ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

U.S.-backed Syrian forces liberated the city of  on Oct. 17 from Islamic State militants, a senior commander said, in a major defeat for the collapsing extremist group that had proclaimed it to be the capital of its “caliphate.”


Although clashes in  have ended, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are in control, combing the city in northern Syria for land mines and searching for any IS sleeper cells, Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told The Associated Press.

Sillo said a formal declaration that  has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations in the city on the banks of the Euphrates River.

Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said it has not yet received official reports that the city was cleared, describing mines and booby traps throughout  that have killed returning civilians and senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders in recent days. One of those killed Oct. 16 was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle in Raqqa. (Photo from VOA.)

Another challenge for the troops is searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city, Dillon said.

“This will take some time, to say that the city is completely clear,” he told AP. “We still suspect that there are still (IS) fighters that are within the city in small pockets.”

The loss of  will deprive the militants of a major hub for recruitment and planning, Dillon said, because the city attracted hundreds of foreign fighters and was a place where attacks in the Middle East and Europe were planned. He added that the militants remain active in Syria, farther south around the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

“This has been the wellspring of (IS) as we know it,” he said. But he stressed that the military defeat of the militants “doesn’t mean the end of (IS) and their ideology.”

Dozens of militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Oct. 17 in  sports stadium, which the group had turned into a notorious prison in the more than three years it held the city.

The SDF forces earlier captured  main hospital, the other last remaining IS holdout that had served both as a medical facility and an IS command center. The SDF fighters have not gone through it to clear it, Dillon said.

Also read: This is how the US decides when and where to drop bombs on ISIS

Dillon said the coalition has not carried out any airstrikes in the past three days to allow civilians to leave. The SDF has also called on IS fighters to surrender, and about 350 have turned themselves in, he said, adding that none were high-value targets.

In recent months, the Islamic State has steadily lost territory in Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.

After the group seized  from other Syrian rebels in early 2014, it transformed the one vibrant metropolis into the epicenter of its brutal rule where opponents were beheaded and terror plots hatched.

IS militants had been cornered in and around the stadium, and it was not immediately clear after Sillo’s statement whether any were still inside it.

“The stadium is a huge structure with underground rooms and tunnels. There are also buildings around it” still under the control of IS, said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

A senior Kurdish commander said later that the stadium has been checked and cleared of land mines. SDF forces raised their own flag in the stadium, he added.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
ISIS used to patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. (Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Earlier, he said 22 IS militants were killed in the advance on the hospital.

On Oct. 17, the SDF captured “Paradise Square,”  infamous public square that was used by the militants to perform beheadings and other killings in front of residents who were summoned by loudspeakers and forced to watch. Bodies and severed heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with their crimes, according to residents, who later dubbed it “Hell Square.”

With the capture of the hospital, the last black IS flag was taken down, according to the Kurdish-run Hawar news agency. A video released by the news agency showed the clashes around the hospital, which appeared riddled with bullets and partly blackened from a fire.

A senior Kurdish commander said there was no sign of civilians in the stadium or around it, but he added that his troops were being cautious because of possible land mines. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The battle for  began in June and has dragged for weeks as the SDF fighters faced stiff resistance from the militants. The city suffered devastating damage, with most of its buildings leveled or in ruins. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 1,000 civilians were killed in the campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force revokes bomb contract linked to Russian oligarch

The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.

The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.

Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.


However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.

By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Viktor Vekselberg.

Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)

Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.

Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”

“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.

In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.

(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.

US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.

That provision has worried US partners in countries like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, who still use Russian weaponry and need to make future purchases to maintain their arsenals. India’s looming purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system has been a particular sticking point.

The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.

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

Articles

UK lawmakers rule on Royal Air Force drone strike in Syria

British lawmakers say a U.K. man killed by a Royal Air Force drone strike in Syria was an Islamic State group attack planner who posed a “very serious threat” to Britain.


Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee scrutinized the August 2015 strike that killed Reyaad Khan and two others. It was the first such drone strike acknowledged by the British government.

Committee chairman Dominic Grieve said April 26 that intelligence assessments left “no doubt that Reyaad Khan posed a very serious threat to the U.K.”

But he said lawmakers still had questions about ministers’ decision-making, because some documents were withheld from the committee. Grieve said that was “profoundly disappointing.”

