The Army will start buying weapons the way Special Operations does, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters here, bringing different specialists together in one streamlined team. The often-insular Army is also studying the other services, Milley said, particularly the rapid development of the nuclear Navy under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover. A three-star officer, Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, is currently developing detailed options, and Milley hopes to stand up “this new command” by summer 2018.
The primary objective: Infuse real-world combat experience into every step of the process. “Warfighters have to be intimately involved from the front end, (in) Milestone A (research) and B (development),” Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told a different group of reporters. That’s in contrast to the current “bifurcated” system, in which combat veterans, requirement writers for what new equipment must do, the program managers who actually build things, and the logisticians who keep them running are segregated in different bureaucracies.
The new system will draw on the experience of Special Operations Command and other small, streamlined organizations – such as the Army’s own Rapid Capabilities Office and Rapid Equipping Force. They will try to scale that up to the Big Army, McCarthy said. For each top priority program, a former combat brigade commander will lead a “cross functional team” of concept and requirements developers, program managers, testers, logisticians, and so on.
McCarthy emphasized that the Army isn’t asking for new force structure, just reorganizing what it has, and legally mandated reporting requirements will remain in place. Program managers will participate on the new teams, for example, but they’ll still answer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Will the Army need new legal authorities or relief from existing statue? “I don’t know,” McCarthy said frankly, but he’s already been talking with legislators and their staff.
One change defense contractors will appreciate: McCarthy is working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Ellen Lord, to change an unpopular policy on companies’ Independent Research And Development expenses. The intent, he told a formal press conference here, is to give companies incentives to spend their own money in IRAD, which benefits the troops, instead of sitting on cash and buying back their stock, which doesn’t.
New Model Army
All told, it’s an all-out assault on the slowest and most sclerotic of military bureaucracies (which is really saying something), the Army’s acquisition system. Milley said it would be “the largest reengineering of the institutional Army in four decades.”
Milley repeatedly emphasized that 40-year figure. Why? He’s referring to the 1973 reform by his famed predecessor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, that established a separate Training Doctrine Command to oversee all training, write all doctrinal manuals, and develop requirements. Once TRADOC writes requirements, however, they’re handed to Army Materiel Command and the ASAALT, who actually research, develop, buy, field, and sustain the equipment in question.
Getting requirements right is difficult for any military organization, but only the Army has to struggle with such a stark bureaucratic divide. One plausible rumor we’ve heard is that a new “Modernization Command” will be built by combining TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center and AMC’s Research Development Command, probably along with elements of Army Test Evaluation Command.
The proposed reform is outlined very vaguely in a memo co-signed by Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy, first reported by our colleague Patrick Tucker. “Our processes are staff-centric and often stove-piped, which inhibits integration within our across programs. Our requirements process is slow and overly bureaucratic,” the memo says. To fix this, “our Army will establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the modernization process under one roof.”
At a press conference here, Milley and McCarthy declined to divulge many details of the plan. The reorganization scheme is being developed by a task force under Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, who reports back in 120 days. But Milley shared more of his thinking to reporters who caught him on his way out, to the visible frustration of the aides trying to keep him on schedule:
“If you want to see the genesis of the model that we’re thinking about, go take a look at how SOCOM does their thing, because that’s where we got a lot of the ideas,” Milley said. “We looked at the way the Air Force does it, the Navy does it, (including) the navy in the nuclear environment, y’know under Rickover, (and) we went out to industry… we looked at all of that and tried to take best practices.”
“We’ve got to streamline, we’ve got to rationalize,” Milley said. “Right now, the Army’s structure — the institution, the processes, the organization (is) not coherent to deliver effective capabilities for the future.”
“With a few exceptions like the Army Rapid Capbilities Office and the Rapid Equipping Force, we’re basically a left-right-left, step-by-step process going from an idea, establishing a requirement, writing up a big requirements document, and then vetting it through multiple steps,” Milley said. “It takes 10, 20 years to go from idea to delivery of a capability. You just can’t operate like that in today’s world. You just can’t do it. it’s got to be faster, it’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be more coherent, and we’ve got to kind of bring it all together.”
Several times each year America’s premier combat pilots converge on Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for an air war exercise called Red Flag.
The storied proving ground for Air Force fighter pilots, Red Flag has become a bellwether for the war of the future, underscoring how fighter jocks and the supersonic whips they command are now only one piece of a complicated web of interwoven combat domains — including novel, non-kinetic threats in cyberspace and outer space.
