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Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A recently launched Pentagon review comparing F-35C carrier-variant Joint Strike Fighters with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets will involve Marine Corps aviators and aircraft, the Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation said Wednesday.


Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Really, it is — looking across the mission sets — does a Block 3 Super Hornet match up, compare to an F-35C,” Davis said. “It’s for the carrier air wing of the future.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

The Marine Corps, Davis said, has already purchased 10 of the 67 F-35Cs it planned to buy and has six on the flightline at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

While the Navy is planning to purchase most of the F-35Cs, with a strategy to buy 260, the Corps has gone ahead of the other services to hit a number of F-35 milestones. Its F-35B jump jet variant was the first to reach initial operational capability in July 2015, and it was the first to forward base a squadron overseas in January.

Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.

“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.

Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.

However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.

“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.

If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.

“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”

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8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.


Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.

1. Learn To Negotiate

It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.

Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.

For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.

2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind

Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.

3. Request Special Liberty

Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.

Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.

The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.

Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.

4. Volunteer for day time events

Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.

The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?

5. Put on a serious face

Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.

Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Team America (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

6. Have a lookout

Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.

Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.

Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

7. Roll Call

Another one that calls for some backup.

The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.

As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.

Here’s how.

When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.

This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”

Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.

8. Get your driver’s license

Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Instead of taking part in a 10-mile hike in a full combat load, you could drive the safety vehicle. Think about it.

Can you think of any other? Comment below.

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This Delta Force rescue was the first attack of ‘Operation Just Cause’

As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.


The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.

According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.

Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
A MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops on the outrigger, similar to the technique used during Operation Acid Gambit. (DOD photo)

As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.

On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.

Muse said he understood.

The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird. (DOD photo)

Muse knew that something was up.

At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.

Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.

As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
A M113 armored personnel carrier. (DOD photo)

The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.

Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.

Articles

Russia boosts its propaganda division

The Russian Defense Ministry has formalized its information-warfare efforts with a dedicated propaganda division, Russian state-run media said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.


“Propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in reference to the new unit.

Retired Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who leads the defense-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the unit would “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
The U.S. may have the stronger military, but Russia reigns when it comes to propaganda. (Image of Vladimir Putin)

But Russia has long been accused of spreading propaganda in the West. Business Insider’s Barbara Tasch detailed one case where Russian outlets spread a false story of a Russian-born 13-year-old being raped in Germany by a group of three refugees.

In December, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the US election and that its interference may have been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Russia’s use of propaganda as an element of “hybrid warfare” proved instrumental during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the later insurgency in Ukraine.

Russia has vastly improved their conventional and nuclear military assets as well. An Associated Press report on Wednesday said that Russia will deliver 170 new aircraft, 905 new tanks and other armored vehicles, and 17 new naval ships.

Russia’s forces in Eastern Europe now vastly outmatch NATO’s.

A NATO spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this month that “NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

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Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

America has had a long tradition of picking up some foreign weapons. Whether it was getting military aid from France during the Revolutionary War to borrowing Spitfires from England in World War II to using Israeli Kfirs as aggressors in the 1980s, our troops have put foreign-designed systems to good use. This idea makes even more sense in the face of the Pentagon being forced to tighten the belt while global threats proliferate.


So here are six foreign warfighting platforms that DoD should buy now:

1. Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

With the retirement of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the United States could use some additional hulls in the water. The Littoral Combat Ship has had some good moments (like USS Freedom making four drug busts in seven weeks during a 2010 SOUTHCOM deployment), but that ship is still wrestling with teething problems, not the least of which is the fact that the missionized software packages that were supposed to make the LCS unique aren’t working.

The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates in the future, but perhaps they ought to look at getting Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates instead. With a SPY-1 radar, a five-inch gun, and a 48-cell Mk 41 VLS that can fire Standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Vertical-Launch ASROCs, it would be a direct replacement for the Perry-class ships.

