The US Navy is deploying a hospital ship to assist health care providers in New York who could be strained with resources amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Navy announced that efforts to deploy the USNS Comfort to the state were underway. Cuomo said his discussions with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus were productive, and the plan was approved. The governor activated the state’s National Guard on March 10, as the number of cases in the state jumped to over 2,300 as of Wednesday morning.
“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said on Wednesday morning. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously confirmed he ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying two of its hospital ships, the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, during a press conference on Tuesday. The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, is currently undergoing maintenance; while the Mercy is at port in San Diego, California.
Navy officials stressed that preparations for the Comfort, which have been “expedited,” will take weeks before it is ready to assist. The Mercy is expected to be ready to assist “before the end of this month,” Esper said.
The ships are staffed by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
The two ships will specifically focus on trauma cases if deployed. The plan is to alleviate the burden on traditional hospitals dealing with a high number of patients with the coronavirus.
“Our capabilities are focused on trauma,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “Whether it’s our field hospitals, whether it’s our hospital ships … they don’t have necessarily the segregated space as you need to deal with infectious diseases.”
“One of the ways by which you can use either field hospitals, hospital ships, or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases, and open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases,” he added.
The extended timeline for the Comfort’s deployment was not only incumbent on its scheduled maintenance or the amount of medical equipment on board. The number of qualified medical staff aboard the ship was a primary concern for the Navy, according to Esper.
“The big challenge isn’t necessarily the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals,” Esper said. “All those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves.”
“We’ve got to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states, that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak,” Esper added.
Most of the medical staff for the Comfort is based at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. The ship has made several deployments since 1987, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
There is growing support among outside security experts for the notion that an “incident” at Iran’s main nuclear-enrichment facility last week was an act of sabotage in a shadow war aimed at setting back Tehran’s nuclear activities.
Many analysts believe that a foreign state, possibly Israel, was behind the July 2 fire at the Natanz facility in Iran’s central Isfahan Province.
The conflagration caused “considerable financial damage,” according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which had originally sought to downplay the incident.
An image released by Iran in the aftermath of the incident and satellite images released abroad showed significant damage — including ripped-out doors, scorch marks, and a collapsed roof — at a building where centrifuges were assembled.
Iranian authorities have said they know the cause of the incident but have withheld any public announcement due to “security” issues.
“Many countries have a clear interest to delay the Iranian nuclear military project; one of them is Israel,” Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general and former national-security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told RFE/RL.
Iran maintains that all of its nuclear activities are peaceful, and it has opened its known nuclear sites to UN inspectors since signing a deal in 2015 exchanging curbs on its nuclear program for sanctions relief with world powers including the United States, which has since walked away from the deal.
But the United States and Israel have for years accused Iran of a long-running effort to acquire a nuclear bomb-making capability.
They are thought to have targeted Iran’s nuclear program in the past with cyberattacks and malicious software, or malware.
One of those suspected joint efforts was the Stuxnet computer worm, which damaged Iran’s nuclear infrastructure according to reports that began to emerge in 2010.
At least four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012, engendering speculation that the killings were part of a suspected covert campaign waged by Israel against Iran’s nuclear program.
“There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity,” the unnamed official told the paper.
On July 5, The New York Times quoted “a Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode” as saying Israel had targeted Natanz using what the paper called “a powerful bomb.”
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any role in the incident.
Speaking on July 5, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country wasn’t “necessarily” behind every incident in Iran, adding that Israel’s long-standing policy is not to allow Iran access to nuclear capabilities.
Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said Israel has demonstrated the ability “to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program,” most recently in 2018 when Israeli agents are reported to have broken into a warehouse in the Iranian capital and extracted a trove of documents detailing the country’s nuclear activities.
“It is the type of operation that Israel might conduct at any time when it sees the opportunity,” Goldenberg, who previously headed an Iran team in the Office of the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told RFE/RL.
