Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats - We Are The Mighty
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Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.


According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.

The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
SEALs use a Combatant Craft Assault to insert special operators during an exercise as part of Eager Lion 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul Coover/Released)

According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.

These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.

The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
Service members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) participate in an interoperability exercise in the ship’s well deck during exercise Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

CENTCOM has seen a number of incidents with Iran, including a near-midair collision between a drone and a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Iran also notably seized American sailors in December, 2015 detaining the crews of two Riverine Command Boats. The stealthy boats could prevent future incidents by being far more difficult to track.

You can see the Eager Lion video with a CCA cameo below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the 7 ways for Congress to deal with North Korea

The Congressional Research Service has prepared a briefing for Congress that reveals the seven US military options for dealing with the growing threat from North Korea.


The options, often hinted at by President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet, represent the full range of US military might and strategy, but sometimes in unexpected ways.

For example, not every option has to do with use of force. In some cases, the US may just continue business as usual. In other cases, the military may withdraw completely from South Korea.

Below, you can see the same information that Congress has on the US’s military options in North Korea.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
North Korea from the DMZ. (Photo: Wikipedia/Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler)

7. Maintain the status quo

Simply put, the US military could just continue regular activities and military drills while the State Department works on sanctions and diplomatic solutions to the problem.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because former President Barack Obama spent eight years doing it to limited effect.

On the plus side, this course of action presents a lower risk of elevating the tense situation into a full-blown crisis or warfare. Those against this policy of “strategic patience,” as the Obama administration dubbed it, point out that it has failed for years to stop North Korea from gaining a nuclear weapon or creating long-range missiles.

So far, Trump has stuck to the basic principals of strategic patience but supplemented it with more deployments of aircraft carriers and sometimes frightening threats to “totally destroy” the country with “fire and fury.”

Read Also: Those times former US Presidents had to free Americans held by North Korea

6. Arm the region to the teeth and watch North Korea like a hawk

This option takes the status quo and jacks it up with the US’s scariest, most capable platforms coming to the region and closely monitoring North Korea to make it feel its nuclear program is unwise.

US stealth jets and bombers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, guided-missile destroyers, and even tactical nuclear weapons could deploy to South Korea and Japan on a more permanent basis to step up the US presence in the area.

Meanwhile, an increased cyber and naval presence would seek to interdict any shipments to North Korea that could further Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Skeptics of this approach point out that North Korea hates US military deployments to the peninsula and could easily see such a move as further justification to continue its weapons program at any cost.

Furthermore, the US can’t simply place these assets in the region — it needs to credibly threaten using them. What happens if a North Korean ship opens fire on US Navy sailors trying to board and inspect its cargo?

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. Photo from KCNA

5. Shoot down every medium- to long-range missile North Korea fires to restrict its testing

This approach disregards the long-stated US goal of denuclearizing North Korea and goes straight for a more realistic goal of freezing its nuclear-missile program.

Basically, North Korea has to keep testing its missiles to achieve a credible nuclear threat to the US, but to do so it has to test missiles that fly beyond its borders.

If the US and allies shot down North Korea’s test fires, it would deny Pyongyang the testing data it needs to have confidence in its fleet.

But this would require US ballistic-missile-defense assets, like its Navy destroyers, to constantly commit to the region, limiting resources available elsewhere.

Additionally, North Korea could still test shorter-range missiles that put US forces in the region at risk, and it’s unknown how Pyongyang would respond to having its missiles shot down.

Read Also: U.S. detects, tracks multiple North Korea missile launches

4. Destroy all ICBM sites and missile launch pads

This represents the first massively kinetic military response to North Korea.

With limited airstrikes and likely some Tomahawk missile launches from the US Navy, the US military would look to destroy in one quick pass every single known missile launchpad and ICBM manufacturing site.

But the US doesn’t know the full extent of North Korea’s missile-producing infrastructure, and could easily leave behind some secret or underground sites. And while most North Korean missiles are fired from fixed sites, North Korea has developed solid-fueled missiles that can launch from anywhere at virtually any time.

While this strike could conceivably remove the threat to the US from North Korean ICBMs, Pyongyang may very well see the attack as a larger-scale decapitation attack against the Kim regime.

