Since the close of the Cold War, military parades have been associated with authoritarian powers, like China, Russia, and North Korea, who show off their newly built military platforms to the chagrin of military analysts around the world.
While the U.S. has the best military in the world, there are some things Russia, China, or North Korea can do in a parade that the U.S. simply can’t.
For example, Pennsylvania Avenue probably can’t handle a long convoy of heavy military vehicles. Today’s M1 Abrams tanks weigh a whopping 67 tons. World War II-era military parades featured tanks that weighed about half that.
The weight and treads of an Abrams tank might just tear up the road. When China and Russia put on military parades, they roll through state-of-the-art military vehicles, while the U.S.’s main battle tank was first built in 1979. In many ways, Russia and China’s parades would likely outclass the U.S.’s in terms of how new their equipment is.
Will Trump show nukes?
Additionally, Russia, China, and North Korea like to parade their ICBMs around, but the U.S. can’t really do that. Unlike the authoritarian nuclear powers across Asia, the U.S. parks its ICBMs in silos, not atop huge military trucks.
When the U.S. does move its ICBMs around, it does so in plain-looking trucks. The U.S. has paraded nuclear weapons down Pennsylvania Avenue before, but today’s nuclear weapons are far more discrete looking.
But there is a nuclear platform that would make sense for a parade and avoid tearing up the road — nuclear bombers. The U.S. could fly B-2 and B-52 bombers overhead, as well as stealth jets, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
In terms of air power, the U.S. has much more to show off than Russia, China, or North Korea, which can’t even fly its planes due to a lack of fuel.
The U.S. has something Russia, China, and North Korea can’t touch
While the U.S. military doesn’t exactly lend itself to parading, it has something worth showing off that China, Russia, and North Korea can’t touch — soldiers who actually want to be there.
The pride of the U.S. military is not any one single platform, or any combination thereof. All major militaries have planes, tanks, and missiles, but the U.S. has an all-volunteer force, while Russia, China, and North Korea rely on conscripts.
Even more important than troops marching though, are the people watching. In the U.S., anyone of any status can think and say or write what they like about the soldiers. They can attend, or not. The revelers on the sidelines of the parade w0uld be proud U.S. citizens attending of their own free will.
That’s simply not the case in North Korea, Russia, and China.
U.S. Army equipment experts plan to test lighter-weight, individual body armor plates by summer 2019, according to a recently released Defense Department test and evaluation report.
The Army’s multi-component Soldier Protection System body armor features hard-armor plates designed to stop rifle rounds. They’re known as the Vital Torso Protection component of the system.
Commanders can choose from the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, or the X Threat Small Arms Protective Insert, known as XSAPI, in addition to corresponding side armor plates of the same protection level. The XSAPI armor, which weighs slightly more, is for higher threats. All plates fit into the new Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV.
Sgt. Michael Graham, an intelligence advisor with the 4th Infantry Division Military Transition Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wears his Improved Outer Tactical Vest during a combined-battlefield circulation with the Iraqi Army.
(Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans)
The Army intends to test new, lighter-weight armor plates in third quarter of fiscal 2019, according to the Fiscal 2018 Annual Report from the Defense Department’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.
The motorcycle club whose members were at the vanguard of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, nicknamed “Putin’s Angels” by the media, is on the road again.
Members of the Night Wolves were due in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serb-majority entity Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, on March 21, 2018, and were expected to hold a press conference in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, around a week later.
They have planned or taken provocative rides before — including a Victory Day trip to Berlin and a candle lighting at Katyn, where Josef Stalin is said to have ordered the execution of tens of thousands of Polish officers during World War II — and are targeted by U.S. and Canadian sanctions for their thuggish support of non-uniformed Russian forces during the takeover of Crimea in 2014.
The group’s agenda during its tour of what it calls the “Russian Balkans” remains unclear, and it is hard to know whether it somehow reflects Kremlin geopolitical goals or is just a solid effort at trolling.
