The American commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidently struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces and nearly bombed U.S. troops who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants.
U.S. Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said on March 1 that Russian planes likely thought they were bombing IS positions in villages near Al-Bab to the northeast of Aleppo.
He said the confusion came amid “a very complicated battlefield situation where essentially three armies and an enemy force have all converged” within the same 1-kilometer area.
Townshend said U.S. military advisers were about four kilometers from the February 28 air strike and used “deconfliction channels” set up for communication between Russia and the United States to warn the Russian pilots off.
He said the information quickly reached the pilots, who then ended the bombing.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said “neither Syrian nor Russian aviation delivered strikes against areas designated by the U.S. side” as locations of pro-U.S. opposition forces.
Townshend said he believes the Russians thought they were attacking IS positions in the village. But he said IS fighters had withdrawn before the bombing, and opposition fighters from the so-called Syrian Arab Coalition had moved in.
“Raven 08, Deci Tower, cleared for take-off, wind calm.”
I’m in the backseat of a Tornado IDS belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi, currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, for the yearly training activity in the Sardinian firing ranges. The words of the controller, that I can hear quite clearly before the noise will spread through the cockpit making all the subsequent communications barely readable, have a double meaning to me: first, they give the “go ahead” to the most exciting part of my flight in a Tornado (the very first one on this kind of aircraft); second, they mark the end of the long and delicate stage of the jet flight preparation; a preparation that determines either the success or failure of the sortie from the journalistic point of view.
Italian aircraft IDS Tornado flies over a live fire range in exercise Eager Centaur II in an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, March 14, 2016. Eager Centaur II is conducted to complete initial joint terminal attack controller training and exercise the SPMAGTF-CR-CC Fire Support Coordination Center, to include combined arms live-fire tactics, techniques, and procedures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake)
A flight in a jet usually lasts between 45 and 110 minutes (longer if it includes aerial refueling, but it’s not the case): in my case, fully exploiting the (short) time available to “observe” a mission from the inside and collect all the photos and video material for both aviation magazines, this blog and its connected social networks, is paramount. A flight in a combat aircraft represents an almost unique opportunity and it is important to make the most out of it. If something in the backseat goes wrong, if a camera body fails or a lens proves to be unsuitable for the photo session, there will hardly be a second chance. In about 20 years I’ve had this opportunity quite a few times, hence here are a few suggestions based on my little (if compared to others) experience in a combat aircraft. If you are going to fly in a fast jet for the first time, because you were invited or simply because you’ve paid for a ride, maybe the following few tips will help you maximize your experience.
Even though the thrill of flying in a jet fighter is always the same, learning from the past mistakes as well as the experience gained over the years, have been pivotal to perfecting the preparation of the mission so as to minimize the risk that something unexpected can jeopardize the reportage’s success. For example, during one of my first jet flights, to have a back-up in case of problems with the main camera, I decided to put a compact camera in one of the pockets of the flight suit, the one located more or less over the right’s lower leg. Fortunately, I did not need it. In fact, I hadn’t taken into account that the anti-G suit, dressed over the normal flight suit, would have made the “emergency” camera inaccessible during the flight! Since then, I only use the pockets of the anti-G pants for all those small accessories I might need in the cockpit.
With regard to the flight gear, in addition to my mask, I always try to use my own helmet, which is also easily recognizable by the bright yellow-green checkerboard on the cover. However, this is not always possible: for instance, in the case of the Eurofighter, the aircrews have to use the specific flight equipment designed for the Typhoon flight line which differs from that used on any other Italian Air Force aircraft and includes, among the other things, a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) helmet and an EFA / ACS mask. For my flight in the Tornado, I had to use to an HGU-55G helmet, with the characteristic 154th squadron’s “red devil” symbol painted on the cover, that I was lent by the unit.
