Here's What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission - We Are The Mighty
Intel

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

Opening fire on the wrong target could mean death for the good guys. It’s called friendly fire, and it’s every fighter pilot’s worse nightmare.


Also Read: 32 Terms Only Airmen Will Understand

Answering an air support call for the first time is a gut wrenching experience, and it’s something fighter pilots will never forget. All of the flight hours and training boils down to their first life and death test, a test that will become routine on deployment. 1st Lt. Bart “Lefty” Smith describes his first time:

I mean that’s something that I heard about that people talk about, but something that you never know until you’ve actually felt it. Till you hear gunfire going off in the background over this guy’s radio, and you drop a bomb and it stops. And, he picks up and they get their stuff together and they’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to get on with the exfil.’ That’s a feeling that people have talked about, but having felt that is pretty amazing.

The video is over 14 minutes long, but the first four minutes sums up the stressful experience.

Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayEY-wy_o-8

Now: How good are you at identifying military aircraft? Take the quiz

AND: 7 Badass Airpower Quotes From General Curtis LeMay

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons the married service member is just as much a “dependa” as the spouse

The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.

Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.


The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.

Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?

While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:

Deployment

When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

Even when they are home, they aren’t really home

Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?

The PCS struggle is real

The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.

  • Organizing for the PCS
  • Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
  • Gathering copies of all the medical records
  • Finding new providers for the family
  • School enrollment
  • Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.

U.S. Air Force

Unit support

Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.

Caregiving

More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.

The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.

Articles

Report: Flynn to recommend Trump make a big move against Russia

On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.


Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that US counterintelligence agents investigated Flynn’s ties to Russia. Recently, a group of top Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Defense to do the same.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the US’s adversarial relationship with Russia.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn previously led the Defense Intelligence Agency. | Photo from Defense Department

Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.

A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.

“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
NATO

Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.

Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”

However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.

Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.

Articles

The Navy’s new electronic warfare technology

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Boeing


The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.

“The whole idea is to get the enemy air defense systems from seeing the strike package. It does not matter what type of aircraft we are protecting. Our mission is to suppress enemy air defenses and allow the mission to continue. This is not just designed to allow the aircraft to survive but also allow it to continue the mission – deliver ordnance and return home,” Cmdr. Earnest Winston, Electronic Attack Requirements Officer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Next-Generation Jammer consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.

“It is able to jam multiple frequencies at the same time — more quickly and more efficiently,” he said.

The emerging system uses a high-powered radar technology called Active Electronic Scanned Array, or AESA.

“It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod it DoD. What it is really going to bring to the fleet is increased power, increased flexibility and more capacity to jam more radars at one time,” Winston added.

The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft.

One of the drawbacks to ALQ 99 is that it was initially designed 40-years ago and is challenged to keep up with modern threats and digital threats with phased array radars, increased power, increased processing and more advanced wave forms, Winston explained.

The Next-Generation Jammer is being engineered with what’s called “open architecture,” meaning it is built with open computing software and hardware standards such that it can quickly integrate new technologies as threats emerge.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Raytheon

For example, threat libraries or data-bases incorporated into a radar warning receiver can inform pilots of specific threats such as enemy fighter aircraft or air defenses. If new adversary aircraft become operational, the system can be upgraded to incorporate that information.

“We use threat libraries in our receivers as well as our jammers to be able to jam the new threat radars. As new threats emerge, we will be able to devise new jamming techniques. Those are programmable through the mission planning system through the mission planning system of the EA-18G Growler,” Winston explained.

While radar warning receivers are purely defensive technologies, the NGJ is configured with offensive jamming capabilities in support of strike aircraft such as an F/A-18 Super Hornet or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The jammer is intended to preemptively jam enemy radars and protect aircraft by preventing air defenses from engaging.

“With surface-to-air missile systems, we want to deny that track an engagement opportunity. We try to work with the aircraft to jam enemy radar signals,” Winston added.

The NGJ could be particularly helpful when it comes to protecting fighter aircraft and stealth platforms like the B-2 bomber, now-in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber and the F-35 multi-role stealth fighter. The technology is designed to block, jam, thwart or “blind” enemy radar systems such as ground-based integrated air defenses – so as to allow attack aircraft to enter a target area, conduct strikes and then safely exit.

This is useful in today’s modern environment because radar-evading stealth configurations, by themselves, are no longer as dominant or effective against current and emerging air-defense technologies.

