The Marine Corps plans to begin replacing its legacy Light Armored Vehicle with modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle late in the next decade.
The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal. The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.
“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.
Since the 1980s, the LAV has supported Marine Air-Ground Task Force missions on the battlefield. While the LAV remains operationally effective, the life cycle of this system is set to expire in the mid-2030s. The Corps aims to replace the vehicle before then.
Marine Corps Systems Command has been tasked with replacing the vehicle with a next-generation, more capable ground combat vehicle system. In June 2016, the Corps established an LAV Way-Ahead, which included the option to initiate an LAV Replacement Program to field a next-generation capability in the 2030s.
U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle.
Preliminary planning, successful resourcing in the program objectives memorandum and the creation of an Office of Naval Research science and technology program have set the conditions to begin replacing the legacy LAV with the ARV in the late-2020s.
“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”
The Office of Naval Research has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.
The office is amid a science and technology phase that allows them to conduct advanced technology research and development, modeling and simulation, whole system trade studies and a full-scale technology demonstrator fabrication and evaluation.
These efforts will inform the requirements development process, jump-start industry and reduce risk in the acquisition program.
The office is also supporting the Ground Combat Element Division of the Capabilities Development Directorate by performing a trade study through the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Michigan. This work will help to ensure ARV requirements are feasible and to highlight the capability trade space.
U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division standby to be armed with ammunition to conduct a platoon level gunnery range at Fort Irwin, California, March 22, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Smith)
ONR has partnered with industry to build two technology demonstrator vehicles for evaluation. The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an “at-the-edge” vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.
“The purpose of those vehicles is to understand the technology and the trades,” said Myers.
In support of acquisition activities, PM LAV anticipates the release of an acquisition program Request for Information in May 2019 and an Industry Day later in the year to support a competitive prototyping effort. The Corps expects a Material Development Decision before fiscal year 2020.
“We will take what we’ve learned in competitive prototyping,” said Myers. “Prior to a Milestone B decision, we’ll be working to inform trade space, inform requirements and reduce risk.”
The Corps believes the ARV will support the capability demands of the next generation of armored reconnaissance.
“This vehicle will equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion within the Marine Divisions to perform combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance and security missions in support of the ground combat element,” said Myers. “It’s expected to be a transformational capability for the Marine Corps.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Air Force is strengthening its “Rapid Raptor” program designed to fast-track four F-22s to war — anywhere in the world — within 24 hours, on a moments notice, should there be an immediate need for attacks in today’s pressured, fast-moving global threat environment , service officials said.
The program, in existence for several years, prepares four F-22s with the requisite crew members, C-17 support, fuel, maintenance and weapons necessary to execute a fast-attack “first-strike” ability in remote or austere parts of the world, Air Force officials say.
First strike options are, according to military planners, of particular significance for the F-22 Raptor, given its technical focus on using stealth and air-to-air combat technology to attack heavily defended or “contested” enemy areas.
“If jets, no matter how technically advanced, tactically skilled and strategically sound in the air, can only leap from well-known base to well-known base, their first-strike threat is limited,” an Air Force statement said.
Most air attack contingencies, it seems almost self-evident, are likely to include F-22s as among the first to strike; the aircraft is designed to engage and destroy enemy air threats and also use stealth to destroy enemy air defenses – creating an “air corridor” for other fighters. Although not intended to function as a higher altitude stealth bomber, an F-22 is well suited to a mission objective aimed at destroying enemy aircraft, including fighters, as well as air defenses.
The Raptor is, by design, engineered to fly in tandem with fourth-generation fighters such as an F-15 or F-18, to not only pave the way for further attacks but also to use its longer-range sensors to hand off targets to 4th gen planes for follow-on attacks.
Rapid Raptor was originally developed by Air Force Pacific Command and has since been expanded to a global sphere by Air Combat Command, service officials said.
“The ACC Rapid Raptor program’s aim is to take the concept, as developed in PACAF, and change it from a theater specific to a worldwide capability.” Staff. Sgt. Sarah Trachte, Air Combat Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.
