Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.
All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.
The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.
A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.
Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.
Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.
In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.
Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.
Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.
Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.
The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.
Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.
The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.
At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.
“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.
He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.
Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.
At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.
The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.
The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.
Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.
Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.
The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.
Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history with over 7,000 soldiers killed in three days of fighting.
(A single civilian, Mary Virginia Wade, was also killed.)
But if the modern military fought the battle, the costs could easily be much higher as today’s artillery, mortars, jets, and helicopters make every exchange more costly. And the increased range and firing rate of the M16 instead of Civil War rifles would make the missteps of generals even more catastrophic.
A squad designated marksman scans his sector while providing security. (Photo: U.S. Army)
When the two sides first clashed at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, it was largely an accident. Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, the head of cavalry for the North, had sent men to scout the area around the city and they ran into a group of men commanded by Gen. Harry Heth heading into the city to find supplies.
While many Union leaders thought there were only a few rebels in the area, and many rebels thought the Union forces were just a militia group, Buford and a few others suspected the truth. The two major armies in the eastern theater had just stumbled into one another.
But Buford was a pioneer of mounted infantry tactics and ordered his subordinates to prepare for a pitched battle the following day. He spent the bulk of that night getting the lay of the land and planning his attack. But, if he had been in command of modern, mechanized infantry, he wouldn’t have needed to.
Instead, he would have sent his dismounts forward to search out the enemy encampments and would have brought his Strykers up with them. Meanwhile, any UAVs he could wrangle up would be flying ahead, searching out the enemy.
But Rebels with modern communication equipment would have reported the chance engagement in the city to their higher headquarters. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who knew that the Union was pursuing them north, would likely have sent out his own scouts and drones to search for enemy forces.
When each side learned that their enemy was nearby, heavily armed, and deployed near the vital strategic crossroads of Gettysburg, they would have surged all assets to take and hold the key ground.
Buford’s mechanized infantry would likely have taken the same heights that it did in 1863, but this time it would have positioned Strykers with TOW missiles behind cover and sent those armed with machine guns to cover the approaches to the heights. Most infantry squads would dismount and take up defensive positions on the heights.
Meanwhile, each side would begin calling up close air support and alerting the Air Force that they needed air battle interdiction immediately. Unfortunately, when the jets arrived, they would be too busy trying to establish air superiority to start hitting ground targets.
As the duel began to play out in the sky, artillery units on the ground would begin lobbing shells at precision targets and using rockets and howitzer barrages to saturate areas of known enemy activity.
This is what makes it unlikely that Mrs. Mary Wade would be the only civilian casualty of a modern Gettysburg.
The Union forces would likely congregate in a similar fishhook that first night as they did in the actual battle on the second day.
But here is where things would go wrong for the Union. When Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-fated move into the peach orchard, the Confederates would have been able to pin his men down with machine gun fire and then concentrate their artillery fire, wiping out Sickles and most of his men.
Down most of a corps and under fire, the Union would fall back to the heights once again and move forces to defend the flank where Sickles once was.
But Lee might once again make his great mistake of the battle. With a corps ground under his heel and the Union center losing men to guard the flank, he would order Maj. Gen. George Pickett, newly arrived on the battlefield in transports, to push against the seemingly weak Union center.
But as Pickett leads his men across the 1-mile of open ground to the Union center, his men would be cut down. The Union Strykers and Abrams would fire from behind cover and, while a few of them would be taken out by Confederate Javelins, TOWs, and other weapons, they would still wreak havoc.
Gunners on the ridge would open up with M2 .50-cals and M240Bs, walking the rounds on incoming Confederate infantry as they bounded into range. Union artillery would, once again, saturate the area. Fisters would identify command vehicles and pass their locations to helicopters and artillery crews for concentrated destruction.
Missiles would arc back and forth across the Gettysburg fields in the wee hours of July 1. The whole Battle of Gettysburg, fought over a three-day period in real life, would have played out on an advanced timeline with modern-day weapons of war.
But the outcome would likely be the same: Lee’s undersupplied, outnumbered troops would attempt to force the high ground against defenders who reached most of the important terrain first; a false sense of confidence after the Confederates took advantage of Sickles’ mistake would have led them to gamble much and lose it all.
The Pentagon has vowed that if it cannot use artificial intelligence on the battlefield in an ethical or responsible way, it will simply not field it, a top general said Monday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), made that promise as the Defense Department unveiled new A.I. guidelines, including five main pillars for its principled execution of A.I.: to be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable.
