NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch: SpaceX just tested the starship they say will take us to Mars

On Monday, SpaceX conducted a short test flight of a full sized prototype of the Starship they say will soon ferry Americans to Mars.

The Starship SN5 Test Vehicle flew for only about 40 seconds on Monday evening before touching back down to earth at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Short as the Starship’s little hop may have been, it was a significant leap toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s goal of mounting crewed missions to Mars.


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The SN5 Starship prototype isn’t the first iteration of the Starship to reach take off. Last year, a smaller prototype vehicle called the Starhopper completed a handful of short flights, reaching as high as 500 feet on one launch before returning to the ground. While these short trips may not seem significant, they actually represent two of the most challenging parts of a any space mission: the take off, and the return to earth.

Starship SN5 150m Hop

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The Starship mirrors the landing capability of SpaceX’s smaller and proven Falcon 9 rockets. The ability to land and re-use rocket stages has dramatically reduced the cost of orbital missions. The ship will eventually utilize an entire Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in service anywhere on earth today, as it’s first stage. The Falcon Heavy utilizes 31 individual Falcon 9 rockets for propulsion and boasts similar reusability.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

SpaceX Falcon Heavy during launch (SpaceX)

The SpaceX Starship prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine, but will eventually be equipped with six of the advanced rocket engines, which in conjunction with its powerful first stage, will give the ship a total crew capacity of up to 100 people.

The combination of the Falcon Heavy with the Starship will make SpaceX’s massive rocket entirely reusable, dramatically reducing the costs associated with long-duration space missions to the Moon or Mars. Importantly, the Falcon Heavy is the only rocket currently capable of making the long trip into lunar orbit with a crew onboard.

SpaceX is currently a strong contender for America’s upcoming moon plans to place astronauts on the Lunar surface by the mid-2020s. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a flight around the moon aboard Musk’s Starship slated for 2023.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia is now buying modern long-range bombers

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Jan. 25 that modernized strategic bombers will boost Russia’s military power.


Speaking on a visit to an aircraft-making plant in Kazan, Putin said the revamped version of the Soviet-designed Tu-160 bomber features new engines and avionics that would significantly enhance its capability.

The Russian leader attended the signing of a 160-billion-ruble (about $2.9 billion) contract that will see the delivery of 10 such planes to the Russian air force.

He said the upgraded bomber is a “serious step in the development of high-tech industries and strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities.”

Also Read: This is the Russian version of the B-1 Lancer

The four-engine supersonic bomber developed in the 1980s is the largest combat plane in the world. During Russia’s campaign in Syria, the military used the Tu-160s to launch log-range cruise missiles at militant targets.

Putin also suggested that the plant develop a supersonic passenger jet based on the Tu-160, saying that Russia’s vast territory would warrant such a design.

The state-controlled United Aircraft Corp. said in a statement carried by Tass news agency that preliminary work has started on designing such a plane.

The Soviet-designed Tu-144 supersonic passenger jet that rivaled the British-French Concorde saw only a brief service with Aeroflot after Soviet officials decided it was too costly to operate. Concorde entered service in 1976 and operated for 27 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The military origins of the necktie

“Nothing sexier than a man in a fine cravat,” the beautiful and mysterious woman said flirtatiously.

“Except for a woman who appreciates a fine cravat,” Barney Stinson responded confidently.


“How about we just call it a tie?” The woman joked. The two laughed and the 17th episode of season 5 of How I Met Your Mother continued. But what is a cravat, why is it called that, and why is it the same thing as a tie? For that answer, we have to go back to the 17th century and a hired boost in military power.
NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The Croatian Cravat Regiment parades through Zagreb wearing their traditional uniform (Croatia Times)

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 primarily in Central Europe. France entered the war in 1635 and, in order to augment his own forces, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries from the Croatian Military Frontier to fight for him. These mercenaries wore traditional knotted neckerchiefs which tied the tops of their jackets. Although they were designed to be purely functional, the ties had a decorative effect that piqued the interest of the ever fashion-conscious Parisians. In fact, the Croatian neckties caught the attention of the king who found them rather appealing. He liked the garment so much that he made the ties a mandatory accessory for royal gatherings. In honor of the Croats who introduced the ties, he named the garment “la cravate”—derived from the French word Croates meaning Croats.

