The Marine Corps has asked Congress for $3.2 billion to buy warplanes and other equipment that did not make President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 defense budget plan, according to a copy of the request obtained by CQ Roll Call.
Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, signed off on the “unfunded priorities list” and service officials sent it to lawmakers within the last week.
It appears to be the first of four such lists due soon on Capitol Hill – one each from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force – which together will add up to multiple billions of dollars. This is an annual ritual for the Pentagon and Congress as the budget and appropriations are ironed out.
The most expensive item on the Marine Corps list is $877 million for six F-35 fighter jets. The jet is being built for all the services.
The Marine Corps wish list includes a request for $617 million for four F-35Bs, a version designed to take off and land vertically, and $260 million for two F-35Cs, the jet’s aircraft carrier variant.
The Air Force and Navy may also seek additional F-35s in their forthcoming wish lists.
Other aircraft on the Marine Corps list include:
$356 million for four KC-130J Hercules propeller planes, which can either refuel other aircraft or perform assault missions
$288 million for two CH-53K King Stallion logistics helicopters
$228 million for two C-40A Clipper jets, the military version of the Boeing 737 airliner, which can carry passengers or cargo
$221 million for seven AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
$181 million for two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which are capable of ferrying Marines and supplies
$67 million for four UC-12W Huron propeller planes, which are small, multi-mission aircraft
The Marine Corps is also seeking $312 million for five ship-to-shore connectors, which are air-cushion landing craft for carrying Marines ashore in amphibious assaults.
The service also wants boosts in a variety of ammunition programs as well as several buildings to be constructed on Marine Corps bases.
The lists have effectively become addenda to the formal budget request each year. Sometimes called “wish lists,” they provide military justifications to lawmakers interested in adding to the defense budget items the White House did not request. To the extent Congress funds items on the lists, it must increase the total amount for the Pentagon or cut other programs to offset the expense.
This year, the lists take on an added dimension. Trump made “rebuilding” the military a cornerstone of his campaign. While his new budget would increase spending on keeping existing assets in ready condition, it does not provide much increase in the procurement or other accounts that would need to rise to support a significant buildup.
Defense hawks in Congress have criticized Trump’s request as inadequate, and they will use the wish lists to bolster their argument.
There was speculation that the case would end without significant prison time after two senior officers assigned to the investigation recommended against it.
The officer in charge of the investigation into Bergdahl, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, testified that jail-time would be inappropriate for Bergdahl. His investigation found no evidence that troops died while specifically searching for the sergeant or that Bergdahl was attempting to reach India, China, or the Taliban, said the New York Times.
Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, which hosts a large Russian naval base and military presence, has come under attack from an unclaimed missile strike that Syria attributes to Israel.
“Air defenses have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them,” Syrian state-run media said, according to Reuters.
Syrian officials blamed Israel for the strike, but Israel rarely takes credit for its air raids in Syria and has frequently fired missiles from outside of Syrian airspace before.
The strikes followed Israel releasing satellite images of Damascus International Airport and the palace where Syrian President Bashar Assad lives in a possible threat. Syria also blames Israel for a Sept. 16, 2018 strike on the airport.
Syria and Israel have fought wars against each other in the past and Israel has taken military measures to resist Iran’s influence and ability to transfer arms in southern Syria near Israel’s borders.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles targeted ammunition depots of the technical industry institution in the eastern outskirts of Latakia, according to Reuters.
Unlike the semi-regular strikes that hit Iranians-aligned forces in southern Syria, this strike hit an area rich with Russian forces and missile defenses. In past US-led strikes, Syria has shown little proof that its air defense can actually fend off large-scale naval cruise missile strikes.
Russia recently concluded naval exercises in the Mediterranean near Latakia and maintains a consistent naval presence in the region.
So far nothing indicates Russian military bases have been targeted, but Syria-based correspondents have reported Russian air defenses operating.