Back to the preparation of the mission, once the flight gear’s check and fitting have been completed, I think the most important thing is the inspection of the rear cockpit of the aircraft: it is essential to know how to “move” in the backseat, where to attach the GoPro so that it is both stable and reachable (to modify some settings or move it), evaluate the size of any storage compartment to see if it can be used to accommodate a camera body or lens. In fact, digital cameras have greatly simplified life in a jet: when I was still using color slide films I needed to change the rolls several times during the flight. This forced me to continuously estimate the number of photographs I could take so that I didn’t run out of shots during a maneuver: in order to replace the finished roll with a new one, it was necessary to remove the gloves, be more or less stable (that is, in level flight) and have the time to safely remove and store the used roll before inserting a new one; an operation that would take just a few seconds in other conditions but, performed in a very narrow space, strapped into the ejection seat, wearing the heavy helmet, the mask, the Secumar, etc., was, especially at the beginning, quite challenging. With the advent of digital photography, this problem has been solved.
Returning to the preparation of the flight, once understood how to move (or not move) in the rear cockpit, it is important to discuss with the crews that will take part in the mission and determine which phases of the missions will be suitable for some aerial shots. Although I have had the opportunity to arrange “pure” air-to-air photo sessions, I usually prefer to take part in missions that bring me in the aircraft’s operational environment: I am a journalist and I find it much more interesting for my readers (and for myself) to see and recount the mission from a privileged point of view, focusing on both the tactical aspects of the flight and the technical details of the employed weapon systems. This means that the time available for photography is normally reduced to about ten minutes: during the transition to the operating zone or during the RTB (Return To Base) phase.
Obviously, a sortie with well-defined operational goals leaves little room for aerobatics or formations flying in favor of light: if you are part of a 3-ship that is acting as “Red Air” in a 4 vs 3 supersonic training mission, as in my flight in the Eurofighter, the aircraft will fly towards the operational area in fighting wing, with a significant spacing from one another, and the time for close formation will be reduced to a few minutes. However, as I have already explained, I prefer a few clicks from a realistic operational situation rather than taking part in a sortie that is particularly cool from a photographic point of view, but “poor” from the operational one. Generally, “how to arrange the aircraft” and “when to take photographs” are topics discussed with the aircrews during the briefing and reviewed, if necessary, during the flight, asking the pilot in the front seat to assume a specific attitude so as to obtain a particular shot.
Dealing with the photographic equipment, in addition to the GoPro and camera, I bring with me what I need inside a large removable pocket that comes with velcro to be attached to the anti-G at the thigh: here is where I put spare batteries or extra lenses, like fisheye and zoom for the iPhone, used to take short videos or photos that complement the work of the DSLR camera. As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle. From 1999 to today, I have carried several camera bodies with me, but the lens I prefer in the back seat is almost always the Canon 28-135 USM, an extremely reliable, versatile and lightweight lens, more than adequate for my needs. If you do not have hundreds of flights under your belt, photographing air-to-air from the cockpit of a military aircraft is not an easy task: properly framing the other jets during some maneuvers requires some physical effort (the camera is subject to the same accelerations as aircraft meaning that in a 5 g turn the camera weighs five times its weight on the ground …) and gives very nauseous feelings, too. Luckily, I have never needed it, but I always bring a bag for nausea in the anti-G pocket; I also drink a lot of water and limit carbohydrates, alcohol, or spicy foods ahead of flying. Anyway, pro photographers, with hundreds if not thousands of flight hours in fast jets, such as Katsuhiko “Katsu” Tokunaga, Jamie Hunter, or Frank Crebas (to name but few), may provide much more expert advice about air-to-air photography and related tips and tricks.
The opportunity to fly in a high-performance aircraft every now and then has given me some exciting and long-lasting memories: the formation aerobatics with the TF-104, the BBQ (Ultra-low level flying) with AMX, the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) sortie with the T-346A or the supersonic BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception flown as Aggressor with the Eurofighter.
San Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.
But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.
But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”
The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.
The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.
This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.
‘A successful biological warfare attack’
It all began in late September 1950, when over a few days, a Navy vessel used giant hoses to spray a fog of two kinds of bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii — both believed at the time to be harmless — out into the fog, where they disappeared and spread over the city.
“It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas,” concluded a later-declassified military report, cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Successful indeed, according to Leonard Cole, the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. His book, “Clouds of Secrecy,” documents the military’s secret bioweapon tests over populated areas. Cole wrote:
Nearly all of San Francisco received 500 particle minutes per liter. In other words, nearly every one of the 800,000 people in San Francisco exposed to the cloud at normal breathing rate (10 liters per minute) inhaled 5,000 or more particles per minute during the several hours that they remained airborne.