“We will not field an algorithm until we are convinced it meets our level of performance and our standard, and if we don’t believe it can be used in a safe and ethical manner, we won’t field it,” Shanahan told reporters during a briefing. Algorithms often offer the calculation or data processing instruction for an A.I. system. The guidelines will govern A.I. in both combat and non-combat functions that aid U.S. military use.
The general, who has held various intelligence posts, including overseeing the algorithmic warfare cross-functional team for Google’s Project Maven, said the new effort is indicative of the U.S.’s intent to stand apart from Russia and China. Both of those countries are testing their uses of A.I. technology for military purposes, but raise “serious concerns about human rights, ethics, and international norms.”
For example, China has been building several digital artificial intelligence cities in a military-civilian partnership as it looks to understand how A.I. will be propagated and become a global leader in technology. The cities track human movement through artificial facial recognition software, watching citizens’ every move as they go about their day.
While Shanahan stressed the U.S. should be aggressive in its pursuits to harness accurate data to stay ahead, he said it will not go down the same path of Russia and China as they neglect the principles that dictate how humans should use A.I.
Instead, the steps put in place by the Pentagon can hold someone accountable for a bad action, he said.
“What I worry about with both countries is they move so fast that they’re not adhering to what we would say are mandatory principles of A.I. adoption and integration,” he said.
The recommendations came after 15 months of consultation with commercial, academic and government A.I. experts as well as the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) and the JAIC. The DIB, which is chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, made the recommendations last October, according to a statement. The JAIC will be the “focal point” in coordinating implementation of the principles for the department, the statement said.
Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer, said the guidelines will become a blueprint for other agencies, such as the intelligence community, that will be able to use it “as they roll out their appropriate adoption of A.I. ethics.” Shanahan added the guidelines are a “good scene setter” for also collaborating alongside the robust tech sector, especially Silicon Valley.
Within the broader Pentagon A.I. executive committee, a specific subgroup of people will be responsible for formulating how the guidelines get put in place, Deasy said. Part of that, he said, depends on the technology itself.
“They’re broad principles for a reason,” Shanahan added. “Tech adapts, tech evolves; the last thing we wanted to do was put handcuffs on the department to say what you could and could not do. So the principles now have to be translated into implementation guidance,” he said.
That guidance is currently under development. A 2012 military doctrine already requires a “human in the loop” to control automated weapons, but does not delineate how broader uses for A.I. fits within the decision authority.
The Monday announcement comes roughly one year after DoD unveiled its artificial intelligence strategy in concert with the White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
“We firmly believe that the nation that masters A.I. first will prevail on the battlefield for many years,” Shanahan said, reiterating previous U.S. officials positions on the leap in technology.
Similarly in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised event that, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.
Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”
“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.
The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.
The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.
The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.
“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.
Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.
Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.
New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.
“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”
“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.
To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.
According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.
The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.
“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.
“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”
In the modern world, most nations cultivate a variety of martial arts disciplines within their borders, not as a formal effort of the government, but rather as a byproduct of public interest. Here in the United States, motivated students can find places to study anything from Japanese Karate to Israeli Krav Maga at their local strip mall, so it should come as no surprise that the military has also come to adopt a variety of disciplines into its own approach to martial arts-based combat.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, as one example, borrows from no fewer than 17 distinct martial arts disciplines, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu, to ensure Marines are as capable in hand-to-hand combat as they are with their rifles.
Iran has also placed an emphasis on martial arts for the sake of defense, though like the nation’s military apparatus itself, their approach has been heavily informed by their culture, internal politics, and unusual military hierarchy, resulting in less than stellar results.
These guys look exactly like the generals that would show up in a movie with that plot.
Iran has allegedly forced martial arts instructors to work as assassins
According to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan’s Baku Mission that was revealed by WikiLeaks, the Iranian government expects martial arts schools and clubs to serve in the role of “enforcers” when it comes to stemming public dissent, but that’s far from the worst that’s been pressed upon martial arts instructors.
The wire, which came with the decidedly metal headline of, “IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION,” goes on to claim that the “ninja black belt master” in question knew of at least one instructor that “was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months.” These alleged victims were referred to as “young intellectuals” and “pro-democracy activists.”