As participants in Red Flag 21-1, members of the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron — an Air Force Reserve unit — simulate how America’s modern adversaries might use space-borne weapons to degrade the air superiority advantage that US combat forces have long enjoyed.
“Our role in [Red Flag] 21-1 is to replicate how an adversary would act in a conflict using space enabled capabilities,” said Maj. Scott Hollister, a flight commander in the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron — call sign Vader-1.
Activated in 2000, the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron was the US military’s first space aggressor unit. The 26th Space Aggressor Squadron, for its part, stood up in 2003. Space aggressors generally focus on three types of space-borne threats — GPS electronic attacks, satellite communications electronic attacks, and anti-satellite attacks.
“We and our active duty counterparts, the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron, are the only units who bring a space oriented ‘bad guy’ perspective to the exercise,” Hollister said, regarding Red Flag.
Typically running multiple times per year, Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier air combat exercise, involving air, ground, cyber, and space threats. Running from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, this year’s first iteration of the exercise includes some 2,400 participants from three countries, operating a gamut of the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lighting II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, EA-18G Growler, F-15E Strike Eagle, and A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog.”
During Red Flag, pilots and other personnel are pitted in mock combat against elite American “aggressor” units whose sole purpose is to simulate the combat tactics, technology, and procedures of foreign adversaries’ military forces.
The Air Force’s two active aggressor fighter squadrons fly F-16 fighters painted in unusual camouflage schemes and colors not normally found on American warplanes. The pilots in these elite aviation units compete against their peers in simulated dogfights and other air combat scenarios. Reportedly, there are plans to integrate early-model F-35As into the aggressor fleet by mid-2021.
As the Pentagon buckles down for great power competition after a generational focus on combatting low-tech insurgencies, the Air Force has put a renewed emphasis on its aggressor units. To that end, Red Flag offers American forces a chance to operate in a contested, degraded environment, facing threats from the air, ground, space, and cyberspace.
“Any realistic training against a near-peer or competitor nation is going to require heavy utilization of multi-domain operations. The classical role of the Air Force being able to penetrate an airspace protected by an Integrated Air Defense System is no longer a problem set that can be solved using Air Force assets and capabilities alone,” US Space Force Capt. Kaylee Taylor, chief of non-kinetic integration at the 414th Combat Training Squadron, said in a release.
During Red Flag, the space aggressors simulate an adversary’s tactics by jamming satellite communications and GPS receivers. This training teaches American warfighters how potent these “non-kinetic” weapons can be.
In military parlance, “non-kinetics” generally refers to electronic warfare weapons — deployed from the ground, air, and space — which can be used in tandem with cyberattacks. At Red Flag, the space aggressors work closely with a cyber aggressor unit to mimic the combined non-kinetic threats that US forces would likely face against a modern adversary such as Russia or China.
According to an Air Force release: “The 26th [Space Aggressor Squadron] mission is to replicate enemy threats to space-based and space-enabled systems during tests and training exercises. By using Global Positioning System and satellite communications adversary effects, the squadron provides Air Force, joint and coalition military personnel with an understanding of how to recognize, mitigate, counter and defeat these threats.”
Proficiency in operating with degraded systems could be decisive in a modern war. Adversaries such as Russia and China have electronic warfare technology capable of interfering with GPS signals and communication feeds — effectively divorcing US pilots from the technological aids on which they’ve relied to prosecute the post-9/11 air wars over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
In short — US combat pilots are training to fight a far more technologically sophisticated adversary than they’ve faced since 2001. And they’re training to do so without relying on America’s vaunted technological dominance in air power.
For fighter pilots, that means a renewed emphasis on certain old-school tactics, such as executing airstrikes with unguided, free-fall “dumb bombs” that depend on a pilot’s touch to ballistically lob onto a target. They also need exposure to the full gamut of electronic warfare threats they may face in combat against a near-peer adversary.
“For the pilots, it may be their first time seeing non-kinetics, space or cyber integrated into the air fight. We introduce it to them so they can prepare to compete and win in all-domain combat operations,” Taylor, the Space Force captain, said of Red Flag 21-1.
Two decades of counterinsurgency operations have adapted American combat pilots to operate within fairly predictable war zone architectures. But in the next war, US forces will face much more confusing battlefields where nothing can be taken for granted — especially communication and GPS.
