New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

After years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force has taken the initial steps to buy commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft for its light attack aircraft fleet.

The service is alerting defense firms hoping to compete for the Light Attack Aircraft program that it intends to begin soliciting bids in December, according to a presolicitation announcement posted on FedBizOpps on Aug. 3, 2018.


“LAA will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the post said. “A contract will be awarded in fourth quarter of [fiscal 2019].”

While the program would remain a full and open competition, Air Force officials said the most viable aircraft are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the FedBizOpps post said.

The two single-engine turboprop aircraft were most recently part of the service’s light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.

Navy Lt. Christopher Carey Short, of Canandaigua, New York, was piloting an A-29 when it crashed over the Red Rio Bombing Range within White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on June 22. The Air Force temporarily suspended exercises with the two aircraft before announcing the remainder of the live-fly exercises and combat maneuvers were canceled.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

A-29 Super Tucano

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

A Light Attack Distinguished Visitors Day, originally set for July and canceled after the fatal crash, has been rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, top acquisition official for the Air Force, told reporters at the time that the service would continue to work with defense industry partners to complete remaining test requirements, which mostly consist of maintenance and sustainment data.

He said then that a potential request for proposal for light attack, also known as OA-X, could be issued by December.

“If we decide that we’re going to go forward with the acquisition … if that’s the direction we’re going to go, we want to get an RFP out on the street by December,” he said last month. “If we go down that path … what we then want to do is make a downselect decision within the next fiscal year.”

The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, inexpensive and off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable in ongoing wars such as Afghanistan.

As part of Phase I, four aircraft — the A-T6 and A-29, as well as AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion — conducted demonstrations and weapons drops during the experiment at Holloman in August 2017. After Phase I was completed, the Air Force selected the Wolverine and Super Tucano to undergo more demonstration fly-off scenarios between May and July of this year.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

In November, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force with 0 million to continue experimenting with the planes. Additionally, lawmakers recently passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes 0 million “to procure Air Force light attack aircraft and associated long lead material,” according to the bill’s summary.

If the planes can be interoperable with other militaries’ planes, the result would be a diverse fleet of aircraft with partners across the world, officials have said.

“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement released Aug. 3, 2018. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com in September that the light attack initiative should be viewed as a new way of doing business — not just a plane, but part of a larger communications system.

OA-X “is actually not about the hardware — it’s about the network,” he said, adding he wants the service to train more often with coalition partners who may not have high-end fighter aircraft.

“At the same that we’re looking at a relatively inexpensive aircraft and sensor package, can I connect that into a network of shareable information that allows us to better accomplish the strategy as it’s been laid out?” Goldfein asked.

Bunch last month added, “We’re still going to experiment and try out the network in other areas over time. The goal of this network is to get it to the point where we can utilize it in other platforms beyond light attack.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War II icon measures up to the Humvee

The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, is one of the most ubiquitous and iconic vehicles in military history. Between 1984 and 2012, 281,000 Humvees have been produced and the line is still running. This vehicle does everything, from evacuating the wounded to taking out enemy tanks.

But as impressive as the Humvee’s 30+ year production run is, it still only accounts for about 85 percent of the 335,531 Willys MB, better known as the jeep, manufactured in just four years. So, numbers aside, how do these versatile, wheeled vehicles stack up?


New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

Two World War II icons on Guam: a Jeep and a M4 Sherman tank.

(USMC)

The Willys MB had a top speed of up to 65 miles per hour and could go 300 miles on a single tank of gas. It had a crew of two and could carry another three additional personnel. It could carry up to 800 pounds of cargo and tow 1,000 pounds. This vehicle saw action all over the world. Two major variants, the “slat” and the Sea Jeep (“Seep”) were also produced, which accounted for over 38,000 of the MB’s already-massive production total.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

The HMMWV is capable of firing TOW missiles to kill enemy tanks.

