Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder - We Are The Mighty
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Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.


That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.

Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.

But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Artillery units in Iraq serve two roles: to provide force protection for Coalition and Iraqi security forces and to support ISF ground maneuver, enabling them to defeat Daesh. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel I Johnson)

They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.

The result?

“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.

A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”

The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.

The U.S. military is still investigating the incident, which drew criticism from the United Nations and Amnesty International.

On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.

“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.

If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.

“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.

A Pivotal Moment

With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.

Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.

The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.

A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.

And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.

Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.

He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”

Sectarian Civil War

After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.

Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.

A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.

From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.

When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.

Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.

Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.

“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”

Reining in Militias

The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.

A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.

In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.

“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.

Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.

“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”

To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.

“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

But the Iraqi Security Forces leading the fight have suffered a lot of casualties and are very tired, he noted, possibly causing them to rely on more firepower to limit their losses.

“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”

When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.

If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.

“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.

In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.

“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”

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Watch actual footage from the first Apache strikes of Desert Storm

On January 17, 1991, seven months after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and tried to annex neighboring Kuwait, the world decided it had enough. Operation Desert Storm was launched that day, and Saddam was smacked down by a coalition of 39 countries.


Conducting this epic assault required bringing in Western airpower to destroy Hussein’s formidable armored corps of over 4,000 tanks. To open the way for other planes and choppers, eight Apaches and two Pave Low helicopters flew to Iraqi air defense sites and unleashed dozens of Hellfire missiles.

The sites and their operators were destroyed by the onslaught. See actual footage from the raid in this video from the Smithsonian Channel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force vet who will kick off USAA’s free music festival

Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.

Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.


“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”

BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana u2013 also known asu00a0DJ KA5.
(Photo by USAA)

The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.

This year, BaseFEST is back with four dates announced, starting with Fort Bliss, TX on May 12th.

For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.

“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
Articles

5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.

Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.


In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.

Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.

“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”

Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.

“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”

Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.

Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading.
“Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”

It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.

“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”

When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless.
“I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”

Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.

Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.

“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”

From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.

“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.

Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.

“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”

When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.

“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”

His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct.
Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”

The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

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An Air Force officer flew a plane into a hurricane for the first time on a bet

Col. Joseph Duckworth was one of the Air Force’s most skilled pilots. Although a flyer during World War II, he never saw combat behind the stick of any aircraft. Despite that lack of combat experience, he would go on to be one of the USAF’s most legendary pilots. 

The reason for his fame stemmed from his technical knowledge, knowledge that allowed him to become the first person to fly into a hurricane, all the way to the eye, in a single-engine plane and live to tell about it. He did it all on a bet.


Col. Joseph Duckworth at his desk at Columbus Army Air Field in 1942. In Columbus, he was known simply as “Joe Duck.” Today Duckworth is known as the “father of Air Force instrument flying.” Photo by: Army Air Corps photo

In 1941, flying in bad weather was hard. A lot of pilots died because they couldn’t actually use the instrument panel in the cockpit. This may sound insane by today’s standards, but according to Duckworth himself, even pilot trainers didn’t know the instruments. 

The weather, one pilot told Air Force Magazine, killed more American pilots than the enemy ever did. 

Col. Duckworth joined the Army Air Corps in 1927 and became a civilian pilot shortly afterward. In 1940, he was recalled to active duty. He was immediately surprised and appalled at how new pilots were being trained before going off to war. It was almost suicidal. 

“The first shock I received was the almost total ignorance of instrument flying throughout the Air Corps,” Duckworth said after the war. “Cadets were being given flight training as if there were no instruments and then directed to fly an aircraft across the Atlantic at night. Losses in combat were less than those sustained from ignorance of instrument flying alone.”

Duckworth, upon taking over training the Army Air Forces, implemented a system to train pilots on all instruments. Estimates say this training saved the lives of thousands of Air Force pilots worldwide and earned Duckworth the honorific title of “father of modern-day Air Force instrument flying.”

In 1943, Duckworth entered the world history books when he flew an AT-6 single-engine training aircraft into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Without permission from his superior officers on base, he took off from Bryant Field in Texas and flew right toward the eye of a category-1 hurricane. 