‘Perception Of Chaos’
Speaking generally and not about this specific incident, he suggested the aim of such operations might be to delay Iran’s nuclear program “as much as possible.”
“For Israelis, there is also the additional benefit of trying to create the perception of chaos at a time when the Iranian government is struggling with an economic crisis and COVID-19,” he added.
The Natanz incident comes amid a gradual backing away by Tehran from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
It has said its moves are a response to the May 2018 withdrawal from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) by U.S. President Donald Trump and the reimposition of harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Raz Zimmt, an Iran analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, suggested that the incident at Natanz could reflect Israeli concern about Iran’s expansion of its nuclear activities beyond the limit set in the nuclear deal, which Israel opposed.
“Not only that Iran still refuses to return to negotiations, but it has withdrawn from its commitments to the JCPOA shortening the breakout time considerably,” he said in a reference to the period needed to amass enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon.
“Under those circumstances, and especially considering the possibility that it would be difficult to go back to the JCPOA whether Trump wins the U.S. elections [in November] or [Democratic challenger] Joe Biden [does], Israel is back in the dilemma of either to allow Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program up to a short distance from a breakout capability or to use covert operations, or even a military option in the future, in order to delay Iran’s nuclear program,” Zimmt said.
Any sabotage targeting Natanz, if conducted by Israel, could pose a dilemma for Tehran on how to respond. Admitting an Israeli role could be interpreted as showing that Tehran was unable to prevent such an attack and would also likely suggest a need for retaliation, which could in turn prompt Israeli action.
“The reason why authorities are not ready to point their fingers at Israel is that they would then be forced to react — at least at the same level, which would be very difficult, and it would result in Israeli retaliation,” said former Iranian diplomat Hossein Alizadeh, who thinks Tehran’s “cautious” reaction appears to confirm the assessment that Natanz was targeted by a foreign power.
Speaking on July 7, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei suggested that reports claiming an Israeli role in the destruction at Natanz were part of a “psychological war” against his country.
“The Israeli regime should be aware that creating a norm-breaking narrative on any attack against our nuclear facilities, even if it is only propaganda, is considered as stepping in the path of violating red lines of global peace and security,” Rabiei was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.
That has led to speculation about a possible Israeli or U.S. effort to destabilize Iran’s clerical establishment, which is already under intense pressure due to sanctions, growing public discontent, and a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 12,000 Iranians and infected nearly 250,000, according to official figures that are thought to be a significant underreporting.
Analyst Zimmt, meanwhile, warned of the danger of speculating about connections between such events.
“It is inevitable that some of the incidents are also related to infrastructure problems due to the difficult economic situation or mismanagement,” he said.
An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.
During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”
In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.
As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.
Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.
October 4: The day of the attack
US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.
As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.
When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.
The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.
One hour later: US troops request reinforcements
An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.
Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”
Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.
Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.
“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”
Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.
“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”
That night: US soldiers evacuated
French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.
Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.
October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered
Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”
“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.
An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.
“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”
That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.
October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly
During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.
Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy
Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.
The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.
After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”
October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack
In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.
Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:
“Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
“Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
“Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
“How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
“And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”
“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.
(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)
The United States Military is good at its job and, understandably, a little cocky about it. That cockiness got the U.S. Strategic Command in hot water on New Years Eve 2018 when it posted a tweet about being able to drop something “much bigger” than the ball that drops in New York City’s Times Square every year.
In a move the House Armed Forces Committee members called “tacky,” the official Twitter account of the United States Strategic Command sent a tweet featuring a music video of B-2 bombers hitting targets during a training exercise – 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrators – also known as “bunker busters” – on a test range.
#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.
Watch to the end! @AFGlobalStrike @Whiteman_AFB #Deterrence #Assurance #CombatReadyForce#PeaceIsOurProfession… pic.twitter.com/Aw6vzzTONg
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) December 31, 2018
U.S. Strategic Command is the body that maintains and commands the United States’ nuclear arsenal. A Strategic Command spokesperson told CNN the post was intended to remind Americans that the United States military was on guard and had its priorities in order, even on a holiday like New Years Eve.