(U.S. Army)

The HMMWV can go as fast as 70 miles per hour. Some variants can haul nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo or eight troops. It can get as far as roughly 250 miles on a tank of diesel. The use of diesel fuel is an important detail — it’s less flammable than gasoline. The HMMWV was also capable of mounting a wide variety of weapons, including the BGM-71 TOW missile.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

This Jeep is packing a 37mm gun and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,

(U.S. Army)

One could argue that the HMMWV is three times the vehicle than the classic Jeep. That said, one HMMWV can’t be in three places at once. So, would you rather have had three Jeeps or one HMMWV?

Before you make up your mind, watch the video below and learn a little more about the iconic World War II Jeep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5buMTtEdw8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

When playing poker, a bluff is a completely logical strategy. You’ve got basically nothing and you’re trying to pressure your opponent into thinking you’ve got them completely beat via pure posturing. In a time of war, when both sides employ hundreds of scouts, do near-constant aerial reconnaissance, and have spies constantly floating around the battlefield, bluffs shouldn’t work.

You’d think that any soldier with a pair of binoculars would realize that something was amiss upon observing a bunch of plywood artillery cannons, tank-shaped balloons, cardboard cutouts of troops, and a couple commo guys messing around on the airwaves. And yet the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as the “Ghost Army,” went on to fool the Nazis at every turn.

As the old Army saying goes, if it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.


New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

If you saw this from your cockpit for half a second and you had no idea your enemy was using inflatable tanks, you might fall for it, too.

(National Archives)

The Ghost Army was inspired, in part, by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s successful use of hoax tanks as part of Operation Bertram, but during Operation Quicksilver, Americans took things to the next level. British measures employed to successfully fool Axis onlookers were good, but the assets of the Ghost Army were exceedingly precise. Each inflatable tank took days to make, and they were so realistic that enemy reconnaissance couldn’t tell the difference.

To help sell the illusion, radio guys blasted the sounds of tanks through loud speakers. This way, any onlooking Nazi scout would hear what sounded like an entire division of tanks rolling through the area, quickly glimpse the balloon tanks in the distance, and promptly run back to their commander to prepare for the impending “fight.” The inflatable Sherman tanks weren’t alone — they also employed wooden mock-ups of artillery guns in dugouts that would draw out enemy fire.

Visual deception was key, but another crucial task was sending out relevant radio transmissions in hopes that they’d be intercepted by the Germans. The illusion worked best when several types of deception worked in concert. The Nazi code-breaker would “intercept” a message about the 23rd moving to a certain point on the Rhine, the Luftwaffe would fly ahead and see the “tanks,” and, if any Nazi scouts were to see soldiers of the 23rd, they’d likely see troops donning high-ranking officers uniforms — and this is exactly what the Ghost Army wanted them to see: a seemingly ripe target.

The 23rd drew the attention away from many key Allied movements, leaving the Germans easily flanked by the actual Army that came to fight. The Germans were too distracted by the Ghost Army to realize that the Americans started crossing the Ruhr River and, as a consequence, they arrived first at the Maginot Line many, many miles away from where the Americans would break through.

All thanks to a bunch of artists and jokers.

To learn more about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, check out the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon: ISIS could return within months of Syria withdrawal

President Donald Trump has declared his intention to reduce U.S. military engagement in Syria, but a new Pentagon report warned that the extremist group Islamic State could then make a comeback in the war-torn country within six to 12 months and “regain limited territory.”

The report issued on Feb. 4, 2019, by the Defense Department’s Inspector General warned that the IS group continues to attract dozens of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq each month, and maintains a flow of external donations.


IS is “regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria,” it also said.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In both countries, the Inspector General said, local forces remain heavily reliant on support from the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the IS group.

Trump surprised U.S. lawmakers and international allies in January 2019 by announcing he was withdrawing all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Critics have said that a vacuum left by the departure of U.S. troops from Syria, where they are assisting a Syrian Arab and Kurdish alliance fighting against some of the last IS-held areas and other forces, could result in a resurgence of the IS and Al-Qaeda in the country or neighboring Iraq.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey just unveiled new stealth-fighter concept

Turkey unveiled a full-scale mock-up of a new indigenous stealth-fighter concept on June 17, 2019, at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

The unveiling of the new TF-X, which is expected to be Turkey’s first homegrown fifth-generation fighter, comes as the US prepares to kick its ally out of the F-35 program in response to the country’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.