Following the introduction of the tie and the death of King Louis XIII, the boy-king Louis XIV began to wear a lace cravat around 1646 at the age of seven. This set the fashion trend for French nobility who quickly donned lace cravats as well. These lace cravats, or jabots, were tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly with great time and effort, and tied in a bow. Soon, the trend spread across Europe like wildfire and both men and women were wearing fabric neck pieces as a sign of wealth and status.

In the 18th century, the cravat evolved to include the Steinkirk, a type of cravat designed to be worn in deliberate disarray. Yet again, this fashion trend evolved from the military as a result of the Nine Years’ War. According to Voltaire, the fashion trend originated at the Battle of Steenkerque where the French were attacked by surprise forcing the French gentlemen to hurriedly don their cravats and wear them in disarray throughout the fight.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Photo portrait of William Tecumseh Sherman c. 1864 (Matthew Brady—Public Domain)

The 18th century saw another evolution of neckwear with the introduction of stocks in 1715. Stock ties were worn as everyday apparel throughout the 18th and 19th century, but became a more formal garment in the later 19th century. They are still worn today by equestrians, especially in dressage where the ties are often mandatory and required to be white. The term originally applied to a leather collar, laced at the back, and worn by soldiers to promote holding their heads high in a military manner. Leather stocks also served a practical battlefield purpose; the layer of leather around the neck afforded some protection against saber or bayonet strikes. The leather stock saw continued use into the 19th century and gave the United States Marines their nickname of “Leathernecks”. The modern Marine dress uniform pays homage to leather stocks with its stiff standing collar. General William T. Sherman is also seen wearing a leather stock along with his necktie in many of his Civil War-era photographs.

The industrial revolution saw the demand for neckwear that was easier to put on, more comfortable, and could last an entire work day without needing to be readjusted. This demand was met with the traditional long necktie that we are familiar with today. Neckwear has come a long way from King Louis XIII’s adoption of the cravat and its evolution and constant influence by the military is a bit of sartorial history that we can still see today.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force’s massive expansion could be aimed at China and Russia

The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.

The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.

In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.


While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.

The US Navy has announced similar plans to grow its fleet size by nearly a third and shift tactics to better challenge Russia and China.

But now the Air Force plans to grow in all directions at once, with more space, cyberwarfare, logistical support, drones, tankers, and combat aviation all at once.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(US Air Force / Twitter)

What the Air Force wants

This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.

For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.

In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.

The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.

Additionally, the move would require the Air Force to bring on about 40,000 new people at a time when the force has a near crippling problem with retaining top talent.

“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(China Defense Blog)

Growing China threat

Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.

The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.

China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USARMY on Twitter.

Articles

A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft see first action in Afghanistan

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
An A-29 Super Tucano taxis across the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan. The light air-support aircraft will be added to the Afghan air force in the spring of 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Nathan Lipscomb


A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft manned by Afghan pilots trained in the U.S. have conducted the first close air support missions by fixed-wing aircraft ever flown for the fledgling Afghan Air Force, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said Thursday.

“They are beginning to take their first strikes,” guided to targets by Afghan forward air controllers on the ground, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said in a video briefing from Kabul to the Pentagon.

Cleveland did not say where or when the first A-29 strikes took place or describe the effectiveness of the missions, but U.S. and Afghan officials previously had said that combat missions by the turboprop aircraft were expected to begin in April.

Four of the A-29s arrived in Afghanistan in January and another four have since flown in to a military airfield near Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul, according to Cleveland, the new deputy chief of staff for communications for the U.S. and NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

A U.S.-funded $427 million contract calls for a total of 20 A-29s to be delivered to Afghanistan by 2018.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed training late last year on the A-29s with U.S. pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The A-29s, which were designed for close air support, carry a 20mm cannon below the fuselage, one 12.7mm machine gun under each wing and can also fire 70mm rockets and launch precision-guided bombs.

The A-29s began arriving in Afghanistan nearly five years after the Brazilian firm Embraer, and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corp., won a Light Air Support competition with the A-29 against the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II, leading to contract disputes and delays in the program.

