Gabriel R. McInnis, a sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, thought he was on a routine drive to serve on a funeral honors detail Dec. 27.
While passing through a residential area in Tempe, Arizona, he heard a woman scream.
“I was approaching a light, when I heard some screaming and yelling,” said McInnis, an engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.
As he turned to figure out what the commotion was, he said, he saw a wide-open doorway and a large man physically assaulting Tia Simpkins and her family in her home.
“I knew I had to act,” McInnis said. “I threw my car into park and ran over to try to stop it.”
He tackled the attacker despite being outclassed in height and weight. Soon the pair was on the ground exchanging blows. Although McInnis took a lot of punches, he prevented the attacker from getting to the family.
“Finally, I catch a lucky break,” McInnis said.
The attacker threw a punch, missed, and fell to the ground. McInnis used the opportunity to perform an arm-bar takedown, a martial arts move, to subdue his opponent. After restraining the attacker, he dialed 911 and the police responded within minutes.
By putting his own welfare on the line, McInnis was able to prevent the assault against Simpkins and her family.
A ‘True Hero’
“I know he is a true hero, because there is no way he could have had time to consider his own safety,” Simpkins said.
McInnis credits the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program with providing him the training to react.
“I’m an MCMAP instructor, and I spend a lot of my personal time training my Marines,” McInnis said. “The Marine Corps teaches right from wrong, and a bigger guy attacking a smaller woman is definitely wrong. I saw that and knew I needed to put an end to what was happening.”
“He is one of the Marines I really look up to,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Logan M. Tucker, an automotive maintenance mechanic with Company C who trained under McInnis for MCMAP. “He is always improving himself and the Marines around him. What he did embodies Marine Corps ethos. If someone needs help, it’s our duty to take care of people.”
This is not the first time McInnis has used his Marine Corps training to help others. A few years ago during a flight to Hawaii, McInnis used the knowledge he gained from the Combat Lifesaver Course to help a diabetic woman who had passed out during the flight. “I joined to help people, and I’ve had a few opportunities to do it,” McInnis said.
“He acted with the honor, courage and commitment that we always hear about our Marines having,” Simpkins said. “He risked his own life and welfare in order to protect people that he barely even knew.”
Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.
Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”
But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.
Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.
China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”
Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.
Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.
August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)
China’s Jian-10 fighter jet
But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.
“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.
“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”
The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.
The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.
But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.
Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.
The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”
“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.
That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.
The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance is “ready to welcome” Macedonia as its 30th member once Skopje finalizes an agreement with Athens to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name.
“NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So, your future is in your hands. We wait for you in NATO,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
The Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed a deal on June 17, 2018, to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia — North Macedonia for short — and resolve a 27-year dispute between Skopje and Athens.
Macedonian lawmakers later voted in favor of the bill to ratify the agreement, which paves the way for talks on Macedonian membership in both NATO and the European Union.
But hurdles remain for the deal to come into effect, including the support of Macedonian voters in the upcoming referendum.
‘Taking this country forward’
Western leaders have also backed Zaev’s “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, in which Macedonians will be asked, “Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to visit Skopje on Sept. 7, 2018, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following day.
In Skopje, Stoltenberg also congratulated Zaev on Macedonia’s reforms.
“I congratulate you on the progress you made, taking this country forward,” the NATO chief said. “The economy is peaking up and the reforms are being implemented, including on the rule of law, security and intelligence, and the defense sector.”
He also called on the Macedonian prime minister to continue with reforms, saying, “This will make you safer, stronger, and even better able to work side by side with NATO allies.”
The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
Neighboring Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.
Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Featured image: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in october 2017, at a UN meeting about sustainable development.
The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).
“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.
“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.
Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying
A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.
These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.
Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.
“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.
“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.
Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.
“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.
The problem with blowing up nukes underwater
Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.
But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”
That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.
“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”
For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.
Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”
A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.
But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.
“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”
Is the Doomsday weapon real?
Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.
In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.
Reservists called up for active duty will soon qualify for increased Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits if they meet certain requirements.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” was passed by Congress and signed into law in August 2017. The Forever GI Bill expands education benefits for some members of the Reserve effective Aug. 1, 2018.
