Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.


U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.

Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
The Taliban Flag. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.

Related: American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.

According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.

The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.

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Friendly fire kills 18 US allies

At least 18 members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike that mistakenly targeted them in Syria’s Raqqa province.


In a statement released on April 13, U.S. Central Command said 18 SDF fighters died in the air raid south of the city of Tabqa on April 11. The attack was believed to be hitting members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (IZEIN ALRIFAI/AFP/GImages)

SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions, mostly fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” CENTCOM said.

“The coalition’s deepest condolences go out to the members of the SDF and their families. The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”

The coalition added it is assessing the cause of the friendly fire attack.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 13 at least 25 other SDF fighters were killed in clashes against ISIL in the suburbs of Tabqa.

The incident occurred as U.S.-backed Syrian forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, as they move in from the city’s north.

SDF captured the strategic Tabqa airbase from ISIL in March. The airbase is 28 miles west of Raqqa,

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Here’s how veterans can get a head start to become a successful entrepreneur

We all know that when you leave the military, it can be a cruel employment world out there.


Despite the confusion that often comes with transitioning from service, there’s potentially never been a better time to take a stab at becoming your own boss. And fortunately, there is a host of organizations out there to help former service members crack the code on starting a successful business.

At the end of March, the organizers behind VETCON are hoping their roster of A-Listers in the tech and business world will open more than a few veterans’ eyes to the opportunities out there. Billed as an “annual gathering of visionaries, hustlers, and game-changers from around the world,” the folks at VETCON say they represent a wide community of so-called “vetrepreneurs” that want to pass on their secrets to their military brethren.

“Military veteran entrepreneurs are an untapped market with huge potential,” said Ian Faison, VETCON co-founder, West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Captain. “Despite mutual interest from both venture capitalists and veteran founders, there’s never been a conference that delivers true ROI to entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors at the same time – until now.”

Hosted in Redwood City, California, this year’s VETCON is slated to feature more than 200 veteran entrepreneurs and more than 35 professional investors, including “The Godfather of Silicon Valley” Steve Blank, Mike Maples of Floodgate Ventures, Trae Stephens of the Founders Fund, as well as leaders from Andreessen Horowitz; Facebook; GrowthX; Wildcat Ventures; HubSpot; IBM; Salesforce; and Indiegogo.

Held between March 23 and March 25, the conference is intended to “develop a 30-day plan to take your business to the next level … [with] a mixture of fireside chats, workshops, solo talks, networking events, and Action Hours.”

“VETCON changes the game for veterans and investors alike,” VETCON’s Faison said. “With programming that rivals any startup event in the country, we’re catalyzing the nationwide veteran ecosystem, providing investors with genuine business opportunities and helping entrepreneurs boost their customer pipeline and raise funding faster in 2017.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent another signal that the U.S. is increasingly attentive to the Arctic and looking to catch up with other countries that are active in the region.


Melting ice has raised interest in shipping, mining, energy exploration, and other enterprises in the Arctic — not only among countries that border it, but also in countries farther afield, like China.

The Arctic “is important today,” Tillerson said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Nov. 28. “It’s going to be increasingly important in the future, particularly as those waterways have opened up.”

“The whole Arctic region — because of what’s happened with the opening of the Arctic passageways from an economic and trade standpoint, but certainly from a national-security standpoint — is vitally important to our interest,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is behind countries in the region that have responded more quickly.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
US Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 prepare to board a bus after arriving in Vaernes, Norway, Jan. 16, 2017. The Marines are part of the newly established Marine Rotational Force-Europe, and will be training with the Norwegian Armed Forces to improve interoperability and enhance their ability to conduct operations in Arctic conditions. (USMC photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada.)

“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Tillerson said. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”

Related: The Coast Guard took the first Nazi prisoners of World War II

While China isn’t an Arctic country, the secretary of state said, “they see the value of these passages. So, we’re late to the game.”

