If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the US should be flattered that Russia plans to deploy their only aircraft carrier, the 26 year-old Admiral Kuznetsov, off Syria’s coast for its first combat deployment.
A successful deployment of a full-blown aircraft carrier represents the kind of sophisticated military task only a first-rate world power can pull off, and that seems to be exactly what Russia hopes for.
The deployment will seek to present the best and brightest of Russia’s resurgent military. The Kuznetsov, which has suffered from a litany of mechanical failures and often requires tow boats, will stay tight to Syria’s shores due to the limited range of the carrier’s air wing.
Furthermore, the carrier lacks plane launching catapults. Instead, the carrier relies on a ski-jump platform that limits how much fuel and ordnance the Russian jets can carry.
Even so, the Russian jets aboard will be some of the latest models in Russia’s entire inventory, according to Russian state-run media. The bombs they carry will be guided, a sharp departure from Russia’s usual indiscriminate use of “dumb” or unguided munitions which can drift unpredictably when dropped from altitude.
Russian media quotes a military source as saying that with the new X-38 guided bombs, “we reinforce our aviation group and bring in completely new means of destruction to the region.” The same report states the bombs are accurate to within a few meters, which isn’t ideal, but an improvement.
Indeed, the Kuznetsov’s entire flight deck will function as somewhat of a showroom for Russian military goods. China operates a Soviet-designed carrier, as does India. Both of those nations have purchased Russian planes in the past. A solid performance from the jets in Syria would bode well for their prospects as exports, even as India struggles to get its current crop of Russian-made jets up to grade.
“Despite its resemblance to the land-based version of the MiG-29, this is a completely different aircraft,” Russian media quotes a defense official as saying of the MiG-29K carrier-based variant.
“This applies to its stealth technologies, a new system of in-flight refueling, folding wings and mechanisms by which the aircraft has the ability to perform short take-offs and land at low speeds.”
But the Russian jets practice on land bases that simulate the Kuznetsov, and any US Navy pilot will tell you that landing on a bobbing airstrip sailing along at sea is an entirely different beast.
One thing Russia’s upcoming carrier deployment does have going for it will be having the world’s premier naval and carrier power, the US, at least nominally aligned with them in a recently brokered cease-fire.
U.S. helicopters airlifted soldiers to a central Yemeni province where they targeted an al Qaeda compound, clashing with suspected militants and killing at least seven of them early on May 23, according to the American military, Yemeni security officials, and tribal leaders.
The Central Command said the U.S. forces killed the militants using “a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes” to attack the compound. The Defense Department said the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen’s government.
According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in the province of Marib in the early morning hours. Tribal members said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.
According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province. The officials and the tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters. They also did not have any specifics on casualties.
The Marib raid is the second publicly-known U.S. ground deployment in Yemen in 2017 against al Qaeda militants. The United States has stepped up airstrikes as part of a sustained assault on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in areas of Yemen where it is most active, after a late January special operations raid that resulted in the death of aNavy SEAL.
Washington considers AQAP as one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.
The January raid also killed 25 civilians, including women and children, and sparked outrage in Yemen. The U.S. military said 14 militants from al Qaeda were killed in the assault and that U.S. service members captured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”
Over 75 U.S. airstrikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.
But al Qaeda has used the chaos of Yemen’s civil war following the 2015 launch of the Saudi-led campaign targeting the Shiite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, and other areas in the country, to expand its footprint and recruitment efforts.
The militant group has also effectively emerged as a de facto ally of the U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the battle against the Shiite rebels.
VA and the U.S. Digital Service announced their launch of an improved Appeals Status tool to increase transparency and enable veterans to track the progress of their benefits claims appeals.
“It’s important that our Veterans have the opportunity to track their appeals process in a timely and efficient manner,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. “For the first time ever, Veterans can see their place on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ docket, including the number of appeals that are ahead of them.”
The tool, which went live March 21, 2018, on VA’s Vets.gov website, will allow Veterans to access detailed information about the status of their benefits appeals and will include alerts about needed actions, as well as estimates of how long each step of the process takes.
Some Veterans who have previewed the new tool said it had given them hope and helped them understand that the process might take longer than expected.
The V-280 can fly at 280 knots with a self-deployable range of 2,100 nautical miles, and a combat range of 500-800 nautical miles. It has a crew of four and can carry 12 troops, meeting all of the requirements the Army has laid out.
The Army has made it clear though that no single helicopter design would replace its entire helicopter fleet, according to Stars and Stripes.
“It’s a myth that the Army is looking for a single [type of] helicopter to perform all its vertical-lift missions,” Dan Bailey, a former AH-64 Apache pilot who is in charge of programs aimed at updating the Army’s helicopters, told Stars and Stripes. “In fact, we will have a family of aircraft. Some may be tilt-rotor and some may be coaxial.”