VA may now consider more reservist service as qualifying time towards eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including:
Major disasters or emergencies, as authorized under section 12304a of title 10, U.S. Code
Pre-planned missions of up to 365 days in support of combatant commands, as authorized under section 12304b of title 10, U.S. Code
The service must occur on or after June 30, 2008. The benefits are payable for a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018.
It’s important to note that serving time under title 10, U.S.C. 12304a or 12304b doesn’t automatically qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has a minimum service requirement of at least 90 days, although periods of service for separate missions can be combined to meet the 90-day threshold.
Here are some examples to help you understand this provision of the Forever GI Bill:
A reservist was called up to active duty and served in Afghanistan for one year in 2002. Then he or she was called up for three months in 2004, two months in 2005, and three months in 2010 under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a.
Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act allows more Reserve service to qualify for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Prior to Aug. 1, 2018, those three months under 12304a were not creditable active duty service, so the person was eligible for the 60 percent tier with 17 months of creditable service. Now, thanks to this new provision of the Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act, the three months of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a can be added. The reservist now has 20 months of qualifying service and would be eligible for the 70 percent tier.
Or, let’s say a reservist had only 90 days of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a. He or she wouldn’t have qualified at all. With this law change, the reservist now has qualifying active duty and would be eligible for the 40 percent tier.
If you haven’t explored your options to use your education benefits, you can start by visiting the GI Bill Comparison tool. You can see how to maximize your education value and look up the college, training school, or even apprenticeship program you’re interested in attending. You can also see how much your GI Bill benefits will cover and if you’d have any out of pocket expenses.
If you have any questions, please call 1–888-GI-BILL-1 (1–888–442–4551). If you use the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), the Federal number is 711. You can also visit the Forever GI Bill page.
Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service delivers GI Bill® education benefits to Veterans, service members, and their families. Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped millions of Veterans pay for college, graduate school, and training programs.
Featured image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders, and Democratic Members of the House join representatives from Veterans’ Service Organizations at an enrollment ceremony for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act.
That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, including broader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.
The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide “red air,” or adversary training, support.
According to a release issued on August 25, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.
The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.
“Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation’s enemies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We continue to swing away at this issue and we’re looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots.”
Two other initiatives were announced on August 25.
Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.
Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.
The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.
“The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.
“The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired,” Grosso added.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.
“We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers,” Wilson said in the release.
In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force’s loss of pilots.
With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.
Bell helicopter has now attached the wing to the fuselage of a new, next-generation tiltrotor aircraft engineered to reach speeds of 280 knots, fly for 800 kilometers on one tank of fuel, hover and maneuver in “high-hot” conditions and function as both a utility and attack helicopter platform.
The intention is to build an advanced, high-tech tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft to take flight in November of 2017 as part of an effort to ultimate build a future aircraft able to begin operations in the 2030s.
“There is one long wing. We attach the middle of the wing to the fuselage – the entire wing is one piece bolted to the fuselage of the airplane. One wing covers both sides. The wing is attached with aircraft grade structural fasteners. There are enough aircraft fasteners to provide sufficient strength to hold the aircraft together,” Vince Tobin, Vice President of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems, Bell Helicopter, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The new Bell tiltrotor, called the V-280 Valor, is part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program aimed at establishing requirements and paving the way toward a new Future Vertical Lift aircraft designed to meet a wide range of new requirements.
The concept behind the Army’s joint Future Vertical Lift program is to engineer a forward-looking, future aircraft able to reach airplane speeds and yet retain and ability to hover and maneuver like a helicopter.
“The aircraft will have an ability to come to a hover in challenging conditions and then, while at a hover, operate at low speeds with maneuvering capability to roll and yaw. We want it to have the handling perspective to make the aircraft able to do what it is able to do,” Tobin added.
In addition, the future aircraft is intended to be able to use fuel-efficient engine technology to allow an aircraft to travel at least 800 kilometers on a single tank of fuel. Such an ability will enable the aircraft to operate more easily one a single mission without needing Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs.
