“Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
Imagine shooting artillery from Berlin and hitting Moscow? Shooting from Dubai and hitting Tehran? Shooting from Taiwan and hitting Beijing and Pyongyang with the same barrage?
What was just an impossible thought might be a reality by 2023.
The Army is working on a cannon that can fire over extremely long ranges with precision accuracy. The Strategic Long Range Cannon (SLRC) is on its way to providing the United States military such capabilities. A couple of days ago, it seems as if a prototype for the cannon was inadvertently leaked.
Pictures showed up showing an astoundingly big gun being towed by an eight-wheeled vehicle. Along with the picture was models and illustrations explaining the basic parameters of the superweapon.
It looks as though this will be crewed by eight artillerymen and can be moved by a six-wheeled vehicle if need be. It can be transported by air or sea. Four guns will make up a battery, and the cannon will be able to penetrate enemy defenses from up to 1,000 miles.
When you see the mockup, there is a particular country that seems to be the motivation for developing this weapon.
There is a reference about the cannon’s ability to penetrate A2/AD defenses. What is A2/AD?
It stands for anti-access and area denial. It is a strategy the Chinese are working on that will allow them to block U.S. forces, planes, ships and drones out of a wide area using artillery, radar, defensive systems and air power. The Chinese are using it to keep enemies away from its coast. If they ever decide to invade Taiwan or any other Pacific neighbor, a properly implemented A2/AD defense could keep the U.S. at bay while they carry out operations.
The long-range cannon would be an effective (and potentially inexpensive) way to counteract the Chinese strategy. In theory, the Chinese would be able to intercept planes, drones, and cruise missiles using A2AD, but a barrage of artillery from 1,000 miles away could take out key military targets.
And since the artillery is far away, it would be safe from any counter-battery actions the Chinese would take (unless, of course, they develop a long-range cannon of their own).
Right now, the Army is trying to figure out two things: How to get a projectile to go that far, and how to make it cheap.
As you may remember, the Navy flirted with a long-range gun that could hit targets fired from a ship to land from over 100 miles. The problem was the projectile cost 0,000 EACH. So, the Navy ended up with big guns they can’t shoot.
The Army is determined to find a way around this. It is also determined to look at the past so it can prepare for the future. As many of you know, the history of artillery evolved to the point where the Germans were using whole trains to transport super cannons around Europe. But they hit a limit on how far they could go, and with the advent of nuclear weapons, artillery pieces became smaller and more mobile. Bigger bombs (like nuclear weapons) meant development in bombers, ICBMs, submarines and drones.
But with the Chinese developing A2/AD, these assets are potentially ineffective.
How will the Army get around cost and range issues? The answer is ramjets.
Ramjets are engines that turn air intake into energy. A high-velocity projectile, like an artillery round can use the incoming air to propel it further (in theory)
While the leaked picture is a mockup and might not even be close to the final product, it does look like the Army is investing in revolutionizing warfare by taking what was old and making it new again.
Alaska is still considered the last frontier, even in today’s modern times. The unforgiving and extreme weather coupled with the rough terrain makes it a challenging place to live. One hundred years ago – during the Spanish Flu – it was even more deadly.
The world is very familiar with the new words in our daily vocabulary: quarantine, face mask and social distancing, thanks to COVID-19 and the current global pandemic. Just 100 years ago this was the case as well, during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu. The big difference between then and now are the extreme advancements in technology and medical care. According to the CDC, 500 million people were positive and 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu.
In a wild place like Alaska with scarce medical care, it was a sure death sentence.
When the Spanish Flu arrived in Alaska during the spring of 1919, it wiped out villages – and fast. World War I had just ended and on May 26, 1919, the USS Unalga was patrolling around the Aleutian Islands, near Akun Island located in Seredka Bay. The crew and ship were still technically considered part of the Navy, with the war only ending shortly before that. Their role in that moment was law enforcement, inspection, mail transport and rescues. They were also a floating court and were able to give medical care to those in need.
After a full day of training, the crew was resting when they received a distress call from a newer settlement on Unalaska Island. They reported a severe outbreak of the Spanish Flu. The Coast Guard didn’t hesitate; they planned to get underway at dawn. Although they would receive another distress call from a settlement in Bristol Bay, the captain made the decision to head to Unalaska Island first.
