Marines qualify on the rifle range every year and train to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. In October 2016, the Marine Corps has presented a new challenge for Marines on the range — a modification to the second half of the marksmanship program was implemented with hopes to better train Marines for combat.
Marines will still complete table one, which trains Marines on the basic fundamentals and techniques of rifle marksmanship.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Luis Carrillo, the officer in charge on Camp Hansen ranges, table two takes the training to the next level. This table focuses more on combat and teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat related environment.
The following changes have been implemented for table two:
• Keeping up the heart rate: Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position when the targets are ready to appear.
• Engaging the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line, where previously they trained the other way around.
• Maintaining situational awareness in combat: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.
This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.
“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”
The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.
“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”
Marines are America’s expeditionary force in readiness and need to be ready to move in a moment’s notice. Table two helps train Marines to respond quickly and aggressively in real-world scenarios, according to Carrillo.
“I think it gets the Marines more in a combat mindset while closing in on the enemy,” he said.
The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.
“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.
Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.
Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.
As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.
Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.
Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.
The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.
Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.
Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.
During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.
“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.
A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.
The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.
“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.
The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.
The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.
The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.
ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.
The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.
A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.
“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.
Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.
Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.
For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.
Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.
“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.
When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.
Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.
LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.
The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.
The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.
The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.
The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.
Sub-Hunting Drone Ship
The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.
The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.
The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.
The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.
“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.
The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.
The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.
The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.
The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.
The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.
As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.
“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.
Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.
“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.
If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.
The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.
Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan
Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.
This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.
“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.
This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.
Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.
The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.
“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.
The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.
The United States Marine Corps recently announced plans to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to address a shortage of usable airframes. Seven more will be transferred from the Navy’s inventory to help address the shortage.
How short were the Flying Leathernecks? On average, a typical Marine squadron of 12 Hornets had only four operational planes. The shortage has had some serious effects on Marine Corps aviation, notably in deeply cutting training hours for pilots. Such a cut is bad news. A rusty pilot can make mistakes – mistakes that could result in a mishap that leaves the plane totaled, and a pilot killed or injured.
While some media reports paint this as a response to a very bad situation (and let’s face facts, the state of Marine Corps aviation – and naval aviation overall, for that matter – could be a lot better than it is), the fact remains that this is a highly-public case of a major investment paying off. This is because the “boneyard” is not really a boneyard. In fact, it is, if you will, comparable to an NFL’ team’s practice squad.
Officially, the boneyard is called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG, formerly known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). In essence, it is a place where the United States military puts its extra aircraft for safekeeping. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is very suited for this purpose. Located near Tucson, Arizona, the low humidity, and the fact that the soil doesn’t contain a lot of acid makes it a good place for the long-term storage of aircraft. There are a lot of planes there currently – over 3,800 as of June 15 of this year.
Here are a few highlights of the inventory that the 309th AMARG has on hand in addition to the 30 F/A-18C Hornets (of which 23 will be refurbished): 95 B-52G Stratofortresses, 12 B-52H Stratofortresses, 18 B-1B Lancers, 101 A-10 Thunderbolts, 47 A-6 Intruders, 50 Harrier GR.7 and GR.9 jump jets, 107 F-4 Phantoms, 166 F-15s, 484 F-16s, 64 F/A-18As, 31 E-2 Hawkeyes, 147 P-3 Orions, and 170 KC-135s. That is a lot of planes, to put it mildly.
To put it in terms of squadrons, this is a total of about seven bomber squadrons, eleven attack squadrons, 41 fighter squadrons, five airborne early warning squadrons, a dozen maritime patrol squadrons, and 14 squadrons of tankers. It’s almost a whole `nother Air Force! And this is what the investment in AMARG buys. In a major war, it would take time to ramp up production of fighters, bombers, attack planes, transports, and other planes. AMARG’s plane, while older than the ones on the front line, can still prove to be very valuable assets in buying time to get new planes built.
In the case of what the Marines are doing now, the 30 F/A-18Cs are doing just that. In essence, the Marines get two and a half more squadrons of their primary multi-role fighter to buy time for the F-35B to become operational. It is a stop-gap measure that, in essence, is being taken because the Marines made a pair of bad decisions in the past – to wit, putting all their eggs in the F-35B basket, and not buying into the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the Navy did.
