The Air Force general in command of New Jersey’s National Guard has been ordered to shape up or ship out, NJ.com reports.
On Tuesday, the office of Gov. Chris Christie (who serves as commander-in-chief of the state guard) released a statement saying that Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff has 90 days to meet military height and weight requirements. This comes a day after the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock dropped his story on a guard unit that had become “increasingly dysfunctional,” while also revealing a secret reprimand from the Pentagon chiding Cunniff for skirting weight regulations and physical fitness tests for at least three years.
“The Governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told the Post in an emailed statement.
It’s not entirely clear how much weight Cunniff has to lose, though it is clear he should probably stay away from McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu.
While some have noted the irony of Christie ordering someone else to lose weight, the Air Force general is the only character in this story who is required to maintain a military weight standard. According to The New York Post:
Cunniff took a fitness test in November 2013, his first in more than three years. He flunked when his waist size was measured at 43.5 inches — 4.5 inches larger than what was allowed.
As New Jersey’s Adjutant General, Cunniff is in charge of the 9000-strong Army and Air National Guard in the state. That may be a lot of responsibility for a brigadier general. But you know what they say: One star, two chins. (Boom, drop the mic.)
Check out Patriot Boot Camp with their next event in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 16-18, 2018.
The program welcomes 50 veteran and mil-spouse entrepreneurs from around the country—and offers an intense 3 day education, mentoring, and networking experience designed to help their businesses succeed.
Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) was started by Taylor McLemore as a volunteer effort to help veterans and mil-spouses gain access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers. It was built to help them innovate and build impactful technology businesses.
Charlotte Creech, a veteran spouse, and the CEO of Patriot Boot Camp, discusses the impact of the program for entrepreneurs.
“I am continually impressed by the determination and mission-focus of the entrepreneurs that come through Patriot Boot Camp, as well as the magnitude of the problems they aim to solve.”
Creech adds that most veteran and military spouse founders don’t merely set out to build a business; rather, they work to make the world a better place and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of what motivates them to succeed and to follow their progress along the entrepreneurial journey.
“What makes the program so powerful, is when we combine these talented, mission-driven entrepreneurs with a community of peers and mentors that are dedicated to helping them achieve their business milestones and goals. By the end of the event, we all leave with new insights and new network contacts that will help us advance and overcome the challenges of startup life.”
The core, three-day program is modeled after the popular Techstars accelerator and continues to leverage the Techstars network to empower and advance military/veteran and spouse founders.
Since its first program in 2012, nine Patriot Boot Camp alumni have been accepted into the Techstars accelerator programs, with many others gaining acceptance to prominent accelerators including Y Combinator and Vet-Tech.
Four of PBC’s alumni have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, and five have had successful exits via acquisition.
Creech adds: “It’s inspiring to see these alumni achieve great business outcomes, but what’s really powerful about the PBC program and network is that our high-performing alumni continue to come back to PBC as mentors and guest speakers to share their lessons learned and coach new entrepreneurs to success.”
The boot camp works as follows:
The Patriot Boot Camp staff facilitate the planning and execution of the program where they organize external guest speakers and mentors to provide the educational content and workshops.
Each PBC program is entirely unique because the speakers vary in each 3 day intensive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend multiple programs to continue learning as the needs of their business change over time.
If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this year’s Patriot Boot Camp, visit http://patriotbootcamp.org.
Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency says its officers have arrested at least 26 suspected members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS), accusing them of plotting attacks on members of the Shi’ite minority.
The militants, including an alleged IS leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Sept. 18, 2018.
A statement said they planned to target Shi’a during this week’s commemoration of Ashura, the holiest celebration in the Shi’ite religious calendar.
The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has stepped up attacks on minority Shi’a across Afghanistan.
The group claimed responsibility for a Sept. 9, 2018 twin bomb attack at a wrestling club in a predominately Shi’ite neighborhood of Kabul that killed more than 20 people.
IS militants assert that Shi’a are apostates who deserve death.
Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban and IS since the United States and NATO formally ended their combat mission in the country in 2014.
In the northern province of Balkh, a local official said on Sept. 18, 2018, that nine members of the Afghan police force were killed when another officer shot them at a checkpoint.
An Afghan National Police officer stops a vehicle for a random inspection at one of the inner city checkpoints on June 5, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Mohammadudin Khanjer, a police official in the district of Char Boldak, said one officer was wounded and three others were missing after the shooting late on Sept. 17, 2018.
The attacker was a policeman from another checkpoint in the same district who fled the scene after seizing all weapons from the checkpoint, apparently to join the Taliban, Khanjer said.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attack but the militants are active in the area.