The Iranian government built an all-female, 3,500 strong ninja-army
Women in Iran may not enjoy the same rights or parity that can be found in Western nations like the United States, but that’s not to say that the Iranian government doesn’t occasionally recognize a woman’s ability to kick ass for their benefit. Most women may not be allowed to travel outside of their homes without a male escort, but some are trained in Japanese Ninjutsu to become stealthy assassins for their government.
In 2012, 3,500 women were registered to begin their training to become ninjas, according to a segment produced for Iran’s state-run media. Some in the United States have opined that Iran permits this training as a means to appease their stifled female population, but it seems more likely that Iran’s government believes it has a use for women that can fight.
The video of these women training may seem cheesy, but their form actually looks a lot better than some of Iran’s highly trained Special Operations troops…
Every nation occasionally releases motivational videos of their highly trained troops executing unusual techniques. The U.S. does insertion and extraction demonstrations with special operators at SOFIC in Tampa, Florida each year. Russia releases footage of their troops shooting live rounds at each other, and Iran… well, Iran’s special operators can be seen in this video losing a fight to a vase.
In the video, Iranian officials are shown looking on as men that have been referred to by a number of news outlets as Special Operations troops execute a series of dramatic spin kicks and even spinning back-hands to a vase that simply refuses to break. Eventually, the troops set the intact vase down and bow as their clearly disappointed superiors look on. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this demonstration characterizes all of Iran’s military martial arts efforts, but if these generals were smart, they probably forgot about the demonstration and went straight to the guy that made that vase to see if he was interested in getting into the tank business.
In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.
After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.
Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.
Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.
The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.
After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.
It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.
Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.
Military static line parachuting is safe when practiced correctly, but minor mistakes can quickly turn a jump into a disaster. Take a look at these.
This video appeared on social media early March 2019 from the Flintlock 2019 military exercise in the Sahel region of Africa. Whoever the unit is in the video — and no one is giving them credit (or blame…) — they demonstrate about every aircraft exit mistake a static line parachutist can make short of actually forgetting to hook up their static line.
The video has disappeared from social media, but we managed to make a video of the video before it disappeared.
The first man looks like he is trying to do a side-door exit from an aircraft, when he’s actually using the tailgate. It’s weird, because tailgating an aircraft — jumping from the rear cargo ramp, is easier than exiting the side door of an aircraft. U.S. paratroopers look forward to the rare opportunity to do a “Hollywood tailgate party”, a daytime static line jump from a rear cargo ramp without carrying heavy combat gear. It’s the safest, easiest jump a paratrooper can make. The first troop makes a safe exit, but his parachute deployment probably had some twisted parachute risers.
The third guy should be commended for his motivation, if not his style. It looks like he is doing a freefall exit, not a static line exit. It likely went OK for him, but the opening shock probably spun him around some, making for an uncomfortable parachute deployment.
The third man out executes a pretty nice exit; feet and knees (sort of) together, relatively tight body position, hands protecting his reserve parachute. The black hat instructors at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning might give this exit a “Go”.
Things really go south for the fourth guy, who face plants on the exit ramp. He may have been hesitant to exit, he may have tripped on the non-skid surface of the exit ramp, hard to say, but he makes an incredible mess of the exit and belly-flops out the rear exit ramp. This is extremely dangerous because falling on your reserve parachute, worn in front by these jumpers, could accidentally deploy it. It may get tangled in the jumper’s main parachute and, at low jump altitudes of around 600-800 feet and sometimes even less, could cause a catastrophic malfunction with way too fast of a descent rate and no way to untangle the two chutes before impact. Expect broken bones at best.
The rest of the jumpers seem justifiably freaked out by this. But the fifth man sucks it up and makes a passable, if messy, exit. His feet are too far apart. Static line parachute jumpers must “maintain a tight body position and count” to insure the parachute does not accidentally deploy between their legs. I don’t have to explain why having the static line become high speed dental-floss deal between your legs would be bad.
Jumper number six just isn’t sure about this whole “Airborne!” thing. He decides to sit down on the exit ramp for a minute and contemplate his participation in the elite parachute infantry. Someone on the aircraft, presumably the jumpmaster, motivates him by shouting “GO!”. After his moment of quiet reflection on the future of his military career, he apparently decides that being an elite airborne trooper is worth a bit of a risk and tentatively tumbles off the ramp. He may have also calculated that leaving the aircraft from the seated position got him about two feet closer to the ground upon exit, thereby presumably making the jump safer.
