SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.
I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.
To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.
(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)
The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.
SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.
(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)
The Snow and the Cold
My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.
In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.
The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.
(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.
In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)
So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.
Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.
Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.
Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.
This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)
What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.
And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.
Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.
Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.
Prior to World War II, the rising chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, announced plans to make Germany into a motorized nation. This led to the adoption of the Volkswagen Beetle. But Hitler also ordered military versions of the vehicle developed, and these vehicles would go on to fill the same niche for the Reich that the Jeep served in America.
American Jeep Vs German Kubelwagen: Truck Face-Off | Combat Dealers
The road to the Kubelwagen began in the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. That was when Hitler called for a motorized Germany and then heard the plans for Ferdinand Porsche’s 25-horsepower vehicle with an air-cooled engine. Hitler demanded that it seat four and get good gas mileage, and they were off to the races.
It took a few years for Porsche to finalize the design and begin mass production under the newly formed Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Volkswagens company, soon shortened to Volkswagen.
But Hitler quickly rose from chancellor to Fuhrer, and his SS officers asked this new Volkswagen company if it could make a militarized version of its KdF Volkswagen in January 1938. The company fast-tracked the project, and the first prototypes came off the line in November.
A Type 82 Volkswagen Kubelwagen
The initial prototypes had some shortcomings in testing. They could not run at walking speed due to their gearing, and they had insufficient ground clearance as well as a less-than-robust suspension. All of these problems were quickly ironed out, though. By the time the Type 82 version, the vehicle’s second iteration, went into production in 1940, it was a capable machine well-liked by the troops.
It was fuel efficient for the time, reliable, and could carry four soldiers and the lion’s share of their gear. It was not, by default, armored or armed, though. So it rarely acted as a front line troop carrier. Instead, it served in a logistics and support role, ferrying spare parts or other key supplies to where they were needed or getting key leaders into position to observe the enemy or their own troops.
So, you know, similar to the Jeep. But there were a number of traits that separated the two vehicles.
A Volkswagen Kubelwagen
(Staffan Vilcans, CC BY-SA 2.0)
For instance, the Kubelwagen had a 22.5 hp engine, much weaker than the Jeep’s 60 hp or even the civilian Volkswagen’s 25-hp engine. But the engine was air-cooled, which did make it a little less prone to breakdowns. And it had a wider and longer wheelbase than the Jeep as well as more storage space.
But the Kubelwagen wasn’t the only military version of the Volkswagen. A command vehicle, the Type 87 Kommandeurwagen, had 4-wheel drive and looked more like a Beetle. And the Type 166 Schwimmwagen was the most-produced amphibious car in history.
When Allied troops got their hands on any of these variants, the vehicles were generally met with grudging respect. So much so that Americans put together an English-language version of the manual to help other troops maintain their captured vehicles.
The U.S. Army is accelerating a number of emerging counter-drone weapons in response to a warzone request from U.S. Central Command — to counter a massive uptick in enemy small-drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Theater has asked for a solution, so we are looking at what we can apply as an interim solution,” Col. John Lanier Ward, Director Army Rapid Equipping Force, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
New electronic warfare weapons, next-generation sensors and interceptors, and cutting edge improved targeting technology for the .50-Cal machine gun to better enable it to target enemy drones with more precision and effectiveness — are all key approaches now being pursued.
Ward said the Army is fast-tracking improved “slue-to-cue” technology, new sensors, and emerging radar-based targeting technology to give the .50-Cal more precision accuracy.
“Targeting is getting better for the .50-Cal…everything from being able to detect, identify and engage precise targets such as enemy drones,” Ward added.
In service for decades, the .50-Cal has naturally been thought of as largely an area weapon able to lay down suppressive fire, enabling troops to manuever and blanketing enemy targets with rounds. The weapon, of course, still has this function, which could seek to eliminate attacking drones. At the same time, technical efforts are underway to make .50-Cal targeting more precise, such that it could shoot down swarms of quadcopters or other commercially avail mini-drones configured for attack.
Precision-guided weaponry, such as JDAMs from the air, have been operational for decades. GPS-guided land weapons, such as Excalibur 155m artillery rounds or the larger GMLRS, Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems, have been in combat since 2007 and 2008; engineering comparable guidance for smaller rounds, naturally, is a much more challenging task.
