India's new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors - We Are The Mighty
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India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

India successfully tested the Agni 5 missile Jan. 18, moving it closer to joining the small group of countries with access to nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles.


This is India’s first successful test of the Agni 5 at its full range, the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a release. The test also marks a significant step in India’s military development amid tensions with China and Pakistan.

The missile test was conducted on an island off India’s east coast, flying for 19 minutes and covering more than 3,000 miles. It was the fifth such test and the third consecutive one firing the missile from a canister on a road-mobile launcher, the Indian Ministry of Defense said. All five tests have been successful.

The ministry said “all objectives” of the latest test were met and that it “reaffirms the country’s indigenous missile capabilities and further strengthens our credible deterrence.”

Also Read: India gets into the global nuke game with test of Agni V ICBM

The Agni 5 is the most advanced in the Agni series, part of a program that began in the 1980s. It has a range of more than 3,100 miles and puts India among countries like the U.S., China, and Russia that have access to intercontinental ballistic missiles. The missile is also set for incorporation into India’s Strategic Forces Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear-weapons stockpile.

The three-stage missile is 55 feet long and is capable of carrying a payload of more than 1.5 tons, which is enough to carry “fusion-boosted fission warheads with a yield of 200-300 kilotonnes,” according to an editorial by Saurav Jha, the editor-in-chief of the Delhi Defense Review.

Heightened tensions with India’s neighbors

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Indian Agni-5 missile launch. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

India is currently in a tense period of relations with its western neighbor, Pakistan, with which it has long had a contentious relationship. New Delhi has said it faces a threat from Pakistan’s development of a nuclear missile program of its own.

New Delhi and Beijing went through a protracted standoff over a sliver of land in the eastern Himalayas over the summer — the worst border dispute between the two countries in three decades. The number of face-offs between Indian and Chinese personnel in disputed areas on their shared border increased considerably in 2017.

The latest period of border tension was punctuated by a brief hand-to-hand, rock-throwing clash in another disputed area in the western Himalayas.

China has criticized India’s development of the Agni 5 and expressed dismay about India’s growing defense ties with the U.S. and other countries in the region.

India has been boosting its military development over the past few years, largely in response to the growing Chinese presence in the region, which is home to heavily trafficked and strategically valuable shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.

Beijing now has a presence at ports in Sri LankaPakistanDjibouti, and has a growing relationship with the Maldives. China’s navy, its submarines in particular, is increasingly active in the Indian Ocean, especially around the Malacca Strait, through which the country passes about 80% of its fuel supplies.

India has expanded its anti-submarine-warfare capabilities and its acquisition of military hardware, like warships and fighter jets. It is also looking to boost its domestic military industry through partnerships with international firms.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
The Agni-5 ICBM. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Advances in India’s missile technology

With the Agni 5, New Delhi is now able to hit targets in most of China — including major cities on its east coast. The missile’s mobile-deployment capacity also makes it harder to track and boosts India’s second-strike capabilities. Its reentry vehicle may also mitigate ballistic-missile defenses being developed by China.

“If there are hostilities, and if there are contingencies, then India has something which can deter China or at least make China think twice,” Nitin A. Gokhale, an independent national-security analyst in India, told The New York Times.

While some aspects of India’s missile development have faced setbacks in recent weeks, there have been significant advances in its missile technology as well.

In late November, India’s air force said it become the first air force in the world to successfully test an air-launched Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, after firing one of the 5,500-pound, two-stage missiles from a modified Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet at a sea target off India’s east coast.

Also Read: India just bought a deadly Russian missile system

The successful test in November gave India the ability to launch the missile from sea, land, and air.

The Brahmos, which is based on Russia’s P-800 Oniks sea-skimming cruise missile, was a joint project between New Delhi and Moscow. Russia provided 65% of the missile’s components, while India supplied the majority of the rest.

