Black Friday is upon us once again. You know what this means, right? Time to break out that old Army Riot Control Training to help you navigate the malls.
What’s that? You think I’m being hyperbolic? If you remove all mentions of weaponry, it’s still fairly consistent. Avoid major hubs of civil unrest at all costs. Ensure your unit never breaks eye contact with each other. Don’t engage if taunted by locals as it’ll escalate the situation further. Utilize “Hearts and Minds” with non-participants caught in the chaos, in this case retail clerks, in an effort to more easily achieve your stated goal. You know, basic stuff that most troops should know.
And there’s even a bit in FM 3-19.15 about using video recordings to prove that you were in the right if a situation escalates. All I’m saying is remember to hold your phone horizontally if someone tries to pick a fight over that Baby Yoda doll, which is what we all truly want for Christmas this year.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Freedom Hard)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Not CID)
I had a guy in my company get into some dumb sh*t Off-post and was arrested on a Sunday night. Didn’t inform anyone in the unit until early Monday morning until right before PT. First Sergeant, who was typically very hands-on with PT, had to zonk all of us to go handle that dude along with his platoon sergeant.
Come to find out in the smoke pit later, he knew he was in deep sh*t no matter what happened. So he waited until the last second to also try to use his time in lock-up to get out of PT. It worked. It worked so well we all got PT off.
He was normally a complete ate-up piece of hot garbage and no one could stand his ass, but for one glorious moment… He was a true hero.
The defence supremos of the U.S. and China had a face-off in Singapore at the weekend.
Both sides came for a compare-and-contrast contest conducted as a rhetorical rumble. The two biggest players in the game exchanged stares, plus plenty of jabs and a few kicks. The handshakes were less convincing than the glares.
The event was the 18th annual Shangri-La Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, drawing defence ministers and military chiefs from ’38 countries across Asia, Australia, North America and Europe’.
In the opening keynote address, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the most important bilateral relationship in the world is beset by ‘tensions and frictions’ that’ll define the international environment for years to come.
Americans now talk openly of containing China, and to do so soon before it is too late — the way they used to talk about the USSR and the Soviet bloc. This negative view of China has permeated the U.S. establishment … In China, views are hardening too. There are those who see the U.S. as trying to thwart China’s legitimate ambitions, convinced that no matter what they do or concede on individual issues, the U.S. will never be satisfied … The fundamental problem between the U.S. and China is a mutual lack of strategic trust. This bodes ill for any compromise or peaceful accommodation.
So the stage was set for the showdown that framed the conference. As is traditional, the first session on June 1, 2019, was devoted to a speech by the U.S. defence secretary and questions from the audience.
Then came the novelty. The first session on June 2, 2019, was a mirror version, devoted to a speech by China’s defence minister, followed by questions. It’s only the second time China’s minister has come to Shangri-La. The previous visit was in 2011; that seems like an era long ago in calmer, happier times.
The U.S. acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, laid out the charge sheet against China and the terms of the U.S. challenge in the workmanlike manner to be expected from an engineer who spent 30 years at Boeing.
China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, performed with the discipline of an artillery officer who joined the People’s Liberation Army at 16 and has risen to the Central Military Commission (a salute at the end of his speech, another at the end of questions). The PLA came ready to rumble, sending a delegation of 54 people, including 11 generals.
One of the best moments in Shanahan’s performance was his response to the final question of his session (posed by a Chinese major general) about how his Boeing experience would shape his Pentagon role.
‘China was our biggest customer and our biggest competitor; you have to understand how to live in that duality’, Shanahan replied. ‘We can develop a constructive relationship and we can understand how to compete in a constructive way.’
The duality dynamic was illustrated by a bit of simultaneous dual theatre from the Americans. As Shanahan rose to speak, the U.S. also released its Indo-Pacific strategy report.
The report reprised and amplified America’s critique of China as a revisionist power: ‘As China continues its economic and military ascendance, it seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately global preeminence in the long-term.’ (The Russia headline was as sharp, calling Russia ‘a revitalized malign actor’.)
In response, Wei described security issues as ‘daunting and complex’ but said military relations with the U.S. were ‘generally stable, despite twists and difficulties’.
Chinese defense minister criticizes U.S. on trade war, Taiwan
‘As for the recent trade friction started by the U.S., if the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we will fight till the end’, Wei said.
‘As the general public of China says these days, “A talk? Welcome. A fight? We’re ready. Bully us? No way”.’
