The former top American commander in South Korea on Thursday said the Trump administration must be ready to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea before it tests a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
“I don’t think any talking, any diplomacy, is going to convince Kim Jong-un to change,” retired Army Gen. Walter Sharp said of the North Korean leader in suggesting the possibility of a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the nuclear threat.
Should North Korea put a missile such as the three-stage Taepodong 2 on the launchpad, and the U.S. was unsure whether it carried a satellite or a nuclear warhead, the missile should be destroyed, said Sharp, the former commander of U..S. Forces-Korea and the United Nations Command from 2008 to 2011.
The U.S. also must be ready to respond with overwhelming force if North Korea retaliated, Sharp said. “If [Kim] responds back after we take one of these missiles out,” he should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear,” Sharp said.
“I think we’re to that point that we need to have that capability. I am to that point,” he said, adding that the U.S. could not risk relying solely on anti-missile defenses to counter North Korean long-range missiles.
Sharp spoke at a panel discussion on challenges from North Korea at an all-day forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on the national security issues that will confront President-elect Donald Trump.
Others on the panel, while sharing Sharp’s concerns about the North Korean nuclear threat, worried about the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike. Despite North Korea’s nuclear tests, “there is potential in diplomacy,” said Christine Wormuth, the former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.
“I’m concerned about pre-emptive action on the launchpad,” Wormuth said. “What does Kim Jong-un do in response? I worry quite a bit about our ability to sort of manage a potential retaliation.”
During the campaign, Trump called Kim Jong-un a “bad dude” and a “maniac,” but also said he might be willing to meet with Kim over a hamburger to defuse tensions on the peninsula.
The panel discussion came a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its export revenues. The latest sanctions were in response to the country’s fifth and largest underground nuclear weapons test, which occurred in September.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s exports of coal — its main export item — by about 60 percent and also imposed a ban on its export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the sanctions would cost North Korea about $800 million annually.
“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this resolution imposes unprecedented costs,” she said.
In a statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the sanctions would have no effect on the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
“There will be no greater miscalculation than to think that Obama and his henchmen can use the cowardly sanctions racket to try to force us to give up our nuclear armament policy or undermine our nuclear power status,” the statement said.
The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.
Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.
Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.
He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.
“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”
By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.
That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.
When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.
It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.
The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.
The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.
It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.
Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.
Fisher Houses were born.
The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.
“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”
Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.
Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.
Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.
Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.
When faced with trauma in a hospital emergency department, nurses have a myriad of tools and resources available to tackle whatever challenges come their way. But imagine being faced with a situation as the only lifesaver at the scene of a horrific accident in a remote location, dealing with 10 patients and a lack of necessary equipment. Add a language barrier, cultural sensitivities, and sweltering heat and even the most experienced nurse can be challenged.
On the afternoon of June 20, an SUV traveling a lonely stretch of highway between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah, experienced a sudden tire blow-out, overturning and flipping off the road. The event threw several passengers from the vehicle and trapped others inside.
Maria VanHart, a VASNHS emergency department nurse, was heading home to Utah after her shift at the North Las Vegas Medical Center. Nearly 30 minutes into her commute, she happened upon the single-vehicle accident. While a few onlookers had stopped to assist the victims, none of them were trained to manage the scene.
VanHart assessed the situation, and then quickly acted. “I did what I was trained to do,” she said. “I didn’t panic… just immediately did what needed to be done.”
10-year-old was her translator
One of VanHart’ s first challenges was communicating with the victims. She soon learned that the family had travelled to the United States from Syria for a wedding. Of the 10 passengers, only a 10-year-old boy was able to speak English. “He was walking around with some minor bumps and bruises, but overall looked OK,” said VanHart. He would serve as translator for all her patient care questions. “The first thing I told him was ‘I need you to show me everyone who was in the vehicle.'”
The driver of the vehicle was the father, who had suffered only minor bruises. An older teenage girl holding a baby were walking around the scene, both seemingly unscathed. The boy’s immediate concern was for his brother, a 14-year-old who was trapped inside the overturned vehicle.
“He was not breathing and (based on his condition) I knew immediately that he was dead.”
VanHart quickly turned her attention to others who needed immediate care. The mother of the family was thrown from the vehicle during the accident and was laying 10 feet behind the wreckage. VanHart concluded that she had suffered a severe pelvic injury and had potential internal bleeding.
Needed helicopter for mother and infant
At the front of the vehicle were two more victims on the ground: a boy in his late teens who had a broken leg and an infant girl who didn’t initially appear to have any injuries. While bystanders told VanHart that the infant was fine, she wanted to examine her just in case. “When I did my assessment on her, I could see some facial bruising, agonal breathing, and one of her pupils was blown, so I knew she had a head injury. She may have been having some seizure activity because her eyes were fluttering. She and the mother needed to be flown to a hospital immediately.”
