Upon taking the highest office in the land, President-elect Donald Trump will need to address the growing North Korean missile threat “almost immediately.”
“More often than not, we measure the mettle of presidencies by the unexpected crises that they must deal with,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For President Bush, this was clearly the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which completely changed every element of his presidency. For President-elect Trump, this crisis could very well come from North Korea.”
Speaking on a panel at CSIS’s Global Security Forum, Cha added that the North would “challenge the new administration almost immediately upon taking office.”
The normally aggressive regime has been exceptionally busy in 2016 with an increased tempo in testing. The North has launched 25 ballistic missiles this year and remains the only country to have detonated nuclear devices in this century.
“Every launch that he launches, he learns more. He gets more capability,” retired US Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, a former commander of US Forces-Korea said during the panel.
“UN Security Council resolutions have been numerous that have told him he cannot do this, and I personally think it’s time to start enforcing this,” Sharp said.
The acceleration and frequency in testing shows not only the North’s nuclear ambitions but also that the rogue nation has developed something of an arsenal.
The following graphic from CSIS’s Missile Defense Project illustrates specifications and ranges of North Korea’s ballistic-missile arsenal.
A new African military force to counter growing extremism in the Sahel region should see victories “in the first half of 2018,” France’s president said Dec. 13 after hosting a summit to boost support for the five-nation effort.
President Emmanuel Macron announced new pledges for the force known as the G5 Sahel, one from Saudi Arabia of $100 million and another of $30 million from the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to speed up the full deployment of the military effort by Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania.
Nearly five years after France intervened to route Islamist extremists in northern Mali, then controlled by an al-Qaeda affiliate, the threat has spread to neighboring countries in the volatile Sahel, the sprawling, largely barren zone south of the Sahara desert. The growing extremism has also spawned new jihadi groups, including one claiming affiliation with the Islamic State group.
In recent months, local security forces and the 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali have been prime targets. Attacks often occur in the border regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where four U.S. soldiers were killed earlier this year.
Besides the leaders of the five-nation force, delegations representing Europe, the African Union and international organizations were in attendance.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the urgency of making the force fully operational.
“Islamic extremism is propagating. We can’t wait,” she said.
The G5 force is expected to grow into a 5,000-strong army by March but needs soldiers, training, operational autonomy, and funding. Macron said he sees it at full strength as planned.
France’s 4,000-strong counterterrorism force in the region since 2014, known as Barkhane, will help the G5 with critical air, intelligence, and other support, Macron said, and “we will win victories in the first half of 2018.”
“We need to win the war against terrorism in the Sahel zone and it’s in full swing,” Macron said. “There are attacks every day.”
The force launched in Mali in July with Macron present. He has taken the lead in persuading partners to help make it viable, arguing that the fate of the Sahel region affects Europe.
“Terrorists, thugs, and assassins” must be eradicated, he said in July.
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Wednesday evoked the possibility that Islamic State group fighters fleeing a collapsed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria would turn up in the Sahel.
“We know that our time is running out,” Keita said.
The new force carried out a single test operation in early November involving 350 forces from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali, according to the French Defense Ministry.
The budget to launch the force is 250 million euros ($293 million), with 400 million euros ($470 million) needed down the road, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on RFIradio.
A special funding conference is planned for February. The United States earlier this month said it has pledged $60 million, though the Trump administration has opposed putting in U.N. resources.
French officials estimate that the extremists in the Sahel region number no more than 1,000, compared to several thousand in northern Mali in 2013, when France intervened. But the numbers are deceptive, failing to reflect the danger and difficulty of hunting down an enemy in region the size of Europe.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, raised the specter of the chaos in Libya, which has become a base for extremists and a popular route for the trafficking of migrants, many of them coming from the new force’s five member countries.
“This is a fight against terrorism, against trafficking of all kinds, and what happened in Libya is an illustration,” Mahamat said.
On Sept. 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler set World War II in motion when he invaded Poland. Germany attacked from the west, and 16 days later the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, by secret agreement with Hitler, invaded from the east. Poland kept fighting… but it never had a chance.
When Poland surrendered on Oct. 6, it disappeared from the map, its territory carved up and incorporated into Germany and the USSR. The dismemberment of Poland was but the first in a series of rapid-fire victories by the Nazis: On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded both Denmark, which fell that same day, and Norway, which fell on June 10. By then Hitler had also invaded Belgium, which surrendered after 18 days; Luxembourg, which fell after one day; the Netherlands, which held out for five; and even mighty France, which capitulated on June 22, after just five weeks of fighting.
