A retired sergeant major credited with saving scores of Marines during one of the Vietnam War’s deadliest battles will receive the Medal of Honor, Military.com has confirmed.
Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, 80, of Oxnard, California, learned he’ll receive the nation’s highest award for valor during a July 9 phone call from President Donald Trump. It was first reported Thursday by the Ventura County Star.
“He told me that it was OK to let my Marines know that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor,” Canley told Military.com. “He thanked me for my service and also wanted to thank my Marines for their service.”
The fight to see Canley’s Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor has beena years-long effort. The former company gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, is recognized with leading more than 140 men through an intense week-long battle to retake Hue City from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.
Canley, who’s from El Dorado, Arkansas, repeatedly braved heavy enemy fire to bring several wounded Marines to safety. When his company commander was seriously injured, Canley sprang into action, reorganizing his Marines by moving from one group to another to advise and encourage them, hisNavy Cross citation states.
Former Pfc. John Ligato was one of those men. Ligato has spent the last 15 years making calls, taking Marines’ statements and writing letters to see his gunny get the recognition he deserved.
“The Medal of Honor was rejected 10 times — never on the merits of what he did, it was always procedural,” Ligato said. “There were times I gave up. … But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”
Canley said his Marines were his only concern during the brutal battle. The average age of those fighting in the Vietnam War was just 19, he said, and they were looking for leadership.
“I’m just happy that I could provide that,” he said. “It was an honor.”
Ligato said Canley’s actions far exceeded expectations. There were 147 Marines facing off against about 10,000 North Vietnamese troops. Canley not only led them from the front, but also with love, he said.
“I know this sounds strange, but he wasn’t one of these gruff, screaming guys. You did stuff for him because you didn’t want to disappoint him,” he said. “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.
“He was totally fearless,” Ligato added. “He loved his Marines, and we loved him back.”
A date has not yet been set for the White House ceremony, but Ligato said Canley has asked him to speak about his company’s Marines. Many of them went back to their communities one-by-one, he said, speaking little about the horrors they saw in Vietnam.
When they did talk about it, though, there was always one common thread.
“We all had a Gunny Canley story,” Ligato said. “They were all different, but they all involved tremendous acts of valor.”
That’s why Ligato and some of his comrades have fought doggedly to have this honor bestowed, something Canley said has humbled him. From talking to members of Congress to Pentagon officials, they were determined to see this day come.
Canley’s Medal of Honor citation will be read by Marines for generations. The retired sergeant major, who’s battled prostate cancer since leaving Vietnam, said he hopes that those who go on to become staff noncommissioned officers or officers take away one simple message.
“That leadership is all about taking care of your people,” he said. “If you do that, then you basically don’t have to worry about the mission.”
This Medal of Honor will help fill in the blanks of one of the most important Marine Corps battles in history, Ligato said. The actions Canley showed on the battlefield 50 years ago epitomize what it means to be a Marine, he added.
“Marines have been doing this since 1775,” Ligato said. “Every once in a while, you have a Chesty Puller, a John Basilone or a John Canley. I think Marines reading his citation can take away that the Marine Corps is timeless.”
The children are our future. Isn’t it time to talk to them about leadership and military service? Today’s children are the future leaders and military personnel of our country. They are the ones that will one day take that oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The reality that today’s youth are the future of our country and our military is why it is so important that we have programs in place to mold, teach, and prepare them to be the strong leaders of tomorrow. The military branches have had programs in place for decades to aid in this preparation of today’s youth. These programs include: the Sea Cadets, the Young Marines, and the ROTC.
The US Naval Sea Cadet Corps is sponsored by both the Navy and the Coast Guard. They are designed to promote interest and skill in naval disciplines while also instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs. The main goals of the Sea Cadets are: developing an interest and ability in seamanship and seagoing skills, instill the virtues of good citizenship and strong moral principles in each cadet, demonstrate the values of an alcohol-free, drug-free, and gang-free lifestyle, expose cadets to the prestige of public service and a variety of career paths through hands-on training with our nation’s armed services.
The Young Marines set out to build tomorrow’s leaders today. They promote the mental, moral, and physical development of each of their members. The Young Marines program focuses on the values of leadership, self-discipline, and teamwork. They strive to strengthen the lives of America’s youth, and they do so by teaching the importance of self-confidence, academic achievement, honoring our veterans, community service, and living a healthy drug-free lifestyle. The Young Marines aims to mold today’s youth into productive members of society.
The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, or ROTC, as it is more commonly known, is designed to give young people invaluable experiences while still in school. ROTC is different because it is a program that is a part of a school or university. Each branch has its own ROTC program, so students can choose which path they want to take. Through the ROTC program, students can begin a military career in health care, aviation, finance, engineering, chemistry, law enforcement, and transportation, among others. ROTC is designed to mold them and prepare them for officer programs and careers in the armed services.