The bet came on the morning of July 27, 1943 over coffee in the mess hall at Bryant Field. It turned out to be more of a bar bet. With a surprise hurricane on the way, the U.S. Army wanted to move its aircraft out of the storm’s path. 

A visiting group of British pilots stationed at the base and taking instrument flying classes scoffed at the idea. The weather back home was often bad. Back in England, they flew in storms and their planes weathered the rains all the time. They laughed at the fragility of the American air forces in the face of the oncoming storm. 

Then-Lt. Col. Duckworth took exception to their comments, so he bet the British aviators that he could take a single-engine trainer up, fly through the hurricane and come home with no issues. As the commander of Bryant Field, he knew he would be able to get a plane up, so long as no one above him knew what he was doing. 

He got a navigator, Lt. Ralph O’Hair, and immediately took off toward the hurricane. As they flew through sheets of rain, Lt. O’Hair thought about what it might be like to parachute from an aircraft in the middle of a hurricane. 

But Duckworth was as skilled as everyone thought, whether he could see out of the cockpit or not. Before they knew it, they were in the calm of the storm’s 10-mile-wide eye. After flying around for a while, they punched back into the storm itself and headed home. 

When he came back to Bryant Field, he went right back up into the storm, taking a meteorologist with him, making history twice in the same day. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syrian air defenders kill 15 Russian airmen in horrific blunder

Syria’s air defenses have again proven ineffective and even dangerous as they killed 15 Russian service members flying aboard an Il-20 spy plane during an air battle over the Mediterranean on Sept. 17, 2018.

Syria has Russian-made air defenses that it’s had ample opportunity to use as Israel regularly attacks the country and the US has twice fired missiles at its military facilities in response to chemical weapons use.

But Syria has never credibly recorded an missile intercept. Syria’s lone anti-air victory came in February 2018 when an Israeli F-16, the same plane rumored to have taken part in Sept. 17, 2018’s strike, went down from S-200 fire.


On Sept. 17, 2018, that same missile defense system not only failed to hit a single Israeli plane or verifiably intercept a single incoming missile, but it took down an allied aircraft in the process.

Russia’s ministry of defense initially blamed the shoot down on a purposeful attempt by Israel to trick Syria into the friendly fire, but Russian President Vladimir Putin later referred to the event as an accident.

But, according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, Israel could have planned on using the Russian Il-20 for cover all along.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

An Israeli F-16I.

(Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force)

If the Russian Il-20 was on a regular patrol route of the Mediterranean, Bronk said the Israelis may have tried to plot an attack under a leg of its planned flight path, that they would have observed via local intelligence assets or in information sharing with the Russians themselves.

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Bronk told Business Insider.

So not only do the Syrians face heavy electronic interference and jamming of their radars, the threat of Israeli bombs rocking their position, and a big, obvious Russian target flying just above the shrouded F-16s, history shows they’re just not that good at air defense.

When the US struck Syria in April 2018, photography showed Syrian air defense sites firing missiles that burned across the sky leaving long, bright trails even in the instant it takes to snap a photo. But Business Insider consulted experts at the time to find out that Syria likely fired many of these missiles with out any target at all in a helpless, face saving attempt to convince the people of Damascus that they hadn’t sat idly by.

“It would be very unlikely that the Israelis were trying to engineer a situation where the Syrians shot down a Russian plane,” Bronk said, but perhaps they did intend to use the Il-20 overhead to convince Syria not to shoot.

“The S-200 is not a very sophisictated system,” said Bronk. “It’s not going to distinguish between a fighter and a big plane.”

Syria could have easily communicated with the Russians, but likely relies on voice communications which can easily be overwhelmed in times of crisis.

If it weren’t for the Israeli strike, the 15 Russians likely would have survived to this day. But ultimately, the death of the Russians and downing of the Il-20 comes down to “sloppy fire discipline from Syrian air defenses,” said Bronk.

And for sloppy work from Syrian air defenses, this example hardly represents the first.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Tony Wells’ journey from Marine to leading USAA’s brand wasn’t easy. But his diverse career after his service made him the perfect person for the job. 