Then on July 10, Hitler began bombing England in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, his planned invasion of the British Isles. The British faced the threat almost entirely alone: by then every other country in western Europe had either fallen to Germany, was allied with it, or had declared its neutrality in the hope of avoiding Hitler’s wrath.
Even the United States was officially neutral, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under tremendous pressure from isolationists to keep America out of the war. What little aid he was able to send to Great Britain was menaced by German U-boats patrolling the North Atlantic.
With the threat of invasion looming, Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued new orders to Porton Down, a secret military facility in southern England set up during World War I to study the use of poison gas as a military weapon. The facility was created after the Germans introduced chlorine gas to the battlefield in 1915, and work at Porton Down had continued ever since. Now Churchill gave it a new project: find a way to use the deadly disease anthrax in battle. It was out of this crash germ-warfare program that Operation Vegetarian was born.
Anthrax is the name of a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which lives in soil. If the seedlike spores of the bacteria enter a cut in a person’s skin (a form of the disease known as cutaneous anthrax), the result is a serious infection whose most distinctive feature is a coal-black scab. That’s how anthrax gets its name—anthrakis is the Greek word for coal.
When left untreated, cutaneous anthrax is deadly about 20 percent of the time. When the spores are eaten or inhaled, the danger is far greater: gastrointestinal anthrax kills animals or people who eat the spores about 60 percent of the time, and inhalational anthrax kills its victims about 95 percent of the time. (Modern treatments have cut the mortality rates considerably, but those treatments weren’t available in the 1930s.)
DEATH FROM THE SKY
When anthrax spores are eaten by grazing livestock, even if the infected animals don’t die, their meat cannot be eaten because it will spread the disease to anyone or anything that consumes it. This was what the scientists at Porton Down decided to focus on: they came up with a plan to disrupt the German meat supply by wiping out vast herds of grazing cattle across northern Germany.
They would accomplish this by dropping anthrax-tainted “cattle cakes” (concentrated dietary supplements that are typically fed to cattle) from Royal Air Force bombers over the pastures and grazing fields. Any cattle that ate the cakes would die within a few days, as would many thousands—or perhaps even millions—of Germans who came in contact with the cattle or the cakes.
Once a portion of the German meat supply was shown to be poisoned, the thinking at Porton Down went, the country’s entire meat supply would become suspect. Terrified Germans would abstain from eating meat entirely (hence the name Operation Vegetarian) making wartime food shortages—and German morale—even worse.
Officials at Porton Down placed an order with a supplier for enough raw materials to make for five million cakes. Then it contracted a London toilet soap manufacturer to cut the material into individual cakes about an inch in diameter and weighing less than an ounce apiece. Finally, Porton Down hired a dozen soap makers, all of them women, to come to the secret facility and inject the cattle cakes with anthrax spores supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, which produced them in a lab.
By the spring of 1944 all five million cakes had been manufactured and pumped full of anthrax; the modified RAF bombers that would drop them over northern Germany were ready as well. Porton Down’s planners estimated that it would take about 18 minutes for the bombers to reach their targets over Germany. Upon arrival they would drop 400 cakes every two minutes in a bombing run that lasted 20 minutes, dropping 4,000 cakes in all. If 12 bombers were used in the mission, they’d drop 48,000 cattle cakes. When they finished, most of the grazing land in northern Germany would be contaminated with anthrax. And there would be millions of cattle cakes left over for future bombing runs in other parts of Germany.
“The cattle must be caught in the open grazing fields when lush spring grass is on the wane. Trials have shown that these tablets are found and consumed by the cattle in a very short time,” Dr. Paul Fildes, director of Porton Down’s biology department, observed. And because the anthrax spores can remain viable in the soil for a century or more, the poisoned land would remain uninhabitable for generations. No cattle would be able to graze there, nor would humans be able to step foot there for many decades to come.
All that remained was for Winston Churchill to give the order for Operation Vegetarian to proceed. The order never came. Why not? Because by then the war had turned decisively against Germany. Operation Sea Lion, Hitler’s plan for a land invasion of England, was never put into effect: British fighters shot so many German planes out of the sky in the run-up to the invasion that Hitler was forced to put it aside. Instead, he set his sights on Russia, and invaded his former ally in a sneak attack on June 22, 1941.