Non-Kinetic EW approaches have already been used effectively to jam signals of ISIS drones by the Army and Air Force; Ward explained that these tactics would be supplemented by emerging kinetic options as well.
Various technical efforts to engineer precision guidance for the .50-Cal have been in development for several years. In 2015, a DARPA program called Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) demonstrated self-steering bullets to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots. DARPA’s website, which includes a video of a live-fire demonstration of the technology, states that EXACTO rounds maneuver in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. “EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits,” DARPA.mil states. Laser range-finding technology is a key element of EXACTO in order to accommodate for fast-changing factors such as wind and target movement; since the speed of light is a known entity, and the time of travel of a round can also be determined, a computer algorithm can then determine the exact distance of a target and guide rounds precisely to a target.
(DARPAtv | YouTube)Elements of the fast-tracked counter-drone effort, with respect to forward base protection, involves collaboration between the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the service’s program of record Forward Operating Base protective weapon — Counter-Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM).
Also, according to an article in Jane’s Defence, Orbital ATK is developing a range of new advanced medium-calibre ammunition variants drawing upon EXACTO-like technology for use with its 30/40 mm calibre MK44 XM813 and 30 mm calibre lightweight XM914 Bushmaster Chain Guns.
From Janes Defence: “The EXACTO effort has resulted in a guided .50 calibre round – equipped with real-time optical sensors and aero-actuation controls – that improves sniping performance in long-range, day/night engagements. The EXACTO system combines a manoeuvrable bullet with a complementary laser designator-equipped fire-control system (FCS) to compensate for weather, wind, target movement, and other factors that can reduce accuracy.”
C-RAM FOB Protection
C-RAM is deployed at numerous Forward Operating Bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and the system has been credited with saving thousands of soldiers’ lives and is now being analyzed for upgrades and improvements.
C-RAM uses sensors, radar and fire-control technology alongside a vehicle or ground-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire. As an area weapon, the Phalanx then fires thousands of projectiles in rapid succession to knock the threat out of the sky.
Engineers with Northrop Grumman integrate the Raytheon-built Phalanx into the C-RAM system; C-RAM was first developed and deployed to defend Navy ships at sea, however a fast-emerging need to protect soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired the Army to quickly adapt the technology for use on land; C-RAM has been operational on the ground since 2005.
Northrop developers are assessing new optical sensors, passive sensors and lasers to widen the target envelope for the system such that it can destroy enemy drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles. Engineers are also looking at new interceptor missiles to compliment the Phalanx, Northrop developers said.
The basis for integrating emerging technologies is grounded in a technical effort to construct the system with “open architecture” and workable interfaces able to accommodate new sensors and weapons. This hinges on the use of common IP protocol standards engineered to facilitate interoperability between emerging technologies and existing systems.
“Regardless of what is used to defeat the threat, we are looking at changing the sensors as technology evolves. You can also integrate new weapons as technology changes. In the future, we plan to have weapons talk to the interceptor,” said Sean Walsh, C-RAM project management, Northrop.
The rationale for these potential upgrades and improvements is grounded in the recognition of a fast-changing global threat environment. Drone technology and drone-fired weapons, for instance, are proliferating around the globe at a rapid pace – therefore increasing the likelihood that potential adversaries will be able to surveil and attack forward operating bases with a wider range of air and ground weapons, including drones. Army base protections will need to identify a larger range of enemy attack weapons at further distances, requiring a broader base of defensive sensors and weaponry.
Adding new sensors and weapons to CRAM could bring nearer term improvements by upgrading an existing system currently deployed, therefore circumventing multi-year developmental efforts necessary for many acquisition programs.
“There is some work being done to add missiles to the system through an enterprise approach,” Walsh said.
U.S. Army Specialist James Finn, B Battery, 2nd Bn 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, loads rounds into a Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar system at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Ben Santos, U.S. Forces Afghanistan public affairs)
Lasers Missile Interceptors
Northrop’s plan to develop ground-fired laser technology is consistent with the Army’s current strategy to deploy laser weapons to protect Forward Operating Bases by the early 2020s.
Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.
Other interceptor weapons are now being developed for an emerging Army ground-based protective technology called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023, senior service leaders say.
Army weapons testers have already fired larger interceptors and destroyed drones with Hellfire missiles, AIM-9X Sidewinder weapons and an emerging kinetic energy interceptor called Miniature-Hit-to-Kill missile. The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and the AGM-114 Hellfire missile are typically fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily and air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.
