This week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the longest war in American history. Chances are, you’ve probably had the same conversation with your comrades, coworkers, friends, or whomever about where you were when you heard about the attacks.
Now that it’s been 18 years, that means that if you’re still in the military, you could now have that same conversation with a young private/airman/seaman and be greeted with the response of, “Oh, I wasn’t even born yet!”
Man — now I feel old when I tell people I was skipping some middle school class to play Pokemon on my Gameboy in the bathroom and came back to everyone watching the news. I can honestly say that I’ve never skipped class since that day.
Don’t worry. I get it. You’re now probably thinking about how old you are because you were doing something much more mature than I was seven years before I could enlist. Just wait for a few weeks when kids who were just sent off to Basic/Boot Camp on their 18th birthday graduate. There’s going to be some serious dog and pony shows for them and I bet it’ll be all over the news. Then you’ll really feel old!
Anyways, now that I’ve given you some existential dread about your own aging — here are some memes!
Taliban militants killed dozens of Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several government targets, according to officials.
Safiullah Amiri, deputy chairman of the regional council in the northern Kunduz province, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that 15 Afghan military personnel were killed in an attack in the Dashti Archi district that began late on Sept. 9, 2018.
Amiri said that another 18 security personnel were injured in the attack.
A security source in Dashti Archi said Taliban militants attacked several security teams in the district.
Meanwhile, in the northern province of Jawzjan, provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said at least eight police were killed in early-morning fighting with the Taliban in the Khamyab district on Sept. 10, 2018, the Associated Press reported.
Jawzjani told the AP that Afghan troops were forced to retreat from a headquarters in the district in order to prevent civilian casualties. He said seven Taliban militants were killed and eight others wounded.
“There was intense fighting and we didn’t want civilian houses destroyed, or any civilian casualties,” Jawzjani said.
In the northern city of Sar-e-Pul, the capital of the Afghan province of the same name, the Taliban carried out overnight attacks on military and police installations, officials and security sources said.
Provincial council member Asif Sadiqi was quoted by the dpa news agency as saying that at least 17 soldiers were killed in the attacks in Sar-e-Pul, which he said the militants launched from three directions.
Taliban militants reportedly seized control of several military bases and police checkpoints in Sar-e-Pul, and provincial council member Reza Alimzada said that several security personnel were taken hostage.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters killed another 14 local Afghan security-force members and government-loyal militiamen in the Dara Suf district of the northern Samangan Province, provincial spokesman Sediq Azizi said.
Existing 155 mm artillery rounds have a range of about 30 kilometers when fired from systems such as the M109A7, which feature a standard, 39-caliber-length gun tube.
But a longer gun tube is only one part of the extended range effort, Rafferty said.
“The thing about ERCA that makes it more complicated than others is it is as much about the ammunition as is it is about the armament,” he said. “We can’t take our current family of projectiles and shoot them 70 kilometers; they are not designed for it.”
M109A7 155mm self propelled howitzer.
The Army is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, said Col. Will McDonough, who runs Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems.
The XM1113 is an upgrade to the M549A1 rocket-assisted projectile round, which was first fielded in 1989, he said.
“It’s going to have 20 percent more impulse than the RAP round had,” McDonough said. “So I look at that and say, ‘Wow, we moved the ball 20 percent in 30 years.’ Obviously not acceptable, but we … shot it out of a 58-caliber system and shot holes in the ground at Yuma out to 62 kilometers.”
The Army will add improvements to the round that should enable testers to “put holes in the ground out to 70 kilometers,” he said. “One of the things our leadership has been adamant about is don’t talk about range. Show range, shoot range, and then you can talk about it. But if you haven’t put a hole in the ground in the desert, don’t advertise that you can go do it.”
Military vehicles in an underground facility at US Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, September 9, 2015. US Defense Department/Glenn Fawcett
A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.
The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.
Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.
Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department
The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.
The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.
“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.
Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.
Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen
A changing strategic game
The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”
Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.
Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.
US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh
Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.
Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”
“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.
The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.
Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.
“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.
Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.
Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”
In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.
According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.
The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.
According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.
“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.
If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.
It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.
“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”
The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.
