The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.
By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.
The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.
The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.
According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.
“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.
Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.
“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.
Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.
This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.
He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.
The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.
The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.
“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”
Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.
Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.
Great power competition
These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.
“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”
Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.
However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.
The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”
He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.
A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter crashed on Sept. 28, 2018, in South Carolina just outside Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, several news outlets including ABC News reported, citing military officials.
The military aircraft, recognized as America’s most expensive weapon, went down 5 miles from the air station just before noon ET, The Herald reported, citing the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Marine Corps. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the newspaper that the pilot ejected safely but was being evaluated for injuries.
The Marine Corps described the crash as a Class A mishap, a serious incident involving more than million in damages or the destruction of the aircraft.
The air station’s website says it is home to five F/A-18 squadrons and one squadron of F-35Bs, according to The Herald.
On Sept. 27, 2018, a US Marine Corps F-35B achieved a major milestone in Afghanistan, making its combat debut against Taliban targets.
While there have been accidents, fires, and incidents involving the F-35 in recent years — such as when an F-35B burst into flames two years ago — this marks the first F-35 crash, the Marine Corps told Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Before World War II, the Marine Corps had what were known as Marine Defense Battalions. These units were used to defend outposts like those on Wake Island and Midway Atoll, and the one at Wake deserves credit for one of the great stands in Marine Corps history after being left high and dry by the U.S. Navy’s answer to George McClellan.
Now the Marines may be ready to resurrect that concept. According to a solicitation posted at FedBizOpps on Oct. 27 of this year, the service is looking for some land-based anti-ship missiles that can reach out and touch the enemy at least 80 miles away. The system needs to be “employable by highly deployable and mobile forces.”
Such missiles are actually old hat for many countries, both friendly and not-so-friendly. Norway, for instance, relied on land-based batteries of the Penguin anti-ship missile to supplement armed missile boats should the Cold War have turned hot. The Soviet Union (and later Russia) developed land-based versions of the SS-N-3 Shaddock, SS-N-2 Styx, and the SS-N-26 Sapless. China’s Silkworm missiles were famously purchased by Iran, and Iran developed the Noor, which was fired at American ships multipletimes last year.
According to Marine Corps history, during World War II, 20 Marine Defense Battalions were formed. Back then, these units generally had coastal artillery to defend against enemy ships (the 1st Marine Defense Battalion at Wake actually sank a Japanese destroyer), as well as machine guns for defending against troops, and anti-aircraft guns for use against enemy planes. And of course, every Marine in those units was a rifleman.
What sort of modern missiles might be used? The United States does have the Harpoon anti-ship missile in service – some versions of which can reach over 80 miles. Other relatively off-the-shelf options could include the Norwegian-designed NSM, or a ground-launched version of the LRASM. There is also the chance that the 155mm Vulcano heat-seeking round could be used from Marine Corps M777 howitzers.
In short, the Marines’ desire for a few good anti-ship missiles could lead to the return of some little-known but storied units to the Marine Corps.
The pay? A six-figure salary, from $124,406 to $187,000 a year, plus benefits.
A rare and cosmically important position
While many space agencies hire planetary protection officers, they’re often shared or part-time roles.
In fact, only two such full-time roles exist in the world: one at NASA and the other at the European Space Agency.
That’s according to Catharine Conley, NASA’s only planetary protection officer since 2014. Business Insider interviewed Conley most recently in March.
“This new job ad is a result of relocating the position I currently hold to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, which is an independent technical authority within NASA,” Conley told Business Insider in an email on Tuesday. (She did not say whether she planned to reapply for the position, which is held for at least three years but may be extended to five years.)
Catharine Conley, NASA’s sole planetary protection officer. Photo from Paul E. Alers/NASA
The position was created after the US ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, specifically to support Article IX of the document:
“States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”
Part of the international agreement is that any space mission must have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world.
“It’s a moderate level,” Conley previously told Business Insider. “It’s not extremely careful, but it’s not extremely lax.”
This is why NASA’s planetary protection officer occasionally gets to travel to space centers around the world and analyze planet-bound robots. The officer helps ensure we don’t accidentally contaminate a pristine world that a probe is landing on — or, more often, is zooming by and photographing.
Still, there’s a chance the robot could crash-land — so someone like Conley comes in to mitigate risk.
Conversely, the officer helps ensure something from another world, most imminently Mars, doesn’t contaminate Earth.
The oceans of Mars. Illustration from European Southern Observatory.
The red planet is a frequent target for NASA because it’s similar to Earth. It may have once been covered in water and able to support life, which is why many scientists are pushing hard for a Mars sample return mission, ostensibly to seek out signs of aliens.
While the expectation is not to scoop up freeze-dried Martian microbes — only ancient, microscopic fossils — there’s always the chance of contamination once those samples are in earthbound labs.
Again, this is where the planetary protection officer and her team come in. They help establish the equipment, protocols, and procedures to reduce such risks.
“The phrase that we use is ‘Break the chain of contact with Mars,'” Conley previously said.
