Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.
Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.
Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”
But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.
Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.
In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”
Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”
But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.
Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.
An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.
Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.
Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.
Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.
The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.
With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.
Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.
It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.
The head of NATO has demanded that Russia release Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels it seized in a confrontation at sea, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea are “absurd.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke on December 3 as Russia continued to hold the 24 Ukrainian seamen in Moscow jails on border-violation charges Kyiv rejects.
NATO chief warns Russia over Crimea incident after chairing emergency talks
“Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships,” Stoltenberg said on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers who will address that issue, among others.
Russia, he said, “must also allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels — military as well as civilian — have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”
Russia has been holding the sailors — crewmen from three Ukrainian naval craft — since the confrontation on November 25 in which Russian Coast Guard ships rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on the boats before special forces boarded them.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and took over from Ukraine in March 2014, and raised fears of a flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Peskov dismissed concerns that Russia could seek to gain access by land to Crimea by seizing or helping the separatists to seize territory on the Azov shore from Mariupol to the isthmus further west that links the Ukrainian mainland to Crimea.
“It’s an absolutely absurd claim. It is another attempt to generate tension. Regretfully, attempts like this will most likely continue as we approach” the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled for March 31, he said.
Peskov claimed that “Russia has never invaded anything or created any corridors anywhere.”
But in addition to occupying and taking over Crimea, Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say there is ample evidence that Russia has given the separatists in eastern Ukraine major military support in the war.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for one of the Ukrainian sailors confirmed on December 3 that all 24 had been charged by Russian authorities with “illegal border crossing.”
Nikolai Polozov, who is representing Denys Hrytsenko, said the sailors were formally charged on November 27.
Dzhemil Temishev, an attorney for another of the sailors, said on November 29 that 21 of the detainees were being transferred from Russia-annexed Crimea to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.
Russian authorities say three other Ukrainian sailors wounded on November 25 were receiving medical treatment at a different, unspecified detention center.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on December 3 that the detained Ukrainian sailors had food, “clothes, and all the necessities.”
In remarks that appeared aimed to portray the jailing of the sailors as a strictly legal issue and tell the world that they were not being mistreated, Moskalkova said on state-run Rossia-24 TV that rights monitors “have visited the sailors and spoken with every one of them.”
She said the sailors “have no complaints about custody conditions or medical aid” and that lawyers had access to their clients. Her comments could not be independently verified.
The incident has raised tensions between Kyiv and Moscow to their highest point since Moscow seized Crimea.
Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in 10 regions, including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the altercation. Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all sea traffic during the incident, and Kyiv says Russia has continued to deny passage to Ukrainian commercial traffic in and out of Mariupol and Berdyansk, another port on the Sea of Azov.
Western leaders — including all members of the G7 leading industrialized states — have called on Russia to release the Ukrainian crew and return the seized navy ships to Kyiv.
The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)
For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.
The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.
The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.
For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.
“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.
Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.
As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.
On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.
Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.
Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.
The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.
At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.
Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.
With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.
“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”
Urgent new orders went out earlier this month for US Navy warships that have been plagued by deadly mishaps this year.
More sleep and no more 100-hour workweeks for sailors. Ships steaming in crowded waters, like those near Singapore and Tokyo, will now broadcast their positions as do other vessels. And ships whose crews lack basic seamanship certification will probably stay in port until the problems are fixed.
All seemingly obvious standards, military officials say, except that the Navy only now is rushing the remedies into effect after two collisions in two months left 17 sailors dead, despite repeated warnings about the looming problems from congressional watchdogs and the Navy’s own experts dating to 2010.
“Many of the issues we’re discussing today have been known to Navy leaders for years. How do we explain that, Admiral?” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, demanded of Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, at a hearing last week.
“Senator, there is no explanation,” Richardson said.
The orders issued recently by the Navy’s top officer for ships worldwide, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, drew on the lessons that commanders gleaned from a 24-hour fleetwide suspension of operations last month to examine basic seamanship, teamwork, and other fundamental safety and operational standards.