Atlantic Council senior fellow Dimitar Bechev recently argued that while Russia is increasingly active in the Western Balkans, its influence is not as great as generally believed.
Promoting his new book, Rival Power: Russia In Southeast Europe, at the London School of Economics, Bechev expressed concern that Western media was obsessed with the idea of Russia as a “partner-turned-enemy” in the Balkans and the Middle East.
“In reality, if Russia was increasingly present in the Balkan region, it was not always because it was imposing itself but because local powers and elites were engaging Russia to serve their own domestic agendas,” Bechev said.
The Slavic culture and the Orthodox faith of many of the region’s inhabitants have also meant that the “narrative structure [already] tends to favor Russia” in the Balkans and makes it fertile ground for the possible exercise of Russian “soft power.”
But Jasmin Mujanovic, author of the book Hunger Fury: The Crisis Of Democracy In The Balkans, is less certain that Russia’s influence in the region has been overstated.
“Russia’s influence in Bosnia and the Balkans is obviously not as significant as it is in its immediate ‘near abroad.’ But that does not mean Moscow does not have concrete strategic aims in the region, aims which, from the perspective of the political and democratic integrity of local polities, are incredibly destructive.”
According to Mujanovic, the combination of clear Russian objectives in the region and the desperation of some local politicians to cling to power (such as Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik) makes for an explosive mix.
“[O]ne does not militarize their police, or hire paramilitaries, or purchase missiles if they are not prepared to use them,” said Mujanovic. He suggested that some individuals were prepared to use violence to sabotage the Bosnian elections in 2018 and “counting on support from Russia and assorted Russian proxies to do it.” He did not provide specific evidence of any such plans.
“Russia’s objective is simple: Keep Bosnia out of NATO and the EU,” Mujanovic added. “Moscow wants to ensure that the country remains an ethnically fragmented basketcase in the heart of the Balkans.”
Into this volatile context ride the Night Wolves.
On their Facebook page, the Russian bikers said their nine-day tour through Bosnia and Serbia would cover 2,000 kilometers after leaving Belgrade on March 19, 2018. Two of the Night Wolves have been denied entry to Bosnia on security grounds, including the group’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, aka “The Surgeon.”
Following their role in the Ukrainian conflict, the Night Wolves were blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2014 and a year later prevented from riding through Poland on their way to Berlin to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany.
Yet these concerns apparently are not shared by authorities in Serbia and in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia.
“The different perceptions of the [Night Wolves’] tour are a reflection of the Balkan political landscape, including differences in relations with Russia,” Belgrade-based analyst Bosko Jaksic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
“Republika Srpska in particular is a bastion of pro-Russian sentiment and currently the main focus of Russian activity in the Western Balkans,” Jaksic added. “In Serbia, meanwhile, there are numerous organizations, groups, associations, and even political parties that do not hide their admiration for Russia. [This tour] among other things should serve as a warning that Russia is ramping up its influence, relying both on existing local support and using every available means and avenue to project its soft power.”
Jaksic said he believes the Balkans became a key part of Moscow’s strategic agenda following the onset of the Ukrainian crisis and is now a target for its soft-power arsenal.
“These so-called ‘Putin’s Angels’ are undoubtedly a part of a very political agenda,” Jaksic said.
It appears that in Republika Srpska, where only around half of the population has access to the Internet, trolls must deliver their message in person.
“The leader of the Night Wolves…uses his motorbike like a scalpel to make an incision and separate parts of the Balkans from the West, bringing them closer to Russia. He does so while preaching pan-Slavism and Christian Orthodoxy, two favorite themes of Russian propaganda,” Jaksic said.
While the West equivocates over the Balkans, Mujanovic complained, “Moscow and Banja Luka will not squander an easy opportunity to ‘create new facts’ on the ground,” adding that even a small dose of violence could be fatal to “a polity already as fragmented as Bosnia.”