2. Denmark’s Absalon-class multi-role ships

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Denmark’s been building flexible warships for decades, thanks to the use of Stanflex technology. One of the more intriguing designs to emerge from this philosophy is the Absalon, a 4,500-ton ship that has a five-inch gun, and five “flexible” stations. These stations can carry a variety of weapons – usually 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoons.

But the real secret is that the Absalon also can serve as a small roll-on/roll-off vessel, a supply ship, or even as a treatment point for casualties. With a top speed of 24 knots, the ship can keep up with the large-deck amphibious assault ships like the Wasp and America classes. Also, at $225 million per hull, they are about five-eighths the cost of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship.

3. Ukraine’s BTMP-84

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Infantry has a tough job on the conventional battlefield. They can’t keep up with the tanks, but they are needed to support the tanks. They also, of course, need some support on the battlefield. But how to get troops to the battlefield, yet still get them some support? Ukraine’s BTMP-84 may be the answer to that.

The Ukrainians stretched a T-84, added some road wheels, and got a vehicle with the T-84’s firepower (a 125mm main gun with as many as 36 rounds of ammunition, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun), plus the ability to carry five infantrymen. While it doesn’t carry as many troops as a Bradley or LAV-25, its firepower more than makes up for that.

4. Brazil’s EE-9 Cascavel Armored Car

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

With the retirement of the M551 Sheridan in the mid-1990s, the 82nd Airborne is in need of some armored firepower. That two-decade search could end with the EE-9 Cascavel.

With a 90mm main gun and 44 rounds, this 13-ton vehicle can keep up with Strykers, and it can provide much more sustained fire support (Stryker Mobile Gun Systems only carry 18 rounds for their 105mm main guns). The vehicle, about the size of an M113 armored personnel carrier, could be carried by a C-130.

5. UK’s Systems Hawk 200

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Combat aircraft are expensive these days. Both the F-22 and F-35 cost over $100 million per airframe – and billions in RD. Yet having a lot of airframes is not a bad idea. The Hawk 200 is a possible solution.

With the same APG-66 radar used on the F-16, the Hawk can fire Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, making it a solid choice for air-defense. It also can carry almost 7,000 pounds of bombs or air-to-surface weapons. The U.S. Navy already operates the similar T-45 Goshawk, which means that some logistical support capability already exists. The Hawk 200 could be America’s lightweight joint strike fighter.

6. Israeli Sa’ar 6-class corvettes

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

The United States has made use of Israeli weapons in the not-so-distant past. The Marines’ Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is one such weapon. So was the RQ-2 Pioneer, best known as a spotter for naval gunfire from Iowa-class battleships during Desert Storm.

Now, Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvettes might be something to look at. With a 76mm gun, 16 anti-ship missiles, and 32 surface-to-air missiles, these vessels could enable the U.S. Navy to counter Russia’s Buyan-class corvettes and Gepard-class light frigates.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just turned up the heat on Russian warplanes in Syria

The U.S. sent a veiled warning Russia’s way on Sept. 18, saying that it will not hesitate to defend the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which Russia reportedly hit Saturday with airstrikes.


“@CJTFOIR will defend itself and #SDF against threats; continue to defeat #ISIS in Syria,” Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, tweeted out Monday.

Dillon’s tweet is clearly in reference to the Pentagon’s claim that Russian airstrikes targeted the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led SDF in Deir Ezzor east of the Euphrates River.

“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Several SDF fighters were wounded.”

No U.S. advisers embedded with SDF were hit, but a U.S. official told CNN that U.S. special operators were only a couple miles away from the location where the Russian airstrikes hit. The U.S. is still exploring the possibility that the strike was merely an error by the Russians, as opposed to a deliberate attack.

Russia shot back Sunday denying the Pentagon’s claim, stating instead that Russia only targets Islamic State fighters.

