US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.
The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.
“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.
MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.
Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.
However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.
To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.
To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.
This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.
In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.
To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 — that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.
Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.
As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.
In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.
A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.
It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.
President Donald Trump’s administration is warning Syria that further chemical attacks will be met with a strike like the salvo of 59 cruise missiles that lit up a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Syria would be “ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, the Washington Examiner notes.
Two senior administration officials warned that the US could take military action against Syria following a new rash of reports of chemical weapons used against civilians supposedly carried out by the country’s government, The Cipher Brief reported.But even bigger than another strike on Syria — which, while eye-catching, changed little geopolitically — the officials said the US was on to Syria’s backer and enabler: Russia.
“They’re not trying to fool us. They know what we know,” one of the officials said, meaning that Russia isn’t even trying to hide its role in the chemical attacks. “They’re trying to fool you.”
The official was referring to Russia’s media offensive to deny its connection to chemical weapons use in Syria.
An agreement between the US in Russia in 2013 bound Moscow to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, but as repeated instances of chemical weapons attacks show, that was simply not the case.
The officials’ statements to The Cipher Brief follow Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements that Russia “bears responsibility” for the chemical warfare still unfolding in Syria.
But while the Trump administration has resolved to punish Syria’s use of chemical weapons with military force, a change in tactics from Damascus may complicate things. Instead of the sarin gas used in April, which requires sophisticated assembly and deployment by an air force, the recent attacks have used chlorine gas, which can simply be dumped out of a truck.
Former US ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute fellow James Jeffrey told BI that there have been persistent reports of chlorine attacks in Syria since 2013, and it’s not as clearly banned by international agreements as sarin.
Additionally, Jeffrey pointed out that the attacks have not been independently verified by an international agency, meaning it would be harder to build an international consensus around a strike.
“We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use,” said Mattis. “We are looking for the evidence.”
But with Russian and Iranian influence growing in Syria and posing a direct threat to US foreign policy interests, it’s possible that the Trump administration may look to make a statement that it’s not buying Russia’s excuses anymore.
The Humvee — High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) — has been a workhorse for the United States military for over three decades. The vehicle is showing its age, as insurgents have been doing a lot of damage with improvised explosive devices and RPGs. While the former can be a problem, the humble HMMWV may soon have a counter in the form of an active protection system.
Wait, you might be saying, aren’t active protection systems a tank thing? Well, not necessarily. Yes, they can be heavy, but they don’t have to be. According to a handout from General Dynamics at the Association of the United State Army expo in Washington, D.C., there is an active protection system that can fit on a HMMWV – or bigger vehicles.
The Iron Fist Light is a system that comes in at 551 pounds. Yep, you did not miss a fourth digit there. This means that the cargo carrying capacity of most vehicles is not seriously compromised. The system can be bolted on to just about any vehicle and uses both infra-red and radar systems to track incoming missiles and rockets. Then, it can fire an interceptor to destroy or deflect the incoming projectile.
The system works in both open terrain and urban environments, and also offers the ability to detect other types of hostile fire, such as bursts from small arms. The system provides 360 degrees of coverage and can also handle high-angle shots. Furthermore, it doesn’t draw a lot of electrical power from the vehicle.
The Iron Fist was originally developed by Israel Military Industries. It was selected by the Army for use on vehicles last year, and will also be fitted on Dutch infantry fighting vehicles. One thing for sure, the HMMWV, which will be around for a while, is not going to be an easy target for bad guys.
If you’re a Marine or sailor and your unit receives orders to deploy, then you’re also looking at spending a little over a month training in the Mojave Desert. Every year, Marines from all over the U.S. and Japan take a trip to Twentynine Palms, California, where they eat, sleep, and sh*t war games against role players pretending to be the bad guys.
During your stay at “29 stumps,” you’ll get to blow up a lot of stuff, eat plenty of MREs, and sweat your ass off in the process.