Last month, the A-29s working with Afghan tactical air controllers conducted live-fire training exercises outside Kabul. At a following ceremony called the “Rebirth of the Afghan Air Force,” Maj. Gen. Wahab Wardak, commander of the Afghan Air Force, said he expected the A-29s to begin conducting airstrikes in April.

Although Cleveland did not say where the first A-29 strikes were carried out, Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai said last month that the aircraft would likely be used first in southwestern Helmand province, where the Afghan National Security Forces have been struggling to contain the Taliban in the region that is the center of Afghanistan’s opium trade.

“Helmand is not a rosy picture now,” said Cleveland.

Even so, he contradicted news reports that the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, former headquarters of British forces in the region, was about to fall. In February, 500 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division were sent to Helmand as force protection for U.S. Special Operations troops advising and assisting the Afghans.

Cleveland said that the Afghan forces, backed by nearly daily U.S. airstrikes, were making progress against newly-emergent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, allied Afghan insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province.

“We do think that they are being contained more than they probably were last fall,” he said, but “we do think that they still pose a real threat. And based on their past performance, they’ve got the ability to catch fire very quickly. So we do want to continue to have constant pressure on them.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army Chief learned about Pearl Harbor in 14 words

December 7, 1941, is a day which lives in infamy. But it dawned normally at 7:13 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t begin until the afternoon in Washington. For leaders like Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, the expectation would have been that it would be another tense day of preparing for war, at least until a single note was presented to him.


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Then-Lt. Col. George C. Marshall in World War I.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

Marshall had spent years growing as an Army officer before he was tapped in 1939 to become the chief of staff. By that time, he had 37 years of experience in the military and had served in the mud of the Philippine-American War and of France in World War I, rising to colonel and serving as the chief of staff to then-chief of staff Gen. John J. Pershing.

After World War I, he led a number of units before taking over the Army as a whole, and he was experienced in making do with short spending. But it was probably by late 1939 that the growing regional wars would become a world war. (In an odd twist of history, Marshall’s first day as chief of staff was September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland.)

And so Marshall oversaw a large increase in military spending and re-armament. His role included deciding where the most direly needed equipment would be sent. And Marshall believed Oahu was nearly impregnable. So while he promised certain new weapons and reinforcements to Lt. Gen. Walter Short at Pearl Harbor, he also took back heavy bombers and other assets that he moved to places like the Philippines.

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Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in 1944.

(U.S. Army Military History Institute)

Marshall was the only high official eligible to see “Magic” intercepts who was not alerted on the night of December 6 that Japan was going to reject a U.S. proposal that Japan withdraw its troops from China and Indochina. And so he didn’t know until he entered his office at 11:25, after his morning horseback ride, how closely America had come to an active war. He immediately ordered that the intelligence be passed to commanders in the field.

Even though the president, secretaries of State, Navy, and War, and the chiefs of Army and Navy war plans and Chief of Naval Operations had all known for hours about the building intelligence signaling war, Marshall was the first one to order the likelihood of war be briefed to the commanders in the trenches. Unfortunately, transmitting that intelligence would take over 8 hours, and Short wouldn’t receive it until seven hours after the attack began.

So when the day dawned on December 7, Marshall was likely hoping that he could keep shifting resources to where he thought they were needed most, that he had a little more time to reinforce and improve positions across the Atlantic and Pacific. By noon, he knew he was likely out of time and that December 7 would be the day.

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A digital scan of the actual note given to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall.

(U.S. Army War College)

Within hours, he would receive a message. It was not addressed to him, though most papers destined for the chief of staff’s desk were laboriously drafted and then addressed to him. It was not typewritten or printed. It wasn’t even written with particularly good handwriting.

But it likely made Marshall’s blood run cold. In just 14 words, it confirmed that the suspected attack was underway.

To all ships Hawaiian area
Air raid on PH
This is no drill.
Urgent

Marshall would learn over the following weeks that over 2,300 Americans had died. He likely second-guessed some of his own decisions about Pearl Harbor after the stunning losses there, though it’s unclear that any of the assets he removed from the island base would have made a difference.

(One of the biggest redeployments from Pearl was nine heavy bombers which, if they had survived the attack, would have been used in the hunt for the Japanese fleet and vengeance on December 7, but American hunters had almost no idea where the Japanese carriers were.)

