The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.
Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.
“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”
In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”
“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.
Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.
“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.
The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.
“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.
When military spouse Ashley Salas heard about the “front porch project,” she knew it was something she had to do. “As soon as my friend showed me this idea, I decided to go for it,” Salas said on her company Facebook page. “I reached out on my neighborhood page and had people message me their address. I had 76 families. 76!!!!”
The idea behind the project is simple: photograph families on their front porch in this era of social distancing and quarantine. Salas plotted a route and off she went.
“I went house to house… jumping in and out of my car, about 1 minute per house, and took a photo for them to cherish because you know what? THE WORLD IS SCARY right now,” Salas shared on Facebook. “We are quarantined to our homes. We are asked to social distance from each other. We are asked to be safe, wash hands, and take this seriously.
We can all do our part and stay home as much as possible. Wash your hands. Keep your distance… but always love your neighbor.”
The results are magnificent. Some sweet, some hilarious, all incredible memories for these families and Salas.
What a memory I’ll cherish forever. And when it was over, I cried… so many emotions, but this night gave me so much joy for everyone.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.
The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.
The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.
After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.
The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.
By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.
The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender, the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.
War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.
That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”
After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.
Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.
The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.
In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.
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.
When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.
Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.
After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.
Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”
Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.
Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.
Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.
Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.
On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”
Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.
Well, the Red Flag exercise slated for August 15-26, Red Flag 16-4, is going to be very… well, take your pick. Interesting in that a number of foreign air forces are going to be at Nellis Air Force Base to participate. But it could also be awkward given some of those air forces who are among the visitors.
First, a quick rundown on what Red Flag is. During the Vietnam War, the Air Force had learned that most of the losses had been pilots who were in their first ten missions. After ten missions, a pilot’s chance of survival increased. Held at Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, the purpose of Red Flag is very simple: To provide Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, and allied pilots an experience as close to combat as possible – without using live ordnance.
Of particular interest is that Israel is taking part in this upcoming Red Flag. To say that Israel and Islamic-majority countries are not friendly in general is pretty much an understatement. Israel has fought major wars against Arab nations that were Islamic in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006. Pakistan has not been Arab, but the country has been known to house a number of Islamic extremists. The United Arab Emirates is relatively moderate when compared to other Arab countries, but the Arab-Israeli issues are still present. There may be awkward moments at the O-Club and the debriefs.
However, it may also be interesting to see those three countries at the upcoming Red Flag. All three use the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter – but their Falcons are very different. In fact, this Red Flag provides a rough guide to the evolution of the F-16.
Pakistan’s F-16s mostly come in the F-16A variety. The F-16A/Bs were the first versions to really see service. The original design for the F-16 was to be a low-cost lightweight fighter for daytime operations. It was exactly that at first. The plane, though, has now become a deadly all-weather fighter, starting with the F-16A/B Air Defense Fighter. Mid-Life Upgrades and Operational Capability Upgrades have made these early Falcons capable all-weather fighters. Some of the earliest F-16A/B models are now becoming target drones.
Israel’s F-16s are mostly the F-16C/D versions. These were designed from the outset to be all-weather fighters capable of using missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM in beyond-visual-range engagements. The F-16C/Ds are arguably the backbone of the United States Air Force’s inventory of combat aircraft – and the latest versions include the capability to fire the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). These planes have served in a number of other air forces, too. Israel also has an enhanced F-16 known as the F-16I, which is a custom version that operates with a two-man crew.
The United Arab Emirates has the only F-16Es in existence. Perhaps the ultimate F-16 in service today, the F-16Es add conformal fuel tanks for longer range, and it also comes with more modern electronics, including an active electronically scanned array radar. These birds probably give the F-16I a close run for their money.
Japan will be missing this Red Flag – meaning its version of the F-16, the Mitsubishi F-2, will not be present. The F-2 can best be described as an F-16 that went to BALCO or Biogenesis and received steroids or Viper Growth Hormone. It has top of the line electronics and can carry a larger bomb load than most F-16s.
In short, Red Flag 16-4 will be very interesting. Not only for the many countries there but also to see how the F-16 has evolved since it entered service in 1978.
Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.
Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)
Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)
Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.
Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)
Maynard James Keenan
Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)
Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)
Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)
The AV-8B Harrier has been a mainstay of the United States Marine Corps for over three decades. The same could be said about some other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters (some of which have been around even longer), but the Harrier has a cachet about it that no others can match.
Part of its clout may stem from the fact that many of the Marine Corps’ most legendary squadrons have flown (or still fly) the Harrier. These squadrons include VMA-214, the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” led by Pappy Boyington, and VMA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers” who made a heroic stand at Wake Island and were tragically not reinforced.
The AV-8B Harrier has seen a fair bit of action, notably during Desert Storm, over the Balkans, and in the War on Terror.
The Harrier has the ability to hover – making for some interesting tactical possibilities. Its GAU-12 can bring about 85 percent of the BRRRRT of the A-10.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
But it’s not all history for the Harrier — performance counts, too. With Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability, the Harrier is much less dependent on usable runways than other jets (plus, hovering just above a landing site looks cool as hell). Upgrades in the 1990s gave the Harrier the APG-65 radar (as used on the F/A-18 Hornet) and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Harrier first entered service with the United States in 1985. It can achieve a speed of 633 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.
The Harrier’s V/STOL capability allows it to operate from ships and way from conventional runways.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht)
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, has arrived in Beijing in his first-ever trip outside the country as its ruler, Bloomberg News reported March 26, 2018.
Kim arrived after mysterious journey of a train from North Korea, which recalls visits his father had made to Beijing before his death in 2011.
Numerous reports on social media and news websites tracked the path of a train slowing train traffic in Northeast China, arriving in Beijing, and then coinciding with a motorcade involving police on motorbikes and a limousine. The train is thought to be the same one Kim took to Beijing in 2010.
Yun Sun, a North Korea and China expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that the mysterious train’s journey “disrupted the whole railway schedule for northeast China, and people are observing that and drawing conclusions about who might be on that train.”
Chad O’Carrol, the managing director of the Korea Risk Group, tweeted that staff at the train station said all the security and obstruction was related to construction but also made the case for why it might have been Kim Jong Un’s first time leaving the country since assuming power.
It would “make perfect sense” for Kim to travel to Beijing “using father’s armored train,” tweeted O’Carrol, who said the route was well tested by North Korean security and that the blackout on state media covering the trip was consistent with trips his father, Kim Jong Il, made to Beijing.
Additionally, Kim is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in the coming months, both leaders of nations his regime is still technically at war with.
On the other hand, China is North Korea’s treaty ally, and its main lifeline to trade with the outside world. Kim Jong Un has refused offers to visit Beijing in the past, but has recently changed his tone regarding diplomacy and face-to-face meetings.
Did Trump make this happen?
Sun said that China attempted to meet with Kim in the past, but rising tensions as North Korea’s nuclear testing heated up derailed the preparations and deteriorated bilateral relations. Previously, China saw Kim as defiant and abusing Beijing’s support for the country, and denied them “the honor, the validation, of having a meeting” with Xi.
“The only variable has changed,” in the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, according to Sun, is that Trump accepted a face-to-face meeting with Kim, which she said may have “motivated the Chinese to change their mind.”
Also, North Korea may not be able to handle a summit with Trump on their own, and China has a good deal of anxiety about being left out of diplomatic efforts between Pyongyang and its adversaries, according to Sun.
In any case, the train’s journey to Beijing fits the profile of Kim family visits to China’s rulers in the past, and makes sense from both the Chinese and North Korean sides in the run-up to attempting diplomacy with Trump face-to-face.
Despite Winston Churchill’s popular image, Britain’s most celebrated statesman spent much of his seemingly extravagant life on the edge of a financial cliff, according to retired banker and Oxford history scholar David Lough.
Churchill’s private finances often threatened his political career, which spanned more than a half century, including two stints as prime minister.
To compensate for his financial woes, Churchill focused on becoming a prolific writer; however, his prose wasn’t enough on its own, Lough notes.