Russia has, since 2015, stationed warships at Latakia and operated some of the world’s top missile defenses near Latakia. Video and photos claiming to show the air battle over Latakia show what look like massive surface to air fires with missiles streaking overhead, indicating a state military rather than a rebel or terror group.
Featured image: A video claims to show a massive missile strike in Latakia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The English Electric Canberra is a classic Cold War bomber. Its service with the United Kingdom and a host of other countries began less than five years after World War II, and it stuck around until 2006 with the Royal Air Force, while India flew them until 2007.
But less well-known is the American version of the Canberra, the Martin B-57, which has had the distinction of supporting combat troops almost 40 years after it was retired.
Here’s the scoop on this plane. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Korean War showed the United States that it would need a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader in the role of a night intruder.
The Air Force looked at the North American B-45 and A2J Savage, both of which were already in service, but found them wanting. Then, the Air Force looked abroad, and considered the CF-100 from Canada before deciding to license-build the English Electric Canberra.
What won them over was endurance: The Canberra could hang around a target 780 miles away for over two hours. The B-57 could carry up to 7,300 pounds of bombs, could mount eight .50-caliber machine guns or four 20mm cannon, and had a top speed of 597 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Air Force liked that long reach, and eventually 403 B-57s were built. The plane served as a bomber in the Vietnam War and some were modified to carry laser-guided 500-pound bombs and called the B-57G under a program called Tropic Moon III. One of the B-57Gs was even equipped with a M61 Vulcan and 4,000 rounds (which is a lot of BRRRRRT!). However, the United States soon realized that the Canberra’s true calling was as a high-altitude reconnaissance bird.
The definitive reconnaissance version, the RB-57F, could reach an altitude of 65,000 feet. This gave it a very high perch that many fighters in the 1960s could not reach. Even one of today’s best interceptors, the Su-27 Flanker, can only reach a little over 62,000 feet, according to MilitaryFactory.com. Some of the RB-57Fs later were designated WB-57Fs to reflect their use as weather reconnaissance planes.
A WB-57F parked on the ramp at Yokota Air Base in Japan. (USAF photo)
The Air Force retired the B-57s in 1974. However, a number of the WB-57F planes found their way to NASA, where they were used for research. This included monitoring for signs of nuclear tests.
At least two of the NASA birds, though, are reported to have served over Afghanistan in the War on Terror. Spyflight reported one of the NASA birds flew sorties from Kandahar in 2008, officially as a “geological survey” for Afghanistan. Wired.com reported in 2012 that two NASA planes have alternated flying out of Kandahar to help relay data, alongside modified RQ-4 Global Hawk drones and versions of the Bombardier business jet known as the E-11A.
This means that nearly four decades after officially retiring from service, these B-57s have been serving in wartime – while under NASA’s flag. Not bad for a plane that first took flight in 1949!
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What happens when a terrorist hunting drone and a resupply helicopter drone join forces?
Fires get stopped.
Aircraft with human pilots have been supporting American firefighters for several decades. This is a new generation of machines helping to fight fires.
The Stalker Extended Endurance (XE) and K-MAX drones could reinforce firefighters and potentially reduce the risk to the lives of first responders.
Last year alone, there were a staggering 1,298,000 fires reported in the U.S., resulting in more than 3,275 civilian deaths and 15,775 injuries.
Both Stalker and K-MAX are designed to be cutting-edge military tech, but they also have great potential for civilians to help reduce the loss of life and life-changing injuries suffered every year.
How do the drone duo fight fires?
Basically, Stalker XE is the boss and K-MAX does the heavy lifting. Stalker XE is a small surveillance drone and K-MAX is a large resupply helicopter one. Together, they can fight fires all by themselves. Stalker finds the fire and directs K-MAX to drop water at exactly the right location to put it out.
They’re both unmanned systems, or drones. Stalker uses its state-of-the-art military tech to flag and precisely locate a fire. The drone then communicates with the much bigger K-MAX, which is loaded up with water.