The air raid pulled America firmly into World War II, awakening the “Sleeping Giant.” America would chase Japanese forces all the way back across the Pacific and would pummel the island nation’s allies in Europe.

Articles

6 countries who are friends with North Korea

Under the rule of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been a real jerk on the international scene — like, even more than usual. In fact, not too many countries are willing to be friends with North Korea. But there are some countries who are willing to stand by them. Surprisingly, that total reaches six.


Here’s who they are:

1. Russia

This really comes as no surprise. After all, in 1948, the Soviet Union helped put Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, into power. During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew missions in support of North Korea and helped with the country’s flight training. Russia also exported a lot of gear to Pyongyang, including MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.

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Russian fighter. (Photo via Public Domain)

2. China

Again, no surprise, given that during the Korean War, Chinese troops intervened on the side of North Korea. China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and the two countries share a 900-mile long border.

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Photo: Xinhuanet

3. Iran

This relationship could be surprising, except for the fact that Iran wants to buy a lot of weapons. In fact, Iran has purchased mini-submarines and ballistic missiles from the Hermit Kingdom, and a “scientific” alliance (read: nuclear weapons development) is also going on.

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Iranian soldiers on parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Syria

If there is a dictator who would challenge Kim Jong Un for most hated, it is Syria’s Bashir Assad. Like Iran, Syria sees North Korea as a source of weapons.

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Hmeymim airfield in Syria. (Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense)

5. Cuba

Cuba remains one of the few communist regimes in the world. North Korea, also a holdout communist regime, is reaching out to its fellow client of the Soviet Union.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Fidel Castro became a close friend of the Soviet Union, something JFK tried to stop with the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Keizers)

6. Equatorial Guinea

According to many measures, Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights record. North Korea has reportedly been reaching out to its fellow pariah.

Check out this video rundown on the the countries that are North Korea’s only friends:

Articles

This is why Toys for Tots is so important to the Corps

When you think of men and women in uniform during the holiday season, it’s often a soldier in red from America’s Salvation Army ringing a bell in a call for aid to those in need.


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Lance Cpl. Gentres Anderson, from Pensacola, Florida, and Sgt. Sheldon Curry, from Montgomery, Alabama, help bring toys to the donation bins for the Marines’ Toys for Tots Program in Montgomery, Alabama, Dec. 13, 2014. (Photo U.S. Marine Corps)

But another service working to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate has been at it for nearly 70 years, working day and night to solicit and distribute donated toys for young kids who may not have the benefit of a joyful holiday.

The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program was established in 1947 by then-California Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and was formally adopted by the Marine Corps a year later.

Officially run by Marine reservists and with help from their Navy brethren, in the years since its founding, Leathernecks have been collecting donations and distributing toys to deserving children throughout the country.

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Boxes of toys stand filled to the top with donations for the Toys for Tots Program in Montgomery, Alabama, during the Marines’ toy drive Dec. 13, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In 2015, Marines distributed 18 million toys to 7 million kids in 782 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And Toys for Tots has become as much a Marine Corps tradition as its legendary warfighting capability.

To get a sense of the importance of the program to the Corps, take a look at the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsdjGbLE32E
Articles

The RAF’s ‘Mach Loop’ turns intense fighter training into a spectator sport

If you’ve ever wanted to get an up close and personal view of fighter planes in training, but just never had the math scores to get into the cockpit, don’t lose hope. There is a magical place in Wales where the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots conduct low-level flight training – and you can grab your camera and watch them fly on by.


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A C-130 in the Mach Loop (photo by Peng Chen)

The Machynlleth Loop, more popularly known as the Mach Loop, is a series of valleys in Wales between the towns of Dolgellau to the north and Machynlleth to the south. The area is well known among plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts as the place to so closely watch the RAF and its allies conduct maneuvers.

The Mach Loop is part of the British Ministry of Defence’s Tactical Training Low Flying Area and the pilots know there are troves of photographers watching the loop at all hours of the day… and they know exactly what the cameras want to see.

The RAF will fly Panavia Tornado fighters, as well as Eurofighter Typhoons and BAE’s Hawk Trainers through the Mach Loop, while the U.S. Air Force will fly F-15E Strike Eagles, F-22 Raptors, and even C-130J Super Hercules turboprop cargo planes.