“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and obviously there is a very heavy military presence there,” Wells explained. His mother was a teacher and his father a pharmaceutical representative, both successful in their own right. “I was very fortunate to have a number of family members that either served or had connections.” 

Although he eventually became a proud Marine, it wasn’t always the plan.

Recruited by the Naval Academy to play basketball as a senior in high school, it was the first time Wells really considered a career in the military. His maternal grandfather served during World War II as a Steward and Driver for a Navy captain. As a Black American, it was one of the few jobs they were allowed to hold within the military during that time period. “For him, it was an absolute moment of pride when I graduated from the Naval Academy many years later,” Wells shared. “The idea that his grandson would be a Marine officer was just a dream come true.”

So, why did Wells choose becoming a Marine over a sailor? As a midshipman during his junior year, he was assigned to a Marine unit. “We went to Bridgeport, which is where Marines do mountain warfare training. I just had an unbelievable time and seeing the relationship between the staff NCOs and officers, for me it was just a different experience…It felt more like what I wanted to embody as a military leader,” Wells shared. 

In 1986, Wells commissioned as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and headed to the fleet. Wells shared that being an “Officer of Marines” was the greatest job he’s ever had. “Being of service to country and for me, having those basic leadership philosophy foundation approaches ingrained early has served me well,” he said. 

Wells deployed with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean. He was a rifle and weapons platoon commander during this time. He then had the opportunity to become a company commander. “It was a very unique opportunity for me as a 1st Lieutenant,” he said. Wells served under Michael Hagee, who would go on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

After PCSing to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Wells had the opportunity to take on a secondary MOS and was trained to be a Public Affairs Officer. When he returned to San Diego after completing his training, the first Gulf War began. Wells found himself on the evening news…Wells found himself on the evening news, briefing the nation on how recruits were handling training as they prepared to deploy. “It was a great leadership experience and a great practical opportunity for me to transition. That became how I ended up transitioning to civilian service,” he explained. 

Tony Wells
Tony Wells (LinkedIn)

Wells dove into his new civilian career with Nissan, working as their Corporate Communications Manager and eventually an Advertising Manager. After almost six years with Nissan, he moved on to other various marketing roles for different companies and industries. While working for one of them about 20 years later, he had a conversation with USAA.

“It was like coming home. I’ve been a USAA member since I was at the Naval Academy,” Wells shared. “It’s just been a tremendous experience around this idea of how important the mission is. I would say my whole business career I haven’t experienced the pull of the mission and alignment since the Marine Corps.”

Although Wells said he’s worked for some truly great companies, purpose is inherent within USAA. So is perspective. “When I have a tough day or think it’s been rough. I know that somewhere there is a cold, wet and hungry Marine who is in danger while protecting our country and our way of life,” he said. 

As he looks back on his life, Wells is quick to recognize what he called deep blessings and great opportunities. “For me, Black History Month is about paying homage to the folks who have come before and the great sacrifice and accomplishments that Black Americans have had that may have gone unrecognized,” Wells explained. 

Not only did his grandfather serve in the Navy, his cousin was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring fair employment practices and banning discrimination. 

“The last year has been a very interesting time in America. I think the murder of George Floyd really caused folks to reassess race relations. I think it’s very interesting that the military has such a long history of being the first to integrate but at the same time recognizes there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Military leadership spanning across every branch of service was quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd and begin a deeper examination of their own houses for racism. 

USAA joined them, issuing their own statement and commitment to fighting racism.

“Despite the discord and division we often see in America right now, I still remain hopeful…there are many, many more people committed to being on that journey to get back to the Constitution, which is just this idea that all are men created equal,” he shared. “I just think that the best is yet to come and I continue to believe that the military will play an instrumental role in making that transition a reality.”

This Marine spent his life living and breathing a servant-leadership mentality, honoring all who came before him. Although Wells may have left the Corps behind years ago, he found his new home in USAA by serving them and all other service members. 

When Wells was asked if had any last words for readers, he smiled. “Semper Fi.”