When the crew made their way off the ship, they were shocked. It was if the entirety of the settlement had been infected with the Spanish Flu, the doctor included. They also discovered that all but one operator of the small U.S. Navy radio station had it as well. The coastie crew of the USS Unalga was their last hope of survival.
With that, the 80 coasties dove in. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class E.S. Chase, Lieutenant Junior Grade Dr. F.H. Johnson and Lieutenant E.W. Scott (a dentist), were the only men on board with advanced medical training. Despite that, they were all in. For over a week they were the only resource of support for Unalaska with nothing but cloth masks to protect themselves.
The captain made the decision to utilize the food on board to feed the entire town. At one point, they were providing up to 1,000 meals a day. The coasties even built a temporary hospital with pumping and electricity that was powered through the ship’s own power plant.
Without the proper protective equipment that today we know is critical, many of the crew fell ill themselves, including the captain. Despite this, they charged on and continued working. Although the 80 coasties fought to save everyone, they did bury 45 villagers who succumbed to the Spanish Flu.
The crew was not only caring for the ill, but for the children of those who died because the orphanage became full. Without their willingness to step forward, the children were at risk of dying from starvation, the elements and even documented feral dogs that were roaming the island. Some of the crew even made clothing for the children.
On June 3, 1919, the Coast Guard Cutter arrived to support their efforts. With both crews nursing and caring for the sick, recovery began. Due to the dedication of these coasties, the mortality rate of the village was only 12 percent. The majority of Alaska was at 90 percent mortality. At the end of the Spanish flu, around 3,000 Alaskans lost their lives, most of them natives.
Thanks to these coasties, this village was spared that fate.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.
Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.
ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.
The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.
The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.
“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.
While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.
“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.
Revising pilot training
The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.
Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.
It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”
Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.
“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.
Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.
Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.
Pilot Training Next
Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.
“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”
U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.
Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.
Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.
“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.
To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.
“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.
“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”
She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”
Aircrew Crisis Task Force
AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”
At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.
The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.
“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The promise of this seemingly futuristic weapon system is no longer a thing of mystery, speculation, or sci-fi movies, but rather something nearing operational use in combat. The weapon brings such force, power, and range that it can hold enemies at risk from greater distances and attack targets with a fire and kinetic energy force equivalent to a multi-ton vehicle moving at 160 miles per hour, developers have said.
The Office of Naval Research is now bringing the electromagnetic railgun out of the laboratory and into field demonstrations at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s new railgun Rep-Rate Test Site at Terminal Range.
“Initial rep-rate fires of multi-shot salvos already have been successfully conducted at low muzzle energy. The next test sequence calls for safely increasing launch energy, firing rates, and salvo size,” a statement from ONR says.
Railgun rep-rate testing will be at 20 megajoules by the end of the summer and at 32 megajoules by next year. To put this in perspective; one megajoule is the equivalent of a one-ton vehicle moving at 160 miles per hour, ONR information states.
“Railguns and other directed-energy weapons are the future of maritime superiority,” Dr. Thomas Beutner, head of ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, said in a statement. “The US Navy must be the first to field this leap-ahead technology and maintain the advantage over our adversaries.”
The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.
The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials said.
Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained.
A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.
Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.
The railgun can draw its power from an on-board electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile, and gun mount.
While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the railgun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.
The Navy, DoD and even the Army are also experimenting with integrating the railgun hypervelocity projectile with existing weapons platforms such as the Navy’s 5-inch guns or Army Howitzer.
Possible Railgun Deployment on Navy Destroyers
Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new electromagnetic railgun weapon to the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.
The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on-board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.
Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the railgun, but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.
Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500-ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.
The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate more than 70 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a railgun.
It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.
For example, the electromagnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.
The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.
4. OC-135 Open Skies
This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.
5. E-8C Joint STARS
The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.
6. B-52 Stratofortress
Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.
7. F-35A Lightning II
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)
Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)
8. CV-22 Osprey
The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.
9. B-1B Lancer
The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.
For four months in 1538, 600 Portuguese troops were holding back an attempt to capture the Indian City of Diu against 22,000 combined enemy troops. Most of those came from the Sultanate of Gujarat, but there were also 6,000 troops from the hated Ottoman Empire. Portugal had been engaged in a series of conflicts with the Turks since 1481. Diu was just a valuable possession.