Jumpers seven and eight both execute fairly decent exits, at least relative to the other jumpers, but that’s a pretty low bar.
Jumper nine defies description. He apparently deduces that using his butt as a kind of braking device upon exit may make his jump somehow safer or easier. Whatever the reason he smacked against the exit ramp on exit, that had to hurt. He also kind of flaps his arms in a bird-like motion. Maybe he doesn’t trust his ‘chute.
(Video: YouTube via Facebook)
That was it for this stick of jumpers. It would seem as though these guys need to head back to the jump ramp simulator and practice some exits if they are going to continue their Airborne careers. Whatever the case may be, nearly every exit on this jump demonstrates what can go wrong when a static line tailgate parachute jump is executed poorly. For that reason, we owe these guys for 32 seconds of video that is destined to go down in Airborne history as a documentary on how not to leave an aircraft.
The Author of this article was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.
The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.
The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).
On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.
That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.
The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.
Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.
Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.
Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.
But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.
Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.
Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.
With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.
Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.
Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.
The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.
Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.
Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.
“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”
Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.
Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.
‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’
Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.
Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.
Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.
Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.
“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”
Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.
Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.
Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.
“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
‘A Great Power’
For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”
But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.
In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.
Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.
Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.
“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.
Two female Infantry officers have completed U.S. Army Ranger School and are scheduled to be awarded the coveted tabs during their graduation ceremony on March 31 at Victory Pond, a Fort Benning spokesman confirmed.
The Army did not release the names of the women, who will be among 119 soldiers to receive their tabs in March. The Army did confirm that they were both graduates of the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course.
“The Maneuver Center of Excellence focuses on training leaders every day through an array of professional military education and first-class functional training that results in increased readiness in the operation of the Army,” said Ben Garrett, Fort Benning spokesman. “We provide our soldiers with the necessary tools, doctrine, and skill set so they are successful once they arrive at their units. This success is built on the quality of our instructions, professionalism of our instructors, and the maintaining of standards in everything we do. The Ranger Course is an example of that commitment to excellence.”
They are the first women to complete the Army’s most demanding combat training school in almost 17 months.
Griest, Haver, and Jaster were among 19 women who started the course in April 2015 at Camp Rogers on Fort Benning. Previously, Ranger School had been open only to men. After Haver and Griest graduated, the school was opened to all soldiers — male or female — who qualified to attend.
It is important moment and will lead to a time when there are now men and women, but just Ranger School students, said Jaster.
“Capable women are raising their hands to attend Ranger School,” she said. “Once they make it through RAP (Ranger Assessment Phase) week, I do not see why the graduation percentages would be any lower than males who attend the same preparatory events.”
The opening of Ranger School to all soldiers came about the same time then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.
In October 2016, 10 women graduated from the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. They graduated with 156 men. The expectation for those who graduate from IBOLC is to attend Ranger School, which can be completed in about 60 days if a soldier goes straight through without having to repeat a phase.
“The April 2015 Integrated Ranger School class might have been the only time women would be allowed into that course — no one knew for sure,” Jaster said. “Therefore, every female soldier who wanted to try, thought she could, and met the basic criteria for attendance…threw their hat in the ring. Therefore, there was a mass push in April 2015. People who are attending Ranger School now knew the opportunity was open and could attend when it was right for them.”
That changes the game, Jaster said.
“For the newest graduates, they were still in training,” Jaster said. “With time, this will just be part of Ranger School. As women branch combat arms or are assigned to combat units, they will train for, attend, and then graduate from Ranger School.”
That will make the Army better, Jaster said.
“I cannot speak for Kris and Shaye, but I know that Ranger School prepares leaders for combat roles,” she said. “It’s a test of capacity and capability. Each female graduation is currently a singular and significant event. But, each female graduate went through the same grueling school as each male graduate. Integration success is when we stop counting the women and focus on the quality of military leader the school produces.”
Griest and Haver, now a captain, both have transferred branches since Ranger School graduation and are assigned as Infantry officers with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The Air ForceWC-130H aircraft veered to the left on the runway, almost rolling into the grass before the crew was able to get it airborne.
The pilot quickly made the decision to return to the Georgia airfield they had just departed. The pilot directed the shutdown of engine one, operating on the remaining three.
“Coming back,” the pilot repeated five times over the next 30 seconds.
Investigators said that within those few seconds the pilot improperly applied nine more degrees with the left rudder, “which resulted in a subsequent skid below three-engine minimum controllable airspeed, a left-wing stall, and the [mishap aircraft’s] departure from controlled flight.”
