North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.
Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.
Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.
South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and said that it flew for about 1677 miles.
During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.
“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.
The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.
On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.
The Air Force has laid out plans to welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions.
The service, through the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, or VRRAD, is encouraging pilots who held a job in the 11X career field to apply before Dec. 31, 2018, officials said in a release this week.
In an effort to address the increasing pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last July signed off on the program, which aims to fill flight staff positions with those who have prior pilot experience and expertise, thus allowing active-duty pilots to focus on training and missions.
Returning retirees will not be eligible for aviation bonuses, the release said. They will deploy only if they volunteer.
Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major, or lieutenant colonel can apply for VRRAD, according to the service’s criteria for the program.
While the Air Force select candidates on a first-come, first-served basis, officials said, applicants are required to be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical; must have served in a rated staff position within the past 10 years; or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within five years of application.
Officers who retired following, or in lieu of, a Selective Early Retirement Board, and officers who retired for a physical disability are not eligible to apply, the release said.
“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding.
“They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments,” Jarding, who works at the Air Force Personnel Center, said in the release.
The Air Force is looking to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.
“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who has been a military pilot, and [we] would like to be able to keep our pilots who are current in the aircraft in the aircraft and try to fill some of these vital flight slots,” Wilson said in August.
Should those positions remain unfilled through 2018, the Air Force will keep the program open for additional applicants, the release said.
Former airmen can apply for the program, which began Aug. 11, through the Air Force Personnel Center via the myPers website. Those without a myPers account must establish one via http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.
The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System has made its mark. You can see why in this video, where a slight hiccup with the main gun is overcome, and the gun goes off. However, does it truly match up with the M551 Sheridan light tank?
Well, technically, the Sheridan was an Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle that was first introduced in 1966. Its main gun was the M81, a 152mm gun that could also fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile.
The Shillelagh had a range of 3,000 meters. It didn’t work that well, and is only combat experience was being used against bunkers during Operation Desert Storm. A Sheridan could carry nine Shillelaghs and twenty “normal” rounds for the M81 gun.
The Sheridan did see a lot of combat in Vietnam, where it was both loved and hated. Its gun was very good at providing fire support, but it had a much slower rate of fire than the M48 Patton. Still, the Army bought over 1,600 Sheridans. The Sheridan was also the only armored vehicle that could be dropped in with the 82nd Airborne.
Now, let’s look at the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. Like the rest of the Stryker family, it is an eight-by-eight wheeled vehicle. It fired the same M68 gun used on the M60 Patton and early versions of the M1 Abrams tank. It holds 18 rounds.
The gun is also mounted on an external weapons station with an autoloader. The M1128 can’t be air-dropped, though, but it can be flown in on a C-130.
Both vehicles have a .50-caliber machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun to handle infantry threats. Neither are capable of resisting anything more powerful than a 14.5mm machine gun, although the Stryker can take additional armor (at the cost of mobility).
Both gave the Army’s lighter forces some extra firepower. But the Sheridan had some clear advantages over the Stryker, while the Stryker offers some improvements over the Sheridan.
Really, though, the best of both worlds was probably the XM8 Armored Gun System. This was a light tank that had a XM35 105mm gun, and could hold 30 rounds for its main gun (plus the .50-caliber and 7.62mm machine guns). The system was also able to take add-on armor to protect it against a number of battlefield threats. Sadly, it was cancelled in 1997.
The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.
During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.
Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.
Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.
US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.
As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.
In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.
ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.
The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.
U.S. Marine Corps pilots are trained to operate advanced aircraft in often dangerous situations. These pilots are the only aviators in the U.S. military who are taught the basics of infantry tactics prior to flight school. This ensures every Marine is a rifleman. Though the chances of an aviator leading a platoon of infantry Marines are slim to none, there are cases where pilots are embedded in infantry units.
Capt. David “Tuck” Miller, a CH-53 Super Stallion pilot, is one of those pilots. Miller, a native of Queenstown, Maryland, is a Forward Air Controller with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, “Lava Dogs.”
“As a CH-53 pilot, I always have the opportunity to transport grunts in the back of my aircraft so this is just one more way where I can work closely with them and support them,” said Miller.
As the FAC, Miller is in charge of directing close air support and other offensive air operations. FACs are pilots who are tasked out from the aviation field to directly support ground combat units. The FACs are typically senior aviators who have spent at least two years in a fleet squadron, according to Miller. The prospects are sent to Tactical Air Control Party School to learn the fundamentals of close air support and how to call for fire. This allows the pilot to be a valuable asset when finally attached to an infantry unit.
“He speaks from the air side of the house and he knows what the pilots are saying and what they are looking for from us infantry guys, so he’s able to bridge that gap between the two communities,” said 1st Lt. Harry Walker, the fire support team leader.
Once the pilots touch base with the infantry units, they are indoctrinated into a completely different culture for almost two years.
“Coming from the air wing and going head first into an infantry battalion, it’s a little bit of a culture shock just because you do have all those hikes and spend a lot time in the field,” said Miller. “After I graduated from [The Basic School], I don’t think I spent one night in the field and then the first night I was out with the battalion I slept under the stars, but it’s still good to be here.”
The FAC billet is a not only beneficial for the infantry units but also great for the pilot executing the position, according to Miller.
“For them it’s all about the mission,” said Miller. “So as an aviator, it pushes me to be more studious and when I get back to the cockpit, I’ll be a better aviator.”
The Lava Dogs are currently forward-deployed for six months to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program. The battalion is tasked to provide a forward-deployed combat ready unit for in support of theater requirements.