Portugal’s soldiers would be damned if they were going to let some Ottoman Turk take their Indian jewel.
And no Gujaratis neither.
The Ottomans had been trying to force Portugal out of its possessions all over Asia, from the Red Sea to India, and would partner with anyone who would help them. The Sultanate of Gujarat was just one more enemy aligned against them. Portugal controlled the flow of valuable spices to Europe through Diu, and the Turks were ready to take it from them, sending the largest fleet it ever sent to the Indian Ocean.
Portugal had a few things going for them the Indians didn’t have when Portugal first took control of Diu. The Portuguese built a fortress to protect the city, and its commander, António da Silveira, was an experienced fighter of Gujarati forces. Though the Portuguese would eventually win the confrontation, there are a few noteworthy things about this battle, not least of all the most provocative reply to a surrender demand ever sent when Silveira wrote a note to Suleiman Pasha in response to his second demand (keep in mind, I had to remove the worst parts of it):
“I have seen the words in your letter, and that of the captain which you have imprisoned through lie and betrayal of your word, signed under your name; which you have done because you are no man, for you have no balls, you are like a lying woman and a fool. How do you intend to pact with me, if you committed betrayal and falsity right before my eyes?… Be assured that here are Portuguese accustomed to killing many moors, and they have as captain António da Silveira, who has a pair of balls stronger than the cannonballs of your basilisks, that there’s no reason to fear someone who has no balls, no honor and lies…”
“António da Silveira, has a pair of balls stronger than the cannonballs of your basilisks.” – António da Silveira
In response to that surrender demand, the Turkish commander ordered an immediate assault on the Portuguese fortress, bombarding it for nearly a month with cannons from the land and from his ships at sea. He then ordered a full assault of a small fortlet that stood in the mouth of the nearby river. Inside, just a handful of Portuguese troops were holding out against hundreds of enemy troops, some of them the feared Ottoman Janissaries.
Inside one of the bastions, a Portuguese soldier believed he was the only survivor of the fortlet. He was out of ammunition but still had the powder necessary to kill the oncoming enemy. The Turks, fully believing the man was indeed out of ammunition were surprised to get shot while trying to enter the bastion, anyway. According to a Dutch priest who was present, the man ripped his own tooth out and loaded it into his weapon so he could keep fighting.
Actual photo of Turkish Galleys in retreat.
Though various Indian forces would attempt to retake Diu over the coming centuries, they would not be able to control the city until the Portuguese relinquished it to the Indian government in 1961.
“Rodent infestations can escalate quickly under certain circumstances,” commissary officials said in a statement released Thursday. “DeCA regrets any inconveniences the store closure has caused to our commissary patrons and is working to diligently address the issue so the store can be reopened.”
The store was shuttered at 7 p.m. Oct. 11, according to base officials. Details weren’t immediately available on the extent of the rodent issue. The base shut down the store’s produce and bakery operations earlier that day.
Twentynine Palms is located in a remote area of California with few other nearby grocery options for families and troops stationed there. A Stater Bros. market is located about 10 miles off base, while a Walmart is about a 40-minute drive.
DeCA has dispatched a team of health experts to the store but does not yet know when the store will reopen, officials said.
“DeCA has sent public health, sanitation, engineer and store operation experts to the store and is working with installation personnel to ensure the facility is thoroughly cleaned and to address where and how the pests are entering the store,” commissary officials said.
“We plan to completely resolve the issues at Twentynine Palms and reopen the commissary once all health and sanitation standards are met,” they added.
Base officials said commissary shoppers who are worried about whether their recent purchases are OK to eat may be able to file a refund claim with the Navy‘s tort claim unit.
“They will need to fill out an SF 95 package. TCU prefers that the claims be emailed to them at TORTCLAIMSUNIT@navy.mil,” base officials said.
Those wishing to file a claim should include “supporting documentation for the loss, such as receipts or bank records,” they said.
The mailing address for TCU is: Office of the Judge Advocate General Tort Claims Unit Norfolk, 9620 Maryland Ave. Suite 205, Norfolk, VA 23511-2949.
Every day, countless men and women who served in the armed forces return home from war with wounds that are invisible — most never reach out to seek help.