The idea is to engineer and aircraft able to fly from the west coast to Hawaii without needing to refuel.
“FVL is a high priority. We have identified capability gaps. We need technologies and designs that are different than what the current fleet has. It will carry more equipment, perform in high-hot conditions, be more maneuverable within the area of operations and execute missions at longer ranges,” Rich Kretzschmar, project manager for the FVL effort, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Requirements for the program are still being refined for the Army-led program, which is aimed at service future aircraft for all four services.
These requirements, now being put into actual demonstrator aircraft built by both Bell and a Boeing-Sikorsky industry teams, include building and aircraft able to reach speeds greater than 230 knots, hover in thin air at 6,000-feet and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, achieve a combat radius of at least 434 kilometers and be configured to include emerging sensors and mission equipment technologies likely to emerge by the 2030s.
“We had set 230 as the speed requirement because we wanted to push the technology. We wanted people to bring new ideas and new configurations to the table,” Dan Bailey, JMR TD Program Manager, said in an interview with Scout Warrior several months ago.
Advancing Tiltrotor Technology
Bell intends to build upon and advance existing tiltrotor technology such as that which is currently operation in the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey continues to perform well in a wide range of missions and has recently been selected by the Navy to perform the Carrier On-board Delivery or COD mission transporting troops, equipment and weapons on-and-off surface ships.
The V-280 Valor is designed to be slightly bigger than an existing Black Hawk helicopter and use 24-inch seats to carry 11 passengers with gear, Tobin said.
“What Bell has done is taking its historical V-22 aircraft, and all the demonstrators before that, and applies them to this next-generation tilt-rotor. It is a straight wing versus a V-22 which is not straight. This reduces complexity,” Bailey explained. “They are also building additional flapping into the rotor system and individual controls that should allow for increased low-speed maneuverability.”
The tiltrotors are slated to go on in November, Tobin added.
“We will get the gear boxes and transmission in before we get those blades on,” Tobin explained.
Depending upon ultimate requirement established by the Army and DoD, Bell expects to engineer an attack variant of the aircraft with a slightly different fuselage configuration.
“An armed attack version will have a gun, 2.75in folding-fin rockets and some type of point-to-point missile – hellfire or some later generation missile that would guide off of a laser or IR. We are being open ended in that we are not designing any specific requirement,” Tobin explained.
The new attack variant is expected to use a modernized or next-generation of existing Apache sensors and targeting systems called the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, or MTADS/PVS.
When it comes to sensors and mission equipment, Bell engineers are building a tiltrotor aircraft with what is called “open architecture,” meaning software and hardware able to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge. The concept is to construct a helicopter that is not intended to operate today but rather advance technology well into the 2030s and beyond. Therefore, it will need to anticipate the weapons, sensors, computer processors and avionics likely to emerge by the 2030s.
Part of this effort includes the integration of a 360-degree sensors suite quite similar to the one used on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter called a Distributed Aperture Systems, or DAS.
“Instead of having sensors mounted to the turret, you have sensors that are mounted to the aircraft – so essentially you have sensors staring in 360-degrees around the aircraft at any given time. Those images are stitched together so it appears as one continuous image to the pilot. Both pilots can make use of the same system,” Tobin said.
This technology will also allow troops riding in the back of the aircraft to wear goggles or a helmet giving them a view of the surrounding sensor feeds as they transit to a mission, Tobin added.
The DAS system will also form the basis a small-arms enemy fire detection technology which will search for and locate the signature of incoming enemy attacks. The sensors will be able to discern the location and heat signature coming from enemy small arms fire, giving the aircraft and opportunity to quickly attack with its weapons – lowering risk of injury to the pilots, crew and passengers.
The V-280 Valor will also have yet-to-be-determined Degraded Visual Environment technology that allows sensors to see through obscurants such as brown-out conditions, bad weather and other impediments to navigation. Part of this will also include a system called Controlled Flight into Terrain wherein an aircraft has an ability to quickly re-route itself it is approaching a dangerous obstacle such as a mountain, rock wall or building structure.
