Everything to know about the Navy's carrier-launched drone - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

The Navy will choose a new carrier-launched drone at the end of 2018 as part of a plan to massively expand fighter jet attack range and power projection ability for aircraft carriers.


The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a first-of-its-kind unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.

Also read: The Navy will use drones to seek and destroy underwater mines

A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The Navy believes so — and is currently evaluating industry proposals from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics to build the new MQ-25 drone.

The service plans to award a next-phase deal to a “single air system vendor in late 2018,” Naval Air Systems Command spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove told Warrior Maven. “The source selection process is currently ongoing for the air system manufacturing and development contract.”

Related: The Navy named its newest destroyer after a heroic Marine

Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving, high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries, such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward, high-risk locations to support fighter jets — all while not placing a large, manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Boeing gave a sneak peak of the MQ-25 Stingray. (Photo by Boeing/Twitter)

The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about this weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers, of course, are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.

In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have the range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.

More: Watch this crazy video of a Navy F-18 intercepting a UFO

Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided, long-range missiles to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR, and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors, and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.

Also read: Why the Navy’s Super Hornets need an extended range

The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-canceled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.

A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Northrop Grumman X-47B Demonstrator.

An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.

More: Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

The current source selection follows a previously released Request For Proposal asking industry for design ideas, technologies and a full range of potential offerings or solutions which might meet the desired criteria.

The service previously awarded four development deals for the MQ-25 to prior to its current proposal to the industry. Deals went to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Northrop Grumman.

The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Top Iranians meet with Putin in the days before he meets Trump

A top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had a “very constructive and friendly” meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

An Iranian delegation led by Ali Akbar Velayati met Putin in the Russian capital on July 12, 2018, the Kremlin said.

Velayati told Iranian state television from Moscow that Khamenei “values improving ties with Russia as a strategic partner” and that Moscow was “prepared to invest in Iran’s oil sector.”


Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Velayati handed Putin letters from Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rohani, but refused to elaborate.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the meeting also involved Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while the Iranian delegation included the head of Khamenei’s board of advisers Ali Asghar Fathi Sarbangoli and Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Mehdi Sanai.

Velayati also said Iran and Russia would “continue to cooperate in Syria,” where both countries support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the seven-year civil war there.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in March 2017.

The meeting came as Iran braces for renewed U.S. economic sanctions after Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers.

Facing revived sanctions from the United States and the possible knock-on collapse of its business dealings with Europe, Iran is looking to Russia and China for investment and to purchase its oil.

On July 11, 2018, Putin held talks at the Kremlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the Russian leader that “Iran needs to leave Syria.”

The United States and Israel want Iran to pull out from Syria, but Russia has warned it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.

The Iranian presence in Syria is expected to be on the agenda of a July 16, 2018 meeting in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

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

Articles

An FBI translator married the ISIS terrorist she was investigating

Rogue FBI translator Daniela Greene stole off to Syria and married the Islamic State terrorist she was supposed to investigate.


Federal records state that Greene, who had a top secret security clearance, lied to the FBI about her reason for traveling to Syria. She also told her ISIS husband he was under investigation, CNN reports.

The man’s name is Denis Cuspert. He started off as a German rapper and eventually moved to Syria to join the Islamic State, adopting the name Abu Talha al-Almani.

Greene joined him in Syria but quickly realized she had made a terrible mistake and fled back to the U.S. It’s not clear how she traveled into Syria or how she managed to escape from deep inside the country.

John Kirby, a former State Department official under the Obama administration, told CNN that in order to enter ISIS territory in Syria, Greene likely would’ve needed the authorization of top ISIS leaders, as ordinary people risk “getting their heads cut off.”

She was immediately arrested upon returning to the U.S., at which point she served two years in prison and was released the summer of 2016.

Since she no longer works at the FBI, she’s taken a job as a hostess at a hotel lounge.

Her story has never been told until now.

The trouble began when she was assigned to monitor Cuspert due to her fluency in German. Cuspert had converted to Islam in 2010 and ended up in Egypt and Libya in 2012.

In 2013, he made the jump to Syria and later appeared in a 2014 video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS .

Although it’s unclear how the relationship between Greene and Cuspert formed, Greene completed an FBI travel authorization form, saying she was traveling to Munich for vacation. Instead, she flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and went to a city close to the Syrian border, at which point a third party brought her over the border.