Although you’ll have plenty of training to do, you’ll also find yourself bored as hell between activities as you sit in the middle of the desert at Camp Wilson.
(Photo by Marine Cpl Michael Dye)
Instead of twiddling your thumbs, try the following to keep your mind occupied. You’ll thank us later.
Between training revolutions, you’ll have no form of entertainment. Idle minds wander — this is when you’ll come up with new games to play with your fellow brothers. Everyone has a flak jacket and SAPI plates, right? It might be time to enjoy a semi-violent game of “knock down the other guy.”
Sleep, sleep, and then sleep some more
Do you really need any more explanation?
Search for cell service
Cell towers don’t cover most areas of the camp. However, there are a few cell-phone companies that extend service into select spots. We’ve discovered tiny, three-square-foot pockets of service and, once we left that magic spot, we got nothing.
It’s possible to find a signal, you just have to hunt for it.
Work on your six pack
While in Twentynine Palms, you’re going to sweat, which also means you’re losing weight. While you’re waiting to do whatever your platoon commander has planned for the day, you should knock out some crunches and planks. After a few weeks of training, you’re going to rotate home — those six-pack abs will be good for your dating life.
Document how much fun you’re having with a funny YouTube video
Marines can have fun just about anywhere at any time because of the dark sense of humor they proudly inherit from the grunts who came before them. To pass the time while you’re out in the blistering heat with nothing to do, make a video. Document how much fun you’re having.
Watch a movie on your phone
You better have the entire film downloaded to your iPhone or Andriod. Even if you find a little pocket of signal out there, it won’t be enough to download an entire movie — just sayin’.
By all accounts, Jaqueline Carrizosa is about as badass as it gets.
The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer has turned her civilian life into careers as a body builder, Hollywood technical expert and competitive motocross racer.
And while she’s serious about reaching her goals, Carrizosa knows how to let her hair down and connect with people from all walks of life.
Maybe she’s like Wonder Woman with tattoos.
Though, she credits her Navy career with shaping her outlook on life, it’s riding that keeps her grounded, Carrizosa said.
“Riding to me is how I find my zen,” Carrizosa said. “I can have the worst day in the world and [ride] and I don’t think about anything else — nothing else exists in my head.”
That ability to shut out the noise came in handy after Carrizosa suffered a near-fatal accident on a bicycle last year. She was nearly paralyzed when a motorist hit her and sent her to the hospital for weeks.
But she bounced back and is seen as a hero to many in the veteran community for her tenacity and activism.
“I like that me pushing my own personal boundaries and sharing that story motivates other people,” Carrizosa said. “I love the letters I get from fathers who tell me that their 8-year-old daughter loves me and wants to ride because of me.”
Lighter weight protective body armor and undergarments, newer uniform fabrics, conformal wearable computers and integrated sensors powered by emerging battery technologies — are all part of the Army’s cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at shaping, enhancing and sustaining the Soldier of the Future.
The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said.
A main impetus for the effort, called Warrior Integration Site, is grounded in the unambiguous hopef reducing the weight carried by today’s Army infantry fighters from more than 120-pounds, down to at least 72-pounds, service officials explained.In fact, a Soldier’s current so-called “marching load” can reach as much as 132-pounds, Army experts said.
“We’ve overloaded the Soldier, reduced space for equipment and tried to decrease added bulk and stiffness. What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager, Integration, Program Executive Office Soldier, told Scout Warrior in an interview during an exclusive tour of the WinSite facility.
Citing batteries, power demands, ammunition, gear interface, body armor, boots, weapons and water, Rowell explained that Soldiers are heavily burdened by the amount they have to carry for extended missions.
“We try to document everything that the Soldier is wearing including weight, size and configuration – and then communicate with researchers involved with the Army’s Science and Technology community,” he added.
The WinSite lab is not only looking to decrease the combat load carried by Soldiers into battle but also identify and integrate the best emerging technologies; the evaluation processes in the make-shift laboratory involve the use of computer graphic models, 3-D laser scanners, 3-D printing and manequins.