“Red Flag aims to train how we fight against modern potential adversary capabilities. In order to do this, we have to bring together airborne capabilities with the emerging capabilities of both space and cyber units,” Taylor said.
As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.
Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.
During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.
And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”
“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.
The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.
The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
It was a regular April night around the Luttrell home near Huntsville, Texas. It had been five years since Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell fought the 2005 firefight with the Taliban that was portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. Since then, he received a Yellow Labrador puppy to help him recover from the unseen wounds of the war. He named the pup Dasy, an acronym of the names of his fellow SEALs — the ones that didn’t survive the battle.
A shot rang out throughout the area of the house. Luttrell sprang into action, grabbed a 9mm pistol, checked to see if his mother was alright, and then ran outside to check on Dasy. He found the puppy at the end of a trail of blood.
“When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ve got to take these guys out,'” Luttrell told NBC News.
Dasy was just four years old when gunmen shot and killed her.
He then spotted a suspicious vehicle nearby and tried to sneak up on it with a 9mm pistol. When he was 25 yards away, the car left — and Luttrell hopped in his pickup in hot pursuit.
“I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,” Luttrell said. “I could hear them laughing.”
He called the local emergency line and warned the 911 operator that he was chasing the men who killed his dog.
“I told them, ‘You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them, I’m going to kill them,'” Luttrell told the operator, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Navy Cross recipient stayed on with the emergency operator as he chased the gunmen across three Texas counties in a 40-mile, high-speed chase. Luttrell was still recovering from a recent surgery but it didn’t stop him from attempting to catch the fleeing suspects.
Dasy was more than just a therapy dog to Luttrell. The four-year-old dog helped Luttrell at a time when he wasn’t talking about what happened and had trouble sleeping. Dasy wasn’t just a pet, she was like a daughter to the former SEAL.
Luttrell’s pickup truck couldn’t keep up with the car in which the suspects fled the scene, but the Texas Rangers eventually stopped the vehicle, arresting two of them for cruelty to a non-livestock animal and the driver for not having a license. According to the Rangers, the shooting was the latest in a series of five dog killings in an area Luttrell describes as “the middle of nowhere.”
When Luttrell arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted the suspects, demanding to know which of them murdered Dasy. According to Luttrell, they started talking smack.
“Marcus is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training,” a Texas Ranger told NBC News. “I wouldn’t advocate to the general public to do what he has done — to follow them at that rate of speed.”
Luttrell and his new therapy dog, Rigby.
(Marcus Luttrell via Facebook)
Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Edmonds were convicted in 2012 of shooting Dasy with a .357 pistol that night. The conviction was later upheld by a Texas appellate court. Edmonds turned on Hernandez, pleading guilty and testifying against him. Edmonds received five years probation while Hernandez received the maximum sentence, two years confinement and a ,000 fine.
Luttrell said losing Dasy was a huge setback in his life but he soon had another therapy dog in his life, another Yellow Lab named “Rigby.”
A new Russian law allowing President Vladimir Putin’s government to cut the entire country from the rest of the web has officially come into effect.
The “sovereign internet” law, which came into force Nov. 1, 2019, allows the government to switch off the country’s internet in the face of a cyberattack, as well as locate and block web traffic.
Here’s what’s in the law:
Russian internet service providers (ISPs) are now required to install “deep package inspection” (DPI) tools within the country, which are equipment that allow providers to locate the source of web traffic, and reroute and block them if needed.
It also requires ISPs to route the country’s web traffic and information through state-controlled exchange points — thus creating its own version of the domain-name system, the directory of web domains and addresses.
Under this system, the government will also have the power to switch off all internet connections to other countries in an emergency, the BBC reported, citing the law’s text.
A Kremlin spokesman said users would not notice any change in their online activities.
“Blocking can range from a single message or post to an ongoing network shutdown, including cutting Russia off from the World Wide Web or shutting down connectivity within Russia,” the activist group said.
Kremlin officials argue that the new system will help protect Russia’s internet in the face of a cyberattack.
“It’s more about creating a reliable internet that will continue to work in the event of external influences, such as a massive hacker attack,” Russian Committee on Informational Policy chairman Leonid Levin told a conference earlier this week, according to The Moscow Times.
Russia announced earlier this year that it plans to disconnect the entire country from the global internet to test the strength of its alternative system. So far this hasn’t happened yet.
Moscow protesters rally against state-controlled internet
The Moscow Times reported that Russia had been testing new DPI technology in the western Ural region since September 2019, but that neither internet nor state authorities have commented on the trials yet.