She then married Cuspert.

Before she left Syria, she told an unidentified person in the U.S. what a horrible mistake she had made.

“Not sure if they told you that I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life. I wish I could turn back time some days,” she wrote on July 22, 2014, to the unidentified person.

The Pentagon thought it had killed Cuspert in an airstrike in October 2015, but Cuspert in fact survived.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why everyone thinks Kim Jong Un is in China

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, has arrived in Beijing in his first-ever trip outside the country as its ruler, Bloomberg News reported March 26, 2018.


Kim arrived after mysterious journey of a train from North Korea, which recalls visits his father had made to Beijing before his death in 2011.

Numerous reports on social media and news websites tracked the path of a train slowing train traffic in Northeast China, arriving in Beijing, and then coinciding with a motorcade involving police on motorbikes and a limousine. The train is thought to be the same one Kim took to Beijing in 2010.

Also read: China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Yun Sun, a North Korea and China expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that the mysterious train’s journey “disrupted the whole railway schedule for northeast China, and people are observing that and drawing conclusions about who might be on that train.”

Chad O’Carrol, the managing director of the Korea Risk Group, tweeted that staff at the train station said all the security and obstruction was related to construction but also made the case for why it might have been Kim Jong Un’s first time leaving the country since assuming power.

Video of motorcade at Beijing train station:

It would “make perfect sense” for Kim to travel to Beijing “using father’s armored train,” tweeted O’Carrol, who said the route was well tested by North Korean security and that the blackout on state media covering the trip was consistent with trips his father, Kim Jong Il, made to Beijing.

Additionally, Kim is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in the coming months, both leaders of nations his regime is still technically at war with.

On the other hand, China is North Korea’s treaty ally, and its main lifeline to trade with the outside world. Kim Jong Un has refused offers to visit Beijing in the past, but has recently changed his tone regarding diplomacy and face-to-face meetings.

Did Trump make this happen?

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
President Donald Trump.

Sun said that China attempted to meet with Kim in the past, but rising tensions as North Korea’s nuclear testing heated up derailed the preparations and deteriorated bilateral relations. Previously, China saw Kim as defiant and abusing Beijing’s support for the country, and denied them “the honor, the validation, of having a meeting” with Xi.

Related: North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

“The only variable has changed,” in the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, according to Sun, is that Trump accepted a face-to-face meeting with Kim, which she said may have “motivated the Chinese to change their mind.”

Also, North Korea may not be able to handle a summit with Trump on their own, and China has a good deal of anxiety about being left out of diplomatic efforts between Pyongyang and its adversaries, according to Sun.

In any case, the train’s journey to Beijing fits the profile of Kim family visits to China’s rulers in the past, and makes sense from both the Chinese and North Korean sides in the run-up to attempting diplomacy with Trump face-to-face.

MIGHTY BRANDED

What Comcast does for veterans and the military will surprise you

Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.


Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.

In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.

These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.

In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.

The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.

But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.

One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s priority subs delayed by faulty contract work

Faulty welding in missile tubes bound for the Navy’s newest submarines could create additional problems for one of the Navy’s most expensive and highest-priority programs.


Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

The USS Virginia returns to the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard after the successful completion of its first voyage in open seas, July 30, 2004.

(US Navy)

Twelve missile tubes built by defense contractor BWXT are being reviewed for substandard welds that were uncovered after discrepancies were found in the equipment the firm was using to test the welds before sending them to General Dynamic Electric Boat, which is the prime contractor for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub program, according to a report by Defense News.

BWXT was one of three firms subcontracted to build tubes for Columbia-class subs and for the UK’s Dreadnought-class missiles subs. The firm was one of two subcontracted to build tubes for the US’s Virginia-class attack subs.

GDEB had already received seven of the tubes and five were still being built. The Navy and GDEB have launched an investigation, according to Defense News.

The issue comes to light at the start of fabrication for the Columbia class subs, which is meant to replace the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile subs and begin strategic patrols by 2031. The Navy has to start building the new boats by 2021 in order to stay on that timeline.

A spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command told Defense News that the problem, which appears to be limited to tubes made by BWXT, shouldn’t put the Columbia-class program behind schedule.