Articles

The Marine Corps says it’s not trying to keep female Marines out of combat

Last week, the Marine Corps released a summary of  results on a nine month study on gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. All-male units were faster, stronger, and had less body fat. They were also more accurate with every standard individual weapon, like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.


The sh-tstorm started as soon as the preliminary results were announced. Accusations of gender bias and counteraccusations of political motivations were fired between the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a proponent of opening combat roles to women, disagreed with what he saw as gender-biased results of the study.

“At the end, they came out in a different place than I do,” said Mabus. “because they talk about averages, and the average woman is slower, the average woman can’t carry as much, the average woman isn’t quite as quick on some jobs or some tasks… we’re not looking for average. There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things – training and leadership.”

Capt. Phillip Kulczewski, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps says the study, which was overseen by George Mason University with physiological tests conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, was not politically motivated or an experiment to discriminate against women. The Corps says it was the first step to creating a gender-neutral standard for combat jobs.

“Before he left office, [former Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta said we are opening up all jobs to all genders and that the new policy will be gender neutral,”Kulczewski says. “There were a lot of questions about how to go about changing the standards to be gender neutral. Secretary Panetta said we need concrete scientific data to back up the new standards, so this was our first step in our marching orders.”

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, a Coral Springs, Fla., native, speaks to a teacher about the day’s lesson plan at a local school. Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Colby Brown. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

“The aim was to break down each task to find out what factors affect the Marines in combat,” Kulczewski continues. “Then ultimately, we want to take gender out of the equation and look for ideal physical traits that help all Marines perform these tasks, male or female.”

The study’s summary noted the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.” But Capt. Kulczewski says the nature of combat is different from a ground combat MOS and the two are separate ideas.

“Anyone close to the front can be in combat. We know men and women both have the same mental capacity and the capacity for courage. When its an everyday job, everyone in an MOS has to perform certain everyday tasks and we want Marines who can do that.” That’s where the study came in. The Marines took physiological data with the help of the University of Pittsburgh to help determine what those Marines will have to do for their respective job, to ensure “they’re in the right job for their career.”

Meanwhile, some female Marines think they’ve found the right job. An article in the Washington Post found female Marine participants who believe the Navy Secretary’s comments were insulting when he said the women probably should have had a “higher bar to cross” to join the task force, even though Marines in the study, men and women, were trained to the same standard before it started.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chandra Francisco with the female engagement team in support of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8, talks to Afghan women inside a compound during an operation to clear the village of Seragar in Sangin, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

“Everyone involved did the job and completed the mission to the best of their abilities,” Sgt. Danielle Beck, an anti-armor gunner, told the Washington Post. “They are probably some of the most professional women that anybody will ever have chance to work with, and the heart and drive and determination that they had is incomparable to most women in the Marine Corps.”

The same Post article found that women in the study performed better than men on the Marine Corps-wide physical-fitness test. The average score for the men was 244 out of 300 while women’s was 283. The average all-male infantry unit scores in the 260s. Both men and women who volunteered for the study had to fulfill all requirements and pass the service’s MOS school, be it infantry, armor, or artillery schools, before qualifying for the study.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Lance Cpl. Jessica Craver, a motor transportation operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, carries a .50-caliber machine gun barrel for mounting onto an MK48 Logistics Vehicle System. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

The study, was not without its problems. The Washington Post also found Marines involved could drop at any time and many did throughout the experiment because they were promised an assignment to any unit in the Marine Corps just for participating. For this reason, the gender-integrated company shrank considerably from its initial strength.

The current gender-neutral employment policy in the Defense Department requires military specialty areas to request an exemption to the policy. The exemption has to be signed off by the Defense Secretary and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Corps infantry, Navy SEALs, and all other combat jobs in the Navy Department (which includes the Marine Corps) will be open to women by the end of 2015, and no exemptions would be granted, according to Mabus. Neither the Navy’s SEAL units or Marines asked for such an exemption.

The complete results of the study have yet to be released.