While the congressionally mandated close-air support tests between the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and A-10 Warthog wrapped up in July 2018, lawmakers may not be satisfied with the results as questions continue to swirl about how each performed.
“I personally wrote the specific provisions in the [Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act] mandating a fly-off between the F-35 & A-10,” Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, tweeted July 13, 2018. “It must be carried out per Congressional intent & direction.”
McSally, a former A-10 pilot whose home state includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said she had reached out to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to “ensure an objective comparison.”
The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the bill amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35. McSally was one of the architects of the bill’s language.
The watchdog organization, which obtained the Air Force’s test schedule and spoke to unidentified sources relevant to the event, claimed that the limited flights also curbed the A-10’s strengths while downplaying the F-35’s troubled past and current program stumbles.
The JSF operational test team and other Initial Operational Test and Evaluation officials “faithfully executed” the F-35 vs. A-10 comparison test “in accordance with the IOTE test design approved in 2016,” and did so in compliance with 2017 NDAA requirements, said Army Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, spokeswoman for the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE).
The testing happened from July 5 to 12, 2018, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Baldanza said in an email.
“The [Joint Operational Test Team] will continue to schedule and fly the remaining comparison test design missions when additional A-10s become available,” she said.
She said the data points collected will add to the scope of the side-by-side comparison test.
The “matched-pair” fourth-generation A-10 and fifth-generation F-35A comparison test close-air support missions “are realistic scenarios involving a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), surface-to-air threats, some live and inert air-to-ground weapons employment, and varying target types,” which include “moving target vehicles and armored vehicles across different conditions,” such as day and night operations and low-to-medium threat levels, Baldanza said.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The challenging scenarios are designed to reveal the strengths and limitations of each aircraft,” she said, referring to radars, sensors, infrared signatures, fuel levels, loiter time, weapons capability, electronic warfare and datalinks.
“Each test design scenario is repeated by both aircraft types while allowing them to employ per their best/preferred tactics and actual/simulated weapons loads,” Baldanza said. “Therefore, references to individual scenarios or specific weapons loadouts will not reflect the full scope of the comparison test evaluation.”
DOTE will analyze the flight test data collected and results will be compiled in an IOTE report as well as DOTE’s “Beyond Low-Rate Initial Production” report.
The reports will offer comparative analyses of “differences, strengths, and weaknesses of the F-35A versus the A-10 across the prescribed comparison test mission types [and/or] scenarios,” the DoD said.
For these reasons, the Air Force has consistently avoided calling the highly anticipated test a “fly-off.” Aviation enthusiasts and pilots have also said putting the two aircraft side-by-side remains an apples-to-oranges comparison.
In addition to a variety of rockets, missiles and bombs fastened to hardpoints under its wings, the A-10 most notably employs its GAU-8/A 30mm gun system, which produces an iconic sound that ground troops never forget.
“There’s just nothing that matches the devastation that that gun can bring,” A-10 pilot “Geronimo” said in the 2014 mini-documentary “Grunts in the Sky: The A-10 in Afghanistan.” The nearly four-year-old footage was made public in January 2018.
“The ground troops that I work with — when they think close-air support, they think A-10s,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Hauser, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller then based at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan, said in the footage.
Those qualities are what will get the fighter through the door before it performs a CAS-type role, officials say.
“In a contested CAS scenario, a JTAC would absolutely want to call this airplane in, and we practice just that,” said Capt. Dojo Olson, the Air Force’s F-35A Heritage Flight Team commander and a pilot with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
Olson spoke with Military.com during the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow here at RAF Fairford, England.
“We practice close-air support, and we practice contested close-air support, or providing close-air support in a battlespace that is not just totally permissive to fourth-generation airplanes,” he said.
“We foresee future combat environments where even in close-air support, even in counterinsurgency operations, there will be air defense systems,” added Steve Over, F-35 international business development director. “And you need to have sensors that will be able to find the target.”
He added that the F-35A model also has a Gatling gun — the GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm gun, made by General Dynamics. “But more than likely it’s going to be using other precision-guided munitions” such as small-diameter or laser-guided bombs, he said.