This will likely draw upon a semi-autonomous navigation technology built into the aircraft known as “fly-by-wire.” Bell Helicopter developed the initial algorithms for this technology, which is also now on the V-22 Osprey.
Another survivability technology potentially slated for the aircraft is a system known as Common Infrared Countermeasure, or CIRCM; CIRCM is a lighter weight variant of an existing technology which uses a laser-jammer to throw incoming enemy missiles off course – therefore protecting the aircraft.
“We are looking to the DoD customer to see what they want. Either way we can get that on the airplane,” Tobin explained.
Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.
But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”
Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.
However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.
Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.
However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.
Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”
No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.
U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.
But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.
Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that Russia is ready to assist Belarus in accordance with a collective military pact, if necessary.
The Kremlin said in the same statement that external pressure was being applied to Belarus. It did not say by whom.
The two spoke on August 16 for the second time in as many days.
Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenka of rigging a presidential election on August 9.
Some 7,000 people have been detained by police across Belarus in the postelection crackdown with hundreds injured and at least two killed as police have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and, in at least one instance, live ammunition.
Hundreds of those held and subsequently released spoke of brutal beatings they suffered in detention, much of it documented and splashed across social media. Thousands more remain in detention as international outrage mounts.
Facing the most serious threat ever to his authoritarian rule, Lukashenka spoke with Putin on August 15, after saying there was “a threat not only to Belarus.”
He later told military chiefs that Putin had offered “comprehensive help” to “ensure the security of Belarus.”
The Kremlin said the leaders agreed the “problems” in Belarus would be “resolved soon” and the countries’ ties strengthened.
In one city block, future soldiers could find themselves in an intense gunfight with enemy militants. In another, soldiers might crawl through debris to rescue trapped residents or deliver needed supplies. At the city’s opposite end, U.S. troops could be attempting to quell a civilian riot.
As urban populations worldwide continue to rise, the probability of these scenarios increases.
From the metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo with its 36 million inhabitants, to the massive clutter of rush hour traffic in Seoul, mega cities present a jarringly daunting obstacle to the future of world combat operations, Army senior leaders said at the 2018 LANPAC conference.
“The complexities that go on in this scale almost are unimaginable,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik, former commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.
Additionally, if current trends continue, two thirds of the world’s population will reside in large, metropolitan areas, according to United Nations projections. Threats to megacities take increased importance in the Asia-Pacific, where a majority of the world’s megacities are concentrated.
Making matters worse, many of the cities sit inside the Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile chain in the Pacific basin rampant with volcanic eruptions and unpredictable seismic activity. Some nations, such as Japan, sit on one of the most active tectonic plates in the world. Densely populated cities that include Bangkok and urban centers in Bangladesh are prone to natural disasters.
(Photo by Spc. John Lytle)
U.S. forces scarcely encountered operations in megacities in World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
“The challenge of megacities is unlike (anything) we’ve had to deal with in history,” said Dr. Russell Glenn, G-2 director of plans and policy at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
With so much of a nation’s population contained in a compact, urban space, megacities pose a vastly different challenge from the deserts of the Middle East soldiers have grown accustomed to.
“Every act you do in a city reverberates,” said Gen. Stephen Townsend, TRADOC commander, who spoke via video teleconference at LANPAC.
Military units in rural areas, deserts and small villages can contain the aftereffects of combat. In a large urban environment, skyscrapers, large structures and traffic can cause a domino effect that spread throughout a city.
Glenn added that smaller subsystems comprise a megacity that in turn is part of a much larger system that can extend worldwide.
A new kind of war
To prepare for the complexities of urban warfare, TRADOC has created simulations for soldiers to prepare for urban terrain. Weeks of coordination and planning must be implemented for a few hours of training, but Army leaders believe it will prepare soldiers for future conflicts. Townsend said the Army has considered increasing the scale and size of their urban-simulated training centers. He added facilities can never match the scale needed to truly simulate warfighting in a megacity environment.
“Our simulations have not kept up with changes in our formations — changes in warfare,” Townsend said. “So we’ve got to advance our simulations.”