This post originally appeared on WATM in November 2017. We just thought it was so good you might want to read it again.
Built in 1985, the Kuznetsov, a 55,000-ton behemoth, is a veteran of a full four deployments and the Russian Navy’s flagship. It’s powered by diesel fuel generators. Serving on the ship is akin to punishment for Russian sailors, who coined the phrase, “If you misbehave, you’ll be sent to the Kuznetsov.”
The carrier’s boilers are also defective to the point where the central heating system is inoperative and crewmen must bring their own heaters. This does not keep the pipes from freezing in extreme temperatures. Instead of fixing the system, the Russian Navy simply closed half the ship’s latrines and stopped running water to 60 percent of its cabins. Half the ventilators are also in need of repair, so the ship reeks of mold and mildew.
To further the discomfort, the cafeteria on board the carrier seats 150 people, for a crew of almost 2,000. Remember that the command closed half the latrines? There are 25 operational ones for 2,000 crewmen. The Russian sailors say they’re in formation ten times a day, for 35 minutes each time. That’s almost six hours of formation every day.
The Kuznetsov in its natural habitat: drydock
Comparatively, the U.S.’ oldest carrier is the Nimitz, build in 1975. The Nimitz is a nuclear-powered carrier, the flagship of its strike group. It is home to more than 6,500 sailors and has an unlimited endurance time and distance. Nimitz-class carriers have a life expectancy of 50 years and will not be replaced until at least 2025. (And they don’t deploy with deepwater tugs.)
Those in America worried about the military capability and force projection of Russia, China, and others can rest at ease. China’s first homegrown carrier uses the same terrible power source as the Kuznetsov as well as similar air assets, like a bow ramp which launches fighters into the air while limiting the weight and armament the planes can carry.
The United States sent its forces into Syria in 2014 to hasten the demise of ISIS. After the fall of the “caliphate” capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa three years later, the U.S. remained. It was determined to conduct operations that would bring the government forces of Bashar al-Asad to heel.
In 2018, U.S. forces and U.S.-backed militias from the Kurish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), controlled the Conoco gas field near the town of al-Tabiyeh in eastern Syria. The Americans and SDF were on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, while Syrian government troops and Russian mercenaries were on the other.
As far as the United States knew, there were no official Russian troops operating in this province. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made certain of that using official channels to the Russian government, in place to prevent a clash between American and Russian troops. The Russians operating with Bashar al-Asad’s troops were military contractors hired by the Wagner Group.
Pro-Assad forces controlled the nearby major city of Deir-ez-Zor, which allowed them a staging area for nearby attacks and to easily cross the river.
The pro-government forces had begun massing in Deir-ez-Zor for days prior and the American-led Coalition could see every move they made, even if they didn’t know who exactly was making those moves. For all the Coalition forces knew, they could have been ISIS. That’s when a large force departed the city, headed for the headquarters of the U.S.-SDF forces at Khasham.
On Feb. 7, 2018, 500 pro-government Syrian troops, including Iranian-trained Shia militiamen, along with Russian military contractors began their attack on the SDF headquarters. The assault began with mortars and rockets, supported by Soviet-built T-72 and T-55 tanks. Unfortunately for the Syrians, the SDF base just happened to be filled with 40 American special operations forces. After calling to ensure no official Russian forces would be harmed in the making of their counterattack, the operators called down the thunder.
American Special Forces called in AC-130 “Spooky” Gunships, F-15E Strike Eagles, Reaper drones, Apache helicopters, F-22 Raptors and even B-52 Stratofortress bombers. If that wasn’t enough to kill everything coming at them, nearby Marine Corps artillery batteries got in on the action. The attack was turned away, decisively. The only questions that remained were how many were killed in the “fighting” and how was the Syrian government going to cover up this epic mistake?
Coalition forces took one casualty, an SDF fighter who was wounded. The United States estimated the Syrians lost 100 killed. The Syrian government says 55 were killed in the fighting with a further loss of 10 Russian mercenaries. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 68 Syrians dead. Russian media lamented the idea that Russian remains were “abandoned” on the battlefield.
“Write it on your forehead: 14 volunteers were killed in Syria. I’m fed up with you chewing snot and telling fairy tales in your petty articles. As for your speculations there, what you write about those f****** investigations – no one has abandoned anyone.”
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
Here is his story.
From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge
Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.
“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”
Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.
Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.
World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”
He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.
“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”
On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.
“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”
Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.
World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.
Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.
“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”
From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.
“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”
After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.
Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) can be a debilitating condition and often referred to as the silent killer of veterans. Alarmed by the 22 veteran suicides per day statistic, Jake Clark founded Save A Warrior, a warrior-led healing experience to save active duty service members, veterans, and first responders from committing suicide and improve their lives.
In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast Jake Clark and Raychad Vannatta—Save A Warrior’s executive director—stop by to discuss their mission and tactics for curbing PTS.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.
“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.
Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.
“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.
In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.
He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.
“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.
Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.
This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.
Networking and AI
The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.
The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).
Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.
LCS & AI
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.
CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Chinese & Russian Threat
While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.
“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.
Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.
Chinese Naval Threat
A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.
Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.
Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.
“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation
The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.
After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.
The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.
Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.
“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”
Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.
“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.
If Britain chooses to acknowledge the attack as having been carried out by Russia on its own soil, it can invoke Article 5 within NATO and trigger a response, possibly war, from the 29-member alliance.
But Russia stands accused of killing 15 former spies on UK soil, and experts tell Business Insider it’s unlikely the UK will go to war over the nerve agent attack.