“We want to make sure we have advanced capabilities and configurations that allow that,” Bailey said.
While the Army is looking to replace its Black Hawks, it may also replace its Apaches, CH-47 Chinooks, and OH-58 Kiowas. The service could turn to the other competitors in the race — namely Boeing and Sikorsky.
Boeing and Sikorsky are cooperating on a joint project called the SB-1 Defiant, which can come in both transport and attack variants.
Sikorsky claims that the SB-1 will have a cruise speed of 250 knots, will be able to carry 12 soldiers and four crewmen, and will have an easy multi-mission design — meaning it can operate as a medical evacuation helicopter with little changes.
The SB-1 will have many operational commonalities with its variants, according to Sikorsky, which could mean reduced training time and costs.
Sikorsky is also developing a replacement for the Kiowa called the S-97 Raider, which has already logged some twenty flight hours. Based off of the SB-1, it is smaller and designed for scout and recon missions.
Sikorsky says that the SB-1 is expected to make its first flight test sometime in 2018, but the S-97 is on hold after a hard landing last August revealed issues with its flight control systems.
Sikorsky is still “fully committed to the program,” and will hopefully be back to flying in 2018, according to Chris Van Buiten, the vice president of Sikorsky Innovations.
So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”
Where do their husbands go?
They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.
For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.
In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.
Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.
The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.
Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.
The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.
Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.
The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.
Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.
But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.
There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.
But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.
The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.
Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.
The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”
Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.
All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.
This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.
The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.
The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”
In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.
Green Beret goes to Congress
Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.
After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.
But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.
So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.
A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.
Cup only half-full
The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.
And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.
Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.
As the successor to the Soviet Army, the Russian Ground Forces inherited vast stocks of small arms to arm and equip a much smaller ground force. Stored in arsenals across eleven time zones were large numbers of sidearms for officers, vehicle crews, and political commissars alike. These pistols, as well as new designs, arm today’s Russian army, providing both a weapon for self-defense and a badge of authority for those wielding them.
One of the earliest Soviet Army issue handguns was the Tokarev or “TT” automatic pistol. (Note that in this context the term “automatic” refers to the loading process, not the firing process. Users of so-called “automatic” pistols must still pull the trigger for every shot fired.) Outwardly the Tokarev was utilitarian and unattractive—in other words, fitting very much into the Soviet military aesthetic. Like most Soviet weapons it was dead simple to use and reliable, though its lack of a safety required vigilance against an accidental discharge.
The Tokarev weighed 1.86 pounds loaded and took a magazine of eight M30 7.62mm pistol cartridges. Internally it borrowed elements from John Moses Browning’s pistol designs, including the 1911, using a swinging link to unlock the barrel from the slide on recoil. Most Tokarevs can even fire 7.63mm Mauser used by submachine guns and the famous “broomhandle” Mauser pistol—after all Soviet engineers had designed M30 based on the Mauser cartridge.
The Tokarev was produced by the Tul’skiy Oruzheynyi Zavod, Tula factory, which is where the “TT” nickname came from. Production in the Soviet Union ceased in 1952, but not before an estimated 1.7 million Tokarevs were manufactured. Variants were made, licensed or not, in Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, China and North Korea.
The next Soviet handgun also took inspiration from abroad. The Pistolet Makarova (PM) was a Soviet copy of the German Walther PP (Polizeipistole, or Police Pistol), one of many handguns issued by the German army in World War II. The Makarov, as it was informally known, was a copy of the PP/K series using fewer parts to simplify the manufacturing process. The result is a pistol that resembles a less attractive version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK. The Makarov was adopted in December 1951, just as Tokarev was winding down.
The Makarov was both more compact and lighter than the Tokarev, with a shorter barrel. The pistol was chambered for the Soviet 9mm pistol round, a local design whose chief advantage seemed to be to prevent the Makarov from using foreign ammunition. The Soviet round is believed to have been developed from a German round, the 9mm Ultra, and is power-wise is fairly anemic by service pistol standards, somewhere between the 9mm Parabellum and the .380 ACP. Like its predecessor the Makarov carried eight rounds in the magazine.
Like all Soviet small arms, the Makarov was distributed far and wide beyond the Soviet Union, to client states and revolutionaries worldwide. Armies from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe used and still use the Makarov, and American troops have encountered the pistol in Afghanistan, Grenada, Laos, Iraq, North Vietnam and Syria. The Makarov also armed Soviet vehicle crews stationed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and would have rolled west with the Soviet Army and the Warsaw Pact if the war had ever turned “hot.” In 1990 the PMM, a newer version that featured a 33 percent larger magazine was introduced.