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)
In March 2018, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division spent close to a month training for combat in underground tunnels and structures at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. They simulated chemical attacks. Soldiers learned to spontaneously alter current operating procedures to adapt to a city environment.
The Army has been working on a synthetic training environment to bolster its capabilities, while also incorporating space and cyber capabilities more than before. Multi-domain operations will be crucial, commanders said.
No amount of planning, study or preparation can prepare a military unit for the unique rhythm of a major city or what Townsend labeled the “flow.” The city’s flow can’t be clearly defined but its impact can never be understated, the general said. It can be felt during rush hour traffic or by careful observation over time. A city’s social infrastructure carries more importance than its physical infrastructure, noted Glenn. But understanding how a megacity’s population moves and lives can provide valuable insight for learning a city’s unique intricacies.
To better understand a city’s flow, Townsend said the Army must consult with a city’s police force, fire department and its citizens. In April 2018, the Army held a panel discussion in New York City to discuss logistics and how through interagency cooperation a force might handle the environment’s unique challenges. Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, Townsend and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill joined the panel.
“The point that came through … more clearly emphasized more than any other was the need to understand our partnership,” Glenn said. “Take advantage of those military and civilian (relationships), only then can we fully understand the environment that we’re working in.”
Glenn said that if wartime conditions necessitate it, a military unit can impose or alter flow, so long as it benefits the friendly population and minimizes friction.
Mosul opened the door
The July 2017 re-capture of Mosul from ISIS forces presented perhaps a blueprint for the future of urban warfare.
As the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, Townsend said he observed firsthand strategies deployed by the Iraqi army to regain control of the city.
“I think the enemy has watched Mosul,” the general said. “I think they will deliberately go to the cities and dig in there to fight because they know it takes away a lot of our technological advantages … the range of our weapons is degraded — the effects of our weapons are degraded.
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)
“So I think we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.”
Townsend saw the difficulties of urban warfare in the northern Iraqi city which has a population of less than one million. His unit’s command control systems lagged and struggled to keep pace with the conflict. He said digital maps and imagery were impacted.
“The urban landscape changes so rapidly,” Townsend said. “Our C2 systems, our targeting systems … became outdated quickly because the urban landscape was changing faster than we could update our imagery.”
By 2030, the UN predicts the world’s 30 mega cities will also double to 60. Large-scale cities will increase from 45 to 88. America’s potential enemies, China, Russia and North Korea will take advantage of this trend.
“Wars are basically won or lost where the people are — where the population is,” Townsend said.
The Army’s solution: better training, preparation and greater trust. At TRADOC, more soldiers are receiving training in an urban environment. Soldiers must also learn to trust, not only first-responding agencies but accepting greater responsibility, Townsend said.
“As powerful as our mission command systems are, they are all challenged by the environment — the complex terrain that is a city … modern city,” Townsend said.
“You can’t go more than one floor deep without losing (communication) with everybody who’s up on the surface.
“So this whole notion of conveying commanders’ intent, and empowering subordinates … to achieve that commanders’ intent, and trusting them to do that is exactly how we’ll have to fight in even small cities.”
The Air Force has been holding out on us. Over 50 years ago they developed a functional robot that stood over 26 feet high, could carry 2,000 pound loads, and punched right through concrete walls.
So why, 50 years later, does warfare not look like this?
Besides the obvious answer (the Air Force hates fun), it’s because the “Beetle” was designed for just a few missions, all of which were eliminated before it was completed.
The 85-ton robot was ordered by the Air Force to provide a maintenance capability for their nuclear-powered bombers. The Beetle would have been used to change out nuclear materials, payloads, and irradiated parts on the bombers in situations where a normal mechanic or ordnance worker would be irradiated.
The test report also notes the high level of maintenance required to keep the robot working, something a 1962 Popular Mechanics article also highlighted. The system was prone to leaks and short circuits, among other issues.
After testing, the Air Force allowed the Beetle and one of its support vehicles to be transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to aid with a nuclear rocket program. But, that program was also canceled as scientists found better ways of creating chemical propellants for rockets and missiles.
Less than a week after receiving his new Integrated Head Protective System, or IHPS, the neck mandible saved the soldier’s life in Afghanistan.