Today’s modern air defenses, such as the Russian-made S-300 and multi-function S-400 surface-to-air missiles, will increasingly be able to detect stealth aircraft at longer distances and on a wider range of frequencies. Today’s most cutting edge systems, and those being engineered for the future, use much faster computer processors, use more digital technology and network more to one another.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Raytheon

“Multi-function radars become much more difficult because you have a single radar source that is doing almost everything with phased array capability. However, with the increased power of the next-generation jammer we can go after those,” Winston said.

“It is a constant cat and mouse game between the shooter and the strike aircraft. We develop stealth and they develop counter-stealth technologies. We then counter it with increased jamming capabilities.”

The NGJ is engineered to jam and defeat both surveillance radar technology which can alert defenses that an enemy aircraft is in the area as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar which allow air defenses to target, track and destroy attacking aircraft.

“The target engagement radar or control radar has a very narrow scope, so enemy defenses are trying to search the sky. We are making enemies search the sky looking through a soda straw. When the only aperture of the world is through a soda straw, we can force them into a very narrow scope so they will never see aircraft going in to deliver ordnance,” Winston said.

Winston would not elaborate on whether the NGJ’s offensive strike capabilities would allow it to offensively attack enemy radio communications, antennas or other kinds of electronic signals.

“It can jam anything that emits or receives and RF frequency in the frequency range of NGJ — it could jam anything that is RF capable,” he explained.

The U.S. Navy recently awarded Raytheon Company a $1 billion sole source contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) for Increment 1 of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), the advanced electronic attack technology that combines high-powered, agile, beam-jamming techniques with cutting-edge, solid-state electronics,” a Raytheon statement said.

Raytheon will deliver 15 Engineering Development Model pods for mission systems testing and qualification, and 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.

The NGJ contract also covers designing and delivering simulators and prime hardware to government labs and support for flight testing and government system integration, Raytheon officials said.

Overall, the Navy plans to buy as many as 135 sets of NGJs for the Growler. At the same time, Winston did say it is possible that the NGJ will be integrated onto other aircraft in the future.

“This is a significant milestone for electronic warfare,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “NGJ is a smart pod that provides today’s most advanced electronic attack technology, one that can easily be adapted to changing threat environments. That level of sophistication provides our warfighters with the technological advantage required to successfully prosecute their mission and return home safely.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.


That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
A female spider wraps her prey in silk. (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.

There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
A small piece of artificial spider silk produced in a lab. (Wikimedia Commons)

So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.

Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the heroics that earned this EOD Petty Officer a Silver Star

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas was awarded the Silver Star Medal during an awards ceremony, Sept. 20, at EOD Mobile Unit Three on board Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California.


The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Today we recognize the heroic actions of individuals and the legacy of their teammates. This recognition is well deserved, and it’s an acknowledgment of bravery, training, and dedication to team and country,” said Moran.

Also read: EOD airmen can build and defuse anything from a pipe bomb to a nuclear weapon

On Oct. 20 and 21, 2016, while conducting combined clearance operations, Thomas’ element became engaged in a 10-hour firefight with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Throughout the battle, he continuously maneuvered through heavy small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar fire in order to engage the enemy and clear paths for his teammates.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas stands at attention alongside Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran after being awarded the Silver Star Medal. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza.

After the lead vehicle in the convoy struck an improvised explosive device, mortally wounding a teammate, Thomas exited his vehicle and swept the vicinity for additional explosive devices in spite of enemy mortar and small arms fire impacting near him.

This enabled medics to maneuver to the damaged vehicle and provide critical combat care to the casualty. Thomas then guided the remaining vehicles out of the minefield, ensuring all forces safely reached the medial evacuation zone.

More heroics: This Air Force EOD tech spent 20 hours clearing IEDs under fire

“No one that was present on the 20th of October knew better than Jeff the dangers he was facing,” said Cmdr. Geoff Townsend, commanding officer, EODMU 3. “After the EOD supervisor, a friend and mentor, was mortally wounded, Jeff knowingly exposed himself to hazards in order to protect the lives of his teammates and brothers in arms, and secure a MEDEVAC for his wounded teammate. His actions that day saved the lives of his teammates and exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his country.”

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran speaks during an awards ceremony for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza.

The ceremony also included the presentation of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” to Lt. Morgan Dahl and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat Distinguishing Device) to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Jon Hamm. Dahl was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic achievement during combat operations as vehicle commander and primary explosives ordnance disposal technician, when he safely guided the tactical advance of his combined convoy under constant direct and indirect enemy.

