Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.
Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.
They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.
Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”
Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.
‘Enough to kill tens of millions’
Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.
Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”
“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.
Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.
The cause of a Sept. 20, 2016 crash near Sutter, California, that destroyed a TU-2S Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft and killed a pilot has been released.
The Air Force officially reported that the TU-2S was on a training mission. When the trainee — not identified in the Air Force release — finished a stall recovery drill, the plane went into what the release called an “unintentional secondary stall.”
The release reported that both pilots ejected from the airplane before it inverted and descended below the minimum safe altitude. The instructor, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, was killed when he was struck by the stricken plane’s right wing. The trainee received minor injuries.
The Air Force release noted that nobody was injured on the ground, but the $32 million trainer was completely destroyed in the crash.
“This tragedy impacted the Eadie family, Beale, and the local community. We will continue to provide support to those affected and always remember the sacrifice Lt. Col. Eadie made in the line of duty.”
“The results of the accident investigation were presented to us, affording our family some small degree of closure during this difficult situation,” the Eadie family said in the statement from Beale Air Force Base.
“We would like to thank the entire investigation team for their diligent efforts in helping make sense of this tragedy. We greatly appreciate the love and support from all who have assisted over the past few months. We would also like to thank you in advance for respecting our family’s privacy during this current period of grieving.”
An Air Force fact sheet noted that as of September 2015, five TU-2S trainers were on inventory. The first version of the U-2 flew in 1955, and the last U-2 was produced in 1989.
The Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad was lost on Nov. 13, 2018, five days after it collided with a Greek oil tanker and began taking on water. Now, the Norwegian Navy has recovered the wreck and begun salvage operations, and videos showing the process from the early underwater surveys to now have been released online.
Norwegen Military KNM Helge Ingstad-Raised and Breathing Air Again-
The ship suffered severe damage and seemed to leak water in what were supposed to be watertight compartments (Norway and the ship’s builder, a Spanish firm, are fighting over whether a design and construction failure led to the sinking or not). But the ship sank slowly, giving the crew some time to get a tug to push it into shallow water.
This was too little to save the ship, but has made salvage easier. Divers were sent in to collect sensitive documents and to remove the ship’s dangerous ordnance, from torpedoes to missiles. Surprisingly, as seen in the video above the torpedoes were placed into what was, essentially, a modified dumpster.
After removal, the munitions were detonated in a remote location, and two large barges with cranes were moved over the wreck to very slowly raise it up in late February. It took time for the water to run out of the wreck, and salvage crews were sent in to help open hatches and valves to get as much of the water out as possible.
Now, the ship’s remains are at Haakonsvern, Norway’s primary naval base, where salvage operators are taking careful steps to preserve as much evidence of how the sinking played out as possible while also preserving what components might still be saved.
The HNoMS Helge Ingstad was heavily damaged in the crash and sank slowly over five days.
Sensitive electronics exposed to seawater are being transferred into freshwater or chemical baths as saltwater becomes more corrosive when exposed to air. Approximately 1,400 parts have been scheduled for this treatment.
In the meantime, the Norwegian Navy is in a tough spot. They maintain only a small fleet, and they had five main surface combatants when the Helge Ingstad was lost, meaning they’re down 20 percent of the primary combat power.
A Democratic senator and veteran is demanding an explanation from President Donald Trump’s defense secretary of the “disgraceful situation” that saw a key impeachment witness retire from the military in response to what his lawyer described as presidential “bullying,” and she will block over 1,000 senior military promotions until she gets it.
Vindman, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served on the National Security Council as a Ukraine expert, testified against Trump in House impeachment hearings, characterizing some of his actions as “improper.”
Vindman, who has served in the armed forces for more than two decades, remained in the military after he was removed from the NSC, and Pentagon leaders said he would not be subject to retaliation.
But in recent weeks, questions have been raised about his future in the military and his expected promotion to colonel.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved Vindman’s promotion after a Pentagon inspector general inquiry looking at Vindman and allegations of “inappropriate behavior”— conducted at the request of the White House — did not find any reason to block his promotion, Politico reported Wednesday.
“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost her legs because of injuries she sustained during the Iraq War, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
She said: “Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.”
Last Thursday, the Illinois senator tried to shield Vindman’s promotion from retaliation by blocking 1,123 senior military promotions until she received a written assurance from Esper saying that he would not block Vindman’s promotion to colonel, which she said she still has not received.
The senator said in statement Wednesday that she would continue to put a hold on these promotions until Esper provides a “transparent accounting” of what her office described as a “disgraceful situation.”
While Vindman confirmed that he was retiring from the military, he has not personally explained the reasons for his departure. His lawyer, however, said Vindman “did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies.”
He added: “Vindman’s patriotism has cost him his career.”