“Our machine is a mock-up, but in 2023 there will be a real machine, and first flight is in 2025, and [it will be in] service in 2028,” Temel Kotil, the president and CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI), the company behind the model and new fighter concept, revealed at the event, Defense News reported.

The TF-X program was launched to replace the Turkish Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16s. The fighter was intended to be interoperable with other Turkish Air Force assets, including the F-35, TAI said on its company website.

The mock-up TAI showed off at the air show is the twin-engine version, one of three different variations the company has explored in recent years, The War Zone reported, adding that the aircraft shares design similarities with the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35.

A promotional video highlighted some of the potential capabilities of the new TF-X. For example, the aircraft is said to be capable of flying at Mach 2 and have a combat radius of roughly 600 nautical miles. Kotil told reporters that it would be able to carry the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile in the internal weapons bay.

Milli Muharip Uçak

www.youtube.com

TAI is involved in the fuselage production for the F-35, which gives it the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a homegrown fifth-generation fighter, the company said. “Hopefully, this will be also a good fighter for NATO and the NATO allies,” Kotil said, according to Defense News.

This aerospace program may be taking on new urgency as the US takes steps to remove its NATO ally from the F-35 program, a direct response to Ankara’s unwavering decision to purchase the S-400 despite US objections.

“Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO,” Patrick Shanahan, the acting Pentagon chief, recently wrote in a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, CNN reported.

The US has said the F-35 and S-400 are incompatible because the latter could be used to collect intelligence on the US fighter. The US has given Turkey until July 31, 2019, to reach an agreement.

If Turkey fails to do so, the US will block its ally from purchasing the F-35 and permanently halt the training of Turkish pilots on the advanced fighter. The training program has already been suspended.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force needs more pilots – and this is where it’s looking

The Air Force has made a number of moves to reduce its shortage of active-duty pilots, including bringing on more retired pilots to administrative roles in order to keep qualified fliers in the air.


Now the service is looking to expand the number of pilots it draws in from the Air National Guard and Reserve to fill vacancies across the active-duty force.

On Oct. 1, the Total Force Aircrew Management — Assignment Augmentation Process grew from 10 positions to 30, in an effort to bring active reserve-component fighter pilots who are available and interested into the active-duty force for two to three years, according to an Air Force release.

“This is a growing total-force program,” said Maj. Walt Ehman, head of the TFAM-AAP. “It enables all air components to help fill pilot-assignment positions around the world.” (Positions are only open to fighter pilots and fighter-combat-systems officers, however.)

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

The TFAM-AAP, started in 2014, brings together the management of active-duty, Air Guard, and Reserve aircrew resources, whereas previously each component had its own office overseeing officers and career enlisted airmen.

“TFAM enables the use of a single agreed-upon model, in one office, to make training and resource decisions, provide policy guidance, and make integrated recommendations to solving problems like aircrew shortfalls,” Ehman said.

Boosting TFAM-AAP openings is one of many initiatives the Air Force is pursuing to improve retention, production, and absorption.

Related: Air Force says no plan to recall retired pilots

On the retention side, a number of quality-of-life improvements have been implemented, including reducing administrative duties for pilots and increasing pay and bonuses.

To boost production, the Air Force is considering outsourcing some aspects of training, like adversary-pilot duties, as well as partnering with external organizations to augment the training process.

The Air Force’s Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program is also open to up to 25 retired fliers from any pilot specialty code who elect to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions,” allowing active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

An amended executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also allows the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 pilots to active duty for up to three years. However, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, director of the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, has said the service doesn’t intended to force anyone back into active duty.

Rather, he told Military.com, the executive order is an addendum to the VRRAD, giving the Air Force “more access to more retirees” for a longer period of time. Koscheski said the order opened the VRRAD program to personnel who could act as instructors.