Soon after, the Moapa Police Department arrived on site. “The scene was very active,” said Officer Alex Cruz. “Between attempting to stop traffic, rendering first aid and requesting additional units, it was hectic to say the least. Maria was calm and knew what she was doing. She was directing people on what to do while rendering aid herself. She was like an orchestra conductor.”
Based on the severity of the victim’s injuries, VanHart asked Cruz to request immediate evacuation. “I trusted her expertise and ended calling three helicopters and four ambulances due to her triaging the scene,” he said. “You could tell that she knew what she was doing and there was no time to question her capabilities.”
Calming Syrian father with familiar greeting
Another challenge facing the responders was more difficult to navigate. When paramedics removed the clothing from the woman who VanHart believed suffered internal injuries, her husband became enraged. “I know that as a Muslim, he believed it was inappropriate for men to see his wife without clothing,” VanHart said. “He was still in shock and needed someone to understand him, so I did my best to do that.”
After years of working with doctors of various nationalities, VanHart has picked up phrases in many languages. “One of the things that I learned from working with doctors from the Middle East was a common greeting, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you,'” she said. “So, I sat with the husband and I told him that and he seemed to calm down.'”
Her own emotional crash
After the helicopters were loaded with patients and VanHart had briefed the receiving medical teams at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, she finally took a step back and realized what had happened. She had been on the scene for two hours in 105-degree heat and was exhausted. “When the adrenaline goes away, there’s a crash. It’s an emotional and physical crash. I was dehydrated and physically shaky afterwards. I sat down, drank some water and called my friends for reassurance.”
Breast cancer survivor
VanHart is a breast cancer survivor. She also had lost most of her family to illness at a young age and is married to the former head of a hospital’s trauma nursing department. Health care has always played a big role in her life.
VanHart has a unique philosophy when it comes to assessing her work:
“At the end of the day, there are two things that let me know if I have done my job that day. One is ‘what was my patient-to-hug ratio?’ And the other one is ‘had my mother been the last person I had cared for, would I have done anything differently?’ Everyone out there is someone’s parent or child and they all deserve to be cared for as if they were my own.”
In the photo above, VanHart provides care to a Veteran at the North Las Vegas Medical Center.
Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.
5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies
Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.
On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.
Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.
3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors
When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.
Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.
The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.
2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm
The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.
The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.
1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal
Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.
The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.
Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.
He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. As a result, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of its range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 Weapons Upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.
After US-backed Kurdish and Syrian forces defeated ISIS in the terror group’s final Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, tweeted a picture of its fighters surrendering en masse.
“#ISIS lost nearly 6000 terrorists in #Raqqa, then surrendered in large numbers. Once purported as fierce, now pathetic and a lost cause,” tweeted McGurk.
McGurk’s photo comes after other reports of mass surrenders of ISIS fighters as the terror group loses wide swaths of territory and changes tactics to allow surrender. Previously, ISIS had leaned heavily on its members’ willingness to die for the cause.
With the liberation of Raqqa, ISIS now controls only a small area of mostly desert towns along the Syrian and Iraqi border. Local militias, governments, and a US-led coalition of 67 nations have led a ground and air offensive to erode the group’s territory since its inception in 2014.
While many a fraction of E. Bruce Heilman’s age would be looking to pump the breaks, this 89-year-old USMC vet is still going full throttle — literally. In fact, while you’re reading this, there’s a good chance he is rolling along an open highway riding his Ultra Classic Electra Glide Patriot Edition Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Heilman was born and raised on a farm in Smithfield, Kentucky. At age 17, he left high school for boot camp in 1944, there he became the highest scorer on the Rifle Range in his platoon and one of the top three out of 600.
“I was the youngest and the smallest,” he said once in an interview. “But I had the best eye.”
His skills landed him in the Radio Gunnery School in Memphis’s Naval Air Training Center while many members of his platoon were fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Shortly thereafter, he would arrive at the shores of Okinawa. His bio on the website Spirit of ’45 describes that day:
He had his steak and egg breakfast, went down the rope ladder into a landing boat, and landed on the beach with all of the anticipation of a first time green Marine anxious to get into battle, but uncertain as to the outcome.
He would come out alive.
He managed to walk away from that brutal battle responsible for 82,000 casualties of all kinds. His unit also evaded a planned invasion of Japan (the war ended), and Heilman even survived an airplane accident over Iwo Jima while transporting intelligence personnel months after the war.