Made by Lockheed Martin, the Miniature Hit-to-Kill interceptor is less than 2.5 feet in length and weighs about 5 pounds at launch. It is designed to be small in size while retaining the range and lethality desired in a counter-RAM solution. As a kinetic energy interceptor destroying targets through a high-speed collision without explosives, the weapon is able to greatly reduce collateral damage often caused by the blast-fragmentation from explosions.
Integrated Battle Command System
The Army has been testing many of these weapons using a Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML — a truck-mounted weapon used as part of Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2; the system uses a Northrop-developed command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.
IBCS uses a netted-group of integrated sensors and networking technologies to connect radar systems — such as the Sentinel — with fire-control for large interceptors such as Patriot Advanced Capability – 3 and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.”If I lay down my sensors, I can see any kind of attack coming from those origins to take kill vectors as far forward as possible. If an enemy has a cruise missile, I want to kill them over the top of the enemy,” said Kenneth Todorov, Director, Global Air and Missile Defense, Northrop Grumman.
With IBCS, sensors can be strategically placed around a given threat area or battlespace to optimize their detection capacity; IBCS is evolving more toward what Pentagon strategists called “multi-domain” warfare, meaning sensors from different services can interoperate with one another and pass along target information.
While some of the networking mechanisms are still being refined and developed, the idea is to enable ship-based Aegis radar to work in tandem with Air Force fighter jets and ground-based Army missile systems.
Synergy between nodes, using radio, LINK 16 data networks and GPS can greatly expedite multi-service coordination by passing along fast-developing threat information. IBCS, an Army program of record, uses computer-generated digital mapping to present an integrated combat picture showing threat trajectories, sensors, weapons and intercepts, Todorov explained.
C-RAM utilizes several kinds of radar, including an upgraded AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Radar which, operating at a 90-degree angle, emits electromagnetic pings into surrounding areas as far as 50-kilometers away. The radar technology then analyzes the return signal to determine the shape, size and speed of an attacking enemy round on its upward trajectory before it reaches it full height.
The AN/TPQ-37, engineered by ThalesRaytheon, has been completely redesigned, incorporating 12 modern air-cooled power amplifier modules, a high-power RF combiner and fully automated transmitter control unit, according to ThalesRaytheon information.
“Radar Processor Upgrade The new radar processor combines the latest VME-64x architecture and full high/low temperature performance with AN/TPQ-37 Operational and Maintenance software programs. Containing only three circuit cards, maintenance and provisioning are simplified while overall reliability and power consumption is improved,” ThalesRaytheon data explains.
Army “Red-Teams” Forward Operating Bases
Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Forward Operating Bases.
The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, senior Army leaders said.
The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.
“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.
This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or deployed.
Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies.
They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Army leaders explained.
Results from these exercises figure prominently in planning for weapons upgrades and modernization efforts such as the current C-RAM effort; technologies added to a weapons system can be tailored to address a specific vulnerability which could emerge as enemy weapons become more advanced.
Major Power War New Army Doctrine
Upgrades to C-RAM, along with development of emerging launchers and interceptors, are fundamental to a broader Army strategic equation aimed at engineering weapons and technologies able to succeed in major-power, force-on-force mechanized warfare against a near peer.
Forward bases will no longer need to defend only against insurgent-type mortar attacks but may likely operate in a much higher-threat environment involving long-range, precision-guided ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drone-fired weapons, among other things.
New sensors, laser weapons and more capable interceptors, such as those being explored by Northrop, are being evaluated for both near term and long-term threats.
The Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in what many Pentagon planners call contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyberattacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping.
The Army recently unveiled a new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China – able to substantially challenge U.S. military technological superiority.
It is intended as a supplement or adjustment to the Army’s current Field Manual, Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This field manual for operations, which looks at where we are and where we are going. You cannot view the current force as the only answer. Things are evolving and you do not want to wait for some perfect end state,” Smith said.
When it comes to land combat, the renewed doctrine will accommodate the current recognition that the U.S. Army is no longer the only force to possess land-based, long-range precision weaponry. While JDAMs and GPS-guided weapons fired from the air have existed since the Gulf War timeframe, land-based precision munitions such as the 155m GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to hit 30 kilometers emerged within the last 10 years. This weapon first entered service in 2007, however precision-guided land artillery is now something many potential adversaries now possess as well.