“You can provide [CAS] from a precision-strike platform from tens of thousands of feet in the air, so there’s a lot of different types of” the mission, he said. “Getting up close and personal like an A-10? Of course, the airplanes … they’re apples and oranges.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Around midnight on Jan. 30, 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops began a massive surprise attack on U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied forces across South Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive, as it came to be known, was actually a three-phase campaign, lasting from Jan. 30 – March 28, May 5 – June 15, and Aug. 17 – Sept. 23.
“The event really defined the course of the rest of the [Vietnam] war and how it ended, which was a pretty inglorious ending,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Hagel, who was with the 47th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam during Tet, spoke at the “Vietnam: The Tet Offensive” panel discussion, Jan. 25, at the National Archives.
Then a 21-year-old private first class, Hagel, just two months in country, said his mechanized infantry unit sustained heavy casualties in the vicinity of Long Binh.
The attack was a complete surprise, he said. What happened in Long Binh was typical of what was happening across the country.
The U.S. had completely underestimated the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrilla forces from South Vietnam, he said. It came as a shock to the American public and turned public opinion against the war.
One of the myths of Tet, he said, is that it was a big enemy military victory, he added. It wasn’t. “Our military actually did very well considering.”
Erik B. Villard, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said there were other myths about Tet, some of which he wrote about in his Center for Military History book, “Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968.”
One myth, he said, was that the North Vietnamese orchestrated a number of major battles prior to Tet in the autumn of 1967 to draw U.S. forces away from the cities so they would be in a better position to succeed in capturing the urban areas.
The real story is more interesting, he said. The 1967 battles were local and regional campaigns, planned over the spring and summer of that year.
The idea for the Tet Offensive did not even occur to the enemy at the time, as their strategic planning process tended to be short-term and, at times, very chaotic, he said.
Also, why would they want to launch a major battle in November 1967, just months before Tet when full strength would be needed? There wouldn’t be adequate recovery time, he said, noting that the National Archives provided some key documents he used in his research.
A second myth, Villard said, was that Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, “was wedded to this notion of victory through attrition; that the way to succeed was to kill enough of the enemy that you crossed this imaginary threshold and you could just kind of grind your way toward success.
“Westmoreland deserves far more credit than he’s gotten in my view,” he added.
He was a shrewd person who understood the value of pacification and cutting enemy supply lines, as he was doing in secret operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Villard noted.
A third myth, he said, is that U.S. military policy changed when Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. in June 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive.
Abrams and Westmoreland saw mostly eye-to-eye on strategy, he said. The mission continued to be defending bases and lines of communication, as well as air interdiction operations and supporting pacification.
Pacification was a term used at the time to denote counterinsurgency operations, which included advise and assist missions and winning over the loyalty of the local population.
Policy didn’t actually change until after mid-1969 when Vietnamization took hold, he said. Vietnamization consisted of drawing down U.S. forces and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese forces.
The buildup of forces into 1968 and the draw down a year later had already been planned on Westmoreland’s watch, he said.
Merle L. Pribbenow II, an author specializing in the Vietnam War, with five years of service in Vietnam during the war as a CIA operative, said that a widespread myth was that the Tet Offensive was a well planned and executed enemy attack.
That’s completely false, he said, referencing documents and interviews of NVA and VC commanders after the war.
Many of those generals became bitter with the way they and their units were treated by their own military and political leaders and the high numbers of casualties that resulted, he said.
“We focus on how we felt Army commanders screwed up and were unprepared. [The North Vietnamese] were saying the exact same things again and again,” he said.
After the war, the Vietnamese did tactical reviews and battle studies, just as the U.S. Army did, to learn lessons and assess strengths and weaknesses, he noted.
The takeaway from that assessment, he said, was that the communists acknowledged that a lot of the poor decision-making during Tet resulted from underestimating U.S. military response, as well as the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.
Like the Americans, the communists also inflated their own body counts, minimized their failures, and exaggerated their accomplishments, he said.
The biggest problem, he added, was that shortcomings were not reported up the chain of command and authorities refused to listen to subordinates.
As a result of the assessment, he said the military leadership of Vietnam decided on a new approach. From then on, leaders were instructed to encourage subordinates to tell the truth, even if it wasn’t something they wanted to hear or went against their own thinking.