Insider attacks, in which members of Afghan security forces or assailants dressed in Afghan uniforms fire on coalition troops, have become less common in recent years but remain a persistent worry.
The U.S. military said one of its servicemen was killed and another was wounded in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 3, 2018, in an attack carried out by a member of the Afghan National Police.
It came nearly two months after a member of a U.S. Army training unit was shot dead by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Oruzgan.
Featured image: The militants, including an alleged Islamic State leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul.
During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.
The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.
The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.
“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”
Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.
“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”
With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.
“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”
Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.
“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.
The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.
This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.
Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”
With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.
“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”
Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.
After several decades of service, the US Army might finally replace their lineup of UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.
Unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Bell Helicopter — in conjunction withLockheed Martin — debuted their latest creation, the V-280 Valor.
Similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in service by the US Marine Corps and Air Force, the V-280 applies a tiltrotor mechanism to fly similar to normal helicopters and aircraft. However, the similarities seem to end there, as significant upgrades look to eclipse its predecessor’s capabilities.
Bell claims that the new V-280 will now be capable of flying at twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms. Features of the helicopter include a 500-800 nautical miles range, aerial refueling, a crew of 4 and 14 troops, carrying capacity of 25% more cargo than a Blackhawk, and its signature 280 knots true airspeed (KTAS).
According to Aviation Week, the Valor will also have a forward-firing capability and a technologically advanced glass cockpit — like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
In addition to its performance, the V-280 will be more affordable than the V-22: due to the nature of its straight wing design, the V-280 would not only take half the time to construct compared to the V-22’s swept wing, but also half as cheaper — costing about $20 million, similar to the UH-60.
Other nations, such as Australia, UK, and Canada, have also followed suit in expressing interest in the helicopter. So far, the construction of the helicopter is about 60% completed and is slated to take its inaugural flight on September 2017.
The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.
Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.
The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.
Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).
So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.
But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.
Americans throwing tea in Boston Harbor was the start of our national movement toward the dark and bitter nectar of the gods. This is why tea time is gone and why we Americans take coffee breaks now.
Coffee houses were the center of political discussion during the American Revolution. These days, few things are as inextricably linked with the United States and its military as coffee.
In the Civil War, coffee was the only fresh food troops on the battlefield could get. It might even have been the difference maker in the outcome of the war, if morale means anything at all.
In the South , a pound of coffee could run you upwards of $1000 in today’s dollars. Confederate troops desperately used things like roasted corn, rye, okra seeds, sweet potatoes, acorns, and peanuts as substitutes. One substitute, Chicory, is still popular in New Orleans.
Still, if you’ve ever had a “coffee” made from one of these, you know it’s just not the same.
When future-President William McKinley was 19, he served in the Civil War, hauling vats of hot coffee so front line soldiers could get a cup and soldier on. This story was retold several times during his presidential campaign and proved how everyone in the war felt about coffee.
There is even a William McKinley Coffee Break monument in Maryland.
Back then, troops had to roast and grind their own beans. To make coffee easier to make, the Army introduced the first instant coffee. Called “Essence of Coffee,” it was basically a coffee reduction with sugar and milk added at the factory. All the troops had to do was pop a can open and add hot water.
Unfortunately, crooked entrepreneurs often sold the government spoiled milk, so the Essence not only tasted terrible, it caused a lot of bowel problems to boot. The government quickly switched back to the real stuff.
Coffee even earned its nickname via the military. President Woodrow Wilson’s U.S. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels banned alcohol on ships in the U.S. Navy from the outset of World War I.
Coffee filled the void left by the outgoing rum and wine. Sailors were not pleased with the change and referred to the replacement as a “Cup of Joseph,” which soon became a Cup o’ Joe.
Coffee even helped win World War II. U.S. troops created one of the world’s most popular coffee beverages, the Caffé Americano, by watering down their Italian espresso shots – which was too strong for their taste palate.
The Korean War saw coffee being brewed just as much as any other conflict.
In Vietnam, G.I.s made coffee in the field using C-4 explosives as a heat source, as they did with all their c-ration cooking.
You might have noticed women with the Red Cross serving coffee at the front throughout the 20th century.
These days, coffee is one of the most popular things civilians send U.S. troops deployed to war zones.
If you’re the first one at your unit in the morning and you didn’t brew coffee, everyone hates you. No one wants to walk all the way to Green Beans.
Unfortunately, we’ve got some decidedly unsexy news for you. The number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise across the U.S. Specifically, there’s been in increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – the later of which was on the verge of extinction just ten years ago.