Therefore, North Korea may unleash its full, massive artillery force against South Korea and the US forces there. It may fire nuclear missiles at Japan and South Korea. Experts assess that an all out war could cost 30,000 to 300,000 lives a day, with many of those coming from the civilian populations of the US’s allies in Asia.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project

3. Complete denuclearization by force

This option stages an even bigger military campaign targeting every known nuclear and missile site across North Korea. Instead of just airstrikes and cruise-missile launches, this type of attack may necessitate US Special Forces pouring over the border to neutralize key North Korean sites.

Because the US does not know the location of every North Korean nuclear and missile site, intense surveillance and guess-and-check work would follow the initial salvo.

This option only increases the already dire risk to the US’s allies.

Also Read: North Korea accuses White House of assassination plot

2. Decapitation of the Kim regime

Although the US military, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis all say unequivocally that the US does not want or train for regime-change missions in North Korea, the president and the military have to do what’s best for the country at any cost.

If the US assesses that the Kim regime has bad intentions for the people of the US, regime change by military force could come into play.

But the US couldn’t simply kill Kim Jong Un and have the other 25 million North Koreans surrender. North Korea still technically exists under the “forever leader” of Kim Il Sung, who has been dead for decades. Rank-and-file North Koreans inculcated with propaganda would fight on, perhaps even more savagely, after Kim died.

Therefore the military would have to target “not only nuclear infrastructure but command and control facilities, key leaders, artillery and missile units, chemical and biological weapons facilities, airfields, ports, and other targets deemed critical to regime survival,” according to the report for Congress.

“This operation would be tantamount to pursuing full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, and risk conflict elsewhere in the region,” the report concludes.

The conflict would have every opportunity to be drawn out and grow every bit as bloody as the Vietnam War or the first Korean conflict, and for that reason it remains unlikely.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

1. Just walk away

This option represents the polar opposite of all other military possibilities by fundamentally reordering the US’s considerations on North Korea.

Essentially, some believe North Korea pursues nuclear weapons because the US has troops in South Korea and Japan. If the US withdrew those troops, Kim Jong Un wouldn’t feel as pressured and China or the international community could more easily sway him to denuclearize.

But this idea speculates heavily on Kim’s response to a weakened South Korea. Nothing guarantees that Kim would negotiate after gaining the upper hand on South Korea. Additionally, it argues that the US should end its legal troop deployments to Japan and South Korea in hopes that North Korea would end its illegal development of nuclear weapons, which sounds a lot like blackmail.

Additionally, North Korea has long stated one of its goals as reuniting the Korean Peninsula under the Kim dynasty, and if the US ceded to Pyongyang, it just may feel emboldened to do so.

Also Read: Pacific Thunder, aka why North Korea cries, kicks off in South Korea

Conclusion

None of the military options provided to Congress offers a perfect solution, and many offer catastrophic solutions.

In the end, North Korea’s rogue leadership and nuclear pursuits exist as political, not solely military options.

In that respect, while the US and allied militaries could certainly defeat North Korea and crush its nuclear program, it would cost potentially hundreds of thousands of lives and open the world to the possibility of nuclear warfare in the 21st century.

Simply put, military solutions don’t solve political problems, but in case of disaster, the US always has options ready.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

What the payroll tax deferment means, and why you shouldn’t spend that extra money

President Trump recently signed an executive order that will defer payroll taxes for all employees, including service members, from Sept. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. The move was made to increase the funds federal employees have over the next few months so they will be able to help stimulate the economy, and to help with any financial burdens caused by COVID-19, according to the memorandum.

“This modest, targeted action will put money directly in the pockets of American workers and generate additional incentives for work and employment, right when the money is needed most,” Trump stated in the August guidance to the Secretary of the Treasury.


The payroll tax deferment only applies to those who make $4,000 or less per paycheck, or less than $104,000 per year. In military terms, this applies to the ranks of E-1 up to O-4 if no additional income is applicable.

The complicated nature of payroll taxes and the lack of guidance on implementation has created confusion for many. The memorandum put out by the president does not address if the deferment is mandatory for federal employees, and some tax experts believe that businesses may continue withholding the taxes from employees simply because it will be too complicated — and expensive — to change payrolls for just a portion of their employees.