The Brahmos is reportedly able to carry a 660-pound warhead up to 250 miles, traveling at speeds up to Mach 3. That combination of speed, range, and explosive power makes the missile a threat to large surface ships, like aircraft carriers, as well as to fortified targets on land. Its speed and low altitude may also mean that anti-missile defenses, especially shipboard ones, would have trouble intercepting it. There is also speculation the missile could be modified to carry a nuclear warhead.

Articles

White House predicts another chemical attack in Syria

The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on June 26 as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.


In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women, and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Photo from White House YouTube.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.

Assad had denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and pupil constriction.

Days later, President Donald Trump launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base where US officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president months before.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

Syria maintained it hadn’t used chemical weapons and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory. Russia is a close ally of Assad.

The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.

Earlier on June 26th, Trump had dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier that day about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups, and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Asaad, but also on Russia Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”

Articles

Athlete dedicates Invictus medals to soldier who saved his life

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors


As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.

Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.

Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling.  And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.

In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.

Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.

Lifesaver

“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”

Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”

Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.

“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”

He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.

“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

The Air Force’s ongoing pilot shortage has been a cause for concern. This summer, the Air Force announced that they were increasing bonuses in an effort to keep pilots. How has that worked out?


According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, participated in Red Flag Alaska, a national exercise aimed to provide high-intensity combat training for pilots in a controlled environment at Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Jordyn Sadowski)

It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.

“Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”

To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and Russian astronauts forced to conduct emergency landing

A space capsule carrying a two-man Russian-American crew that malfunctioned after liftoff has landed safely in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, the Russian and U.S. space agencies say.

Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth on Oct. 11, 2018, in their Soyuz capsule for an emergency landing following a problem with the booster rocket shortly after a launch bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Both NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Roskosmos, the Russian equivalent, said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.


“The search and rescue teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” NASA said.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

(RFE/RL Graphic)

“The cosmonauts are alive. They have landed. They have been found,” according to a source at the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The crew had to return in “ballistic descent mode,” NASA earlier had said, which it explained was “a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”

Following their emergency landing, NASA published pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical checkup and relaxing on sofas in Zhezqazghan. The two were expected to be flown to Baikonur and then on to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate the causes of the malfunction, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that manned space flights would be suspended until the probe is completed.

The Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed 123 seconds after the launch from Baikonur, Borisov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The minister added that the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

Footage from inside the spacecraft showed the crew being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred.

In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

Hague and Ovchinin were due to spend six months on the ISS, which is orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential, and other issues, but Russia and the United States have maintained cooperation in space.

The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Oct. 11, 2018, booster failure led to what is said to be the first emergency landing for the Soyuz since 1975, when it failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system. The crew survived.

In 1983, a Soyuz exploded on the launchpad soon after the two cosmonauts it was carrying jettisoned. The crew also survived without injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Secretary Mattis’ press briefings are so intense

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spent more than 40 years in the study and practice of war, but his extensive thoughts and writings on the subject have often been selectively reduced to chesty one-liners.


There’s the admonition to the troops, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

And another, “There’s some a——s in the world that just need to be shot.”

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Photo courtesy of DoD)

Other examples of bumper-sticker bravado could be cited that tend to drown out the context and Mattis’ consistent underlying message in a career as Marine legend and four-star general — that being prepared for war is the best way to prevent it.

Mattis, in the past week, has been attempting to provide more context in three informal sessions with Pentagon reporters that he acknowledges undertaking at the suggestion of The Associated Press’ senior defense correspondent, Bob Burns.

It’s just him in the middle of a reporters’ huddle. His aides stand aside but within earshot. He is unfailingly polite and direct in his responses to any topic that comes up, with the exception of those that he feels would give a clue to future operations.

Only once has he snapped at a question. Mattis took a question on civilian casualties in Yemen as suggesting that the U.S. didn’t care about the casualties. “Don’t screw with me,” he said.

At the session with reporters Jan. 5, Mattis took questions on Pakistan, Syria, Korea, Iran, Russia, transgender recruits, and the budget and, in the process, made a statement that could be added to his lexicon of one-liners.