As new mental health treatments are developed, many don’t want to be placed on a cocktail of medication they can’t pronounce and put them in a fog. That’s where an organization called Mutual Rescue can help.
David Whitman and Carol Novello created a national animal-welfare initiative that aims to connect loving and homeless pets with people who are in need of specialized care.
“Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, Scout saved my life,” said Josh Marino, an Iraq war vet. “He put me on a different path. He gave me the confidence to try to come back from all the adversity that I was feeling.”
Check out Mutual Rescue‘s video for Josh Scout’s uplifting story of how animals can rescue their owners.
In what should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the current state of Washington, the three service secretaries complained Oct. 24 about how hard it was to get anything done because of the cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy and Congress’ inability to approve a spending budget on time.
In a forum sponsored by the Center for a New American Security in D.C., Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said she had been surprised by “how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington, how difficult it is to move your agenda.”
James specifically mentioned the political stalemate in the Congress and “the need to get back to compromise.”
Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said his biggest surprise and frustration was “how slowly the bureaucracy moves, particularly DoD-wide.” If you want to do something, he said, the response is “we have to study this, or you have to do it DoD-wide” instead of letting the individual services act.
Army Sec. Eric Fanning said he was surprised by “how much time that would be spent on the budget every year,” because “we don’t have any stability” in the congressional budget process.
All three of the secretaries said they were trying to take steps within their service to bypass the ponderous procurement process, with James and Fanning citing the rapid capabilities offices their services have established to get gear fielded quicker — even if it wasn’t “a 100 percent solution.”
The procurement system is set up to seek the ultimate solution, which is a problem because the adversary moves quicker, Fanning said.
Mabus endorsed that view and said the Navy has “been doing pilot programs,” to move prospective systems out to the fleet instead of following the lengthy process for a program of record. The idea, he said, “is to get something out faster,” and possibly to “fail faster.”
He cited the Navy’s deployment of an experimental laser defensive weapon system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf, which is influencing decisions on follow-on weapons.
James said the advice she would offer her successor in the next administration would be to spend less time on review and oversight on smaller programs so the acquisition specialists could have more time for the biggest programs.
The three secretaries, who would be expected to leave office when a new president and defense secretary take over next year, said they are involved in a detailed process run by Defense Sec. Ash Carter’s office to prepare briefing papers on programs, budget and personnel issues for their successors.
The secretaries were introduced by Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS, who is widely rumored to be the next defense secretary if Hillary Clinton becomes president.
The three officials insisted that their services were ready to fight the current battles against violent extremists, such as ISIL, but said they were concerned about their ability to prepare those forces for a future fight against a high-end adversary due to the uncertain and constrained defense budgets, the intense pace of operations and reductions in their force levels.
Among the emerging threats they were trying to prepare for, the secretaries cited cyber attacks from high-end rivals such as Russia, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which already are showing up in Iraq.
James noted the explosive loaded UAV that killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq recently. And she said the Air Force detected an “unmanned system in the vicinity” of its deployed forces and “was able to bring it down with electronic means” rather than shooting it down. She declined to say how that was done.
Asked if they would be able to conduct a “no-fly zone” over rebel-held areas of Syria, which some have advocated, James said, “we know how to do this,” but it would require money, people and resources that would have to come from other commitments.
But because the Air Force would be supported by the Navy and perhaps coalition partners, “I have to believe we would figure out how to do it,” she said
Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.
It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.
The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.
1. It was an easy target.
Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.
Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”
2. The road was a bumpy ride.
All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.
3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.
“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.
In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.
4. The road required constant patrols.
Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.
At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.
5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.
Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.
Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.
Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.
Gen. Robert B. Abrams recalled once being awakened at 2 a.m. on a Friday. It was the early 1980s then, and he was a young lieutenant stationed in a cavalry squadron in West Germany.
It was a unit alert that had woken him from his sleep, he recalled. Back then, those alerts could come at any time, completely unannounced. And when they came, soldiers in area bars would need to report to their units, in whatever state they were in, within two hours.
Abrams, commander, US Army Forces Command, spoke earlier this month at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Once soldiers were assembled, he said, they had four hours to get all their gear and ammunition loaded on trucks and tanks, and move out to their tactical assembly areas. They had to be ready to cross the border into East Germany, if called to do so.