Gregory Daddis, an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s Master of Arts program in War and Society, said another myth was that the U.S. media was to blame for the lack of political will after the Tet Offensive.
There’s a tendency, he said, to find someone to blame when a bad outcome occurs.
Looking back 50 years ago to the Tet Offensive gives everyone an opportunity to gain a better perspective on everything that took place, he said.
An important takeaway from Tet, he said, is that sometimes military action might not be the best tool in all situations to achieve the desired political effect.
Hagel added that “in the end, war is determined not by military might but by the support of the people. We found ourselves on the wrong side of that.”
He concluded: “The sacrifices made by over 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of individuals who were wounded, and all who served, were never really given much recognition for an assignment they didn’t choose. But they served and they served honorably, and did what their country asked them to do. And I think that’s a part of this story that needs to be told more often.”
Over the years, the British have taken a good many significant artifacts back to England with them. To its credit, the British Empire did an excellent job of preserving those relics. Still, plundering any country’s cultural treasures is kind of an a-hole thing to do. But there is one set of priceless antiquities that the British can feel good about rescuing and returning.
This one isn’t their fault.
One of the most troublesome incidents of the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years was the theft and complete loss of priceless cultural treasures from the distant fields and local museums around these two countries. Many of the things looted in the chaos of these two conflicts may never be seen again. Not so for nine sculpted heads from the Fourth Century AD. These were intercepted at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2002 on a flight from Pakistan. The British Museum took control of the sculptures and restored them – but how did they get there?
It’s because the Taliban are the a-holes in this situation.
They usually are the a-holes in any situation.
These statue heads would have been atop artworks in the Buddhist temples of the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra some 1,500 years ago. The kingdom of Gandhāra straddled parts of what is today India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan at the time. As for what happened to the temples and the statues, the Taliban blew them up with dynamite. The terror group’s biggest destructive act was the use of anti-tank mines on Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Temples, which destroyed the beautiful pre-Islamic statues along the temple walls. The heads that were found in London were probably smuggled through Pakistan and on their way to the black market.
After their discovery, the British Museum was called in to document and catalog the priceless ancient sculptures. The heads will be on display in the museum for a short time, but will then be returned to the people of Afghanistan.
The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.
You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.
The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.
But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)
That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.
A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.
Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.
But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.
But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.
There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.
And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.
Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello is warning his party that United States Marines are going to be coming for Venezuela soon. This declaration comes after aircraft from the two countries were involved in an airborne confrontation where a Venezuelan fighter shadowed a U.S. Navy plane in international airspace.
“Their problem will be getting out of Venezuela,” the political leader also said.
A week after a Russian-made Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker fighter “aggressively” shadowed a U.S. Navy plane at an unsafe distance on July 9, 2019, Venezuelan and leftist politicians from around Central and South America met at the Sao Paulo Forum. It was there that Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello issued the baseless warning to the gathered crowd that United States Marines were on their way to his country and would be entering soon.
Most Western governments, including the United States, don’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s regime as the rightful rulers of Venezuela. Instead, they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is in control of the country’s National Assembly. While the Trump Administration isn’t ruling out military action, it has so far preferred diplomacy and sanctions as a means to deal with Maduro.
Cabello is the leader of an alternative legislative body, one not recognized by the National Assembly, loyal to Nicolas Maduro’s government. Cabello is believed to be the second most powerful person in the South American nation.
“We are few, a small country, we are very humble, and here it is likely that the U.S. Marines enter. It is likely that they enter,” he said.
The U.S. Navy plane shadowed by the Flanker fighter was a manned intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft, conducting a routine patrol of the region in international waters, though Venezuela claims the craft violated its airspace. the Lockheed EP-3 operated by the Navy was “performing a multi-nationally recognized approved mission in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea.”
Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.
Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.
As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.
“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.
The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.
For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:
Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of war and therefore the ultimate weapons to prevent and avoid war.
This two-axis struggle is captured in competing treaties for setting global nuclear norms and policy directions. This also reflects the mantra of realism — amended to include the importance of good governance in the modern world — that international politics consists of the struggle for ascendancy of competing normative architectures. Military muscle, economic weight, and geopolitical clout stand arrayed against values, principles, and norms.