This was among the first but far from the last of these sorts of tests.
Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 “germ-warfare” tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s (after the secret tests had been revealed) in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications (via Lexis-Nexis), and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.
These tests included the large-scale releases of bacteria in the New York City subway system, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in National Airport just outside Washington, DC.
In a 1994 congressional testimony, Cole said that none of this had been revealed to the public until a 1976 newspaper story revealed the story of a few of the first experiments — though at least a Senate subcommittee had heard testimony about experiments in New York City in 1975, according to a 1995 Newsday report.
A mysterious death
When Edward Nevin III, the grandson of the Edward Nevin who died in 1950, read about one of those early tests in San Francisco, he connected the story to his grandfather’s death from a mysterious bacterial infection. He began to try to convince the government to reveal more data about these experiments. In 1977, they released a report detailing more of that activity.
In 1950, the first Edward Nevin had been recovering from a prostate surgery when he suddenly fell ill with a severe urinary-tract infection containing Serratia marcescens, the theoretically harmless bacterium that’s known for turning bread red in color. The bacteria had reportedly never been found in the hospital before and was rare in the Bay Area (and in California in general).
The bacteria spread to Nevin’s heart and he died a few weeks later.
Another 10 patients showed up in the hospital over the next few months, all with pneumonia symptoms and the odd presence of Serratia marcescens. They all recovered.
Nevin’s grandson tried to sue the government for wrongful death, but the court held that the government was immune to a lawsuit for negligence and that they were justified in conducting tests without subjects’ knowledge. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Army stated that infections must have occurred inside the hospital and the US Attorney argued that they had to conduct tests in a populated area to see how a biological agent would affect that area.
In 2005, the FDA stated that “Serratia marcescens bacteria … can cause serious, life-threatening illness in patients with compromised immune systems.” The bacteria has shown up in a few other Bay Area health crises since the 1950s, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, leading to some speculation that the original spraying could have established a new microbial population in the area.
While Nevin lost his lawsuit, he said afterward, as quoted by Cole, “At least we are all aware of what can happen, even in this country … I just hope the story won’t be forgotten.”
If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.
As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.
Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.
With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.
Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:
The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base
B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs
A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit
A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station
Just five months ago, about half of the Soldiers participating in organized physical fitness training here were seen wearing the grey Improved Physical Fitness Uniform.
On the morning of Sept. 14, inside the Gaffney Field House and outside track, there were only a couple of Soldiers still in the IPFU. Dozens of others were seen sporting the new, black Army Physical Fitness Uniform.
By Oct. 1, that number wearing the IPFU will reach zero Army-wide, as the wear-out date expires with “mandatory possession” kicking in for the APFU, per All Army Activities message 209/2014, which was released Sept. 3, 2014.
Soldiers seem happy with their new APFUs, according to a small opinion sampling conducted here.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some sentimental feelings about the IPFU, however.
Spc. Lafavien Dixon, from Company C, 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion here, said he plans to wear the IPFU for organized PT right up to the wear-out date, out of a “sense of nostalgia.”
Any time a uniform changes, Soldiers will look back with a sense of fondness and happy memories, but not necessarily regret, he said.
The black with gold lettering design in particular, is something Dixon said he likes on the new uniform, as well as the two small ID card or key pockets in the shorts. The built-in spandex in the shorts is another improvement, he added.
Sgt. Christopher Davis Garland, from Co. C., 742nd MI Bn., said he likes the overall look and feel of the new uniform and is supportive of the switch, but will miss the “cottony feel” of the grey reflective shirt.
Rather than discard the IPFU, he said he plans to wear parts of it when doing yard work.
Garland, a self-described “PT freak,” said he will also wear parts of the IPFU when participating in off-duty Spartan races, which include a number of obstacles that must be negotiated. He said he didn’t want to tear up his APFU doing that.
Specialist Douglas Banbury, from Co. C., 742nd MI Bn., said he purchased his APFU a year ago “to weigh the differences between them.”