“Russian air forces carry out pinpoint strikes only on IS [Isis] targets that have been observed and confirmed through several channels,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

Both the SDF and Syrian Army have been in a race to take back Deir Ezzor from ISIS. While SDF was working on retaking Raqqa, Russian airstrikes backed the Syrian Army in breaking ISIS’ three-year-long siege on Deir Ezzor. Following Syrian Army advancements on Deir Ezzor, SDF quickly moved 86 miles south-east to the city from Raqqa, announcing Saturday it was launching a new offensive from the north and east, just as the Syrian Army is making major strides from the west.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The family of this Battle of the Bulge veteran is trying to get the recognition he’s owed

For the second time in two decades, John “Russ” Orders was hopeful he would receive a Purple Heart for his sacrifice during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.


A ceremony planned for last month, during which Orders would have been awarded the Purple Heart, has been postponed. Orders’ award status remains in limbo because of a missing document that details how and when Orders received his injuries.

“Obviously, the government takes a little longer than normal, but they sent us back a reply when we requested the Purple Heart and they said that they needed more information,” said Dave Bowen, a chaplain for Access Home Care and Hospice who has served as liaison between the US Army and Orders. “But all the information they requested was on the paperwork that I submitted, so I’m not sure what they are looking for.”

Currently, Orders is a resident at the Cottonwood Cove retirement home in Pocatello.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Purple heart medals. USMC photo by Cpl. Sara A. Carter

It was a freezing January night in 1945 and Orders — a member of the US Army’s 102nd “Ozark” Infantry Division — was driving a supply truck to the front lines when a German artillery round struck his truck, exploded on impact, and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed in France with severe injuries to his left hand.

Six months later, the US Army honorably discharged Orders, and in addition to the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, he received two Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and the American Theater Ribbon.

Despite his injures, Orders did not receive the Purple Heart.

For decades, he didn’t pursue the award because he thought that it was reserved for those who had been shot. Before her passing in 2012, Orders’ late wife, Jeanne Orders, interviewed and documented his service record during the war.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Oscar L. Davis Jr., receives a purple heart for his past service in World War II. Army photo by Capt. John. J. Moore.

But the US Army cannot rely on Jeanne’s notes and must confirm the information through an action report that details how and when his injuries would have occurred.

The only problem is that the action report may not exist, according to Orders’ son-in-law, Kevin Haskell.

Haskell said any specific records for Orders’ were stored in St. Louis, Missouri, and were likely destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.

“I haven’t got a clue what (the US Army) is looking for,” Haskell said. “Fifteen years ago, my wife (Jolynn Haskell) and my mother-in-law ( Jeanne Orders) went through this whole process. Before Dave brought it back up, we had totally forgotten about it.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
The NPRC records fire of 1973. Image from VA.

Haskell continued, “What’s disappointing is the US Army doesn’t want to act on the evidence we have provided — they want to go off the paperwork.”

The same technicality prevented Orders from receiving the Purple Heart several years before Jeanne died, so to reach the same point again has left Kevin and Jolynn wondering if Orders will ever get the recognition they think he deserves.

“Jolynn was quite disappointed because we thought that the process was all worked out,” Kevin Haskell said. “We were told that it was approved and thought that they had progressed it through, but now it’s postponed because there are more forms that (the US Army) needs.”

Haskell said that it’s not the fact that Orders hasn’t received the Purple Heart, but that the process reached a point where the retirement home scheduled a pinning ceremony that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo planned to attend, only to find out just days before that more information was necessary.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Stephany Miller.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Haskell said. “We thought he was finally going to get it. We are getting asked by residents in the center why he’s not getting the award and we don’t know what to tell them. To go that far and then all of a sudden put a stop to it is pretty disappointing.”

Though there’s a chance that Orders will receive the Purple Heart, Bowen said he is uncertain how probable that outcome will be considering this isn’t the first scenario in which further documentation was missing.

But that hasn’t stopped him from trying.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this happens,” Bowen said. “We will push this until we get an absolute no from the Army.”