In January, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said it is legal to kill militants overseas if they pose an immediate or unstoppable threat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.


The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)

During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”

Also read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.

“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.

“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.

During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.

Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.

That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.

Further reading: The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
An A-10 Thunderbolt II returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.

“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.

With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.

How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.

Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.

“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.

On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”

Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.

Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”

Related: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.

But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.

“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.

More BRRRRRT: Here’s what’s next for the A-10

— Editor’s note: This story was updated to add comments from the Boeing spokeswoman beginning in the sixth paragraph.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at Oriana0214.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US maintains strategic advantage in the Arctic

In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.

Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.

As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.

Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.


Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”

The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.

As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.

While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.

The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most important rules for setting an ambush

If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.

But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.


ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)

Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon

This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Move silently and cautiously.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)

Maintain noise discipline

If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.

Keep quiet.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Seriously, don’t be that guy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)

Have trigger discipline

Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.

Don’t be that guy.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)

Ensure everyone knows their role

Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Have a solid egress plan

Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy drops $72 million for new, low-band electronic jammers

The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.

The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.


NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”

Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.

PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.

This article originally appeared on NAVAIR News. Follow @NAVAIRNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, Japan still unable to find crashed F-35 – or its secrets

The US and Japan have been conducting a tireless, around-the-clock search for a missing F-35 for a week, but so far, they have yet to recover the downed fighter or its pilot. A life is on the line, and the “secrets” of the most expensive weapon in the world are lost somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flown by 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi disappeared from radar on April 9, 2019. No distress signal was sent out as the aircraft vanished roughly 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.

The disappearance is the first crash of the F-35A and the first time a third-party user has lost an F-35, making this a uniquely troubling situation for everyone involved. (A US Marine Corps F-35B crashed in South Carolina in September 2018; the pilot was able to eject safely).


Japan determined that the aircraft most likely crashed after pieces of the missing fifth-generation stealth fighter were discovered at sea last week. The US and Japan have since been searching non-stop for the plane believed to be lying vulnerable on the ocean floor at a depth of 5,000 feet.

A US Indo-Pacific Command spokeswoman told Business Insider that finding the pilot remains the priority.

A Pentagon spokesman previously told BI that the US “stands ready to support the partner nation in recovery” in the event that a fighter goes missing. He pointed to the spat with Turkey to emphasize how serious the US is about ensuring that the advanced technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

A United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

Japan, which has grounded the rest of its F-35s, recognizes the seriousness of the situation as well.

“The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected,” Japan’s defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, told reporters, according to The Japan Times.

While there are concerns that a third country, namely Russia or China, might attempt to find and grab the missing fighter, the Japanese defense ministry has not detected any unusual activity around the crash site.

Were Russia or China to recover the downed F-35, it could be a major intelligence windfall, especially given the fact that both countries have their own fifth-generation fighter programs dedicated to rivaling the US fighter.

The plane is suspected to have crashed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which would legally limit third party activity, but as Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted recently, “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35.”

The US dispatched the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, and a U-2 reconnaissance plane to assist Japanese submarine rescue ships, coast guard vessels, and rotary aircraft in their search for the missing fighter and its pilot.

In December 2018, the US searched the seas for the crew of a KC-130J that collided with a fighter jet. The search concluded after five days. The current search has been ongoing for a week. It is unclear if or at what point the US and Japan would call off the search for the Japanese pilot and his downed fighter.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US wants sea life to help hunt enemy submarines

The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.

Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.

If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.


“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”

She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.

In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(US Navy photo)

“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.

“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.

There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.

The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

www.youtube.com

The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kabul says it’s freed 149 hostages from Taliban

The Taliban has reportedly rejected an offer by the Afghan government for a cease-fire, with militant commanders vowing to carry on their attacks after Taliban fighters in the north seized nearly 200 hostages from a convoy of passenger buses.

A Taliban spokesman said Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada on Aug. 20, 2018, rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s offer a day earlier of a “conditional” cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.


The cease-fire was meant to begin on Aug. 20, 2018, and run for three months, conditioned upon Taliban participation.

But the Taliban spokesman told Reuters by telephone on Aug. 20 that Akhunzada had rejected the new offer on grounds that it would only help the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.

“Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a cease-fire now,” the Taliban spokesman said, declining to be identified.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada

An official in Ghani’s office said the Afghan government would continue its military operations against the Taliban if the militants did not respect the cease-fire.