While he has been awarded many medals that are indeed a testament to his own courage (Asiatic Pacific Medal with Battle Star, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Japanese Occupation Medal, Badge of Honor of the Republic), he has gone great lengths, literally, in his own unique way, to commemorate the courage of those who did not make it back. In a distinctive humility not uncommon among the dwindling population of the ‘Greatest Generation’ Heilman said: “We all expected to die there. Some gave all, they are the heroes.”
Now he rides to honor those heroes. In 2015, he logged over 6,000 miles riding his Harley across the United States to salute those brave souls he fought beside in Okinawa.
On April 30th, Dr. Heilman began another self-funded cross-country trip. This time, his mission is to raise public awareness about the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He is riding in honor of the 2,000 who died that day, and will travel through several states that had namesakes in the Harbor that were hit by bombs and torpedoes and lost crew members during the attack.
While he travels far and wide, it is clear what his heart truly holds close: his fallen brothers in arms. At the writing of this article, he has traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He will wrap up his tour on Memorial Day in Washington, DC.
He has been self-funding this tour. To help him defray costs, you can donate to Spirit of ’45 – indicate “Heilman’s Harley Ride” in the designation box.
You can catch Heilman and his Harley at the following places between now and Memorial Day:
May 8 – San Pedro, CA (USS Iowa)
May 9 – Silicon Valley, CA
May 10 – Santa Clara, CA
May 11 – Oakland, CA (USS Potomac)
May 12 – Sacramento, CA (Floor of the California assembly)
May 13 – Elko, NV
May 14 – Salt Lake City, UT
May 15 – Rawlins, WY
May 16 – North Platte, NE
May 17 – Omaha, NE
May 18 – Des Moines, IA
May 19 – Rest day
May 20 – Des Moines, IA (Meeting with Governor Terry Branstad)
May 21 – Indianapolis, IN (American Legion National Headquarters)
May 22 – Cincinnati, OH
May 23 – Charleston, WV (Meeting with Woody Wilson)
May 25 – Richmond, VA (Virginia Veteran’s Memorial)
May 27 – Fairfax, VA (American Legion Gold Star Families BBQ)
May 28 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)
May 29 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)
May 30 – Washington, DC (Spirit of ’45 Memorial Day of Service and Parade)
(For more details on exact locations and photos from prior stops, visit Spirit of 45.)
The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.
Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.
“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.
This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.
Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.
As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.
“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.
Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.
Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.
“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.
Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.
For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.
Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.
Air Force Navy Robotics
The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.
In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.
These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.
The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.
Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.
At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.
When asked about the recent resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Defense Secretary James Mattis sounded unmoved about Flynn’s departure.
“Here’s the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. I’m brought in to be the secretary of defense. I give the president advice on the use of military force,” he said, according to Yahoo News Washington correspondent Olivier Knox.
“I maintain good relations, strong relations … and so military-to-military relations with other ministries of defense around the world,” he added.
“And frankly, this has no impact. Obviously, I haven’t changed what I’m heading there for. It doesn’t change my message at all. And who’s on the president’s staff is who I will work with.”
Mattis spoke after arriving in Brussels for a NATO meeting. Speaking with the press upon his arrival, he was reluctant to take many questions about Flynn resignation, according to Washington Post correspondent Dan Lamothe.
Flynn and Mattis have a history.
From August 2010 to March 2013, Mattis, then a Marine general, led an investigation into unauthorized disclosures of classified information allegedly made by Flynn, who was then a lieutenant general in the US Army.
The investigation found Flynn shared “classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan without proper authorization,” according to a Washington Post report late last year. Sources told The Post the secrets were about CIA operations in Afghanistan.
Flynn was not disciplined for the incident, however, since the disclosures were not “done knowingly” and not damaging to national security.
After the investigation, Flynn was assigned to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 2011. However, he was forced out of that role in early 2014, reportedly due to mismanagement.
In November, NBC News reported that Flynn personally crossed Mattis’ name off a list of candidates for national-security positions in the Trump administration.
The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.
Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.
The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.
The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.
Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.
NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.
A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”
The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.
The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”
The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.
Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.
Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.
Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.
Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”
He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.
In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.
Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.
NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.
The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”
During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.
Now that the fight against ISIS is subsiding, the anti-Israel terrorist group Hezbollah is back to preparing for war with its longtime enemy, Israel. The two haven’t been in a protracted fight since their war in 2006 which only ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Since then, tensions have always been high, but the attention on fighting ISIS took the bulk of Hezbollah’s power from the Lebanon-Israel border to the battlefields in Syria.
Now it seems like everything is getting back to “normal.”