As part of the Rapid Raptor concept, ACC F-22s forward deployed to Europe in 2015 and 2016, she added. Using the Rapid Raptor program for Europe is, in many respects, entirely consistent with the Pentagon’s broader European posture; for many years now, DoD and NATO have been positioning deterrence-oriented forces throughout the European continent as well conducting numerous allied “solidarity” or “interoperability” exercises.
Apart from demonstrating force as a counterbalance to Russian posturing, these activities are also part of a decided strategic effort to demonstrate “mobility” and rapid deployability.
Therefore, so while Air Force officials are careful to say the Rapid Raptor, as a concept does, not “target” any specific nation, its utilization in Europe is indeed of great relevance given existing tensions with Russia.
Furthermore, multiple news reports cited F-22 participation in wargame exercises over the Korean peninsula last year – a fact which certainly lends evidence to the possibility that the Raptor would figure prominently in any attack on North Korea.
Also, apart from being prepared to conduct major-power, nation state warfare across the globe within 24-hours, the Rapid Raptor program is designed to enable ground attack options in unexpected, remote or “austere” target areas.
Accordingly, should the need to attack emerge suddenly in a particular part of the world, a small continent of F-22s will be able to get there. The point here, it seems clear, is that recent global combat circumstances have further reinforced the importance of the F-22s ground attack or close-air-support ability.
Of course, historically, many most immediately think of the F-22 in terms of its speed, maneuverability and dogfighting advantage as an air supremacy fighter, yet its recent air to ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have fortified its role in an air-to-ground fight.
While the F-22 is by no means intended to function as an A-10 would in a close-in ground fight persay, it does have a 20mm cannon which has been used in ground attacks against ISIS, officials familiar with the war effort say.
As recently as this past November, the F-22 conducted a successful ground attack against a Taliban facility in Afghanistan, news reports and officials familiar with the attack said.
To support these kinds of mission options, the F-22 weapons compliment includes ground-specific attack weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions – such as the GBU 32 and GBU 39 — and the Small Diameter Bomb.
“Since the jet first deployed in 2014, it has been capable of air-to-ground and air-to-air. We have the small diameter bomb and JDAMs in the AOR. its typical load out is eight SDBs and two AMRAAMS (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile),” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 programs, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”
Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.
“It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”
Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.
“Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.
The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.
“WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.
In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.
Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”
The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.
The Pentagon is looking to boost counterterrorism cooperation with an elite Indonesian special forces group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Jan. 23 during a visit to Jakarta.
The special forces unit, known as Kopassus, has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including killings and torture, mostly in the 1990s. Mattis says the group has since reformed.
“That was upwards of 20 years ago, and we’ll look at it since then,” Mattis said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and other leaders.
Mattis’ visit aims to expand overall military cooperation with Indonesia, which is modernizing its military and has shown an increased willingness to push back against China’s territorial claims.
Indonesia is also dealing with the possible return of hundreds of Indonesians who fought with the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.
“We are out to expand in ways that respond to any requests from Indonesia on counterterrorism to include the special forces units,” Mattis said alongside his Indonesian counterpart.
Following those talks, Ryacudu said he would like Mattis to help relax the legal limitations on closer U.S. ties with the elite special forces group.
Kopassus’ alleged abuses include massacres in East Timor, the abduction and forced disappearance of student pro-democracy activists, and a torture campaign in Aceh during a now-ended insurgency. Rights groups say many of those responsible have not been held accountable.
Amid those concerns, the United States severed ties with Kopassus in 1999. In 2010, the Pentagon took initial steps toward reestablishing cooperation, but the ties have been limited and non-lethal, consisting of staff exchanges and low-level subject matter dialogue.
Mattis says he believes the group has reformed and would now stand up to the scrutiny of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights.
Joseph Felter, the top U.S. defense official on Southeast Asia, said the Pentagon sees “real value and potential in working with Kopassus as a partner in counterterrorism,” if the State Department were to loosen restrictions.
“They are a very, very effective counterterrorism unit,” Felter said.