“This,” Mujanovic said, “is the most significant threat to the Dayton peace [accords] since 1996.”
The Army has had a love-hate relationship with its PT tests. It seems like every few months, soldiers catch wind of a new APFT that is definitely coming, so they should start getting ready. This has been circulating through the Private News Network for over a decade and has steadily been covered by military journalists since 2011.
While the actual events in proposed tests differ from year to year, each potential revision generally includes adding to the existing three staples (push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run) some events more consistent with the military lifestyle. They also usually change up the grading system to either being a single, unified scale for everyone in the Army or something so convoluted that no one can easily figure them out at 0530.
Also unanswered: “Is the VA cool with all of the back-problem claims they’re about to receive?”
(U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has been very open about feedback and answering soldiers’ questions about the test, as seen in an article on Army Times. Nonetheless, the ever-looming question of, “will it actually happen this time?” remains unanswered.
But at least scoring a 300 gave soldiers their very much owed bragging rights.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Seong Joon Kim)
The Army Physical Fitness Test was first introduced in 1858 at West Point and has been evolving ever since. In the 20s, it was standardized and the 40s gave us a seven-event system that was bonkers. There were minor changes made to the system until the APFT as we know it came into being in 1980.
The current test focuses on three fitness groups: upper body, core, and endurance. You are then scored according to the average performance of others of your age and gender, giving you a rough idea of how physically fit you are. The test is combined with a “tape test” to measure body fat, but this portion is often skipped if the soldier is obviously not overweight.
The main criticism of the test that’s been in place for 38 years is that it doesn’t accurately identify if a soldier is fit for combat. A scrawny 18-year old could score a 300 and still won’t be able to carry anyone else in the unit should the worst happen.
According to Army Times, here’s what the new test will look like. Note that all events are now graded on a “go/no-go” scale. From the moment the first dead-lifts start, soldiers are only allowed brief rests before moving to the next event. The entire test would take 50 minutes.
Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
Standing power throw. You’ll be required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. You’ll have three minutes to make one practice throw and two for a grade. The longest distance is recorded.
Hand-release push-ups. You lower your chest to the floor and lift your hands off the ground between each rep. You’ll be required to do the most reps in three minutes.
Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, you will go 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each repetition will include a different activity. Meaning you’ll sprint, drag a sled, run a lateral shuffle, or carry two 40-pound kettle bells, and then sprint again.
Leg tuck. You will be required to hang from a pull-up bar and, with your body parallel, pull your knees to your elbows. Do as many reps as possible within two minutes.
Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.
In the very likely scenario that this will happen (because my faith in some soldier’s intelligence is laughable) please send those photos to US Army WTF Moments.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux)
See any red flags in there? The overhaul brings about some serious concerns that have been largely avoided with the three-event test. The sit-ups are out entirely and the regular push-ups have been modified into “hand-release push-ups,” in which you must clap your hands mid-rep.
There’s an obvious risk involved in rushing a company full of soldiers through a mandatory test while instructing them to blindly throw a heavy-ass ball behind them. There’s a less obvious risk involved in requiring dead lifts. The fact is, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, an improper dead lift is going to devastate your back. There’s also the risk of soldiers slipping up on the hand-released push-ups and eating pavement — which is nothing more than funny if it doesn’t involve a trip to the dentist.
While it’s only in the hearsay-phase, if the test were to be in ACUs, it’d make things even worse.
Then there’s the cost factor. Only two of the seven events don’t require some sort of special equipment to perform. In order to keep up with the “two-minute rest” condition in the test, units are going to need to dish out a metric a*s-load of cash to buy enough equipment to test everyone. Add to that the money needed to store all that equipment when it’s not in use and the costs of keeping all the equipment in working order — the bill is starting to add up.
This is all without addressing the most polarizing aspect of the new test: it uses a single grading system for all soldiers. There’s a reason for the current grading system — it’s based off of averages for each gender and age group. Realistically speaking, a 41-year old female who’s been in the military her entire adult life would obviously not do as many push-ups as a fresh, 18-year-old football jock.