The command was later forced to apologize for the tweet, via Twitter.
The video itself was one created by airmen based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss. and is less than a minute long. According to the Aviationist, it likely wasn’t filmed recently but is one of the first videos to show a dual dropping of Massive Ordnance Penetrators.
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.
Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.
Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.
Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.
Just like the good ol’ days!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)
Going to the range
Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.
In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.
Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)
Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”
Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.
“You can eat all of that, right?”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)
Hosting massive barbecues
Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.
The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…
There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be…
Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .
Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.
But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
Wearing unapologetically American clothes
It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.
Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.
No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.”
(Photo by Jon Callas)
Blasting American musicians
As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!
Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.
If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)
So many fireworks…
Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…
If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it.
(WLKY News Louisville)
Chosing to avoid fireworks
Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.
Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.
Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.
This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.
NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
The agency announced the concepts Dec. 27, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.
“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”
The CAESAR mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history. Led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, CAESAR would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Dragonfly is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system. Elizabeth Turtle from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is the lead investigator, with APL providing project management.
The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts. NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases.
The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.
NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.
The concepts selected for technology development are:
Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH)
The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions. The principal investigator is Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and the managing NASA center is Goddard.
Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)
Led by Lori Glaze at Goddard, the VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.
The call for concepts was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous, and Venus in situ explorer.
New Frontiers Program investigations address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.
U.S. Army modernization officials defended the rapid prototyping strategy for the service’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system, even though infantry units won’t receive the new light tank until 2025.
The two companies will each build 12 prototypes so the Army can begin testing them in early 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022.
“We are excited about this opportunity,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, head of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have an aggressive schedule to take a look at these two companies as they build the prototypes.”
BAE Systems displays an early prototype of its Mobile Protected Firepower at AUSA’s meeting and exposition in Washington. Events such as this provide industry with opportunities to showcase technologies and discuss requirements for new capabilities.
(BAE Systems photo)
GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner, ST Engineering Land Systems Ltd., but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.
Service officials lauded the contract awards as a major step forward in streamlining Army acquisition and said they plan to use the rapid prototyping approach as a model for future programs.
But even if the Army in 2022 selects one of the companies to build production MPF systems, it likely will take another three years before the service will field the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks to infantry brigade combat teams.
Army officials said it would take longer to field the MPF if they hadn’t used what’s known as “Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping (Section 804)” contracts, an acquisition tool designed to streamline testing and development of prototypes.
The process is quicker than other acquisition procedures in that the MPF program will not use time-consuming preliminary and critical design reviews to ensure that platforms meet requirements, Army officials explained.
“For a new system, [going through that process] could add as much as a year-and-a-half to two years onto the whole cycle,” said David Dopp, Mobile Protected Firepower program manager, adding that the Army is pleased it will take just 14 months for GDLS and BAE to produce the 12 prototypes each.
“Fourteen months is very challenging. I don’t think you can find another program that ever got prototypes in 14 months,” he said. “When you build these vehicles and you put them together, [sometimes] they don’t work, or if they do work, we take them out and test them, and there are things that happen, and we need that time to prove it out.”
A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.
(General Dynamics photo)
Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said the Army will use the 14 months to get a headstart on figuring out how infantry units will utilize the MPF to destroy enemy bunkers and other hardened battlefield positions.
“Right now, we are doing experiments and tactical training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with vehicles that have a similar profile of the Mobile Protective Firepower to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for the light forces to work with mechanized vehicles in the close fight,” he said.
The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform for light infantry forces equipped with a cannon powerful enough to destroy hardened targets.
In the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp ran a tight ship at home. He also ran a tight ship at sea, commanding two U-Boats for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. By the war’s end, he was the most decorated naval officer in Austria-Hungary.
