That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter - We Are The Mighty
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That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.


Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.

Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.

F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (US Air Force)

As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.

When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.

By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.

What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.

A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger, similar to the one which flew pilotless across Europe (US Air Force)

After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.

Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.

The crash site of the MiG-23 in Belgium (Public Domain)

Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.

As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.

But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.

The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why all these costly US missile defenses don’t work

The U.S. public learned on Jan. 31 that the U.S. Navy tried and failed for the second time in a year to intercept a missile with an SM-III missile from the defense contractor Raytheon.


On the same day, the Pentagon announced it would spend another $6.5 billion on 20 more missile interceptors for the ground-based, mid-course defense system (GMD), which is meant to protect the U.S. homeland from missile attacks from North Korea or Russia.

But the GMD has a bad track record. It recently had a successful test that may have calmed the fears of some in the U.S. amid nuclear tensions with North Korea, but a recent paper on the test shows it was unrealistically generous.

A ground-based missile interceptor is lowered into its missile silo during a recent emplacement at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska. (Army photo by Sgt. Jack W. Carlson III)

Laura Grego and David Wright, leading experts in the field of ballistic missiles, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that the so-called intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the GMD knocked down was flown on a favorable trajectory, slower than the real thing, and without any of the tricks or savvy North Korea might use in an actual attack. The paper concludes the U.S. has no reliable ballistic missile defense capability for the homeland.

That capability, or lack thereof, comes after the U.S. has spent more than $40 billion over the last decade and a half on ballistic missile defense.

During that time, Boeing, Raytehon, and Lockheed Martin, key players in the BMD scene, have all posted record profits — and they continue to get contracts with the Pentagon.

Also Read: The Pentagon is pumping millions more into missile defense

To be clear, the U.S. can defend against some, shorter-range missiles. Aegis-equipped ballistic missile destroyers at sea have a good track record of defending themselves, but they’re not meant to go after ICBMs. Patriot missiles have saved some lives from short-range missile attacks on the battlefield, though that has been historically over-hyped or just lied about.

BMD kind of works on a theoretical level, but is that worth $40B?

Missile defense plays into the complicated and highly theoretical world of nuclear deterrence. For an adversary like North Korea, maybe even the single-digit percent chance a missile would be intercepted by the U.S. would dissuade them from attacking.

But much more likely, North Korea wouldn’t attack the U.S. because of the U.S.’s ability to return the favor tenfold.

It’s entirely unclear, and no expert can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that BMD has ever deterred anyone, or done anything beside line pockets of defense contractors.

For the U.S. taxpayer, who has contributed billions to the cause of missile defenses while enriching the world’s biggest defense contractors, a fair question might be: Where is the capability? Why don’t these systems work?

Articles

There’s now a criminal review into the Afghan army’s combat uniform program

The head of US oversight for Afghanistan told lawmakers July 25 that the Pentagon’s wasteful purchase of untested camouflage uniforms for Afghan forces is under criminal investigation.


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.

John Sopko. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

“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.

Afghan National Army soldiers standing out against their environment. Army photo by Pfc. David Devich.

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.”

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roger S. Duncan

“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.

Afghan National Army Sgt. Sarajadin, an instructor at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest. Photo from Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction via Flickr

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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is testing its new ‘Super Soldier’ exoskeleton

The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power, and mobility for combat infantry, and enable heavier load-carrying, industry officials said.


Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance-enhancing soldier technologies.

Using independent actuators, motors, and lightweight, conformal structures, lithium ion battery-powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility, carrying full loads,” said Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters, urban combat because it enhances soldier mobility, speed, and power.

Lockheed Martin developed the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC). In a series of tests, NSRDEC evaluated the potential for exoskeleton technology to alleviate strain and fatigue for soldiers who carry heavy loads over long distances. (Screengrab from National Geographic YouTube)

It is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of movements.

“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” said Maxwell.

FORTIS uses a three-pound, rechargeable BB-2590 lithium ion battery.

Developed by Lockheed with internal research and development funds, FORTIS is designed to help soldiers run, maneuver, carry injured comrades, and perform a wide range of combat tasks while preventing hyper-extension of the knee.

Engineers report that FORTIS reduces the amount of energy required to perform a task by nine percent, using on-board AI to learn the gait of an individual soldier. The system integrates an actuator, motor, and transmission all into one device, intended to provide 60 Newton meters of additional torque, Maxwell explained.

