The US military gave or took fire in some form or another in at least seven countries in 2018: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.
Here’s a breakdown of America’s military involvement in each country.
U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Birmingham, an infantryman with 1st Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, from Alpena, Mich., keeps on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)
The war in Afghanistan
At least 15 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2018 in a war that entered its 18th year in October 2018.
The deadliest incident of the year occurred in late November 2018, involving a roadside bomb that ultimately claimed the lives of four US service members. This marked the largest loss of life in a single incident for the US in Afghanistan since 2015.
There are currently roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria
The US military also continues to be active in Iraq and Syria in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, conducting airstrikes and advising local forces on the ground.
At least 10 US service members were killed in Iraq in 2018, though none of the deaths were a direct result of enemy action.
Human rights groups have accused the US-led coalition of reckless behavior and “potential war crimes” in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
While civilian casualties are still being assessed for 2018, a report from the monitoring group Airwars said the US and its allies may have killed up to 6,000 civilians via strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 alone.
The US has been waging a campaign against the Islamic State group since August 2014.
The US fired more than 118 missiles, more than twice the number it used in an attack on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017.
Shadow wars in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan
Under Trump, the US has also dramatically increased the number of drone strikes in places the US is not currently at war.
In 2018, there have been a slew of strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan, where the US is fighting what have been dubbed “shadow wars.”
The US conducted at least one drone strike in Pakistan in 2018, at least 36 in Yemen, and at least 39 in Somalia, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has been tracking US drone strikes in these countries for years.
As the numbers above show, the US military has been particularly active in Somalia in 2018, where it’s been focusing on aiding local forces in the fight against the Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is an al Qaeda affiliate.
In June 2018, Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad was killed in southwestern Somalia when militants attacked his team as it worked alongside Somali and Kenyan troops.
The US has also been active in Libya in 2018, where it’s launched roughly half a dozen air strikes against militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
(Official US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson)
The war on terror entered its 18th year in 2018
The various operations in which the US took or gave fire in 2018 were linked to the so-called “war on terror.”
Since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the US has spent nearly trillion on the broad, ill-defined conflict, which has claimed nearly 500,000 lives, according to an annual report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
According to the report, America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries, and nearly 7,000 US troops have been killed since the war on terror began.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Macron ran as part of a centrist party of his own creation with globalist goals, and has grown increasingly close with Trump despite their fundamental policy differences.
A cheery public image and the successful joint airstrike by the US, Britain, and France on Syria’s government forces in response to the chemical attack set an optimistic stage for the state visit and future partnerships in policy. But the reality of future potential could be overblown, Brookings Institution foreign policy fellow Célia Belin warned.
“There are areas where the French/American cooperation can be strong and immediate, especially when they share a common, precise goal like in the small, punitive strikes on Syria,” Belin said. “But overall they won’t have the same approach on a number of things.”
Macron founded the République en Marche, or the Republic on the Move, to provide France with a reformist alternative to far-right parties that share Trump’s suspicion toward globalism and favoring of closed borders.
“Macron was just talking last week about how there’s a civil war in Europe between a liberal democracy and authoritarianism,” Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider. “If he was being honest about the US, he’d say the same thing and Trump would be on the other side.”
The roots of their bromance
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump and Macron’s strong relationship is due in no small part to their common backgrounds, said former US diplomat and Global Situation Room President Brett Bruen.
Macron rose to prominence in French banking, an uncommon path to the presidency comparable to Trump’s roots in real estate.
“He understands intrinsically this kind of language that Trump needs to hear,” Bruen said. “Trump needs to hear profit and loss, he needs to hear return on investment.”
Their personal relationship is at the center of Macron’s state visit, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said ahead of the French president’s arrival April 23, 2018, the administration expected an “open and candid discussion because of the relationship they built.”
Other world leaders could learn from Macron
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
Though their personal chemistry is often in the spotlight, it’s Trump’s high-profile legal troubles that could hinder the kind of progress Macron is hoping for, Bremmer said. Macron notably wants Trump to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has called “the worst deal ever.”
“Trump is under an enormous amount of pressure domestically,” he said. “No matter who Trump meets with, his focus is mostly on the investigation. You see that with his tweets, you see that with his statements.”
As for their partnership so far, Macron has already succeeded in getting close to the president in a way no other world leader has, Bruen said, and that could serve as an example to other world leaders in how to deal with Trump because of his unique approach to policy.
“It’s a model for other world leaders to look at if they want to get things done, not just get along,” Bruen said. “They have to find a way to establish that common ground with an unconventional leader — and Trump won’t be the only unconventional leader.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.