Looking at the life and family of Captain Baron Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp through the lens of the Sound of Music alone, you’d never know this man spent WWI on a u-boat that spewed poisonous fumes to its crew or that he sank tons of allied shipping in the Mediterranean — killed hundreds of enemy sailors — and was basically the best thing Austria-Hungary had going for it.
Aside from the 14 ships sank and one captured during his World War I service, he led Austria’s troops during the Boxer Rebellion in China, circumnavigated the globe twice, and saw his navy switch from sails to steam to diesel engines over the course of his career. At the war’s end in 1918, von Trapp’s record stood at 19 war patrols taking 11 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk, two enemy warships sunk, and one captured.
U-5 was just 100 feet long but packed a terrible punch, with just a crew of 19 and four torpedoes.
Command of U-5
Captain von Trapp conducted nine combat patrols in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and most of them were full of action. He got his first kill just two weeks after taking command of U-5, sinking the French cruiser Leon Gambetta off the coast of Italy. 12,000 tons and 684 sailors went to the bottom. Four months later, he sank the Italian submarine Nereide.
For his command during the sinking of the Leon Gambetta, von Trapp was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Austria’s highest military award.
U-14 in the Adriatic.
Command of U-14
His next command was a reclaimed French submarine that was upgraded and modernized. He was the bane of British and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean, sinking 11 more enemy vessels. He earned a knighthood and then became a Baron for his service in Austria’s navy for his actions in World War I.
That’s one helluva way to start a naval career.
Training, Circumnavigation, and China service
He trained in the Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy through the Maritime-Academy at Fiume in what is today Croatia, starting his career on sailing ships, going around the earth on the corvette SMS Saida II. He returned to Austria and joined the crew of the SMS Zenta, an iron steamship, in 1897. By 1899, the crew of the Zenta was fully engaged in China, part of the eight-nation alliance sent to relieve the foreign legation in Peking from the siege of the Chinese Boxers.
Georg was one of the seamen detached to the alliance to take one of the Taku Forts. The Austrian helped assault Fort Pei Tang with 8500 others in the multinational force. Many were killed in the bloody fighting but the allies took the fort and went on to relieve the legation in Peking.
Unfortunately for Capt. von Trapp, World War I did not end well for Austria-Hungary and he soon found himself out of a job, seeing as how the new Austria was landlocked and had no use for a Navy – and he was no about to become a Nazi just to command a ship. So he trained his children to perform and took them on tour, eventually settling down and starting the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.
After World War II, he founded Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. to help aid the recovery of Austria and Austrians from the war’s devastation.
Russia deployed two Su-57 advanced fighter jets to Syria in a move widely seen as a marketing ploy for the troubled plane that’s struggled to attract international investment, but they recently hinted at another purpose behind the deployment.
The Times of Israel reports that Russia gave a “covert warning” to the Jewish state by saying the Su-57 will serve as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states, which periodically fly into Syrian airspace uninvited.”
The veiled warning comes after Israel and Syria had a heated air battle with Syrian air defenses downing an Israeli F-16. Israel said that it took out half of Syria’s air defenses in return.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Ronan Bergman reported that Israel planned a larger response to Syria’s downing of their jet, if not for a “furious phone call” between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s ally, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But whatever the two heads of state said on the phone, it’s unlikely the Su-57 had anything to do with it. The Su-57, as it is today, doesn’t pose a threat to Western fighters despite being Russia’s newest and most advanced fighter jet. It awaits a pair of new engines and has significant problems flying and releasing bombs at supersonic speeds.
“I don’t think anyone is too worried about a kinetic threat from Su-57s over Syria in its current state,” Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Bronk pointed to problems with the Su-57 integrating its radar into data the pilot can actually use in the cockpit, and difficulties in getting the jet to drop bombs properly, calling it “far from combat ready.”
Though the Su-57’s advanced and “innovative” radar set up could pose a threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22, also operating in Syria, by scoping out its radar signatures and helping inform future battle plans, it’s just not ready for a fight with Israel, the US, or even Turkey.
A commercial for a struggling Russian military export?