In a recent demonstration, Stalker XE successfully directed K-MAX to drop water exactly at the necessary spots to put out the fire.
Heat can be a serious challenge in fighting fires. In spite of the immense heat fire can generate, K-MAX was designed to maintain performance in extremes and can still perform.
Conditions like smoke can also limit traditional missions due to visibility for human pilots, but K-MAX can carry on picking up water and delivering it by itself in low visibility conditions.
Stalker XE is an intelligence, surveillance and recon drone made by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, famous for innovative aircraft design.
Popular with special operations, Stalker XE is a small drone with a 12-foot wingspan. When flown at about 400 feet, it is silent to people on the ground.
Launched by just one operator and a bungee, it can stay aloft for more than eight hours, reach speeds of 45 mph and heights of up to 15,000 feet with its ruggedized solid oxide fuel cell.
It is designed to provide high-definition images in a range of the extreme environments. In both daylight and at night, the drone can provide images and data.
In addition to its high-def capabilities, Stalker XE’s image-tracking tech has the ability to pan, tilt and zoom using its electro-optical infrared camera, which can precisely locate and analyze fire intensity for K-MAX. The imagers and laser can also provide precise geo-referenced imagery products for human firefighting teams to review.
Manufactured by Kaman and equipped with Lockheed Martin’s advanced mission systems and sensors, K-MAX is used by the military to get massive amounts of supplies to forces quickly. It can lift and deliver a whopping 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level as well as travel at speeds of about 115 mph.
During a three-year period between 2011 and 2014, when it deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps, for example, K-MAX delivered more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo for the Corps while flying more than 1,900 missions.
Its design includes a four-hook carousel that helps to maximize the cargo it can deliver to different locations in just one flight.
With the drone’s advanced autonomy tech, K-MAX can deploy day and night on repeat missions – without the limiting factor of human fatigue and crew availability.
The helicopters twin-rotor design helps to maximize lift in extreme environments. Very robust, it has also been designed to fly in all sorts of challenging weather conditions.
Will they get the chance to fight fires in the U.S.?
Recently, both drones worked together to fight a fire successfully integrated into the National Airspace System. Using a prototype of unmanned Traffic Management tech, the robot team effectively communicated with Air Traffic Control in real time.
This is a key step forward to joining the fight against fires. Because for these drones to deploy in civilian space, they need to prove they can cooperate with, and within, the civilian airspace framework.
The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”
Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.
Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.
The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.
Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.
The History Channel’s documentary “Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked,” reveals that he was also responsible for launching the golden era of comic books with the first publication of Action Comics and the Superman character in 1938. Action Comics would eventually evolve to become DC Comics, which along with Marvel Comics are the two largest comic book companies in the world.
But before he entered the comic book business, the Major had a military career that began in 1909 when he entered the Manlius Military Academy in New York at the age of 19. After graduation he joined the U.S. Cavalry and quickly moved through the ranks. By the age of 27 he became one of the youngest majors in the Army’s history.
He saw action in Mexico as commander of the 9th Cavalry under Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing. He fought in the Philippines against the Muslim Moro. During World War I he was a diplomatic liaison and intelligence officer to the Japanese embassy.
His military troubles began when he wrote an open letter to President Warren Harding in The New York Times criticizing the Army’s chain of command. According to his biography, there was an assassination attempt on his life shortly after that. He was shot by a guard while entering his quarters at Fort Dix. The bullet entered his temple but missed his brain.
He was court-martialed after his recovery. But with the help of his mother and public lobbying of newspapers, senators, and Teddy Roosevelt’s family, he was allowed back into the ranks. He was discharged a few months later and began to pursue his literary career that would eventually lead to comic books.
In 1939, the success of Superman and Action Comics would inspire the creation of Timely Publications and its first issue, “Marvel Comics #1.” The first issue sold out of its 80,000 copies and prompted Moe Goodman – the founder of Action Comics – to produce a second printing that sold about 800,000 copies. With a success on his hands, Goodman began to assemble his comic book team and hired his first official employee, writer-artist Joe Simon.