Collectively, current and former officers said, the new rules mark several significant cultural shifts for the Navy’s tradition-bound fleets. At least for the moment, safety and maintenance are on par with operational security, and commanders are requiring sailors to use old-fashioned compasses, pencils, and paper to help track potential hazards, as well as reducing a captain’s discretion to define what rules the watch team follows if the captain is not on the ship’s bridge.
“Rowden is stomping his foot and saying, ‘We’ve got to get back to basics,'” said Vice Adm. William Douglas Crowder, a retired commander of the 7th Fleet and a former deputy chief of naval operations, who reviewed the four-page directive issued on Sept. 15, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. “We ought to be doing this anyhow.”
Richardson is expected to announce additional guidance to the Navy in the next several days that builds off Rowden’s directive. “We took some time to stop, take a break, and review our fundamentals, to ensure that we’re operating safely and effectively and to correct any areas that required immediate attention,” Richardson told the senators last week.
The new orders come as the fallout continues from four Navy accidents in the western Pacific this year, including the two fatal crashes: the destroyer USS Fitzgerald colliding with a freighter near Tokyo in June, and a second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, colliding with a tanker last month while approaching Singapore.
The commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott H. Swift, said this week that he would retire after being notified that he was no longer in the running to take charge of the Pentagon’s overall Pacific Command, which would oversee any military operations against North Korea.
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the former head of the 7th Fleet, based in Japan and the Navy’s largest overseas, was removed last month in connection with the accidents. And Rowden himself has also said he will retire early.
It has been a sobering time for commanders not just in the 7th Fleet, which has been closely scrutinized, but also the Navy’s other fleets based overseas. They are all taking a hard look at how to balance their operational requirements against eroding training and maintenance standards.
“We found some things about risk that didn’t match what we thought, and we’re making changes in things we discovered,” Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, commander of the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said in a telephone interview.
“When we have something like this happen, we do rigorous homework,” Donegan said. “We’re not standing fast.”
There is little argument, however, that a shrinking Navy is performing the same duties that a larger fleet did a decade ago, and that constant deployments leave little time to train and maintain ships amid their relentless duties.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators during a hearing on Sept. 26 about his visit to the Navy destroyer USS Barry several months ago, and of his learning that the ship had been at sea for 70 percent of the past 12 months.
“When we go back now and we look at were they able to do all the training necessary, and what was their life like during those 12 months, 70 percent of the time underway is an unsustainable rate,” Dunford said. “We’re going to have to make adjustments in the demand. That will incur managing operational and strategic risk, there’s no doubt.”
Many of the changes in Rowden’s order smack of simple common sense.
Hard to see and track electronically, naval vessels have long posed special perils to nighttime navigation. In addition to radar, all but the smallest commercial vessels use the so-called Automatic Identification Systems to broadcast information about their position, course, and speed. Military vessels typically carry the systems but often turn them off because the captains do not want to reveal so much information. That will change under the new orders.
“Successful mission accomplishment cannot be our sole measure of effectiveness,” Rowden said in his directive. “We must take greater heed of the manning, maintenance, training, and certification pillars that collectively foster success.”
Rowden also ordered standardized rules for watch teams on the bridge when the captain is not present; new reporting requirements for major equipment failures and near misses; and manually tracking vessels that come with 5,000 yards of a Navy ship to avoid collisions.
The Navy has allowed ships to rely on grueling watch schedules that leave captains and crews exhausted, even though the service ordered submarines to abandon similar schedules two years ago. A Government Accountability Office report from May said sailors were on duty up to 108 hours each week.
The new rules essentially will adopt studies by the Naval Postgraduate School to develop a shorter watch schedule to match circadian rhythms, which uses three hours of watch duty and nine hours off. Recognizing the benefits, the Navy ordered submarines to move to a similar schedule in 2015.
Senators harrumphed last week that sleep-deprived sailors presented an obvious problem begging for a solution. “If we know that somebody’s working a 100-hour workweek, I’m not sure we need a study,” McCain said acidly.