The United States already has very close ties with the Indonesian military. Since 2013, Felter said the United States has sold more than $1.5 billion to Indonesia under the foreign military sales program, including the Apache helicopter and the F-16. And Felter says Jakarta is considering buying more F-16s.
“Anytime we can help a partner uphold a free and fair rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific, that’s what we’re here for,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia said.
On Jan. 24, Mattis heads to Vietnam, where China is likely to be a major focus.
The Pentagon last week unveiled a new National Defense Strategy that prioritizes the U.S. geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.
Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and has repeatedly clashed with Chinese ships in the area.
During his visit to Indonesia Tuesday, Mattis repeatedly spoke about the importance of the “rule of law” and “freedom of navigation” – comments apparently aimed at China.
Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.
The Air Force is reving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter as a way to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.
Boeing has secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology called with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.
Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor.
Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 20 he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.
On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.
Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn’t publicly discussed such numbers. He said April 20 his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.
“You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it’s something that’s stayed with us all these years,” said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on April 21.
He met April 20 with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.
The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.
Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.
The nominee to lead U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) told lawmakers Dec. 4, 2018, that the unrelenting pace of operations may force the elite organization to pass some missions off to conventional combat units.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process to assume command of SOCOM, said he believes it has an “adequate” number of personnel but needs to avoid taking on missions that conventional forces are capable of handling.
“Special Operations Command should only do those missions that are suited for Special Operations Command, and those missions that can be adjusted to conventional forces should go to those conventional forces,” he said.
Currently, special operations forces are responsible for conducting U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere and handling missions such as combating weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, from Special Operations Task Force-East, watches Afghan Commandos, from 2nd Commando Kandak, while patrolling a village in Dand Patan district during an operation.
(US Army photo)
The elite, multi-service SOCOM, made up of about 70,000 service members, also is slated to play a significant role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, which focuses on near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Clarke whether there is a clear delineation within the Defense Department between SOCOM and conventional missions.
Clarke said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “has been very clear … that SOCOM should be specific to SOCOM missions, so I don’t think there is any issue of delineation within the Department of Defense with that.”
Hirono then asked whether the U.S. military needs to do a better job adhering to the policy of assigning SOCOM-specific and conventional missions.
“The publishing of the National Defense Strategy and relooking at the prioritization of the force has given us a very good opportunity to relook at all of our deployments, look where the forces are and make sure that SOCOM forces are, in fact, dedicated to the missions that are most important and are specific to special operations forces,” Clarke said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said recent proposals to leave SOCOM out of the proposed 5 percent cut to the DoD’s budget would not guarantee that the command would not suffer.
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha Soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army Commandos, 2nd Company, 3rd Special Operations Kandak conduct clearance of Mandozai village, Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
“At a time of tight budgets, when some in the administration are already talking about cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense budget, many people say, ‘But that’s OK, because since the Special Operations Command is bearing so much of the fight, it will be fully funded,’ ” he said. “Can you talk about your dependence on the rest of the conventional military and how our special operations forces fight with them, and why stable, predictable and increasing funding for those conventional forces is so important for Special Operations Command?”
Clarke replied that SOCOM relies heavily on conventional forces from every branch of service.
“Especially for longer-term operations, we need the support of the services,” he said. ” … Special Operations Command is made up of the services. Much of the recruitment, much of the force, is actually started in the conventional force and actually came up through the ranks, and they were identified as some of the best of breed in that particular service in which they served, and they raised their hand and volunteered for special operations.”
The Army’s conventional forces have taken responsibility for training and advising conventional forces, standing up six Security Force Assistance Brigades to help establish, instruct, and enable conventional forces in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, the mission to train foreign militaries fell to Army Special Forces. Special Forces units now focus on training foreign commando units.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Of the three charter members of the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Iran may be the last man standing, thanks to the guys with the crazy hair – Kim Jong-Un and Donald J. Trump.
The Iranian leadership’s special blend of messianism, self-pity, and paranoia has fueled its hegemonic push West, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and meddling in the territory of its neighbors, Yemen and Afghanistan. This makes sense in the regime’s House of Leadership, while it husbands its nuclear weapons development capability for another day, thanks to the “Iran nuclear deal” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it undercuts Iran’s need to attract foreign investment to revive its deteriorating economy.