After months of steady progress, by October 1941 the Nazi invasion of Russia began to bog down, and Hitler failed to take Moscow before winter set in. Instead of finding shelter in the city, his ill-equipped, poorly clothed troops suffered through the brutal Russian winter in the open countryside, and many thousands died or were incapacitated by frostbite. Moscow never did fall, and by spring the Russians had regrouped and began to push back against the Germans. Then on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the war. His hands no longer tied by the isolationists, President Roosevelt could now back Great Britain with all of the military might at his command.
When Hitler’s attempt to take the city of Stalingrad failed in February 1943, the German advance against Russia was halted completely. For the rest of the war, the Russians pushed the Nazis relentlessly back toward Germany. The Allied invasion of Italy followed in July 1943; then on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the long-awaited Allied invasion of France began.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
With Great Britain’s survival no longer in question and the defeat of Germany just a matter of time, in the spring of 1944 Winston Churchill opted against putting Operation Vegetarian into action. At the war’s end in 1945, all five million cattle cakes were fed into an incinerator at Porton Down and destroyed.
Any doubts as to just how deadly an anthrax attack over thousands of square miles might have been were laid to rest in the one place where the British actually did use anthrax during the war: Gruinard Island, a 520-acre island less than a mile off the coast of northwest Scotland. Early in the war, the British requisitioned the island, and in 1942 and 1943 they used it as a test site for anthrax bombs. In one such test, 60 sheep were tethered in a line and an anthrax bomb was detonated upwind from them. The sheep inhaled the anthrax spores, and within a few days all of them were dead.
Gruinard Island, Scotland, was a testing site for Anthrax (Image Père Ubu Flickr)
If you had to dispose of 60 anthrax-infected sheep without getting yourself killed in the process, how would you do it? The Porton Down scientists dumped them at the bottom of a cliff on the island, then buried them (or so they hoped) by dynamiting the cliff. But one of the sheep was blown into the water and floated to the Scottish mainland, where it washed ashore on a beach. There it was partially eaten by a dog. The dog died, but not before spreading anthrax to seven cows, two horses, three cats, and 50 more sheep, all of whom died as well.
Quick payments to the farmers who owned the animals hushed up the incident, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the truth about what killed their dog, cows, horses, cats, and sheep finally became known.
When the British government requisitioned Gruinard Island at the start of the war, it planned to return the island to its owners once the war was over and the anthrax spores were removed. But several attempts to clean the spores failed, and in 1946 the government gave up. It bought the island outright and ordered the public to stay away. To drive the message home, it posted scary signs on Gruinard’s beaches that read:
THIS ISLAND IS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY UNDER EXPERIMENT THE GROUND IS CONTAMINATED WITH ANTHRAX AND DANGEROUS LANDING IS PROHIBITED BY ORDER 1987
The government promised to sell the island back to its owners for £500 (about $620 today) if a way to render it “fit for habitation by man and beast” was ever found. For decades afterward, Porton Down scientists visited the island regularly and took soil samples to see if the anthrax spores were still there. They were.
Finally in the 1980s, the government gave up on waiting for the spores to disappear naturally. It hauled away tons of the most contaminated topsoil and injected 280 tons of formaldehyde into the island’s groundwater to see if that would kill the remaining spores. They also reintroduced sheep to the island. In 1990, when those sheep failed to die and fresh soil samples showed no signs of anthrax, the scary signs were removed and the descendants of the original owners were permitted to buy the island back for £500, just as promised.
So is that the end of the story? The British government believes (and certainly hopes) so, but the Ministry of Defence has set up a fund to compensate any future victims of anthrax on Gruinard Island…just in case.
On Feb. 6, 2011, you could find Daryn Colledge celebrating alongside his teammates.
His team, the Green Bay Packers, had just defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25, winning Super Bowl XLV. It was his final season with the Packers.
The offensive guard has since become a different kind of guard.
In March 2016, after nine seasons in the NFL (with the Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins), Colledge enlisted in the Army National Guard.
He found that being a soldier would afford him the hands-on, active, team environment he was used to … and craved.
Now, you can find him on the back of a HH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.
Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), awaits take off for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)
Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He serves as part of a medical evacuation crew — a mission that goes into harm’s way to save complete strangers when called upon, while on an airframe with no weapon systems.
“I wanted this mission, because I believe in this mission,” said Colledge. “I wanted to be a part of the mission that might get those unfortunate injured ones back home, help save lives and help bring some of them back to their families.”