“What counts most in war is [the] most difficult to count,” he said in expanding on his thoughts about civil war in Syria in response to a question about whether progress could be gauged by the number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed.

Another reporter interjected that Mattis had recently said in Tel Aviv, “I’ve got better things to do than counting while the fight’s still going on.”

Mattis went on to say, “Yes, we’re not going to get into that sort of thing. You’ll know probably the most challenging part in assessing in combat — to include specifically your question — is that what counts most in war is most difficult to count, to quantify, OK?”

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

The most difficult thing to quantify is the enemy’s morale, Mattis said, but there are “lagging indicators” that would show that constant pressure is having an effect.

“Morale, eventually, you’ll see a lagging indicator,” he said. “You’ll see that not as many people want to be recruited into a force that’s getting annihilated — witness Syria.”

“You won’t see as many foreigners coming to join witness this. So, you can kind of look at what’s happened in Syria and say, ‘Wait a minute. They’re not putting out squads to go blow off bombs in Brussels anymore.’ They can’t. You know, this sort of thing,” Mattis said.

The problem is that “not always can you quantify where you’re at, at any one moment,” he said, but in the case of ISIS “we’ll fight them” until the threat is eliminated.

Read More: 15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies (Updated)

Mattis also spoke on tyranny and revolution in commenting on the recent street protests in Iran against the Islamic regime.

“You know, it’s interesting. You know, I enjoy reading history, just because I learn a lot from it. And, if you watch, when people confront tyranny — and this goes back 1,000-2,000 years — people, eventually, they get fed up with it,” he said.

“And whether it be physical tyranny or mental tyranny or spiritual tyranny, they revolt against it,” Mattis said.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
(Photo from Department of Defense)

“So we may come from different directions,” he said of Iranian and American judgments on the regime in Tehran, “but ultimately, it’s the same kind of tyranny.”

“In their case, it’s about their internal government, what it does to them. In our case, it’s that, plus it’s what that government has done to espouse or support terrorism, destabilizing activities, export of ballistic missiles, disruption of commerce. All these kinds of things,” he said.

Mattis declined to speculate on what may come next, and what the U.S. response would be.

“There’s a reason I have four-stars out in the field,” he said of the combatant commanders.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain, Japan team up in rare pairing to deter China

The UK and Japan are carrying out their first joint military exercise in the latter country, as both look for ways to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Soldiers from Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company are at a training camp near Mt. Fuji in Japan, where they are drilling with troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Vigilant Isles.

The exercise started with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill and will continue for two weeks in Ojijihara, north of Sendai on Honshu, which is Japan’s largest island.


Japanese and British soldiers will be deployed to a rural training area there for drills focused on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques, according to The Telegraph.

Japanese forces have carried out joint drills with the British navy and air force, “but this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the HAC.

“There’s always a commonality with soldiers — equipment, interest in each other’s weapons, each other’s rations — so I think that always gives any soldier a basis for a discussion, a common point,” Lance Sgt. Liam Magee told the British Forces Network.

‘Natural partners’

The exercise comes roughly a year after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan to discuss trade and defense issues. During that trip, May toured Japan’s largest warship and became the first European leader to sit in on a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.

The two countries released a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which they pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises. May also said three times that the countries were “natural partners,” and “each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe.”

The UK has in recent months also taken a more active approach to countering China, whose growing influence and assertiveness in the region has put it at odds with many of its neighbors.

A British warship sailed through the South China Sea in March 2018, and British ships accompanied French vessels through the area in summer 2018. At the end of August 2018, a British ship had a close encounter with Chinese frigate as it sailed near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands.

In Japan, which is also watching China warily, Abe’s hawkish government has made a number of moves on sea and land to build military capacity.