No one ever said defending Earth had to be glorious all the time, though — Conley said a typical week mostly involved a lot of emails and reading studies, proposals, and other materials.
Who qualifies as a candidate
An out-of-this-world job like Conley’s requires some equally extraordinary qualifications.
A candidate must have at least one year of experience as a top-level civilian government employee, plus have “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection and all it entails.
If you don’t have “demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance,” you may be wasting your time by applying.
The job involves a lot of international coordination — space exploration is expensive, and the costs are frequently shared by multiple nations — so NASA needs someone with “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.”
Did we mention the advanced degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics? You should have that on your résumé, too.
With so many diets out there to choose from, it’s hard to find one that you’ll feel comfortable with. To help with this, most diets are designed to allow at least one “cheat meal” outside of their plans.
A world where chocolate is not allowed is one few people actually want to live in, so taking a break from a rigid meal plan is a helpful way to be rewarded for dietary disciplined. However, these meals still need to have some structure to them.
There are common mistakes not many people know about — even when “cheating.” You might be wondering how that’s possible because you’re already cheating, but you can really mess up your diet and stack up those unwanted calories quicker than you think.
So we compiled a list of the common ways those sneaky calories work themselves onto the plate.
He’s trying to run off all those tasty milk bones.
People love food. That said, when they begin to enjoy a delicious meal, it can be easy to forget that each bite can take them past their maximum calorie threshold for the day. Eating out while maintaining a fat-burning diet is tough enough because of the variety available — but even worse, you don’t know exactly what is going into those meals.
A cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant usually contains more calories than ones you might make at home just from the added ingredients.
Those numbers quickly add up and the next thing you know, you’re cursing at yourself when you’re not making the progress you were hoping for. Be selective with your “cheat meals” so they don’t punish you later. As The Rock says, “Don’t cheat yourself. Treat yourself.”
The internet is full of people who claim to know every aspect of health and fitness just get you to subscribe to their YouTube channel or like their Facebook page. If you want to support them, that’s entirely up to you. Now, when these so-called “experts” deliver their advice on how you should be dieting, they are generally explaining themselves to a broader audience and not directly to you.
Some fitness personalities will tell you that “in order to get big, you need to eat big.” Unfortunately, that might not be the most beneficial diet plan for you. Eating a high-calorie diet that is meant to bulk you up also runs the risk of making you gain weight based on your metabolism rate and genetics.
The best way to monitor your weight gain is to count the calories going in versus the ones you’re able to burn throughout the day. Refrain from weighing yourself every day because the number can fluctuate based on the amount of water you retain. Jumping on a scale every few weeks will give you a more accurate reading of your progress.
There are approximately 206 calories in a cup of white rice, 231 in a whole chicken breast, and 45 in a cup of steamed vegetables. That equals 482 calories. Although the meal is healthy, it is nearly one-fourth of a 2,000 calorie per day meal plan. The various snacks and meals you’re eating in a day can add up real quick, so plan accordingly.
(Also, why are you eating white rice? Complex carbohydrates only!)
Starting a new diet can yield quick results. You might start seeing physical improvements right away as you embark on this fitness journey. But if you cut too many calories, you won’t be able to sustain that progress.
If you drastically cut calories, that notable fat loss will come to a halt when your body begins to protect itself from the food decrease you placed on it.
It will go from burning stored fat to only using the food you just ate for energy. Cutting calories should be a gradual process, not one you rapidly jump in to.
If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.
After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?
Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.
“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”
NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.
Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.
To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.
“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”
As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.
SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.
“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.
They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.
Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.
“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.
Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.
On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.
“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.
Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.
This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.
“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”
A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.
Records can be deceiving.
Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.
In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.
The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.
During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.
“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.
Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.
“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”
The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.
Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.
This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.
Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.
This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.
Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.
While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.
Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.
Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.
“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”
Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.
While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.
This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.
Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.
(West Point Athletics Department)
Honoring the past
Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.
The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.
The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.
Exercise Red Flag is the much-less famous, Air Force version of TOPGUN. It had the same impetus as TOPGUN – the Vietnam War highlighted some very serious shortcomings in how the service prepared to fight a war. Red Flag, however, doesn’t just feature the air-to-air stuff. Red Flag takes it a step further and trains pilots in air-to-ground combat as well.
Sometimes, Red Flag is a very international affair, with participants from all over the world. The current Red Flag, though, is going to be a much more… private affair. According to Popular Mechanics, the United States is only bringing in some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia. This is because this Red Flag is being run without the use of the Global Positioning System, or GPS.
The good news is that GPS is not the only tool that American pilots have. There are inertial navigation systems and radios that don’t rely on the satellites. GPS, however, has become the preferred tool. As such, if an enemy were to knock some or all of the constellation out, American forces would be greatly disadvantaged.
This year’s Red Flag is recreating that scenario to prepare pilots for the worst. The United States will be getting a good idea of how to fight without GPS. Participants will be getting plenty of practice doing so when the stakes are little more than a bunch of bruised egos.