The general’s speech was Beijing boilerplate. Then came questions and Wei tackled almost everything tossed at him — around 20 questions delivered in two tranches. About the only question he didn’t touch was one on whether China is still a communist state.
On the militarisation of the South China Sea, Wei used the same line several times. China was merely responding to all those foreign naval vessels: ‘In the face of heavily armed warships and military aircraft, how can we not deploy any defence facilities?’
To a question about ‘concentration camps’ in Xinjiang (see ASPI’s mapping of the ‘re-education camps’), Wei replied that there’d been no terrorist attacks there in two years and China’s policy was to deradicalise and reintegrate people.
On this year’s 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Wei answered: ‘How can we say China didn’t handle the Tiananmen incident properly? That incident was political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy. Because of that handling of the Chinese government, China has enjoyed stability and development.’
The result of the face-off? It was, of course, inconclusive. Not a draw. Just one round in a contest with many more rounds to come.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the COVID 19 virus, is postponing Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice.
As a commemorative partner to the Department of Defense led 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration program, hundreds of events were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance on March 29.
VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.
On Dec. 9, 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the floor of the Senate to ask her colleagues for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 299, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
The act, which passed in the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote, would extend Veterans Affairs benefits to veterans who served in warships off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to toxic Agent Orange.
If successful, Gillibrand’s request would have expedited the bill’s passage — but one senator, Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, objected, according to Stars Stripes.
“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” he said. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”
Leaking Agent Orange barrels circa 1973.
The VA has estimated that the bill would cost the bureau .5 million over the course of 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated it would cost a fraction of that amount — id=”listicle-2623193782″.1 million. Regardless of cost, some senators, backed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, view the bill as an obligation.
“If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded,” B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement.
Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans affairs committee, agreed.
“It is our obligation to meet the needs of the folks who have sacrificed for our country,” he said on the Senate floor.
Sens. Gillibrand and Tester held a press conference on Dec. 11, 2018, calling for more support for the struggling bill.
“Shame on the VA for trying to muddy the waters and say ‘but we don’t have enough money for these veterans,'” Gillibrand said in the press conference. “Is their sacrifice no less?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.
Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.
China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.
India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.
Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.
Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.
After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)
While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)
At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”
The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)
Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.
That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.
The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.
Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army Futures Command, or AFC, is developing wearable identity authentication and authorization technologies that will enable soldiers to securely access network-based capabilities while operating on the move in contested, threat-based environments.
Since 2001, the Common Access Card, or CAC, has served as the de facto, government-wide standard for network and system security access control. However, CAC cards are not operationally suited for use in every environment.
Moreover, the Army lacks a standard way for soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices, and applications on Army networks.
With this in mind, AFC’s major subordinate command, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is researching and developing authentication technologies that will provide soldiers with secure and simple ways to identify, authenticate and be authorized access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems, and handheld devices.
CCDC’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center is designing wearable identity tokens for soldiers to use to log on to mission command systems, networks and tactical platforms. The tokens are wireless, lightweight, flexible, and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.
Conceptually, soldiers wearing these tokens could simply approach a system to login, be recognized by that system, which would then prompt the soldier to enter a PIN or use a biometric as a second factor, and be automatically logged out when they walk out of the system’s range.
The CCDC C5ISR Center is developing wearable authentication tokens that will enable soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices and applications on the Army tactical network.
(Photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
“The Army is driving towards a simpler and intuitive tactical network, so we’re aligning our Science and Technology resources to explore the challenges associated with this mission space, inform senior decision makers of the lessons learned and deliver capabilities that support Army Modernization and address the soldier’s needs — now and in the future,” said Brian Dempsey, Tactical Network Protection chief for the C5ISR Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, or STCD.
The wearable identity tokens combine the security of a public key-based credential — similar to the credential on the CAC — with cutting-edge advances in the commercial wireless payment industry and flexible hybrid electronics, explained Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management, or TIDAM, program.
“As part of the Army Futures Command, we’re looking to move at the speed of the information age. We want to be able to research, test, proof the concepts and integrate emerging IT capabilities from industry as they become available. There’s no point re-inventing the wheel,” Okwudishu said.
Under the current paradigm, tactical platforms would need to be retrofitted with specialized equipment in order to read new identity authentication technologies. Such deployments and retrofitting can be very costly. Wearable tokens, however, leverage already existing communication and protocol capabilities, Okwudishu pointed out.
“Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done,” said Okwudishu. “Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide a significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field.”
The tokens are lightweight, flexible and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.