While the emerging “operations” doctrine adaptation does recognize that insurgent and terrorist threats from groups of state and non-state actors will likely persist for decades into the future, the new manual will focus intently upon preparedness for a fast-developing high-tech combat environment against a major adversary.
Advanced adversaries with aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft, emerging hypersonic weapons, drones, long-range sensors and precision targeting technology presents the U.S. military with a need to adjust doctrine to properly respond to a fast-changing threat landscape.
For instance, Russia and China both claim to be developing stealth 5th generation fighters, electronic warfare and more evolved air defenses able to target aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at much farther distances. Long-range, precision guided anti-ship missiles able to target U.S. carriers at ranges up to 900 miles present threat scenarios making it much harder for U.S. platforms to operate in certain areas and sufficiently project power.
In addition, the Army’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) is a GPS-guided rocket able to destroy enemies at ranges up to 70 kilometers; the kind of long-range land-fired precision evidenced by GMLRS is yet another instance of U.S. weapons technology emerging in recent years that is now rivaled by similar weapons made my large nation-state potential adversaries. GMLRS warheads are now being upgraded to replace cluster munitions with a unitary warhead to adhere to an international anti-cluster munitions treaty.
Drones, such as the Army’s Shadow or Gray Eagle aircraft, are the kind of ISR platforms now similar to many technologies currently on the global marketplace.
All of these advancing and increasingly accessible weapons, quite naturally, foster a need for the U.S. to renew its doctrine such that it can effectively respond to a need for new tactics, concepts, strategies and combat approaches designed for a new operational environment.
The new manual will also fully incorporate a fast-evolving Pentagon strategy referred to as “multi-domain” warfare; this is based upon the recognition that enemy tactics and emerging technologies increasingly engender a greater need for inter-service, multi-domain operations.
A U.S. Air Force Operational F-35A may soon attack ISIS over Iraq and Syria, fly to the Baltics as a deterrent against Russian aggression or deploy to the Pacific theater as part of a key force posture build-up, service leaders said.
“We have a global force management process. The F-35 move into the Middle East is scheduled further down the road. If a combatant commander needed it sooner they would ask for it,” Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters last year.
While actual combat deployment could be imminent orseveral years away, declaring the new stealth multi-role fighter operational means Combatant Commanders around the globe do now have the ability to request the F-35A when mission demands require its abilities, he explained.
This means that the operational aircraft is now ready for combat and could soon be called upon to meet mission requirements in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS. Although the US-led coalition already enjoys air superiority over Iraq and Syria, the F-35 could be useful firing laser-guided air-to-ground weapons or drop GPS-guided bombs on identified ISIS targets.
This would involve the additional combat deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs. Precision and laser-guided air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway II, a dumb munition converted into a precision-guided missile which made up more than one-half of the air-ground precision weapons fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon has already been sucessfully test fired from an F-35.
Alongside the Middle East and Europe, Carlisle also addressed the prospect of moving F-35s to the Pacific Theater, explaining that groups of F-35s could go to the region as part of what the Air Force calls “Theater Security Packages.”
“These small deployments of about four ships are dispatched rapidly to global hotspots when needed. It’s kind of like providing the Combat Air Forces on tap. It’s possible that the F-35A’s first combat deployment will be in one of these TSPs,” Benjamin Newell, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Scout Warrior.
Carlisle explained the potential deployment of F-35s to Europe and other strategic locations in terms of a prior move to deploy the F-22 to Europe as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
“When you send F-22s to the European theater last fall, it was great messaging that goes along with that.
Sending an F-35 would reassure friends and allies. It is a deterrent to potential adversaries. I don’t think it is provocative at all,” Carlisle said.
He went on to describe the stealth F-22 Raptor as the best air-to-air platform in the world and the F-35 as the best air-to-ground fighter in the world.
In addition to functioning as a deterrent in key global locations, the F-35 could readily be called upon to perform the widest possible range of missions, Carlisle added.
“When you have airplanes you have pre-planned strike missions, interdiction offensive counter air, defensive counter air and air superiority. Many of these are missions I could use it for. It would depend upon the threat environment,” he said.
For instance, should the F-35 attack ISIS, it would be in a position to use both high-altitude precision-guided air-dropped bombs and also use its 25mm gun and other weapons to perform close-air support missions.