Other countries build up in the Arctic

China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, made its first voyage through the Northwest Passage in October, and it is now the first Chinese polar-research vessel to navigate all three major Arctic shipping routes. China has three light icebreakers, with another under construction, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”

At present, the U.S. Coast Guard has three icebreakers, and the National Science Foundation operates another. Only two of those Coast Guard vessels are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a medium icebreaker, sits in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska during an Arctic deployment in support of scientific research and polar operations. (Image from DVIDS)

The Polar Star entered service in 1976, and while it was refurbished in 2012, it is beyond its 30-year service life. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said earlier this year that the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”

Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational heavy ones. Finland has seven, though they’re privately owned medium or light icebreakers. Sweden and Canada each have six, none of which are heavy.

During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Nov. 29, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the service’s 17th district, outlined a number of challenges facing his command, but he emphasized that the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the Arctic.

Relations with Moscow on issues like waterway management in the Bering Strait — which separates Alaska from Russia — are positive, said McAllister, whose command encompasses more than 3.8 million square miles throughout Alaska and the Arctic.

“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” he added.

China, too, is seen by the Coast Guard as a “good partner” that cooperates on a number of issues.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

“We have great operational-level relationships with the Chinese coast guard,” McAllister told an audience at CSIS. Chinese and U.S. ships do joint patrols and U.S. ships have welcomed aboard Chinese personnel, he said, which allows both countries to extend their presence at sea.

“I don’t think we fear the movement of the Chinese into the Arctic. I think we pay attention to what’s going on,” he said, describing efforts to monitor maritime activity in and around his area of responsibility, as well as the U.S. exclusive economic zone, which extends some 230 miles from U.S. shores.

‘That’s what keeps me up at night’

McAllister pointed to mismatches between his resources and responsibilities as his main causes of worry.

Two of his biggest concerns are responding to oil spills and mass rescues. “The distances are so great, and the difficulty in staging assets is so significant, that that’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.

Also read: 4 night terrors America’s enemies have about Jim Mattis

While he said the Coast Guard was doing well tracking ship movements, other issues, like monitoring ice data and marine wildlife movement, were still challenges.

Even though satellites have made communications with commercial ships easier, McAllister said he still lacked a local network that allowed him to readily contact small vessels. Military and secure communications are also still limited, he said.

Maintaining a sovereign presence also presented an ongoing challenge.

“At any given time, I will only have one or two ships in the Arctic during the open-water seasons, and a few helicopters in addition to that,” he said.

“If you know Alaska, if you know the [exclusive economic zone], it’s just too big an area to try to cover with such a small number of assets.”

But, he said, the replacement of decades-old cutters with new offshore-patrol cutters and national-security cutters, as well as discussions about icebreakers, were both encouraging developments.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
The icebreaker USCGC Glacier is shown approaching Winter Quarters Bay harbor at en:McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Image USCG)

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard released a joint draft request for proposal in October, looking for the detail, design, and construction of one heavy icebreaker with an option for two more. The two service branches have already set up an integrated program office for the project.

The Coast Guard’s 2018 budget request asked for $19 million toward a new icebreaker it wants to start building in late 2019. The service wants to build at least three heavy icebreakers, which can cost up to $1 billion each (though officials have said they can come in below that price). The first heavy icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023.

Some of the money for the icebreaker has been appropriated and “acquisition is already off and running,” McAllister said. “But even with that capability, there’s still a lack of presence there, and that’s something that we, the Coast Guard, aspire to provide more of.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.

Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.

During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.


“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”

Lessons learned

Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”

Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.

“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.

Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.

Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.

“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”

Confidence is contagious

Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.

“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.

“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”

Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.

Building real relationships

During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.

Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.

“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”

Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”

“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”

Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.

“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”

Ensuring success

The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.

Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”

He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.

“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”

Home again

Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.

The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.

The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.

