As the owner selling an excavated underground Minuteman II missile site in Missouri on eBay, California investor Russ Nielsen reads the pulse of America’s darkest fears.
The number of people visiting the historic property’s eBay information page spikes like an EKG in a heart attack.
Ordinarily, the curious property located near Holden, MO, may get some 70 online views a day, Nielsen said by phone this week from California.
When Donald Trump won the presidency last November? Boom. The site was getting 140 to 150 hits a day.
And now, as North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong Un defiantly sends ballistic missiles over Japan, survivalists and the frightened are back at some 150 views a day.
“It’s definitely a ‘prepper’ kind of thing,” Nielsen said, referring to the slang term for people who want to be prepared in the event of widespread calamity and disorder.
Bomb shelter companies across the nation are reporting a boost in sales.
The selling price for Nielsen’s unique property, though, is steep for most people, he said. It’s going for $325,000. He’s had five potential buyers who were serious since he put it up for sale in the fall of 2015, he said. A couple of them are still trying to raise the financing.
What Nielsen recovered — at great cost and effort over a span of two years — is the “Mike-1” Minuteman II missile launch facility that housed the missileers who controlled the triggers to 10 of the 150 intercontinental missile sites scattered across central Missouri under the command of Whiteman Air Force Base.
Most of the Minuteman II sites — including all of the Missouri sites — were decommissioned some 20 years ago. Their shafts were buried under a mix of concrete, mud, and rock that was meant to deter any thoughts of reactivating them.
The project, including the maddening bureaucracy in getting his quixotic venture approved, turned into such a laborious boondoggle that Nielsen admits he wouldn’t have done it knowing what he knows now.
But, having endured it, he has relished the many inquiries he has received from veterans who served underground those many decades ago — “Ratmen,” they called themselves. The history of America’s Cold War has been fascinating.
The Minuteman II missiles represented the height of America’s Cold War arsenal, with about 1,000 of them forever ready to launch.
Some 450 sites with Minuteman III missiles remain ready in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
Not surprisingly, some of Nielsen’s most interested potential buyers have had an eye on the site’s unique history as well as its accommodations in the event of a national disaster.
One potential buyer has been trying to gather financing for an historical movie project, he said. Another has interest in turning it into a residential training facility for martial and military arts.
Not surprising for a property whose curb appeal requires a bit of imagination.
Is it time for America to support regime change in Iran? A growing chorus inside the Beltway says “yes.” According to them, the arc of history bends toward freedom in Iran. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh argue in TheWall Street Journal that “[d]evising a strategy to collapse the clerical regime isn’t difficult” because “the essential theme in modern Iranian history is a populace seeking to emancipate itself from tyranny.” They see the growing economic chaos in Iran as birth-pangs of emancipation and call for America to act as midwife.
Many intellectuals before Gerecht and Takeyh have advanced theories of unstoppable historical change, driven by forces the wise can interpret and accelerate. In the nineteenth century, Hegel thought history was rushing toward human freedom. Marx thought it drove toward the collapse of capitalism and the rise of socialism. More recently, some thought the end of communism foreshadowed an inevitable global shift toward liberal democracy — an “end of history.” Dictatorships elsewhere, they thought, were living on borrowed time. One small push and the tide of history would do the rest.
They put their theory to the test in Iraq in 2003. They promised regime change in Iraq would lead the whole Middle East into the next stage of history: peaceful, tolerant, and democratic. The exact opposite resulted.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Washington’s foreign policy elite used U.S. military power to bring down a brutal autocracy, only to see barbarism follow. Iraq became a land of looting, torture, and beheadings. A sectarian civil war drove out the majority of Iraq’s Christians and sorted Baghdad into a checkerboard of segregated neighborhoods. The Islamic State group sprung up in the chaos. ISIS—not democracy — spread to Iraq’s neighbors. American troops are still cleaning up the mess in Iraq 15 years later. Shaping history had failed. The regime change experiment’s cost was too high and accumulates to this day.
Those now calling for regime change in Iran insist they do not want a repeat of Iraq. That incorrectly assumes the invasion of Iraq was a tactical rather than a strategic failure. They seem to believe overthrowing the mullahs will not only be easier but also lead to even better outcomes — we are asked to suspend reality and ignore the results from Washington’s post-9/11 foreign policy decisions.