In 1941, Simon brought on Jack Kirby, and together they created Captain America. Inspired by current events, the patriotic superhero became a hit. The demand for Captain America caused Timely to hire a third employee, inker Syd Shores. But after only ten issues, Simon and Kirby left the company for National Comics (DC Comics) in 1942. At that point assistant Stan Lee stepped up as editor.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Joe Simon enlisted in the Coast Guard; Syd shores and Stan Lee enlisted in the Army, and Jack Kirby was drafted into the Army.
Joe Simon – Coast Guard
Simon’s autobiography states that he served with the Combat Art Corps in Washington, D.C. as part of the Coast Guard’s Public Information Division. Simon created “True Comics,” which was published by DC Comics and syndicated nationally by Parents magazine. “True Comics” led to to the creation of “Adventure Is My Career,” a comic aimed at driving Coast Guard recruitment.
Jack Kirby – Army
Kirby was drafted into the Army in 1943 and stationed in the 5th Division as an infantryman. He saw action in France, earned two battle stars and a severe case of frostbite that almost led to the amputation of his feet. After his service, he re-teamed with Simon at Harvey Comics.
Syd Shores – Army
Shores served in the Army from 1942 to 1946 in France and Germany until he was wounded in Metz, France, which earned him Purple Heart. After his four-month recovery in England, he was re-assigned to an engineering unit and then to the Occupation Forces in Germany before finally being discharged. When he arrived home, he took his job back at Timely and once again took over Captain America (according to a short biography by Alan Hewetson).
Stan Lee – Army
Stan Lee’s biography states that he enlisted in the Army’s Signal Corps where he wrote manuals, training films, slogans and the occasional cartoon. He was one of the nine soldiers with the playwright designation. After WWII, like Shores, returned to Timely Comics.
For more on this subject watch he following documentary on the history of comic books, from the first appearance of Superman through today’s characters:
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.
They had to be destroyed.
“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”
Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.
On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.
The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.
Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.
“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”
While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.
After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.
The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.
What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.
“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”
Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.
The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.
Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.
“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.
Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”
Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.
But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.
To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.
Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.
Putin announced an “unstoppable” nuclear-powered “global cruise missile” that has “practically unlimited” range, then showed an animation of the device bobbing and weaving around the globe. He also played a computer animation of a high-speed, nuke-armed submarine drone blowing up ships and coastal targets.
“Russia remained and remains the largest nuclear power. Do not forget, no one really wanted to talk to us. Nobody listened to us,” Putin told a crowd in Moscow, according to a translation by Sputnik, a Russian-government-controlled news agency. “Listen now.”
David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Business Insider that the idea of an “unstoppable” cruise missile going around the world without being detected is “fiction,” since it’d heat up to an extreme degree. (CNN also reported that all tests of the cruise missile ended in crashes.)
But he said that at least one device Putin showed off likely does exist.
“We know they’re developing some new systems with a longer range and a larger payload,” Wright said.
Putin showed a video of the Satan 2 during his speech. In it, footage shows an intercontinental ballistic missile launching out of a silo, followed by an animation of it rocketing toward space. The video-game-like graphic follows the ICBM as it sails over a faux Earth in a high arc and opens its nosecone to reveal five nuclear warheads.
Putin claimed this 119-foot-tall missile is “invincible” to missile defense systems.
What makes ICBMs so threatening
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are similar to rockets that shoot satellites and people into orbit, but ICBMs carry warheads and hit targets on Earth.
The missiles travel in a wide arc over Earth, enabling them to strike halfway around the world within an hour. (North Korea recently launched its new ICBM in a high, compact arc to avoid rocketing it over US allies.)