The Air Force’s component forces are about 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 they are required to have. According to Koscheski, 1,300 of those absent are fighter pilots.

Articles

5 prominent veterans whose presidential bids tanked

Considering the fact that the president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, it would make sense for presidential candidates to have some military experience. But veterans have often struggled in their bids for the White House.


While these five men all had plenty of experience in government — and at least a little experience in uniform — they all fell short in a bid for the leader of the free world:

1. Michael Dukakis

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
Screengrab: YouTube/POLITICO

A former Army private, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis held a commanding lead early in the 1988 presidential race in which he faced then-Vice President and fellow veteran George H. W. Bush. But Dukakis spent the early weeks of the general election finishing up governor work and vacationing while Bush closed the 17 percent polls gap and took the lead.

As the race ramped up in the summer of ’88, Dukakis worked to take back the initiative. Under criticism that he would be soft on defense, he conducted a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank, but he looked so ridiculous in the tank that the journalists covering it burst out laughing in the stands. The resulting photos sank his campaign, and Bush won in a landslide.

2. George H.W. Bush

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
President George H.W. Bush tours American positions in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving, 1990. (Photo: US National Archives/David Valdez)

And how about President George H. W. Bush? He struggled four years later and lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton. Bush, a World War II Navy vet, announced his candidacy at a high point in his popularity, right after the completion of Operation Desert Storm.

But soon after his announcement, public perception shifted and people began to question whether America pulled out of Iraq too soon as well as whether Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to remain in power. Meanwhile, economic stagnation and new taxes soured Bush’s appeal on domestic issues. Clinton won the presidency and Bush left office.

3. Jimmy Carter

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
Former President Jimmy Carter receives a model of the USS Jimmy Carter, a nuclear submarine named after him. (Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Keith A. Stevenson)

Don’t feel too bad for Bush. He only got his vice presidential spot in the first place by kicking another Navy veteran turned president, Jimmy Carter, out of the top job. Carter faced trouble early in the election due to dwindling popularity, the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis, and economic troubles. Carter had to beat down a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy before the general election.

In the general election, Bush and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan toured the country, ridiculing Carter over and over. Carter tried to counter by calling Reagan a right-wing radical, but the Republican ticket won a massive victory and even picked up enough Senate seats to regain control of the legislature for the first time in 28 years.

4. John McCain

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin campaign in the 2008 election. (Photo: Matthew Reichbach via Flickr)

John McCain grew up as Navy royalty, with both a father and a grandfather who were four-star admirals. He became a popular senator after his own Navy career that included more than 5 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain actually lost two presidential bids. In the 2000 primary, he won New Hampshire but lost South Carolina and most Super Tuesday states before withdrawing from the race and endorsing George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas.

In 2008, he attempted to follow Bush to the presidency. He won the primary but the 2008 recession turned opinions against the Republicans and Sen. Barack Obama launched a big-data-based campaign that got him ahead of McCain in the polls. McCain earned a respectable 46 percent of the popular vote but lost most battleground states and suffered a 173-365 electoral defeat.

5. Adlai Stevenson

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
Adlai Stevenson and David Dubinsky shake hands on stage at an AFL convention, September 1952. (Photo: Kheel Center via Flickr)

Gov. Adlai Stevenson was a former sailor and a former special assistant to the secretary of the Navy. He was defeated three times in bids for the presidency, falling each time to a more popular veteran.

In 1952 Stevenson ran against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower only eight years after Eisenhower led the Allies to victory in a world war. He suffered a crushing defeat, then came back in 1956 to be beat even worse.

In 1960 he ran against John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination but refused to campaign until the night before the convention. He came in fourth.

Kennedy, also a former sailor, received the nomination and won the presidency. Kennedy eventually named Stevenson as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Military Life

7 things grunts think about on watch in fighting holes

If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It’s always miserable, it’s extremely time consuming, and there’s always a giant rock waiting for you once you’re halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it’s smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.