It took hundreds of thousands of American troops to remove Saddam Hussein. Iran regime change proponents suggest economic sanctions, a little covert action, and a few mean tweets can do in Ali Khamenei. Even better, democracy is sure to follow, since it is the next stage in Iranian history’s arc.
(U.S. Army photo)
And that’s possible. Iran is home to a great people with a terrible government. Things can get much better. However, as the regime changers learned the hard way in Iraq, they can also get much worse. Deeper pressure on Iran could strengthen the regime. Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq did exactly that. As Peter Beinart observed, “sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.”
In Iran, the hardline Revolutionary Guards have the inside track on those resources. The last round of sanctions let them buy up struggling businesses and run smuggling rings. New pressure could leave the Guards with an even bigger slice of an even smaller pie.
And if new unrest leads to the clerics’ fall, the Guards have the money and the guns. A military dictatorship may be more likely than a democracy. At a minimum, the military would have a veto over the new government. Revolutions can end up in unexpected places. We need to look no further than Iran’s 1979 uprising for evidence. Few realized Khomeini would be more than a figurehead. Intellectuals and left-wing groups that backed Iran’s revolution faced serious persecution after it. Women’s rights supporters held a massive demonstration against mandatory hijab just weeks after the revolution’s success, chanting “We did not make a revolution to go backwards.”
Even if we do provoke an uprising in Iran, uprisings often fail. As Takeyh and Gerecht note, they failed in Iran in 1999, 2009, and late 2017.
History is full of thwarted revolts and broken rebellions: Tiananmen Square in China, the Prague Spring, the Fronde, the Vendee Rebellion, the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the 1953 East German protests, the March 1st Movement in Korea, the 2.28 Incident in Taiwan, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the 1848 Hungarian revolution, the Basmachi revolt against the Soviet Union, the Constitutionalist Revolution in Brazil, and many more. The regimes that led the crackdowns on these uprisings lasted for many more years — and they were often more brutal than before.
Americans should reject calls for new regime change plans abroad. But that does not mean ignoring dictators, abandoning our values, or espousing moral relativism.
Instead, we should embrace the tradition of humility in foreign policy exemplified by our Founders. They, too, witnessed repression abroad. They, too, loved our system of government and hoped for its spread. They wanted America to be, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.” But they prudently worried that getting involved in other nations’ internal politics would entangle America in new conflicts it could barely understand, let alone solve. (Iraq showed the price of ignoring their wisdom.)
Freedom is not something to be given away or imposed. It emerges organically, and often slowly, in a people. Its success is difficult to predict. This is why the Monroe Doctrine emphasized America would recognize new states that “maintain” their freedom, not those who merely declare it, and why Adams warned that backing revolts abroad “involve [America], beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”
They were heirs to the complicated, uncertain, centuries-long rise of the rights of Englishmen. The Magna Carta was in its sixth century when the Constitution was written. They were also heirs to the classical tradition and thus knew that the establishment of the Republic in Rome or democracy in Greek city-states had not brought about an end to history. They put checks and balances in the Constitution because they knew their project was uncertain. The same uncertainty helped foster their disinterest in using American power to boost foreign revolutions. Lasting republics take time, and they aren’t inevitable.
Unlike today’s regime changers, America’s founding generations realized that history is not predictable.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 74th Fighter Squadron taxis down the runway during Green Flag-West 17-03 Jan. 23, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 74th FS brought 12 A-10s to GFW in support of a joint, large-force, combat-readiness exercise for close air support integration training.
Two Air Force teams hand off their batons during the mile relay at the 27th annual Air Force Invitational at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan. 21, 2017. The Falcons fielded five teams, grabbing the top two positions, with the Colorado Buffs finishing in third place.
U.S. Army and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre
173rd Airborne Brigade and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve, Jan. 26, 2017.
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2017) Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd fleet.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship’s carrier strike group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests.
Marines assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fire a M252A2 81mm mortar system at Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 13, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which provides all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force. 1/3 is currently participating as the ground combat element for this exercise.