Satan 2, which Putin claimed is already deployed in some missile silos, is a replacement for a 1970s-era Satan ICBM. The new version is slated to reach full service in 50 silos around 2020, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to the Center’s Missile Defense Project, the Satan 2 “is reported by Russian media as being able to carry 10 large warheads, 16 smaller ones, a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or up to 24 YU-74 hypersonic boost-glide vehicles.”
That means one Satan 2 ICBM could pack as much as eight megatons of TNT-equivalent explosive power. That’s more than 400 times as strong as either bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945 — both of which, combined, led to roughly 150,000 casualties.
The technology used to deliver multiple warheads to different targets is called a “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle,” or MIRV. Such devices deploy their warheads after reaching speeds that can exceed 15,000 miles per hour.
Depending on where the warhead is deployed in space and how it maneuvers, each one can strike targets hundreds of miles apart.
Why Putin says the Satan 2 is ‘invincible’
A recently demonstrated technology made to neutralize a nuclear warhead is a “kinetic kill vehicle:” essentially a large, high-tech bullet launched via missile. The bullets can target a warhead, slam into it mid-flight, and obliterate the weapon.
“But there are a number of different ways to penetrate defenses” like a kill vehicle, Wright said, which may explain Putin’s “invincible” claim.
Satan 2 has advanced guidance systems and probably some countermeasures designed to trick anti-missile systems. This might include “a couple dozen very lightweight decoys made to look like the warhead,” Wright said, which could result in a kill vehicle targeting the wrong object.
Wright has also studied other methods to sneak past US defenses, including warhead cooling systems that might confuse heat-seeking anti-missile systems, and “disguising a real warhead to make it look different.”
But simply deploying large numbers of warheads can be enough: Kill vehicles may not work 50% of the time, based on prior testing, and they’re a technology that’s been in development for decades.
Yet Satan 2 is not exactly unique.
What the US has that compares
The US, in 2005, retired the “Peacekeeper” missile, which was its biggest “MIRV-capable” weapon (meaning it could deploy multiple warheads to different locations).
One Peacekeeper missile could shed up to 10 thermonuclear warheads, each of which had a 50% chance of striking within a roughly football-field-size area.
But the US has other MIRV-capable nuclear weapons in its arsenal today.
One is the Trident II ballistic missile, which gets launched from a submarine and can carry up to a dozen nuclear warheads. Another option is the Minuteman III ICBM, which is silo-launched and can carry three warheads.
Arms-control treaties have since reduced the numbers of warheads in these weapons — Trident IIs carry up to five, Minuteman IIIs just one — and retired the Peacekeeper.
Today, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed, in storage, or awaiting dismantlement, with more than 90% held by the US and Russia.
Cold War 2.0?
Wright said Putin’s recent statements and the similarly heated comments and policy made by President Donald Trump echo rhetoric that fueled nuclear arms build-up during the Cold War era.
“What’s discouraging is that, at the end of the Cold War, everyone was trying to de-MIRV” — or reduce the numbers of warheads per missile — he said.
Removing warheads helped calm US-Russia tensions and reduce the risk of preemptive nuclear strikes, either intentional or accidental, Wright said. Russia’s move to deploy new weapons with multiple warheads, then, is risky and escalatory.
“One of the reasons you might want to MIRV is if you’re facing ballistic missile defenses, and Putin talked about that,” Wright said, noting that the US has helped build up European anti-missile defenses in recent years. “The clear response is to upgrade your offensive capabilities.”
He added that Russia’s move also shouldn’t be surprising in the context of history: After George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, a Russian general told the New York Times the move “will alter the nature of the international strategic balance in freeing the hands of a series of countries to restart an arms buildup.”
The charged statements of President Trump, who has called for a new arms race, have done little to reverse that course.
In fact, the Trump Administration plans to expand an Obama-era nuclear weapons modernization program. Over 30 years, the effort could cost US taxpayers more than $1.7 trillion and introduce smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons that experts fear might make the use of nukes common.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.
The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.
Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.
The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.
“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.