The Air Force is now preparing to increase its number of operational F-35s in order to better refine tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs.
“The F-35A is fully combat capable now, and can perform missions as requested by combatant commanders. Our next hurdles are to ramp up the forces to provide an adequate number of aircraft to create a working fleet, on which we build TTPs, test new weapons and most importantly, train adequate numbers of Airmen who are the experts in their assigned platform,” Newell explained.
In order to make this happen, the service would need 2 full fighter wings consisting of 144 aircraft and 6 squadrons.
The US Navy carried out two high-profile aircraft-carrier training events in key waters that send messages to China and Russia, the US’s two main competitors and the only countries close to matching the US’s military might.
The US Navy’s Ronald Regan Carrier Strike Group joined Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 4 Battle Group to conduct joint military exercises in the hotly contested South China Sea on Aug. 31, 2018, the Navy said.
Japan sent the Kaga, a small aircraft carrier technically classified as a destroyer, along with guided-missile destroyers to train with the US’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, the Reagan.
But beyond just teaching US and Japanese carriers how to fight together, Washington sent Beijing a message that it won’t be pushed out of the South China Sea and that if a fight comes, it won’t stand alone.
China, which illegally annexed about 90% of the South China Sea and has sought to unilaterally dictate who can use the resource-rich waterway that sees trillions of dollars in annual trade, has struggled to make allies in the region. The US has moved to counter China’s attempts at hegemony by deepening ties with Australia, Japan, and India.
On top of that, the US just showed for the first time ever that it can update its supercarriers with a stealth aircraft perfect for taking out island fortresses like Beijing’s South China Sea holdings: the F-35C.
An F-35C conducting a catapult takeoff from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(Lockheed Martin photo by Andrew McMurtrie)
Russia checked by the 2nd Fleet
Half a world away, the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Harry S. Truman carriers did joint training including the F-35C for the first time. But the exercise most likely had an additional audience in mind: Russia.
As Russia’s navy increasingly menaces the US and looks to assert itself as a powerful navy in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, the US has again found the need to defend its home waters of the near Atlantic.
Also in 2015, the US suspended “freedom of navigation” patrols, its main way of checking Chinese ambition in the South China Sea.
But now the Navy is taking those challenges seriously.
“We are the best Navy in the world, and given the complex and competitive environment we are in, we can’t take anything for granted or settle for the status quo,” Rear Adm. John Wade, the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, said in a Navy press release.
With a renewed mission and the world’s first carrier-launched stealth aircraft, the US has sent a clear signal to its main military rivals that US Navy power is back and on the move.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A ceasefire between U.S.-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian forces went into effect in Syria on Feb. 27 — the first major respite in five years of warfare that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The volunteer rescuers from the Syrian White Helmets group reported the ceasefire “holding in the main.”
“Today very quiet,” the group tweeted. “Long may it last.”
But the ceasefire doesn’t apply to Islamic State, of course — nor to Syrian, Russian, American and rebel attacks on the militant group. The Pentagon reported that its allies in the “New Syrian Forces” repulsed Islamic State attacks along the Mar’a Line in northern Syria while U.S.-vetted rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces group gained control of the Tishreen Dam east of Aleppo as well as Shaddadi, a strategic logistical hub for militants in the northeastern part of the country.
Islamic State also attacked Kurdish SDF forces holding Tel Abyad, a Syrian town on the Turkish frontier that was a key border crossing for the militant group before the Kurds liberated it in July 2015. U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flying from Incirlik air base in Turkey strafed the militants, apparently drawing heavy ground fire. The distinctive sound of the A-10s’ powerful 30-millimeter cannons — and the chatter of small-caliber guns presumably firing back — is audible in the video below.
Have you ever had an idea you thought was solid gold, but when you presented it to your boss or coworkers it fell on deaf ears? Maybe it wasn’t that your idea was bad. Maybe it was you. Hear me out: Sometimes our ideas ARE solid gold, the problem is that we get so wrapped up in the idea itself and it’s ingenuity that we don’t pay attention to delivery.
And delivery can be as important.
But, before we explore delivery, let’s jump into the time machine and look at an idea in history that fell flat on its face when it was initially proposed: hand washing.