As of Sept. 1, Defense Finance Accounting Services had not sent any notification to service members or DOD civilians in regard to payroll taxes being withheld over the next few months. DFAS confirmed in an email response they would begin deferring payroll taxes on Sept. 12 and continue to defer those taxes until the end of the year. Defense Department Federal employees, including service members, do not have the option to opt-out of the deferment program.

It is unclear if non-DOD employees themselves can opt-out of the deferment, or if they can pay the deferred taxes back ahead of tax season to avoid a hefty tax bill in the new year.

It has to be repaid

It is important to think of the payroll tax deferment as simply a “tax loan.” Although Trump said in an earlier press conference that he would like to make this deferment permanent, which would require an act of Congressional approval, it currently stands that any payroll tax funds that go into a federal employee’s pocket for the next few months will have to be repaid by Apr. 30, 2021, according to IRS Notice 2020-65.

See IRS Notice 2020-65

For service members, this means any money withheld on a LES under the “social security” tab would compound and has to be paid back using tax form 1040 when filing taxes.

This can lead to a hefty tax bill for service members, right after Christmas, especially if they do not set that money aside to be repaid during tax season.

The intent

The purpose of the payroll tax deferment is to provide relief for those in need, Lacey Langford, The Military Money Expert®, stated in an email.

“If you need the money to pay your bills, then yes, spend it on your bills. Do not spend in on wants like trips or new clothes. If you don’t need the money, it’s best to put it aside in a savings account,” Langford said.

DFAS will participate in the tax deferral program 

The offices of Management and Budget (OMB) and Personnel Management (OPM) also confirmed via email DFAS will start the deferment of payroll taxes this month.

“Partnering with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), DFAS will implement the guidance according to the expectation that all Federal Civilian Payroll Providers will act in unison. As such, no Payroll Providers, Departments/Agencies, nor employees will be able to opt-in/opt-out of the deferral. The elimination of the withholding of employee deductions for the applicable employees will be effective the second paycheck in September, pay period ending September 12, 2020.
DFAS will defer the Social Security (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance or OASDI) employee deductions for all employees whose gross social security wages that are less than ,000 in any given pay period through the end of 2020. The deferrals will apply to all federal employees making less than 4,000 per year, or ,000 per pay period. In the short term, federal workers will see an increase in take-home pay, but absent action by Congress to forgive the debt that is effectively incurred on employees, workers will likely be expected to pay that money back sometime next year.”

Service members should check their LES bimonthly to see if social security is deferred and plan appropriately to pay those taxes back in the new year.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these Vietnam War veterans honor Old Glory

Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.

“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”

The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.


It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.

Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War

www.youtube.com

“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”

It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.

One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.

The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.

“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”

At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.

“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.

Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.

“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”

Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.

On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force helps NASA with high-tech space suits

Ingenuity and collaboration were the keys to success as a group of Air Force Research Laboratory engineers took a series of tests to new heights.

At the request of NASA, AFRL rapid-response systems support researchers delved into the realm of space to help determine the effects of unintended electrical arcing on astronaut space suits during extravehicular maintenance.

NASA researchers came to the AFRL team with a simple question. How does an electrical arc behave in a vacuum? Although this may seem like a fairly simple question, it was a concept that had not been explored fully before.


“What was not understood were the ramifications of an arc in space,” said Brett Jordan, electrical and electronic materials evaluation team lead. “What are the mass and velocity of the particles produced by the arcing, and what would be the effects of those metal particles flying off the arc in that environment?”

To answer this question, AFRL began by determining how to build fixtures for a low-pressure test and performing proof-of-concept testing to determine the best method to reliably create an arc in the planned lab setting. This initial series of tests helped the researchers understand the materials, positioning and current needed to successfully generate the arc, as well as the proper test setup to use for an Earth-orbit vacuum environment.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

The Air Force Research Laboratory materials evaluation team generates an electrical arc fault in a vacuum chamber in support of a NASA research effort to determine the effects of arcing in Earth-orbit conditions.