Despite the surprise election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Iran’s leadership no doubt hoped the opportunity for contracts for U.S. companies, read Boeing, would be too good to pass up despite candidate Trump’s disdain for the JCPOA, which he called “the worst deal ever.” And in May 2018, after delaying for over a year and giving the U.S. Congress or the other JCPOA partners an opportunity to fix the agreement, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the “horrible one-sided” JCPOA.
On the other side of the world, North Korea’s hereditary leader, Kim Jong-Un, had a face-t0-face meeting in Singapore with Donald Trump, who had only recently derided him as “Rocket Man.” Kim has visited Beijing several times to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a historic trip to the Panmunjom truce village where he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stepped over the border into South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so.
What does Iran have to do to get some respect?
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
There may not be much Iran can do because North Korea has one thing Iran lacks: neighbors who want a peace process to succeed and can brandish the appropriate carrots and sticks.
Iran’s neighbor Iraq is key to Iran’s regional strategy due to its location and large Shia Muslim population, but Iran’s involvement increases Iraqi Sunni anxiety, leaving them open to manipulation by outside forces; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have neither the financial or political heft to improve Iran’s economy or its security situation; Turkey, a regional competitor, will likely bide its time as Iran’s isolation continues; in the Southern Caucasus, secular Azerbaijan is wary of its militant neighbor, and Armenia is a shambles and hardly able to help itself much less anyone else. And across the Persian Gulf lies Saudi Arabia, anxious to take down its regional rival as its ambitious young ruler looks to reshape its economy and society.
Iran’s remaining partners in the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are distant from the consequences of any regional instability and are primarily motivated by trade opportunities.
North Korea lives in an entirely different neighborhood. To its North are China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and, in China’s case, a diverse, growing economy – the world’s second largest. To the South is South Korea, home of the world’s eleventh largest economy and a vibrant exporter of cultural and technology products. Across the Sea of Japan is, well, Japan, a leading technology exporter and home of the third largest economy.
North Korea’s neighbors have significant security concerns: China wants to stop North Korean refugees escaping across its border and to be able to mitigate the increasing stress in its relations with the Kim regime. South Korea is interested in threat reduction and family reunification; Japan can’t move out of range of the North’s missiles, so would like the missile and nuclear weapon programs to end. And the U.S., with 28,000 troops and numerous family members in the South, is fully invested in both denuclearization and a peaceful end of the Korean War, which started sixty-eight years ago in June 2018.
Chinese president Xi Jinping
If war broke out again on the Korean Peninsula, the effect would worldwide and immediate as South Korea is a vital part of the global supply chain for high technology equipment. And it’s unlikely someone else could quickly pick up the slack: it is estimated that the replacement cost of the display manufacturing capability of Samsung and rival LG will top billion. In the words of one analyst, “If Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop.”
So a major conflict in Asia will damage economies worldwide; more trouble in Iran’s neighborhood, short of stopping all oil exports from the Persian Gulf, is Page 3 news.
President Trump probably looked at Iran and North Korea and correctly concluded that North Korea was the greater strategic threat to the U.S. and must be dealt with first. The North has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can soon reach the U.S. mainland, even if it now lacks warhead re-entry capability and terminal guidance technology. But Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” was then amplified by Pyongyang’s neighbors who have their own economic and political heft and who want the North to denuclearize and join the world economy.
Iran is a noisy, regional menace but is being countered in part by aggressive economic sanctions which, coupled with the regime’s economic mismanagementand corruption, are doing more damage than a subversion campaign sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. But that’s probably going on, too.
Kim signaled he was taking the country in a new direction in 2016, at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where he emphasized his policy of “byungjin” — or “simultaneous pursuit” — equating economic growth and the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. His likely goal is to announce significant economic growth at the 8th Workers’ Party Congress in 2022.