The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.
The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.
“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)
Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.
The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.
“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.
And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.
“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”
The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.
Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.
“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”
The Trump administration is trying to facilitate the release of a Pakistani doctor who was jailed for helping the CIA locate Osama Bin-Laden, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, started a fake vaccination program to both locate bin Laden and attempt to get his DNA. The Pakistani government was particularly displeased with the U.S. for not notifying them of the Navy SEAL raid which killed bin Laden, and jailed Afridi a month after the May 2, 2011, raid. He has been held and sentenced on a series of dubiously legal charges since.
Pakistani officials reportedly want better relations with the U.S. and may even consider giving Afridi a presidential pardon.
“We are trying to accelerate the legal processes,” one official said. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reportedly raised the matter during a late April visit to Pakistan where Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. expressed the country’s desire “to find a solution.”
Afridi’s lawyer told reporters in 2016 the best hope for his release was U.S. pressure, but that the Obama administration had not shown their support. His lawyer continued that Afridi has languished for much of his sentence in solitary confinement.
“I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” he said.
Congress has voted every year since 2011 to withhold millions of dollars in badly needed U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Trump pledged on the five year anniversary of bin Laden’s death that he would get the doctor released “in two minutes,” which drew sharp Pakistani criticism. “Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Pakistan’s interior minister said in a statement after Trump’s comments. He continued that Afridi’s future would be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr. Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States.”
The White House has been informed of a newly developed cruise missile that proponents say could knock out North Korean missile launches in their tracks without killing anyone, NBC News reported on Monday.
The missile — a Boeing AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile with a payload known as the Counter-electronics High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or Champ — launches from planes, just like the nuclear variant commonly found on B-52s.
But instead of a nuclear payload, the Champ payload fires microwave pulses that are designed to disable electronics in their path. It has successfully shut down electronics in multistory buildings in previous tests.
David Deptula, a retired US Air Force general who ran the US’s air war in Iraq, told NBC’s “Nightly News” that the new missile could “quite possibly” shut down a North Korean missile on a launchpad.
“Command and control centers are filled with electronic infrastructure, which is highly vulnerable to high-powered microwaves,” Deptula said.
Politicians say the Pentagon doesn’t like change
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, one of several civil and government officials who support the Champ system, told NBC the missile hadn’t been accepted or widely deployed because of roadblocks within the Pentagon.
“The challenges are less technical and more mental,” said Heinrich, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that “the tendency within the Pentagon is oftentimes to continue to try and perfect something,” like existing missile defenses and weapons, rather than employ a new technique.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed that sentiment.
Hunter said last month that “it’s hard to get things through” to the Defense Department that are “doable, that are easy, that are cheap, that are efficient, and that already exist, because that makes nobody happy.”
Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for the difficulties in adopting new technologies.
“There’s not retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”
Champ is an interesting option, not a silver bullet
But while the Champ system may represent advantages over existing missile defenses that fire interceptors after a missile has launched, exited the atmosphere, and separated into possibly several warheads, it’s not without disadvantages.
The system has to get close to its targets before knocking them down, meaning it could have to violate North Korean airspace, which could be perceived as an act of war.
And if North Korea spotted the incoming cruise missile, which looks exactly like a nuclear-capable cruise missile, it may respond automatically, regardless of the missile’s nonlethal nature.
Military equipment has redundant wiring and insulation to harden it against electronic warfare and attacks like the Champ, so the system would most likely need more work before it could be certified as capable of shutting down a missile launch — if it could achieve such a thing.
For now, NBC reports, officials have briefed the White House on the Champ system and its availability. Whether it fits into President Donald Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure”against North Korea remains to be seen.
After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.
On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.
“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”
The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.
Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.
With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”
The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.
More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.
A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.
So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.
Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.
“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”
Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.
Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.
Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.
“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”
Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.
The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.
As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.
As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.
The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.
This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.
“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”
Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.
On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.
Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.
With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”
The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.
Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.