With missiles from the early days of Pyongyang’s program to the final intercontinental-range ballistic missile that led Kim Jong Un to declare his country’s nuclear ambitions completed in 2018, the museum will be a stroll down memory lane for seasoned North Korea watchers.
The virtual tour can also bring relative novices up to speed in a more hands on way than dry intelligence reports. The 3D tour features dozens of individual missiles, components, and real life pictures of the process.
Each scale model of a missile or component comes with a detailed slide.
When he made his next major train journey, The Times cited Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Beijing’s Renmin University, on that point.
Cheng said: “He does not want to show the world his heavy reliance on China by waving his hand in front of China’s national flag on a Chinese plane as he did at the Singapore airport.”
“Traveling by train is a forced choice.”
(Photo by Michel Temer)
A hero’s welcome for Xi
Xi’s trip to North Korea is the first from a Chinese leader in 14 years, and he was received like a hero.
According to Xinhua, North Korea held a “grand welcome ceremony” for Xi at the airport, which included a 21-gun salute, the playing of both countries’ national anthems, and an army march-past.
Nearly 10,000 people lined up at the airport, waving flowers, and chanting slogans to welcome the Chinese delegation, Xinhua said.
Xi then departed the airport in a huge motorcade, which included 21 motorcycles. Upon arriving to downtown Pyongyang, the Chinese leader then rode an open-top car alongside Kim to a central square.
BBC Monitoring has published photos of Xi’s welcome:
The state visit comes as both countries’ relationships with the US turn increasingly sour.
Beijing and Washington are locked in a protracted trade war, which has seen both sides impose hundreds of billions of dollars on each other’s exports, and the Trump administration is trying to limit the influence of Chinese tech around the world.
North Korea’s relationship with the US has also soured since Kim and Trump’s February summit in Vietnam ended without an agreement.
Pyongyang conducted new missile tests last month, which the US national-security adviser, John Bolton, claimed violated UN Security Council resolutions.
On June 19, 2019, both countries’ state media published an essay, written by Xi himself, that lauded the two countries’ friendship and praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by trying to resolve political issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim and Xi during one of Kim’s four visits to China. Xi’s state visit to North Korea is the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.
Xi wrote, according to Xinhua: “I will pay a state visit to the DPRK with good wishes of carrying forward our friendship and writing a new chapter of our relations.”
DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea.
Kim has been trying to alleviate international sanctions imposed on his regime, but they have remained in place. China has remained committed to those sanctions despite being North Korea’s largest trading partner.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Israel’s military said on July 24, 2018, that it fired two US-made Patriot missiles at and “intercepted” a Syrian Sukhoi fighter that entered its airspace.
The plane crashed in Syria near the country’s border zone with Israel, and the fate of the pilot is unknown, The New York Times reported. The Syrian jet is thought to be a Russian-made Su-24 or Su-22.
For weeks, rockets fired from Syria and elsewhere outside Israel have peppered the country and activated its missile defenses on multiple occasions.
Israel and Syria have a border dispute in the Golan Heights and have squared off in aerial combat before, with Israel in early 2018 destroying much of Syria’s anti-air batteries and losing one of its F-16s.
The Israel Defense Forces said a Russian-made Syrian jet “infiltrated about 1 mile into Israeli airspace” before being intercepted.
“Since this morning, there has been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria and the Syrian Air Force’s activity,” the IDF added. “The IDF is in high alert and will continue to operate against the violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement,” the UN resolution that ended the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria.
Featured Image: A Sukhoi Su-24M of the Russian Air Force.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President-elect Donald Trump may name his nominee for Secretary of Defense before the week is out, and legendary Marine Gen. Jim Mattis seems to be fading among the candidate pool, according to a new report from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense.
The report cites two sources involved with the Trump presidential transition team. One source told the site that Trump may release his pick within the next two days, while the other source said that other candidates, such as former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are still very much in the running.
After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.
Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,”according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.
When reached by Business Insider, Mattis declined to comment.