The current test compares her to women in her age group. It accurately tells the command that, yes, her 300 score means she’s kicking all of her like peers. Pitting her in a dead-lift competition against Mr. Teenage Quarterback just doesn’t make any sense.
There are many, many roadblocks ahead for an updated PT test. Since the onset, critics have been vocal and yet many problems remain unaddressed, so don’t hold your breath on this one happening by 2020 as projected. Army brass is keen on this test so, if it does happen, expect a lot of backlash, back problems, high costs, and countless classes on proper dead-lift form.
U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.
Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.
At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.
Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.
“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)
The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.
While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.
A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.
The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.
On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Tomorrow, almost 70,000 U.S. troops and veterans will pack Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to watch two college football teams with records that could barely be called “winning” go head-to-head for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
The current attacks aimed at retaking ISIS-held areas in Northern Iraq are being supported by U.S. artillery fire on the ground, U.S. Central Command officials said.
Iraqi Security Forces have launched a series of offensive attacks to re-take villages from ISIS in the vicinity of Makhmour, an area south of Mosul where their forces have been preparing, maneuvering and staging weapons for a larger attack.
“The Iraqis have announced an operation in Makhmour to liberate several villages in the vicinity. The coalition is supporting the operation with air power,” Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
U.S. Coalition ground artillery and airpower can include a wide range of assets, potentially including 155m Howitzer artillery fire, F-15Es, F-18s, drones and even A-10s, among other assets.
Although its clear the Iraqis do at some point plan to launch a massive attack to take back the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, these attacks may be merely “staging” exercises, one Pentagon official told Scout Warrior.
“Staging” exercises are often used by forces to consolidate power, demonstrate and ability to make gains and solidify preparations for a much larger assault.
“We announced months ago that shaping operations for Mosul have begun. This is part of that effort. The coalition support is focused on helping the Iraqis liberate Mosul and conducted in close coordination with the Government of Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger M. Cabiness II, told Scout Warrior.
Officials with U.S. Central Command explain that “shaping” exercises for a full offensive into Mosul have been underway for several weeks.
“We began the isolation of Mosul from Raqqa and central Iraq when the Peshmerga took Sinjar and Iraqi Security Forces, retook Tikrit and Bayji. Operations in the Euphrates River valley support the eventual battle inside Mosul by preventing Da’esh (ISIS) from reorienting forces to that fight, and preventing easy resupply of the fighters in Mosul,” U.S. Central Command told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
At the same time, the U.S. military has established a special, separate fire base apart from Iraqi forces in Northern Iraq designed to protect Iraqi Security Forces massing in preparation for an upcoming massive offensive attack on ISIS-held Mosul, officials said.
The outpost, called “Firebase Bell,” includes roughly a company-sized force of several hundred Marines. While U.S. military units have previously established a presence to defend Iraqi troops in other locations throughout Iraq, this firebase marks the first time the U.S. has set up its own separate location from which to operate in support of the Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. officials explained.
Armed with artillery and other weapons to defend Iraqi forces, the U.S. Marines have already exchanged fire with attacking ISIS fighters who have launched rockets at the firebase.
On March 19, ISIS forces launched two rocket attacks at the Marine Corps firebase, killing one U.S. Marine and injuring others, Warren explained while offering condolences to the family of fallen Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
U.S. Marine Corps counter-battery fire was unable to destroy the location from which the rockets were launched, as ISIS is known to use mobile launchers and quickly abandon its fire location.
The Marines, who are from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are armed with 155m artillery weapons able to reach targets at distances greater than 30-kilometers. The weapons are designed to thwart and destroy any approaching ISIS forces hoping to advance upon massing Iraqi forces or launch attacks.
When it comes to the eventual full assault on Mosul, Warren did not deny that U.S. military firepower from “Firebase Bell” might support attacking Iraqi Security Forces with offensive artillery attacks, but did not confirm the possibility either – explaining he did not wish to elaborate on potential future operations.