Which pretty much means Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for Hezbollah rocket attacks.
When Hezbollah refocused its efforts to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt Hezbollah supply lines to its age-old battlefront in Lebanon. The Israeli Defence Forces have also taken the lull in fighting to train against the likelihood of renewed hostility once the threat to the Asad regime has passed and the Iran-linked militia returns to its power base in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. In 2016, Israeli troops were training on brigade levels for massive exercises designed against Hezbollah forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to hit Hezbollah where they live – Lebanon – but just ordered IDF fighters to strike Hezbollah targets in Syria in August of 2019. That target was allegedly preparing a killer drone attack for use on the Jewish State. The IDF airstrike killed two Hezbollah militiamen. Israel has also accused the militia of building factories of missiles, some 40- to 150-thousand, and missile sites in Lebanon, sites it has vowed to take out.
Israeli soldiers with captured Hezbollah and Lebanese flags during the 2006 war.
The problem with an Israeli first strike on missile factories is that much of Hezbollah’s missile force is already deployed in the Bekaa Valley – with hundreds of missiles pointed right at Israel. While the Israelis are targeting Hezbollah and other Iran-backed leaders in Iraq and Syria, anti-Israel militants who were once united to fight ISIS are turning their sights on the Jewish State. For its part, Hezbollah fired missiles at an Israeli military installation in Northern Israel, which it says killed many Israeli soldiers. Israel denies any casualties from those attacks. In Hezbollah, Iran has created one of the most effective non-state fighting forces ever assembled.
None of this means there have been no incidents since the last war. The Shiite Muslim militia hit a series of targets in Syria and now in Lebanon, killing two IDF soldiers. The ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, with Israel adopting a wait and see stance before its next move.
Haifa, Israel was hit by Russian-built Katyusha rockets fired from southern Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 Lebanon War.
Another war in Lebanon would not necessarily lead to a dramatic or decisive win for the Israeli Forces. Fierce fighting in the 2006 war prompted a gasp of responses from the outside world while Israel was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in the face of a barrage of Hezbollah missile attacks and fierce guerrilla tactics. It can only be assumed that Israel has adapted to the tactic but the only real way to determine its success would be a literal trial by fire.
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Feb. 27, 2019, tweeted a 40-minute-long livestream on Periscope about the government’s carnival preparations as the country further spirals into crisis.
Carnival — or “Carnaval” as known in Venezuela — is a big celebration celebrated before Lent every year, in which people dress up in costumes, dance, and attend parades with floats.
Maduro’s video came after a weekend of violent clashes when state forces barred activists from bringing in aid through the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro discussed plans for Venezuela’s upcoming Carnaval celebrations while the country continues to crumble.
Police fired tear gas and pellets on protesters, killing at least two and injuring at least 300, The Associated Press (AP) reported. More than 300 Venezuelan soldiers defected and fled to Colombia after the unrest, the AP added.
But in his lengthy stream, Maduro primarily focused on his plans for a “safe carnival” in 2019. The video showed Venezuelans in costumes dancing and celebrating, as the president calls on ministers, governors and mayors to explain how the government will ensure smooth festivities.
Maduro then mused about cute children in costumes before announcing that he will also dress up and join the celebration.
The leader is often criticized for organizing big celebrations and performances, like salsa dancing, as a distraction from the humanitarian and economic crisis plaguing the nation.
Feb. 23, 2019, he was slammed for dancing at a concert while government forces blocked the entry of food and medicine at the borders.
Maduro addressed his critics in his Feb. 27, 2019, livestream, saying: “The imperialists were mad that I was dancing. We [Venezuelans] always dance because we are a happy people and this is a revolution of joy.”
The video also showed images of pro-government rallies, with Maduro saying that the majority of Venezuelans oppose international intervention.
Maduro and his allies around the world — like Russia, China, and Syria — have opposed foreign support for his opponent Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim government in January 2019.
Maduro also mocked Guaidó’s slogan while discussing Carnaval plans. “Vamos bien,” he said — Spanish for “we are making progress.”
Venezuelan “interim president” Juan Guaidó.
Guaidó is currently exiled in Colombia, and has met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the Lima Group, a regional bloc established to end the Venezuelan crisis.
Guaidó told his supporters via video on Feb. 26, 2019, that he is currently planning his return to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to mobilize his supporters. The exact date of his arrival and next steps will be made public in the coming days, he added.
He said he refuses “this compromise of having to fight from abroad,” referring to Colombia, and said that Maduro is “alone and desperate.”
Guaidó also posted an audio message, urging his supporters to keep mobilizing and and announcing unspecified actions to garner support from military and government workers.