The Columbia-class sub program is already one of the Defense Department’s most expensive, expected to cost 2.3 billion, roughly .9 billion a boat, to build 12 boats, which are to replace the Navy’s current 14 Ohio-class missile submarines.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

The guided-missile submarine USS Ohio arrives at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to begin a major maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, April 4, 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Jeremy Moore)

The aging Ohio-class boats entered service between 1981 and 1997 with a 30-year service life, which was extended to 42 years with a four-year midlife overhaul. The Columbia-class subs will replace the Ohios as a leg of the US’s nuclear triad, built with an improved nuclear reactor that will preclude the need for a midlife overhaul and give the 12 Columbia-class subs the same sea presence as the 14 Ohio-class boats, Navy officials have said.

Because of nuclear submarines’ ability to move undetected, experts view them as more survivable than the long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles that make up the other arms of the US nuclear triad.

The ultimate impact of the problem with the BWXT-made tubes is not yet clear, according to Bryan Clark, a former submarine officer and now an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“It’s not a good sign for a program that has had a lot of attention,” Clark told Defense News. “It’s the Navy’s number one acquisition priority.” The Columbia-class program has already faced questions about its technology.

Problems with one component can compound, and that could be especially challenging for GDEB, which is supposed to start building two Virginia-class attack subs alongside a Columbia-class boat annually in the coming years.

The Navy wants to continue building two Virginia-class subs a year — rather than reduce it to one a year once production of Columbia-class subs starts in 2021 — in order to head off a shortfall in submarines that was expected to hit in the mid-2020s. The Navy also wants to shorten the Virginia-class construction timeline and keep five of its Los Angeles-class attack boats in service for 10 more years.

“The problem is that this causes challenges down the line,” Clark said of the faulty tube welds. “The missile tubes get delayed, what are the cascading effects of other components down the line?”

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

Articles

Inside the submarine threat to US carriers off the Korean coast

With news that the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is en route to the Korean peninsula with three other ships, there is no doubt that tensions are high. With two carriers, there is a lot of striking power, but it is also a target for the North Koreans.


This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.

North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
A Sang-O aground in South Korean waters. (US Army photo)

That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.

But today’s carrier are much larger.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Rear Adm. Hyun Sung Um, commander of Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy 2nd Fleet, and Rear Adm. Seung Joon Lee, deputy commander of ROK Navy 2nd Fleet, brief Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, on the findings of the Joint Investigation Group Report of the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.

This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.

But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.

A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.

Articles

This is what goes through a sniper’s mind before the shot

If he had to do it all again today, he’s not sure he would be able to. Mentally, he’s not sure he’s got what it takes anymore.


But when you ask Adam Peeples about about that night on the rooftop in Ramadi when he shot an enemy sniper, he talks about it as if he just pulled the trigger.

And he’s more than alright with it.

“I was like, I can’t believe I’m in a position where I get to draw on this guy,” said Peeples, a former Army sniper who had waited for just such a moment before he even got to Iraq. “We talked about it later, and our general consensus was can you believe that guy? What was he thinking?”

That was a high point. In fact, he and his men had been up on that rooftop in the most intense fighting anyone of them had ever seen. It was February 2007 and Ramadi was a place to go to die — for Americans and everyone else.

During lulls in the fighting over three days, they got resupplied by the Bradley fighting vehicle crew that had dropped them off at the beginning of the operation. With a fresh supply of pre-loaded mags, a crate of grenades, a bunch of M240 ammo, three AT4 grenade launchers and food, the fight kept on going.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Peeples (left) preferred taking sniper shots with his customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he ordered from the United States. (Photo courtesy of Adam Peeples)

The air smelled, the city smelled and they could hear the bullets zipping past their heads over the voices of an enemy close enough to be clearly heard. About every 10 minutes, it got kinda quiet.

It was during one of these lulls that Peeples took the time to scan a building about 75 meters away that he believed was the source of a spate of gunshots that were more accurate than most.

“It had started easing off a little bit. We had called in three [guided missile launch rockets] and a 500 pound bomb and we’d shot three AT4s, so the buildings were pretty devastated,” he said. “But there were still guys creeping around up there and we were taking pot shots over our heads.”

Listening closely to the shots, Peeples figured the shooter was probably using something like an SVD Dragunov sniper rifle.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
An Iraqi army soldier fires an SVD-63 Dragunov sniper rifle during training. (Photo from US Military)

“A couple of shots hit the wall and I said, ‘this is a sniper… or he thinks he is anyway,’ ” he recalled.