Also Read: This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

“It knows what you are trying to do when you are trying to do it,” Maxwell said.

“It locks and gives you a forward torque-twist that causes the lower leg to move toward the back, then it reverses direction to bring your leg forward,” he explained.

FORTIS is a next-generation effort intended to move beyond Lockheed’s previously designed HULC exoskeleton, which weighs 85 pounds and restricts soldier mobility, developers said.

A recent, independently-funded University of Michigan study found that FORTIS does substantially enhance soldier mobility.

Check out the original exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin, the HULC.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your issued M4 carbine could fire without a trigger pull

U.S. Army units have reported about 3,000 M4 carbines have failed a safety inspection because of a potential glitch in the selector switch that could lead to unintended discharges, Military.com has learned.

In March 2018, the Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.


The Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch was stuck in-between the semi and auto detents. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

As of June 1, 2018, TACOM has received reports on about 50,000 weapons put through the updated functions check. Of that number, “about six percent,” or 3,000 weapons, failed, R. Slade Walters, a spokesman for TACOM, told Military.com.

An M4A1 just after firing.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Task and Purpose first reported the percentage of weapons that failed the check.

TACOM officials stress it is still early in the process and about 900,000 Army weapons still must be checked, Walters said.

Military.com reached out to the Marine Corps to see what its weapons inspections have found, but did not receive a response by press time.

TACOM officials emphasize that M16 and M4 variants “will perform as intended” if personnel follow the operator’s manual when using them.

“The additional functions check is to inform [TACOM] of the extent of this issue and determine the number of weapons affected,” the message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program.

The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ‘re-education centers’ hold millions prisoner

In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.

But not by choice.

In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.


China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.

A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.

Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.

Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.

Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.

Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.

“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.

Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”

One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”

These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.

“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.

“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”

Job ads are also a huge giveaway

As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.

According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.

But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.

Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.

Armed Police soldiers in the street of Urumqi.

Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.

In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.

Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face

In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.

Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.

Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.

There’s also 40,000 facial-recognition cameras that are being used to track, and block, the movement of Uighurs in the region.

Xinjiang is considered by experts to be a testing ground for what the US State Department has described as “unprecedented levels of surveillance.”

The concern is Xinjiang could also be a testing ground for a nationwide re-education system.

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

Articles

5 things the US Military should ban forever

The U.S. military does a lot of good around the world, but it also maintains a few quirks. Usually stemming from the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some items common to the military experience don’t make much sense. These are those items.


1. The Navy’s blue camouflage uniform

UPDATE: This change is already in the works. We take full credit.

Here is how this went down: The Navy was wearing its completely blue working uniform, and then the Marine Corps and Army went to new and improved digital patterns. The admirals got together and thought of how to best to spend the budget.

They got into a big room with presentations about cool laser beams that can destroy an entire terrorist compound, missiles for fighter jets that can travel 300 miles, and new GPS navigation systems that can tell you where you are with pinpoint accuracy and you can hit one button to call in naval gunfire. And then they decided to spend a bunch of money on uniforms that make no sense.

2. Wearing reflective belts everywhere

Yeah, we know. They reflect light from car headlights so that you don’t get flattened like a pancake when you’re on your run. So maybe that makes sense. But they are overused to the point of absurdity. You need to wrap a reflective belt around your pack on this hike, because drivers may not notice the 900+ people around you with flashlights and making lots of noise.

Make sure you also wear your reflective belt around your forward operating base so that Johnny Taliban can make that mortar fire more effective.

3. Those brown dive shorts that only Navy SEALs wear

The UDT SEAL swim shorts come in khaki, have an included belt, and are short enough to show how terribly untanned your legs are. According to NavySEALs.com, the shorts were issued to the original frogmen of World War II, and now all SEALs are issued them as part of that tradition.

Photo Credit: Valet Mag

Holding to traditions is important, but we’re talking 1940s-era fashion here. SEALs aren’t shooting at Taliban fighters with M1 Garands, because times, trends, and technology has changed. Which leads us to …

4. Marine Corps “silkies” physical training shorts

We can officially conclude that the military has a serious problem with short shorts. The worst offender is the U.S. Marine Corps, with their “silkies.” While Marines have been issued updated physical training uniforms, the silkie shorts that looked like they were stolen from Larry Bird’s locker room still prevail. And sadly, there’s always at least one weird guy in your platoon who actually enjoys wearing them.