Though Sen. Talent has been among the candidates floated almost since the beginning, Sen. Kyl is a new name to emerge as a possible pick. Now a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington Burling, Kyl previously served as the second-highest Republican senator when he retired in 2013, after 26 years in Congress.
Kyl was not immediately available for an interview, but soon after the Breaking Defense report was published, he told Politico he was not interested in serving again in government, which “the Trump transition team is well aware of.”
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
A recent study with a small sample of veterans trying to recover from mental health issues found that video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.
The researchers concluded that although the impact of video games may vary based on the user, clinicians may wish to discuss video game play with their patients to help them “optimize their use of games to support recovery.”
“Gameplay may promote a mindfulness-like psychological [escape] but can also provide users with benefits of confidence, social connection, personal growth, and opportunities for employment or even leadership,” the researchers wrote. “These benefits are accessible to people with disabilities for whom traditional treatments, leisure activities, or social interactions may be challenged by circumstances or limitations. Games could be implemented in large populations very inexpensively, thus acting as potentially very cost-effective recovery supports or mental health treatments.”
Some of the participants, the researchers also note, described using video games to “distract from overwhelming symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and drug or alcohol use.”
The study included 20 veterans — 15 men and five women — who ranged in age from 25 to 62. Sixteen of the 20 vets reported they had PTSD or trauma-related symptoms. Most of the participants said they had more than one current mental or behavioral health diagnosis, with PTSD and depression being the most common combination. Three people had more than one type of trauma, such as combat — or training-related trauma, military sexual trauma, or childhood sexual abuse.
Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher, led the study, which appeared in November 2018 in the journal Social Science Medicine. With extensive research experience in video game play and in mental health recovery, she interviewed the veterans on the value of the games. (She shares that she’s also played video games herself and has recovered from her own mental health problem.)
In the study, the video game genres included sports, puzzles, gambling, role-player action, fantasy settings, and shooter games. But Colder Carras emphasizes that the genre or specific game isn’t what necessarily helped with recovery. The benefits, she says, stemmed more from the connections the veterans made with other video game players; the distractions they created for themselves by playing the games and removing their focus, for example, from alcohol or drugs; and the meaning they derived from the games.
“Meaning derived from game narratives and characters, exciting or calming gameplay, and opportunities to connect, talk, and lead others were credited as benefits of gaming,” the researchers write. “Responses often related closely to military or veteran experiences. At times, excessive use of games led to life problems or feeling addicted, but some veterans with disabilities felt the advantages of extreme play outweighed these problems.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
With its precision, stealth, long-range capability and payload capacity, the B-2 Spirit is one of the most versatile airframes in the Air Force’s inventory. The combination of its unique capabilities enables global reach and allows the Air Force to bypass the enemy’s most sophisticated defenses.
The B-2 Spirit’s low-observable, or stealth, characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended targets. Its ability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong deterrent and combat capability to the Air Force well into the 21st century.
The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload capacity gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low observability provides greater freedom of action at high altitudes, increasing its range and providing a better field of view for aircraft sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles.
The B-2’s low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its stealth attributes.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
(US Air Force photo by Gary Ell)
The first B-2 was publicly displayed Nov. 22, 1988, in Palmdale, California and flew for the first time on July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was responsible for flight testing, engineering, manufacturing and developing the B-2.
Whiteman AFB, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, is responsible for managing the B-2’s maintenance.
The B-2’s combat effectiveness and mettle was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, flying nonstop from Whiteman AFB to Kosovo and back.
In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman AFB to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from a forward operating location, 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions.
A B-2 Spirit drops Joint Direct Attack Munitions separation test vehicles over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 8, 2003.
(US Air Force photo)
The aircraft received full operational capability status in December 2003. On Feb. 1, 2009, Air Force Global Strike Command assumed responsibility for the B-2 from Air Combat Command.