His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)
And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.
And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.
But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.
Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.
WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Season 2 Episode 19.
This week, SEAL Team tackled one of the most dangerous threats to military veterans: suicide.
U.S. veterans have a higher suicide rate than civilians — and the number is staggeringly higher among female veterans. According to a 2016 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 20.8 service members commit suicide every day; of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active duty, guardsmen, or reservists.
Since 2001, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan is 6,995.
There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.
It’s a critical threat, one that must be acknowledged and addressed — which is why it’s important that shows like SEAL Team tell their stories.
According to ‘former frogman’ and SEAL Team writer Mark Semos, the suicide in the episode ‘Medicate and Isolate’ was inspired by the death of a real U.S. Navy SEAL.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwr-5VXnzA3/ expand=1]Mark Semos on Instagram: “For those of you who tuned into last night’s episode of @sealteamcbs: Brett Swann’s character was based on Ryan Larkin, a former SEAL who…”
In the episode, Brett Swann (played perfectly by Tony Curran) struggles with many issues that are common among veterans — and he’s lucky enough to have a buddy helping him navigate the labyrinth of the VA system: long waits, over-taxed doctors, and confusing procedures are among the basics of what can be expected.
Swann is certain he has an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) but the VA doctor is unable to treat it because there’s no proof that it is service-connected. A 45-minute episode isn’t long enough to get into the details of Swann’s options, so the writers deftly cut to the finish: Swann wasn’t going to get the treatment he desperately needed. Certainly not right away.
I can’t communicate strongly enough how disorienting and discouraging it is to finally seek help only to be turned away, especially for veterans, who were trained by the military to “suck it up.”
Some get lucky and find advocates (I highly recommend the DAV, a non-profit that, among other initiatives, helps veterans with disability claims), some patiently wade through the murky system, but others…
…well, it’s becoming painfully clear that others give up hope.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwp5pE8n0L0/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “It’s hard to promote tonight’s episode as it’s about a subject that is sadly more truth than fiction. Rather than entertain I hope that it…”
I have seen a trend where veterans are coming together to support each other, to maintain the strong community we had during service. As more and more veterans lose friends, the fear of talking about suicide is diminishing.
There is a crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (or anyone in need can send a text message to 838255)
There are organizations like 22KILL, which raises awareness and combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies.
And there are shows and films depicting these stories, raising awareness, and removing the stigma of unseen injuries and mental health.
There are many who are wary of sending the message that veterans are all traumatized or unstable; if anything, this episode is further proof of the opposite. SEAL Team employs a lot of veterans who are professionals in the entertainment industry.
Who better to tell the story of those among us who need our help?
The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.
The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people was killed in a massive police raid north of Paris Wednesday.
The raid was conducted by over 100 police officers and soldiers who rushed into an apartment building in Saint-Denis and attacked the apartment at 4:16 a.m., according to the Washington Post. The reinforced door stayed close, triggering a seven-hour siege.
“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave… despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told Dabiq, an ISIS magazine.
“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”
Apparently, Abaaoud’s luck ran out. Abaaoud’s cousin also died in the raid when she detonated a suicide device, according to Fox News.
The raid came after French police received a tip from a waiter. The raid was part of a larger effort to prevent a potential follow-up attack aimed at Paris’s financial district, French officials told The Washington Post.
One police dog was killed in the raid, a 7-year-old named Diesel.
France’s military and police forces were already fighting the international terror organization before Friday’s Paris attacks, but have launched an increased number of police raids and military airstrikes since they suffered the worst attack on their territory since World War II.
“The forward presence of F-35s support my priority of having ready and postured forces here in Europe,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S.European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
“These aircraft, plus more importantly, the men and women who operate them, fortify the capacity and capability of our NATO Alliance.”
The aircraft are deployed from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will train with European-based allies.
This long-planned deployment continues to galvanize the U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout Europe. The aircraft and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks.
The F-35A will also forward deploy to maximize training opportunities, strengthen the NATO alliance, and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.
“This is an incredible opportunity for [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” said Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa.
“As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations.”
The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to Europe brings state-of-the-art sensors, interoperability, and a vast array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental territorial and air sovereignty rights of all nations.
The fighter provides unprecedented precision-attack capability against current and emerging threats with unmatched lethality, survivability, and interoperability.
The deployment was supported by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. Multiple refueling aircraft from four different bases provided more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe.
Additionally, C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft transported maintenance equipment and personnel to England.
Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.