Like other Soldiers, he said he’s pleased with the look and feel of the APFU, particularly the material, which he said enables the uniform to dry out faster when wet.
The other difference, he said, is that in his personal view the APFU feels a bit less comfortable in cold weather than the IPFU, but more comfortable in hot and humid conditions.
The only malfunction with his own APFU thus far, he said, is one of the key/card pockets detached. He reasoned that since he got the uniform early on when they first became available, he thinks it was a problem in the initial assembly production run. But the other pocket is OK, he added, so he can still carry his key/ID card.
Spc. Jarvis Smith, who was PTing after-hours with the other three co-workers from 742nd MI Bn., said the APFU shorts are longer than the IPFU, and this is a positive when it comes to modesty.
Like the others, he said he approves of the switch and plans to continue to wear parts of the IPFU around the house and yard to get as much mileage out of them as he can before they eventually fall apart.
Another Soldier interviewed said she plans to give her old IPFU to her wife — who is not a Soldier — to wear.
A main goal of the PT uniform switch “was to use high-performance fabrics in the APFU without increasing the cost from the IPFU,” according to the ALARACT, which noted 32 improvements, including the “identification/key pockets, a redesigned stretchable lining in the trunks and heat mitigation and female sizing.”
All of the changes were incorporated based on Soldier input and extensive technical and user testing in various climates, the ALARACT added.
U.S. President Donald Trump says there are promising signs that the United States would reach a peace deal with the Taliban by the end of this month.
Chances are “good” for the agreement to be sealed, Trump said on a February 13 podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.
When asked if a tentative deal had been reached, Trump said: “I think we’re very close…. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal…. We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”
The president’s comments are the latest indication of progress being made in talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been taking place since December in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.
Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told journalists in Brussels that both sides had negotiated a “proposal” for a week-long scaling-down in violence.
President Donald Trump speaks to Fort Drum Soldiers and personnel during a signing ceremony for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Aug. 13, 2018.
He said a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be “conditions-based” and begin after a decline in violence.
“We’ve said all along that the best…solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” he added. “It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward — if we go forward.”
Progress toward reducing violence could usher in direct peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government to end the nearly two-decade war.
AP reported that if violence subsided, it would lead to an agreement being signed between the United States and the Taliban, followed by, within 10 days, all-Afghan negotiations to establish a road map for the political future of a postwar Afghanistan.
There has been a “pretty important breakthrough” over the past few days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 13 about peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.
President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week’s Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the day before reiterated that the alliance “fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.”
Speaking at the same NATO summit in Brussels attended by Esper, the secretary-general said the militants “need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence and contribute to peace in good faith.”
He said the militant fighters have to “understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”
The prospective deal would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.
There are some 12,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
Fifty years after the Battle of Hue City, retired Marine John L. Canley has moved a step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his “above and beyond” actions in the house-to-house fighting.
On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress to waive the five-year limit on recommendations for the nation’s highest award for valor and authorized the upgrade of Canley’s Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The bill (H.R.4641), sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, “authorizes the President to award the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for acts of valor during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps.”
In a letter to Brownley last month, Mattis said, “After giving careful consideration to the nomination, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit the award of the Medal of Honor.”
The 80-year-old Canley, of Oxnard, California, who retired as a sergeant major after 28 years of service, was Brownley’s guest of honor Jan. 31 at Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Canley “is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our armed forces the best military in the world,” Brownley said in a statement Jan. 30.
“It is my great honor that he will be attending the State of the Union with me tomorrow — 50 years to the day of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his bravery and courage saved many lives,” she said.
In a statement to Brownley after Trump signed the bill, Canley said, “This honor is for all of the Marines with whom I served. They are an inspiration to me to this day.”
He earlier told Military.com that in the grueling 1968 fight to retake Hue from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong: “The only thing I was doing was taking care of troops, best I could. Do that, and everything else takes care of itself.”
Canley also thanked Brownley and a member of her staff, Laura Sether, “for their effort and work to make this happen.”
They worked closely with the survivors from Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who fought with Canley at Hue and mounted a 13-year effort to get past the red tape to upgrade his Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
John Ligato, a private first class in Alpha 1/1 and a retired FBI agent who was part of the effort to upgrade the medal, said of Canley: “This man is the epitome of a Marine warrior.”