5. PowerPoint

There’s a reason Gen. Mattis banned the use of Powerpoint briefings when he was in charge at CENTCOM. Creating slideshows are boring, huge wastes of time, and as he so famously said, they “make you stupid.”

We’re absolutely certain there are other things out there. What can you think of? Add it to the comments.

Articles

The 7 most intense air battles in aviation history

Aerial combat has been around for a little over 100 years, and during that time there have already been plenty of epic battles in the skies. Here are 7 of the most intense:


1. Battle of the Philippine Sea

A Japanese bomb nearly hits an American ship during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. (Photo: US Navy)

The Japanese fleet securing the Marianas Islands in 1944 was in a tough spot. If it gave up any more ground, America would have bases to attack Japan and the Japanese-occupied Philippines. So, when the U.S. Fifth Fleet was spotted on its way to Saipan, the Japanese attacked it.

The 430 Japanese aircraft were spotted by naval radar operators and the U.S. planes launched to fight over the Pacific. In the end, the American fleet lost 29 planes but downed a stunning 365 and sank two Japanese carriers, sending an estimated 115 more planes to the deep.

 

2. The Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot

(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs moved to destroy Syrian surface-to-air missile sites on Jun. 9, 1982, successfully knocking out 17 of the 19 missile batteries in the first two hours. The Syrians launched their own jets to fight back, 100 of them.

And the Israelis stomped them. The air battle ran for two days and the Israelis scored 29 jet kills the first day and 35 the second without the loss of a single fighter.

READ MORE: This dogfight with nearly 200 jets was like the Battle of Britain on steroids

3. The Battle of Britain

Photo: Royal Air Force B.J. Daventry

In Sep. 1940, Britain had already endured months of Luftwaffe attacks with over 1,000 bombers striking the country nearly every day. But on Sep. 15, the British launched a counterattack to cripple the Luftwaffe.

At the end of the battle, 40 Royal Air Force planes and many crews were lost, but 56 German craft were downed and Germany was forced to cease daylight bombing raids.

4. Black Tuesday over MiG Alley

US Air Force F-86 Sabres flying over Korea. Photo: US Air Force

On Oct. 23, 1951, nine U.S. bombers with 89 jets escorting them stumbled into a group of 150 MiG-15s over MiG alley in Korea. The furious 20-minute battle resulted in six downed bombers and an escort lost. The Americans were able to down four of the Russian MiGs attacking them.

5. The Ofira Air Battle

Mig-17 wreckage from the Ofira Air Battle. Photo: Israel Defense Forces

In one of the first engagements of the Yom Kippur War, Syrian and Egyptian jets moved to bomb the Israeli aircraft at a base near Ofira. Two Israeli F-4s were in the air and took insult at 28 MiGs thinking they could just bomb Israelis whenever they liked.

So, the two Israeli jets turned into the enemy formation and downed seven of them in six minutes. The attackers decided seven was enough and bugged out.

6. The first jets fight the Allies over Berlin

A captured Me-262 was test flown by the US. Photo: US Army Air Force

In the dawn of jet combat, a group of German Me-262 jet fighters attacked an Allied formation of 1,329 bombers and 700 fighters. The numbers reported for the German jets vary, but most estimates are between 35 and 60.

The small German force used air-to-air rockets and jet engines, both new technologies at the time, to down 13 bombers and six fighters. Two German aircraft were shot down.

7. The air battle over the St. Mihiel Salient in WWI

Photo: US Army Air Force

In one of history’s largest and earliest air battles, nearly 1,500 Allied planes under the command of the First U.S. Army Air Force.

From Sep. 12-16, 1918, 610,000 men fought for the ground at St. Mihiel as the air forces clashed overhead. Despite a limited number of fighters and severe losses on the ground, German gave as good as they got in the air battle. They fought for control of the air for the first two days of the battle and killed 62 enemy aircraft while losing 63 of their own birds. The Germans did lose 30 balloons to the Allied loss of 4 though.

Articles

The US just obliterated this al Shabab base in Somalia

A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.


The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”

The US military confirmed an early June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”

Neither statement mentioned casualties.

There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

In early May an American SEAL was killed in a nighttime raid in Somalia.

It appeared to be the first US military death in combat there since the infamous events of “Black Hawk Down” 24 years ago, when 18 American servicemen died in what is called the Battle of Mogadishu.

US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against al-Shabab commanders and foot soldiers.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

Meanwhile, in the north, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.

Civilians – including women – were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.

Puntland also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country’s quarter-century of chaos.