Many things influenced Colledge’s decision to join the Idaho National Guard, such as his family’s military past and a brother who currently serves.
Colledge stated that the National Guard provided the opportunities he sought after while serving. His passion for aviation drove him to choose to become a blackhawk helicopter repairer.
Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), prepares for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)
“Joining the Army National Guard was a two part choice,” said Colledge. “First, I wanted to remain in Boise, Idaho, and second as a private pilot in my civilian life, I wanted to continue to fly in my Army career.”
After multiple flights and several qualification tests, he later became a blackhawk crew chief; a job with more responsibilities yet filled with excitement and new opportunities for Colledge.
“I could have gone the Army pilot route, but the crew chief side is too interesting for me,” said Colledge. “Crew chiefs have the chance to wear so many hats; mechanic, door gunner, assistant to the medics, conduct hoist operations and sling load operations. The constant change is a great challenge and keeps you working and honing your skills.”
As a blackhawk crew chief, Colledge was presented with the opportunity to join a medical evacuation crew while on a deployment to Afghanistan.
“His desire to serve was clear,” said Capt. Robert Rose, Company G, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Forward Support Medical Platoon Leader MEDEVAC Detachment Officer in Charge. “His intent was never to seek glory through our mission, but rather to be in a position to help others.”
Colledge joined the MEDEVAC crew and rapidly became someone to emulate because of the teamwork and motivation he brought along with him.
U.S. Army Spc. Daryn Colledge, 168th Aviation Regiment UH-60 (Blackhawk) Helicopter repair student, practices routine maintenance during class at Fort Eustis, Va., July 28, 2016.
(Photo by Derek Seifert)
“One of things that comes naturally to Colledge is his ability to motivate and inspire others,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Hill, Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) / Detachment Commander. “He’s a team player and thrives on working toward a common purpose.”
Colledge not only performed his duties as a crew chief, but also was able to lead his crewmates by example. As a former professional athlete, Colledge brought the insight of how to maintain optimal physical readiness, which is one of the most important aspects of being a soldier.
“One of his most notable accomplishments, besides his great work as a crew chief, was building a workout program that others in the unit could participate in as a group,” said Hill. “He was able to motivate his peers and superiors alike to stay physically fit and healthy throughout the deployment, even in austere environments, which was huge for maintaining unit morale.”
Colledge emphasized the fact that teamwork in the Army versus teamwork in sports actually tends to have many similarities, especially when it comes to being deployed.
After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.
(Idaho Army National Guard)
“The close proximity to each other, the bond built over a common goal, the joint struggles, working through things as a team,” said Colledge. “You create a bond, a relationship that you do not share with those who were not there. Those bonds can last a lifetime.”
Although Colledge established himself to be a proficient soldier, crew chief and teammate, at the beginning there might have been some challenges in leading an individual with his unique background.
“Spc. Colledge doesn’t hide his previous career, but he also doesn’t flaunt it,” said Rose. “He is much more humble than I initially imagined when I heard that I would be leading a Super Bowl winning former NFL player.”
“Ultimately, I was more concerned with the fact that he was a competent crew chief who was willing to learn and contribute to the team as a whole,” said Hill. “He never made anything about himself at any time and he always put the unit and its soldiers first.”
After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.
From Super Bowl champion to flying in the skies of Afghanistan, Colledge’s journey is a unique experience that some would ponder on the “why,” not having the need to volunteer years of your life to serve your country.
“Selfless service defines who Colledge is, he did not need to enlist,” said Hill. “He chose to serve for no other reason than to serve and give back.”
“Outside of deployment, to help and support the city and state that supported me through my days in college has been a special opportunity for me,” said Colledge. “I would have not been able to pay for college on my own and the chance to give back and serve that same community means the world to me.”
The United States has confirmed to RFE/RL its delivery of American-made, Javelin antitank missile systems to Ukraine in a move that is welcome in Kyiv but will almost certainly enrage Moscow amid a four-year conflict that pits Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian national troops.
“They have already been delivered,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed on April 30, 2018, in response to an RFE/RL query on the handover of Javelins.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also confirmed the delivery and said his country continues “to strengthen our defense potential in order to repel Russian aggression.”
“I am sincerely grateful for the fair decision of [U.S. President] Donald Trump in support of Ukraine, in defense of freedom and democracy,” Poroshenko wrote. “Washington not only fulfilled our joint agreement, it demonstrated leadership and an important example.”