A MASH unit usually had about 113 people. In 2017, Combat Support Hospitals began transitioning to Field Hospitals. According to the Army, the conversion reconfigures the 248-bed CSH into a smaller, more modular 32-bed FH with three additional augmentation detachments including a 24-bed surgical detachment, a 32-bed medical detachment, and a 60-bed Intermediate Care Ward detachment. The FH and the augmentation detachments will all operate under the authority of a headquarters hospital center.
According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.
The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.
In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.
Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.
At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley received Bronze Stars in February 2018 for their actions.
It takes a lot to get into a SOST. Fall selection is quickly approaching:
Fall 2021 Selection
Applications Due: 3 Sep 2021
Phase 1 (record review): 9 Sep 2021
Phase 2 (in-person selection): 17–21 Oct 2021
** Report date 12 October for COVID testing. **
**These dates are subject to change based on mission requirements.**
Learn more and apply here: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/Special-Tactics/Battlefield-Surgery/
One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!
Here’s how China would respond if the US were to attack the Hermit Kingdom.
China has interests in preserving the North Korean state, but not enough to start World War III over.
China may not endorse North Korea’s nuclear threats towards the US, South Korea, and Japan, or its abysmal human rights practices, but Beijing does have a vested interest in preventing reunification on the Korean peninsula.
Still, China’s proximity to North Korea means that the US would likely alert Chinese forces of an attack — whether they gave 30 minutes or 30 days notice, the Chinese response would likely be to preclude — not thwart — such an attack.
China sees a united Korea as a potential threat.
“A united Korea is potentially very powerful, country right on China’s border,” with a functioning democracy, booming tech sector, and a Western bent, which represents “a problem they’d rather not deal with,” according to Tack.
The US has more than 25,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but no US asset has crossed the 38th parallel in decades. China would like to keep it that way.
And without North Korea, China would find itself exposed.
For China, the North Korean state acts as a “physical buffer against US allies and forces,” said Tack.
If the US could base forces in North Korea, they’d be right on China’s border, and thereby better situated to contain China as it continues to rise as a world power.
Tack said that China would “definitely react to and try to prevent” US action that could lead to a reunified Korea, but the idea that Chinese ground forces would flood into North Korea and fight against the West is “not particularly likely at all.”
Overtly backing North Korea against the West would be political suicide for China.
For China to come to the aide of the Kim regime — an international pariah with concentration camps and ambitions to nuke the US — just to protect a buffer state “would literally mean that China would engage in a third world war,” said Tack.
So while China would certainly try to mitigate the fall of North Korea, it’s extremely unlikely they’d do so with direct force against the West, like it did in the Korean War.
Any response from China would likely start with diplomacy.
Currently, the US has an aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, F-22s, and F-35s in the Pacific. Many of the US’s biggest guns shipped out to the Pacific for Foal Eagle, the annual military exercise between the US and South Korea.
But according to Tack, the real deliberations on North Korea’s fate aren’t going on between military planners, but between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Chinese diplomats he’ll be meeting with.
Even after decades of failed diplomacy, there’s still hope for a non-military solution.
“There’s still a lot of diplomatic means to use up before the US has no other options but to go with a military option,” said Tack. “But even if they decide the military option is going to be the way to go — it’s still going to be costly. It’s not something that you would take lightly.”
While no side in a potential conflict would resort to using force without exhausting all diplomatic avenues, each side has a plan to move first.
According to Tack, if China thought the US was going to move against North Korea, they’d try to use force to pressure Pyongyang to negotiate, lest they be forced to deal with the consequences of a Western-imposed order in what would eventually be a reunified Korea.
“China could bring forces into North Korea to act as a tripwire,” said Tack.
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. | DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force.
“The overt presence of Chinese forces would dissuade the US from going into that territory because they would run the risk of inviting that larger conflict themselves.”
For the same reason that the US stations troops in South Korea, or Poland, China may look to put some of its forces on the line to stop the US from striking.
Chinese forces in North Korea would “be in a position to force a coup or force Kim’s hand” to disarm, said Tack.
“To make sure North Korea still exists and serves Chinese interests while it stops acting as a massive bullseye to the US,” he added.
That would be an ideal result for China, and would most certainly preclude a direct US strike.
But even if China does potentially save the day, it could still be perceived as the bad guy.
Chinese leaders wants to avoid a strong, US-aligned Korea on its borders. They want to prevent a massive refugee outflow from a crushed North Korean state. And they want to defuse the Korean peninsula’s nuclear tensions — but in doing so, they’d expose an ugly truth.