At Hue, Canley took command of Alpha 1/1 when Capt. Gordon Batcheller, the company commander, was wounded and evacuated.
He fought alongside Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who had taken command of Third Platoon, Alpha 1/1, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Canley’s Navy Cross cites his actions from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, when he had command of Alpha 1/1 before being relieved by then-Lt. Ray Smith, a Marine legend who earned the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during his tours in Vietnam and retired as a major general.
“On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety,” the citation states.
Canley then “assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men. Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint,” it continues.
On Feb. 4, “despite fierce enemy resistance,” Canley managed to get into the top floor of a building held by the enemy. He then “dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building,” the citation says.
The battle raged on. Canley went into action again on Feb. 6 as the company took more casualties in an assault on another enemy-held building.
“Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement,” the citation states.
In speaking of Canley, Ligato, retired Maj. Gen. Smith, former Lance Cpl. Eddie Neas and others who served with him, both in battle and stateside, told of his indefinable command presence that made them want to follow and emulate his example.
“The most impressive combat Marine I ever knew,” Smith told Military.com.
Smith recalled that at his own retirement ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said, “All through my career, whenever I had to make a decision that would affect Marines, I’d always think — ‘What would Canley tell me to do?’ ”
Canley’s command presence was such that others who served with him to this day recall him in awe as a 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 tower of strength who would calmly pick up wounded Marines, put them on his shoulder, and run through fire to safety.
“They worshipped the ground the guy walked on,” Smith said of Canley, but “he was actually about six feet” tall.
Iran on July 19, 2019, said it seized a British oil tanker and its crew amid reports it diverted a second tanker toward Iran within hours of the seizure in a clear message to the UK and the US that it’s willing to get aggressive in a feud over oil sanctions. But it may soon have to contend with heavy US and UK naval firepower already in the region.
The US sent its USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and attached strike group to the region in May 2019. This represents the world’s most potent unit of naval power, with the aircraft carrier’s formidable air wing, a cruiser, four destroyers, and support ships.
The USS Boxer, a smaller carrier for AV-8B Harrier jets and helicopters, is also operating nearby and said it recently downed an Iranian drone. Iran denied this and posted video of one of its drones landing to challenge the US’s narrative, although it’s unclear if Iran’s footage proves anything.
The UK has the HMS Montrose on station, which immediately following the seizure of the tankers was broadcasting its location and sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. The UK has another two warships on the way.
Previously, the UK’s Montrose got into a standoff with Iranian gunboats trying to veer an oil tanker called the “British Heritage” into Iran’s waters. The Montrose aimed its 30 mm guns at the Iranian fast-attack craft swarming the tanker and warded them off.
Retired US Navy Capt. Rick Hoffman told Business Insider’s Ryan Pickrell that the 30 mm guns, were the “perfect weapon” against these types of ships.
But the US’s aircraft carriers can do better than perfect. With helicopter gunships launched off the Boxer or Lincoln, the US could easily destroy any number of Iranian fast-attack craft.
In June 2019, Iran shot down an expensive US surveillance drone with a surface-to-air missile. The Pentagon drew up plans for a retaliatory attack on Iran, but President Donald Trump said he canceled it upon hearing how many Iranians would die.
But now Iran is holding at least 23 sailors captive after seizing the vessel. The UK’s top leaders on July 19, 2019, held an emergency meeting to decide how to proceed.
Iran frequently talks about sinking US aircraft carriers, and its navy holds the operational goal of destroying the US Navy, but Sim Tack, a researcher at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting company, told Business Insider that the US had deployed its carrier smartly.
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
“The US is being very smart about how it’s deploying its carrier. It prefers to keep its carrier in the Arabian Sea rather than the Persian Gulf. There are more open waters there, so they’re not putting themselves in the Persian Gulf where their movement is a lot more restricted.”
Because of the long range of the US’s carrier aircraft, the US can strike Iran from far off in the Arabian Sea without risking getting mined or submarine attacks that Iran may launch within their home waters, according to Tack.