Rescue Operation

Afghan officials say government security forces on Aug. 20, 2018, freed 149 people who had been taken hostage by the Taliban several hours earlier in the northern province of Kunduz.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the militants continued to hold 21 others hostage on Aug. 20, 2018, after they ambushed a convoy of passenger buses traveling to Kabul for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

He said fighting in the area had halted while Afghan authorities used local elders as intermediaries in negotiations with the Taliban for the release of the remaining hostages.

The buses were stopped in the province’s Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control — prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.

Rahimi said the rescue operation had killed at least seven Taliban fighters before the militants fled the scene. He said the Taliban had left behind the 149 freed hostages because the militants were unable to transport all of the group due to the rescue operation.

Rahimi said the remaining 21 hostages were taken by the Taliban to an undisclosed location. He said none of them were government employees or members of Afghanistan’s security forces.

However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.

Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said earlier on Aug. 20, 2018, that the buses “were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police” among those taken hostage.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said he thinks the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, the police chief in neighboring Takhar province, says the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

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

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Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the heavy US and UK naval firepower ready near Iran

Iran on July 19, 2019, said it seized a British oil tanker and its crew amid reports it diverted a second tanker toward Iran within hours of the seizure in a clear message to the UK and the US that it’s willing to get aggressive in a feud over oil sanctions. But it may soon have to contend with heavy US and UK naval firepower already in the region.

The US sent its USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and attached strike group to the region in May 2019. This represents the world’s most potent unit of naval power, with the aircraft carrier’s formidable air wing, a cruiser, four destroyers, and support ships.

The USS Boxer, a smaller carrier for AV-8B Harrier jets and helicopters, is also operating nearby and said it recently downed an Iranian drone. Iran denied this and posted video of one of its drones landing to challenge the US’s narrative, although it’s unclear if Iran’s footage proves anything.


The UK has the HMS Montrose on station, which immediately following the seizure of the tankers was broadcasting its location and sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. The UK has another two warships on the way.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

HMS Montrose.

Previously, the UK’s Montrose got into a standoff with Iranian gunboats trying to veer an oil tanker called the “British Heritage” into Iran’s waters. The Montrose aimed its 30 mm guns at the Iranian fast-attack craft swarming the tanker and warded them off.

Retired US Navy Capt. Rick Hoffman told Business Insider’s Ryan Pickrell that the 30 mm guns, were the “perfect weapon” against these types of ships.

But the US’s aircraft carriers can do better than perfect. With helicopter gunships launched off the Boxer or Lincoln, the US could easily destroy any number of Iranian fast-attack craft.

In June 2019, Iran shot down an expensive US surveillance drone with a surface-to-air missile. The Pentagon drew up plans for a retaliatory attack on Iran, but President Donald Trump said he canceled it upon hearing how many Iranians would die.

But now Iran is holding at least 23 sailors captive after seizing the vessel. The UK’s top leaders on July 19, 2019, held an emergency meeting to decide how to proceed.

Iran frequently talks about sinking US aircraft carriers, and its navy holds the operational goal of destroying the US Navy, but Sim Tack, a researcher at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting company, told Business Insider that the US had deployed its carrier smartly.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

“The US is being very smart about how it’s deploying its carrier. It prefers to keep its carrier in the Arabian Sea rather than the Persian Gulf. There are more open waters there, so they’re not putting themselves in the Persian Gulf where their movement is a lot more restricted.”

Because of the long range of the US’s carrier aircraft, the US can strike Iran from far off in the Arabian Sea without risking getting mined or submarine attacks that Iran may launch within their home waters, according to Tack.

“Iran doesn’t have an air force of its own that’s capable of withstanding these aircraft,” Tack said. “That element of air defense is extremely outdated and incapable from Iran.”

Additionally, US ships in the region have potentially more than 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which each have a range of greater than 1,000 miles. The US used these missiles twice in strikes against neighboring Syria.

It’s unclear if the US or UK will launch a rescue mission to free the captive sailors, but the considerable naval firepower in the region means that Iran’s attempts to hijack oil tankers could start a naval fight.

Commenting on the tensions in the region, Trump said on July 19, 2019, that US ships are “the most deadly ships ever conceived, and we hope for [Iran’s] sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do, they’re going to pay a price like nobody’s ever paid a price.”

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

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