Marines observe the abilities of military working dog teams during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2017. The Marines are dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
A 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew from Station Sand Key, Florida, prepares to set a safety zone before the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew flies over the Gasparilla barge, Jose Gaspar, during the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.
Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.
The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.
The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.
The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.
Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.
The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.
In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.
The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.
On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.
Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.
Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.
But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.
According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.
“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”
Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”
There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.
A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.
Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.
The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.
In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.
“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.
“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.
Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.
Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.
“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron approaches the boom pod of a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 909th Aerial Refueling Squadron to receive fuel during Cope North 2017, Feb. 22, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 2,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.
Staff Sgt. Todd Hughes checks the anti-ice detector during an intake inspection on a Thunderbirds F-16C at Daytona Beach, Fla., February 24, 2017. The Thunderbirds will be performing the flyover during the opening ceremonies of the Daytona 500 race on Sunday. Hughes is a dedicated crew chief assigned to the team.
1st Sgt. Erik Carlson, Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division awaits transportation at an extraction point after a successful airborne operation in Deadhorse, Alaska, February 22. The battalion’s Arctic capabilities were tested as temperatures with wind chill reached as low as 63 below zero.
Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s special response team prepare to board a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crewed by Soldiers with the 185th Aviation battalion, Mississippi Army National Guard before conducting airborne insertion training Feb. 14, 2017 in Jackson, Mississippi. The Soldiers are assisting the DEA train for interdiction and disaster response operations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 21, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 1st Class Derik Richardson, right, and Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Kevin Brodwater, both attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 embarked aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4), conduct a live-fire exercise aboard an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 23, 2017) Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) swim in the South China Sea. Coronado is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region’s littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing the U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future.
U.S. Marines and Sailors with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, and 12th Marines attached to Alpha Battery, 3D Battalion, make final preparations before heading to the field in the Hijudai Maneuver Area, Japan, Feb. 24, 2017. Marines and sailors participate in the artillery relocation training program to provide timely and accurate fires to sustain military occupational specialty skills, train Marines/sailors in common skills, and promote professional military education for the overall goal of enhancing combat operational readiness and international relationships.
Sri Lankan Marines assault a beach as part of an amphibious capabilities demonstration during the Sri Lanka Marine Corps Boot Camp graduation at Sri Lankan Naval Station Barana in Mullikulum, Sri Lanka, Feb. 27, 2017. The SLMC will be an expeditionary force with specific missions of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping support.
Pictured here is Boomer, the mascot of Coast Guard Station Crisfield, Maryland, sitting on the deck of a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium Feb. 28, 2017. Boomer was rescued from a shelter and reported to Station Crisfield as the mascot in December 2013.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Dakota Crow and Fireman Cody Rogers of the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty fire a .50 caliber machine gun during a practice fire exercise at the Juneau Police Department firing range in Juneau, Alaska, Feb. 24, 2017. Strict safety guidelines are practiced by all Coast Guard members when it comes to operating any firearms.
Trainees entering into basic military training at the 37th Training Wing the first week of October 2019 were the first group to be issued the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms.
When Air Force officials announced last year they were adopting the Army OCP as the official utility uniform, they developed a three-year rollout timeline across the force for the entire changeover. Last week put them on target for issue to new recruits entering BMT.
“Each trainee is issued four sets of uniforms with their initial issue,” said Bernadette Cline, clothing issue supervisor. “Trainees who are here in (Airmen Battle Uniforms) will continue to wear them throughout their time here and will be replaced when they get their clothing allowance.”
The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Initial Issue Clothing outfits nearly 33,000 BMT trainees every year and maintains more than 330,000 clothing line items.
“We partner with Defense Logistics Agency who provides the clothing items upfront to be issued,” said Donald Cooper, Air Force initial clothing issue chief. “Then we warehouse and issue to the individuals’ size-specific clothing.”
U.S. Air Force basic military training trainees assigned to the 326th Training Squadron receive the first Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms during initial issue, Oct. 2, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
After taking airmen feedback into consideration, the uniform board members said they chose the OCP for the improved fit and comfort and so that they will blend in with their soldier counterparts’ uniforms in joint environments, according to Cooper.
