90 seconds per match (or until a maximum score has been reached) to make their ancestors proud through combat.

www.youtube.com

From here, you move onto to team fights as facilitated by the International Medieval Combat Federation. Here, teams of up to 16 combatants enter to fight for their nation’s glory using actual weapons and actual armor.

The objective here is to knock all of your opponents to the ground. The rules are simple: follow instruction from the referee and don’t cause unsportsmanlike harm to or remove any protective gear from an opponent.

www.youtube.com


So… who’s down?

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldiers seen as more trustworthy than judges, new poll finds

Almost 70% of Americans surveyed in a recent online poll said soldiers are more trustworthy than judges, police and Transportation Security Administration agents.

SafeHome.org, a company that researches and reviews security products and services, conducted the survey of more than 1,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a virtual job outsourcing platform often used to conduct studies. Survey recipients were asked specifically about soldiers, but the word was intended to represent all U.S. troops.

Gesa Pannenborg, the survey’s project manager, said SafeHome.org wanted to study how people relate to those in authority or power positions during this “particularly divisive time” in American history.

“We were surprised by the extent to which our politics may influence how we interact with authority figures in our daily lives — perhaps more than we realize,” she wrote in an email.

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

“I think we as a country have always held soldiers in high regard, as the brave men and women who protect us and risk their lives for our freedom,” Pannenborg said. “It’s encouraging to see that, while politicians or wars can be unpopular, people, both left- and right-leaning, are pretty uniformly unwavering in their deference for those we entrust to carry on with the fighting.”

The study found 63% of Democrats surveyed thought of soldiers as trustworthy compared to 82% of Republicans. Professors had a similar 20% trustworthy disparity, though they rated higher with Democrats.

Republicans also had significantly more trust in police than Democrats did, but overall, the police fared worse than company supervisors and security guards.

“In recent years, there have been numerous highly publicized, controversial incidents involving police officers,” Pannenborg said. “Some of the results we found were likely a response to that press coverage, and it’s clear that Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their perception of the trustworthiness of police officers.”

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

Survey takers’ ages ranged from 19 to 83. Nearly 450 of them were Democrats, about 240 were Republicans and 264 Independents. They took about three minutes on average to complete the study and were paid .43 for their responses.

While widely used for studies, MTurk has been criticized within the last two years for taking advantage of rural workers, and there’s been skepticism about whether robots or people are filling out the surveys.

— Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

MIGHTY TRENDING

When heroes need heroes: VA Nevada nurses deploy to New Jersey

Recently, I had the honor of sitting with five Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) from VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in a quiet private airport in Reno, Nevada. We were waiting for their jet, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, to arrive and whisk these heroes away to New Jersey. They were on their way to provide relief to the weary practitioners fighting the pandemic.

These LPNs volunteered to go to New Jersey to assist medical staff in nursing homes, where staff has been stretched to the breaking point caring for their high-risk senior population.


As I sat with them, I realized that I had an honest admiration not only for these five individuals, but also for my entire VA health care team.

Not one of them expressed regret with their decision to volunteer. Each would be working nonstop, 12-hour shifts (maybe longer) with complete strangers, caring for senior citizens on the East Coast. They spoke with compassion and used phrases like, “This is what I was born to do.”

Nurses on their way to help in New Jersey.

We need nurses now more than ever

One even stated she has no family here in Nevada and if requested to extend her short tour in New Jersey, she gladly would. She said she hoped she would inspire someone to consider a career in health care. “We need more nurses,” she said, “now more than ever.”

The small Air Force C-21 jet arrived and three young crew members stepped down onto the tarmac. Through the waiting lounge window, the six of us made comments about the crew’s appearance in their military issued olive green flight suits.

We started making Top Gun references. “That one looks like Maverick,” said one. “If there’s a Goose, we are screwed!” said another. We all burst into laughter, which increased even more as the three young service members entered the airport with looks of bewilderment at our good humor. Their faces quickly transformed into comforting smiles. They understood that this moment was necessary.

“God speed and safe travels”

The pilot assured everyone that once the plane is fueled, loaded, and pre-flight checks done, they would be on their way. The flight crew graciously humored me with pictures of them with our nurses and the plane.

I assisted with loading the LPN’s bags onto the jet and bid everyone a safe journey. I remained in the small airport to watch through the window until the wheels were off the ground.

“God speed and safe travels,” I said aloud. I heard an “Amen” from behind me and turned to see a baggage handler had come to watch as well.