Overall, there are roughly 3,700 U.S. troops in Iraq, however that number could rise by a thousand or two in coming weeks – depending upon how many U.S. forces are temporarily assigned to the region.
Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.
The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.
“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”
Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.
Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”
“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.
“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.
Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.
“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.
“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”
Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.
In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.
ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.
“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”
The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.
“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.
Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”
In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.
The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.
The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.
The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.
An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.
“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.
F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise Red Flag 17-3.
Ten F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters.
This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise, officials said. The F-35B is the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the jet, and the F-35A has conventional takeoff and landing capabilities.
Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater, officials said.
The F-22 is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances.
“We’re primarily an escort role,” said Air Force Capt. Brady Amack, 95th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We integrate with other aircraft, whether they’re fourth or fifth generation, and ensure they’re able to execute their mission. The amount of experience we get is huge. There is no other area, really, where we can train with so many different types of aircraft in such a large area.”
Higher Level of Training
By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level, as each unit rings specific expertise and talents to the table, officials said. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat, they added.
Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating fifth-generation assets, exercise officials noted, adding that Tyndall’s Raptors will be able to learn from working with both F-35 units taking part.
Both aircrafts’ stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities help augment the capabilities of the other aircraft, Amack said.
“Working with the F-35s brings a different skill set to the fifth-generation world,” he added. “Having a more diverse group of low-observable assets has allowed us to do great things.”
The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a preflight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.
The 95th Fighter Squadron benefits by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties, officials said.
“Since Red Flag 17-3, in particular, is U.S. only, we get to take the opportunity to take things to the next level,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.
“This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest fifth-generation footprint, which allows us to learn as we continue to build new ideas. As we look to be innovative and solve problems, we’ll only increase our readiness by getting smarter as a force and as joint warfighters.”
This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.
On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.
McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.
Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit’s helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.
When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade “slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot. Yet, that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast,” the President said.
As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan’s lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic’s own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying “You’re going to need me here.”
McCloughan would later say, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic,” Trump related.
Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the President said.
“Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart,” the President said. “He gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.
Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.
McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.
During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, deep inside Laos.
“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded Soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” Trump said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers.”
When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose’s helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.
During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”
In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose’s brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.
“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”
North Korea has claimed to have destroyed the Punggye-ri test site, which had been previously used for numerous nuclear tests.
Officials from Kim Jong Un’s regime blew up tunnels at the site in front of some 20 foreign journalists from the US, UK, Russia, China, and South Korea on May 24, 2018.
Tom Cheshire, a Sky News correspondent who was invited to witness the destruction from 500 metres away, described a “huge explosion,” seeing part of a hill collapsing, and a wooden observation cabin being blown to “smithereens.”
He also described doors to a tunnel being “theatrically rigged,” and seeing wires and plastic bags strewn everywhere.
The journalists, who were staying in Wonsan, had to take a 12-hour overnight train and a four-hour bus, and then hike for two hours in order to get to the test site, located in North Korea’s sparsely-populated northeast.
Punggye-ri is believed to be where North Korea carried out at least five nuclear tests in the past, including in September 2017, when the regime claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb.
South Korean journalists had been excluded from the trip until the last minute as the North protested a US-South Korean military drill. The destruction of the tunnels was also done according to North Korea: It does not meet US or international standards for verifiable or complete denuclearisation.
Chinese authorities also said in April 2018, that Punggye-ri had collapsed. In September 2017, analysts also told The Washington Post that the mountain was suffering from “tired mountain syndrome” after its numerous nuclear tests.
Moreover, if North Korea truly has completed its nuclear programme, as it has claimed, it no longer needs an active test site anyway.
Kim is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in June 2018, although Trump said the summit could be delayed.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.
The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.
Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.
According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.
France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.
It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.