(Photo by Douglas Scott)
Since beginning the TIDAM program in 2017, the C5ISR Center has worked closely with soldiers and Program Executive Offices, or PEOs, soldier and Command, Control Communications-Tactical, or C3T, to validate, demonstrate and mature the technology.
The center’s STCD is working with Project Manager Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, to finalize a transition agreement with PEO soldier for wearable authenticator infrastructure technologies. In the meantime, the directorate is developing a wearable authenticator software provisioner that will enable the secure placement of credentials on the wearable tokens and the ability to do this “locally” at the brigade level and below.
STCD is also working from a roadmap it jointly developed with PEO soldier to integrate the capability with various systems from PEO soldier and PEO C3T. Currently, the goal for fielding the tokens is in FY 22.
“I think this is a really great idea,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, senior enlisted advisor for the C5ISR Center. “Nobody has done anything like this yet. If done properly, it will make the authentication process a lot easier and a lot faster. More important, it provides more reciprocity at the tactical level for log-ins, so you can track what people are doing on the network.”
Defense officials at the highest levels of South Korea’s government told Yonhap News on Wednesday that the US would deploy “strategic assets” to the peninsula amid tensions with North Korea.
“The US has pledged to expand the rotational deployment of its strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula,” Chung Eui-young, the chief of the National Security Office said according to Yonhap.
While “strategic assets” can refer to nuclear weapons, it can also mean nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, or stealth aircraft. Chung said the deployment could happen as early as the end of 2017.
Another South Korean publication, Chosun, reported on Tuesday that a government source said the US may send an aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and the world’s stealthiest and most lethal combat plane, the F-22 Raptor.
The talk of increased US firepower in South Korea comes after North Korea interpreted some of President Donald Trump’s tweets as a declaration of war, and announced it would try to shoot down US bombers flying anywhere near its airspace.
As it stands, the US has B-1B Lancer bombers stationed in Guam that frequently respond to North Korean missile or nuclear tests by doing flybys near its borders accompanied by advanced US, Japanese, or South Korean jets.
But the B-1B isn’t nuclear capable, nor is it stealth. The B-2, however, has both.
Although the US already has F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft stationed nearby in Japan, placing them on the Korean Peninsula could spur further escalation of an already-tense situation.
The B-2 can carry 16 nuclear warheads as well as massive ordnance penetrators — bunker-busting bombs that would be the US’s best bet for hunting North Korea’s leadership as they hide in underground caves.
NK News recently reported that the US had to tell North Korea about the last flight of the B-1 near its borders, because Pyongyang couldn’t really track the supersonic bomber jet. If North Korea struggled with the non-stealth B-1, then it has little hope of spotting a B-2 and virtually no chance of spotting the F-22 on its radar screens.
Still, the move could backfire and destabilize the situation in North Korea, as the US’ asymmetrical advantage over North Korea’s aging forces could cause an uneasy Kim Jong Un to think he has no choice but to strike first.
“Often times when we think we’re sending very clear signals, we can’t be sure they’re being interpreted that way,” Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute, told Business Insider of the US’s attempts to show its strength towards North Korea.
“In South Korea they’ve talked about trying to scare North Korea into changing their behavior,” Town said, referring to the deployment of US military assets to South Korea. But, “the way they change their behavior is not necessarily the way we want them to.”
The Marine Corps wants better enlisted leaders — and it’s on the hunt for a diagnostic tool that can help find them.
In October, the service published a request for information regarding an emotional intelligence test that can identify “career Marines who may develop into ineffective or counterproductive leaders.”
Officials said the Corps plans to use such a tool during a study period of at least five years, beginning in June 2018, to determine if it can help the service root out problem leaders.
“In his ‘Message to the Force 2017,’ [Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] stated that maintaining a force of the highest quality is one of his key areas of focus,” Col. Rudy Janiczek, head of enlisted assignments at the Marine Corps’ Manpower Management Division, told Military.com in a statement.
“This effort will assist [Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs] in determining the metric for how we recognize, promote and retain those who are the most competent, mature and capable leaders,” he said.
The web-accessible test the Corps wants would be administered upon a Marine’s first re-enlistment, when he or she begins to assume more significant leadership roles, Janiczek said.
According to the contracting document, the service wants 3,600 emotional intelligence tests, sufficient for the fiscal 2018 re-enlistment period. The contractor selected to provide the tests will produce 300 full reports on a sampling of test participants so that Marine officials can study the data and assess its value.