Another Russian official gave Russian media an additional reason for the Su-57’s presence in Syria that seemed to confirm Western analysis that the deployment is a marketing ploy and test run for the unproven jet.
The official said the jet had a “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.”
Yet another Russian official said in Russian media that “as we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” which have included very advanced systems like submarine-launched cruise missiles designed for high-end warfighting.
But as Bronk pointed out, “the only declared combat which the Russian air contingent in Syria is engaged in is bombing rebel and Daesh forces in support of Assad’s ground forces,” which he added was “hardly relevant for the air-superiority optimized Su-57.”
Essentially, all Russia’s air force does in Syria is bomb rebel ground targets. In years of fighting, the bombings have only demonstrated one occasion that the target had anti-air defenses. On that one occasion, the rebels downed a Russian Su-25.
As a result, Bronk said the Su-57s “will no doubt fly above 15,000 feet to avoid” those missiles, meaning the new Russian jet won’t really be flying in combat conditions, only bombing defenseless targets.
Not really in combat, not really a threat
So, why do they need a next-generation, stealth fighter built to dogfight with US F-22s and F-35s that isn’t ready for combat yet? Bronk said the bombing campaign in Syria is “absolutely not the mission set [the Su-57s] are designed for.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now the Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies, told Business Insider that it’s a chance for Russia to test out its new jet where they “don’t have to pay for training ranges,” and concurred with Bronk’s assessment that the plane is not yet able to fully fight.
While Russia may have found a frugal way to boost the profile of an airplane they’re desperate to sell by testing it out in Syria’s almost eight-year-long civil war, nobody familiar with the state of the plane would take it seriously as an air-to-air threat.
Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. For retired commander Jack Schwartz, that seems to be the case.
The 22-year navy Veteran spent 1,367 days in captivity as a prisoner of war during World War II. He turned 103 years old April 28, 2018.
For Schwartz, it all started just three days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 10, 1941, he was a navy lieutenant junior grade stationed in Guam as a civil engineer responsible for the water supply, roads, the breakwater and some construction.
“We only had 100 marines on the island – about 400 of us total, to include those who worked at the naval hospital,” Schwartz said. “And there were about 4 or 5,000 Japanese soldiers. They sank one of our ships, a mine sweeper, and nine sailors were killed.”
“We didn’t put up much of a fight.”
Schwartz said he was held by the Japanese there in Guam for about 30 days.
“There was plenty of food on Guam, but they deliberately starved us to make us weak,” he said.
After 30 days, they were transported by ship – all 400 U.S. POWs to include Schwartz – to Shikoku Island in Japan. They stayed there for about eight months, in some old barracks left over from the Japanese war with Russia, before being moved again.
The next place Schwartz was sent to was Kawasaki, between Tokyo and Yokohama. There were already POW camps and prisoners there when Schwartz including U.S. service members captured in the Philippines and from U.S. ships.
More than 300 prisoners were there, but just a few were officers, he said.
“I was the senior U.S. officer there so they put me in charge of the camp,” Schwartz said. “As a prisoner, I had absolutely no authority to do anything, but if anything went wrong it was my fault.”
“Every month or two I got a beating by the Japanese guards – nothing too serious – just to show me they’re in charge.”
After two years, Schwartz said he was sent back to Shikoku Island to the same POW camp he was at previously.
“This was a camp for officers – not just U.S. but English and Dutch. This was where the Japanese would invite the Red Cross to show how nice the conditions were,” Schwartz said. Schwartz would be separated, segregated and moved several times before the Japanese finally surrendered to the Allies on Aug. 14, 1945.
“The day the war with Japan was over, a Japanese officer lined us up outside and told us hostilities have ceased,” Schwartz said. He and the other Japanese officers and guards just walked away.
They made a big sign in white paint on the roof that read POW. After a couple of weeks, a U.S. B-29 bomber spotted us, and a few hours later they started dropping parachutes full of food. “Naturally we all started stuffing ourselves and got sick.”