Featured

New Air Force video hones in on need for inclusion and diversity

We are a country divided. As Americans, we seem to have forgotten that we should all play on the same team. Fortunately, we have the United States Air Force to remind us of that.

The newly released video titled Heritage Today: The Same Mission highlights the importance of diversity. One of the more memorable lines states that, “The day you decide to serve isn’t the day you give up who you are, it’s the day you show who you are and we become stronger for having you in our ranks.” From there, they cover the need for diversity in background, beliefs, religion and sexual orientation, and not just tolerance of our transgendered troops, but acceptance.


Heritage Today – The Same Mission

www.youtube.com

Human connection and belonging are hallmark traits of happiness and self-worth. By releasing this video, the Air Force is making it clear that they not only welcome diversity – they long for it. Another memorable line states that, “If we can have each other’s backs on the front lines, we need to have each other’s backs when we are home.” You can view all of their videos, here.

The Air Force stood up a special task force on June 9, 2020, to tackle issues including race, ethnic and other demographic disparities. In a memo published by public affairs, Brig. Gen. Troy Dunn stated that, “Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working quietly behind the scenes to tackle these issues. Though we have a long road ahead, I’m really proud of the work this team has done. We want our people to know that we’re steadfast in our commitment to building an Air Force culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

This video showcases their promise of a more inclusive and diverse Air Force.

Words empowering the support of individual identities and a remembrance that we all serve the same nation appears to be a pointed attack on the divisiveness currently tearing the country in two. It also hits on the fact that differences actually make you stronger, faster and more powerful. The Air Force video stresses that its diversity is its strength, something that seems to have been forgotten in the midst of the current turmoil.

Another important takeaway is that the video stresses that although they’ve come a long way, making impressive strides – they aren’t there yet and neither are we as a country. But just because we haven’t gotten there, doesn’t mean we stop working toward a more cohesive and better union. This is a point that the Air Force doesn’t shy away from making, an admission that continued work to ensure inclusion and a focus on diversity only grows, never truly stopping improvement.

The takeaway message of the video is simple: we are stronger together because of our differences. As the video ends, it closes by saying that inclusion isn’t the enemy of readiness, division is. This is advice that not only other branches of service need to follow – but the country as a whole.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Will China’s moon landing launch a new space race?

China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2, 2019. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.

The probe, Chang’e 4, is symbolic of the growth of the Chinese space program and the capabilities it has amassed, significant for China and for relations among the great power across the world. The consequences extend to the United States as the Trump administration considers global competition in space as well as the future of space exploration.


One of the major drivers of U.S. space policy historically has been competition with Russia particularly in the context of the Cold War. If China’s successes continue to accumulate, could the United States find itself engaged in a new space race?

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Illustration of Chang’e-4, Lander and Rover.

China’s achievements in space

Like the U.S. and Russia, the People’s Republic of China first engaged in space activities during the development of ballistic missiles in the 1950s. While they did benefit from some assistance from the Soviet Union, China developed its space program largely on its own. Far from smooth sailing, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution disrupted this early programs.

The Chinese launched their first satellite in 1970. Following this, an early human spaceflight program was put on hold to focus on commercial satellite applications. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping articulated China’s space policy noting that, as a developing country, China would not take part in a space race. Instead, China’s space efforts have focused on both launch vehicles and satellites — including communications, remote sensing, and meteorology.

This does not mean the Chinese were not concerned about the global power space efforts can generate. In 1992, they concluded that having a space station would be a major sign and source of prestige in the 21st century. As such, a human spaceflight program was re-established leading to the development of the Shenzhou spacecraft. The first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut, Yang Liwei, was launched in 2003. In total, six Shenzhou missions have carried 12 taikonauts into low earth orbit, including two to China’s first space station, Tiangong-1.