With so many shots spinning out from their position, he had taken the universal night site off the front of his rifle because it had gotten heavy and he wasn’t really looking through it to find targets that were giving themselves away with muzzle flashes. But as he started to look around, he put the site back on the rifle to scan the building he suspected as a hideout.

Peeples used a customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he mail ordered from the United States.

Using the Army-issued lower receiver of his M16 — the part that makes the gun fire — he added a new barrel and several accessories that made the rifle extra accurate and customized for his shooting style.

“It was an extremely accurate weapon, every bit as accurate as the M24 was,” he remembered. “If I had a good shot on a dude’s head and I were to miss because the rifle’s not good enough to make the shot, then why take the shot?”

He propped himself up on the wall, and using his scope, looked slowly from window to window, shining is invisible IR floodlight to look into the rooms through open windows and doors.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Peeples peers over a wall to identify an enemy sniper position. (Photo courtesy of Adam Peeples)

The night was clear and the smell of gun powder hung in their nostrils. Peeples didn’t have his finger on the trigger because he didn’t expect to see anybody – until he saw the glint and his heart beat a little faster.

As he passed over one of the open windows, it caught his trained eye – and he went back to it.

“I could see the guy. He had a table set up and a chair and he had something that he had his rifle sitting on like a pillow or a blanket or sack of sand or something,” Peeples said. “I could clearly see a rifle and a guy sitting down, I could tell his weapon had a scope on it. It’s kind of cool when you can see someone and you know they can’t see you. He was close. I could see him back there trying to figure out where to shoot at and where to see us. I can imagine from the shots he’s taking at us he couldn’t see. It was not accurate fire.”

The distance between them was shorter than a football field and Peeples didn’t hesitate.

“From the time I saw him to the time I shot him was six or seven seconds.” he said. “It was a head shot, just dropped him. He just fell right on top of his rifle and knocked the table over,” Peeples said, conceding that even though the enemy sniper’s shots weren’t accurate enough to kill him or any of his men, “somebody might have told him how to do it, or he figured it out somewhere. He had an idea of what he was doing.”

That night was Peeples’ chance to take out one of an unknown number of snipers operating in Al Anbar province.

“A big part of this job is to treat it as a job and just kind of dehumanize it,” he recalled 10 years later. “I really just made it my job, it’s what I’m going to do and not really get into thinking about what I’m actually doing. It becomes a much harder job to do when you think about what you’re doing for a job which is killing people.”

And he’d kill again if it could save the lives of some of his buddies.

“It was the personal satisfaction of knowing we set up a proper ambush, took out those guys and it was a huge motivation,” he said. “It was my drive. It was everything that made me want to go out there and do it.”

Gina Cavallaro is the author of “Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.

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US troops cleared after civilian deaths overseas

American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.


“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.

“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.

“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)

A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.

“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January.


As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, expectations that the punitive measures will target an expanded list of secondary companies, as well as Kremlin-connected insiders and business leaders, are causing consternation.

Unlike previous rounds, when Washington tried to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and Syria by targeting big fish like major state-run firms and government agencies, the focus is shifting. The new wave to be announced by month’s end is expected to be broader, focusing on companies that do business with previously sanctioned entities, closing loopholes that allowed Russia to skirt punishment, and identifying — and potentially going after — the Kremlin’s inner circle of smaller fish.

Moscow appears to be on edge. One official has accused the United States of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election. An influential Russian newspaper has reported that as many as 300 people close to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle could be identified. And financial institutions are taking steps to minimize their risk.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Vladimir Putin held the first meeting with Government members this year. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

‘Freaking out’

“It is true that the Russians have been freaking out over this for more than a month now,” said Daniel Fried, who was formerly the chief sanctions coordinator at the U.S. State Department.

Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst now based in Washington, D.C., echoes that assessment. “The expectations are very gloomy” in Moscow, he said, “because for the first time, it will bring personal pain to those closest to Putin.”

The new measures, expected to be rolled out beginning Jan. 29, stem from a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed reluctantly into law by President Donald Trump in August.

Known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law firstly provides for “secondary sanctions” that broaden the restrictions against people or companies doing business with Russians hit earlier.

The earlier measures were imposed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama not only for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014 but also for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military campaign in Syria, and other things.