“Right now, if someone deploys, they’ll get it issued,” Cline said. “And now that everyone is converting over to this uniform, (the trainees) already have the uniform to work and deploy in.”
Following the timeline, the OCP should now be available online for purchase as well.
The next mandatory change listed on the timeline, to take place by June 1, 2020, will be for airmen’s boots, socks, and T-shirts to be coyote brown. Also, officer ranks to the spice brown.
Switching from two different types of utility uniforms to just one, multifunctional uniform could also simplify life for the airmen.
“I think the biggest value is going to be the thought that they aren’t required to have two uniforms anymore once they convert to a uniform that is for deployment and day-to-day work,'” Cooper said.
The latest ban on transgender service members is legally in effect after two years of tweets, lawsuits, and political wrangling in Washington. It took four court battles to keep those who fail to meet military standards for their birth sex from serving in the U.S. military. Like it or not, this is the policy handed down from the Commander-In-Chief and implemented by the Department of Defense.
According to the DoD, its new policy is less of a “ban” and more of a specific directive on how to handle those with gender dysphoria. Thomas Crosson, the Deputy Director of Defense Public Affairs Operations says anti-discriminatory policies are still in effect.
“The policy specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender identity,” Crosson said in a video press release. “This policy focuses on the medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and aspects of this condition that may limit the servicemember’s ability to deploy.”
The President first announced the policy via Twitter in 2017. It was to take effect in January 2018.
Crosson went on to add that the Pentagon welcomes anyone who can meet the military’s standards, but what he meant was the standards of their gender at birth. Some current servicemembers will be exempt from the new policy, including those who joined the military in their preferred gender or received a gender dysphoria diagnosis before the new policy takes effect.
Current servicemembers who identify as transgender with no diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria will see no change in their service, so long as they serve in their biological gender. Those who did receive a diagnosis or have a known history were once able to serve in their preferred gender once completing their physical transition, but must now serve in their birth gender. Except for those exempt persons, if the member cannot serve in that capacity, they may be forced to separate.
In January 2019, the Supreme Court allowed enforcement of the policy while lawsuits were still pending.
Incoming transgender troops or those interested in applying will experience the biggest changes in policy. Those coming in with no diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria can still join but must meet the qualifications and expectations of their gender assigned at birth. Those incoming troops who do have a diagnosis or history can still serve, but must show 36 months of stability and serve in their biological gender.
New applicants who have already physically transitioned to their preferred gender are disqualified from serving in the United States military.
The transgender ban went into full effect in April 2019.
The Defense Department believes anyone who can meet the military standards of their gender without special accommodations should be able to serve and that this statement includes transgender Americans. According to the DoD, gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition, and those who underwent cross-gender reassignment surgery and cross-gender hormone therapy may not be able to meet the military standards associated with their gender. This fact, the Pentagon says, could adversely affect unit readiness and combat effectiveness.
But, like with most DoD policies, standards, and military regulations, “waivers can be made for individuals on a case-by-case basis.”
The Army is fast-tracking newly configured Stryker vehicles armed with helicopter and drone-killing weapons to counter Russia in Europe and provide more support to maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams in combat.
“We are looking for a rapid solution for the near-term fight,” Maj. Gen. John Ferarri, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The Strykers will fire a wide range of weapons to destroy close-in air threats attacking maneuvering ground units, to potentially include Hellfire or Stinger missiles. The program, which plans to deploy its first vehicles to Europe by 2020, is part of an Army effort called Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD).
Senior leaders say the service plans to build its first Stryker SHORAD prototype by 2019 as an step toward producing 144 initial systems.
Given that counterinsurgency tactics have taken center stage during the last 15 years of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army now recognizes a need to better protect ground combat formations against more advanced, near-peer type enemy threats – such as drones, helicopters or low-flying aircraft.
“We are looking for an end to end system that is able to detect and defeat the rotary wing fixed wing and UAS (drone) threat to the maneuvering BCT (Brigade Combat Team),” Col. Charles Worshim, Project Manager for Cruise Missile Defense Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Worshim said the Army has sent a solicitation to a group of more than 500 weapons developers, looking for missiles, guns, and other weapons like a 30mm cannon able to integrate onto a Stryker vehicle.
