Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war - We Are The Mighty
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Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.


“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”

Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.

The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

Additionally, Russia has moved three warships to Syria’s coast, further complicating the US’s options should it launch another strike.

US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.

Related: Islamic State terrorists launched a chemical attack in Mosul

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that the presence of Russian defenses didn’t guarantee the safety of Syria’s planes.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”

To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in January 2016. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.

In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.

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This Medal of Honor citation reads like an action movie plot

Joe Hooper had two U.S. military careers. He first enlisted in the Navy in 1956 but after just shy of three years, he found himself a civilian once again. It’s not that he was bad at his job or was a bad sailor — the Navy just wasn’t the career path for him. 

Six months later, he was back in the military. This time, he chose the United States Army. It was a choice that would completely change the rest of his life. He found himself training to become a paratrooper, serving first with the 82nd Airborne and later the 101st Airborne. Within three years, Hooper was an NCO.

But all was not perfect. He faced a number of Article 15 hearings related to disciplinary issues. By 1967 he had been demoted to Corporal and promoted to Sergeant once more. His promotion came just in time to deploy to Vietnam, where he would spend the first months of 1968 – meaning he was in country for the Tet Offensive. 

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
I wonder if this is also his “about to open a can of ‘whoop-ass’ face, too? (

The Tet Offensive and the subsequent effort to recapture the ground the communists captured would take the first few months of 1968 in some places. One of those areas was the old imperial capital of Hue. It was during the Battle of Hue that Joe Hooper earned his Medal of Honor – and the insane citation reads like the plot summary of the greatest Hollywood action movie of all time:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sergeant (then Sgt.) Hooper, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as squad leader with Company D. 

“Company D was assaulting a heavily defended enemy position along a river bank when it encountered a withering hail of fire from rockets, machine guns and automatic weapons. S/Sgt. Hooper rallied several men and stormed across the river, overrunning several bunkers on the opposite shore. Thus inspired, the rest of the company moved to the attack. 

“With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved out under the intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, moving them to safety. During this act, S/Sgt. Hooper was seriously wounded, but he refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed 3 enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenade and rifle fire, and shot 2 enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the Chaplain. 

“Leading his men forward in a sweep of the area, S/Sgt. Hooper destroyed 3 buildings housing enemy riflemen. At this point he was attacked by a North Vietnamese officer whom he fatally wounded with his bayonet. Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades. 

“By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, yet despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy fire. 

“As his squad reached the final line of enemy resistance, it received devastating fire from 4 bunkers in line on its left flank. S/Sgt. Hooper gathered several hand grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but 2 of the occupants. 

“With these positions destroyed, he concentrated on the last bunkers facing his men, destroying the first with an incendiary grenade and neutralizing 2 more by rifle fire. He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with a pistol. Moving his comrade to safety and returning to his men, he neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance by fatally wounding 3 North Vietnamese officers with rifle fire. 

“S/Sgt. Hooper then established a final line and reorganized his men, not accepting treatment until this was accomplished and not consenting to evacuation until the following morning. His supreme valor, inspiring leadership and heroic self-sacrifice were directly responsible for the company’s success and provided a lasting example in personal courage for every man on the field. S/Sgt. Hooper’s actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Reenactment (not really, though) (Giphy.com)

Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger.


Feature image: Medal of Honor Society

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Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

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The military is cracking down on hazing

A U.S. Navy officer charged with hazing and maltreatment of sailors is facing a general court martial.


The Virginian-Pilot reported April 18 that the unnamed lieutenant commander is accused of verbal abuse and retaliating against a sailor who asked to stop being called Charlie Brown. Court documents say the officer told the sailor to carry a Charlie Brown cartoon figurine at all times.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Don’t laugh. (Official image of Charlie Brown, created by Charles M. Schultz)

The officer also allegedly punched a chair next to a sailor and yelled at someone for more than an hour. The officer is also accused of lying about his actions.

Also read: Lawmakers visit Parris Island after recruits death highlight’s hazing

The lieutenant commander is a reservist assigned to a cargo handling battalion in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Military hazing has drawn extra scrutiny in recent years after a series of high-profile cases.

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Coast Guard finds sunken ship 100 years later

A hundred years ago in a blinding fog, a U.S. Coast Guard ship was sailing off the coast of Southern California when it smashed into a passenger steamship.


The USCGC McCulloch sank within 35 minutes and lingered on the ocean floor undisturbed by people for a century.

On the 100th anniversary of the vessel’s June 13, 1917, disappearance, the Coast Guard announced that it found the shipwreck — not far from where it went down. And officials plan to leave it there.