This wasn’t the first time that AMARG has helped the Marines. During the War on Terror, the Marines pulled heavy-lift helicopters from AMARG to meet needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a classic example of the type of situation AMARG was intended to address. In the case of the F/A-18s being pulled out, this is more a case of mitigating the consequences for the Marine Corps decision to not buy into the Super Hornet and buying more time to get the F-35 operational. In essence, AMARG has bought time for the military to get new planes on-line. Again, it has fulfilled the measure of its creation.
It’s amazing how often the media gets worked up about amazing combat actions caught on camera only to find that the incredible “footage” is actually from a video game.
Video games are pretty advanced these days and they, admittedly, look very realistic, but they aren’t that realistic. And the things soldiers do “caught on camera” in the “combat footage” is definitely not realistic.
It’s really astoundingly dumb how often this happens.
1. Russia’s Veterans Day.
Probably the worst time to f*ck this up. When Russian President Vladimir Putin was describing the heroism of Senior Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko, Russia’s state media made the worst edit possible. Prokhorenko was calling in airstrikes on ISIS positions near Palmyra, Syria in 2016. When surrounded with no way out, he called the fire onto himself, killing the oncoming ISIS fighters.
Russian state-owned news Channel 1 edited in a clip from a video game combat simulator, called ArmA. The bit is at 2:35 in the video below.
What happened here? There isn’t enough combat footage in Syria so we have to make it up now?
2. Russia “catches” extremist fighters with chemical weapons.
They caught us red-handed giving “extremist” troops truckloads of chemical ammunition — or so they thought. When Russia’s UK embassy tweeted this “damning evidence,” they were quickly outed. They stood by the tweet, though. It’s still up.
I’ll stop harping on Russian media using video game footage when they stop using video game footage.
4. Russia Today’s report on child soldiers in Sudan.
Dammit Russia, you are making this easy. As one former child soldier gives his story about fighting in the country’s civil war, the camera does an entirely unnecessary pan across an image from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
(It’s not as if there isn’t enough footage of African child soldiers. On RT’s YouTube page, they completely acknowledge it, so why keep it up? Or even use it in the first place?
5. UK news magazine tries to link the IRA to Muammar Gaddafi.
The United Kingdom’s ITV ran a documentary in September 2011, called Gaddafi and the IRA, which the British TV regulator Ofcom later found to be “materially misleading” and “a significant breach of audience trust.” What sparked the Ofcom investigation was footage of a helicopter being shot down by weapons supplied to the Libyan dictator.
What the film labels “IRA film 1988” is actually ArmA 2, a sequel to the game Russia tried to pass off as real in the first item on this list. Nice work, Bohemia Interactive.
6. UN Security Council or UN Space Command?
Admittedly, this isn’t from combat, but it’s really hilarious (and just downright lazy). As the BBC was airing a report on Amnesty International’s real-life criticism of the UN Security Council, the logo of the UN Space Command from the super popular Halo series was used instead of the real UNSC’s logo.
You should know the real UNSC’s logo looks nothing like this… but if you do a Google image search for “UNSC Logo,” you see how some intern got fired in 2012.
Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.
Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.
But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…
Yeah, he became an actor.
And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.
Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.
“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”
To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.
Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.
A top U.S. official has met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in New York to discuss “cooperative efforts against Russia’s malign influence,” among other things, the State Department says.
A statement said the Sept. 25, 2018 meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also touched upon Russia’s “use of energy projects to extort and intimidate Ukraine and other European allies,” as well as Kyiv’s progress in implementing political and economic reforms.
Sullivan reiterated that the United States “will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and reaffirmed “strong U.S. support” for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the statement.
Relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March 2018.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Moscow’s support for the separatists and its illegal annexation of Crimea prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing the traditional route through Ukraine.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Germany “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course” on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an already existing pipeline.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to address the assembly later in the day.
Featured image: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
The race to get the contract for the US Navy’s first carrier-based drone is heating up.
All three competitors — Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin — have released images of what their drones look like, and the announcement of the winner is expected sometime between August and October 2018.
The program, officially known as the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, or CBARS, is an attempt by the Navy to increase the operational range of carrier-based aircraft with a drone that can perform aerial refueling duties.
The program was originally called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, and was intended to field a carrier-based drone that could conduct air strikes and perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, known as ISR.
But after delays over the main focus of the MQ-25’s role (strike or ISR), the Pentagon decided to repurpose the program to aerial refueling, in order to help deal with its shortage of pilots and the rise of longer range anti-ship defenses.
Northrup Grumman, once considered the most likely to be awarded the contract because of the success of its X-47B demonstrator, announced that it was pulling out from the competition in October 2017, leaving Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin as the only competitors.