If China unilaterally denuclearized North Korea to head off a US strike, this would only vindicate that claim, and raise questions as to why China allowed North Korea to develop and export dangerous technologies and commit heinous human rights abuses.
So what happens in the end?
For China, it’s “not even about saving” the approximately 25 million living under a brutal dictatorship in North Korea, but rather maintaining its buffer state, according to Tack.
China would likely seek to install an alternative government to the Kim regime but one that still opposes the West and does not cooperate with the US.
According to Tack, China needs a North Korean state that says “we oppose Western interests and we own this plot of land.”
If China doesn’t exert its influence soon, it may be too late.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.
The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.
Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.
The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.
“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.
The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.
The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.
“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)
Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.
The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.
“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.
And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.
“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”
The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.
Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.
“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”
The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.
The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.
The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.
“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.
In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.
Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”
Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.
Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.
Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.
Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.
This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.
Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.
“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.
Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.
“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.
A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.
“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.
Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.
Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.
Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.
The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.
Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.
Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.
For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.
A series of troubling reports have been coming out from the U.S. military asserting that decades of U.S. military supremacy has eroded in the face of a resurgent Russia and a booming China, but the US Navy has conceived of some new technologies that they say can restore the U.S. to its former glory.
“We face competitors who are challenging us in the open ocean, and we need to balance investment in those capabilities— advanced capabilities — in a way that we haven’t had to do for quite a while,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement.
As it is, Russia and China can effectively deny US forces access to militarily significant areas, like Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.
In response, the U.S. Navy ran a “rigorous program of analytics and wargaming,” and came up with a bold new strategy to turn the tables on these rising powers—distributed lethality.
Simply put, distributed lethality means giving every ship, from the smallest to the biggest, a range of advanced weapons that can destroy targets dependably, accurately, and without interference from enemy missile defense.
In the future, ships “will be equipped with the weapons and advanced capabilities that it will need to deter any aggressor and to make any aggressor who isn’t deterred very much regret their decision to take us on,” Carter said.
In the slides below, see the new munitions the US Navy wants to put aggressive authoritarian regimes in check.
The Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk missile.
A Tomahawk missile launches from the USS Farragut.
The Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) missile has been around since the 70s, and has seen use in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but a new anti-ship version of the missile with a 1,000 nautical mile range could be deployed onboard Navy ships of all types within a decade.
In February of 2015, the USS Kidd fired a Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk variant that successfully hit a moving target at sea from long range, immediately drawing praise from top naval brass.
“This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work after the successful testing. “It can be used by practically by our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.
Length: 20 feet long
Weight: 3,000 pounds
Range: 1,000 nautical miles
Navy plans to acquire: 4,000 Tomahawks over five years for $2 billion
Watch the successful test of the newly improved Tomahawk missile. Keep in mind that to keep the cost of testing down, the missile was not meant to sink the ship.
“[Along with] our surface brothers and sisters, we got to get the long-range missile so we’re not held out by that A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) bubble and we have the stick to hit inside,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander, Naval Submarine Forces said.
The SM-6 Dual I
USS Dewey test-fires the Navy’s first SM-6 missiles, March 31. 2011 | U.S. Navy
The SM-6 interceptor may be the first missile capable of intercepting both ballistic missiles, which fall from the sky, and cruise missiles, which fly along the surface of earth, sometimes even snaking through mountains.
In the past, these two distinct types of missiles, ballistic and cruise, have required different missiles to stop them, but the SM-6’s advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities make it a useful defense against both types.
Length: 21 feet long
Weight: 3,300 pounds
Role in 2017 budget plan: $501 million to acquire 125 SM-6s
Watch the SM-6 intercept both a ballistic and a cruise missile.
“It’s the only missile now out there that has what we call dual-mission capability,” Raytheon program manager Mike Campisi told BreakingDefense.com.
“That allows the combatant commanders to have choice. Instead of having separate boutique missiles for each mission… they can put SM-6s,” Campisi continued.
AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile)
An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet on 12 August 2015 .
The LRASM is a precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile with a penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead. The Navy wants the LRASM to replace the harpoon, which has been in service since 1977, and is easily foiled by today’s modern defenses.
The LRASM on the other hand, is stealthy due to it’s angular shape, making it hard for enemies to detect. Also, in the case of electronic interference, the LRASM has advanced anti-jamming GPS guidance.
Additionally, the LRASM can be fired from ships and planes, like the F/A-18 pictured above.
Length: 14 feet
Weight: 2,100 pounds
Range: more than 200 miles
Speed: high subsonic
Navy plans to acquire: $30 million for the first 10 missiles