The outlet also cited the investigative Novaya Gazeta newspaper as reporting in October that the trials were unsuccessful, with many internet users able to bypass the traffic-monitoring technology.
Critics warn, however, that Putin’s new internet rules would allow him to create his own version of China’s “Great Firewall” system, where the internet is highly censored and often used to spy on Communist Party critics.
“Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a Thursday statement.
This jeopardizes the right of people in Russia to free speech and freedom of information online.”
Russia has proven adept at perpetrating cyberattacks too.
October 2019, a joint UK-US investigation found that Russian cyberspies linked to the country’s intelligence agencies had hacked Iranian hackers to attack government organizations, military units, and universities in more than 35 countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Two men in Rogers, Arkansas, were arrested for taking turns shooting each other while the other wore a bulletproof vest, law-enforcement officials said.
Charles Ferris, 50, and his neighbor, 36-year-old Christopher Hicks were drinking on the deck of Ferris’ house on March 31, 2019, when they came up with the idea to shoot each other in the chest with a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, Arkansas Deputy Dorian Hendrix of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in an April 1, 2019 affidavit of probable cause.
According to the affidavit, Ferris had a bulletproof vest on and told Hicks to shoot him. The bullet hit the top left of Ferris’ chest, and it hurt but did not penetrate the vest, the affidavit said.
Hicks then put on the vest, and Ferris “unloaded the clip” — the rest of the five rounds in the gun’s magazine — at his neighbor’s back, Hendrix said. Ferris had been “pissed” about getting shot and the wound hurting, the deputy said.
None of the bullets penetrated the vest while Hicks was wearing it, the affidavit said.
Map showing the approximate location of Charles Ferris’ house, where he and his neighbor Christopher Hicks shot each other while wearing a bulletproof vest.
Law-enforcement authorities were called to hospital shortly before 11 p.m. on March 31, 2019, after Ferris was admitted with gunshot wounds, the affidavit said.
Ferris initially refused to disclose the truth about the shootings, Hendrix said. Instead, he gave an elaborate tale about being shot while trying to protect a man he called an “asset,” who he said paid him 0 to keep safe.
Hendrix later got the truth out of Ferris’ wife, Leslie Ferris, whose identity Charles Ferris initially refused to reveal because “he said he didn’t want her to know he had been in a gun fight,” the affidavit said. However, she was the one who took Charles to hospital on March 31, 2019, after he complained of a pain in his chest, Hendrix said.
Charles Ferris also later admitted to inventing the story about the “asset” to protect Hicks, according to the affidavit.
Both men were arrested over aggravated assault, a Class D felony. Both were freed on ,000 bail on April 2, 2019, the New York Post reported, and ordered not to speak to each other, the affidavit said.
Prosecutors have yet to file a formal charge against either of them. They are due in court on May 13, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Turkish forces have captured the older sister of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northwestern Syria, officials announced, about 50 miles from where he died by suicide vest in a US raid ten days ago.
Rasmiya Awad, 65, was detained in a raid near Azaz on Monday evening, the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters reported, citing unnamed Turkish officials.
She was captured alongside her husband and daughter-in-law in a raid in a trailer they had been living in near Azaz, the AP reported. Five children were with them during the raid, Reuters reported.
Azaz is a Turkish-controlled Syrian town near the two countries’ border. Al-Baghdadi, 48, died after detonating a suicide vest when he was chased into a tunnel complex by a US military dog in Barisha village, which is located around 50 miles southwest.
Turkish forces officially gained control over Azaz after it struck a deal with Russia to consolidate power in northwestern Syria October 2019. The agreement came after Turkey invaded Syria after President Donald Trump pulled troops out of the country in early October 2019.
Rasmiya Awad (sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) caught (Syria) – BBC News – 4th November 2019
Awad, her husband, and her daughter-in-law are now being questioned by Turkish officials.
“We hope to gather a trove intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of ISIS,” the Turkish source told Reuters.
The AP also cited its source, also a Turkish official, as calling the capture “a gold mine.”
“What she knows about [ISIS] can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys,” they said.
Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center think tank, told The New York Times that the phrase “‘gold mine’ might be overstating the issue,” but said that depending on what she knows about her brother’s activities, her capture could provide insight into how ISIS makes decisions.