Here’s what you need to know about each submission:
(Lockheed Martin photo)
Lockheed Martin’s design is loosely based on its RQ-170 Sentinel and the overall design does not appear much different from Lockheed Martin’s UCLASS offer, the Sea Ghost. That drone was supposed to feature stealth technology to help it conduct strike and ISR missions.
But when the Pentagon shifted the program to aerial refueling, the stealth requirements were dropped. Despite this, Lockheed Martin has decided to keep its flying wing design.
A flying wing design is aerodynamically efficient because it requires less thrust and fuel to fly, and its spot factor is small when its wingtips are folded up.
A flying wing design for a tanker also has the added benefit of having more space than conventional designs, which allows it to carry more fuel. The Navy wants its new drone to be able to hold over 14,000 lbs of fuel.
From a mechanical standpoint, flying wing aircraft are considered slightly easier to maintain as well because they tend to have a lower number of parts.
The drone will also be equipped with sensors and cameras that enable it to carry out limited ISR missions.
Boeing’s design is based on its Phantom Ray stealth UAV demonstrator. Boeing has the most experience in aerial refueling, as well as naval aviation as a whole — the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler dominate the current naval air fleet.
Like Lockheed Martin’s design, the drone has a massive fuel tank, meaning it will have no difficulty meeting the Navy’s 14,000lbs of fuel and 500 nautical mile range requirements.
Boeing’s design is the only one that has a working prototype, though it has not yet flown. The drone has been tested in St. Louis on Lambert Field.
The drone was operating on a painted outline of an aircraft carrier flight deck to test if it could function well in the limited space.
Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing, said that they had “successfully controlled the aircraft through all of the most challenging flight deck scenarios, including day and night operations,” in tests that were “designed to show how the aircraft can be taxied and operated within the tight confines of the carrier flight deck.”
Boeing’s candidate was also adapted from the original UCLASS program.
(General Atomics photo)
General Atomics’ design is based on their Sea Avenger, a carrier-based version of their Avenger UAV, a strike aircraft that was intended to succeed its MQ-9 Reaper.
The Sea Avenger was re-adapted for refueling operations after the Pentagon cancelled the UCLASS program.
General Atomics and Boeing are working on the proposal together, and this drone would be among the largest projects General Atomics has pursued.
The drone will be equipped with electromagnetic technology that will enable it to fit in seamlessly with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System on board Ford-class carriers.
It will also be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW815 turbofan engines, one of the most efficient and modern engines currently used.
The design is still heavily based on the Avenger, which was designed for strike and ISR missions.
The company has already announced that it will not build a flyable prototype, choosing instead to use its Avenger prototypes for things like ground tests. General Atomics provides the US military with more drones than any other company.
The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.
The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.
SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.
SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.
The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.
Check out the video of the training exercise here:
The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 201,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 1,135, with 147 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest 24-hour rise yet — state TV reported on March 18, as President Hassan Rohani defended his government’s response to the outbreak.
Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 16,169 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region’s cases.
Iran has been accused of acting too slowly and of even covering up initial cases.
But Rohani on March 18 rejected criticism of his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling a government meeting that authorities have been “straightforward” with the nation, and that it had announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.
“We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay,” Rohani said.
Government officials pleaded for weeks with clerics to completely close crowded holy shrines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government finally shut down the shrines this week.
“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rohani said.
The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.
It was later announced that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, to mark Norouz.
“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on March 18, adding that “almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well.”
Judicial officials had previously announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran’s prisons. They confirmed that those freed included political prisoners, which Iranian authorities describe as “security-related prisoners.”
The Pakistani government has confirmed the country’s first fatality from coronavirus in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The South Asian country had a total of 260 confirmed cases of the infection as of late March 18, including 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“With deep regret I confirm the death of first Pakistani due to coronavirus. A 50-year-old male from Mardan city recently returned from Saudi Arabia. He developed fever, cough, and breathing difficulty and tested positive for the COVID-19,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza tweeted.
A 36-year-old man from Hangu district also died of the respiratory disease after returning from Turkey to Islamabad via Dubai, according to a spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.
Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been put in quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst-affected countries.
Amid the steep rise in known cases, Pakistani authorities have moved to discourage crowds and gatherings.
Islamabad on March 17 announced that all gyms, swimming pools, religious shrines, and children’s parks would remain closed for three weeks.