The armor crewman was in the turret manning his weapon when a raucous broke out on the street below. Amidst the shouting, a brick came hurdling toward his turret. It struck the soldier’s neck, but luckily he had his maxillofacial protection connected to his helmet.
The first issue of this mandible with the IHPS helmet went to an armored unit in Afghanistan a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for soldier protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.
The neck protection was designed specifically for turret gunners to protect them from objects thrown at them, she said. She added most soldiers don’t need and are not issued the mandible that connects to the IHPS Generation I helmet.
A new Gen II helmet is also now being testing by soldiers, said Col. Stephen Thomas, program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at PEO Soldier.
A new generation of Soldier Protection System equipment is displayed during a media roundtable by Program Executive Office Soldier during the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 150 of the Gen II IHPS helmets were recently issued to soldiers of the 2-1 Infantry for testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. The new helmet is lighter while providing a greater level of protection, Whitehead said. The universal helmet mount eliminates the need for drilling holes for straps and thus better preserves the integrity of the carbon fiber.
The new helmet is part of an upgraded Soldier Protection System that provides more agility and maneuver capability, is lighter weight, while still providing a higher level of ballistic protection, Thomas said.
The lighter equipment will “reduce the burden on soldiers” and be a “game-changer” downrange, Thomas said at a PEO Soldier media roundtable Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
It will allow soldiers flexibility to scale up or scale down their personal armor protection depending on the threat and the mission, he said.
The new soldier Protection System, or SPS, is “an integrated suite of equipment,” Thomas said, that includes different-sized torso plates for a modular scalable vest that comes in eight sizes and a new ballistic combat shirt that has 12 sizes.
The idea is for the equipment to better fit all sizes of soldiers, he said.
The ballistic combat shirt for women has a V-notch in the back to accommodate a hair bun, Whitehead said, which will make it more comfortable for many female soldiers.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center) holds the Ballistic Combat Shirt.
The modular scalable vest can be broken down to a sleeveless version with a shortened plate to give an increased range of motion to vehicle drivers and others, she said.
The new SPS also moves away from protective underwear that “soldiers didn’t like at all” because of the heat and chafe, Whitehead said. Instead the new unisex design of outer armor protects the femoral arteries with less discomfort, she said.
PEO Soldier has also come out with a new integrated hot-weather clothing uniform, or IHWCU, made of advanced fibers, Thomas said. It’s quick-drying with a mix of 57% nylon and 43% cotton.
In hot temperatures, the uniform is “no melt, no drip,” he said.
Two sets of the IHWCU are now being issued to infantry and armor soldiers during initial-entry training, he said, along with two sets of the regular combat uniform.
The new hot-weather uniform is also now available at clothing sales stores in Hawaii, along with those on Forts Benning, Hood and Bliss, he said. All clothing sales stores should have the new uniform available by February, he added.
Chinese hackers have reportedly targeted South Korean businesses and that country’s government over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System, also known as THAAD. The cyberattacks are apparently in response to the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the American cyber-security firm FireEye claims that a series of attacks on South Korean business and government computer networks may be related to the deployment of the ballistic-missile defense system. The groups responsible for the attack, APT10 and Tonto Team, are believed to be tied to the Peoples Liberation Army.
The attacks are also being carried out by so-called “patriotic hackers” like the Panda Intelligence Bureau and the Denounce Lotte Group. The latter hacking ring is targeting a South Korean conglomerate that has permitted the deployment of THAAD on some land it owned. Lotte Group was subjected to a denial-of-service attack on an online duty-free store after the approval was announced in March 2017. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also targeted by a DOS attack at that time.
China has long opposed the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, claiming such a deployment would undermine China’s ballistic missile capabilities. China has a large number of ballistic missiles in its inventory, many of which are medium or intermediate-range systems.
According to a March 1, 2017, report by RT, Russia and China agreed to work together to strengthen opposition to the BMD system’s deployment. The Chinese government’s official response to the South Korean hosting of THAAD included halting a real-estate deal and barring some South Korean celebrities from entering the country.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).