With this initial data in hand, the team then began to prepare for low-pressure testing. Reaching out to fellow AFRL materials and electronics researchers, the team acquired a low-pressure chamber and secured a laboratory for conducting the tests.

“It really was a team effort,” said Corey Boltz, electrical engineer and project lead. “We received assistance from many different teams throughout AFRL to make this happen.”

After another round of experimental tests and setup, the team was ready to begin the final round of testing and data collection. With the assistance of NASA engineers, the AFRL team performed a series of 35 tests in the low-pressure chamber. Each test run was a careful exercise in control and precision. For each individual test, the team followed a rigorous process that involved precise placement of the test fixture, calibration of multiple high-speed data capture cameras and pumping the chamber down to extreme low-pressure atmospheric conditions.

The team completed the tests quickly, despite the complex setup required between each test run. From start to finish, the low-pressure test runs were completed in nine days. Jordan says this was possible because the AFRL test chamber offered capabilities that were not immediately available to the NASA team. Because of the chamber’s design, its pressure could be lowered to the necessary test conditions in about half the time it takes a typical chamber to achieve the same conditions. As a result, more test runs could be completed in a shorter period of time.

“For us, it was all part of our rapid-response mission, and the customer appreciated that quick turnaround,” Boltz said.

The data gathered from the testing provided important data that NASA is using to structure their own set of tests.

“This data-rich testing enabled the optimization of tests being performed at three other facilities, which are adding various other factors related to the extra vehicular activity scenario,” said Amri Hernandez-Pellerano, NASA technical lead. “The AFRL pathfinder tests enabled us to properly plan resources in this study.”

Jordan added that since these tests were the first space vacuum work the group had performed, the testing event benefited AFRL as well by expanding the base of knowledge for electrical arcing in low-pressure environments. He said the data and processes established will be useful for the project researchers and other AFRL teams as they tackle future endeavors.

“As the systems support rapid reaction team, that’s what we do,” said Jordan. “We’re proud of our mission. We take it seriously, we enjoy it, and when we need to come up with good answers quickly, we make it happen quickly.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How North Korea announced the Trump-Kim summit to its people

North Korea broke its silence March 21, 2018, on its surprise peace overtures, including a tentative summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, while denying that U.S. pressure led to the breakthrough.


The Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean propaganda outlet, said the sudden conciliatory moves were an “expression of self-confidence” by a regime that already “has acquired everything it desires,” a possible reference to the buildup of its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals.

Also read: War with North Korea will either be all out or not at all

Without directly referring to the Trump-Kim summit, KCNA noted the recent “great change in the north-south relations,” as well as a “sign of change also in the DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. relations.”

KCNA denied that the openings came about “as a result of sanctions and pressure.”

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
President Donald Trump. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Charges that the “maximum pressure” campaign of the U.S. led to the potential for dialogue were “just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” KCNA said.

North Korea had been silent on the proposed Trump-Kim summit since Trump agreed to the talks on March 8, 2018.

Related: Trump hints at breaking with generals on Iran

The North Korean statement came amid reports that the annual Foal Eagle military exercises in South Korea could be cut short to avoid coinciding with the tentative Trump-Kim summit at the end of May 2018.

South Korean media reported March 21, 2018, that the exercises could run for just a month, rather than the traditional two, in what may be an effort cut a wide berth around the proposed dialogue.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy sorties ships out of hurricane’s path

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, announced that U.S. Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii not currently undergoing maintenance availabilities have begun to sortie as Hurricane Lane travels toward the Hawaiian Islands.

Ships that sortie will be positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.


“Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie the Pearl Harbor-based ships,” Fort said. “This allows the ships enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm.”

Units will remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides and Hawaii-based Navy aircraft will be secured in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the effects of the hurricane.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

A satellite image of Hurricane Lane at 10:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time. At 11 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the category 4 hurricane, which was located about 350 miles south of Honolulu, Hawaii, was moving northwest at 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.

(US Navy photo)

The Navy orders a sortie during potentially extreme weather conditions to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during high winds and seas. Some ships will not get underway, due to various maintenance availabilities, and are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port, depending on the severity of the weather. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables.