Shortly after Trump’s return from his meeting with Kim, U.S. media reported North Korea had increased nuclear production at secret sites. Was Trump snookered by Kim as some observers hoped? Possibly, but Kim likely wants to maximize production of nukes and missiles, so he has more to trade when trading day arrives. He also needs to keep the military-industrial complex busy and motivated as he prepares for years of difficult negotiations with the U.S. and his neighbors.
Indeed, strategists at Korean conglomerate Samsung think North Korea is “already past the point of no return,” and the economy will overtake the military as the regime’s means of survival. If so, regime insiders will want to be rewarded for their fidelity, as visions of mobile phone licenses and mining concessions dance in their heads. Though North Korea is a long way from mass politics, economic success will enable Kim to solidify his popular base as a counterweight to regime insiders.
In fact, Kim may be ahead of his cadres in the new politics game. In 2017, in a national broadcast, he admitted “My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability,” a startling admission from someone the subject of a pervasive personality cult. And Kim and Trump know a picture of two men shaking hands is enough to start a political reordering.
Where is Iran in all this? As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”
The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.
And time is of the essence, as the media recently uncovered the possible use of Danske Bank Estonia in Tallinn to finance weapons deals between North Korea and Iran. North Korea was the focus of the news cycle two weeks ago, but if its future disclosures lag media reporting, it will be continually reacting to disclosures about its money laundering and use of the informal transportation sector and for no benefit.
And the U.S. must not forget the Iranian people – they are a key audience (aside from swing voters in the 2020 U.S. elections). They should be the target of news reports on economic progress in North Korea as their economy continues to stagnate so they, and the young especially, can ask why their leaders can’t get the world’s respect and engagement. To underline what happened, they should be reminded that Trump traveled to Asia – Kim’s neighborhood – to meet him.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s invocation of “resistance” will be increasingly threadbare if Iranians’ quality of life deteriorates as additional sanctions bite and China stops taking Iran’s calls.
Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei – they’ve both done awful things, but now we’ll see who’s the transformational leader with his eyes on the future.
Special operations personnel are often assigned missions in places where support is hard to come by. Expeditionary Support Bases, like the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) and sister ships, are, in essence, mobile bases, make it easier to bring support within range of troops in austere environments. However, supplies are limited; the United States Navy has just the Puller, with two sisters under construction.
Furthermore, these ships are large and lightly armed, making them vulnerable. The good news is that there may be an option to give more special ops personnel support — and the answer is a combination of two ships already in Navy service.
USS Independence (LCS 2), whose trimaran hull is the basis for Austal’s proposed Special Operations Support Vessel.
(U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)
Austal is offering a Special Operations Support Ship. This concept vessel takes the trimaran hull used by Independence-class littoral combat ships and combines it with features from the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, like a stern ramp and the ability to haul vehicles and troops around.
The model showcased at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo at National Harbor, Maryland showed a potent armament suite for this vessel. It included two quad launchers for anti-ship missiles, like the RGM-84 Harpoon or the Kongsberg NSM, as well as a turreted gun forward and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.
Elements of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports would be incorporated with the Independence-class littoral combat ship’s trimaran hull to make the Special Operations Support Vessel.
This Special Operations Support vessel also maintains the ability to operate a helicopter at least the size of a MH-60S Seahawk, which would not only allow it to insert special ops troops, but to also fire AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missiles. Even though the Navy is buying large expeditionary support bases, when it comes to supporting special operations forces in the future, deploying several little ships instead of something large may be the answer.
Military designers and the countries they work for have always sought to outdo one another on the battlefield, and creating massive artillery pieces has been no exception. Though there have been many extremely large artillery pieces manufactured, and some that are even larger than the ones listed here, these are the only ones that were actually used in combat.
1. Schwerer Gustav and Dora
The Schwerer Gustav and its sister gun Dora were the two largest artillery pieces every constructed in terms of overall weight (1350 tonnes) and weight of projectiles (15,700 pounds), while it’s 800mm rounds are the largest ever fired in combat. The guns also had a range of over 24 miles. The guns were originally designed to be deployed against the French Maginot Line though the Blitzkrieg rendered that mission obsolete. Instead, the guns were deployed to the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. The Schwerer Gustav entered combat during the German siege of Sevastopol in June 1942. The gun was manned by a crew of over 1400 men, 250 to assemble the weapon, two anti-aircraft battalions to protect it, and the rest to load and fire the weapon. Dora was set up to be deployed against Stalingrad, though it cannot be confirmed whether it fired against its target or not. Both guns remained on the Eastern Front but were not used in combat again. They were destroyed in Germany to avoid capture by the advancing allied armies.