To the nurse who claimed to have no family here in Nevada, I beg to differ. You have VA. Together we are strong, and together we are a family.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The 10 best military-themed sketches from ‘Saturday Night Live’

Photo: SNL/screenshot


Topical humor has always been a big part of Saturday Night Live history and there have been plenty of military stories in the news to inspire its writers over the last four decades. As the show celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour special that aired on Sunday, February 15th, we’ve combed through the SNL archives and selected the 10 best military-themed sketches.

1. Bruce Willis wants to bring some John McClane-style Die Hard heroics to a Black Ops mission in Afghanistan.

2. General David Petraeus (Will Forte) testifies to Congress about the progress of the surge in Iraq.

3. It’s time to build a coalition to fight Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, but General Colin Powell (Kenan Thompson) seems to have turned into Fred Sanford since his retirement.

4. A TV pitchman (Harry Shearer) explains why you need to spend $50,000 on a Pentagon-approved MacDouglass Drummond wrench.

5. An Air Force fighter pilot (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) wins elementary school Career Day over carpet salesman Seth Meyers.

6. Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers examines the Winners Losers in the General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell/Jill Kelley/General John Allen scandal.

7. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond) updates the media on progress after the United States invades Afghanistan.

8. Tired of the Congressional debate about whether to invade Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) goes all Doctor Strangelove and rides a missile to Baghdad.

9. Test Pilot Mustang Calhoun (Dennis Quaid) is just plain crazy.

10. Two dumb Marines (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey) bring spies to the US Embassy in Moscow.

These just skim the surface. There are dozens of military-themed sketches from SNL. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.

More from Military.com:

MIGHTY TRENDING

US may send more troops to confront the mysterious Iran threat

Amid reports that the US could send anywhere from 5,000 to 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East to confront Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan offered the first public confirmation May 23, 2019, that additional manpower might be needed.

Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at ways to “enhance force protection,” saying that this “may involve sending additional troops,” CNN reported.

Exactly how many troops could be headed that way remains unclear.


The New York Times reported a little over a week ago that the Trump administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Trump called the report “fake news” the following day but said that if Iran wanted to fight, he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

On May 22, 2019, Reuters reported that the Pentagon intended to move 5,000 troops into the Middle East to counter Iran. The Associated Press said the number could be as high as 10,000.

Shanahan dismissed these reports May 23, 2019, while declining to say how many more troops might be required. “I woke up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East and read more recently there was 5,000,” he said, according to Voice of America, adding: “There is no 10,000, and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate.”

The US has already sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a task force of B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and an air-and-missile defense battery to the US Central Command area of responsibility.

These assets were deployed in response to what CENTCOM called “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” The exact nature of the threat is unclear, as the Pentagon has yet to publicly explain the threat.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the light attack aircraft the Saudis might buy

The Textron Scorpion has been competing for the OA-X contract lately, but while the Air Force seems all too willing to ignore what could be a very capable light-attack plane, it could soon find a launch customer. That customer is Saudi Arabia.


A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Scorpion, a private venture by Textron, has been pitched as a potential trainer, light attack, or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platform. The aircraft, which first flew in 2014, is capable of carrying 9,000 pounds of weapons, flying as high a 45,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 450 knots, and having a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com.

Textron AirLand’s armed Scorpion (Textron AirLand)

The Saudis signed a $110 billion arms deal with the United States earlier. Big-ticket items in the deal included four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, as well as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile systems, and M1A2 Abrams tanks. However, the Scorpion could be an interesting pick for the Saudis.

President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr)

The aircraft is easy to maintain – and its long range could be very useful given the vast distances involved on the Arabian Peninsula. It also comes cheap, allowing the Saudis to buy a lot of airframes. That last item becomes very important in an era where a new F-35 can cost as much as $100 million.

A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

The production-ready version of the Scorpion will be at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates. That plane will feature a Garmin 3000 avionics suite. You can see a video about the potential Saudi order of this plane below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itIpxdxExFk
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what would happen if North Korea tried to shoot down a US bomber

North Korea on Monday said it interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren’t flying in its airspace — but such an attack is easier said than done.


The US frequently responds to North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer — a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber — near North Korea.

Fighter jets from South Korea and Japan often accompany the bomber, and sometimes they drop dummy bombs on a practice range near North Korea’s border.

The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and it has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.

Related: This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat.

But the age of the country’s air defenses complicates that task.

“North Korea’s air defenses are pretty vast but very dated,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.

Lamrani said North Korea had a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some “knockoff” Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia’s S-300 system.

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

From the ground, North Korea’s defenses are “not really a threat to high-flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water,” Lamrani said.

But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise.

When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often, military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.