On Jan. 18, 2017, two B-2s attacked an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria training camp 19 miles southwest of Sirte, Libya, killing more than 80 militants. The B-2s dropped 108 500-pound precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. These strikes were followed by an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle firing Hellfire missiles. The 34-hour-round-trip flight from Whiteman AFB was made possible with 15 aerial refuelings conducted by KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender crews from five different bases.
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing refuels a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit from the 509th Bomb Wing during a mission that targeted Islamic State training camps in Libya, Jan. 18, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
After getting pulled from theater in 2010, the B-2s rejoined the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-1B Lancer in continuous rotations to Andersen AFB, Guam, in 2016. The Continuous Bomber Presence mission, established in 2004, provides significant rapid global strike capability demonstrating U.S. commitment to deterrence. The mission also offers assurance to U.S. allies and strengthens regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Bomber rotations also provide the Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command global strike capabilities and extended deterrence against any potential adversary while also strengthening regional alliances and long-standing military-to-military partnerships throughout the region.
U.S. military members stand with players of the Kansas City Royals during a military recognition ceremony at Kauffman Stadium as a B-2 Spirit performs a flyover, Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 11, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)
Did you know
The B-2 can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to fly to any point in the globe within hours.
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots—a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B’s crew of four and the B-52’s crew of five.
13th Bomb Squadron established in 2005.
393rd Bomb Squadron established in 1993.
Both squadrons are located at Whiteman AFB and fall under Air Force Global Strike Command.
Primary function: multi-role heavy bomber
Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.
Power plant: four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine
Wingspan: 172 feet
Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)
Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters)
Weight: 160,000 pounds (72,575 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 167,000 pounds (75750 kilograms)
Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
Speed: high subsonic
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Armament: conventional or nuclear weapons
Crew: two pilots
Unit cost: Approximately id=”listicle-2626058834″.157 billion (fiscal 1998 constant dollars)
Initial operating capability: April 1997
Inventory: active force: 20 (1 test)
Maximum speed: Mach 0.95 (550 knots, 630 mph, 1,010 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
Cruise speed: Mach 0.85 (487 knots, 560 mph, 900 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 kilometers (6,900 miles))
Service ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,200 meters)
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Prince Alwaleed even saw his fortune increase by $1 billion in the wake of his release, CNN reported. Forbes now puts his net worth at $18.3 billion.
The billionaire gave Reuters an interview in the suite where he’d been held for months. He said he was upset about the rumors that he was held in a standard jail and tortured. He said his arrest resulted through a “misunderstanding,” and added that he spent his captivity watching the news, taking walks, swimming, and exercising.
“It’s no problem at all,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”
Here’s a look at the luxury hotel before it was converted into a makeshift prison months ago:
The hotel first opened in 2011 and was the first ever Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia.
Business Insider reported the Crown Prince has advocated for a return to “moderate Islam” in the country, but there’s “little transparency” around the arrests, which are ostensibly part of an anti-corruption purge.
The Crown Prince’s targets in this recent roundup included several prominent individuals, including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal — the richest man in the Middle East. Forbes reported he owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, which owns stakes in companies like Twitter and Citigroup.
Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.
The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.
Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.
According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.
France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.
It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.
It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.
My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.
I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.
Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.
The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.
In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.
So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?
In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”
I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.
“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.
“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”
I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.
“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.
“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…
“She is, but she’s just a kid!”
“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.
“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.
“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.
“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”
“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”
“What’s going on Miss Foley?”
“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”
The next voice I heard was deep and somber.
“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”
“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”
My mind was running a mile a minute-
Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.
I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.
“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”
The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.
“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”
The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.
She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.
I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.
“James is fine.”
The words repeated over and over.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Over and over.
“James is fine.”
Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.
“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.
I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.
“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.
“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.
I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“James is fine.”
He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.
“James is fine.”
His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.
“Everyone is FINE…”
Everyone is not fine.
I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.
When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”
That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.
We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.
I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.
“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.
“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”
“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.
“It makes you normal.”
“Other spouses feel like this?”
All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.
We feel survivor’s guilt, too.
I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.
But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.