Defensive postures allow your unit time to “rest” and recover after launching an offensive. Basically, you take some ground from the enemy and then hold it until your unit is ready to continue pushing the enemy back. If you’re not in an urban environment, you’ll have to dig two-person fighting holes in order to hold your ground. The enemy is likely going to return (with reinforcements) to try and retake some real estate — your unit will be entrenched, waiting for them.

Keep in mind that you’ll be in that position for at least 24 hours, so you’ll have lots of time to think about your life from every angle. Here are some of the things that’ll race through your mind during that time:

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

Meanwhile, in the Air Force…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

What you should have joined instead

This is at the top of the list because digging a fighting hole and then sitting in it, deprived of sleep, will make you seriously question why you joined the infantry. You might even think about how much nicer you would’ve had it in the Air Force — or literally anything else that wouldn’t land you in that damned fighting hole.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

If digging the hole wasn’t enough, this will definitely bring you back to list item #1.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

Current weather conditions

You’re likely to spend the majority of your time in the middle of the night, which means you’ll likely experience the coldest temperatures that environment has to offer. Joy!

If you don’t it gets cold in the desert or the jungle, you’ll become acquainted real quick. Since God basically hates the infantry, chances are it’s going to rain or, if you’re on a mountain, there will be a blizzard.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

Just bring it on post with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dwight Henderson)

Where your warming layers are

If you’re somewhere cold and rainy, you’ll be struggling to remember where you put your warmest layers are and if you can get to it without giving up your security for too long in the process. Chances are, your pack will be too far away and you’re sh*t out of luck.

After this realization, you’ll spend the rest of your watch experiencing every stage of grief.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

They’ll look so peaceful when you get there, too.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Nathaniel Cray)

When, exactly, is too soon to wake up relief

You’ll convince yourself you need to wake your buddy up 20 to 45 minutes before you actually need to because they “need time to get ready.” In reality, you just want to share the misery.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

You’ll imagine this moment over and over…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Going home

Since you’ll want to keep your mind off the weather, you’ll spend some time speculating on the fun your friends are having while you suffer. This will lead to thinking about what and who you want to do when you go home next.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

Anything is better than what you’re eating out there.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye)

What you want to eat

If you didn’t bring snacks, you’ll be hungry on watch. This will lead you to thinking about all the food in the world. You’ll make deals with yourself, promising to eat it all once you get back to civilization.

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

You’ll figure it out, no problem.

How to get away with smoking

This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but it applies to a lot of us. Even if you don’t smoke when you first join, after you dig a fighting hole, you might start considering it. Those that already smoke will be thinking up ways to get away with it. After all, you run a huge risk of compromising your position.

Articles

Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

Als read: Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO warns about Russia’s ‘resurgence’ and urges vigilance

U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, has warned that the alliance will not be “dominant” in certain areas in five years if it fails to modernize and adapt to the growing threat from Russia.


“I certainly have concerns with respect to Russia,” Scaparrotti told a press conference in Brussels on Jan. 17 following a meeting of top NATO defense officials.

“I think that, as an alliance, we are dominant. There are domains within this that were challenged. I think cyber is one of those. They are very competent in that,” he also said, referring to Russia.

“There are others where because of the modernization you noted, while we are dominant, we will not be in five years per se if we aren’t adapting like this to include our structure but also within the nations, our capabilities, across the military functional areas as well as our domains.”

Addressing the session of the Military Committee, the alliance’s highest military authority, Scaparrotti said earlier that “a resurgence of Russia as a strategic competitor, growing unrest, and instability in Africa and the Middle East, as well as terrorism, [are] reshaping our strategic environment.”

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
The Military Committee, NATO’s highest Military Authority, met in Chiefs of Defense Session on 17-18 Jan 2017, at the NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium. The Joint Press Conference with opening statements by Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, by Supreme Allied Commander Europe – General Curtis M. Scaparrotti and by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation – General Denis Mercier, followed by QA session. (Image from DoD)

Relations between Moscow and the West have been severely strained over issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and its support for separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine.