“This is not about an individual piece of equipment. It is about weight and cognitive burden – all of which contributes to how effective the Soldier is,” Rowell said.
The 3-D printer allows for rapid prototyping of new systems and equipment with a mind to how they impact the overall Soldier system; the manequins are then outfitted with helmets, body armor, radios, water, M-4 rifles, helmets, uniforms, night vision, batteries and other gear as part of an assessment of what integrates best for the Soldier overall.
In addition, while the WinSite is more near term than longer-term developmental efforts such as the ongoing work to develop a Soldier “Iron Man” suit or exoskeleton, the Army does expect to integrate biometric sensors into Soldier uniforms. This will allow for rapid identification of health and body conditions, such as heart rate, breathing or blood pressure – along with other things. Rapid access to this information could better enable medics to save the lives of wounded Soldiers.
Lighter weight fabrics for uniforms, combined with composite body armor materials are key elements of how the Army hope to reach a notional, broad goal of enabling Soldier to fight with all necessary gear weighing a fraction of the current equipment at 48-pounds, Rowell explained.
WinSite is primarily about communication among laboratory experts, scientists and computer programmers and new Soldier technology developers – in order to ensure that each individual properly integrate into the larger Soldier system.
Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.
Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.
I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.
In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.
Enter Team Cobra
A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army. They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.
Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece. Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.
Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.
Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.
Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them. I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.
When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.
In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and some of them are there today.
I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.
Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher, one of two last surviving members of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in Missoula, Montana from complications of a stroke on June 22, 2016. He was 94.
On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was involved in the Doolittle Raid – United States’ first retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell Medium bombers, 2 aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers…and 80 brave souls – all of which had volunteered and trained for the “extremely hazardous” secret mission under the command of the famous Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.
Thatcher’s aircraft, nicknamed the “Ruptured Duck”, was seventh to launch (is that ok to say because I say ‘take off’ in the next sentence) and was piloted by Ted W. Lawson. The goal for all 16 bombers was to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb military targets in Japan. It was not possible to land back on the Hornet, so the plan was to continue west for a landing in China.
The mission ended up launching 170 miles further out than anticipated, and all of the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the areas in China that were not occupied by the Japanese. As was the fate of two other bombers, Thatcher and his crew were forced to ditch their plane at sea. Lawson, the Ruptured Duck’s pilot and his co-pilot were both tossed from the B-25. Miraculously, all 5 crew members survived with serious injuries, with the exception of Thatcher. After regaining consciousness, he was able to walk and helped the others survive.
Doolittle would later tell Thatcher’s parents “… all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself, day and night.”
Thatcher was one of three awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during the Doolittle Raid.
“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing the Raiders who survived.
In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Thatcher said: “We figured it was just another bombing mission,” only later did he realize that “it was an important event in World War II.”
“The Doolittle Raid was a pivotal point in the war and ‘very necessary,’ said Thatcher’s son-in-law, Jeff Miller in an interview with local paper, Missoulian. “But nobody talks about the rest of the story. These guys weren’t put on the sidelines. Too often, the story stops at the Doolittle Raiders.”
Thatcher went on to train in Tampa, Florida on B-26 bombers, and was “one of 12,000 troops to ship out of New York Harbor on the Queen Mary, which zigzagged its way across the North Atlantic to avoid detection by German U-boats. In the next several months, Thatcher flew 26 bombing missions over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. He participated in the first bombing of Rome in July 1943.”
After retiring from the military, Thatcher worked for the USPS as a Postal Clerk. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, three of their five children and seven grandchildren.
The remaining Doolittle Raider is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole – Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.
The Senate voted Jan. 18 to extend a controversial surveillance program for six years, ending months of debate over a law that has been the linchpin of post-9/11 U.S. national security.
The bill essentially reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the U.S. government to collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, even if Americans’ communications are picked up and searched by officials along the way.