Although drone threats have been rapidly escalating around the globe, US enemies such as the Taliban or ISIS have not presented air-attacking threats such as helicopters, aircraft, or large amounts of drones. However, as the Army evaluates it strategic calculus moving forward, there is widespread recognition that the service must be better equipped to face technically sophisticated enemies.
“We atrophied air defense if you think about it. With more near-peer major combat operations threats on the horizon, the need for SHORAD and high-tier weapons like THAAD and PATRIOT comes back to the forefront. This is a key notion of maneuverable SHORAD — if you are going to maneuver you need an air defense capability able to stay up with a formation,” the senior Army official said.
As part of its emerging fleet of SHORAD Stryker vehicles, the Army is exploring four different weapons areas to connect with on-board sensor and fire control, Worshim said; they include Hellfire missiles, Stinger missiles, gun capabilities, and 30mm cannons.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fire, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.
As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed Stryker. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.
Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles, and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.
The Army is also developing a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher designed to destroy drones and cruise missiles on the move in combat. The MML has already successfully fired Hellfire, AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and other weapons as a mobile air-defense weapon. It is showing great promise in testing, fires multiple missiles, and brings something previous not there to Army forces. However, an Armed Stryker can fortify this mission — by moving faster in combat and providing additional armored vehicle support to infantry on the move in a high-threat combat environment.
The SHORAD effort has been under rapid development by the Army for several years now; in 2017, the service held a SHORAD “live-fire shooting demo” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., where they fired a number of emerging platforms.
Some of the systems included in the demonstration included Israel’s well-known Iron Dome air defense system, a Korean-build Hanwha Defense Systems armored vehicle air defense platform and a General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker Maneuver SHORAD Launcher.
US military officials familiar with the demonstration said the Hanwha platform used was a South Korean K30 Biho, called the Flying Tiger; it is a 30mm self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon which combines an electro-optically guided 30mm gun system with surveillance radar on a K200 chassis.
A General Dynamics Land Systems specially-armed Stryker vehicles were also among the systems which recently destroyed enemy drone targets during the demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. — according to Army officials familiar with the event.
One of the Strykers used was an infantry carrier armed with an Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon; this weapon can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, Army officials said.
An industry source familiar with the demonstration said Iron Dome hit its air targets but elected not to fire at surface targets, the Flying Tiger completely missed its targets, the Orbital ATK integrated gun failed to engage targets and General Dynamics Land Systems SHORAD hit all three targets out of three attempts.
Worshim emphasized that those vendors who participated in the demo will not necessarily be the technology chosen by the Army, however the event did greatly inform requirements development of the weapons systems. Also, while SHORAD has been integrated onto a Stryker, the Army only recently decided that it would be the ideal armored combat platform for the weapon.
At the same time, building similarly armed Bradleys or infantry carriers is by no means beyond the realm of the possible as the service rushes to adapt to new ground war threats.
“There could be an air and missile defense mission equipment package integrated onto other combat vehicles,” Worshim said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Three members of the U.S.-Russian crew have returned to Earth after spending several months at the International Space Station (ISS).
Russia’s Roskosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-15 capsule carrying the crew chief, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed safely on April 17 in Kazakhstan.
Skripochka and Meir spent 205 days in orbit, while Morgan’s time in space lasted 272 days.
Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
The crew was replaced by U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who docked with the ISS on April 10.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of being brought to the city of Qaraghandy in central Kazakhstan for traditional welcome ceremonies, the crew members were taken straight to the Baikonur space complex near the city of Qyzylorda.
The U.S. astronauts will fly aboard a NASA plane directly from Qyzylorda to Houston, while the crew’s commander Skripochka will fly back to Russia.
The ISS, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.
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.
Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.
The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.
This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.
The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.
On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.
The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).
VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.
Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).
During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.
During the Cold War, Syria remained a staunch ally to the Soviet Union – a source of power and stability for the Assad regime. In 2012, the United States began supporting Syrian rebels, stepping into the conflict and into Russia’s backyard.
Ever since, the Russians have made it a point to antagonize the Americans at every opportunity. Not being content to cross “red lines” and annex Crimea, Putin expertly trolls the U.S. and its president every Independence Day.