No matter what program the youth of today chooses to join, they will be taught valuable skills and learn how to become the strong leaders the future of our country depends on. They will be taught structure and discipline, while being molded into productive members of society. Whether or not they choose to go into a career in the military, the experiences they receive in these programs will follow them through the rest of their lives. They will learn invaluable lessons that will aid them in any career path they choose, and they will make memories that will last a lifetime.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.
International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.
In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.
Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.
But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.
North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots
“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.
In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.
Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.
No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.
Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.
Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.
Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”
North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.
“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.
A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.
This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.
The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.
Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An MQ-4C Triton experienced a technical failure that forced it to perform a gear up landing at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) at Point Mugu on Sept. 12, 2018, the U.S. Navy confirmed
“The Navy says as a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and tried to make a landing at Point Mugu but the aircraft’s landing gear failed to deploy and the aircraft landed on the runway with its gear up, causing some $2 million damage to the plane,” KVTA reported.
No further details about the unit have been disclosed so far, however, it’s worth noticing that two MQ-4C UAVs – #168460and #168461 – have started operations with VUP-19 DET Point Mugu from NBVC on Jun. 27, 2018.
Here’s what we have written about that first flight back then:
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations: as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.
The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Featured image: file photo of an MQ-4C of VUP-19 Det PM during its first flight (U.S. Navy)
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The United States Marine Corps gave its final goodbye to one of its most famous and most revered alums, actor and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, on Jan. 18, 2018 as his remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The revered Gunny died on Apr. 15, 2018 at age 74 from complications during pneumonia treatment.
His body was cremated after death, and his ashes were buried with full military honors.
Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
There was more to R. Lee Ermey’s life than just the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film that made his career while defining the image of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He was the living embodiment of a Marine who never gives up, being forced into the military, working a bar and brothel after leaving the service, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.
The man we know as “Gunny” was medically discharged in 1972, and didn’t even make the rank of Gunnery Sgt. until after his military career. That’s how important his image is to the Corps. Even though his Hollywood career began to flag as he aged, he was always a vocal supporter of the military and the troops who comprise it.
His internment at Arlington was delayed due to the backlog of funeral services there. The backlog for eligible veterans to be buried there is so great that even a veteran of Ermey’s stature – a Vietnam War-era Marine who served in aviation and training – must wait several months before the services can be performed.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself. However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar (Click Here for Story), Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.
A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.
“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.
Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.
DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.
“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.
While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.
“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” the DRS official explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’
The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.
Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain
A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.
Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.
The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.
The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.
Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.
“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.
Israel’s IRON FIST
Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.
“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.
IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.
“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.
UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System
German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.
Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump’s nuclear posture review, leaked to HuffPost this month, seems to show the U.S. believes Russia is building a dangerous new undersea nuclear weapon that critics say could cause widespread death and damage.
“Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers,” the leaked review says, adding that these systems include “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, undersea autonomous torpedo.”
Printouts of plans for such a nuclear torpedo had been spotted in state TV footage of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and military chiefs in November 2015.
The footage showed plans for a submarine that could travel 6,200 miles at 100 knots underwater and detonate a megaton-class thermonuclear weapon to create “wide areas of radioactive contamination,” according to a BBC translation of the photographed document.
The submarine was designed to “destroy important economic installations of the enemy in coastal areas and cause guaranteed devastating damage to the country’s territory by creating wide areas of radioactive contamination, rendering them unusable for military, economic, or other activity for a long time,” the BBC reported.
Since then, many have disputed the notion that Russia would build such a system. But the leaked draft of Trump’s nuclear posture review indicates the U.S. government at its highest levels believes the torpedo, known as the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system,” is real.
Jeffrey Lewis, a leading academic on nuclear matters, quickly gave the Status-6 a catchier name: “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
Not only could the weapon obliterate the area with potentially 100 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, but it could also leave behind long-lasting radioactive waste.
Lewis has described the weapon as “bat-sh*t” crazy and “absurd.” He previously told Business Insider that the idea was “deeply, deeply, deeply immoral” and that the U.S. never considers weapons like this for its nuclear arsenal.
For Russia, doomsday may be the point
When the plans for the Status-6 leaked in 2015, the Brookings Institution characterized their appearance on camera as deliberate messaging rather than sloppy work.
Nuclear weapons have been used exactly twice in combat — both times by the U.S., and both times dropped by a propeller aircraft over largely unprotected Japanese airspace at the close of World War II. No fancy intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines, or long-range bombers or cruise missiles have ever delivered a nuclear weapon fired in anger.
The real function of nuclear weapons today is political. Countries build them and bank on their deterrent effect, meaning they calculate that no one will attack a nuclear-armed nation.