Related: US intel officials report that Russian leaders think US wants to topple Putin

In October, in the first indication of whom the new law would be targeting, the State Department put three dozen major Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies on notice, indicating that other companies, Russian or foreign, who do “significant” business with them could face restrictions.

In theory, this meant that a foreign bank that provided credit to a company supplying a previously sanctioned Russian state-controlled company could be targeted for doing business with listed companies. That might include state arms exporter Rosoboroneksport or the legendary weapons-maker Kalashnikov.

‘Oligarchs list’

The law also ordered the Treasury Department, in coordination with intelligence agencies, to provide Congress with a list of prominent Russians and their family members who would potentially face direct restrictions. Known as Section 241, the instruction includes identifying oligarchs according to “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”

This, in theory, could target the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official who owns property in the United States, or the head of a major industrial corporation with holdings in the West.

Around Washington, close observers of the sanctions process are calling it “the oligarchs list.”

“This will hit people because it shows they are not safe; that the U.S. is willing to go after this class of people and Putin cannot protect them… that there will be consequences for Russians who seem to be in Putin’s corrupt inner circle and [are] aiding and abetting his corrupt activities,” Fried told RFE/RL.

Those included will not immediately face financial or travel restrictions, but experts say it would be a clear signal of what may soon come and, more immediately, would have a major psychological effect on those listed and those who do business with them.

It could also foreshadow a public record of some wealthy Russians’ sources of income and assets in the United States.

“For some people, it’s very personal. For others, it will be very political,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The question is: What’s the signal that is being sent by the administration and how will it be received in Moscow?”

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Parlor-game guessing

For the moment, the potential nominees for the “oligarchs’ list” is a closely held secret by both members of Congress and administration officials. But sanctions experts, Russian opposition activists, and Western lawyers and business groups have been trying to guess. Some wealthy Russians have also stepped up quiet lobbying campaigns in Washington, trying to persuade Congress or administration officials to keep them off the list, according to several observers.

On Jan. 12, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing its own sources in Washington, said as many as 300 people could end up being listed, a number that includes both officials themselves, but also their relatives.

In December, a group of Russian opposition activists with backing from chess master and outspoken Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov met in Lithuania to compile their own sanctions list. The compilation features more than 200 names, including prominent business tycoons who have so far avoided restrictions, including Aleksei Mordashov, owner of the steelmaking giant Severstal, and German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s largest state bank, Sberbank.

Several prominent Russians included in the opposition group’s list were already on earlier U.S. sanctions lists, including Sergei Ivanov, an ex-defense minister and President Putin’s former chief of staff; Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, head of Russian military intelligence; and Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
Garry Kasparov. (Photo from Flickr user Gage Skidmore, cropped to fit)

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.

Credit crunch

One indication of how the Kremlin has sought to get ahead of the new measures came in November. The business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree that would exempt Russian state companies from the requirement to disclose the names of their contractors.

Already there are signs that financial markets, in and out of Russia, are factoring the likelihood of sanctions into predictions for 2018. But among bond traders, equity dealers, and other portfolio managers, the measure that has prompted most worry is a possible restriction on buying Russian government debt.

That measure is seen as an attempt to close a loophole that allowed Russia to skirt sanctions imposed in 2014 that cut certain companies close to or controlled by the state from international credit markets.

The Kremlin ended up bailing out those companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and was still able to raise capital on its own. In 2016, for example, Russia sold around $3 billion in new Eurobonds.

The Countering Adversaries law includes the possibility that U.S. citizens could be barred from buying ruble-denominated, Russian government bonds. It’s unclear how much of Russia’s overall sovereign debt is held by Americans, but Central Bank data from October showed that foreigners held about $38 billion of it.

That decision won’t be handed down for some months, but still, analysts predict a ban would put severe pressure on the Russian ruble, which plummeted in 2014 after the Crimea sanctions and amid low world oil prices and has yet to fully recover. In the medium term, that would drive up inflation, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said in a research note in December.

Ripple effect

Some Russian financial institutions have also given indications that whatever the measures are that end up being issued by Washington, they will ripple through the country’s economy.

For example, Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private commercial lender, said it was cutting back its exposure to the country’s formidable defense industry.

“This does not mean that we have severed relations with it overnight,” Oleg Sysuyev, a deputy chairman of the bank’s board of directors, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “But we are just trying to minimize risks.”