 

NOW: 5 differences between Army and Marine Corps infantry

OR: That time a U.S. aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus deaths In China surpass level Of SARS in 2002-03

The number of deaths from the coronavirus in China has surged past 800 people, surpassing the number of fatalities of the SARS outbreak in 2002-03, but overall figures showed a one-day slowing of new cases, raising hopes that it was the first sign of a peaking of the epidemic.


China’s National Health Commission on February 9 said the central Hubei Province recorded 89 new deaths on February 8, pushing the total to 811 throughout the country and above the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The number of new infections in Hubei Province — whose capital, Wuhan, is considered the epicenter of the outbreak — showed a decline in new cases for the first time since February 1.

Officials said 2,656 new cases were identified throughout the country for the day, with 2,147 in Hubei.

Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, told Reuters it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking given the uncertainty in reporting procedures.

“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases. This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas,” he said.

The total of confirmed cases hit 37,198 in mainland China.

The virus has spread to about two dozen countries, but all but two of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. The first U.S. citizen died from the disease, officials said on February 8, identifying him as a 60-year-old man in Wuhan.

The virus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption — similar to the SARS outbreak.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US and North Korea could stumble into a nuclear war

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds on Jan. 25, pushing humanity’s proximity to disaster at a symbolic and alarming two minutes to midnight.


The organization has adjusted the Doomsday Clock yearly since 1947. Though the Bulletin bases its clock’s position on multiple global threats, this year, it highlighted the bellicose behavior of President Donald Trump toward North Korea and his administration’s nuclear weapons posturing.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
A timeline of the Doomsday Clock’s setting from 1947 through 2017. (Image from Wikipedia User Fastfission)

“To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin, said during a press briefing. It’s “the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday,” she added. “As close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”

One of the Bulletin’s major concerns is about an “oops” moment of nuclear proportions involving the evolving nuclear arsenal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Also Read: Experts say missile defense alone won’t stop growing North Korea nuke threat

“Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the Bulletin said in a statement.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, echoed this concern in an interview with Business Insider earlier in January.

“I don’t think the North Koreans would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded; that we might invade them, or they might think — wrongly — that we were invading them,” said Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

Here’s how Lewis and others think North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., and possibly Japan could stumble into a limited nuclear exchange.

The dangerous and fuzzy math of miscalculation

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Atomic bomb explodes on Bikini Atoll in 1946.

Lewis, who has deeply studied East-Asian nuclear history, and especially that of China’s, points out that the apparent growing competence of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has likely made Kim and his advisors feel more secure on a day-to-day basis.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a greater risk of panic within the isolated nation — and a grievous error.

“It’s called miscalculation, where one side makes a calculation that war is inevitable,” Lewis said. “They don’t think that they’re starting a war, they just think they’re getting a jump on the other.”

War history is peppered with instances of miscalculation and preemptive attacks, including Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

“The Japanese thought that they would probably lose. So you think, ‘Why in the hell are they doing this?'” Lewis said. “They thought war was inevitable, and that their best chance of surviving was to go first.”

Lewis added this is the canonical case of miscalculation: “Where one side says, ‘I don’t want to do this, and I’m probably even going to lose if I do this, but I’m certainly going to lose if I do nothing. If I do nothing, I will certainly be attacked and I will certainly be destroyed. Whereas if I take this opportunity now, maybe I have only a 10% or a 20% or a 30% chance of getting out alive … and then he pushes the metaphorical button.”

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base, watching as USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes in the center background. (U.S. Navy photo)

The scenario that Lewis, the Bulletin, and others who watch North Korean tensions with the U.S. — as well as allies South Korea and Japan — deeply worry about is if Kim and his advisors incorrectly interpret military activity around the Korean Peninsula.

“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel.’ So ‘deter’ means deter,” Lewis said, noting that the country’s nuclear arsenal is becoming its primary deterrent for conflict. “But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy U.S. forces throughout South Korea and Japan, rather than letting the United States … build up an invasion force and then roll in.”

Lewis says the trigger to such a crisis has become more likely with the election of President Trump and his use of bellicose tweets and statements targeting Kim.