Hamm was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his heroic achievement when Islamic State fighters engaged Hamm’s element with effective automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fire, he maneuvered without hesitation under fire in order to clear a safe route allowing his team to suppress the enemy.

US Navy EOD enables special operations and conventional forces access to denied areas. Navy EOD technicians and Navy divers are instrumental in clearing the way for further combat operations. They render safe various types of ordnance, including conventional, improvised, chemical, biological, and nuclear.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rebels in Yemen may have captured one of the Navy’s most advanced drones

Video released Jan.  1 appears to show Houthi forces seizing a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle in waters off the coast of Yemen.


The video, posted by Al Masdar News, shows four men in dive gear holding the underwater drone, identified as a Remus 600 with logos from the manufacturer Hydroid and its parent company, Kongsberg. It also has the name “Smokey” printed on it.

Officials from the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf, would not confirm to USNI News whether the vehicle belonged to the U.S. or give information about UUV operations in the region.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
An image from an undated video showing Houthi forces with what appears to be a U.S. Navy-operated drone. (Screenshot via Al Masdar News)

A U.S. defense official did tell USNI News that the UUV was a passive system the Navy was using as part of a meteorological study. The Al Masdar News post referred to the unmanned vehicle as a “spying device” used for “spying missions” by the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015.

“It is intended to operate in shallow waters, intended to operate in littoral spaces, and is designed to be pretty autonomous,” Dan Gettinger, the codirector of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, told USNI News about the REMUS 600. “It might be the most advanced UUV deployed.”

The Remus 600 costs about $1 million before add-ons for specific tasks, Gettinger said, adding that the U.S. Navy’s most common uses for it were mine-clearing missions and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition.

A Kongsberg fact sheet refers to the Remus 600 as “the most versatile member” of the Hydroid family of UUVs and says it can operate in depths of up to 600 meters and can be reconfigured for different payloads. It can travel up to 4.5 knots, and its length can be 9 feet to 18 feet, depending on how it is outfitted. Among its nonmilitary uses are emergency response, marine research, charting, ocean observation, and archaeology.

Also Read: This is why Yemen is a constant war zone

The Remus 600 has about 20 hours of operational use, Gettinger said, suggesting that it surfaced after a mission and was intercepted before its operator could recover it.

It’s not the first time Houthi rebels claimed to have intercepted U.S. hardware.

In October, rebels said they shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft over the northern outskirts of Sanaa. Footage showed the drone spiraling to the ground in flames and a crowd gathering around the wreckage before Houthi rebels loaded the drone’s remnants onto a pickup truck. U.S. officials confirmed that a drone had been downed.

The U.S. has been carrying out operations in Yemen against ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but Washington has also been quietly supporting the Saudi-led war in the country. The U.S.’s role has drawn criticism, particularly over civilian casualties. U.S. lawmakers have pursued a bill that would restrict U.S. action in Yemen.

Intel

This ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ actor went to Syria to fight ISIS

A former “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor has left Hollywood to battle the Islamic State in Syria, despite having no previous military experience.


English-born Michael Enright, 51, said in a filmed interview with the Gulf-based AlAlan TV network that the extremist organization is “a stain on humanity,” and one that he personally hopes to destroy.

The actor has also stated that his decision to serve was triggered by a desire to right what he considers a national wrong, referring to the execution of American journalist James Foley by a member of ISIS who is believed to be British.

Enright fights alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has become a pivotal player in the American led alliance against ISIS.

The Telegraph writes:

Mr. Enright is one of dozens of foreign fighters have travelled to the self-styled Kurdish enclave of Rojava to join the fight. Most have a military background. Many have been recruited via Facebook, and some have funded their airfare on crowd funding websites.

Check out the AlAlan TV video below for the full interview:

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea really is starting to dismantle a key nuclear site

North Korea has reportedly started dismantling rocket launching and testing facilities that President Donald Trump has said it agreed to in an off-the-books deal, and it’s a major US victory in what have been fraught, slow-moving talks.

Following the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two sides released a joint statement that contained weak and vague language around denuclearization, much to the dismay of North Korea watchers hoping for concrete action.


But in a press conference after the summit, Trump announced two bombshells: The US would halt military drills with South Korea, and North Korea had agreed to dismantle a missile test site.

More than a month since the summit, the US has kept its end of the agreement, but only on July 23, 2018, did the West get any indication that North Korea was holding its end.

Satellite imagery reviewed by 38 North, a website that covers North Korea, suggests North Korea is dismantling key parts of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, where Kim has presided over the launch of rockets meant to put satellites in orbit.