2016: Vladimir Putin addresses the American people
President Putin took the time to write to the U.S. about his wish for better relations.
“The history of Russian-American relations shows that when we act as equal partners and respect each other’s lawful interests, we are able to successfully resolve the most complex international issues for the benefit of both countries’ peoples and all of humanity,” Putin wrote to President Obama.
“Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your 4th of July Independence Day.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the phone with President Obama the entire time, calling to wish him a Happy Independence Day.
At the same time, Russian aircraft are intercepted in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.
2014: Russian bombers intercepted off of Alaska and California
American F-22 Raptors intercept four long-range Tupolev 95 Bear H bombers and their aerial refueler just 200 miles off the coast of North America.
Two of them veer off back to Russian airspace while the other two skirt U.S. airspace 50 miles from the California coastline.
2013: Infamous Russian spy publicly proposes to Edward Snowden
Fully 10 days into his permanent residency in Russia, American whistleblower Edward Snowden received a public marriage proposal from Anna Chapman (aka Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko), an outed Russian spy– which was quickly spread by Russian state media.
Chapman was exchanged with nine other Russian agents in 2010, garnering notoriety because of her bright red hair, history of modeling, and Cold War-era spy story.
She publicly tweeted her proposal more than once, even asking the NSA to babysit their potential children.
2012: Nuclear-capable bombers enter Alaska Air Defense Zone
The 200-mile zone between the U.S. and Russia was penetrated by two Tu-95 Bear H Bombers on July 4, 2012, but the planes did not enter American airspace.
Defense officials called it “Putin’s 4th of July Bear greeting to Obama.”
Any Russian aircraft entering the area are always intercepted by American fighters, but this time it was notable because it happened on Independence Day – the first of many to come.
Have you ever looked at the old SR-71 Blackbird and wondered how awesome it would be as a fighter jet? So did the United States Air Force (for the most part). The SR-71 is based on the super-secret CIA’s A-12 reconnaissance plane. When the Air Force got a glimpse of the A-12 and its capabilities, their minds got to work.
The first idea to come from the A-12 design was the YF-12, a single-seat interceptor aircraft that closely resembled the A-12 but came packing with guns and missiles instead of photographic and signals intelligence monitoring equipment.
Lockheed’s YF-12 first took off in August 1963 and unlike its predecessor, the A-12, or its successor, the SR-71, there was nothing really secret about it. The President of the United States first revealed its existence but that might have been a strategic move. It covered up the CIA’s super-secret aircraft and provided enemies a window into the advancements Air Force fighters were making.
The YF-12 was every bit as great as expected, and every bit as great as both the A-12 and the SR-71. It could fly at supersonic speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes of more than 80,000 feet. It is still the largest and fastest interceptor aircraft ever built.
It also had an advanced fire control radar system to operate the AIM-47 missiles that could be mounted under its wings. Unlike other missile systems at the time, the AIM-47 was much more accurate and reliable in air-to-air combat. This would have made the YF-12 the deadliest aircraft in the world at the time.
The Air Force was understandably excited at the prospect of integrating such a fighter aircraft into its air defense network. After successfully testing the AIM-47 missile integration, the USAF placed an order for more than 90 of these flying behemoths, ready to implement them into the defense of the United States. It was a little war brewing in Vietnam that would be the program’s demise.
As the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia increased, so did the American commitment to South Vietnam. Spending on the war increased along with it. Concerned about the cost of the YF-12 program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declined to support the interceptor program and it was ultimately cancelled in 1968.
All was not lost for the unique airframe, however. Though there was no need for a supersonic, high-altitude interceptor for airspace defense in the U.S., there was a need for an ultra-fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to fly over places other aircraft wouldn’t dare. The SR-71 Blackbird was born from this need.
The Blackbird looks exactly like its predecessors but outperforms both of them. It has a greater operational range than the YF-12 and is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built, a record set in 1976.
SR-71s were a brief view of what the YF-12 could have been: a fighter aircraft so accurate, it could hit a target on the ground while flying at three times the speed of sound. If another fighter or a surface-to-air missile came up at it, all the pilots had to do was hit the throttle and outrun it. The A-12s, YF-12s and SR-71s were titanium masterpieces of Cold War technology.