Last year, al-Shabab became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army soldier tests positive for COVID-19 in South Korea, marking the first time a US service member is confirmed to have the disease

A US soldier stationed in South Korea has “tested positive” for COVID-19, the military said in a statement on Wednesday morning.


The 23-year-old unnamed male soldier is in self-quarantine at an off-base residence, the US military added. Health officials are investigating whether others were exposed, as the soldier had visited several US bases in the country, including Camps Walker and Carroll, in the past week.

The incident marks the first time a US service member tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

United States Forces Korea “is implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 and remains at risk level ‘high’ for USFK peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force,” the military said in a statement.

A 61-year-old widowed US military dependent was previously found to have tested positive in the country on Monday, prompting US forces to raise the risk level to “high.”

The woman visited a post exchange, the military’s shopping center, at Camp Walker in Daegu, where South Korean health officials have cautioned there was a “high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide.”

“We are going to begin to limit all soldier movement,” US Army Col. Michael Tremblay, the garrison commander of Camp Humphreys, said on Tuesday.

South Korea is addressing an influx of confirmed coronavirus cases, which have passed 1,100 in the country. At least 11 people there have died of COVID-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued a travel advisory warning that people should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year’s Gerber baby is an Army brat

Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Jason A. Warren, an aircraft powertrain repairer with the Marietta, Georgia-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Cortney garnered national media attention on Feb. 9, 2018, when their son, Lucas, was named the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.


The Warrens were amazed when they received the news of Lucas’ win.

“Absolute shock,” said Jason. “It was hard to believe he won out of 140,000 entries.”

Also read: This former Army officer celebrates July 4 by competing in hot dog eating contests

Lucas, diagnosed with Down syndrome, is the eighth Gerber baby since the contest began in 2010. Inspired by the original Gerber baby sketch of Ann Turner Cook, families began sharing their baby photos with Gerber. In response, Gerber launched its first official photo search competition in 2010.

Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a picture with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

“We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have potential to change the world,” said Cortney. “Just like our Lucas.”

The Warrens hope other families with special needs children can look to Lucas as a source of inspiration.

“We hope this will help people kick-start their own lives and give them more confidence,” said Jason. “They might think if Lucas can do this, what can I do in my life?”

Related: This video shows why quadruple-amputee Travis Mills is an inspiration to all

The winning photo shows Lucas, sitting in an overstuffed chair, grinning from ear to ear wearing a black and pink polka-dot bow tie.

“He is very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” said Cortney. “He loves to play, loves to laugh, and to make other people laugh.”

“He is just the absolute cutest thing ever,” said Staff Sgt. Misty D. Crapps, supply sergeant with Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “He always smiles at everybody he sees.”

Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a photo with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

Jason looks forward to continued service in the Georgia Army National Guard. He feels a sense of pride and family being part of the organization.

“I absolutely love the Guard: the ability to help my community and serve my country,” said Jason. “The benefits of service are always great to have, and it allows me to serve my country the way I want to.”

More: This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

The fellowship of his teammates in his aviation unit also reinforces the feeling of family.

“The Guard has been with me with everything I’ve ever done,” said Jason. “Through my grandmother’s passing, when I had shoulder surgery, they’ve helped Cortney and me a lot, and they are a second family to us.”

Lucas Warren, the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

The aviators and Guardsmen in Jason’s unit share his feeling for service in the Guard and look forward to his continued service.

“He always volunteers to do the little things which are not part of his job description to make the unit better,” said 1st Sgt William W. Adcock of Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “Specialist Warren is a fantastic Guardsman. He does what we all do: dedicates his time and personal energy to serve the people of this state and the United States.”

Jason plans to re-enlist in March 2018 for another six years and hope Lucas sees him and understands the importance of service.

“I hope one day Lucas will see I was in the military and has a sense of pride,” said Jason.

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CIA veteran: The Obama administration does not understand how to fight ISIS


The Obama administration isn’t capable of fighting the type of war necessary to defeat the Islamic State, a former CIA official told The Hill.

“I don’t think they understand the kind of war they need to fight,” Henry Crumpton, a former CIA official who led teams in Afghanistan against the Taliban, told the publication. “They’re waging the war they want to fight but not the one that will lead to success.”

The Obama administration’s efforts against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have been aimed at propping up the Iraqi government in Baghdad while conducting airstrikes against jihadist targets throughout Iraq and Syria.