A shipment of lethal aid would appear to deepen U.S. involvement in the simmering conflict and mark at least a symbolic victory for Ukraine in its effort to maintain Western backing in the ongoing conflict.
After months of heated debate in Washington and, reportedly, much reluctance on the part of U.S. President Donald Trump, the White House was said to have approved the Javelin sale in December 2017.
That announcement sparked a sharp rebuke from Moscow, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accusing the United States of “fomenting a war.”
Two sources who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it — one in Ukraine and the other in the United States — confirmed the Javelin deliveries to RFE/RL ahead of the State Department announcement.
Neither disclosed when the missile systems arrived in Ukraine, whether all the promised missiles and launchers had been sent or where they were being stored; or whether Ukraine’s military had begun training on Javelins. But one of the sources added that the Javelins were delivered “on time.”
The State Department provided no details beyond the confirmation of the delivery.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has lobbied hard to Western officials for more weapons, in addition to limited supplies of nonlethal aid from Washington and European allies so far and U.S. approval of commercial weapons sales.
A $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved in 2017, and confirmed in March 2018, specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares, for Kyiv.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in December 2017, that U.S. military assistance to Ukraine was intended to bolster that country’s ability to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.”
Kyiv and Western governments say Moscow has armed and coordinated Ukrainian separatists as well as provided Russian fighters to help wrest control of swaths of territory that border Russia since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
The Javelins’ delivery is likely to spur a response from Moscow, which rejects accusations of involvement despite mounting evidence that includes weapons movements and cross-border artillery barrages, captured Russian troops, and intercepted communications.
Responding to the approved delivery of the missiles to Kyiv in December 2017, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said arming Ukraine would further inflame tensions between Moscow and Washington and push Ukraine “toward reckless new military decisions.”
Since 2015, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $750 million in nonlethal aid, including Humvees, night-vision equipment, and short-range radar systems.
There has been a recent uptick in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatist forces, according to reports from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM).
A 3-year-old cease-fire deal known as Minsk II has helped to reduce the intensity of the fighting, but it has not ended the war.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in March 2018, that while the Javelin sale would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine” and “help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
The Alaska-class cruisers are often seen as a waste of resources. At first glance, it is easy to see why. The United States only completed two out of the six planned vessels. One more was launched, but never finished. All three that managed to reach the water were quickly in reserve and then scrapped. But these ships were quite an achievement – a mini-battleship that gave good service during their brief careers.
Much of the issue was timing. According to data in Volume Fifteen of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Supplement and General Index,” the lead ship, USS Alaska (CB 1) was not commissioned until June 17, 1944, 11 days after the D-Day landings. The second ship, USS Guam (CB 2), was commissioned on Sept. 17, 1944. These ships didn’t have much left to fight by the time they got to the front lines.
Their primary purpose was to kill Japan’s heavy cruisers in a surface action. The Japanese had three classes of heavy cruiser intended for front-line service: The Myoko, Takao, and Mogami classes each packed ten eight-inch guns, and at least 12 610mm torpedo tubes for the Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.
The large cruiser USS Alaska (CB 1) fighting off a Japanese air attack.
(US Navy photo)
According to Fleets of World War II, the Alaska-class cruisers were armed with nine 12-inch guns and 12 five-inch dual-purpose guns. NavWeaps.com notes that these guns, the 12″/50 Mark 8, had a maximum range of 38,573 yards. By comparison, the Long Lance torpedo had a maximum range of 32,800 yards.
An Alaska-class large cruiser’s 12-inch guns could fire as many as three salvoes in a minute.
(US Navy photo)
That is a difference of three miles in favor of the Alaska-class cruisers. In essence, a Japanese heavy cruiser would be making a run of about three miles under fire before it could get within the maximum range of its torpedoes. In the roughly six minutes they would be making that run, an Alaska-class cruiser could get off anywhere from 15 to 18 salvoes.
The incomplete large cruiser USS Hawaii (CB 3) being towed to the scrapyard.
(US Navy photo)
The Alaska-class cruisers ended up helping to defend the fleet against Japanese planes. Both vessels helped escort the stricken USS Franklin (CV 13) after she suffered horrific damage during the invasion of Okinawa, and later took part in Operation Magic Carpet, the return of American troops home after World War II. These ships were sold for scrap in the early 1960s, never carrying out their primary mission of killing enemy heavy cruisers, but these mini-battleships still did their share during the war.
If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.
Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.
A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.
Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.
A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.
China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.