So far, a rail-based site for transporting the rockets and a vertical engine testing stand have been dismantled, 38 North reports.

In absolute terms, this represents only a tiny fraction of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure. But the action there has key components that may give cause for hope.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Sohae Space Center for the testing of a new engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA photo)

These sites are vital

North Korea, in past negotiations with the US, has proved extremely lawyerly and adept at finding loopholes in its agreements.

In 2012, when Kim had just taken power, the US under President Barack Obama negotiated a freeze on North Korean missile testing. Later, North Korea announced it would instead launch a rocket intended to carry a satellite into orbit.

Satellite launch vehicles are not missiles. They deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than an explosive payload to a target.

But both satellite launch vehicles and long-range missiles use rocket engines to propel themselves into space, meaning that working on one is much the same as working on the other.

The US, troubled by this obvious betrayal of the spirit of the agreement, then exited the deal.

By removing the rail infrastructure to set up satellite vehicle launches, North Korea may have signaled it won’t look to exploit the same loopholes that have wrecked past deals.

At Sohae, where cranes have been spotted tearing down an engine testing stand, the North Koreans have previously worked to develop engines for their intercontinental ballistic missiles.

ICBMs threaten the US homeland in a way that could fray US alliances in Asia and eventually even unseat the US as a dominant power in the region. As Business Insider previously reported, freezing North Korea’s ICBM program has been a key focus of the Pentagon for years.

Only a small amount of actual work has taken place in dismantling the sites, but the significance of the sites, and their place in Trump and Kim’s budding relationship, gives reason for hope.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump.

(White House photo)

Confidence-building

So far, North Korea has dragged its feet even on simple tasks, like returning some remains of US troops killed in the Korean War, despite promising immediate action.

Since the Singapore summit, satellite imagery has picked up signs that North Korea may actually have advanced its nuclear and missile programs. When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea recently, Kim didn’t meet him and instead toured a potato farm.

Kim sent Trump a nice letter in mid-July 2018, but it contained no specifics on the US’s declared goal of denuclearization.

Trump said he negotiated the closing of these facilities with Kim after the joint declaration was signed, but North Korea waited over a month before delivering.

During that time, Trump repeatedly stressed that he believed North Korea would follow through based on his personal read of Kim’s personality.

In that way, North Korea has kept its direct promise to Trump and demonstrated, for perhaps the first time, a real willingness to scale back the key parts of its missile system.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Green Beret may have been killed for rejecting a dubious bribe

The mysterious death of US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under scrutiny after the Green Beret, who was killed by strangulation, reportedly declined to accept money from a dubious scheme.


A Daily Beast report, sourced from five service members in the special-operations community, says that a portion of funds used to pay informants in Mali for intelligence were allegedly pocketed by members of the elite SEAL Team Six. The SEALs’ actions were reportedly discovered by Melgar, who eventually turned down the money when he was offered a cut.

Prior to his death, Melgar reportedly told his wife of the problems he had with two of the SEALs, and was going to elaborate further when he went home, the Daily Beast said.

Read More: Two SEALs are under investigation for the murder of a Green Beret

Following Meglar’s death, suspicions were raised after two SEALs alleged Melgar was participating in combative exercises, the military’s version of martial arts, while drunk, the report continued. However, Melgar’s autopsy report said that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system, a former military official said to the Daily Beast.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar (image US Army)

The New York Times first reported that two SEALs were being investigated, due to the circumstances of the incident. According to The Times, investigators were looking into whether Melgar was strangled, and his superiors believed foul play may have been involved. Melgar’s death was determined to have been “a homicide by asphyxiation,” according to military officials cited by The Times.

The two SEALs were reportedly flown out of Mali and placed on administrative leave, shortly after Melgar’s death.

Melgar, a 34-year-old Texan, deployed to Afghanistan twice. He was assigned to Mali with the 3rd Special Forces Group to help train locals and support counter-terrorism operations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SOCOM’s new mission is countering WMD threats

U.S. Special Operations Command may now lead the effort to stop terrorists from obtaining mass-casualty weapons, such as dirty bombs, but experts in the SOF community warn that operators can’t do it alone.


U.S. Strategic Command recently passed the leadership role in counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mission to SOCOM, a move that has SOF leaders scrambling to figure out where it fits into this complex mission.

Michal Lumpkin, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said he worries that SOCOM will try to take on too much of the mission.