The idea to implement an emotional intelligence test didn’t begin with the Corps, said Dr. Eric Charles, section head for Testing Control at the Manpower Plans and Policy Division. In a statement, he said other federal entities, including Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, had already implemented similar measures.
“Before we planned this effort, we reviewed lessons learned in those efforts, with a focus on what has been successful in other military, paramilitary, and law-enforcement contexts,” Charles said.
“Despite the impressive effort of such work, we are not willing to take any of that success as a guarantee that such efforts will work in the Marine Corps,” he said. “That is why we have chosen to pursue our own internal studies, rather than risking a premature leap to operational usage.”
The assessment period of at least five years means no currently serving Marine will face career repercussions as a result of taking the test upon re-enlistment, officials said.
Data in the study period won’t be used for assignment or promotion purposes. But, a Marine Corps manpower official said, if the effort is successful and the test is adopted as part of the leadership screening process, the data may be used to “better align people and positions to ensure the greatest opportunities for success.”
Timing — ensuring a Marine gets the right job at the right point in his or her career — is also a focus, the official said.
While officials cited Neller’s goals for the force rather than any specific event, the announcement does come in the wake of a scandal involving multiple allegations of hazing by Marine Corps drill instructors at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Earlier this month, the drill instructor facing the most severe allegations of misconduct, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, was convicted of hazing three Muslim recruits and assaulting others during his year on the drill field. He was sentenced at general court-martial to 10 years’ confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
The Corps is planning a “methodical and deliberate approach” in studying the possibility of using a tool like a toxic leadership test, officials said.
No operational changes are planned ahead of data collection.
The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile according to state sponsored media outlets.
The missile, supposedly named Kh-47M2 and referred to as the “Kinzhal,” was fired from a modified MiG-31BM (NATO reporting name “Foxhound”) over Southwest Russia. A report published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the “unique” MiG-31 that fired the missile had been “modernized.” Rogozin did not specify what modifications or “modernized” meant.
In video and still photos, portions of the weapon seen in the test launch are obscured by imaging software, presumably for security purposes.
The official news release from the Russian Aerospace Forces read in part, “MiG-31 jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a test launch of hypersonic aviation and missile system Kinzhal in a set district. The launch was successful, the hypersonic missile hit the designated target at the field.”
Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. Observers of Russian missile programs have voiced skepticism about Russia’ performance claims, however. According to Russians and reference sources, the Kinzhal missile has a top speed of Mach 10 and maintains some ability to maneuver throughout its performance envelope, including at hypersonic speed. If accurate, these capabilities could make the Kinzhal difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). This, added to the reported 1,860-mile unrefueled range of the MiG-31BM long range, supersonic interceptor, gives the Kinzhal potentially intercontinental strike capability. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground as well as naval targets.
Writer and analyst Kelsey T. Atherton wrote in Popular Mechanics, “Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile” back in June 2017 when discussing Russia’s Zircon missile, a sea launched hypersonic missile. The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway compared the new Kinzhal with Russia’s existing Iskander short-range ballistic missile in his analysis.
This first Russian Kinzhal test comes several months after the Indian Brahmos-A hypersonic missile test from November 22, 2017. The reported performance of the Indian Brahmos was a top speed of Mach 7 and a range of 290 kilometers. The Indian hypersonic missile was launched from a modified Sukhoi Su-30MKI. The Indian hypersonic missile project was completed in close cooperation with the Russians.
Hypersonic cruise missiles have the capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of most current surveillance and anti-missile systems because of their speed (and, in the case of this new Kinzhal, claimed capability to maneuver). The choice of the aging MiG-31, that would probably launch the Kinzhal from +60,000 feet at supersonic speed, is aimed at giving the tactical ballistic missile much more reach than it would have if launched from the ground: indeed, during the Cold War, the long-range high-altitude interceptor was supposed to be used as launch platform for anti-satellite weapons that could destroy targets in near space. Able to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, not only was the MiG-31BM expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; it was also intended to be used as a “cruise missile interceptor”: the Foxhounds have been involved in tests to intercept cruise missiles, previously Kh-55 and more recently Kh-101, for years.
While the Kinzhal appears to be an air-to-ground missile, the pairing of this nuclear-capable, hypersonic missile recalls the much older AIR-2 Genie nuclear-armed, air-to-air missile with a 1.5 kiloton warhead. The AIR-2 Genie and earlier versions of the same missile were deployed by the U.S. Air Force from 1957-1962.