“Iran doesn’t have an air force of its own that’s capable of withstanding these aircraft,” Tack said. “That element of air defense is extremely outdated and incapable from Iran.”
Additionally, US ships in the region have potentially more than 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which each have a range of greater than 1,000 miles. The US used these missiles twice in strikes against neighboring Syria.
It’s unclear if the US or UK will launch a rescue mission to free the captive sailors, but the considerable naval firepower in the region means that Iran’s attempts to hijack oil tankers could start a naval fight.
Commenting on the tensions in the region, Trump said on July 19, 2019, that US ships are “the most deadly ships ever conceived, and we hope for [Iran’s] sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do, they’re going to pay a price like nobody’s ever paid a price.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Marine Corps called off its search for five missing Marines on Dec 10, 2018, after a F/A-18 Hornet fighter and C-130 Hercules cargo plane collided during a refueling exercise 200 miles off the coast of Japan on Dec 6, 2018.
“I have made the determination to end the search and rescue operations for the crew of our KC-130J aircraft, which was involved in a mishap off the southern coast of Japan and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased,” 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement.
“Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search,” Smith said.
The service members’ next-of-kin have been notified.
“Our most valued asset is the individual Marine,” Smith added. “We remain faithful to our Marines and their families as we support them through this difficult time.”
US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 115, Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, during Valiant Shield 18 out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Sept. 17, 2018.
(US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons)
The incident is still under investigation. The Marine Corps pointed to the missing KC-130’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, and said it was “premature to speculate about wreckage recovery.”
The accident, which involved seven crew-members, occurred around 2 a.m. local time on Dec. 6, 2018. One of the seven missing was rescued alive in “fair condition,” and another Marine, 28-year-old pilot Capt. Jahmar Resilard, was found dead around 60 miles from Shikoku island.
President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences after the collision and thanked Japan, who assisted in the search-and-rescue efforts
“My thoughts and prayers are with the @USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) crew members who were involved in a mid-air collision off the coast of Japan,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you to @USForcesJapan for their immediate response and rescue efforts. Whatever you need, we are here for you.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Life imitates art once more, this time in the form of former Royal Marine-turned inventor-turned entrepreneur Richard Browning. Working from his Salisbury, UK garage, the inventor founded a startup that invented, built, and patented an individual human flight engine that comes as close to Iron Man as anything the world has ever seen – and Richard Browning is as close to Tony Stark as anyone the world has ever encountered.
Browning set out to reimagine what human-powered flight meant, and came out creating a high-speed, high-altitude flight system that has the whole world talking.
In the video above, Browning visits the United States’ East Coast aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest aircraft carrier in the fleet. Technically, he gets to the coast first, departing the carrier via Gravity’s Daedalus system, the name given to what the world has dubbed “the Iron Man suit.”
Of course, the suit is far from the arc reactor-powered repulsor engines that double as energy weapons featured in the comics, but the Daedalus flight system is still a marvel of engineering that has set the world record for fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. That record was set two years ago, and by 2019, Browning made real improvements to the system. The first system was a lightweight exoskeleton attached to six kerosene-powered microturbines. He flew 32 miles per hour to break that record in 2017. In 2019, he flew the suit at 85 miles per hour.
Today, the suit is entirely 3D-printed, making it lighter, stronger, and faster.
“It truly feels like that dream of flying you have sometimes in your sleep,” Browning said. “You are entirely and completely free to move effortlessly in three dimensional space and you shed the ties of gravity.”
In November 2019, Browning flew the suit from the south coast of England to the Isle of Wright, some 1.2 km. This may not sound like much, but it broke another world record, this time for distance in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. He says the suit can fly at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, but it’s just not yet safe to attempt those speeds. It turns out, it’s just not so easy to control the suit. It takes a massive amount of sustained physical effort to counter the thrust created by the arm engines.
Browning himself is an ultramarathon runner, triathlete, and endurance canoeist. He cycles almost 100 miles a week, including a 25-mile run every Saturday morning, as well as three “intense” calisthenics sessions every week just for the strength and endurance to fly his invention.
The U.S. Army’s chief of staff recently made a bold promise that future soldiers will be armed with weapons capable of delivering far greater lethality than any existing small arms.