Health officials in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, urged the public to avoid unnecessary social contacts or traveling and to stay indoors.
Governments around the world continue to take sweeping measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 201,000 people and killed over 8,000.
The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the novel coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18, local media has reported.
Authorities are trying to trace everyone who has been in contact with lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group since he entered the legislature earlier in the week following a trip to an unspecified European Union member state.
Shakhov appeared on Ukrainian television on March 12-13, according to deputy Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, and participated in a meeting of the parliament’s Environment Committee on March 13.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the infected lawmaker’s voter card was registered in parliament on March 17 and was used to vote, although Shakhov was absent.
“Unfortunately, his colleagues are guilty of multiple voting,” Zelenskiy said about the widespread phenomenon in parliament that is now punishable by law.
Ukraine, which has confirmed 16 cases of the respiratory illness and two deaths in four regions and the capital, Kyiv, closed its borders to foreigners for two weeks starting on March 16.
Authorities have also canceled air, rail, and bus connections between cities and regions, and shut down the subway in all three cities where they operate, including Kyiv.
Moldova on March 18 reported its first death from coronavirus.
“A first Moldovan citizen died of the coronavirus infection last night. This is a 61-year-old woman,” Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said.
The woman had recently returned from Italy and was suffering from several illnesses, Dumbraveanu said.
The manager of the Chisinau hospital where the woman died told the media that the woman’s village has been placed under quarantine.
Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.
Moldova’s parliament on March 17 imposed a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
The country, one of the poorest in Europe, has already temporarily shut its borders and suspended all international flights from March 17.
Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have been working abroad, many of them in Italy and Spain, two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester declared a state of emergency until April 5 in the wake of the outbreak.
Transdniester declared independence in 1990 and fought a bloody war with Moldova two years later. It is unrecognized by the international community but is unofficially backed by Russia, which stations hundreds of troops in the region.
Hungary on March 18 moved to relax a sweeping border closure after thousands more travelers – many angry and lacking supplies — clogged its crossings with Austria to the west and Romania to the east.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government on March 17 closed its land crossings to foreigners as well as border crossings at airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Thousands of travelers were massed on March 18 at the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing between Austria and Hungary, after missing a window of several hours allowed by Budapest overnight for those who wanted to transit the country on their way to Romania and Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, some 7,000 people who had reached the Romanian border to the east overnight were facing another hours-long bottleneck due to health checks imposed by Bucharest.
The two-pronged crisis prompted Budapest to reopen the border with Austria at noon on March 18 until the easing of the blockage to the west, and to allow daily passage for Romanians and Bulgarians from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. on preapproved routes, according to a statement by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.
Austrian authorities on March 18 advised drivers to keep away from the Hungarian border as the traffic jam there grew to 45 kilometers and protests broke out among stranded travelers.
“There is no use in coming to the border,” said Astrid Eisenkopf, the deputy governor of Austria’s Burgenland Province, which neighbors Hungary.
Most of the delayed Romanians are workers returning from Italy and Spain, the world’s second- and fourth-most affected countries by the virus, but also from other Western countries.
Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.
On March 18, Romania reported 29 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 246, as well as 19 recovered cases. There have been no coronavirus deaths inside the country.
But specialists warn that Romania has so far tested only some 3.000 people for the coronavirus, while in other countries the number of those tested was in the tens of thousands.
Hungary reported having 50 confirmed coronavirus infections on March 17, with one death.
Bulgaria announced it has entered into a fiscal deficit and Ukraine said it is seeking a bigger lending program from the International Monetary Fund beyond the .5 billion for which it was asking.
Confirmed cases in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest but least indebted country, spiked by 30 percent on March 17 to 81. The government in Sofia banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13.
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu for purportedly spreading “panic” about coronavirus after he backed a presidential call for a state of emergency over the pandemic.
Kurti announced Veliu’s dismissal on March 18, just hours after Veliu said he supported a proposed state of emergency that has divided officials in the Balkan country.
President Hashim Thaci late on March 17 signed a decree declaring a state of emergency. It has been sent to Kosovo’s parliament, which has 48 hours to either accept or reject the move.
But Kurti has rejected calls for a state of emergency. He said it would cause “unnecessary panic.”
“At this time, when the entire public administration is making the utmost efforts to minimize the damage caused by the coronavirus, the heads of central institutions, including those in the government cabinet, need to prove maturity both in decision-making and in making statements,” Kurti said in his announcement about firing Veliu.
The move may resonate far beyond the debate about how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.