For almost half a century, the normative anchor of the global nuclear order has been the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On July 7, 2017 122 states voted to adopt a new Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (or ban treaty). This new treaty was opened for signature in the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20 and so far four countries have ratified and another 49 have signed. The ban treaty will come into effect 90 days after ratification by 50 states.
As John Carlson, among others, has argued, the ban treaty has its technical flaws and even its advocates concede it will have no operational impact as all nuclear weapon possessing states have stayed away. Yet this treaty inspired by humanitarian principles is historic on five counts.
5. It is the first treaty to ban the possession, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
This completes the legally binding prohibition of all three classes of weapons of mass destruction, after biological and chemical weapons were banned by universal conventions in 1972 and 1993 respectively. Like the NPT, the ban treaty is legally binding only on signatories. Unlike the new treaty, which applies equally to all signatories, the NPT granted temporary exemptions for the continued possession of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon states that already had them in 1968, but banned proliferation to anyone else.
4. The ban treaty’s adoption marks the first divergence between the UN and the NPT that hitherto have had a mutually reinforcing relationship.
The NPT has its origins in several resolutions adopted in the General Assembly. Instances of non-compliance with binding NPT obligations require enforcement measures by the UN Security Council. But while almost two-thirds of NPT parties voted to adopt the ban, a strong one-third minority, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5) — who coincidentally are the five nuclear weapons states — rejected the new treaty.
3. This is the first occasion in which states on the periphery of the international system have adopted a humanitarian law treaty aimed at imposing global normative standards on the major powers.
The major principles of international, humanitarian and human rights laws have their origins in the great powers of the European international order that was progressively internationalised. Ban treaty supporters include the overwhelming majority of states from the global South and some from the global North (Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland). The treaty’s opponents include all nine nuclear weapons possessing states (the five nuclear weapons states, plus India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan), all NATO allies, and Australia, Japan and South Korea. Thus for the first time in history, the major powers and most Western countries find themselves the objects of an international humanitarian treaty authored by the rest who have framed the challenge, set the agenda and taken control of the narrative.
2. This is the first time that the like-minded liberal internationalist states find themselves in the dissident minority in opposing a cause championed by the Nobel Peace Committee.
Between 1901 and 1945, three-quarters of the prizes were awarded to those who promoted interstate peace and disarmament. Since 1945 social and political causes have attracted the prize as well and in the last decade a majority of laureates have been activists and advocates for human development and social justice. The Nobel Peace Prize has increasingly functioned as the social conscience of liberal internationalism.
The disconnect between an internationalized social conscience and a national interest-centric security policy is especially acute for Norway, host of the first humanitarian consequences conference in 2013 and part of the negotiation that led to the ban treaty. While other Nobel prizes are determined by the Swedish Academy, the Peace Prize is awarded by a Norwegian committee. On December 10 Norway faced visual embarrassment when the glittering Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo recognized a treaty it opposed and honored a non-government organisation — the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) — to which it cut funding after the election of a conservative government in October 2013.
1. This is the first occasion in the UN system when the General Assembly, where all 193 Member States have one vote, has asserted itself against the permanent five.
Previously the Assembly has occasionally acted in the face of a deadlock in the 15-member Security Council.
The ban treaty embodies the collective moral revulsion of the international community. Because the nuclear-armed states boycotted the ban conference and refuse to sign the treaty, it will have no immediate operational effect. But because it is a UN treaty adopted by a duly constituted multilateral conference, it will have normative force. (My recently published article in The Washington Quarterly that highlights the normative force of the ban treaty can be found here.)
The ban treaty will reshape how the world community thinks about and acts in relation to nuclear weapons as well as those who possess the bomb. It strengthens the norms of non-proliferation and those against nuclear testing, reaffirms the disarmament norm, rejects the nuclear deterrence norm, and articulates a new universal norm against possession.
Critics allege that another landmark agreement in history was the war-renouncing Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928 that proved utterly ineffectual. True, but there is one critical difference. That pact was entirely voluntary, whereas the ban treaty is legally binding — that is the whole point of the treaty. Once in force, it will become the new institutional reality, part of the legal architecture for disarmament.