In the early 1800s, mothers who had just given birth died at an alarming rate in European hospitals. One in six died from what was at the time known as childbed fever. In 1846, a young 28-year-old Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered a correlation between mothers catching the disease and direct contact with physicians coming from surgery. He immediately instituted hand washing in his ward and the disease significantly dropped off.
One would think that this innovative young doctor who had a solid gold idea revolutionized medicine across Europe and saved the lives of countless mothers, but he did not. It was another 21 years before British surgeon Joseph Lister published his papers on sterilization and hospitals across the world adopted his methods.
So why wasn’t Semmelweis successful? His delivery sucked. He had a tough uphill battle to fight against a conservative establishment who had its own beliefs and way of doing business. And unfortunately, he refused to play by their rules. He was argumentative and so fanatical in his beliefs that he struggled to get his leadership and peers on board with his new, innovative method.
In addition to a few fun facts we can gain from the story to help prepare us for trivia night at the local pub, we can also learn something about communicating ideas. It isn’t only the idea that matters, but so does our approach. Below are a few factors to take into consideration when dropping your amazing idea on your organization.
Read the room, Karen
Atmospherics are always important, but they are especially important when presenting a new idea to an organization. If you find yourself in a one hour meeting that is closing in on 90 minutes, that is not the time to spring your idea on the group.
It is best to read the room. Are people fidgeting? Did Bill just get chewed out for missing a suspense? Is everyone’s bandwidth wrapped up in another topic? To know these things, you have to get outside your own head and pay attention to everyone else.
Sometimes you may find that you need to hold onto your idea a little bit longer before you present it. You may also find that by reading the room you are better able to adjust your idea or your delivery to increase your chances that it will be taken seriously and not quickly ignored.
Timing, timing, timing
Similar to reading the room, you have to pay attention to the timing of your pitch. The time of day could make the difference between a receptive boss and an angry, dismissive boss. To illustrate this point, most people have a daily or weekly rhythm they follow. Some bosses are more receptive to ideas in the afternoon and not first thing in the morning. Other bosses are more likely to read and respond to your email in the morning after their first cup of coffee. A well-timed email or office drop-in can increase your chances of getting your idea a fighting chance.
Also, since we are talking about timing, if you know the organization is focused on solving a time-sensitive crisis, that is probably not the time to share the neat power point slide you created with your organization’s priorities broken out into percentages of effort. I’m sure it’s a revolutionary slide, but now is not the time. Timing is also about respect. If you respect their time, they are more likely to take the time to listen to your idea.
Keep it short and sweet (and maybe shorter)
When we get excited about an idea, we tend to describe it in great detail, and lose the people we’re talking to along the way. Or we forget to mention important things such as why the idea is valuable in the first place.
To avoid this, it is helpful to create an elevator pitch. In his book Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, author and communications expert Joseph McCormack said, “A perfected elevator pitch allows you to convey your message in a short sound byte that inspires and sticks.”
To do this, always start with the bottom line up front — why your idea would benefit the organization in the first place. Include a few key points that support this, and then anticipate any questions your boss or your team may ask about the idea. That is it. They don’t need to know the micro details that you get excited about. This lesson applies to email. You increase your chances of success with a brief email that conveys your idea.
When you want to get a great idea adopted by an organization, it’s important to build an alliance. Returning to the Semmelweis story, he was argumentative and alienated would-be supporters for his hand-washing crusade. I once worked for a boss who said that he was more willing to go with an idea, if more than one leader came to him promoting it. So, whenever any of us had a great idea, we would come together and attempt to sell it to each other so we could bring it forward to the boss as a team. We were always successful in this approach.
Humility plays a key role in building an alliance. When we are humble, more people are willing to help us advance an idea. So, as you build your team, be willing to spread the credit and not make it about you. Work on keeping the focus on the idea and not yourself.
Next time you have a great idea, take a minute. Read the room. Ask yourself if the time is right to present your idea. If it is, develop an elevator pitch that sells your idea to other people. And bring your team along with you. Build an alliance. Channel that humility and remember that it isn’t about you, it’s about the idea.
Many a Union officer fell victim to a .451-caliber bullet designed for this English-built rifle. A muzzle-loaded, single-shot rifle, the Whitworth was the first of its kind and changed warfare for the next century and more. It was the world’s first sniper rifle, and Confederate sharpshooters loved it.
Two of the highest-ranking Federal officers killed during the war were taken down by the polygon-barreled, scoped musket. It was built to make shots at impossibly long distances, sometimes up to 2,000 yards or more – four times as far as the standard musket of the day.