The country’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever, and this year saw the Ground Self-Defense Force’s largest reorganization since 1954. Japan’s military has also said it would raise the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32 to ensure “a stable supply” of personnel. The force is also looking to bring in more women.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force/Twitter)

Earlier in 2018, Tokyo activated an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, and it has carried out several exercises already in 2018.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships joined a US carrier strike group for drills in the South China Sea at the end of August 2018, and September 2018 saw a Japanese submarine join surface ships for an exercise in the same area — Japan’s first sub deployment to the contested region.

Tokyo has made moves farther afield to counter China as well.

Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, sailed into Sri Lanka’s Colombo harbor at the end of September 2018. Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region in general have been targets for Chinese outreach that many see as an effort to gain leverage over neighbors.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US and North Korea weirdly fired off missiles at almost the same time

North Korea fired off two suspected short-range missiles May 9, 2019, marking the second time in a week the country has done so after more than a year without a missile launch.

The unidentified weapons were launched from Kusong at 4:29 pm and 4:39 pm (local time) and flew 420 km and 270 km respectively, according to South Korea’s semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported.

They splashed down in the East Sea afterwards, the agency said.

May 9, 2019’s test comes on the heels of another test conducted May 4, 2019 (local time). During an impromptu exercise, North Korean troops fired off rocket artillery, as well as a new short-range ballistic missile that some observers have compared to Russia’s Iskander missile.


Before last May 4, 2019’s “strike drill,” North Korea had not launched a missile since it tested the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 12:03 a.m., PDT, April 26, 2019, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

The self-imposed freeze has long been perceived as a sign of good faith as Pyongyang negotiated with Washington and Seoul, negotiations that have hit several unfortunate speed bumps.

Interestingly, at almost the exact same time as North Korea was launching its missiles May 9, 2019, the US troops almost 6,000 miles away were doing the same thing, just with a much bigger missile.

At 12:40 am (local time) May 9, 2019, a US Air Force Global Strike Command team launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The unarmed ICBM flew over 4,000 miles.

Air Force officials told Fox News that the timing of the American and North Korean launches was a coincidence.

May 9, 2019’s Minuteman III ICBM test marks the second time in just over a week the US has tested one of its missiles, launching the weapon into the Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The possible connection between defense cuts and deadly accidents

A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.

The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.


The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.

Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.

Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
A crashed CH-53 on the island of Okinawa, Japan.
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)

Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.

In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.

For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.

The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”

President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.

“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.

“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber takes flight with hypersonic weapon for the first time

America’s longest-serving bomber just took flight with a new air-launched hypersonic weapon for the first time, the US Air Force announced on June 13, 2019.

A B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber took to the skies over Edwards Air Force Base in California on June 12, 2019, with an inactive, sensor-only prototype of the new AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), one of a handful of hypersonic weapons the Air Force is developing for the B-52s.

Hypersonic weapons are a key research and development area in the ongoing arms race between the great-power rivals Russia, China, and the US. Hypersonics are particularly deadly because of their high speeds, in excess of Mach 5, and their maneuverability, which gives them the ability to evade enemy air-and-missile defense systems.


The hypersonic weapon carried by the B-52 on June 12, 2019, did not contain explosives and was not released during testing, the Air Force said, explaining that the focus of the test was to gather data on drag and vibration effects on the weapon, as well as evaluate the external carriage equipment.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

(US Air Force photo)

For the B-52, a nonstealth bomber that might struggle to skirt enemy air defenses, the standoff capability provided by a weapon like the ARRW helps keep the decades-old aircraft relevant even as the US prepares to fight wars against high-end opponents.

Standoff is one area the US military has been looking closely at as it upgrades its B-52s to extend their service life.

The Air Force, much like the Army and Navy, is pursuing hypersonic weapons technology as quickly as possible.

“We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a release.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

The Air Force’s ARRW is expected to achieve operational capability by fiscal year 2022.

“This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential — it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face,” Roper said, apparently referencing the challenges posed by near-peer competitors.