Personnel in Navy Region Hawaii, including on Oahu and Kauai, should follow hurricane awareness and preparedness guidelines established by city/county and state government. Navy Region Hawaii and its installations provide updated information on Facebook sites:

Navy Region Hawaii
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Pacific Missile Range Facility

At the beginning of hurricane season in early June 2018, Navy Region Hawaii provided detailed information in the region/base newspaper Ho’okele for service members, civilian workforce and families. Information included preparing a disaster supply kit, creating a family emergency communication plan and knowing where to go if ordered to evacuate:

http://www.hookelenews.com/be-ready-for-hurricane-season/

http://www.hookelenews.com/be-ready-for-hurricane-season-2/

Additional information for families is available online at the Navy Region Hawaii website, via the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Weather Service.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. releases more details about MiG-29s, Su-24s it says were flown to Libya

The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.

The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.

The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.


The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.

In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”

After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”

AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.

The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.

Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.

Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”

“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.

Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.

The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.

But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.

But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This chart proves there are already way more contractors in Afghanistan than US troops

President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.


Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.

The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.

This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.

The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The unofficial nickname of the US largest cargo plane may surprise you

America’s airmen have long held unofficial nicknames for the aircraft they love — and for the aircraft they hate. Some are more well-known than others. For example, everyone knows the A-10 Thunderbolt II as the “Warthog” because when it first entered service, it wasn’t considered a very attractive airframe. Then there’s “BUFF” (Big, Ugly, Fat F*cker), the name somewhat-lovingly given to the B-52 Stratofortress.

But nicknames aren’t only doled out to combat aircraft. The C-5 Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest cargo mover has a nickname of its own, bestowed upon it by the men and women who maintain the USAF’s fleet: FRED, or “F*cking Ridiculous Economic/Environmental Disaster.”


Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Guardsmen help push a C-130 fuselage out of a C-5. The training fuselage was transported from the Rhode Island Air National Guard. Loadmasters, aeromeds and aerial port personnel will now be able to train at any time.

(New York National Guard)

The C-5 is an incredible aircraft. Aside from being able to carry an entire C-130 cargo aircraft, it can also carry up to 75 passengers, the pilots, a flight crew, and (probably) a partridge with an entire pear tree. And it can carry all that with its 12 internal wing tanks, capable of refueling in flight.

But it takes a lot of fuel to power this monster. That’s where the “Environmental Disaster” part comes in.

The other reason for its nickname is far less funny. It costs more than ,000 per hour to fly the plane. And since it’s been around in its current form since 1995, they’re getting older and are starting to require more and more maintenance. Meanwhile, the much newer C-17 flies for around ,000 an hour. It carries less cargo, but it carries that cargo more efficiently.

Developing the C-5 Galaxy cost id=”listicle-2594635184″ billion more than the United States expected. That’s the “Economic Disaster.” Still, when you have to get a lot of stuff to the fight, the C-5 is one impressive show to watch.

When it first launched, the C-5’s weight put so much strain on the wings that they tended to crack before the military got its money’s worth from them. When the C-5 program was upgraded, so were its wings. But it’s been a long time and the plane is beginning to wear down with age, some airmen say. One Reddit user was quoted as saying,

“Sometimes the hatches don’t seal properly when the plane is trying to pressurize. In cases where they can’t afford to land and fix it properly they’ll wrap some t-shirts around a rope and soak it with water. Then they’ll pack it into the gap in the hatch and the water will freeze, thus sealing the leak enough for the aircraft to pressurize.”

Mission tempo, lack of parts, and crew turnover is turning the Galaxy into a Hangar Queen.

But the C-5 has been an essential element in almost every U.S. venture since its inception. From conflicts in Vietnam (yes, Vietnam) to Afghanistan, the C-5 was there. And since the program just finished a massive overhaul, giving the planes new engines, skeleton upgrades, and avionics, FRED-Ex is likely to be in business for a long time to come.

Intel

This video shows that the King Stallion is an absolute beast of a helicopter

A helicopter doesn’t fly; it beats the air into submission.


With the capacity to lift 88,000 lbs, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a true workhorse. It’s primed to be the premier lift helicopter by leveraging the lessons learned from its predecessors, the CH-53A, D and E.