So Churchill took an emergency bank loan, which brought his borrowings to £30,000 in 1925, or $2.1 million at current exchange rates and adjusting for inflation (inflation multiples: UK£ x 50).
Feeling the financial pinch, Churchill made several budget cuts to Chartwell, his country estate, in the summer of 1926.
He began by selling all of the cattle, chickens, pigs, and ponies housed on the estate.
Churchill cut the estate’s monthly expenses, which cost nearly $33,400 (£480) and included food, wages, maintenance, and cars, in half.
“Nothing expensive is to be bought, by either of us, without talking it over,” Churchill wrote to this wife Clementine, according to Lough.
“No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given only white or red wine, or whisky and soda will be offered at luncheon, or dinner. The Wine Book to be shown to me every week. No more port is to be opened without special instructions.”
“Cigars must be reduced to four a day. None should be put on the table; but only produced out of my case.”
In addition to the proposed savings, the Churchills would “very rarely, if at all,” invite guests over to the estate and would discontinue serving fish during dinner.
Within a year, Churchill’s cost-saving plan unraveled and his family shipped off for a lengthy cruise around the Mediterranean.
While traveling, Churchill added a stop to Normandy to enjoy a wild pig-hunt with the duke of Westminister and the duke’s new girlfriend Coco Chanel.
Churchill made a second detour to a nearby casino and gambled away $24,350 (£350).
Meanwhile, Churchill was still dodging bills from his architect Philip Tilden who was hired in 1923 to build a new wing to the Chartwell estate.
According to Lough, the Churchill’s wanted “larger bedrooms, new bathrooms and kitchen, a library, a large study, and a room for entertaining.”
At the time, Churchill had not approved Tilden’s building cost estimates before work began on Chartwell. The swelling modernization costs soared, resulting in a series of allegations and delayed payments for Tilden.
“There were renewed threats of legal action on both sides, but the financial trail disappears at this point because Churchill’s bank accounts for the last part of 1927 and 1928 are missing from his archive,” Lough notes.
In 1927, the Chartwell estate and its furnishings are estimated to have cost at least $2,783,400 (£40,000), nearly triple Churchill’s original estimate.
Churchill went on to become prime minster in 1940 and helped craft a successful Allied strategy against the Nazi’s during World War II.
He was elected prime minister again in 1951, however, his financial woes shadowed the remainder of his life.
From the time he was a boy, Merian C. Cooper wanted to be an adventurer, a wish that propelled him into journalism, the National Guard, military aviation, two world wars, and the cinematic killing of King Kong. During that time, he took part in historic events, like the hunt for Pancho Villa, and contributed to others, like the Doolittle Raid.
When he was six, he read a book by a French explorer who traveled Africa, and he was hooked on the idea of adventure. In 1916, that led the journalist and Georgia National Guardsman to Mexico, where he took part in the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.
That only fueled his desire more, so he got a billet at a military pilot school in Georgia and graduated in time to go to France for World War I. He became a bomber pilot, but was shot down over Germany and declared dead until the American officers learned he had survived and been taken prisoner.
But he wasn’t done with Europe, soon heading to Poland as a captain and taking part in the Polish-Soviet War. He formed a new squadron, the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, with volunteers from France. The men saw protracted combat, and Cooper himself was shot down two times. The second time, he was captured by the Soviets and sent (a second time) to a prisoner of war camp.
After two attempts, he successfully escaped and was rewarded for his wartime service with Poland’s highest decoration for valor.
After returning to a peaceful America, he became a movie producer and writer, working on some cinematic classics, including the game-changing King Kong of 1933. He even played one of the pilots in the film.
But war came knocking again when the U.S. entered World War II. So, Cooper returned to service as a colonel and was sent to India where he served as a logistics expert for the Doolittle Raid, the legendary attack by carrier-based bombers against Tokyo itself in 1942. He was even eventually invited to see Japan’s surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.
Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.
But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.
However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.
When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.
Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.
This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.
The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.
As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.
As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”
When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.
Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.
Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.
After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.
With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.
Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.
The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.
During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.
The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.
However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.
Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.
Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.
Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.