In remarks from an earlier state of the nation address at the beginning of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin told media that the Kinzhal has been “operational” prior to this test launch. Russian media also said there had been “250 test flights” to validate the operational status of the Kinzhal prior to this test launch. There was no mention if the missile or any more of the modified MiG-31s are operationally deployed yet.
According to defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, six MiG-31BM interceptors have already been turned into launch platforms and they are based at Akhtubinsk:
By the end of 2018, #RuAF#Russia|n Air Force will form an Aviation Squadron with 10-12 MiG-31BMs especially modified for carrying the Dragger Hypersonic Missile in one of its Fighter Regiments. For now six MiG-31BMs are modified to carry the missile. They are now in Akhtubinsk. https://t.co/KKsex2FCKj
In contrast with the Russian claims, while traveling to Oman, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that nothing Russia demonstrated changed the Pentagon’s perspective.
“I saw no change to the Russian military capability and each of these systems that he’s talking about are still years away, I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrence posture.” Indeed, the missile seems to fuel the propaganda machine more than it actually changes the strategic balance. However, it’s a development worth following, especially if we consider the maritime strike capability that an air-launched ballistic anti-ship missile brings in the game.
Russia’s firing of the Kinzhal joins not only the Indian hypersonic missile tests from last year but also the Chinese DF-17 hypersonic glide missile tests and the U.S. tests of hypersonics being conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
Remember your initial indoc school to the military? I do: It was hot and heavy, and not in a good way, like at a rave or water park. You were asked in a short period of time to learn the entire guiding doctrine of your service of choice, so much so that you could easily fold into the operational forces upon completion of the school.
That is no small task.
How was this accomplished? We weren’t given textbooks and told to read. We weren’t even put into classes and told to take notes. Nope.
I’m just walking bro, no need to yell.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship/Released)
We were taken under the wing of professionals who have already lived and breathed that which we were about to undertake.
I fully understand that that is a rose-colored-glasses approach toward the DI, MTI, RDC, or Drill Sergeant that you still have nightmares about. Hear me out though: an argument can be made that an instructor, who I’ll affectionately refer to as a “coach” from now on, is the one thing standing between you and your personal and professional goals.
He wants you to hate him. It’s his coaching style.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)
The body of literature on the topic of coaching is dense and complicated, but suffice it to say that the question is not if a coach is effective. It’s how can coaches be most effective.
Two of the main factors discussed are attitude and control.
The attitude evoked by the person who is teaching you dictates how well you perform. You and your coach need to be on the same page. In your basic training, your “coach” did this whether you realized it or not. It was most likely in an “us vs. them” approach. Meaning your instructor made you want to prove him or her wrong. The dirty secret is that they wanted you to prove them wrong as well. #reversepsychology.
Control is simple. The person learning needs to have some sense of control over their outcome. In the beginning of your schoolhouse, undoubtedly you had little to no control. Over time, you were given choices and tasks that directly impacted whether or not you chose to be successful.
These are the fundamentals of great coaching in a high volume way.
Civilian life has its pitfalls too. Don’t wait until it feels like its too late.
The assumption of a coach is that you are going to get better, and faster than you would with no one helping. Eventually, you would have figured out the rules of the military well enough to “graduate” to the active forces, but it would not have been as cleanly or efficiently as it was with the guiding force of your instructor.
It’s quite common for former service members to decide they can do everything alone upon separation. That’s a mistake. We assume that we are now the commander of our own lives until we eventually hit a wall. Then we start looking for guidance.
Don’t wait for that moment.
Pro athletes know this truth. They can’t do it alone.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, find someone who has done it and learn from them. They will keep you from falling into all the typical pitfalls.
If you want to stay home and raise a family, read from the best and learn from your friends and family that have the types of children you want.
If you wanna get in killer shape, find someone who makes that happen for people.
Don’t waste your time.
You are always in the basic training of something.
Don’t spend more time on Parris Island getting eaten by sand fleas than necessary. Find and follow the coach that will lead you past your goal.
How would he know where to crawl if it wasn’t for explicit guidance?
(Photo by David Dismukes)
Tips for finding a keeper
For many service members, the whole reason they get out is because they are sick of other people telling them what to do.
Now you have the choice as to what type of person you want to get your guidance from. If you don’t like the volatile gunny with bad breath and a worse temper, you don’t need to work with him anymore. Here are five things to look for in your coach of choice for any endeavor you may have.
This kid knows what’s up. What’s his economy of force coach?
Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.
According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.
According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.
Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.
The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).
The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.
The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.