In the short term, that could pose a direct challenge to Putin, who will run for another term as president in the election scheduled for March, a month after the new measures are unveiled.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov alluded to this on Jan. 13 when, in comments to the state news agency TASS, he charged that the U.S. measures were an attempt to influence the vote.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Photo from Flickr user Moscow CTBTO Youth Group Conference. Cropped to fit)

Piontkovsky, a longtime critic of the Kremlin, predicted that the U.S. move to target more individuals could help undermine the broad support that Putin has enjoyed for years.

“It means he is losing his meaning for the elites, his function was to protect them, and their assets in Russia and the West, to ensure their security. And now, on the contrary, he is becoming toxic,” he said.

The question now, according to Oliker, who directs the CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program, is whether the new sanctions will, in fact, affect Kremlin policies.

For example, with the conflict in eastern Ukraine grinding into its fourth year, dragging on Russia’s economy and losing popularity among Russians, there’s good reason for Russia to pull back on its support for separatist fighters.

However, it would be virtually impossible for Putin to pull back if it appeared he was giving in to the pressures from U.S. sanctions, she said.

Depending on who or what is targeted, the problem is that the new measures could reinforce the perception — encouraged by the Kremlin — that Washington only wants to damage Russia, Oliker said.

“In Russia, the pervasive narrative is that all the sanctions are merely to punish Russia — [that] they’re punitive, it’s not a matter of attaining actual policy goals,” she said. Many think “it’s just those nasty Americans trying to get us.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Call sign ‘Vader-1’- US Space aggressors prepare American combat pilots for a new era of extraterrestrial warfare

Several times each year America’s premier combat pilots converge on Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for an air war exercise called Red Flag.

The storied proving ground for Air Force fighter pilots, Red Flag has become a bellwether for the war of the future, underscoring how fighter jocks and the supersonic whips they command are now only one piece of a complicated web of interwoven combat domains — including novel, non-kinetic threats in cyberspace and outer space.

As participants in Red Flag 21-1, members of the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron — an Air Force Reserve unit — simulate how America’s modern adversaries might use space-borne weapons to degrade the air superiority advantage that US combat forces have long enjoyed.

“Our role in [Red Flag] 21-1 is to replicate how an adversary would act in a conflict using space enabled capabilities,” said Maj. Scott Hollister, a flight commander in the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron — call sign Vader-1.

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An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxis out to the runway for a Red Flag 21-1 mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 28, 2021. The F-35A is the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. Photo by William R. Lewis/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

Activated in 2000, the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron was the US military’s first space aggressor unit. The 26th Space Aggressor Squadron, for its part, stood up in 2003. Space aggressors generally focus on three types of space-borne threats — GPS electronic attacks, satellite communications electronic attacks, and anti-satellite attacks.

“We and our active duty counterparts, the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron, are the only units who bring a space oriented ‘bad guy’ perspective to the exercise,” Hollister said, regarding Red Flag.

Located just outside of Las Vegas, Nellis Air Force Base is known as the “Home of the Fighter Pilot.”

Typically running multiple times per year, Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier air combat exercise, involving air, ground, cyber, and space threats. Running from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, this year’s first iteration of the exercise includes some 2,400 participants from three countries, operating a gamut of the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lighting II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, EA-18G Growler, F-15E Strike Eagle, and A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog.”

During Red Flag, pilots and other personnel are pitted in mock combat against elite American “aggressor” units whose sole purpose is to simulate the combat tactics, technology, and procedures of foreign adversaries’ military forces.

The Air Force’s two active aggressor fighter squadrons fly F-16 fighters painted in unusual camouflage schemes and colors not normally found on American warplanes. The pilots in these elite aviation units compete against their peers in simulated dogfights and other air combat scenarios. Reportedly, there are plans to integrate early-model F-35As into the aggressor fleet by mid-2021.

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An F-16C Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron prepares to take off for a Red Flag 21-1 mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 28, 2021. Aggressor pilots are highly skilled in US and adversary tactics, which provides realism for US and allied forces during training exercises. Photo by William R. Lewis/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

As the Pentagon buckles down for great power competition after a generational focus on combatting low-tech insurgencies, the Air Force has put a renewed emphasis on its aggressor units. To that end, Red Flag offers American forces a chance to operate in a contested, degraded environment, facing threats from the air, ground, space, and cyberspace.