The new metal beast of the air had its first flight on October 27, 2015. The 55-minute flight at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach flight test center was a real milestone considering the technical delays since 2014, mainly from the main gearbox.

The King Stallion will replace the current largest and heaviest helicopter in the military, the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion, which has been in service since 1980. Like the CH-53E, the King Stallion will also serve in the Corps. Although it’s not a game changer, it’s an overall improvement in power, speed, lift, structure, and more.

Here’s its first performance:

YouTube: Sikorsky Aircraft

Articles

US carriers deploy new torpedo defense system

The Navy is arming aircraft carriers with a prototype high-tech torpedo defense technology able to detect, classify, track and destroy incoming enemy torpedoes, service officials said.


The Anti-Torpedo Defense System, currently installed on five aircraft carriers and deployed on one carrier at the moment, is slated to be fully operational by 2022.  

The overall SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, Navy officials said.

The emerging Surface Ship Torpedo Defense technology includes the Anti-Torpedo Defense System, or ATTDS and an SLQ-25 Acoustic Device Countermeasure; the ATTDS consists of a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo program and Torpedo Warning System.  

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

 “The ATTDS is designed to detect, classify, track and localize incoming torpedoes utilizing the Torpedo Warning System leading to a torpedo hard-kill by employing the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo,” Collen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior.

Thus far, the ATTDS has completed three carrier deployments.  The ATTDS Program of Record plan for future ships includes additional carriers and Combat Logistic Force ships.

Earlier this year, the ATTDS was installed and operated on the USNS BRITTIN (TAKR-305) over a six day period during which the latest system hardware and software was tested. The results of the testing are instrumental for continued system development, O’Rourke added.

The technology is slated for additional testing and safety certifications.

The emergence of a specifically-engineered torpedo defense system is quite significant for the Navy – as it comes a time when many weapons developers are expressing concern about the potential vulnerability of carriers in light of high-tech weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons. An ability to protect the large platforms submarine-launched torpedo attacks adds a substantial element to a carrier’s layered defense systems.

Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges.

For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats
The Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. | YouTube

Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.

The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles – or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT – attached to the side of the ship.

The towed array picks up the acoustic noise.  The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, Navy officials said.

The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.

The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less.  Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.

After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by then Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.

The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.

The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

World leaders unite in honor of D-Day 75th

Western leaders have joined Queen Elizabeth II in southern England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest military landing operation in history that speeded up the end of World War II.

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders of 16 countries attending the June 5, 2019 ceremony in the port city of Portsmouth, one of the key embarkation points on D-Day.

As the leaders paid tribute to the “sacrifice” of those who died in the 1944 operation on the French coast of Normandy before more than 300 veterans, Russia’s Foreign Ministry argued that the landings did not have a “decisive” influence on the outcome of the war.


Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings five years ago, was not invited to the events in Portsmouth.

The Soviet Union was not involved in the D-Day landings but was instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany.

Watch live: Trump attends ceremony to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

www.youtube.com

More than 150,000 Allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, to begin the air, sea, and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis.

The invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was commanded by U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower. It remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along an 80-kilometer stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Thousands were killed on both sides.

In Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to the “heroism, courage, and sacrifice” of those who died in the landings, while Trump, who was on the last day of his three-day state visit to Britain, said D-Day “may have been the greatest battle ever.”

The commemoration was attended by leaders from every country that fought on D-Day, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, and Slovakia.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the Western Front and said the Allies’ contribution to the victory was “clear.”

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“It should of course not be exaggerated,” she added, noting the Soviet Union’s “titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened.”

Zakharova continued, telling reporters that the landings in Normandy “did not have a decisive impact” on the outcome of the war.

“It had already been predetermined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, she added, citing the battles of Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in 1943.

Russia has accused the West in the past of failing to acknowledge the Soviet Union’s contribution to the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the human losses — estimated at 26 million deaths — it suffered during the conflict.

The countries represented at the Portsmouth commemorations agreed a proclamation pledging to “ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated” and commit to working together to “resolve international tensions peacefully.”

Further memorial services are planned in Britain and France on June 6, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.