Strong currents and an abundance of sediment would make moving the delicate ship too difficult, officials said in detailing the discovery of the San Francisco-based USCGC McCulloch. They also paid tribute to its crews, including two members who died in the line of duty, but not in the crash.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Todd Sokalzuk called the ship “a symbol of hard work and sacrifice of previous generations to serve and protect our nation” and an important piece of history.

The ship sank shortly after hearing a foghorn nearby and then colliding with the SS Governor, a civilian steamship. The McCulloch’s crew was safely rescued and taken aboard the steamship.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard discovered the wreck last fall during a routine survey.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
USCGC McCulloch (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers focused on the area of the shipwreck 3 miles (5 kilometers) off Point Conception, California, after noticing a flurry of fish. Sunken ships offer a great place for fish to hide. The site is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

Commissioned in the late 1800s, the McCulloch first set out to sea during the Spanish-American War as part of Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron in the Battle of Manila Bay.

Cutters based in San Francisco in the late 1800s and early 1900s represented American interests throughout the Pacific. They also played important roles in the development of the Western U.S.

After the war, the cutter patrolled the West Coast and later was dispatched to enforce fur seal regulations in the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska, where it also served as a floating courtroom in remote areas.

The archaeological remains, including a 15-inch torpedo tube molded into the bow stem and the top of a bronze 11-foot propeller blade, are draped with white anemones 300 feet (90 meters) below the surface, officials said. A 6-pound gun is still mounted in a platform at the starboard bow.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Western powers condemn ‘election’ plans in eastern Ukraine

The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region.

“The United States condemns the announcement of a plan to conduct ‘elections’ in the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,'” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Sept. 12, 2018.

“Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict.


She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”

On Sept. 8, 2018, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini also criticized the plan and called on Moscow to use its influence to stop the planned Nov. 11, 2018 vote from taking place.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also decried the announcement by the separatist officials in the Donbas region.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Ukrainians protest against elections planned by Russia-backed Donbas separatists in 2014.

“If fake ‘early elections’ are conducted, their outcome will be legally void, they will not create any legal consequences, and will not be recognized by Ukraine or the global community,” the ministry said in a statement on Sept. 7, 2018.

The separatists have vowed to hold elections to choose the region’s parliament and a new leader.

Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko was assassinated by a bomb blast in a city cafe on Aug. 31, 2018. Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the “people’s council” was selected as the acting head until the Nov. 11, 2018 vote to select a new leader.

More than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 in the conflict, which erupted as Russia fomented separatism after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by huge pro-European protests in Kyiv.

Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and its seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula led the United States and EU to impose sanctions against Moscow and has heightened tensions between Russia and the West.

Featured image: Political rally in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Dec. 20, 2014.

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

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The US is ‘ready to confront’ China in the Pacific with the world’s most lethal combat plane

Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday that the US was “ready to confront” China should it continue its aggressive course in the South China Sea.


China has spent years building artificial islands to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a resource-rich area through which about $5 trillion in shipping flows each year.

Also read: What the US should have built instead of the F-35, according to a former Navy Commander

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the head of US Pacific Command. US Navy

In the past, China has unilaterally declared “no sail” and “no-fly zones” in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.

China flouting international law has strained relations with the US.

Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China’s “massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”

In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a “message” to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.

Harris characterized Beijing’s activity as “aggressive” and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.

In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in “disaster.”

“We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

These statements coincide with Harris making public a deployment of F-22 Raptors to Australia. The F-22, a very low observable aircraft, has unique features that make it ideal for piercing through and operating inside heavily contested airspace, like the skies above China’s military installations in the South China Sea.

While Harris maintained that diplomacy was the best way to reach China, he stressed “the absolute necessity to maintain credible combat power,” according to Breakingdefense.com

In August, the US deployed nuclear-capable bombers to Guam in an effort to deter aggression in the region and to demonstrate its commitment to stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

“The US fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation,” Harris said. “This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight.”

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There’s a fight brewing over how secret America’s next stealth bomber program should be

Secrecy and classification parameters of Air Forces’ new “in-early-development” next-generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be analyzed by the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate just how many details, strategies, and technological advances related to the emerging platform should be highly classified.