The measure passed 65-34, with support from Republicans and Democrats.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the extension into law by Jan. 19, despite reservations he expressed in a tweet last week.
Before the vote Jan. 18, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called the 702 provision “the single most important intelligence tool that exists for us to keep Americans safe.”
Opponents say the program allows the government to sweep up Americans’ communications under the guise of targeting foreigners abroad. Privacy rights advocates argue that this so-called “incidental” collection doesn’t happen by chance.
“Individual decision making about whom to target is warrantless,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider. “There’s no oversight on a case-by-case basis. The FBI can warrantless search data, and they can do that at any stage, even if a formal investigation is not open.”
On Jan. 16, the Senate voted 60-38 to invoke cloture on the bill, effectively ending debate and moving forward with a vote. A bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Steve Daines, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren, held a press conference shortly after the decision to urge their colleagues to support a warrant requirement to search Americans’ data.
“Most of us agree the program has value and is useful, but we should not use information that is collected on Americans,” Paul said. “The database is enormous. Maybe millions of Americans are caught up in this database.”
Paul has consistently railed against the law arguing that it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Trump tweets, confusion ensues
Just hours before the House was set to vote on the bill last week, Trump interjected in the debate with a tweet that appeared to contradict the official White House position, setting off confusion on Capitol Hill as to where the president stands on the issue.
“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,'” Trump tweeted. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
An hour later, after House Speaker Paul Ryan privately explained the importance of the bill to Trump, the president attempted to clarify his position.
“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he tweeted. “We need it! Get smart!”
Section 702 became law in 2008 when Congress amended FISA rules. The public was left mostly in the dark about warrantless surveillance until 2013, when former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden leaked an estimated 1.7 million classified intelligence files, covering a wide range of secret government surveillance tactics and programs.
The files revealed that Section 702 was being used to justify the PRISM program, which allowed the government to collect communications from tech companies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that, if the United States deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will have to target the countries hosting them.
The Oct. 24, 2018 statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear arms control pact over alleged Russian violations.
Putin spoke on Oct. 24, 2018, four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over alleged Russian violations.
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.
Trump and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and White House national security adviser John Bolton.
Putin said he hoped the United States wouldn’t follow up by positioning intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
“If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
“The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike. These are obvious things.”
He continued: “I don’t understand why we should put Europe in such serious danger.”
“I see no reason for that,” Putin said. “I would like to repeat that it’s not our choice. We don’t want it.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 24, 2018, that European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to the alleged violations of the INF treaty.
“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies, for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.
Putin rejected Trump’s claim that Russia has violated the INF treaty, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue with Trump in Paris when they both attend Nov. 11, 2018 events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I.
“We are ready to work together with our American partners without any hysteria,” he said. “The important thing is what decisions will come next.”
Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.
Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.
In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.
In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.
The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.
Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.
Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)
Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.
Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.
Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.
The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.
A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”
It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)
Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.
For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.
And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.
On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.
“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.
Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.
Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)
“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.
“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”
Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.
Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”
There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.
The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
When it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, there’s clearly a love-hate relationship within the military.
The Air Force is scrambling to find and train new pilots to fly the robot warriors, which hunt down high-value targets and fire missiles with relentless precision. But military planners are also concerned about increased access to the technology by America’s enemies, with ISIS using booby-trapped drones as IEDs and some groups actually dropping grenade-sized bombs on U.S. and allied targets in Iraq and Syria.
But one thing everyone can agree on is that the unmanned planes make for great aerial targets. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be programed to maneuver like a manned fighter and are tougher to acquire and track than a full-sized plane.
That’s why America and its allies in Europe are using the technology to help train their pilots, launching them in swarms and throwing up top-tier fighters to do battle. In this video, Danish F-16s fire advanced missiles — including the AIM-9x Sidewinder and AIM-120 Sparrow — at drone targets to hone their skills.
It’s an amazing look at how the advanced missile technology makes for an “unfair fight” in the future battle for the skies.