The war between Kyiv’s forces and the Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Amid growing tensions, NATO stepped up its defenses in Eastern member nations near Russia.

Speaking alongside Scaparrotti at the press conference, Czech General Petr Pavel, chairman of the Military Committee, called Russia an “obvious security challenge.”

“We characterize Russia as a peer competitor and we obviously follow closely all the development and modernization and taking all the measures that are necessary to be ready for any contingency,” he added.

Also Read: Why NATO should use Russia’s massive wargame as an intel dump

Ahead of the meeting, NATO said the top defense officials would discuss “the challenging security environment on NATO’s southern flank and the alliance’s contribution to its stabilization” and would review NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.

They also held separate talks with top defense officials from Ukraine and Georgia on “the security situations on the ground, defense reform progress, and the way ahead.”

After the meetings, Pavel told reporters that the defense officials “noted the challenge for Ukraine of achieving security and defense reforms alongside reestablishing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

They also “stressed their commitment on furthering the capability and interoperability of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he added.

On Georgia, Pavel said the defense officials “stressed continued support” to the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package to enhance the country’s defense readiness.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Indian pilots say it’s easy to see China’s new stealth fighter

China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.

The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.


Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said the “Su-30 radar is good enough and can pick it (J-20) up from many kilometers away,” according to Indian news website Zee News.

India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.

The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.

“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI

Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.

If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.

“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.

For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.

If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How dead civilians were listed as ‘ISIS fighters’ in Iraq

An 18-month investigation by The New York Times revealed that the US-led coalition fighting ISIS repeatedly recorded civilian deaths as enemy casualties.


The Times’ journalists scanned the locations of nearly 150 coalition airstrikes across northern Iraq and found the rate of civilian deaths to be more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.

Such negligence — a combination of simply flawed and outdated intelligence — amounted to what the Times noted “may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”

Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Department of Defense agency overseeing the US-led coalition, said “US and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes.” He told the Times that the US has been “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.”

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.

The reality on the ground reportedly tells a much different story.

More: This is the sad story behind the Great Buddhas of Afghanistan

Data from coalition forces reported Iraqi civilian deaths have resulted in about one of every 157 airstrikes. The Times found that civilians were killed in one out of every five.

Basim Razzo was almost one of the victims, according to the Times. In September 2015, Razzo was sleeping in his bed in Mosul — then under ISIS control — when a US coalition airstrike reduced much of his home to a heap of rubble. He awoke drenched in blood. The roof of his house had been torn apart. Worst of all, he didn’t know if his family had been hurt. He soon discovered his wife, daughter, brother, and nephew had been killed.

Later that day, the US coalition uploaded a video to YouTube entitled, “Coalition Airstrike Destroys Daesh VBIED Facility Near Mosul Iraq 20 Sept 2015.” The military claimed it had successfully demolished an ISIS car-bomb factory, but it now appears they actually struck the homes of Razzo and his brother, killing four innocent civilians in the process.

Human rights concerns

In July, the Iraqi Army liberated Mosul from ISIS forces, but people like Razzo couldn’t move on. Many still live with the fear of being misidentified as ISIS sympathizers, and the tragedy of losing innocent loved ones.

“We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Central Command, told the Times regarding civilian casualties. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”

Read Also: Civilian death toll in 16-year Afghanistan war is staggering

That’s not enough for human rights organizations, who often criticize coalition forces for poor reporting procedures that leave dozens, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dead civilians unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch also called on President Donald Trump to do more to protect civilians abroad as news surfaced that he was modifying US military rules of engagement with suspected terrorists.

“Trump’s reported changes for targeting terrorism suspects will result in more civilian deaths with less oversight and greater secrecy,” Letta Tayler, a HRW researcher, said earlier this month. “The US should be increasing civilian protections off the battlefield, not dismantling them.”

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Watch this 92-year-old World War II veteran bring the heat at a major league baseball game

Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.


On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.

See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below:

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