Look out, artillery crews, here come the sharpshooters.
The rifle was first engineered by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a Crimean War veteran who noticed that the British standard-issue rifle wasn’t really performing all that well, but the cannons used by the British in Crimea were much more accurate than previous field pieces. He believed those cannons and their hexagonal rifling could be scaled down to be used by a one-man long gun. Whitworth’s gun would get the chance to perform against the Enfield rifle he sought to replace – and it wasn’t even close. Whitworth’s rifle was superior by far.
Except the British didn’t buy into the rifle. It was far more expensive than the Enfield Rifle. But Whitworth was able to sell his weapons to both the French and the Confederate armies.
Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a Whitworth rifle while telling his men they couldn’t be killed at 1,000 yards.
The Whitworth was more lightweight than other long-range rifles of the time and used a more compact bullet, which contributed to the weapon’s accuracy. The Confederates put the rifle to good use, arming their best sharpshooters with it and deploying them with infantry units to target officers and Union artillery crews. The sharpshooters and their trademark weapon became so ubiquitous that southern sharpshooters soon took on the name of their rifle, becoming known as Whitworth Sharpshooters.
They quickly became feared among Union troops for their signature high-pitched whistle while in flight. Confederate snipers took out General-grade officers at Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.
The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.
Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.
The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.
“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.
The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.
The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.
“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)
Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.
The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.
“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.
And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.
“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”
The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.
Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.
“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”
The United States military is likely the most powerful, most capable, all-around best fighting force the Earth has ever seen. A real homeland invasion from an outside force would take such a considerable, concerted effort that many believe the armed forces of the rest of the combined world couldn’t muster enough power to pull it off. So, when President Trump decided to send some 5,000 troops with another 9,000 in reserve to the U.S.-Mexico border, Americans can rest assured the situation is well in hand.
Yet, American civilian militias are packing up guns and drones to come help anyway.
The Washington Post reported about a group called The Texas Minutemen, who are prepping to come to the border areas “to assist in any way they can.” Their leader, a Dallas-based bail bondsman, says at least a hundred men from the group are readying their guns and drones to make a trip to help the U.S. military.
So many such militia groups are preparing to come to the area that the Army is concerned about their presence and interference. The truth is, the U.S. military doesn’t need that kind of help, especially at its own border.
A Texas Border Volunteer, posted on watch in the brush, long before anyone outside of Texas started paying attention.
(Texas Border Volunteers)
1. The locals don’t want you there.
Local ranch owners have already complained to authorities and the Border Patrol that they will not accept outsiders squatting on their land. Texans who live in the border areas have been organized against border incursions for years (and their numbers are significant). Groups like the Texas Border Volunteers have connections with other locals and can mobilize their own protective force to be anywhere in the area within an hour or so.
If you do have one of these, I stand corrected.
(Customs and Border Protection)
2. The military has better gear than you.
Militia groups planning to bring their own weapons, drones, and night vision goggles might be surprised to discover the world’s most advanced and capable military force has better weapons, drones, and night vision than they do. In addition, the U.S. military has strategic airlift for food, water, and medical supplies along with very solid rules of engagement, all at the ready to prevent an international incident.
This handful of U.S. Marines 1,000 farmers from Honduras.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. The caravan is already outnumbered.
The President has authorized up to 14,000 troops to be ready to move to the border within hours. Though the caravan of migrants is 7,000 strong at the last reporting, the Pentagon estimates only 20 percent of those will actually reach the United States border with Mexico. Even now, the caravan is outnumbered two to one. If the military estimates hold up, they will be outnumbered by the 5,000 U.S. troops already deployed there by a healthy margin.
Just trust that the guy in charge at the Pentagon can handle this one.
4. You’ll just get in the way.
The military and Border Patrol takes the idea of an armed posse just showing in their area of responsibility very seriously. Military planners are already referring to militia groups as “unregulated armed militia.” In fact, the same report that warns military planners about militias says those same militias are one of the biggest threats to individual military members deployed at the border — and military commanders are more worried that militia members will steal U.S. military equipment.
The military applies all four of these to protesters as well.
Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”
It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.
Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”
However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”
He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”
In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.
Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.
“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”
Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.
“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.
On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.
Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”
“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.
“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”
In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”
The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”
There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.
He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.