“Our next individual and squad combat weapon will come in with a 10X improvement over any existing current system in the world, and that will be critical,” Gen. Mark Milley told an audience at AUSA 2017 on Oct. 10.
Milley’s pledge to “significantly increase investments” in a leap-ahead small arms technology appeared low in the story I wrote for Military.com since soldier lethality was the lowest of the Army’s top six modernization priorities.
As Milley was speaking, Textron Systems officials were showing off their new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm on the AUSA exhibition floor.
The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.
Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.
Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
The ICTC is a closed bolt, forward feed, gas piston operated weapon, weighing 8.3 pounds. The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, Textron officials maintain.
“I think the most important thing is what we have been able to do with the intermediate caliber, the 6.5mm in this case,” Wayne Prender, vice president of Textron’s Control Surface Systems Unmanned Systems told Military.com. “We are able to not only provide a weight reduction … and all the things that come with it – we are also able to provide increased lethality because of the ability to use a more appropriate round.”
Textron officials maintain they are using a low-drag “representative” 6.5mm bullet while U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is developing the actual projectile.
“We actually used three different bullet shapes and we scaled it,” said Paul Shipley, program manager for of Unmanned Systems. “We scaled 5.56mm up, we scaled 7.62mm down and took a low-drag shape and ran that between the two” to create the 125 grain 6.5mm bullet that’s slightly longer than the Army’s new 130 grain M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round.
Textron officials maintain that the new round retains more energy at 1,200 meters than the M80A1. At that distance, the 6.5mm has an impact-energy of 300 foot pounds compared to the M80A1 which comes in at about 230 foot pounds of energy, Textron officials maintain.
“The increased lethality we are referring to has to do with the energy down range,” Shipley said. “You can take whatever kind of bullet you want, compare them and it’s going to have increased energy down range.”
Lethality has always been a vague concept. Is it the amount of foot pounds of energy at the target? Or is it the terminal performance, or the size of the wound channel, it creates after it penetrates an enemy soldier?
It’s hard to predict how much performance will change if and when ARDEC creates a 6.5mm projectile that meets the Army’s needs.
A lot can be done to predict performance with computer modeling, but ultimately there is no way of knowing how a conceptual bullet will perform until it is live-fire tested thousands of times under multiple conditions, according to a source with intimate knowledge of military ballistics testing.
The Army has also spent years developing its current M855A1 5.56mm and M80A1 7.62mm Enhanced Performance Rounds. After many failures, the service came up with a copper-jacketed round composed of a solid copper slug that sits behind a steel penetrator tip designed to defeat battlefield barriers and remain effective enough to kill or incapacitate.
Is the Army going to throw all of that away, invest millions of dollars to redesign its ammunition-making infrastructure to switch to case-telescoped ammunition?
“What they’ve got in stockpile does what it does, and they know that is not good enough anymore, so they are faced with that choice,” Shipley said.
The Army has not come to a definitive conclusion on a future caliber, but it has been very open about its waning trust in the 5.56mm round.
In late May, Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
In August, the service launched a competition to find an Intermediate Service Combat Rifle chambered 7.62mm NATO. The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation, but sources say that the service has already backed away from that endeavor.
Textron’s 6.5mm case-telescoped carbine certainly looks like the leap-ahead, small-arms tech that the Army is searching for to arm its future soldiers.
Then again, the Army’s imagination was also captured in the late 1990s by the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or XM29.
Remember that? It featured a 20mm airburst weapon mounted on top of a 5.56mm carbine. XM29 had an advanced fire-control system that could program 20mm shells to burst at specific distances. At 18 pounds, it proved to be too heavy and bulky for the battlefield.
Textron officials maintain that case-telescoped carbine can be customized to whatever the Army wants.
“It’s configurable,” Shipley said. “The technology that is inside is what counts.”
Since World War II, the Army has been using comic books to train soldiers on specific duties and reduce casualties through improved situational awareness.
The trend continued through the Vietnam War. At that time, the Army discovered a training deficiency and produced a comic book to educate soldiers about proper weapon maintenance.
Fast forward to today, the Army is facing a new challenge.