In the 1990s, Russian weapons designer Vladimir Yarygin introduced his Pistolet Yarygina or “PYa” pistol. Known as the MP-443 Grach, or “Rook” in Russian army service, PYa is a mixture of old and new designs. Like the TT, the new handgun is all steel and uses an internal mechanism reliant derived from John Browning’s Browning Hi-Power pistol. The pistol uses a modern “double action” design, which means that a single, long trigger pull will both cock the hammer and fire a round. It can also function as a single action pistol, with both hammer cocking and trigger pulling separate actions. Unlike the TT, the pistol accepts 9mm Parabellum cartridges, the standard 9mm cartridge in use worldwide.
Unlike the safety-less TT, the PYa both an external safety that locks the slide—another John Browning innovation—and a second, internal safety that prevents the firing pin from falling forward without the trigger being pulled. Like most modern “double stack” pistols, the PYa’s magazine holds eighteen rounds, more than twice as many rounds as its predecessors.
Although the PYa is more modern than previous Soviet/Russian designs, the current configuration lacks more recent features in Western pistols, including an under barrel rail for attaching lasers and flashlights, a loaded chamber indicator, and a decocker that uncocks the firing pin. First introduced into Russian Armed Forces use 2003, introduction of the PYa has been slow due to the large number of PM/PMM pistols already in use.
Russia’s service handguns are simple, rugged and reliable, made to be built—and used—in wartime. While they may lack the amenities found in many modern American pistols, such as the U.S. Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System, an emphasis on functionality means they will get the job done under extreme conditions.
Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:
According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.
The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.
While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.
Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.
*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.
This aircraft (MM5701) was based in Belgium in th Autumn of 1940 as part of the Corpo Aereo Italiano, the Italian Air Force element involved in the Battle of Britain. On November 11th 1940 while on a escort mission over England, flown by Sergente Pietro Savadori, its engine overheated and the pilot made a forced landing on the shingle beach at Orford Ness, Suffolk. It was subsequently test flown by Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown who was impressed by its manoeuvrability noted that it was underarmed. (Wikimedia Commons).
If England had 200 pilots like Eric “Winkle” Brown, the German Luftwaffe of World War II would never have even attempted to go to war with the British. Brown had been flying since he was just eight years old, going up with his dad, a veteran of Britain World War I Royal Flying Corps.
He began his formal training in 1937, at 18 years old. His flying ability would change aviation forever, as he became a celebrated wartime pilot, test pilot and naval aviator.
Brown isn’t just the most decorated pilot in the history of the Royal Navy, he was one of the most accomplished and experienced pilots of his time. He not only holds the record for most take-offs and landings from seaborne aircraft carriers, he flew almost every type of aircraft available during his day, he flew the German Me163 rocket plane and the first mass-produced helicopter – after only reading the manual.
His war record is just as impressive, despite being an exchange student living in Germany when World War II was declared. In 1939, in the war’s first days, the British national was arrested by the SS and deported to Germany. If the Nazi stormtroopers had just shot him instead, it would have saved them a whole lot of trouble.
After arriving home in England, Brown joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm aboard the HMS Audacity, an escort carrier. The posting gave Brown his first taste of air combat and the forum to display his cunning bravado behind the stick. It was as a pilot aboard Audacity that he scored his first two kills.
Brown was intercepting two German Focke-Wulf 200 Condor patrol aircraft when he decided to disregard maneuvering and fly head-on toward the incoming enemy. He shot down both of them and they never saw him coming. His next assignment saw him training Royal Canadian Air Force bomber crews and then escorting them on runs over occupied France.
He was then sent to fly captured Italian and German aircraft to determine their capabilities and weaknesses. Brown was able to fly 13 of them with minimal input beyond captured enemy documents. His next assignment was testing the combat capabilities of new Allied aircraft, which led him to becoming the first pilot to land a twin-engine plane on a carrier, and flying a transonic speeds in regular planes.
Brown assisted the U.S. Army Air Forces in developing the P-51 Mustang and adopting it for bomber escort duty, developing the first British jet aircraft, and was selected to fly as a test pilot for the UK’s postwar supersonic flight research project.
But before the war had ended, he landed perhaps his biggest achievement as an Allied airman: the surrender of 2,500 enemy troops and the capture of experimental German jet-powered bombers. British intelligence learned that a number of German Arado Ar-234 jet bombers had retreated to a base in Norway. They needed to capture those jets before the Red Army could arrive.
As British forces advanced on the base, Brown flew to the airfield and landed there, expecting it to have been captured by the British Army. The Germans had put up a bigger fight for the area than the British expected, so when Brown landed, it was still in enemy hands.
With the end of the war in sight, the German commander surrendered his base and its 2,500 personnel to Brown, who held command until the British force could arrive. The British took 12 of the new, advanced bombers back to England the next day.