While Air Force developers say the long-range bomber is being engineered to have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed. Very little about the bomber has been released by the Air Force or discussed in the open public. Perhaps that is the most intelligent and “threat-conscious” approach, some claim. Nonetheless, Congress directed the Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into this issue, asking if there is sufficient transparency and communication about the new weapon.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told reporters May 15 that the service hopes to “balance program classification with the transparency we are shooting for to make sure we are not releasing too much or hindering too much information flow. They are analyzing what should be released.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez

The Air Force of course wants to maintain the openness needed to allow for Congressional oversight while ensuring potential adversaries do not learn information about advances in stealth technology and next-generation methods of eluding advanced air defenses. Such is often a challenging, yet necessary balance. Pentagon developers have often said there can be a fine line between there being value in releasing some information because it can function as a deterrent against potential adversaries who might not wish to confront advanced US military technologies in war. At the same time, US commanders and Pentagon leaders, of course, seek to maintain the requisite measure of surprise in war, meaning it is also of great value for the US military to possess technological advantages not known by an enemy.

Furthermore, funding, technology development, and procurement questions related to the new bomber are also subject to extensive Congressional review; the question is whether this should be limited to only certain select “cleared” committees – or be open to a wider audience.

While the Air Force has revealed its first sketch or artist rendering of what the B-21 might look like, there has been little to no public discussion about what some of its new technologies may include. Analysts, observers and many military experts have been left only to speculate about potential advances in stealth technology.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Rendering of the B-21 next-generation bomber, courtesy of USAF

Bunch did, however, in a prior interview with Scout Warrior, clearly state that the new bomber will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.

Bunch, and former Air Force Secretary Deborah James, have at times made reference, in merely a general way, to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.

“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image last year.

However, while Air Force developers say the emerging B-21 will introduce new stealth technologies better suited to elude cutting-edge air defenses, Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Russian air defense SA-400. Photo by Vitality Kuzmin

Nevertheless, James and other service developers have added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”

Although official details about the B-21 are, quite naturally, not available – some observers have pointed out that the early graphic rendering of the plane does not show exhaust pipes at all; this could mean that the Air Force has found advanced “IR suppressors” or new methods or releasing fumes or reducing the heat signature of the new stealth plane.

The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer its new bomber. The next-generation stealth aircraft is intended to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber. Beyond these kinds of general points, however, much like the Air Force, Northrop developers have said virtually nothing about the new platforms development.

“With LRS-B (B-21), I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Photo from USAF

Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.

“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.

The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.

For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate, and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there.  This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.

The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges. These frequencies include UHF, VHF and X-band, among others.

Stealth Technology

Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges,  noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons, or other easily detectable aircraft features, radar “pings” have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object. However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existence or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft.

At the same time, advances in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particularly in the case of future fighter aircraft.  New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors, and maneuverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.

However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Photo from USAF

“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.

Although the new image of the B-21 does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.

At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.

The B-21 will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.

“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure.  I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat.  I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
A B-1 bomber launching a Long Range Stand Off weapon. Photo from US Navy.

Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.

The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained. If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will like have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO – Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, although one does not want to speculate often, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.

“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran shot down US drone, sparking an airspace dispute

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said on June 20, 2019, it shot down a US Navy drone to make clear its position that “we are ready for war.”

However, Iran and the US sharply differ over whether Iran had any right to take action, based on a technical argument over whose airspace the aircraft was in.

The Guard’s website, Sepah News, said it shot down a “spy” drone when it flew over the southern Hormozgan province, Iran, which is near the Persian Gulf, Reuters reported.

IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, also said the Guard struck the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone when it entered Iranian airspace, according to The Associated Press.


Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, said in a televised speech on June 20, 2019, that the drone shooting sent “a clear message” to the US not to attack Iran.

He said Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war,” according to the AP.

Iran’s foreign ministry has also accused the US of “illegal trespassing and invading of the country’s skies.”

“Invaders will bear full responsibility,” a statement said, according to the AP.

The US has, however, denied flying any aircraft over Iranian airspace.

It said instead that a US Navy drone — a RQ-4A Global Hawk — was shot down in international airspace over the nearby Strait of Hormuz.

Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in statement sent to Business Insider:

US Central Command can confirm that a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.

Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false.

This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.

If the US drone was flying in international airspace, Iran had no right to attack it.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday: “Iran made a very big mistake!”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US’s second-highest-ranking general, said earlier this week that the US would be able to justify a military attack on Iran if it attacked “US citizens, US assets, or [the] US military.”

“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” Selva said, Business Insider’s Ryan Pickrell cited him as saying.

But he said at the time that the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them.”

June 20, 2019’s drone attack could affect the US’s position.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Iranian Revolutionary Guard military exercise.

Tensions between the US and Iran ratcheted up in recent weeks after the US accused Iran of attacking an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman two weeks ago.

Iran last week retaliated by saying it would exceed the limits on its enriched-uranium stockpile that were established in the 2015 nuclear deal signed under former President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump withdrew from the deal last year.

The hawkish Revolutionary Guard is a powerful force within Iran’s ruling class and tends to favor an aggressive foreign policy.