In addition to human spaceflight, the Chinese have also undertaken scientific missions like Chang’e 4. Its first lunar mission, Chang’e 1, orbited the moon in October 2007 and a rover landed on the moon in 2013. China’s future plans include a new space station, a lunar base and possible sample return missions from Mars.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Chang’e 1 spacecraft.

A new space race?

The most notable feature of the Chinese space program, especially compared to the early American and Russian programs, is its slow and steady pace. Because of the secrecy that surrounds many aspects of the Chinese space program, its exact capabilities are unknown. However, the program is likely on par with its counterparts.

In terms of military applications, China has also demonstrated significant skills. In 2007, it undertook an anti-satellite test, launching a ground-based missile to destroy a failed weather satellite. While successful, the test created a cloud of orbital debris that continues to threaten other satellites. The movie “Gravity” illustrated the dangers space debris poses to both satellites and humans. In its 2018 report on the Chinese military, the Department of Defense reported that China’s military space program “continues to mature rapidly.”

Despite its capabilities, the U.S., unlike other countries, has not engaged in any substantial cooperation with China because of national security concerns. In fact, a 2011 law bans official contact with Chinese space officials. Does this signal a new space race between the U.S. and China?

As a space policy researcher, I can say the answer is yes and no. Some U.S. officials, including Scott Pace, the executive secretary for the National Space Council, are cautiously optimistic about the potential for cooperation and do not see the beginning of a new space race. NASA Administrator Jim Brindenstine recently met with the head of the Chinese space program at the International Astronautical Conference in Germany and discussed areas where China and the U.S. can work together. However, increased military presence in space might spark increased competition. The Trump administration has used the threat posed by China and Russia to support its argument for a new independent military branch, a Space Force.

Regardless, China’s abilities in space are growing to the extent that is reflected in popular culture. In Andy Weir’s 2011 novel “The Martian” and its later film version, NASA turns to China to help rescue its stranded astronaut. While competition can lead to advances in technology, as the first space race demonstrated, a greater global capacity for space exploration can also be beneficial not only for saving stranded astronauts but increasing knowledge about the universe where we all live. Even if China’s rise heralds a new space race, not all consequences will be negative.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker has another big problem

The Air Force’s and Boeing’s development of the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker has been waylaid by cost overruns and operational issues over the past several years.


Officials from the Air Force and Boeing have said that significant lingering problems, like contact between the KC-46’s refueling boom and the receiving aircraft during refueling, are expected to be resolved this year, ahead of Boeing’s October deadline to deliver 18 of the new tankers.

However, a report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has cautioned that while the KC-46’s most important systems could operate under EMP conditions, its operational capabilities in such a scenario have not been fully tested.

“While testing indicated the KC-46A flight-critical systems and boom refueling systems are likely survivable to the 6 decibel (dB) contractual requirement, the Program Office approved verification plan did not demonstrate the residual KC-46A mission systems capability during such an event,” according to the report, which covers fiscal year 2017 and was released last week.

“The program uninstalled or deactivated multiple mission-critical systems prior to testing and, therefore, their EMP tolerance was not tested on an aircraft in a mission-representative configuration,” the DOTE report said. “The program pre-deployed the refueling boom with hydraulics deactivated for the EMP test and therefore the capability to deliver fuel during or immediately following the EMP event was not tested.”

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A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

The KC-46 underwent EMP testing in July at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland and at Edwards Air Force Base in California. During the testing in Maryland, the plane received pulses from “a large coil/transformer” above the aircraft, designed to evaluate its “ability to safely operate through electromagnetic fields … under mission conditions,” Boeing said at the time.

The DOET report said no tests were conducted with all flight and mission systems activated — a step required to fully test the aircraft under EMP conditions. But representatives from the Air Force and Boeing said the KC-46 had proven its EMP functionality as mandated by its test plan.

Air Force spokesman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Inside Defense that mission-critical systems has passed testing and that the systems the DOTE report highlighted are “non-critical.” Grabowski added that, overall, the KC-46 met system specifications and that the Air Force was working with DOTE to “reconcile” concerns raised in the report.