Russia, for instance, has developed the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile that can be carried by both bombers and interceptor aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s first black female three-star grew up an orphan

Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general in 2016, and she was later promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.


West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.

“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”

According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.

As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.

West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This slave escaped to join the Union Navy then bought his former master’s house

If there’s such a thing a revenge served warm, the story of Robert Smalls best describes it. Smalls was born into slavery in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was hired out by his master in Charleston by the age of 12, working the hotels, docks, and wharves of Charleston Harbor.


It was while he was working in the hotel he met his wife, Hannah Jones, whom he married in 1856. She had a daughter already, and the two had a son and daughter. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Smalls was pressed into service on board the CSS Planter, a Confederate transport. This is where he would make history.

While the Planter’s three white officers were ashore, the seven slave crewmen decided to make a break for the Union blockade. The slave escape wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. They planned the escape meticulously, even picking up their families, who were hiding near the southern wharf.

He brought the ship and its cargo of cannon and ammunition to the Union, as well as the Confederate Navy’s code book and the map of Charleston’s harbor defenses.

 

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
From a spread about Smalls in Harper’s, ca. 1862

 

President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress would award the prize money for the capture of the Planter to Smalls and his crew. Smalls’ bravery and skill became the instrumental argument for allowing black troops to fight for the Union.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere,” Smalls said. “All, they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

Smalls himself enlisted with the Union as a Naval pilot, eventually ending up back on the Planter, now a Union transport, as a free man. He piloted the USS Keokuk during a major attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

When the Keokuk’s skipper wanted to surrender during the failed assault, Smalls took command and got the ship to safety. For this, he was promoted to the Keokuk’s captain. When the war ended, Smalls took the Planter back to Charleston for the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter.

 

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
The raising of the Union flag at For Sumter, 1865.

He returned to Beaufort, S.C. as a free man during Reconstruction. He opened a store for newly freed slaves and purchased his old master’s house. He eventually allowed his old master’s wife to move back into the house shortly before her death. The house still stands.

Smalls went on to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate as well as the South Carolina militia as a major general. He was eventually elected to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for four years before his death in 1915.

Articles

Senate approves ‘you’re fired’ law for bad VA employees

The Senate approved broad legislation June 6 to make firing employees easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, part of an accountability effort urged by President Donald Trump following years of high-profile problems.

The bipartisan measure passed by voice vote. It comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. VA employees created secret lists to cover up delays.


The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees — from a “preponderance” to “substantial evidence,” allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House’s version — 180 days vs. 45 days — though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives also would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.

The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to be approved.

India’s new ICBM is angering all of its nuclear neighbors
VA Secretary David Shulkin (Photo by: Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs)

Trump praised the bill Tuesday night and urged the House to act quickly. ” Senate passed the VA Accountability Act,” he wrote on Twitter. ” The Houseshould get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”

The VA has been plagued by years of problems, and critics complain that too few employees are punished for malfeasance. The Associated Press reported last week that federal authorities were investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at VA hospitals, even after theVA announced “zero tolerance” in February. Since 2009, in only about 3 percent of the reported cases of drug loss or theft have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined.

“The overwhelming majority of the people who work at the VA are good, hard-working employees who serve our veterans well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But it has become clear under the current law the VA is often unwilling or unable to hold individuals appropriately accountable for their actions and misdeeds.”

He was a lead sponsor of the bill along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

“To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA,” Rubio said.

The Senate bill would codify into law a Trump campaign promise — a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. The legislation would give the head of the accountability office more independent authority and require regular updates to Congress. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.

In a “State of the VA” report released last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin described an employee accountability process that was “clearly broken.” He said the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees on hold, citing a required waiting period of at least a month before taking action for misconduct.

Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill’s passage as “long overdue.”

“The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better,” he said.

Despite problems at the VA, Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on a bill. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional. Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the VA firing of Phoenix VA hospital director Sharon Helman over the wait-time scandal.

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