Brown would go on to break numerous aviation records, including the highest number of different aircraft. He died in 106, aged 97 years.
The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.
The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.
“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.
The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.
The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile. Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.
The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.
The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder. One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed. The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected. He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.
The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.
As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.
Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.
China’s construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, a new Pentagon report concludes, predicting that Pakistan may be another potential location.
The annual assessment of China’s military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. It has also increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.
The Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base in the Horn of Africa nation. But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with U.S. operations there.
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
The military expansion ties into a broader Chinese initiative to build a “new Silk Road” of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across an arc of countries through Asia, Africa and Europe. Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.
But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military.
China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. Construction began in February 2016. Beijing has said the facility will help the army and navy participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian assistance.
But the expanded presence around the world would align with China’s growing economic interests and would help it project military power further from its borders.
The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.
Unlike previous reports, the new assessment doesn’t document a lot of new island creation by China in the East and China Seas. Last year’s report said China had reclaimed 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea.
Instead, the new report focuses on the military build-up on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
It said that as of late last year, China was building 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities on each of the three largest outposts — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. Each has runways that are at least 8,800 feet long.
Once complete, the report said China will be able to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands.
China has also built up infrastructure on the four smaller outposts, including land-based guns and communications facilities.
The report added that, “China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”
The United States Institute of Peace released a wide-ranging report on the U.S. military’s capabilities and outlook from the National Defense Strategy Commission, a body tasked to assess the U.S. military’s capabilities within the environment it is expected to operate — and the analysis isn’t good.
“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt,” the report says. “If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.“
As American military advantages degrade, the country’s strategic landscape becomes more threatening, the report says. The solution is to rebuild those advantages before the damage caused by their erosion becomes devastating.
More than 900 Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship Pre-Commissioning Unit America march to the ship to take custody of it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos.)
The USIP is a body independent from government and politics, though it was founded by Congress. It seeks to keep the U.S. at peace by addressing potential conflicts before they explode into violence by offering training, analysis, and outreach to organizations and governments working to prevent those conflicts. Their 2018 report, Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission, was commissioned by Congress in 2017.
While the panel praises the efforts and strategies enacted by Defense Secretary James Mattis in January, 2018, it also warns about continuing issues that need to be addressed immediately. The commission’s report is the first step to addressing these issues.
Marine Corps Cpl. Johnathan Riethmann, a mortarman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, walks to a staging area in preparation for Exercise Sea Soldier 17 at Senoor Beach, Oman, Feb. 15, 2017.
(Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.)
The biggest threats to American interests are authoritarian competitors, like China and Russia, who seek to become regional hegemons to neutralize American power in their areas through military buildup. Less powerful actors, like Iran and North Korea, seek technological advances and asymmetrical tactics to counter U.S. power, while transnational threats, like jihadist groups, will fight American power with more and more capability.
Nowhere are these challenges to American power more apparent than in what the report refers to as “gray-zone aggressions,” areas somewhere between war and peace. Here, adversaries large and small are in competition and conflict with the United States in areas of cyber warfare and diplomacy.
U.S. Army Soldiers wait to be picked up by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. The Soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter J. Pels)
Chiefly to blame for the decline in American advantage is the dysfunction in competing American political parties, who have failed to enact “timely appropriations” to U.S. defense. This is particularly true in the case of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which ended the debt-ceiling crisis of that same year. The act required some 7 billion in spending cuts in exchange for a 0 billion increase in the debt ceiling. These cuts hit the Department of Defense particularly hard, affecting the size, modernization, and readiness of the U.S. military.
The report goes on to say that current National Defense Strategy “too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world. We believe that the NDS points the Department of Defense (DOD) and the country in the right direction, but it does not adequately explain how we should get there.”
Senior Airman Mario Fajardo stands guard Jan. 25 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The 355th Security Force Squadron is responsible for the worldwide force protection and security of seven flying squadrons and 4,400 tactical and stored aircraft on Davis-Monthan AFB worth more than 32.3 billion dollars.
(U.S. Air Force)
Writers of the report say the U.S. needs substantial improvements in military capability based on relevant, operational warfighting concepts. The United States military must also invest in favorable military balances while diminishing the power exerted by adversaries and regional hegemons and limiting military options available to them. Most importantly, the DoD muse clearly develop plausible strategies to achieve victory against any aggressor in the event of a war, noting that much of current defense policy includes meaningless buzzwords.
There is also a lot the U.S. has never addressed, like how to counter an adversary in a way that falls short of a full-scale war or if the United States limits technological development with potential rivals and keep threatened defense-related industries from seeking agreements with those rivals.
These are just a few of the recommendations the commission makes to rebuild the U.S. military and its advantages at home and abroad. You can read the full report at the United States Institute for Peace site.