Al-Baghdadi was known for being highly suspicious of everyone around him, and only trusted his immediate family and a close circle of associates, The Times reported, citing separate interviews with former ISIS prisoners, aides, and Iraq’s director-general of intelligence.
The ISIS leader used to conduct strategy meetings in moving buses filled with vegetables to avoid detection, Reuters reported, citing a former top aide.
He had five brothers and several sisters, but it’s not clear how many of them are still alive, The Times said.
ISIS announced its new leader, Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, last week.
ISIS Names New Leader In The Wake Of Al-Baghdadi’s Death | NBC Nightly News
Turkey, meanwhile, has already hailed Awad’s capture as a counter-terrorism victory.
“Turkey’s fight against terror regardless of its ideology or origin continues unabated,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, early Tuesday morning.
“The arrest of al-Baghdadi’s sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations.”
He also claimed “much dark propaganda against Turkey [that had] been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh,” referring to a pejorative name for ISIS.
It’s not entirely clear what he meant, but there had been multiple reports noting that the Turkish incursion into Syria allowed hundreds of ISIS prisoners to escape.
Turkey could use Monday’s capture to justify further violence against the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish-led militia force based in Syria that previously allied with the US to fight ISIS in Syria. Turkey sees its militants as terrorists, and have vowed not to leave Syria until they’re eliminated.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The North Korean army’s announcement that it is examining operational plans for attacking Guam after rising tensions with President Donald Trump has brought more global attention to the tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific than it has had in decades. Here is a rundown on the island and it strategic importance.
The strip of land in the western Pacific Ocean is roughly the size of Chicago, and just 4 miles (6 km) wide at its narrowest point. It is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) southeast of North Korea, much closer than it is to any of the United States. Hawaii is about 4,000 miles (6,500 km) to the west. Its proximity to China, Japan, the Philippines, and the Korean Peninsula has long made the island an essential possession of the U.S. military.
Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a U.S. territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Japan seized it for about 2½ years during World War II. In 1950, an act of Congress made it an unincorporated organized territory of the United States. It has limited self-government, with a popularly elected governor, small legislature, and non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Residents do not pay U.S. income taxes or vote in the general election for U.S. president. Its natives are U.S. citizens by birth.
The U.S. keeps a Naval base and Coast Guard station in the south, and an Air Force base in the north that saw heavy use during the Vietnam War. While already taking up 30 percent of the island, the American military has been seeking to increase its presence by relocating to Guam thousands of Marines who are currently based in Okinawa, Japan. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.
Last month, the U.S. twice flew a pair of supersonic bombers that took off from Guam over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force after two North Korean tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. While there has been some resistance and displeasure from the people of Guam over the U.S. military’s presence, it is also essential to the island’s economy, second only to tourism in importance.
People and Government
The island was first populated about 4,000 years ago by the ancestors of the Chamorros, still the island’s largest ethnic group. Now, about 160,000 people live on Guam. Its capital city is Hagatna and its largest city is Dededo. Its chief languages are English and Chamorro. It has seen various popular movements pushing for greater self-government or even U.S. statehood, most notably a significant but failed effort in the 1980s to make it a commonwealth on par with Puerto Rico.
As the Syrian regime sets its sights on the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib, the Russian Defense Ministry in at least the last week of August 2018 has pushed a narrative about possible upcoming staged chemical attacks in the rebel-held province.
“Russian MoD: White Helmets Preparing to Stage Chemical Attack in Idlib” read one headline by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet, on Aug. 28, 2018.
“US plans to use fake chemical weapons attack to strike Syria – Russian MoD,” one headline by the Russian state-owned media outlet RT read on Aug. 27, 2018.
The list goes on, and it’s a sign chemical attacks may be launched again — but this time in Idlib, the last Syrian rebel stronghold fighting the Assad regime.
“E Ghouta Militants Plan to Stage Chemical Attack to Blame Gov’t – Damascus,” read one Sputnik headline in mid-March 2018, about a month before the Ghouta chemical attack that killed dozens.
“This is textbook,” Jennifer Cafarella, a senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. “They have done this consistently in the lead up to the use of chemical weapons. So I think it’s a serious possibility that they will use it again.”
A child is treated for suspected chemical gas poisoning in Douma, Syria on April 8, 2018.
“Assad and Russia don’t use chemical weapons simply for the sake of using chemical weapons,” Cafarella said. “They intend to cause an effect with chemical weapons that they then can exploit by advancing on the ground.”