It could cause a rift in the governing coalition that took power in Kosovo just over a month ago.
Veliu is from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is in a fragile coalition with Kurti’s Self-Determination party.
LDK leader Isa Mustafa gave Kurti until the end of the week to “annul the decision to dismiss Veliu and make a decision to abolish the tariffs” on Serbian imports.
Pristina is under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to revoke the 100 percent import tariff it imposed on goods from Serbia in November 2018.
The tariff came in response to Belgrade’s diplomatic campaign to encourage some of the 110-plus countries that have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 to reverse their position.
Kosovo says it has confirmed 19 cases of the coronavirus since the first infected person was discovered on March 13.
Most cases are people who had traveled to nearby Italy or had been in contact with others who’d been to Italy.
Neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina declared a state of emergency to enable coordination of activities between its two autonomous regions.
“We are focusing in all ways on how to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija told reporters.
Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus in a group of travelers returning from Saudi Arabia.
Kyrgyz Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbaev said on March 18 that the three Kyrgyz citizens are from the southern Suzak district in the Jalal-Abad region.
The infected had returned to Kyrgyzstan on March 12, he said. They are 70, 62, and 43 years of age.
Authorities in the district have sealed off the villages of Blagoveshchenka, Boston, and Orta-Aziya. They’ve also set up 19 checkpoints nearby, regional officials said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said in a statement that as of March 18, all foreigners are banned from entering Kyrgyzstan.
Elsewhere In Central Asia
In neighboring Kazakhstan, the Health Ministry said on March 18 that the number of coronavirus cases had reached 36, after three more infections were confirmed in Almaty.
Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency until April 15. As of March 19, the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty will be in lockdown.
Uzbekistan announced on March 18 that its total number of confirmed cases had reached 15.
So far, no coronavirus cases have been officially announced in the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide. It has infected more than 201,000 people and killed more than 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
Saddam Hussein once famously believed that the United States was a country whose people couldn’t handle 10,000 dead in a war. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen because no one has been able to inflict those kinds of losses on the U.S. since Vietnam. But we all know Saddam was a-okay with taking those kinds of losses.
Still, he really didn’t believe he would have to take those losses when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He honestly believed the United States gave him the green light for the invasion.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Iraq was heavily indebted to the rest of the world after its disastrous war with Iran failed to achieve much of anything at all, let alone seizing Iranian oil production and revenues. But what it did leave Iraq with was the world’s fifth largest army – the means by which Saddam Hussein could pay his debts.
If you just failed to take another country’s oil fields, the solution must be to take another country’s oil fields, amirite?
(Kuwait News Agency)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Saddam wanted to increase oil revenues by getting OPEC member countries to reduce production and raise the price of oil. Kuwait didn’t even pay lip service to this idea, producing more than the OPEC quota and keeping the price lower than Iraq wanted. The two countries were in a border dispute at the time and Kuwait was using the oil price as leverage. This infuriated the Iraqi dictator, and his overtures toward raising the price of oil irked his American allies.
To make matters worse for Hussein, the dictator believed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should forgive the billion Iraq owed them for the Iran-Iraq War because he believed Iraq was keeping Iranian Shia influence out of their countries and protecting their governments. The fact that they wouldn’t forgive the debt further flamed tensions.
President George H. W. Bush continued many of his predecessor’s policies toward Iraq and the Middle East. His ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein halfway between Bush’s term in office. She stressed to the dictator that the United States had no interest in a trade war with Iraq.
“Guys, I just got a great idea. Hear me out…”
In the same meeting between Glaspie and Hussein, the U.S. Ambassador told the Iraqi dictator that the United States had no opinion on its border dispute with Kuwait, and its chief interest in the matter was the price of oil.
“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”
The situation between Iraq and Kuwait kept deteriorating, to the point that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to step in to mediate the disagreement and prevent a war. When that failed, Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait to settle the matter by force. The entire time, he emphasized that he wanted good relations with the United States and was genuinely surprised to find his actions condemned by the Bush Administration.
When prompted about the meeting in Congressional testimony, Glaspie simple explained, “we had no idea he would go that far.”
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and rolled over the Kuwaitis in just two days. Iraq then annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”) as governor. They were expelled by a U.S.-led multinational coalition after a 40-day air war and a 100-hour ground campaign.
China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the US Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.
The ministry said in a statement August 3 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the US in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”
The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. August 2. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.
China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the US in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.
The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the US considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.
China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy in the South China Sea.