No other “meaningful direction” was given to the crew other than an order to “brace” just before impact.
The plane was airborne for two minutes overall before it crashed down into Georgia State Highway 21 roughly 1.5 miles northeast of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, killing all aboard.
A newly released mishap report determined that the WC-130 crash that claimed the lives of nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 2018 was largely due to pilot error. But troubling engine and maintenance issues documented in the aging aircraft raise more questions about the cause of the catastrophic May 2, 2018 mishap.
C-130J Hercules and WC-130J Hercules fly in formation during an Operation Surge Capacity exercise April, 5, 2014, over the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone)
The WC-130, which belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing, Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, had recurring issues with its first engine, according to the Aircraft Accident Investigation
Board Report released Nov. 9, 2018. The issues were documented a month before the aircraft’s final flight, as well as the day of the deadly crash.
The crew should have more closely followed emergency procedure and called for immediate action after discovering one of the aircraft’s engines was malfunctioning, Millard said. Instead, the malfunction led to loss of control of the plane, causing it to crash, the report found.
Experts who spoke with Military.com, however, pointed out that lapses in maintenance deeply disadvantaged the crew even before the aircraft left the runway. The plane, which had been in service more than 50 years, was on its final journey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona when it went down.
“The engine malfunction is most definitely large factor and I would say the catalyst for the events that unfolded,” said an Air Force instructor pilot who flies a mobility aircraft and agreed to speak to Military.com on background about the report’s findings. “It appears the [report] narrowed in on a particular piece of the engine (the valve housing assembly) which had intermittent issues with [revolutions per minute] over its lifetime with multiple different engines.”
Nine died in the crash: Maj. José R. Román Rosado, the pilot; Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, the navigator; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, loadmaster; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, crew member; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, crew member; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, crew member.
The Air Force ordered an immediate investigation into the accident. Days later, after Military Times published an in-depth report showing that military aviation accidents have increased over the last five years, the service directed its wing commanders to hold a one-day pause in order to conduct a safety review with airmen, assessing trends and criteria that may have led to the recent rash of crashes.
Unsolved maintenance problems
The newly released investigation shows that the plane was cleared for flight even though the recorded oscillation data of the plane’s outermost left engine did not match its intended performance.
The WC-130 made its ferry flight from Puerto Rico to Savannah, Georgia, on April 9, 2018. And the flight crew operating the [mishap aircraft] “experienced an RPM issue with engine one, and reported the incident for troubleshooting and repair,” the report said.
While the crew found a fix, maintainers struggled to replicate both the in-flight operations and the solution the pilots used to better understand the what went wrong. They found they couldn’t recreate the crew’s original solution, which was to switch “on the propeller governor control to mechanical governing,” to see if that rectified the issue, it said.
A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules (s/n 64-0510) from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, prepares to take off from Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 29, 2004.
According to post-mishap interviews, during a second maintenance engine run, the “mishap maintainers observed engine one produced 99% revolutions per minute,” the report said.
But the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) said otherwise.
The DFDR indicated “engine one never reached sustained RPM above 96.8% and had significant oscillations between 95% and 98%,” it said.
The Air Force investigators said that when performing an engine run, the [technical order] requires a range “of 99.8% to 100.02% RPM, as displayed on a precision tachometer, to verify an engine is operating properly at 100%.2.”
The maintainers, who failed to use a precision instrument, missed a chance to diagnose a fluctuating, weaker engine.
“Good enough” mentality
The maintainers should have noted these red flags, the instructor pilot who spoke with Military.com said.
“The maintainers… failed to properly conduct the inspection of the engine,” the instructor pilot said. “The crew likely would have never stepped to the aircraft that day, at least not without the engine being verified to have reached the required power threshold, versus over 2 percent lower than the minimum.”
In the report, maintainers are faulted for having a “good enough” mentality about the aircraft’s condition.
Twitter user @MikeBlack114, a self-identified Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, also faulted the “good enough” mentality as a reason mistakes were made in a tweet thread. Furthermore, leadership should have paid better attention, he said.
“I’ll let someone with wings address the aircrew piece, but the mx [maintenance] portion is almost unfathomable,” Black said in a Twitter thread. “If you’re in a leadership position of an organization involved with flying and you aren’t uncovering the skeletons (believe me, they’re there, just a question of how severe they are) you aren’t looking hard enough.”