Also read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease-fire and are not actively at war. Therefore, a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter and take a close-range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.

North Korea would have “the first-mover advantage,” Lamrani said, but if the North Korean aircraft shot down the US’s, “they would pay a heavy price.”

Planes at the Wonsan Air Festival in Wonsan, North Korea, in September. | KCNA

For that reason, Lamrani said he found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea’s air force is old and can’t train often because of fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or its allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.

Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NK News that North Korea couldn’t even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NK News.

At this point, even North Korea must be aware it’s largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a “suicide mission,” Lamrani said.

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Why this Navy officer is threatening a lawsuit over playing taps

Lawyers for a naval officer who broadcasts taps nightly from speakers outside his home in tribute to the military told a Pennsylvania borough council president to expect legal action if officials don’t stop trying to restrict the practice.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said in a letter on July 5 that a cease-and-desist order against Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corney is unconstitutional.

Corney is complying with a demand from the borough last month that he play taps on Sundays and certain holidays only, but he wants that rule overturned.

“When the borough singles out Lt. Cmdr. Corney’s ‘Taps’ performances on private property for censorship as a ‘nuisance,’ while allowing other similarly loud or louder, longer-lasting religious or commercial musical performances on private property to continue, it is engaging in content-based discrimination,” his lawyers wrote.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The lawyers said they will seek a federal injunction if the borough doesn’t reverse itself by July 7. Messages seeking comment weren’t returned by the council president, Doug Young, or by the borough’s solicitor.

Corney, 38, on active duty and stationed in Maryland, has been deployed overseas eight times, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was seeing Americans killed while serving their country that inspired his musical gesture.

“I thought to myself and prayed to God that if he brought me home, I would do something to remember the sacrifices that our men and women made for myself, my family, and my country,” he said.

DoD Photo by US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

After moving into a home on 5 acres in Glen Rock, a town of about 2,000 residents where he lived as a boy, he made the taps broadcast his first priority in April 2015, setting up three amplified speakers in the front of the house. He picked a slower, hymn-like 57-second version of the tune, which is traditionally played at the end of the day.

At first, he had to put on a CD every night, but eventually established a fully automated system that was timed for 7:57 p.m., coinciding with bedtime for his six young children and ending just before a nearby church’s bells chimed.

He says it’s sometimes possible to hear the recording in the middle of town, about a quarter-mile away, but not always.

“A nearby church is permitted to play amplified recordings of hymns twice a day, church bells are allowed to peal at regular intervals, and a local restaurant has been granted permission to amplify its live outdoor musical performances,” Corney’s lawyers wrote to Young.

Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corney. Photo via NewsEdge.

They said other common noises louder than Corney’s taps include lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and “the exuberant cries of children playing a raucous game.”

Early in 2016, Corney was told the borough had received a complaint, which he tried to work out with the neighbor who had lodged it.

Others rallied behind Corney’s efforts after a second complaint was made in November.

He said he made more adjustments by lowering the volume and redirecting the speakers, but that didn’t satisfy a neighboring family’s complaints.

Then, on June 23, the borough wrote him to say his broadcast of taps violated its nuisance ordinance, and told him to limit it to Sundays and a limited number of “flag” holidays.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Russia are fighting over these key missiles

Russia must scrap its Novator 9M729 missile systems and launchers or reduce their range to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and prevent a U.S. withdrawal from the Cold War-era pact, U.S. officials say.

Andrea Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters on a teleconference call on Dec. 6, 2018, that the weapons system has a range that is not in compliance with the 1987 INF pact.

She added that Moscow must “rid the system, rid the launcher, or change the system so it doesn’t exceed the range” to bring Russia back “to full and verifiable compliance.”

“The ball’s in Russia’s court. We can’t do that for them. They have to take the initiative,” she added.


U.S. President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that Washington would abandon the INF, citing alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

U.S. officials have said Russia’s deployment of the 9M729, also known as the SSC-8, breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the United States said it would suspend its obligations under the treaty if Moscow did not return to compliance within two months.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision after NATO allies meeting in Brussels “strongly” supported U.S. accusations that Russia violated the terms of the INF.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo said.

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands, and President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that Moscow plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Russia has alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the treaty, which Washington denies.

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, who was on the briefing call with Thompson, insisted that a U.S. withdrawal from the INF did not mean “we are walking away from arms control.”

“We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly,” he said.

“We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating.”

He said “one can only surmise” that Moscow is attempting to “somehow seek an advantage” with the missile — “a little bit like violations we’re seeing with other treaties, whether it’s the Open Skies Treaty or whether it’s the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

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