Let’s say we’re doing a large military exercise with South Koreans, which always — to the North Koreans — looks like preparations for an invasion, where you’re flooding forces in,” Lewis said. “If that occur against a crisis, where the North Koreans actually think an invasion is likely, and the Trump says something that they misinterpret, you might get into spot where it’s not that they wanted to use the nuclear weapons, but they concluded an invasion was likely, and this was their last best chance to repel. And that’s what scares the shit out of me.

The move would likely trigger a powerful U.S. military response. To illustrate the consequences of a return attack, consider a different and “best-case” scenario of limited conflict with North Korea, where the U.S. and its allies try to neutralize Kim’s nuclear and conventional weapons — and no nukes are used.

“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the Hoover Institution, said on a Nov. 17 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”

Other estimates suggest millions could die, since Seoul (South Korea’s capital) and its 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of U.S. forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets Republic of Korea Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the start of the 42nd Military Committee Meeting at the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff Headquarters in Seoul, Republic of Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

How to step back from the brink

Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said Thursday that there is still time to turn back the clock.

“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said.

The Bulletin makes a few recommendations to ease tensions with North Korea and avert a nuclear disaster:

  • First and foremost, it said: “U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions.”
  • Second, the U.S. should preemptively open military and diplomatic lines of communication with North Korea — not to signal weakness, but to show “that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change.”
  • And finally: “The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Over time, the United States should seek North Korea’s signature on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — and then, along with China, at long last also ratify the treaty.”

Paradoxically, Lewis says the advent of a proven and substantial North Korean nuclear arsenal itself could open communications channels and opportunities for diplomacy.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

The deterrence it provides could prompt the U.S. and its allies to relax military activity and reduce the chances of a deadly mistake.

“That is generally a good bargain, but if it goes wrong, the consequences are tremendous,” Lewis said.

On the other hand, Lewis said, North Korea could use its deterrence “and spend it on being awful” by “sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises” and continuing its history of horrifying human-rights abuses.

“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive. But we should wait and see,” Lewis said. “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

With new weapons, F-15s will now fly into the 2040s

The Air Force is arming the F-15 with new weapons to better prepare the decades-old fighter for modern combat challenges and near-peer rivals — giving the jet an ability to fly into the 2040s and track and destroy enemy targets at further ranges under a wide range of combat conditions.


“The Air Force plans to integrate improvements for the AIM-9X and Small Diameter Bomb II on the F-15 over the next several years,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials say the F-15 could be fully armed and operational with the SBD II as soon as this year.

The SDB II, now nearing operational readiness, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants – and plans to keep the aircraft flying into the 2040s.

The new weapons are part of a larger F-15 sustainment and modernization overhaul which is integrating new sensors, targeting, electronic warfare systems and radar as well.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

“Active Electronically Scanned Array radars are currently being installed on F-15C and F-15E aircraft at a rate of about 20 per year. Both AESA radars have met initial operational capability. Installs will continue at a similar rate until each platform has met full operational capability, projected to be 2022 for the F-15C and 2025 for the F-15E,” Grabowski said.

Improved radar is a key component to the weapons upgrades, as it enables improved threat detection and targeting against technologically advanced adversaries – such as a Chinese J-10.

All of these adjustments are part of the Air Force’s F-15service life extension effort now underway.

“Full-scale fatigue tests for both the F-15C/D and F-15E are in progress. Final results are still pending, expected to be completed in the 2020 timeframe and will be one of many data points used to assess the size and scope of a possible F-15 service life extension program,” Grabowski said.

Also Read: Watch F-15s make insane turns through the UK’s ‘Mach Loop’

The SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers have told Warrior Maven.

Engineers are also working on plans to integrate the bomb onto the F-35, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 as well, Raytheon officials said. The Air Force is already testing the F-35 with the SDB II.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology, according to Raytheon information.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system, Raytheon weapons developers explain.

Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
An F-15E Strike Eagle flies with a Lockheed Martin Paveway II Plus GBU-12 (500-lb) LGB (left) in flight exercises. (Photo from USAF)

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air-dropped bombs so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could, for example, be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.

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