“Everyone had a sense of urgency and knew what was at stake,” he said, remembering his early days in the Army.
However, the mindset is beginning to shift, he said. “That’s the direction the Army is now taking.”
Abrams pointed to a number of readiness indicators, including training, which he said has improved over the last couple of years.
Recently, the Army has shifted its training focus to a “decisive-action training environment that’s very robust,” he said.
The DATE training environment includes training with both conventional and non-conventional forces in all domains during every combat training center, or CTC, rotation, he said.
Leading up to the CTC rotation, units have also improved their home-station training, he said, adding that there’s been a 300 percent increase in company-level, live-fire exercises at home station over the last two years.
Even aviation units at the platoon and company levels are now participating in live-fire exercises, something not widely seen since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“We’ve made huge progress over the last couple of years in reducing the number of non-deployable (soldiers),” Abrams said, adding that it’s still the No. 1 readiness challenge facing the Army today.
Some units have seven or eight percent non-deployables, he said, so there’s still some work to do to shrink those numbers.
Abrams attributed improvements in reducing the number of non-deployable soldiers to several factors, including the fielding this year of the commander’s Medical Readiness Dashboard. That computerized medical update allows company and battalion commanders to better understand and deal with the medical status of their soldiers.
Improved physical training is another area the general credited with reducing injuries and elevating fitness levels. He gave a shout-out to a pilot program now underway that is incorporating a new soldier readiness test involving four brigades from FORSCOM that are evaluating “all five measurements of fitness.”
The Army is moving away from an “industrial-age medical system,” to one that’s more like the type used for professional athletes that gives soldiers the care they need “at their point of impact and at the point of injury,” he noted.
The importance of care is so important because “muscular-skeletal injuries continue to impact soldiers,” he said.
Twelve of the Army’s 25 brigade combat teams have, to date, received their complete authorized stockage lists, Abrams said, and US Army Materiel Command is working on equipping the rest. ASLs consist of such things as repair parts, fuel, and construction material kept at each BCT distribution center.
To ensure the equipment is sufficient and where it needs to be, Abrams said FORSCOM conducts monthly logistics and aviation readiness reviews.
The biggest struggle in equipping the force right now, he said, is getting spare parts to where they are needed in a timely manner. Currently, he said, the wait time is about five times what it should be.
A big part of increasing readiness, Abrams said, involves adequate and predictable funding from Congress.
“Continuing resolutions crush us at the unit level,” he said. “We are unable on a monthly basis to adequately plan to support training and requisition repair parts for our fleet at a tempo we are training.”
Abrams admitted that the Army doesn’t have an adequate narrative about readiness to present to lawmakers. “We in the military intuitively know what readiness means but have been unable to articulate it to the public. Everybody wants a ready force but we have a hard time describing it.”
The world is “one tiny tantrum away” from a nuclear crisis, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said Dec. 10 as it accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
“We have a choice: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us,” the group’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said, according to a BBC report.
ICAN, a network of more than 400 global nongovernmental organizations, won the prize for its efforts in highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as working on a treaty to ban them.
The possibility of nuclear retaliation has been thrust into the global spotlight in recent months as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continue to flare. North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch in late November demonstrated the country’s expanding missile capabilities, putting the international community on edge.
At the same time, many foreign-policy observers have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for mocking and lashing out at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter.
Speaking at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Fihn said the threat of nuclear weapons being used was “greater today than in the Cold War” and warned that a country’s “moment of panic” could lead to the “destruction of cities and the deaths of millions of civilians.”
The Nobel committee’s chair, Berit Reiss-Andersen, commended ICAN’s work toward eliminating nuclear weapons, warning that “irresponsible leaders can come to power in any nuclear state.”
The group’s win was announced in October, to international applaud.
Following the statement, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN under secretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, said in a UN broadcast that ICAN’s win came at a time when everyone “realizes the danger that we are all living in terms of nuclear peril.”
Referring to current relations between the international community and North Korea, Nakamitsu said, “moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons is really today an urgent priority.”
Last week, the White House national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said the chances for war on the peninsula were growing, CNN reported.
“I think it’s increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” McMaster said in a conference in California, when asked whether North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch had increased the chance of war.