“Any realistic training against a near-peer or competitor nation is going to require heavy utilization of multi-domain operations. The classical role of the Air Force being able to penetrate an airspace protected by an Integrated Air Defense System is no longer a problem set that can be solved using Air Force assets and capabilities alone,” US Space Force Capt. Kaylee Taylor, chief of non-kinetic integration at the 414th Combat Training Squadron, said in a release.

During Red Flag, the space aggressors simulate an adversary’s tactics by jamming satellite communications and GPS receivers. This training teaches American warfighters how potent these “non-kinetic” weapons can be.

In military parlance, “non-kinetics” generally refers to electronic warfare weapons — deployed from the ground, air, and space — which can be used in tandem with cyberattacks. At Red Flag, the space aggressors work closely with a cyber aggressor unit to mimic the combined non-kinetic threats that US forces would likely face against a modern adversary such as Russia or China.

According to an Air Force release: “The 26th [Space Aggressor Squadron] mission is to replicate enemy threats to space-based and space-enabled systems during tests and training exercises. By using Global Positioning System and satellite communications adversary effects, the squadron provides Air Force, joint and coalition military personnel with an understanding of how to recognize, mitigate, counter and defeat these threats.”

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone
US Space Force Capt. Kaylee Taylor, chief of non-kinetic integration at the 414th Combat Training Squadron, poses for a photo at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Photo by Senior Airman Dylan Murakami/US Air Force.

Proficiency in operating with degraded systems could be decisive in a modern war. Adversaries such as Russia and China have electronic warfare technology capable of interfering with GPS signals and communication feeds — effectively divorcing US pilots from the technological aids on which they’ve relied to prosecute the post-9/11 air wars over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

In short — US combat pilots are training to fight a far more technologically sophisticated adversary than they’ve faced since 2001. And they’re training to do so without relying on America’s vaunted technological dominance in air power.

For fighter pilots, that means a renewed emphasis on certain old-school tactics, such as executing airstrikes with unguided, free-fall “dumb bombs” that depend on a pilot’s touch to ballistically lob onto a target. They also need exposure to the full gamut of electronic warfare threats they may face in combat against a near-peer adversary.

“For the pilots, it may be their first time seeing non-kinetics, space or cyber integrated into the air fight. We introduce it to them so they can prepare to compete and win in all-domain combat operations,” Taylor, the Space Force captain, said of Red Flag 21-1.

Two decades of counterinsurgency operations have adapted American combat pilots to operate within fairly predictable war zone architectures. But in the next war, US forces will face much more confusing battlefields where nothing can be taken for granted — especially communication and GPS.

“Red Flag aims to train how we fight against modern potential adversary capabilities. In order to do this, we have to bring together airborne capabilities with the emerging capabilities of both space and cyber units,” Taylor said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Have a look at Earth from 94 million miles away

Capturing images of our home planet from the perspective of faraway spacecraft has become a tradition at NASA, ever since Voyager, 28 years ago, displayed our “pale blue dot” in the vastness of space.


But the view of Earth from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is quite something else.

Everything to know about the Navy’s carrier-launched drone

This Kepler image of Earth was recently beamed back home. Captured on Dec. 10, 2017, after the spacecraft adjusted its telescope to a new field of view, Earth’s reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

Also read: You can boldly go with this NASA mission to ‘touch the sun’

At 94 million miles away, Kepler’s interpretation of Earth as a bright flashlight in a dark sea of stars demonstrates the capabilities of its highly sensitive photometer, which is designed to pick up the faint dips in brightness of planets crossing distant stars. Some stars in this image are hundreds of light years away.

The scientific community celebrated Earth’s transit across Kepler’s field of view by using #WaveAtKepler on social media. As Kepler only takes pictures in black and white, some in the science community have taken the data and used color to highlight details in grayscale images.

Related: 21 of the most stunning images of our planet NASA ever took

The mission marks its nine-year anniversary in space on March 7, 2018. More than 2,500 planets have been found in the Kepler data so far, as well as many other discoveries about stars, supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena. The mission is in its second extended operating phase and is known to have a limited lifetime. Its scientific success in discovering distant planets has paved the way for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is launching on April 16. TESS will monitor more than 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars outside our solar system for transiting planets.

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