Related: Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Charles Ramsey, a spokesman for Boeing, said EMP testing was conducted according to the Air Force’s test plan and that systems designated critical by that plan showed their functionality on a subsequent flight. “There are no EMP issues on the KC-46,” he told Inside Defense.

The Air Force is planning two tests related to nuclear threats during fiscal year 2018, which began in October and ends in September. One will evaluate the KC-46s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base, and the other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects, according to the DOTE report.

The DOTE report also notes that the KC-46 contract was awarded with a six-decibel threshold for the aircraft — a standard that the aircraft met during testing in July. However, after the contract was signed, the US military imposed a new 20-decibel standard tanker aircraft.

Without further testing, the report says, the Air Force and US Strategic Command will not know if the tanker meets that new requirement. “The Air Force should re-test the KC-46A in an operationally representative condition to determine the actual EMP design margin,” the report concludes.

‘They’re going to clear out pretty quick’

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The KC-46A Pegasus deploys its centerline drogue system, October 8, 2015. (Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

In December, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certificate for the Boeing 767-2C, which is the baseline aircraft for the KC-46. The firm still needs to get an FAA supplemental type certificates for the military and aerial-refueling systems needed so the 767-2C can function as a KC-46. Additional tests are expected during the final review process.

The Air Force currently expects to receive the first operational KC-46s by late spring. Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times in December that once testing is finished and the new tankers star arriving, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.

Boeing won the KC-46 program contract 2011, and the Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. As a part of the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment, and as of late 2017, the defense contractor had taken on about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has had limited involvement in Pentagon weapons programs, but he issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, saying he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.

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How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?


Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.

Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

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A T-90A battle tank in Moscow | Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.

Also, Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outermost borders are sizeably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, yet the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers.  The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.

For instance, Russia has apparently conducted a successful test launch of its Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile, according to The National Interest.

“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.

In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M  tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.

Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

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A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons

Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

Rand Wargame

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

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In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

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NATO military forces

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union, the study maintains.

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.

However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

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The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

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The scramble to attain the top of the opposite hill is a familiar cinematic theme that binds American’s filmmaking tradition with our military history. Famous battles do indeed make for great filmmaking, but the story of Allen Touring’s epic code cracking of Germany’s enigma machine as told in the recent film “The Imitation Game” illustrates a whole other facet of warfare that has been neglected for years. As the film shows, there are important people who remain unrecognized for their contributions to America’s winning military history. One such figure is Alexander Kartveli, perhaps the greatest among the early pioneers in military aviation.

Kartveli emigrated from his home country of Georgia to pursue a dream to design aircraft.  In the 1920s and 1930s, aviation captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and financiers looking for glory and riches – not unlike today’s Internet boom. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, Kartveli moved to Paris, studied aviation and, in his early 20s, designed an aircraft for Louis Bleriot that established a world speed record.

As a result of early success in the Paris aviation scene, Kartveli met and eventually moved to the United States to work with entrepreneur Charles Levine. When Levine’s aviation company failed, Kartveli joined forces again as chief engineer for Alexander de Seversky, another early aviation pioneer who also happened to be born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Seversky Aircraft eventually became Republic Aviation, a major force in aircraft manufacturing through World War II and the conflicts that followed shortly thereafter.

At Republic Aviation, Kartveli oversaw the design of some of the era’s most important fighter planes including the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed the “Warthog”), the P-47 Thunderbolt (nicknamed the “Jug”), the F-84 Thunderjet (nicknamed the “Hog”) and the F-105 Thunderchief. In fact, the A-10 remains in service today, nearly five decades after it was introduced, despite quantum leaps in aviation technology.

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Kartveli’s P-47 Thunderbolt shows the power of design genius at work long before the A-10 was conceived. It was the largest, heaviest and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. Its design encompassed advances in both edges of a sword – it was simultaneously one of the most lethal planes in the air and was also the safest for pilots. The P-47 could carry half the payload of a B-17 on long-range missions, yet it was effective in ground attack roles when armed with five-inch rockets.