Trump’s administration has signaled willingness to go to war with Iran in recent days.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made the case that the US might be able to attack Iran under a law originally passed to allow then-President George W. Bush to punish those deemed responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are resisting the White House’s use of that act to justify action against Iran.

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

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Well, on second thought, maybe you can’t have all the troops you want Sec. Mattis

Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.


The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.

Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali. DoD photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.

Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from DoD.

Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.

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Trump proposes budget cut from already-besieged Coast Guard

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.


Trump’s budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.

“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.

“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.

Also read: The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.

The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. That’s because, like China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40 icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The Polar Start icebreak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“We’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” Zukunft said.

The Coast Guard has only two icebreakers, one medium and one heavy — the latter being nearly 40 years-old.

“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers,” Zukunft said. He said that ideally, the service would need a fleet of 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers to remain competitive.

Cuts to the budget are likely to strain other parts of the Guard, such as its coastal maritime security teams, which help to the protect the president when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago, and the service’s inland fleet that maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways and in ports.

“That’s been neglected probably for a half-century,” he said of infrastructure which sees roughly $4.5 trillion in commerce pass through.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in a letter to President Trump that such cuts “egregiously” conflict with his stated goals to strengthen national security.

“These proposed cuts … will guarantee negative consequences,” Hunter wrote, adding that it would “create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”

The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion by taking money from non-defense areas, such as the State Department.

Since the budget has not been finalized, a spokesman for the Coast Guard declined to comment on the matter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Last week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of a small island in the South China Sea claimed by Communist China. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Other ships, like the Hopper’s sister ship, USS John S. McCain, have made similar runs.


So, you might ask yourself, “why continue running these kinds of routes when they piss off China?” After all, the Hopper was warned off by a Chinese Communist missile frigate and Scarborough Shoal, the island in question, isn’t even inhabited — what’s the point?

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)

Well, part of the reason is to contest China’s claim over pretty much all of the South China Sea. This is a claim that was rejected by an international tribunal in the summer of 2016, although China pulled a Lannister-esque gambit and boycotted the proceedings. China has since built some island bases in the disputed region and uses them to not only support aircraft operations but also houses surface-to-air missiles as well.

So, in addition to disputing the claims of the Chinese in the South China Sea, these near-passes provide an opportunity to get a good look at the electronic emissions and other military capabilities on island bases.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

The United States Navy calls these close passes “freedom of navigation” exercises. The term sounds innocent enough, but similar exercises resulted in brief battles with Libya in 1981, 1986, and 1989, which included the sinking of two Libyan naval vessels and the downing of Su-22 “Fitter” and MiG-23 “Flogger” combat jets by F-14 Tomcats. In one instance in the 1980s, a pair of Soviet frigates bumped the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The Soviet Krivak I class guided missile frigate BEZZAVETNY (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS YORKTOWN (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Currently, the freedom of navigation exercises have not drawn hostile fire from Chinese Communist forces. However, it has not been unusual for American planes to be buzzed by ChiCom jets, as happened on multiple occasions in 2017, one of which mirrored a secne in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. In 2001, a ChiCom J-8 “Finback” collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance aircraft, which, as a result, had to make an emergency landing.

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LBJ won the ’64 election by convincing America his opponent just might start a nuclear war

Lyndon B. Johnson had only been in office for a few months following the assassination of President Kennedy when he found himself on the campaign trail, mired in election year politics as he fought to stay in office.


His opponent was Arizona Governor Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative who fancied himself as representing the values of the “good ol’ days,” unimpressed by the social changes looming across the country. Goldwater focused on the spectre of the Soviet Union and the associated spread of Communism. More than once from the stump he railed that he would make North Vietnam into a “mud puddle” once he was commander-in-chief. Goldwater also decried the scourge of the “welfare state,” saying that the proliferation of entitlement programs would be the end of America as good, law-abiding Americans knew it.

Johnson, meanwhile, staked his campaign on what he called the “Great Society” — a series of programs designed to reduce poverty. He was also very determined to improve civil rights.

This political ad was designed to paint Goldwater as a loose cannon — one with an itchy nuke trigger finger.

Watch:

The ad worked. Johnson’s victory over Goldwater in the national election remains the most lopsided in terms of popular votes (43 million to 27 million) and the sixth-most lopsided in terms of electoral votes (486 to 52). Johnson won all but six states (Arizona, which was Goldwater’s home state) and the Bible Belt from Louisiana to Georgia (primarily due to LBJ’s civil rights efforts).

Although Goldwater was embarrassed by the election results, his politics did become the framework for the current Conservative movement as well as the Libertarian Party.

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