For Russia, the Status-6 doomsday machine wouldn’t make much sense unless everybody knew about it.
As Russia has become increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy while maintaining a weaker military than the U.S.’s and NATO’s, it may have convinced itself it’s time to show its doomsday weapons.
The commanding officer and the executive officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of duty and reassigned to different posts for “loss of confidence,” according to a US Navy statement on October 11.
Commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez came under scrutiny after the McCain’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters in August. Ten sailors died and five were injured.
The collision tore a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull, where several sailors were inside sealed compartments on the vessel, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Although the investigation is ongoing, the Navy called the collision preventable and said “the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.” The Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership.
The McCain incident followed another collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship in June, which killed seven sailors. The Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also dismissed in that case.
US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, whose command oversaw the USS McCain and Fitzgerald, was also relieved of duty in August following the series of deadly ship collisions. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.
Iran just conducted a massive rapid deployment exercise that consisted of 12,000 coordinated troops – the Islamic Republic was saying to the world that any attackers would face a “crushing blow.” Over two days, Iran’s regular military forces used ground troops, fighter planes, armored vehicles, and drones to practice its methods of repelling invaders over 190 square miles.
The exercises are aimed at Israel and the United States, both of which Iran considers a regional menace. Back in the United States, regardless of Iranian training exercises, a growing portion of the military community is urging against a war with Iran, and the effort is being led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.
Eaton is best known for his command of training Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Led by Eaton, a cadre of former General-grade officers wrote an open letter to Congress, urging against provoking a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian military exercises played no role in the letter, which had been in the works for some time. In the letter, Eaton, the other officers, and the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation remind Congress about the costs of the current wars the United States is still engaged in right now.
“A full-scale military conflict with Iran would be a huge and costly undertaking,” the letter reads. “It’s a lesson we’ve learned before as a nation, at great cost. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us a lot in blood and treasure. We know that war with Iran would require hundreds of thousands of American service members to deploy and could result in even larger numbers of American casualties and injuries―alongside an unknown number of civilian deaths.”
While the United States does not have any kind of motive to attack Iran as of this writing, the letter is urging Congress to pass legislation to keep the White House from using military force without direct Congressional approval. The current authorization for the use of military force used by the Trump Administration to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere is the same one used by his predecessors Obama and Bush, signed into law by President Bush after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The new National Defense Authorization Act could bar the use of force in Iran.
Specifically, the letter endorsed a bi-partisan detail in the 2020 NDAA that would prevent “unauthorized” military force in or against Iran, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna and ardent Trump supporter and Florida Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz. There is no current language in the Senate version of the bill. Before going to the President’s desk, the NDAA would need to be reconciled and passed by both houses. The letter urged the inclusion of the Iran language in the final bill.
U.S. troops are deployed to hundreds of countries – Iran is not one of them.
The group of military officers believes the interests of the United States are better served by focusing on the confrontations with Russia and China, instead of expanding into another Middle East conflict.
“The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum,” the letter reads.
The Army’s troubled program to buy a new standard-issue handgun for soldiers was the subject of renewed debate on Capitol Hill.
During Thursday’s confirmation hearing for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become defense secretary in the Trump administration, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina took turns criticizing the service’s XM19 Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, a $350 million competition to buy a replacement to the Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
At a time when Russia is upgrading its service rifle, “we continue to modify our M4s [and] many of our troops still carry M16s, the Army can’t even figure out how to replace the M9 pistol, first issued in 1982,” Ernst said.
The senator, a frequent critic of the program who in 2015 retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, said she and others would joke while in the military that “sometimes the most efficient use of an M9 is to simply throw it at your adversary.”
Ernst blasted the Modular Handgun Program’s many requirements. “Take a look at their 350-page micromanaging requirements document if you want to know why it’s taking so long to get this accomplished,” she said.
She also mocked the stopping power of the 5.56mm rifle round. “Our military currently shoots a bullet that, as you know, is illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power,” she said.
Tillis went even further by showing up to the hearing with the pistol program’s full several hundred pages of requirements documents wrapped in red ribbon. “This is a great testament to what’s wrong with defense acquisition,” he said, slapping the three-inch-tall stack of paperwork.
In response, Mattis said, “I can’t defend this,” but added, “I will say that at times there were regulations that required us to do things.”
Coincidentally, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was asked about the program earlier in the day at a breakfast sponsored by the Association of the United States Army. Milley was tight-lipped about the effort but hinted the service is making progress.
Beretta, FN Herstal, Sig Sauer and Glock are reportedly still competing for the program after the Army dropped Smith Wesson from the competition last year. We’re hoping these gunmakers will help shed more light on the status of the program next week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.