The US has also expressed support to use the Shiite-dominated Iraqi central government to channel arms and other forms of aid to Sunni tribal fighters and members of the Kurdish militia.

But the US has refused to directly assist groups outside the Baghdad government for fear of stoking sectarianism within the country. The Obama administration has also pledged not to send combat troops to Iraq and not to expand the US’ on-the-ground military presence beyond small deployments of military advisers and trainers.

Crumpton, who joined the CIA in 1981, believes this limited support is insufficient when facing an enemy like ISIS. In his view, the US needs a greater military and intelligence footprint in Iraq if it wants to fully dismantle the militant group.

“You have to have an intelligence presence on the ground. It really is a question of deep intelligence and empathy,” he told The Hill. This would allow the US to conduct a larger number of precision strikes against the group while also better anticipating its future moves.

A more robust intelligence network would also allow the US to understand the political dynamics at the ground level. This information could be leveraged to form alliances and work toward political solutions among Sunni tribes disgusted with both ISIS and the central Iraqi government.

US airstrikes against ISIS are also becoming less effective because the group has changed its tactics. It now houses prisoners within its main buildings and is increasingly fighting within densely populated civilian areas. These new practices are aimed at deterring airstrikes, as the US is reluctant to take actions that would harm civilians.

ISIS’ adaptive tactics, coupled with US reluctance to become more deeply involved in the conflict, has led to a cold streak in the fight against the group. In May, ISIS seized the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, just 77 miles from Baghdad. At the same time, the Iraqi military has proved less and less capable of fighting the group.

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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What happens when you cover an enemy grenade with your kevlar

In April 2004, a convoy of Marines came under small arms and RPG fire near Karabilah, Iraq. Marines from Camp Husaybah were dispatched to go in search of the attackers. While searching vehicles for weapons at a checkpoint, one Marine was assaulted by an unknown Iraqi holding a grenade. That Marine was Cpl. Jason Dunham.


The two fell to the ground. From the Iraqi’s hand came a live grenade. Dunham threw himself on top of it, covering the grenade with his kevlar helmet and his body. When it exploded, the grenade shredded his helmet and mortally wounded the 22-year-old Dunham. He died a few days later, on Apr. 22, 2004.

On the table is what remained of Cpl. Dunham’s kevlar helmet after taking a full grenade blast.

Jason Dunham did what he thought was the right thing to do: heroically throwing himself on a grenade to save others. The selfless act rightfully earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his family by President George W. Bush in January 2007. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer now bears his name (and his dress uniform, complete with Medal of Honor, on its quarterdeck).

Dunham (left) posthumously received the Medal of Honor three years later. An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named USS Jason Dunham in his honor. He was the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Navy courtesy photo)

Using the kevlar helmet did blunt the explosion, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter who followed Dunham’s story very closely. But the shrapnel pierced Dunham’s skull and he suffered heavy brain damage. No one else in the area received life-threatening injuries.

What makes the story even more remarkable is that Cpl. Dunham and his fellow Marines had been talking about the very same eventuality just a few days prior — what to do in case you have to respond to a grenade attack. One Marine advised kicking it away. Another said to drop and make yourself a small target for the fragments with your feet facing the grenade. Dunham’s response to the real-life situation was exactly what he said it should be: He covered it with his helmet.

Is that the best way to handle a grenade? No, but in the opinion of other infantry veterans, Dunham did the right thing. Anyone who covers a grenade with their kevlar is going to be severely wounded. And, chances are, Dunham would probably have been killed by the grenade regardless due to his proximity. But his helmet likely absorbed all of the grenade’s shrapnel and allowed his fellow Marines to come out relatively unscathed.

But what do you do if you don’t have a hero like a Jason Dunham to throw himself on a grenade and save you? Dan Rosenthal, an infantry veteran and three-time top Quora writer, has some advice for those who face a grenade without any cover to hide behind. First and foremost, don’t try to throw it back. You have about three to five seconds of reaction time, so running isn’t an option. Basically, expect to get hit – but minimize where and how much you’re hit to maximize your chances of survival.

If you didn’t dig your defensive fighting position with a grenade sump, the best thing you can do is get down on the ground with your kevlar pointed toward the blast. Helmets (and modern shoulder pads) were designed to protect from fragmentation.

Might be worth the effort.

Your second best bet is to put your feet toward the blast. This technique is most notable for civilians falling victim to a terrorist attack that uses grenades. Minimize exposure to the blast and make yourself a small target for the fragmentation.