Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.

“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.


Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.

Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.

Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.

“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.

Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.

“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel and Iran trade threats after trading missile strikes

Iran and Israel engaged in a war of words two days after an exchange of missile fire in Syria, with a prominent Iranian cleric threatening to “raze” two Israeli cities if it “acts foolishly” and attacks Iranian forces in Syria again.

Israel’s defense minister issued his own warning, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will face only “damage and problems” unless he kicks the Iranian military presence out of his country.


Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman said Assad should especially beware of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.

“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force. They are not helping you, they are only harming,” Lieberman said.

“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.

On May 10, 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran is believed to have attacked Israel with rockets.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country. A war monitor said the missile exchange left 23 fighters dead.

Israel has warned it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence close to its borders in Syria, where Iranian military advisers, troops, and allied Shi’ite militia have since 2011 played a key role backing Assad in his civil war against Sunni rebels.

Iran on May 10, 2018, called Israel’s accusations, which were supported and corroborated by the United States and Western allies, “fabricated and baseless excuses” to stage attacks in Syria.

A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, warned that the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.

“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure…to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” he said in remarks during Friday Prayers that were carried on Iranian state television.

A prominent Iranian ally in Lebanon joined the verbal volley on May 10, 2018, warning that both Israel and the United States will face retaliation for repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria that monitors say have killed dozens of Syrian, Iranian, and Hizballah fighters in recent weeks.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
United States President Donald Trump.

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hizballah, told the Associated Press in an interview that some 1,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in northern and eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist group may be in danger.

“There are American interests in Syria and if there is a larger war, I don’t think even the American president can bear the consequences,” Berri said.

The White House on May 10, 2018, repeated its demand that Iran stop its “reckless actions” against U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

After a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” the White House said.

“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of Vietnam’s ‘Boat People’ is now an Air Force officer

The “boat people,” as they came to be known, are an oft-forgotten footnote at the end of the Vietnam War. In the years following the U.S. withdrawal and the subsequent fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north, refugees packed ships leaving the southern half, bound for anywhere but there.


Between 1975 and 1995 some 800,000 people faced pirates, traffickers, and storms to escape the grip of Communism and make it to a new life in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, or elsewhere. Images of boat people adrift on any kind of ship routinely made the nightly news. Rescued refugees would be resettled anywhere they would be accepted, many of them ending up in the Western United States. One of those people was Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Asan Bui.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Vietnamese “Boat People” being rescued while adrift at sea.

Asan Bui was born on one of those vessels, adrift in the ocean, bound for nowhere, some 44 years ago. He was a citizen of no country. His father took his then-pregnant mother out of Vietnam because he had served in South Vietnam’s army as an artilleryman. Against all odds, he, his wife, and five children all escaped the iron curtain as it came crashing down.

Bui, like many who fought for anti-Communist South Vietnam, faced persecution and execution at the hands of the oncoming Communists in 1975. The fall of the southern capital at Saigon was imminent, and many were looking for a way to flee. Asan Bui’s father took his family by boat.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Air Force Reserve, Lt. Col. Asan Bui was born at sea 44 years ago while adrift in the ocean aboard a wooden boat.

(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)

Bui’s family was just the tip of the iceberg. The fall of Saigon caused 1.6 million Vietnamese people to flee South Vietnam. The elder Bui was not happy to leave and wanted to fight the Communists every inch of the way. His sense soon got the better of him, though. If he were captured, he would likely have been tortured and killed.

“Anyone that fought alongside the United States would be killed or imprisoned in re-education camps,” Bui told the Air Force Reserve. “I have personally spoken with individuals that have gone through this brutal ordeal and survived. Some were not released for over a decade and still carry the traumatic scars.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Lt. Col. Bui’s father, Chien Van Bui, calls in artillery fire during the Vietnam War.

(Photo provided by Lt. Col. Asan Bui)

If they did survive the capture and torture, Southern fighters could look forward to hard time in Communist labor camps, re-education centers, or worse. Instead of all that, Chien Van Bui fled with his family. When the family was rescued, they were taken to Camp Asan in Guam, naming their newborn child after the camp they called home.

Asan Bui joined the United States Air Force in his mid-twenties, now serving his 19th year for the country that took him in and allowed him to start a family of his own. Lt. Col. Asan Bui is the commander of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla. He is dedicated to continued service.