Another product of Germany, the Karl-Gerät was a massive self-propelled mortar. Though it was capable of its own propulsion, its massive size made this an inconvenience, so it was usually disassembled and reassembled when it arrived at its firing position. The Karl-Gerät was designed as a siege weapon in particular to attack the Maginot Line. Its 21 man crew could fire a 600mm heavy bunker-busting shell nearly 3 miles at a rate of about 6 per hour. A total of 7 of these weapons were produced, one test piece and 6 others that saw extensive combat on both fronts. The Karl-Gerät made its combat debut when a 3 gun battery shelled the fortress at Brest-Litovsk during the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The following year, a battery of Karl-Geräts took part in the siege of Sevastopol in June and July of 1942. Though it was planned for use in other operations on the Eastern Front, the threat of being captured by Soviet forces kept it out of the fight until 1944 when in August, one and then several other guns were sent to Warsaw to assist in quelling an on-going uprising against the German occupiers. The Karl-Gerät fired its last shots of the war during the Battle of Remagen in an attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge.
3. Obusier de 520 modèle 1916
The Obusier de 520 was a railroad gun developed by the French during World War I. However, due to a delayed procurement process, the first gun did not reach trails until late 1917 during which a round exploded prematurely and destroyed it. The second gun was completed in 1918 but did not finish trails before the war ended after which it was put in storage. The Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 fired a 520mm round weighing over 3600 pounds to a range of over 8 miles. When Germany invaded France in 1940, the remaining gun was being renovated for battle where it was captured, still in the workshop, by the Germans. Germany, with a penchant for enormous artillery, pressed the Obusier de 520 into their own service where it participated in the siege of Leningrad in 1942 before also being destroyed by a round prematurely exploding in the barrel in January 1943.
4. Type 94 naval gun
The Japanese 18.1 inch naval gun was the largest gun ever to see combat at sea, being mounted on the Japanese Yamato-class battleships. The guns could fire a 1.5 ton shell over 26 miles and when mounted in their turrets, the entire piece weighed as much as a conventional destroyer of the time. Though the Yamato and Musashi were in operation for the entire war, neither used their Type 94 guns until near the time of their demise. Musashi’s sole use of her Type 94’s was in an anti-aircraft role, using the specially designed Sanshikidan “beehive” rounds attempting to stop the onslaught of American aircraft trying to sink her. She was unsuccessful and after taking 17 bomb hits and 19 torpedo strikes, she sank in October 1944. Also, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Yamato used her guns for the only time in combat and sank the American escort carrier USS Gambier Bay before being forced to retire. The Yamato was finally sunk during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in April 1945.
5. BL 18 inch Mk I naval gun
The British 18 inch Mk I was originally designed and built during World War I, mounted on the HMS Furious. However, the Furious was converted during construction and two of its three turrets were emplaced on two Lord Clive-class monitors. Though the Mk I was slightly smaller than the later Japanese Type 94, its shell weighed more – 3320 pounds. The guns saw action very late in the war with the first bombarding a railway bridge in August 1918 while the other fired ahead of advancing troops in October 1918. A third gun was also built but did not see action during the war.
6. Big Bertha and Gamma Mörser
The Big Bertha and Gamma Mörser were both developments of a 420mm siege howitzer designed by Krupp for Germany leading up to World War I. Big Bertha was a mobile artillery piece while the Gamma had to be emplaced before firing, though they were moved by rail for operations in different areas. Both weapons fired a nearly 1 ton shell though the Gamma Mörser could fire the shell nearly 9 miles, a mile farther than the Big Bertha. Both types of weapons were deployed against Belgium during the opening stages of the Great War in 1914. Big Bertha guns were successful in destroying numerous forts in Belgium and France and gained a reputation on both sides for their power. The Gamma Mörsers were also used during destruction of the fort at Liege but due to their limited mobility did not see action again until the attack on Verdun in 1916. Most of the guns were destroyed or captured, though Krupp managed to hide one Gamma in a workshop. It survived to be repaired and used again during World War II where it saw action at the Siege of Sevastopol alongside other massive German artillery pieces.