“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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The Pentagon invites hackers to give it their best shot

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that they need hackers to attack the Pentagon’s digital systems in order to identify weak points and train how to respond, according to Reuters.


Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway

“I am confident that this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

Hackers who participate may even be awarded monetary prizes, but there are a few rules. Hackers must be U.S. citizens, they must be vetted experts in computer hacking, and they must register their intent to test the systems.

Also, the Pentagon has identified certain public-facing computer systems to be tested. Hackers who attempt to access any other systems, presumably all the sensitive ones that control classified data or nuclear weapons, would still be subject to criminal charges.

“The goal is not to comprise any aspect of our critical systems, but to still challenge our cybersecurity in a new and innovative way,” a defense official told Reuters.

Inviting hackers to attack a network has been done before in the commercial sector, but this is a first for the Pentagon. Typically, the Pentagon tests its systems by establishing “red teams” composed of Department of Defense employees who attack the system rather than recruiting hordes of outsiders.

(h/t Gizmodo)

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This is how a US destroyer dodged 2 missiles off the Yemen coast

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.


The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.

Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.

The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.

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The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.

Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.

The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s an after-action report on Russia’s massive European wargame

Russia finally concluded its quadrennial Zapad-2017 military exercises last week.


The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.

The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.

In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.

Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.

Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.

Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.

These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”

The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.

Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.

Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many other analysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.

While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.

The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.

Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens countries that host U.S. missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that, if the United States deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will have to target the countries hosting them.

The Oct. 24, 2018 statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear arms control pact over alleged Russian violations.

Putin spoke on Oct. 24, 2018, four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over alleged Russian violations.


The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.

Trump and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Russian President Vladimir Putin and White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Putin said he hoped the United States wouldn’t follow up by positioning intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

“If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike. These are obvious things.”

He continued: “I don’t understand why we should put Europe in such serious danger.”

“I see no reason for that,” Putin said. “I would like to repeat that it’s not our choice. We don’t want it.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 24, 2018, that European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to the alleged violations of the INF treaty.

“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies, for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.

Putin rejected Trump’s claim that Russia has violated the INF treaty, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue with Trump in Paris when they both attend Nov. 11, 2018 events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I.

“We are ready to work together with our American partners without any hysteria,” he said. “The important thing is what decisions will come next.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army tests Black Hawk digital cockpit

Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.

The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.

Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.

Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.


Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.

“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.

“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.

They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.

“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.

“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.

“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.

“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.

“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.

“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.

“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”

Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.

“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.

New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.

“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”

Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.

“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.

Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch an insane video of what it’s like to be on the wrong end of an A-10 BRRRRRT

The U.S. Special Operations Command recently posted a video on Twitter showing what it’s like to be on the “business end” of the A-10 Warthog’s Gatling gun.


We first saw the video at SOFREP. The 137th Special Operations Wing, which shot the footage, captured a rather unique perspective.

The special operations wing put a camera on a training ground before the A-10 performed a strafing run on it.

The A-10’s GAU-8/A Avenger rotary canon fires 3,900 armor-piercing depleted uranium and high explosive incendiary rounds per minute — and you can almost feel it in the video.

Now wait for the “brrrrrrrrt”:

Articles

This is proof that Mattis knows exactly how to talk to the troops

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is well known for having delivered some controversial quotes in the past, and he uttered yet another during a speech last week to sailors at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.


During a short speech on August 9 followed by a question-and-answer period, Mattis thanked the sailors of the USS Kentucky for being in the Navy, saying they’d never regret that service.

“That means you’re living,” Mattis said, according to the official Pentagon transcript.

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“That means you’re not some p–y sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be laying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”

The Navy reversed its policy of only allowing males to serve aboard submarines in 2010, according to the US Naval Institute. A spokesman for Submarine Group 9 confirmed the USS Kentucky does not currently have any female sailors assigned to it.

Mattis went on to say that he wished he were young enough to go out to sea with the Kentucky’s crew, though the retired general joked, “there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean?”

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