Upon release – after being held POW for 3.75 years – Schwartz made the decision he would not end his career with the Navy and instead, he continued serve for another 18 years.
The Caltech graduate – who was born in San Francisco but moved to Hollywood with his parents at an early age – would eventually retire from the Navy with honors and distinction and move to Hanford, Calif., in 1962. He then worked for 18 years as Hanford’s Public Works Director and city Engineer before retiring a second time.
Schwartz said he now receives his medical care from the VA Central California Health Care System and is treated very well. “I still remember my first doctor there at the VA, Dr. Ron Naggar. And Dr. Ivance Pugoy is one of my current doctors,” Schwartz said. “You get a feeling they actually care. They make you feel like you are not just a name. You are a person. They do an excellent job for all the POWs,” he said.
Schwartz and several of his fellow POWs from the Central Valley were honored April 9 at VA Central California as part of National Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day.
International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.
Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.
The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.
The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.
“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)
The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)
Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.
Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.
The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.
Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.
Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Molaro is the Co-Founder/CEO of NeuroFlow. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.
I wish I could’ve saved my soldiers.
I was 22 years old when I became a platoon leader overseeing and taking care of 40 soldiers in combat in 2010. At the time, I had only done one tour — 12 months — in Iraq. But many of my soldiers had served four or five tours and had seen much more than I had.
Our job was to drive up and down the International Highway, which connected Kuwait to Iraq, and build relationships with local Iraqi police and sheiks. But we also had to check for improvised explosives, or IEDs.
We didn’t get all of them. In one case, before heading out on a mission, a U.S. envoy truck came careening into our base, half blown to hell and torn to shreds. In the back: three dead bodies. We had missed an IED.
There’s a lot of guilt in seeing something like that, and it can lead to a major symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder called survivor’s remorse. There is a wear on the brain and the body that goes into being in the military, especially for those deployed.
But were you ever to suggest talking to a therapist, you’d be hard-pressed to find many service members who would take you up on it. In the military, getting mental health treatment is viewed as a weakness — which, besides the negative stigma, is just plain wrong. There were soldiers who’d give therapy a try, only to leave after a single session and say, “I don’t feel better. I need to get back to the unit. I need to help out. This is an hour out of my time when I could be spending that with my family.”
And within a few years, there were people in my unit who had attempted suicide. It’s been seven years since I left Iraq, and in that time we’ve lost two people who were in my unit, one of whom I directly oversaw.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Molaro)
As a platoon leader, I viewed it as my responsibility to take care of our soldiers beyond getting the mission done. But with the news of the suicides came a sense that I had failed as their leader. It was my responsibility to take care of these guys, just like they took care of us.
After I retired from the military in 2015, I went to business school in Philadelphia. It had become my mission to find out how I could make our soldiers know that therapy could actually work for them, if only they would stick with it. Just as you wouldn’t return to your normal, daily routine after breaking an arm and undergoing one session with a physical therapist, neither should you expect to be fully recuperated after one session with a mental health professional.
But, I soon realized, to get soldiers into therapy and keep them there, they needed to see — physically, with their own eyes — the progress they were making.
I read up on research that showed how you can use EEG technology, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to also measure one’s emotions. That was when a light bulb just went off, like, “Holy shit, you could make mental health as black and white as a broken arm.”
That meant therapists could measure and track the progress of patients, objectively. And by doing so, they could fight that negative stigma and give people more hope.
So I developed NeuroFlow. The idea is simple: Give therapists a technology that uses basic and affordable medical supplies, like EEGs or heart rate monitors, to examine the health of their clients. That way, patients could see how their heart races — literally — in real time as they talk about something traumatic. And then, over the course of their sessions, they would be able to see their heart rate slow down and return to a more relaxed state as they healed.
This is my new mission: helping the veteran community. With 20 vets killing themselves in the U.S. every day, there is still a lot of work to be done. So I can’t quite say my mission is complete … yet.
This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwell on Twitter.