Nevertheless, it’s still an open question as to whether an attack on Idlib will actually happen.
“The Turks are blocking the offensive,” Cafarella said. “The Turks and Russians continue to frame their discussion from the lens of cooperation, but that’s not actually what’s happening.”
Cafarella said that Turkey may allow a partial offensive in Idlib, but that Ankara can’t afford “to have another massive Syrian refugee flow towards the Turkish border.”
On Aug. 30, 2018, the United Nations called on Russia, Turkey, and Iran to hold off on the Idlib assault, fearing a humanitarian disaster for the province’s nearly 3 million civilians, and that chemical weapons could be used by either the Syrian regime or militants themselves.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A top U.S. official has met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in New York to discuss “cooperative efforts against Russia’s malign influence,” among other things, the State Department says.
A statement said the Sept. 25, 2018 meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also touched upon Russia’s “use of energy projects to extort and intimidate Ukraine and other European allies,” as well as Kyiv’s progress in implementing political and economic reforms.
Sullivan reiterated that the United States “will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and reaffirmed “strong U.S. support” for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the statement.
Relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March 2018.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Moscow’s support for the separatists and its illegal annexation of Crimea prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing the traditional route through Ukraine.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Germany “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course” on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an already existing pipeline.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to address the assembly later in the day.
Featured image: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
The United States could strike North Korea if it attacks a U.S. military base or tests an intercontinental ballistic missile, President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador said Monday.
In several television interviews, Nikki Haley praised China’s involvement in trying to pressure North Korea to cease missile testing and criticized Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as unstable and paranoid.
Asked about the threshold for U.S. action, Haley told NBC’s “Today Show” that “if you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that.”
Haley said the U.S. wasn’t looking for a fight and wouldn’t attack North Korea “unless he gives us reason to do something.”
The Trump administration has been working to rally support behind its efforts to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear program and ending missile tests. Trump spoke again to the leaders of China and Japan late Sunday to discuss the matter.
The White House said in a brief statement Monday that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the “urgency of the threat posed by North Korea.” Trump has repeatedly promised that China will earn a better trade deal with the U.S. if it helps to exert pressure on its allied neighboring nation.
When asked what would happen if North Korea tests an intercontinental missile or nuclear device, Haley told NBC: “I think then the president steps in and decides what’s going to happen.”
North Korea has been aggressively pursuing a decades-long goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year alone, which would have improved its knowledge on making nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles.
South Korean officials say there’s a chance the country will conduct its sixth nuclear test or its maiden test launch of an ICBM around the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday.
Haley said the U.S. is working with China to pressure North Korea on the missile and nuclear testing and other issues, including the detention over the weekend of a U.S. citizen, bringing to three the number of Americans now being held there.
Haley said the detentions are North Korea’s effort to “have a bargaining chip” for talks with the U.S.
“What we’re dealing with is a leader who is flailing right now and he’s trying to show his citizens he has muscle,” Haley told “CBS This Morning.”
Turkey will carry out new military operations along its borders after its two previous offensives into Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on May 6, 2018, as he announced his manifesto for June 2018’s snap elections.
Turkey is now carrying out an offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants waging an insurgency on Turkish soil.
The Afrin campaign is Turkey’s second cross-border operation into Syria during the seven-year-old civil war. The first, dubbed “Euphrates Shield”, targeted Islamic State and Kurdish fighters further east than Afrin, and was completed in early 2017.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey’s operations along its southern border would continue “until not a single terrorist is left.”
“We will not give up on constricting terrorist organizations. In the new period, Turkey will add new ones to the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in order to clear its borders,” Erdogan said.
“We shattered the terror corridor being formed on our southern border with these operations. Our soldiers, who lastly wrote an epic in Afrin, are ready for new missions,” he said.
Erdogan has previously threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG further east to Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and has been infuriated with U.S. support for the militia.
On May 4, 2018, the US also announced details of a proposed $717 billion annual defense policy bill, which included measures to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey.
On May 6, 2018, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “Turkey will absolutely retaliate” if the US halts the weapons sales, adding that the US “needs to let go of this.”
But Cavusoglu also said on May 6, 2018, that Ankara and Washington have reached an understanding on a roadmap in Syria’s Manbij in which the militants will leave the area, and that the details were being discussed with the new U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Erdogan has also said Turkey could carry out a joint offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq with Baghdad. Cavusoglu said the operation was still on the agenda.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.