The HD video shot from inside the cockpit of a Typhoon is also an incredible sight, especially for those of us who may never get to ride in a fighter, especially during a low-level flight exercise.
The ability to fly so close to the ground is an asset to a pilot’s skill set for many reasons. Non-stealth aircraft can fly low to the ground to penetrate enemy airspace, hit a target, and return to base. Flying so close to ground level can also allow pilots to escape from dangerous situations and surprise enemy aircraft. This is especially important, given how fighters perform against helicopters in combat.

Related: Air Force fighters got wasted by Army attack helos in this combat experiment

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
An F-15 Strike Eagle in the Mach Loop in Wales (photo by Peng Chen)

Smaller fighters can fly as low as 100 feet off the ground, while larger planes, like cargo aircraft, can bottom out at 150 feet. If there’s an aspiring photographer out there who wants to fill their portfolio with amazing military aviation photos, it’s time to hop a plane to Wales.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Clooney literally uses spy satellites to keep tabs on warlords

In 2010, after a trip to South Sudan, George Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a revelation: they could monitor warlord activity via satellite and take action to help save lives.

Within a year, they had launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which “combines commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis.”

Since 1956, military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated war-torn Sudan. Two civil wars mark the country’s recent history, and though South Sudan became independent in July 2011, Sudan and South Sudan remain in a conflict resulting in a humanitarian crisis that affects more than one million people.

Though violence between government forces has lessened, inter-tribal violence continues — which is where Clooney and his partners step in.


George Clooney Witnesses War Crimes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

www.youtube.com

WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.
Activist John Prendergast

youtu.be

In 2012, Clooney returned to South Sudan to meet with survivors, policy-makers, and militants.

“The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others’ forces and the rebels take over the oilfields,” wrote Clooney and Prendergast for The Daily Beast.

But Clooney maintains that there is an opportunity for the international community to help the South Sudanese leaders prevent Sudan from becoming the next Syria.

Which is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Enough Project gathers HUMINT (Human Intelligence) on the ground, provides field reports and policy analysis, and coordinates the communications strategy to sound the alarm.

Meanwhile, DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites capture imagery of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing for analytic support, identification of mass graves, evidence of forced displacement, and early warning against attacks.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is a clear example of how anyone can help get involved to help defend those who need it most.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Important lessons to learn from your Grandpa’s Army Manual

The U.S. Army manual has always taught its soldiers valuable skills beyond combat.


In addition to the tactical skills of patrolling and firing weapons, soldiers learn the importance of honor, loyalty, teamwork, and determination. In the years before the U.S. entered World War II, these life lessons would be ingrained in the “greatest generation” of America, with the War Department’s Soldier’s Handbook.

 US Air Force (USAF) STAFF Sergeant (SSGT) Adaly Lightsey, Aviation Resource Management, reviews the Flight Manuals Checklist
US Air Force (USAF) Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Adaly Lightsey, Aviation Resource Management, reviews the Flight Manuals Checklist for Aircrew Aids in the Operations Office. Military manuals are still alive and well, but the content has shifted.

Pete Wayner writes of this book at Bespoke Post, which he found among his grandfather’s things. It’s a look back into the wartime era, offering interesting insight into the patriotism and sense of duty that helped soldiers carry out their duty.

“It is upon you, and the many thousands of your comrades now in the military service, that our country has placed its confident faith that this defense will succeed should it ever be challenged,” reads the first paragraph of the manual, which is FM 21-100.

It goes on to teach obedience and loyalty. The manual tells soldiers to remain alert and “always on your guard.” It encourages teamwork and determination, defining it as, “the bulldog stick-to-it-iveness to win at all costs.”

Wayner writes:

“Keep everlastingly,” it says. Whether you’re trying to get in shape, found a startup, or figure out a way to travel the world, do it. Stop doubting, stop wasting time, and stop making excuses.

If it’s a worthwhile goal, you’ve got to find a way to make it work. I love that phrase and its bulldog stick-to-it-iveness. (Gotta give those 1940s Army writers credit for not letting dictionaries get in the way of making a point.)

You can check out a copy of the manual here, or just look at the best excerpts of the 40s army manual highlighted by Wayner at Bespoke Post.

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