Another problem, according to the report, was the maintainers observing the aircraft did not use a tachometer to justify the data.
The report noted that they had conducted the engine test runs without the instrument because the compatible adapter plug to connect the precision tachometer to the aircraft was not available.
“During the engine runs and without the use of a precision tachometer, [mishap maintainer one] and [mishap maintainer two] knew that 100% RPM was the speed the engine should operate at, but believed 99% was sufficient to conclude their maintenance because of the wider gauge range provided in the [technical order],” the report said. “Thus, the mishap maintainers never corrected the engine one discrepancy and did not resolve the RPM issue.”
On May 2, 2018, engine one’s RPMs once again revealed an anomaly.
During takeoff, engine one’s RPMs fluctuated and couldn’t be stabilized when the first mishap pilot “advanced the throttle lever into the flight range,” according to the report.
“Engine one RPM and torque significantly decayed, which substantially lowered thrust,” investigators added.
While the banked turn the pilots made into the failed engine “was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft, the [mishap aircraft] did still have enough airspeed to maintain flight,” the report said.
“The crew put the aircraft in a disadvantageous energy state by rotating (lifting off) 5 knots early and failing to accelerate as required by the procedures,” the instructor pilot said. “Unfortunately, this was not an unrecoverable situation by any means, and one crews in all airframes train to regularly.”
The reason for the initial flight in April 2018 was to conduct routine in-tank fuel cell maintenance in Georgia. The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base had the means to do this, unlike the Puerto Rico Guard’s 156th Wing.
Puerto Rico’s facilities sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Maria and could not offer the maintenance at home station, the report said.
Although Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, the commanding officer of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said at the time of the crash the aircraft was more than 60 years old and one of the oldest C-130s in the fleet, its history and maintenance record say otherwise.
The aircraft, tail number 65-0968, rolled off the assembly line in 1965 as a standard C-130E, its records show.
“Sometime in the early 1970’s, it was converted to a WC-130H for use in weather reconnaissance (the “W” designation indicates the weather modifications),” the report said.
The engines were also “upgraded from T56-A-7 to the T56-A-15 at that time (which changed the “E” designation to “H”),” it said.
The aging aircraft life was extended because the wing had been expected to change missions. But that transition never came.
The fiscal 2016 budget “initially divested the six WC-130H aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard “and provided direction to move the 156th Airlift Wing to the RC-26, a manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform,” the report said. “However, this direction did not prove viable, as there was no requirement for a manned ISR mission in the United States Northern Command Theater.”
Millard, the investigator, said in the report there were no outstanding time compliance technical orders that would have restricted the plane from from flying.
Still, there should have been more transparency, the instructor pilot said.
“As an aircraft commander, there’s a ‘trust but verify’ mentality with the maintenance crews, but our knowledge is limited. So when a crew chief hands me the signed forms,” he said, “I have to trust those procedures and previous discrepancies have been fixed in accordance with the maintenance technical orders.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Industrial Revolution has teamed up with Dave Canterbury to release a package called the Bushcraft Survive & Thrive Kit. The kit is made up of somethings that Canterbury sells, along with brands that Industrial Revolution deals in.
From Canterbury you’ll receive the book Bushcraft 101, a nesting cup with lid, pot hanger and bottle. The hanger can be used with both the pot using the included holes in it along with in the opening of the bottle if you want to boil a larger quantity of water. We’ve actually read his book and its a well illustrated, informative read.
From UCO you’ll receive an excellent candle lantern and matches which we have used and recommend. New for the show was the SWEETFIRE strikable fire starter. It combines a fuel cube and a match into a single unit with a burn time of up to 7 minutes. The SWEETFIRE is actually made out of a byproduct from the sugar extraction process from cane. While they aren’t strike-anywhere, the box does include a striker on it.
Every good survival kit comes with a piece of sharpened steel and in the case of this one its a Morakniv (Mora as everyone else calls it) Kansbol. There is a dual grind on the blade and the heel of the blade was ground flat for sparking ferrocerium rods.
While on the subject of the Kansbol, they have a mounting platform for it called the Multi Mount. It is not part of the kit but is something that you can pick up separately or with a Kansbol. It is also compatible with the Garberg the Mora full tang knife. The new mount allows you to attach directly to PALS webbing but opens up other mounting options with a bit of creativity.
Check out more from Industrial Revolution here, or if your at the show head on over to booth 1446.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.