Special Operations personnel are known for being “solution people,” he said. “They solve problems. They fill gaps, seams, and voids.”

Also read: SOCOM is hunting for an advanced new sniper rifle

“But every gap, seam, and void is not theirs to fill, so the interagency has to do their part,” Lumpkin told an audience Feb. 28, 2018, at National Defense Industrial Association’s 29th Annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium. “So, one of the things that I always fear is we would maybe get out in front of the headlights farther and faster than we should and accept too much of the mission.”

Lumpkin took part in a counter-proliferation panel discussion, where all the panelists agreed that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons are quickly becoming one of the top threats to the United States and its allies.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Soldiers of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Republic of Korea 11th Special Forces Brigade, secure a person of interest during training near Gwangyang, South Korea. (Photo by SFC Andrew Kosterman)

U.S. Army Col. Lonnie Carlson, director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy in the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, said keeping WMD out of the hands of ISIS extremists is one of his top priorities.

“Those real-world things are there, and the bottom line is, they are definitely terrorism-related, they are coming out of the Middle East, and they are not things we were worried about two months ago,” Carlson said.

Components of these mass-casualty weapons are also coming out of North Korea and turning up in places like Syria, said Michael Waltz, a former Special Forces officer and policy advisor to the Bush administration.

There have been “40 to 50 previously unknown, unreported shipments of essentially chemical weapons components or dual-use components from North Korea to Syria,” he said.

Related: SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

Syria’s legitimate chemical industry “isn’t exactly thriving, so I think it is safe to assume what those parts are for,” he added.

Waltz said he agreed with President Trump’s policy of “stopping the North Korean program in its tracks,” but said he thought the administration’s failure to fill key positions in the State Department would make it difficult to counter the proliferation of these types of weapons.

“I think we are really suffering in many respects … with the lack of appointments and with what is going on in the State Department,” Waltz said. “How do we work the non-proliferation piece, which State should and will lead, when they don’t have the manpower? The answer I think is, it’s going to fall on DoD, and it’s going to fall on SOCOM.”

Carlson pointed out that that SOCOM has been given the “synchronization” role in the effort, “but that doesn’t mean they own all the operations.”

“It’s still the global and geographic chain of command with their theater units and SOF operating commands that actually do the executions,” he said.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
Members of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. (USAF photo by Christopher Lange)

SOCOM has been given a “significant plus-up” in the proposed fiscal 2019 budget, mainly in the overseas contingency operations account, but that will not be enough to fund this new mission, Lumpkin said.

“There are still shortages for SOCOM and across the inter-agency [in] resourcing this issue,” he said. “The reality is, you can’t put a new mission on anybody without either taking something off the table, something else that they are doing, or you are going to have to give them more resources.”

SOCOM has no shortage of missions these days, Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said during his speech on Feb. 28, 2018.

In addition to leading the new WMD mission, “they also maintain their coordinating authority for countering violent extremists,” Mitchell said. “These are no-fail missions for the nation. … We are going to look at where we can shut some missions.”

More: How the military decontaminates itself after WMD attacks

Mitchell welcomed the conventional Army’s recent decision to stand up its new Security Force Assistance Brigades, units of highly trained officers and soldiers designed to take over the “advise-and-assist” mission of training foreign troops in conventional infantry operations.

The Army plans to have all six SFABs in place by 2022. Perhaps these new units can take some of the burden off of Special Forces units, who have traditionally assumed these foreign training missions, Mitchell said.

Waltz suggested turning to the National Guard and Reserves since many of its personnel have civilian expertise in some the areas needed in the counterproliferation mission.

“SOCOM isn’t going to solve this by themselves,” Lumpkin said. “The only way we are going to get our arms around the counter-WMD, counter-proliferation challenges is to do it in a unified, whole-of-nation approach.”

Articles

Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.


Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Keelan, a Patrol Squadron 46 pilot, operates a P-3 Orion aircraft during a sinking exercise Sept. 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Valiant Shield 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin Fisher)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the incident occurred Nov. 8 off Scarborough Shoal, a reef about 120 miles off the west coast of Luzon. Chinese forces have interfered with Filipino fishermen in the vicinity of the reefs, an action condemned by an international arbitration panel.

China has been constructing island airbases in the region, despite the adverse ruling, and recently conducted joint exercises with Russia in the maritime flash point.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
A P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 takes off from Naval Air Facility Misawa. VP-10 recently started a six-month deployment to NAF Misawa in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kenneth G. Takada/Released)

The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.

Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.

Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission
A KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.

Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information