“I want to honor those (military and sponsors) that have sacrificed so much for my family and the Vietnamese refugees,” said Bui. “Especially the Vietnam veterans.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes

Russia has warned the United States that it will retaliate immediately if Syrian government forces come under fire from positions held by a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia in eastern Syria.


Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the comments in a statement on Sept. 21, five days after the US-led coalition said Russian jets struck Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, wounding several of them.

His remarks came amid rising concerns of a confrontation on the ground between Russia-backed Syrian government forces and the US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State militants who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014.

Konashenkov said that SDF forces had taken up positions on the east bank of the Euphrates River with US special operations forces, and that Syrian troops operating alongside Russian special forces near the city of Deir al-Zor were “twice targeted with massive fire from mortar launchers and rocket artillery” from the SDF positions.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Igor Konashenkov. Photo from Ministry of defense of the Russian Federation.

A representative of the US military command in Qatar was “notified in severe form that attempts to attack from districts where SDF fighters are located will be repelled,” Konashenkov said, adding, “Fire positions in these areas will be immediately suppressed with all available weapons.”

Ahmed Abu Khawla, an SDF commander whose unit is leading the fight in the Deir al-Zor Province, denied Russian accusations of shelling and accused Moscow of seeking to obstruct the US-backed advance, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS militants in the east of the country near Iraq.

The government forces, backed by Russia and Iranian-allied militiamen, have gained control of most of the city of Deir al-Zor.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. Wikimedia Commons photo from Kurdishstruggle.

The SDF, supported by US-led coalition air cover, said on Sept. 20 that its campaign to capture the IS stronghold of Raqqa, north of Deir al-Zor, was in its final stages and that its fighters had seized 80 percent of the city.

Konashenkov claimed that Russian intelligence shows the coalition’s operation in Raqqa had stopped and that SDF fighters redeployed from there to Deir al-Zor. He did not provide evidence.

He also said that a Syrian government offensive captured two villages on the west bank of the Euphrates overnight, taking about 16 square kilometers of land.

On Sept. 16, the US-led coalition said the Russian warplanes struck SDF forces in Deir al-Zor Province, wounding several fighters. The Russian Defense Ministry denied it.

Articles

Air Force Chief: US must be ready to fight in space

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.


“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”

Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.

His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.

One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, left, the chief of staff of the Air Force, speaks with Gen. Bob Kehler, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during a senior leadership council meeting hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.

Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”

But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.

In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”

“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.

A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.

That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.

But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.

China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just launched a mission to explore how Mars was made

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”


First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Seventy-nine minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory towards the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later – 93 minutes after launch – and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 8:41 a.m. EDT (5:41 PDT).

“The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
InSight is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

“Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

“InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet.

Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

“InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.


For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/insight

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.


That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.

Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.

But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Artillery units in Iraq serve two roles: to provide force protection for Coalition and Iraqi security forces and to support ISF ground maneuver, enabling them to defeat Daesh. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel I Johnson)

They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.

The result?

“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.

A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”

The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.

The U.S. military is still investigating the incident, which drew criticism from the United Nations and Amnesty International.

On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.

“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.

If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.

“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.

A Pivotal Moment

With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.

Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.

The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.

A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.

And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.

Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.

He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”

Sectarian Civil War

After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.

Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.

A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.

From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.

When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.

Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.

Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.

“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”

Reining in Militias

The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.

A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.

In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.

“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.

Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.

“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”

To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.

“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

But the Iraqi Security Forces leading the fight have suffered a lot of casualties and are very tired, he noted, possibly causing them to rely on more firepower to limit their losses.

“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”

When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.

If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.

“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.

In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.

“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Microsoft employees want to reject this Army contract

A group of Microsoft employees are demanding that the company’s leadership abandon a contract with the US Army that they say makes them into “war profiteers” — a contract that relates to Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality technology.

On Feb. 22, 2019, a group of workers at the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant released an open letter in which they slammed a $749 million contract the company holds to develop an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS) to build “a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.”


“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter reads. “As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”

Fifty employees have signed the letter so far, and organizers say that number is expected to grow.

The organized action comes just days before Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a new HoloLens headset at the Mobile World Congress technology conference in Europe and is a sign of the rising tide of labor activism in the American technology industry.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

HoloLens.

(Flickr photo by Franklin Heijnen)

“We are going public with the demand to cancel the Hololens DoD contract because we want our voices to be heard on this life or death matter,” a Microsoft worker who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “We haven’t heard back from Microsoft officially, or from any execs at this point — we’re hoping this open letter will help get us a response.”

Microsoft employees have also protested company bids for other military contracts before. And multiple other tech companies have also been roiled by protests over military applications of their technology over the last year.

In June 2018, Google canceled a US military contract after internal uproar. Amazon has also faced protests over military contracts, though CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company has no plans to end them — even implicitly rebuking Google for its actions as unpatriotic. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said in October 2018.

The same anonymous Microsoft worker challenged this argument, saying: “Jeff Bezos and other tech execs reap massive profits from military contracts. Patriotism is just a front. If we look at who benefits, it is certainly not the individual engineers working at these companies.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

In a statement, Microsoft spokesperson Liz Reisen said: “We gave this issue careful consideration and outlined our perspective in an October 2018 blog. We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard. In fact, we heard from many employees throughout the fall. As we said then, we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. As we’ve also said, we’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”

Here’s the full letter:

“Dear Satya Nadella and Brad Smith,

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.

“In November, Microsoft was awarded the 9 million Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract with the United States Department of the Army. The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.’ Microsoft intends to apply its HoloLens augmented reality technology to this purpose. While the company has previously licensed tech to the U.S. Military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does. The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.

“Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.

“We demand that Microsoft:

“1) Cancel the IVAS contract;

“2) Cease developing any and all weapons technologies, and draft a public-facing acceptable use policy clarifying this commitment;

“3) Appoint an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce and publicly validate compliance with its acceptable use policy.

“Although a review process exists for ethics in AI, AETHER, it is opaque to Microsoft workers, and clearly not robust enough to prevent weapons development, as the IVAS contract demonstrates. Without such a policy, Microsoft fails to inform its engineers on the intent of the software they are building. Such a policy would also enable workers and the public to hold Microsoft accountable.

“Brad Smith’s suggestion that employees concerned about working on unethical projects ‘would be allowed to move to other work within the company’ ignores the problem that workers are not properly informed of the use of their work. There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP). These engineers have now lost their ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Mars Rover.

(NASA)

“Microsoft’s guidelines on accessibility and security go above and beyond because we care about our customers. We ask for the same approach to a policy on ethics and acceptable use of our technology. Making our products accessible to all audiences has required us to be proactive and unwavering about inclusion. If we don’t make the same commitment to be ethical, we won’t be. We must design against abuse and the potential to cause violence and harm.

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to do more. But implicit in that statement, we believe it is also Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to do good. We also need to be mindful of who we’re empowering and what we’re empowering them to do. Extending this core mission to encompass warfare and disempower Microsoft employees, is disingenuous, as ‘every person’ also means empowering us. As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.

“Microsoft Workers”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran is being forced to give up his support dog

Seventy-year-old Robert L. Brady has until Jan. 11 to give up Bane, the mixed-breed sidekick that his psychologist deemed as an emotional support dog.


His Conway-area condominium association won an arbitration order Dec. 12 requiring the Vietnam veteran to surrender the 4-year-old dog because it exceeds the community’s 35-pound weight limit for pets. Bane weighs about 41 pounds. The canine now faces an uncertain future even as assistance dogs have gained greater access to communities, restaurants and shops.

“The reason I don’t want to lose him is that he keeps my mind off the war and everything. He’s just a wonderful companion,” said the widower, who retired last year from working as a theme-park bus driver. “My life would be lost without a good companion and that’s why I’m doing all I can to keep from having to get rid of him.”

Brady’s attorney, Jonathan Paul, said the association discriminated by looking only at the dog’s weight without considering the disabled military veteran’s documented need for an emotional support animal. He said they are also seeking guidance under federal fair housing laws aimed at protecting housing rights of disabled residents.

Homeowner and condo associations are among those grappling with the boundary lines for emotional support dogs. Unlike service dogs trained to assist disabled people with daily tasks, emotional support animals don’t require training. They can be any species and require no certification to assist owners who have psychological disabilities, according to a June article published by the National Institutes of Health. In Florida, one association lawyer is seeking legislation to further clarify issues related to emotional support animals.

Florida law allows service dogs that calm “an individual with post traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack.” Dogs that simply provide comfort, companionship and security don’t qualify as service dogs, according to statutes.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Bane’s fate is uncertain since he exceeds community weight limits but is deemed an emotional support dog. (Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando Veteran Administration psychologist Matthew Waesche wrote in an October 2015 letter that Brady was under his care and that the dog appears to help keep his owner’s mental health issues in remission.

Orlando attorney Peter McGrath, who represents Orange Tree Village Condominiums, said Brady is a sympathetic figure but the association’s animal restrictions become meaningless if left unenforced.

Brady and his dog have never caused problems, although Bane once lunged at a dachshund owned by an association officer and sometimes barks for extended periods, McGrath said. The situation is complicated because Brady’s adult children resided in a nearby Orange Tree Village condo and kept the dog there until they were cited more than a year ago by the association, the attorney added. And even though no one has done genetic testing, McGrath said Bane could be a breed mix that is prohibited on the condo grounds.

The bottom line is that Brady can continue to pursue further legal channels but must give up the dog in three weeks unless he gets an injunction, McGrath added.

Donna Berger, an attorney who specializes in Florida condominium association law, said property-owner associations can sometimes be “mean spirited” but pet owners can also push the limits in efforts to keep dogs that violate rules.

“Every pet that needs to go suddenly morphs into an ESA [emotional support animal],” she said. “It’s the same old routine.”

She said she is pushing for legislation calling for pet owners to establish the need for emotional support animals with current medical records.

Also Read: New House bill proposes providing veterans with service dogs

Bane lays his chestnut-and-white head in Brady’s lap as his owner describes why he needs the dog: “Since my wife passed, he helps take my mind off stuff, like the war.”

Orange Tree Village Condominiums has focused on Bane’s weight for more than a year. Brady said he has been trying to feed the pet lean food to bring him closer to the limit but he doesn’t want to starve Bane just to comply with the association’s prescribed weight for pets.

Berger, whose firms represents associations across the state, said evicting animals based on their weight is “senseless” because size doesn’t predict whether a dog will attack someone. Larger dogs can be more gentle and puppies are acceptable weights — until they grow up. By then, they are cemented into the family.

“A lot of these weight restrictions are antiquated,” she said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Artillery would be critical in a war with Russia

Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.


The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.

“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also read: This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”

Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
An M109 Paladin gun crew with B Battery, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.

“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.

Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.

“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.

“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”

Related: That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.

In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.

ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”

The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.

“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.

Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”

In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.

The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.

More: This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.

The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.

An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.

“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Confederate soldiers are not considered ‘US veterans’

The question over whether or not Confederate soldiers were U.S. veterans is largely a symbolic one today. Only one Civil War pension is still being paid (that pensioner was a veteran of both sides of the conflict), and by the time Confederates received real benefits, they were all dead by the following year. No specific legislation exists that identifies Confederate veterans as having equal status to all other American veterans.


However, provisions exist that could add up to that protected status. Under the law, that is.

President Lincoln considered Confederate citizens and soldiers “Americans in rebellion,” and not citizen of a foreign country. His view dominated in the days following the end of the war. Lincoln even began the Reconstruction process early with the 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which pardoned the average Joe Confederate troop still fighting for the South.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
For a brief period after Lee’s surrender, Union and Confederate soldiers freely intermingled.

President Johnson continued the amnesty policy in 1868, granting a full pardon to most former Confederates, including men who fought the Union directly. They all regained their citizenship and voting rights, but were not granted veterans status by the federal government, which means they did not receive the same benefits promised to those who fought for the Union.

As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Americans began to care for Confederate graves the way they cared for Union ones. But this was not because any Federal act told them to, it was just the spirit of reconciliation in a nation fresh from a victory over Spain. Eventually it was codified into law.

U.S. Code 38 does require the government, when requested, to put up a headstone for soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War, which was confirmed again in 1958 under Public Law 85. That same law also extends veterans’ pensions “to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
At the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Union (left) and Confederate (right) veterans shake hands at a reunion, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The closest Confederates come to U.S. veteran status is in a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling about whether or not the Confederate flag was able to be flown over a national cemetery, administered by the VA. The court upheld the VA’s treatment of the rebel graves as equally honored, and that it was not obligated to fly any flag except the American flag over the cemetery.

The CSA flag was not considered a legitimate symbol of the United States and the Confederates buried there were honored as citizens, not as veterans.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Elderly Civil War veterans playing cards together, 1930.

So when added up, a Confederate’s benefits amounted to much of what was received by a Union veteran, but they’ll never be called American veterans. The closest they ever came was “American citizens” …”who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

NASA just selected astronaut Jeanette Epps for a historic space mission by Boeing — 2 years after the agency abruptly bumped her from a first flight

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps may finally be traveling to space.

The agency said Tuesday that it has assigned the 49-year-old rookie astronaut to Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission, slated to launch sometime in 2021.


The mission is actually the second that NASA picked Epps to fly. But she never made the first one, a Russian Soyuz flight that lifted off in June 2018, because the agency abruptly bumped her from the crew about five months ahead of launch.

“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail, or at what level,” Epps said during a conference in 2018 conference, but noted it was not medically related. “There were Russians, several of them, who defended me in the sense that it’s not safe to really remove someone from a crew that has trained together for years.”

NASA told Business Insider in a statement that a “number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” adding that “decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”

Despite the disappointing turn of events, Epps kept her composure over the years.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way that you planned,” she told “Business Insider Today” in 2019. “But I’m still in the astronaut corps.”

With her fresh assignment, Epps is once again poised to make history. The mission is to scheduled to be the first operational flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which should follow an uncrewed launch (possibly later this year) and a crewed flight test in 2021.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

The International Space Station. NASA

Epps will live and work aboard the space station for half a year

NASA selected Epps, an aerospace engineer, to be an astronaut in 2009. Prior to that, she worked at Ford Motor Company as a research scientist before moving on to the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was as a technical intelligence officer for more than seven years, according to her biography.

The Starliner-1 mission’s destination is the International Space Station, a facility that orbits 250 miles above Earth, and which people have inhabited continuously for 20 years. During her new upcoming mission, Epps will live and work aboard the 0 billion, football field-size laboratory for about six months.

Epps has not yet flown to space. She will join fellow spaceflight rookie Josh Cassada and veteran Sunita Williams. Williams, the Starliner-1 mission’s commander, has worked with Boeing and SpaceX over the past six years on the design and functionality of their new spaceships through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I can’t wait for her to join our crew,” Williams said in a video she tweeted on Tuesday.

Cassada tweeted a humorous video congratulating Epps, who grew up in Michigan, on her crew assignment.

“Just a couple of things I think we need to get sorted out. I know we both claim Michigan, I’m not going to arm-wrestle you for it — I’ve seen you in the gym. So maybe we can split it?” Cassada said. “The only other thing we need to get sorted out is, on the Starliner, I call shotgun.”

Starliner launched and landed on its first uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in December 2019. However, the spacecraft experienced two “high visibility close calls” that might have resulted in the loss of the spacecraft, NASA said earlier this year.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, on December 22, 2019. Bill Ingalls/NASA

Boeing is now fixing its software, systems, and procedures to rectify the problems, and — at a cost of 0 million to the company — plans to refly the mission later this year. Assuming there are no further issues, veteran astronaut Mike Fincke, retired astronaut Chris Ferguson, and rookie astronaut Nicole Mann will fly the first experimental crewed flight in 2021.

NASA appears unfazed by a small air leak aboard the ISS, which a three-person crew is currently helping root out and repair.

Had NASA allowed Epps to fly on the 2018 Soyuz mission, she would have been the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the ISS for an extended amount of time. However, that honor will likely go to Victor Glover, who’s slated to fly NASA’s next commercial mission with people, called Crew-1. (SpaceX successfully launched and returned its first astronaut crew on an experimental flight earlier this year.)

Similar to Starliner-1, the Crew-1 mission will be SpaceX’s first operational flight of its commercial spaceship, called Crew Dragon. That mission is slated to fly to the space station as soon as October 23, and Glover will launch with fellow astronauts Shannon Walker and Mike Hopkins, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

The Starliner-1 mission could prove especially important to Epps’ career, in that she is one of 16 active female astronauts in NASA’s corps who may return humans to the moon. Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator, has repeatedly said NASA’s Artemis program will fly the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024.

“Business Insider Today” asked Epps about that possibility during a 2019 interview.

“It’s mind-blowing to think about being the first [woman] to step on this object that you see in the night sky,” she said. “I would hope that my mission would inspire the next generation of women, of all engineers and all scientists to kind of propel us forward, even beyond Mars.”

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

Articles

Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.


The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.

Also read: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.

Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
A Navy corpsman performs immediate action on the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palm, Calif. | US Marine Corps photo

Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.

Lead-free round

The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
The US Army’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. | US Army photo

The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.

The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.

Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.

The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.

The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.

The Marines like it so much that the service is considering making it the next service rifle for infantry battalions in the Corps.

“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.

Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.

“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”

New magazine

After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.

Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.

“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.

“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.

Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.

“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.

“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.

Previous setback

In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.

The service had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but the setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo, Marine officials maintain.

The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”

Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.

The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.

“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”

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