Advancements in cyber and smart technologies have the potential to alter the landscape of future military operations, according to Lt. Col. Robert Ross, threatcasting project lead at the Army Cyber Institute, West Point, New York.
The U.S. military, allied partners, and their adversaries are finding new ways to leverage networked devices on the battlefield, Ross said.
The Army Cyber Institute at West Point, New York, has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas such as “1000 Cuts.”
(US Army photo)
“The use of networked technology is ubiquitous throughout society and the leveraging of these devices on future battlefields will become more prevalent; there is just no escape from this trend. Technology is integrated at every level of our Army,” he said.
Keeping with the Army’s legacy of producing visual literature to improve readiness, the ACI has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas, Ross said.
The lab brings together military, government, industry, and academia experts to envision possible future threats.
The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “1000 Cuts.”
(US Army photo)
Through their research, the workshop develops potential cyber threat scenarios, and then explores options to disrupt, mitigate, and recover from these future threats.
Each graphic novella considers what cyber threats are plausible in the next 10 years — based on a combination of scientific fact and the imagination of those involved, Ross explained.
“This project is designed to deliver that understanding through visual narrative,” he said. “Technical reports and research papers do not translate as well to the audiences we are looking to influence. Graphic novellas are more influential of a medium for conveying future threats to not only Army organizations at large, but down to the soldier level.”
The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “Insider Threat.”
(US Army photo)
The novella titled “1000 Cuts” depicts the psychological impact that a cyber-attack could have on soldiers and their families. In the story, these attacks were enough to disrupt a deployed unit, leaving them open to an organized attack, Ross said.
“Given the exponential growth in soldiers’ use of [networked] devices … 1000 Cuts presents an extremely plausible threat. It demonstrates how non-state actors can leverage technical vulnerabilities within the cyber domain to their advantage in the land domain,” Ross said.
“The visual conveyance of a graphic novella enables leaders to not only envision these scenarios but retain the lessons that can be drawn from them as well,” he added.
A US Air Force fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter successfully transmitted live targeting data to US Army ground-based air-and-missile defense systems for the first time in an important test conducted during the recent Orange Flag exercise, the fighter’s developer announced Aug. 6, 2019.
The Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), a complex system developed by Northrop Grumman to connect sensors, launchers, and command and control stations, was able to “receive and develop fire control quality composite tracks” by “leveraging the F-35 as an elevated sensor” during the recent exercise, Lockheed Martin revealed.
The tracking data was sent to the IBCS through the F-35 ground station and F-35-IBCS adaptation kit, systems developed by Lockheed to let the F-35 talk to the US Army air-and-missile defense network.
The F-35 is capable of detecting threats that ground-based systems might struggle to pick up on until it’s too late. The curvature of the Earth can affect the ability of certain ground-based radars to adequately detect threats. The F-35 — which, as Breaking Defense noted, has been described by senior Air Force officers as “a computer that happens to fly” — is able to rapidly maneuver towards new targets and to change altitude, which radar arrays on the ground are unable to do.
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base.
(photo by Tom Reynolds)
“The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information enabling greater joint force protection and a higher level of lethality of Army IAMD forces,” Scott Arnold, the vice president and deputy of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, explained in a statement.
With the technology and capabilities tested recently, an Army Patriot battery, for example, could theoretically get a better read on an incoming threat using information provided an airborne F-35.
“Any sensor, any effector, any domain,” Dan Verwiel, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of missile defense and protective systems, told Defense News. “This is the future of the US Army’s fight.”
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
Three years ago, an F-35 transmitted targeting information to a Navy Aegis Combat System armed with an SM-6 anti-air missile, which was then launched at a mock target simulating an adversarial aircraft. Now, this fighter, one of the most expensive weapons in the US arsenal, is being paired with Army air-and-missile defense networks.
The US military is looking at using the F-35 for multi-domain operations, meaning it wants the jet to do far more than the fighter-bomber missions for which it was initially designed. The fifth-generation jet can also use its high-end sensors to send difficult-to-detect transmissions containing critical data to other air assets, warships, and troops on the ground to increase battlespace awareness.
The capabilities being tested are a top priority as the US military looks to modernize the joint force in the face of great power competition with China and Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.