Just how bad are the increases in STDs? According to the military’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, released September 2017, the number of syphilis cases has doubled over the course of a decade.
While there’s been an increase in cases among civilian populations, the rate of STDs is three to six times higher among the enlisted. Many military medical professionals are starting to ask themselves, “why is it that the odds of contracting an STD increase when a troop first puts on a uniform?” The reasons are many.
First, joining the military makes you part of an expanded social network. Not only are troops looped into a group that’s made up, primarily, of young adults, they’ll also be sent to bases in new cities with entirely new local populations. Couple those two additions to a troop’s existing community back home—that’s a lot of potential partners.
Second, demographics matter: almost half (44%) of troops enlisting are from the South, where gonorrhea and chlamydia are most present. Many STDs have delayed or subtle symptoms, meaning it’s easy to unwittingly bring something with you to the barracks. Now, this isn’t a dig at the south—just plain statistics.
Third, perception is key. A recent study of Navy women reveal that many believe carrying or insisting on the use of condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous. We all remember our high-school health teachers parroting that abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs entirely, but the second best (and more reasonable) solution is to use protection. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with contraceptive use, potentially contributing to the rate at which STDs are spreading.
This isn’t a new problem. As far back as WWI, the military has struggled with STD rates among the ranks, and it’s no surprise why. Being part of the military means high stress, so it only makes sense that troops seek an outlet. However, it’s still mystifying as to why the enlisted, who have free access to health care, condoms, and screenings are affected more than civilians.
We’re not going to tell you to keep it in your pants, but we do suggest you bag it up. Not just for your health, but for the health of your partners, your partners’ partners, and populations worldwide.
On July 18, 2019, after a 33-year wait, the trailer for ” Top Gun: Maverick” finally debuted. While Tom Cruise’s Maverick may have aged, TOPGUN recruits are still singing in bars, playing beach volleyball, and performing exhilarating feats in F/A-18 Super Hornets. While the original “Top Gun” was a glamorized, Hollywood version of the real TOPGUN naval aviation training, there are many parts of the original film — and the new trailer — that ring true.
“As an institution, we don’t focus on the Hollywood glamour of the job,” Guy Snodgrass, a former TOPGUN instructor and the author of the forthcoming book “Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” told INSIDER via email. “That being said, there’s an undeniable truth that when the first movie came out, in the mid-1980s, it fueled a lot of interest, both in TOPGUN and in naval aviation as a whole.”
Snodgrass said he was 10 when he saw the original, and it fueled his desire to become a naval aviator. During his days as a fighter pilot and TOPGUN instructor, Snodgrass performed all the maneuvers new trailer shows, and then some.
The “Top Gun: Maverick” trailer shows an F/A-18 pilot perform a high-g nose maneuver.
In the trailer, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell performs a feat called a high-G high nose maneuver that’s usually executed to avoid shrapnel from bombs in a war zone. Snodgrass told INSIDER he could still remember what it feels like to do it, too.
“It’s easy to lose the sense of speed when flying at high altitude, as in an airliner, but when you’re flying at more than 600 miles per hour, 200 feet off the ground, the speed rush is exhilarating.”
“When the first movie came out, Paramount Pictures made it a priority to work with the TOPGUN staff to bring as much realism into this project as they could, whether it’s the radio calls, or maneuvering the aircraft. It’s reassuring to know that they’re taking the exact same approach with this movie,” he told INSIDER.
Tom Cruise’s Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is confronted by an admiral.
Besides the thrill of breaking sound barriers, the original film, and the new trailer, do a great job of capturing “the swagger of naval aviation,” Snodgrass said. In the trailer, an admiral played by Ed Harris asks Maverick why, after all his accomplishments as an aviator, he hasn’t advanced beyond the rank of captain. “You should be at least a two-star admiral by now. Yet here you are…captain. Why is that?” Harris’ character asks.
“It’s one of life’s mysteries, sir,” Maverick replies immediately.
Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures
American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.
Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.
An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.
“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.
Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”
Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.
Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.
One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.
The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.
“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.
He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.
The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.
Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.
While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.
The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.
“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.
Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.
While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.
ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.
Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.
There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
At a recent event, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a division of troops would be stationed in Chukotka, Russia’s far-east region, just slightly more than 50 miles from Alaska.
“There are plans to form a coastal defense division in 2018 on the Chukotka operational direction,” said Shoigu.
He said that the deployment was “to ensure control of the closed sea zones of the Kuril Islands and the Bering Strait, cover the routes of Pacific Fleet forces’ deployment in the Far Eastern and Northern sea zones, and increase the combat viability of naval strategic nuclear forces.”
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.