Type 001 Liaoning
China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.
“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.
The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.
Type 001A and Type 002
The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.
It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.
Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups
The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.
“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.
Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”
The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.
“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.
Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most
There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.
In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.
Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”
But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.
“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”
China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.
Type and number of ships in a carrier task force
“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.
“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.
A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.
“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.
A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.
Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.
Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates
The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.
The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.
China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.
Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers
These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.
Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.
Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers
While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.
The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.
Type 056 Jingdao corvettes
Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.
“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”
These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.
Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)
Additional naval and support vessels
In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.
“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.
“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Captain Sam Axelrad was a U.S. Army doctor in the Vietnam War. One day in 1966, a North Vietnamese soldier, Nguyen Quang Hung, was brought to Axelrad to amputate an arm because gangrene had started to spread in his wound.
“When I amputated his arm our medics took the arm, took the flesh off it, put it back together perfectly with wires,” Axelrad told BBC World Service. “And then they gave it to me.”
Dr. Axelrad kept the arm for more than 50 years. In 2013, he returned to Vietnam determined to give Hung his arm back.
“I can’t believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years,” Hung said, adding that he was very lucky to only lose an arm when so many of his fellow soldiers were killed.
Hung, whose Army paperwork had been lost in the years since the end of the war, will use his arm as proof of service in an effort to get a veteran’s pension.
“I’m very happy to see him again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century.”
The man in charge of waging war on ISIS explained during a teleconference with reporters Oct. 26 that Islamic State militants “make extensive use” of unmanned aircraft in their fight to keep territory in Iraq and the key city of Mosul.
Behold the dawn on Trojan Horse drones. (Photo from Friends of YPG YPJ)
The head of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said the terrorists use the drones to video suicide strikes on Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, fly in unmanned planes to help target coalition positions and even use the drones to direct fires from mortars and rockets.
ISIS use of drones is “not episodic or sporadic, it’s relatively constant,” Townsend said. “We’ve seen them using drones to control and adjust indirect fires.”
Townsend added that the bad guys are also getting into the armed drone game, with ISIS dropping “small explosive devices” from the UAVs over coalition bases and other targets.
“Those fortunately haven’t had great effect,” he said.
But what’s really bugging him is a new more dastardly way ISIS is using drones.
“Recently we have seen what we think is a Trojan Horse kind of UAV or drone,” Townsend said.
He went on to explain that Islamic State militants landed a UAV inside coalition lines. Thinking they’d gotten an intelligence boon. When the allied forces went out to recover the drone it was detonated remotely, injuring the troops.
“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” Townsend said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”
“We’re working to try to find better solutions to this pretty thorny problem,” he said.
A female Marine graduated from the Corps’ grueling Infantry Officer Course Monday, marking a historic feat as the first woman to earn the 0302 infantry officer military occupational specialty.
The woman, who has asked to keep her identity private, will now be assigned to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, the service said in a release.
“I am proud of this officer and those in her class who have earned the infantry officer MOS,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement.
Infantry Officer Course is one of the Corps’ toughest schools, where officers learn combat skills, patrolling, and leadership over 13 weeks of training. Just 88 Marines graduated from the latest class, which started with 131 students.
IOC was first opened to women in 2012 so that Marine leaders could research the feasibility of integrating all-male infantry units. Eventually, the Pentagon removed all restrictions on women in 2015.
Since the course opened up, more than 30 female officers have attempted it and failed. Meanwhile, a handful of enlisted female Marines have been able to graduate from the Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion.
“This is such a huge deal,” Kate Germano, a retired lieutenant colonel who previously commanded the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion, wrote on Twitter.
The Corps released a short video with clips of the female lieutenant during the course:
At a distance it looks like an American Flag, but a closer inspection reveals it’s also an army – one comprised of 4,466 toy soldiers.
High school senior Jacob Feazel from Peru, Indiana created a 4’x6′ American flag using the classic plastic toy ‘army guys.’
In an interview with WishTV, he said, “The soldiers are what make the U.S. free, you know? They fight for us so I figured it’s honoring them by putting them in the flag.”
Once he was done, his parents posted photos of the patriotic project on Facebook. That gallery has been shared over 188,000 times.
Feazel has received multiple offers to buy his creation, and Grissom Air Reserve base has expressed interest in displaying it. Aside from entering it into a scholarship competition and local art shows, he plans on keeping it.
Want to make your own ‘Army Guy American Flag”? Here’s what you’ll need: