SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

SpaceX is gearing up to launch a third top-secret spacecraft for the U.S. government, a mission the company calls “Zuma” but has said little else about.


The mystery satellite is tentatively slated to lift off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Friday, November 17, after 8 p.m. ET though possibly as late as 10 p.m. ET. SpaceX plans to broadcast the launch live via YouTube starting about 15 minutes beforehand. (You can watch the video feed at the end of this post.)

More outer space stuff: This is what the potential US Space Corps could look like

SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by tech mogul and Mars-colonizing hopeful Elon Musk, initially planned to launch the clandestine spacecraft on Wednesday. However, the company delayed the launch multiple times.

The reason for the delay doesn’t appear to be weather-related, given the current forecast. Previous delays were made “to allow engineers to complete additional mission assurance work,” according to Spaceflight Now. SpaceX said in later statements that a fairing (i.e. rocket nosecone) inspection “for another customer” caused the company to stand down, and that it “will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date” — so a Friday lift-off may be canceled.

Read Also: Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

SpaceX has loaded the Zuma payload atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket earlier this week.

When it lifts off, the Falcon 9’s roughly 133-foot-tall booster — the largest and most expensive part — will lug Zuma a few dozen miles above Earth, then detach and attempt to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Right after separating from the booster, a smaller second-stage rocket will fire up and finish pushing the secret payload into orbit.

A clandestine mission without a mysterious customer

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
A landed Falcon 9 sits in hangar 39A at SpaceX. (Image SpaceX Flickr)

The Zuma mission is more secretive than most, as public filings don’t even mention the launch customer paying SpaceX.

It’s not clear whether the satellite is owned by the U.S. military or a commercial entity. The National Reconnaissance Office typically launches spy satellites, but a representative told Aviation Week that Zuma doesn’t belong to the NRO.

SpaceX declined to answer questions about the Zuma mission, but Northrop Grumman — one of the largest defense contractors in the world — has acknowledged that they’re playing a role.

Lon Rains, the communications director for Northrop Grumman’s space systems division, sent Business Insider this statement:

“Northrop Grumman is proud to be a part of the Zuma launch. This event represents a cost effective approach to space access for government missions. The U.S. Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission. We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX.

“As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.

“The Zuma payload is a restricted payload. It will be launched into Low Earth Orbit.”

Low-Earth orbit, or LEO, is considered to be less than about 1,000 miles above the surface of the planet. Rains declined to provide further detail about the mission, however, cautioning that the company is “not saying anything else or answering any other questions.”

Zuma’s secrecy has spurred rampant speculation

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
SpaceXs JCSAT 16 launch on Aug. 14, 2016. (Image SpaceX Flickr)

Satellite trackers found out about the launch via public yet cryptic FCC filings in October, and shared them in a NASA Spaceflight forum thread.

Since then, the vacuum of information has led to evolving speculation about the details and purpose of the launch. NASA Spaceflight’s thread about Zuma and a Nov. 15 story from Spaceflight Now have floated a number of ideas and theories:

  • If the National Reconnaissance Office isn’t behind Zuma (although Ars Technica claims it is the NRO’s), the payload may be for the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, or some other non-military U.S. government agency.
  • Estimates of Zuma’s orbit around Earth may be good for spying on China and North Korea, though its trajectory can’t be confirmed until after launch.
  • The predicted orbit is similar to that if the NRO’s USA-276 (or NROL-76) satellite. With Zuma launching around 8:00 p.m. ET, it could go into orbit less than 10 minutes behind USA-276 — very close in terms of outer space.
  • This has led some to suggest Zuma may be a refueling mission for USA-276, or part of a spy satellite constellation or program associated with that mission.

Watch the launch live

You can watch the launch live via SpaceX’s YouTube feed around 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines may have to fight all of America’s low-intensity wars

Buried nearly 500 pages into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 , Senate Bill 2987, is an interesting directive: “No later than February 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth a re-evaluation of the highest priority missions of the Department of Defense, and of the roles of the Armed Forces in the performance of such missions.” Despite receiving passing attention in the media, this small section of a large bill has potentially enormous long-term repercussions.


The Senate NDAA passed by a vote of 85–10 on June 19, 2018. Much of the re-evaluation that the Senate Armed Services Committee calls for in S.2987 is justified and indeed overdue. There is a glaring need to take a new look at issues such as:

  • Future ground vehicles that are not optimized for high-end conflict
  • The advantages of carrier-launched unmanned platforms over our short-legged manned Navy strike aircraft
  • The ways in which swarms of cheap drones can impact the United States’ ability to project power
  • Our overstretched special operations forces

Alongside these necessary inquiries, the requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

The Trump Administration’s National Defense Strategy rightly seeks to reorient America’s military on the most difficult task it can face: deterring or winning a large-scale modern war against a peer competitor. The Senate NDAA seems guided by that same logic.

The military and its civilian overseers have picked up some bad habits from the past two decades of low-intensity operations. At least one prominent retired general questions whether the US military still knows how to fight a major war. Counterinsurgency may be “eating soup with a knife,” but it is not “the graduate level of warfare.” No matter how vexing armed anthropology and endless cups of tea may be to soldiers, the challenges of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism do not compare to those of a high-tempo, high-casualty modern war. This should be obvious to even a casual student of military history, but the post-9/11 wars have generated an enormous amount of woolly thinking among both soldiers and civilians.

There are also justifiable concerns about the viability of forcible entry from the sea, the Marine Corps’ traditional mission. Since the Falklands invasion in 1982, we have seen that modern missiles will make amphibious power projection increasingly costly. The Marine Corps has taken note and for decades now has quietly been renaming schools, vehicles, and probably marching bands “Expeditionary” instead of “Amphibious.” However, America will always be a maritime nation, and “game-changing” military technologies have a mixed record.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)

Yet while the Senate’s requested report is asking the Secretary of Defense many of the right questions, its one attempt at an answer should be rejected outright.

A high/low mix of platforms is worth examining. Going high/low with our military services is another matter altogether.

The Army and Air Force undoubtedly want to get back to preparing to fight major wars, as they should. Relegating the Marine Corps to second-tier status as a counterinsurgency and advising force, however, is not in the national interest.

Militaries have historically understood that they must prepare primarily for the most dangerous and difficult operations they could face. It is far easier to shift a trained force down the range of military operations than up. The Israelis offer the most vivid recent illustration of this truth.

Before the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been focused on operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, with 75 percent of training devoted to low-intensity conflict (LIC). When this counterinsurgency force confronted well-armed, well-trained, and dug-in Hezbollah militiamen, it received a nasty wake up call: the IDF took relatively heavy casualties and was unable to decisively defeat Hezbollah or halt rocket attacks into Israel, which continued until the day of the ceasefire. The IDF quickly returned to training for stiffer fights, devoting 80 percent of its training to high-intensity conflict (HIC) after the 2006 war.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
An Israeli soldier tosses a grenade into a Hezbollah bunker.

America already has a tradition of early bloody noses in major wars, from Bull Runto Kasserine Pass to Task Force Smith. Unless we want an even more catastrophic shock in our next major war, we must focus all four of our military services on major combat operations and combined arms maneuver. We should not forget the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as they are. But it is the height of folly to turn our most expeditionary and aggressive military service into a corps of advisors and gendarmes.

Instead of continuing to throw lives and money at the intractable — and strategically less important — security problems of the developing world, perhaps we should spend more time and effort avoiding such military malpractice. Let’s hope the Department of Defense concurs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
Wikimedia commons


The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.

Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.

The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.

To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:

Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.

Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.

TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.

The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.

Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.

The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:

Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.

DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.

The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.

Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.

Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.

The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.

This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.

ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.

Articles

How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russia-Saudi oil price war and U.S. national security

On 18 March, U.S. crude oil prices fell to their lowest level in 18 years. The following day, momentarily distracted from their hype of the coronavirus pandemic, pundits and analysts reminded us again that low oil prices are the result of Saudi Arabia instigating a price war with Russia. And again, the culprit named was Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Among his motives, they claimed, is hobbling the fracking industry that has ended American dependence on Middle East oil. Now, let’s examine the real backstory.


Weeks before a scheduled meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel dedicated to supporting oil prices, the Saudis became concerned that the coronavirus pandemic was causing the oil price to decline. To stop or at least slow that decline, Riyadh worked to get oil-producing countries to agree to counteract falling prices with a production cut of 1.5 million barrels per day.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

The Saudis were successful with OPEC and non-OPEC members, with one exception: Russia. On March 7th, it was clear that the Russians would not agree to any cut in their production, despite an existing 3-year old deal with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then punished the Russians by undercutting prices to all their main customers – like Communist China – by increasing production by 2 million barrels per day.

On 20 March, Brent crude closed at .98 per barrel, far below Russia’s cost of production. Even at , Russia loses 0 million to 0 million per day. Goldman Sachs predicts the price will continue to drop to per barrel, far below Russia’s budget needs. Analysts say that even if the ruble stays stable, Russia needs per barrel, even with spending cuts and drawing on monetary reserves. With Russia’s main exports being energy and weapons, there are few other options.

Two things drove Russia to make its drastic decision. First, Russia’s power in the world, especially in the EU, has a great deal to do with energy politics. Russia is one of Europe’s main energy suppliers, and with Brexit, that dominance will increase. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a critical element in Russia’s European energy strategy and Washington, understanding that levied sanctions on the pipeline as well as on state-owned Rosneft. As a result, Moscow rightly believes that American fracking-based energy independence underpins Washington’s ability to threaten Russia’s global energy politics. That was demonstrated in the first days of March when Putin met with Russian oil companies. At that meeting, Rosneft’s head, Igor Sechin, said that low energy prices “are great because they will damage U.S. shale.”

Second, the Kremlin is determined to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East after years of expensive effort. To continue to meet those expenses, Russia must not only use profits from weapons sales but also from unrestricted production and sale of crude oil and gas. Propping up oil prices by restricting production does not fit that requirement, and higher prices certainly do not “damage U.S. shale.”

As it continues to confront Russia’s motives, Washington should take comfort in the knowledge that the dark clouds of the oil price war have silver linings with regard to American national security.

First, rock bottom oil prices that force Russia to sell crude at a net loss will undoubtedly impact its budget, which in turn will substantially lessen its appetite for foreign military adventures. As a bonus, low oil prices will similarly impact Iran. Together, those two aggressive nations continue to menace the United States and kill American soldiers on a roll call of battlefields.

In Iraq, Tehran is attempting to ramp up attacks by its proxy forces on bases manned by U.S. forces. These relatively minor and uncoordinated attacks are hampered by a lack of leadership and lack of essential funding. The recent U.S. killing of an enemy combatant, General Soleimani, has been as telling to Iran as the fall of oil sales revenue.

In Syria, Russia and Iran are successfully propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad at considerable cost. The Saudis are as concerned about Syria as they are about their long border with Iraq, so Riyadh will not be anxious to end the economic punishment they are meting out to Moscow and Tehran.

Who will win the oil war?

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

Russia has boasted they will survive selling oil at a loss for years by “adjusting the budget.” Those adjustments will mean at least pausing their expensive aggression in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, not to mention developing and brandishing new weapons aimed at NATO and the United States. Despite their brave front, the pain was already evident when Russia signaled it was willing to join an OPEC conference call to discuss market conditions. Saudi Arabia and other members did not agree to attend. The call was canceled.

Iran is using its disastrous domestic coronavirus epidemic as a ploy to gain sympathy, pleading for the lifting of sanctions. The firm U.S. response was to increase sanctions, excepting only agricultural and humanitarian supplies. With just a sliver of oil sales income remaining, domestic unrest, inflation and disease are turning the Islamic Republic into a failing state.

Saudi Arabia, like Russia, stated its budget can weather the lower oil prices for years and is already trimming expenditures by 5%. If further cuts are needed, it will be relatively easy for the Kingdom to postpone ambitious domestic projects – knowing they will not run out of oil for a very long time.

The United States, preoccupied with the coronavirus, is almost a bystander in the oil price war. Despite loud complaints from Wall Street brokers and the discomfort of over-extended oil companies, our domestic energy supply remains secure for civilians and warfighters. Gas prices at the pump have dropped to levels not seen in twenty years. We are filling our strategic reserve with inexpensive oil as a hedge against the future. And Saudi Arabia is an ally that has clearly stated, whatever else may drive it, that it has no intention of crushing our fracking industry.

As for Russia and Iran, Ronald Reagan once summed it up nicely: “They lose, we win.”

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis threatened an “effective and overwhelming” response by the US and its allies if North Korea ever uses nuclear weapons.


His remarks came on his first overseas trip to South Korea, where he met with his counterpart in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense and other government officials.

“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions from the press during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017. | US Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith

He also praised South Korea — which has nearly 30,000 US troops stationed there — as a “lynchpin of peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mattis’ stern warning to the North is likely to be taken seriously, since Pyongyang often responds to the slightest provocation. For example, North Korea regularly threatens total war against its southern neighbor whenever the US and South Korean forces train together during annual exercises, which are regularly scheduled and known well ahead of time.

The secretary’s overseas trip was also another chance to push the South to continue with its deployment of the US’s powerful THAAD missile defense system, which would blanket the country with protection from conventional or nuclear-tipped missiles fired from the north.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

2020 Armed Forces Insurance Spouse of the Year Fort Bragg rallies support for soldiers in quarantine after deployment

Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.

When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.


“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.

All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.

“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.

Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.

“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.

Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.

“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.

“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.

The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.

“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.

In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.

“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”

Jobs

What to do when your military job doesn’t translate to a civilian one

You’ve transitioned to civilian life, but every job you find expects you to start at the bottom. Did you spend your last few years in service for this? Why don’t employers recognize the experience you bring to the table (even if it isn’t direct experience in your new job) and cut you a break? This article explains why starting from the bottom of your organization is OK.


Military appreciation wanes fast. Respect for your military service and your perceived character may get you an interview. Employers constantly seek candidates with the kind of virtues and values associated with the military: integrity, team dedication, discipline, and “can-do” spirit. Respect for your military service may earn you instant credibility with your new co-workers, too, many of whom have never done anything as big and as meaningful with their lives as swear an oath to protect this nation unto death, if need be. But when the introductions have finished and day-to-day concerns take over, your new boss and your new peers want you to be good at your job.

Also read: 12 best military jobs according to Glassdoor

If you talk about your military adventures all the time, or “act military” by wearing your combat boots or T-shirts with military designs, or speaking in military phrases, it will isolate you from civilians. They may feel they have nothing to talk about with you, or they may feel insecure that you served and they didn’t, or they may just want to interact with you on a professional footing within your new job. If you’re a team leader and you try to impose military expectations on a civilian group, your subordinates will resent you for it. And if you “rest on your laurels” — keeping the attention off negative performance by constant reminders about your military past — you will quickly find that a military record won’t save you from the chopping block.

Military service is a great “in” to a civilian job, certainly, but to keep that job you have to actually, you know, do the job. And it helps if you become part of the team… which means learning to talk your new peers’ jargon, meeting their expectations and letting your military service be visible in your behavior instead of your language.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

You have everything to learn about your new job. By the time you make your transition into civilian life, you will probably be pretty familiar with the military. You know what’s important, what people mean when they tell you to do things, and how to succeed. But even if you are going into a field similar to the military (like becoming a state trooper), you’ll find that the structure, expectations, and conventions are all new.

There will probably be a lot of technical things to learn — how to use new equipment, computer programs, and new procedures. But you probably would expect that upon entering a new profession. The hard part is learning the culture. This includes figuring out who’s experienced, who has authority within the organization and for what, how to use the payroll and administration system, and unwritten expectations of behavior — examples of which include having to figure out which meetings to attend, or a specific way to arrange your workspace, or dressing a certain way for certain days or events.

Related: This amazing Microsoft training is the key to the ultimate post-military tech career

Military veterans sometimes barge into their civilian job with the expectation that it will be like their military job. Don’t be that guy (or girl). The best way to integrate well is to listen. Listen when you get your orientation, and take notes so you can ask questions at the end (or of your work partner). Listen to what people say around you while you’re working. You will pick up all sorts of cues about how you’re supposed to act, or what to expect next. Ask questions – but don’t be a pest. As a general rule, spread your questions around: ask a few of each person around you, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if the answer to your question was obvious. And if you find yourself unprepared for a situation, be unobtrusive, humble and ready to take criticism if it’s coming your way.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
(Army photo by Sgt. Steve Peterson)

Your co-workers and boss will respect that you “pay your dues.” You may feel like you’ve paid enough dues for a lifetime in boot camp, as a young service member and especially in combat (if you’ve been there). But there are always dues to be paid whenever you enter a new team. The bare minimum is showing proficiency in your new job, but those around you want to see you invest in your profession. They want to see you care. That means being eager to learn (see listening, above), eager to volunteer when needed and ready for work when it’s assigned.

Big mistakes off the bat include showing up late (or close enough to start time that you aren’t ready for work when everyone else begins), always asking for help with work, asking too many questions about “perks” (example: “So what time do you think I could get out of here?”), or wasting time at work. It can be hard to really care about a civilian job that you don’t yet know – especially if you just came from a tight, accomplished unit in which you were bonded by danger and privation — but figuring out where you’re supposed to be, and being there whenever it’s expected, is going to put you on the fast track to “paying your dues.”

More: These military principles can help you succeed in your civilian career

Prior military service will push you forward throughout your career. The good news is that your co-workers and supervisors won’t forget that you served. It’s likely one of the first things they learned about you, and first impressions go a long way. As long as you don’t “act military” in the negative sense — by acting superior, or entitled, or by isolating yourself — others will see all your civilian achievements through the lens of the respect they hold for the military.

And by the way, keeping a few reminders of your service visible in the workplace isn’t a bad thing: a photograph of you with your old unit, a short haircut, or a camouflage duffel are all unpretentious ways to maintain a military identity without proclaiming it obnoxiously (if that’s your style).

The important thing is to “act military” in the positive sense: be disciplined, respectful, and ready to jump in whenever needed. If you do that, you will advance quickly from “boot” status to rising star.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The very first coed boot camp at MCRD San Diego

Historically, male Marines hailing from west of the Mississippi went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego in California while those from east of the Mississippi trained at MCRD Parris Island in South Carolina. Meanwhile, all female Marines trained in gender-segregated units exclusively at Parris Island. However, all that is about to change.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
Graduates of the first gender-integrated Drill Instructor School at MCRD San Diego (U.S. Marine Corps)

Following a Congressional order, the first group of female recruits will train at MCRD San Diego to earn the coveted Eagle, Globe and Anchor. They will be the first female recruits to train at the depot in its 100-year history. The move is driven by the National Defense Authorization Act. With it, the military’s goal is to progressively integrate women across all aspects of its ranks, from training to combat. Parris Island has trained female platoons alongside male platoon for two years now. San Diego will follow their model of integrated training. The Marine Corps is the last service to integrate its basic training based on gender.

About 60 female recruits reported to the new Lima Company, composed of 400 recruits, on the evening of January 25, 2021. The recruits were put into a two week quarantine, before beginning the six phase, 13 week training to become Marines. The female recruits will make up a full platoon within the company and train alongside five male platoons. Like the integrated units at Parris Island, they will have female drill instructors and a female commander.

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
Female recruits and DIs have been training alongside their male counterparts at MCRD Parris Island (U.S. Marine Corps)

The historical move at San Diego will serve as a proof-of-concept to fine tune future integrated training. However, female and male recruits will be held to the same training standards. “Anyone who shows up at the yellow footprints is who we’re here to train,” said Lt. Col. Tracy Maese, “and the fact that we get to train female recruits here at MCRD San Diego is just a super exciting, monumental day in Marine Corps history.”

While these recruits won’t have to face the infamous sand fleas of Parris Island, the Marine Corps affirms that their training will be no less challenging and that the title of United States Marine will be hard-earned. The NDAA mandates that Marine Corps training facilities be integrated by 2028.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Author and Green Beret Jason Kasper releases edge-of-your-seat thriller

USA Best Selling Author Jason Kasper just released his newest book series, Shadow Strike. Enemies of My Country is his tenth book in four years since walking away from the Army to pursue writing.  

In 2016 Kasper released his first book, Greatest Enemy. Despite his relative success since beginning a new journey and his quite obvious talent for story-telling – he didn’t set out to be an author. The military was always it for him. He was the young boy playing GI Joes and then a 17-year-old signing up for the Army before he’d even graduated high school. 

“I enlisted in a ranger contract and went to basic and infantry training. It was towards the end of our infantry training for a job qualifier that 9/11 happened,” Kasper shared. He described a quiet and somber scene where recruits who’s families worked in the World Trade Center or lived in New York City were pulled out and then everyone else was told of the attack. 

After those events, there was no slowing down. Kasper attended Airborne school and was picked up for the Ranger Regiment and assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion. He’d deploy to Afghanistan in 2002 and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, he was picked up for West Point. It was a dream realized. 

He completed his four years and became an Infantry Officer. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne for three years and did another deployment to Afghanistan. Not long after that, he found himself in Special Forces Selection and eventually became a Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. There were many deployments and he found himself leading a team. 

Jason Kasper during his active service

“That was the high water mark of my career. I had the perfect storm of guys and missions, it couldn’t have gotten any better,” Kasper shared. Despite his happiness and success, he walked away from it all. “I got out and made the full-time transition to writing.”

Leaving after all of those years of active duty service was easier for him than you’d think, he said. But he didn’t always want to do it, it just happened. “I found it by accident at West Point where I sort of went into war withdrawal. I went from being a ranger to a rigid academic environment,” Kasper explained. To make up for what he was missing, he went all in on adrenaline sports. Skydiving and base jumping, which wasn’t legal. He started writing about his experiences. 

“Those descriptions became longer and longer and I began to relieve those experiences of standing at the edge of a building and looking down. I was reliving the rush as I was writing. That’s where I kind of wanted more of that,” he said.

Jason Kasper jumping out of a plane

Jason Kasper developed a protagonist and wrote the first scene. “After that, I was completely jacked. Adrenaline was flowing and I was like ‘Man, I want more of this’. After that, I was a closet writer for about 10 years,” he said with a smile. He had one book ready to go when he began his terminal leave in November of 2016. “That day, I hit publish on Amazon.”

Despite how good it was, he was pretty terrified when it was go-time. “It was pretty daunting, I am not going to lie … I committed fully and there was no backing out,” Kasper said. “The only people who said I was crazy were people who’d never been in the military themselves… Everyone I went to war with and my command, they were and are incredibly supportive.”

The publishing house he writes for is a veteran-owned business, making the fit even smoother for Kasper. “The founder is an author and Navy veteran and he built the company from the ground up by hiring both veterans and military spouses as employees,” he explained. “Severn River Publishing has a great portfolio of mystery and thriller authors, many of which served in the armed forces or law enforcement prior to starting their writing careers.”

Four years in, he’s found his grove. His tenth book and new series starter, Enemies of My Country, is riveting, from start to finish. Kasper truly has a talent for weaving words that come alive off the page. Reviews for his new book are steller, one on his website saying “…this book slaps you with a weapon, helmet, and body armor, and screams ‘You’re coming with me!’ Buckle up and enjoy the ride.”

Enemies of My Country book cover, by Jason Kasper

So, what’s it about? “David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world,” Kasper explained. “But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.”

It isn’t long before the character discovers a sinister plot, this time against his own country, hometown and his much-loved family. “The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book is in the works now, and will be released later this year,” Kasper said.

From the start of his writing and still today, Kasper gives a portion of all of his sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. For the new series, he matched every dollar for preorders. “We ended up getting a little over $4,000 prior to the launch,” he shared. 

Jason Kasper with his family

Although there are still those who can’t believe this Green Beret walked away with only nine years left until full retirement benefits, he’s never looked back. “I am a pretty domesticated suburban dad right now,” Kasper said with a laugh. He shared his happiness at home with his wife, child, new baby coming and his two cats. “It’s about as manly as it gets. I kind of took a hard right from the military but it’s been great.”

Despite leaving the thrill and excitement of serving, Kasper has found his new purpose and that same rush he once craved. Writing one page at a time. 

To learn more about Jason Kasper and his thrillers, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now the Russians are courting North Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country’s foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in June 2018.

Lavrov’s May 31, 2018 visit — his first to North Korea since 2009 — was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.

Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.

Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.


“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States,” Lavrov said on May 31, 2018, after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

The Russian minister called on “all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process.”

Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.

Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.

Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 2018, to discuss the matter.

Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31, 2018.

“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu,” Pompeo tweeted.

Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.

Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.

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

Articles

US apologizes for leaflet drop that shows a dog carrying a Taliban flag

 


On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.

The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.

“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.

Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”

SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.

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