In leaked documents, newly published by The Washington Post and ZDF, the CIA describes how it pulled off “the intelligence coup of the century:” for decades, a company that sold encryption devices to more than 120 countries was secretly owned and operated by the CIA itself.
The company, Crypto AG, was acquired by the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Through a classified partnership with West Germany’s spy agency, the CIA designed Crypto AG’s encryption devices in a way that let the agency easily decrypt and read all messages sent by the company’s clients.
Some details of Crypto AG’s coordination with US intelligence agencies had been previously reported — a 1995 investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that the National Security Agency reached an agreement with Crypto AG executives to secretly rig encryption devices. However, the newly-published CIA report unveils the full extent of the US’ operation of Crypto AG.
For decades, Crypto AG was the leading provider of encryption services. It boasted hundreds of clients ranging from the Vatican to Iran, generating millions of dollars in profits. The CIA maintained control over the company until at least 2008, when the agency’s confidential report obtained by The Post was drafted.
Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018, and its assets were purchased by two other companies: CyOne Security and Crypto International. Both have denied any current connection to the CIA, and Crypto International chairman Andreas Linde told The Post that he “feels betrayed” by the revelation.
“Crypto International and Crypto AG are two completely separate companies without any relationship,” a spokesperson for Crypto International said in a statement to Business Insider. “Crypto International is a Swedish owned company that in 2018 acquired the brand name and other assets from Crypto AG … We have no connections to the CIA or the BND and we never had.”
A representative for CyOne Security did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
In a statement to Business Insider, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the agency is “aware of press reporting about an alleged U.S. government program and do not have any guidance.”
Crypto AG began selling encryption devices in 1940, marketing a mechanical device that was powered by a crank. The CIA reportedly purchased the company with a handshake deal in 1951, which was renewed with a secretive “licensing agreement” in 1960.
In the decades that followed, the CIA oversaw technical advances in Crypto AG’s devices, shifting to electronic devices. The company reportedly contracted with Siemens and Motorola to modernize its gadgets.
The CIA’s surveillance continued through the 1990s and 2000s, even as Crypto AG’s revenue began to dwindle. It was ultimately dissolved in 2018 and sold for between million and million, according to anonymous current and former officials quoted by The Post.
Read the full report by The Washington Post and ZDF here.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A Navy ship that came under fire from two missiles launched from rebel-held land in Yemen while it transited through international waters Sunday responded in self-defense with three missiles, a Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com.
USNI news first reported that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s from the waters of the Red Sea, north of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb where it was operating when it came under attack.
A defense official confirmed that the missiles had been launched and also confirmed the outlet’s report that the ship had used a Nulka missile decoy, designed to be launched to lure enemy missiles away from their targets.
The Raytheon-made SeaSparrow is designed to intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, while the SM-2, also made by Raytheon, is the Navy’s primary surface-to-air weapon and a key element of shipboard defense for destroyers.
The Mason was responding to two ballistic missiles that originated around 7 p.m. Sunday from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels. The Mason was not hit by the missiles, and an official from U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said Monday it remained unclear if the ship had been specifically targeted.
Previously, a defense official told the Associated Press that the Mason had used onboard defensive measures to protect itself after the first of the two missiles was fired, but until now no one had publicly confirmed that the ship did indeed fire back.
This exchange comes only a week after the high-speed logistics vessel Swift, a United Arab Emirates-leased ship formerly in service for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, was badly damaged by a missile while operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Oct. 1. The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes on the rebels in Yemen said the Swift had been attacked by the Houthis.
UAE officials said the ship was transporting humanitarian aid when it was hit.
Today, the Mason remains in the general area that the exchange took place and is continuing a routine patrol, a defense official told Military.com.
“The U.S. is trying to look at what kind of a response would be appropriate in this situation,” the official said. “There’s no sort of a timeline for when a response will come.”
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 26th that China would “probably” pose the greatest threat to the United States by 2025.
In a hearing before the Committee votes to reappoint Gen. Joseph Dunford in his current role as the top military advisor to the president, he addressed the rise of China, Russia’s increasing use of electronic and cyber warfare, and worries over threats from North Korea.
“The Russians, Chinese, and others are doing what I describe as conducting competition at a level that falls below conflict,” Dunford said. “In my judgment, we need to improve our ability to compete in that space and in the areas specifically … our electronic warfare and information operations capability.”
Although Dunford is expected to easily win support from Congress to remain on the job, he was asked about a variety of issues. Here’s what he said in response to a number of senator’s questions:
On how the US is faring in Afghanistan:
“I do not believe that we can attain our objectives in Afghanistan unless we materially change the behavior of Pakistan.”
Dunford’s answer was in relation to the Taliban and Haqqani Network’s use of Pakistan as a sanctuary, and its government’s lack of ability to combat those groups within the country.