These 7 snipers reached out and touched the enemy from a long way away:
1. The British sniper who nailed three 1.53-mile hits
Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison was providing sniper support in a firefight between his buddies and Afghan insurgents. Near the end of the three-hour battle in Nov. 2009, Harrison spotted the enemy machine gun team that was pinning everyone down. He lined up his sights on the targets that were over 1.5 miles away.
Each shot took 6 seconds to impact. He fired five times. Two shots missed but one round ripped through the gunner’s stomach, another took out the assistant gunner, and the last one destroyed the machine gun.
2. A Canadian sniper who took out a machine gunner in Operation Anaconda
During Operation Anaconda, the bloody hunt of Afghan militants in the Shahikot Valley in Mar. 2002, Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong was watching over a group of U.S. troops and saw an insurgent automatic weapons team climbing a ridge 1.5 miles away. His first two shots narrowly missed but the third broke open the gunner’s torso and left him bleeding out on the ground. The shot barely beat out Master Cpl. Arron Perry’s shot discussed below.
3. Another Canadian sniper in Operation Anaconda who took out an observer from nearly the same distance
Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry was also supporting U.S. troops in Operation Anaconda when he spotted an enemy artillery observer 1.43 miles away. Perry took aim at the observer and nailed him. Perry held the record for world’s longest sniper kill for a few days before Furlong beat it.
4. The Ranger whose longest-American kill is still mostly secret
Sgt. Bryan Kremer was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Mar. 2004 when he took a shot from 1.42 miles away and killed an Iraqi insurgent. The details of the battle have been kept under wraps, but his Mar. 2004 shot is the longest recorded sniper kill by an American.
5. The Marine legend who set the world record with a machine gun
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of the most respected names in the Marine Corps and set the record for longest kill in 1967 with a machine gun. The record stood for 35 years before Perry beat it.
Hathcock had an M2 in single-shot mode with a scope mounted on the top. He saw a Vietcong soldier pushing a bike loaded with weapons and took two shots. The first destroyed the bike and the second killed the soldier.
6. The South African sniper who recorded hits from 1.32 miles while killing six officers in a day
A South African battalion deployed in a U.N. brigade fought viciously against the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the Battle of Kibati, an unnamed South African sniper killed six M23 officers in a single day in Aug. 2013. His longest kill that day was an amazing 1.32-mile shot.
7. The Army sniper who tagged Taliban who walked into his personal firing range
Snipers sometimes fire at different objects on the battlefield to collect information about how their rounds move through the air at a given location. Spc. Nicholas Ranstad had been firing at a boulder near his position, leaving a small trail of white marks on the rock.
But even though the men who would respond to an incident involving the Pope have traded poofy pants for tactical gear, and bladed weapons for Sig SG 550 rifles, those razor-sharp halberds weren’t always just ceremonial. There was a time when the halberds, pikes, and swords carried by the ceremonial guards were the latest in military technology. The Swiss Guard are, after all, the oldest, continuous standing army in the world.
In 1527, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had just beat down the French in Italy. the only problem was, he couldn’t afford to pay the massive army he used to do it. Understandably pissed, the 34,000-strong army began to march on Rome, believing the Papal States would be an easy target to sack and pillage. They were right… for the most part.
On May 6, 1527, that army broke through Rome’s defenders and looted and pillaged the city for 12 days.
But the city didn’t just roll over for the renegade army.
Defending Rome was a militia made up of 5,000 and 189 of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. Of those, around 40 or so escorted Pope Clement VII to safety – and they were the only survivors of the assault. The rest were slaughtered, choosing to hold their ground in the Vatican.