Kartveli’s contributions were not limited to Republic Aviation. His capacity to translate ideas into reality led to his role as an advisor to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, where he contributed designs that proved to be the seed concepts for the space shuttle. Here is a reference to Kartveli’s work on ramjet technology as described by NASA’s History Office in “The Space Shuttle Decision” published in 1999. Kartveli and Antonio Ferri collaborated on some notable early ramjet designs.

The heads down, thinking man stereotype associated with engineers partly explains why Kartveli remains obscured from history. What’s also an important factor is the alienation imposed on Kartveli due to unfounded fears of espionage. Despite these strictures, publications such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Think Magazine captured Kartveli’s immutable sense of imagination in articles where he expounded on the future of aviation and space flight.

A breed of people with new ideas and a determination to succeed proved that it takes all kinds to win a modern war. Starting with World War II, the power of innovation and advances in early computers opened up a whole new front of warfare that put scalable technology to work in the hands of individuals like Kartveli. What emerged was a group of people whose contributions formed an essential pillar of military supremacy and who ushered in foundational technologies that today impacts every military and civilian industry.

Aviation Media, LLC is the curator of AlexanderKartveli.com, a website dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing all things related to Alexander Kartveli. Please visit the site to learn more about this great innovator and military aviation pioneer.

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NATO is ponying up more troops to help with the fight in Afghanistan

Two years after winding down its military operation in Afghanistan, NATO has agreed to send more troops to help train and work alongside Afghan security forces.


The move comes in response to a request from NATO commanders who say they need as many as 3,000 additional troops from the allies. That number does not include an expected contribution of roughly 4,000 American forces. They would be divided between the NATO training and advising the mission in Afghanistan, and America’s counterterrorism operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State militants.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on June 29 that 15 countries “have already pledged additional contributions.” He expected more commitments to come.

Britain has said that it would contribute just under 100 troops in a noncombat role.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“We’re in it for the long haul. It’s a democracy. It’s asked for our help and it’s important that Europe responds,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters. “Transnational terror groups operate in Afghanistan, are a threat to us in Western Europe.”

European nations and Canada have been waiting to hear what US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will offer or seek from them. US leaders have so far refused to publicly discuss troop numbers before completing a broader, updated war strategy.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Afghanistan this week, meeting with commanders to gather details on what specific military capabilities they need to end what American officials say is a stalemate against the resurgent Taliban.

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Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

The expected deployment of more Americans is intended to bolster Afghan forces so they eventually can assume greater control of security.

Stoltenberg said the NATO increase does not mean the alliance will once again engage in combat operations against the Taliban and extremist groups. NATO wants “to help the Afghans fight” and take “full responsibility” for safeguarding the country.

He did acknowledge “there are many problems, and many challenges and many difficulties, and still uncertainty and violence in Afghanistan.”

Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, welcomed NATO’s decision and said Afghan troops were in need of “expert” training, heavy artillery, and a quality air force.

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(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Ortiz)

“We are on the front line in the fight against terrorism,” Radmanish said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

But Afghan lawmaker Mohammad Zekria Sawda was skeptical. He said the offer of an additional 3,000 NATO troops was a “show,” and that NATO and the US were unable to bring peace to Afghanistan when they had more than 120,000 soldiers deployed against Taliban insurgents.

“Every day we are feeling more worry,” he said, “If they were really determined to bring peace they could do it,” Sawda said.

As the war drags on, Afghans have become increasingly disillusioned and even former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has questioned the international commitment to bringing peace.

Many Afghans, including Karzai, are convinced that the United States and NATO have the military ability to defeat the Taliban. But with the war raging 16 years after the Taliban were ousted, they accuse the West of seemingly wanting chaos over peace.

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