On what’s going on in North Korea:
Although the war of words between the United States and North Korea has seemed to reach a fever pitch, Dunford told the commit ee the Pentagon had not “seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces.”
We are applying “economic and diplomatic means” on North Korea to denuclearize, he said, although he admitted that Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions were a means to assure his regime’s survival. When one senator noted the tension stemming from rhetoric between the two nations, Dunford said that the military had been careful not to “exacerbate” the situation with statements about destroying the Kim regime, but he would not comment on “senior political leadership.”
Senior political leadership — i.e. President Trump — has repeatedly threatened North Korea with military strikes. In his recent speech to the United Nations, he said he would “totally destroy North Korea” in response to military action from Pyongyang.
As far as Pyongyang’s pursuit of a viable nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching US shores, Dunford said he agreed with US Strategic Command’s assessment that North Korea would likely develop that capable by the end of 2018.
“There are military options available to the president if our economic and diplomatic pressure campaign fails,” Dunford said.
On recent ship collisions and accidents that have resulted in the deaths and injuries of US troops:
There have been a number of deadly incidents in recent months involving ship collisions, helicopter crashes, and most recently, a Marine armored vehicle catching on fire at Camp Pendleton.
“I am confident,” Dunford said, that fiscal constraints and high operational tempo were behind at least some of those incidents.
When it comes to the Navy, which has had four ship collisions this year, Dunford said the demands on sailors “does exceed the supply.” Some sailors work 100 hours per week while underway, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.
Dunford told the committee that he had recently been onboard the USS Barry, which he learned had been out to sea for more than two-thirds of the past year.
“70% of the time underway is an unsustainable rate,” he said.
On the fight against ISIS:
Dunford was asked about the fight in and around Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital. That fight is currently underway, and while the general cautioned against giving timelines, he said that combat operations in the city would likely be complete within the next six months.
“We’ll continue to see a reduction in territory,” Dunford said. He added, however, that ISIS would not be completely destroyed, and the group would likely continue to carry out terror attacks despite losing its home base.
Other odds and ends:
Dunford said he was “concerned” about a recent Kurdish independence vote, which he said may possibly have some effect on cooperation between Kurds and Iraqi forces that are currently engaged against ISIS.
On transgender soldiers — which are currently in limbo as the Pentagon reviews the issue — Dunford said, “I do,” when asked if he believed that trans soldiers have served with honor and valor by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
He also told Gillibrand that he didn’t think “any of us are satisfied” with where the military is in terms of addressing the problem of sexual assault, and committed to working with her on the issue.
Dunford said that he supported lethal military assistance for Ukraine, which was still pending approval from The White House. “Their ability to stop armored vehicles would be esssential to them to protect themselves,” he said.
The general also said the military was working to support people devastated by the hurricane in Puerto Rico but they were having trouble with damaged ports and air fields. He said Secretary Mattis’ guidance was, “What they need they get. Just make it happen.”
Finally, Dunford and the committee exchanged a few book and television recommendations. At the opening of the hearing, Republican Sen. John McCain told Dunford he should be watching the Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War, and later, he was asked whether he had read Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s book “Derelection of Duty,” about the failures of the Joint Chiefs during the Vietnam War (he had).
You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.
The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.
Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.
If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old
Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.
PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.
10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:
the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
family responsibilities; and
employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.
The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.
What Happens If You Are Recalled?
You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.
If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.
Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.
The Trump administration is considering the ramifications of paring back the US presence in Afghanistan as part of its ongoing strategy review in America’s longest war, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump’s national security cabinet is bitterly divided on the future US role in Afghanistan. Senior national security officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are reportedly pushing Trump to allow a surge of approximately 4,000 troops into Afghanistan, while White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has lobbied against the effort.
“It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question,” a senior administration official told WSJ of any plan to increase US troops. “It is becoming clearer and clearer to people that those are the options: go forward with something like the strategy we have developed, or withdraw.”
Trump is reportedly deeply skeptical of increasing US troops in Afghanistan and sent back McMaster’s final version of a plan to his national security council in late-July. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military leaders in charge of the war in Afghanistan say they need a few thousand more US troops to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.
The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in US assistance and a 16-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices. US military commanders admit that any surge in US troops will need to be sustained for years to come in order to build up the Afghan National Security Force’s indigenous capabilities.
The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the US invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The US backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.
Former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller described officials asking the same fundamental questions about US strategy in the region in 2017 as they were 4 years ago, in a recent interview with Politico Magazine. “Here we are two full presidential terms and into the start of a next one later; there are no peace talks,” Miller lamented.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”
The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.
“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.
As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”
The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.
Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.
“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.
Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”
“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.
The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.
Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.
Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”
“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.
“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.