How did they shut off GPS over the deserts of Nevada? They aren’t saying — after all, no need to give the enemy ideas.
The biggest threat facing the United States in its unending showdown with the Islamic Republic of Iran are the naval forces in the Persian Gulf that could try to shut off access to the Strait of Hormuz. Ensuring worldwide freedom of navigation in the world’s sea lanes is just one of the missions of the U.S. Navy, but never before has America’s sea service encountered such a threat in this part of the world.
HMS Sheffield burns from a direct hit by an Argentinian exocet anti-ship missile.
Anti-ship missiles are a very dangerous game changer in modern naval warfare. They can bring an inferior opposing force into parity with the world’s biggest naval powers. Exocet missiles were used to great effect against the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in the 1980s Falklands War, sinking the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor, a critical cargo ship carrying men and materiel. They also nearly sunk the destroyer HMS Glamorgan, killing 14 sailors.
Argentina had just eight Exocet anti-ship missiles for the entire war, and four of them were used efficiently. If the missiles had destroyed just one of Britain’s aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes or HMS Invincible, the entire war might have been lost for Britain and the Falklands would now be known as the Malvinas.
The Iranian missile test, conducted Feb. 24, 2019.
On Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, the Islamic Republic’s navy in the Persian Gulf successfully tested its first submarine-launched, short-range anti-ship cruise missile – near the Strait of Hormuz. If a showdown with the United States ever came to pass, the first move Iran’s navy would make is an attempt to block that strait. Iran says all of its subs, Ghadir, Tareq, and Fateh-class Iranian navy submarines now have the capability to fire these cruise missiles.
While Iran reportedly exaggerates its missile capabilities, there is real concern surrounding this latest development. More than 100 Iranian navy ships were performing military exercises from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean as the new missile was test fired. In 2017, the Office of Naval Intelligence issued a warning about Iran developing this capability, as the new subs allow Iranian ships to get dangerously close to American ships before firing at them.
An Iranian Ghadir-class submarine.
Iran’s best chance at taking down the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to swarm the ships with small, fast attack craft, hitting them with every weapon they possibly can as early in the conflict as possible. The idea is to cause maximum damage and kill as many Americans as possible in order to break the will of the American people to fight.
“The doctrine manifests itself as hit-and-run style, surprise attacks, or the amassing of large numbers of unsophisticated weapons to overwhelm the enemies’ defenses,” Naval Analyst Chris Carlson told the U.S. Naval Institute. “The amassing of naval forces is often described as a swarm of small boats.”
A Taliban shadow governor who had planned and executed improvised explosive device attacks on Marines and Afghan soldiers for well over a decade was killed in a precision airstrike just days before Christmas, Marines in Afghanistan told Military.com.
Task Force Southwest, the 300-Marine element that deployed to Helmand province as an advisory force for the Afghan National Defense Forces in April, does most of its work from inside the wire, supporting the local troops who patrol and launch ground attacks. But this recent strike on local Taliban mastermind Qari Fida Mohammad illustrates the impact Marines continue to have on the active fight.
Mohammad, longtime shadow governor of the restive Helmand district of Marjah, was killed Dec. 20, task force spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz said.
Standing inside the unit’s operations center, where 11 large flat screens featured detailed live drone footage from around Helmand province, Capt. Brian Hubert explained how the strike happened.
“Through the work of the intelligence sections as well as the operations in here, and coordination with the Afghans as well, we were able to conduct a strike on him a few days ago,” said Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest. “Basically, we’re very familiar with the battlespace now. So when we see the leaders we know are important there, we can kind of do a bead on them.”
The unit started tracking Mohammad with its eyes in the sky. When he was well positioned as a target, the Marines called in two Air ForceF-16 Fighting Falcons to execute the strike.
“He was in a vehicle traveling with deputies, bodyguards, and a cousin of his, who was also a sub-commander,” Hubert said. “We took the shot successfully, and [he was] dead on the spot, which was huge.”
Mohammad, who was based in the Taliban hotbed of Marjah, but operated throughout Helmand province, had been well-known to the Marines for years.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, told Military.com he had known about Mohammad in 2010, when he deployed to Helmand for active combat operations.
“We’re still not really fully aware of the exact ramifications of taking him out,” Reid said. “It was a pretty big takedown, so we’re pretty happy about it. He was behind a lot of attacks against Marines back in the day–really high profile attacks.”
Hubert said the task force was now tracking the impact of Mohammad’s elimination. Ahead of the strike, he said, Marines had watched via drone footage as local civilians took to their homes, fearful of being blamed and facing violent reprisal if any attack were launched on the shadow governor. Now, he said, newly leaderless Taliban fighters in southern Marjah are acting disorganized and confused, without orders to carry out.
“Supposedly, [Mohammad] also had a lot of intimidation where he killed full families; he was absolutely just a Mafia-style Taliban leader in that area,” Hubert said, adding that he regularly demanded ‘taxes’ from local civilians by force. “Taking him out … hopefully provides the residents of Marjah and the southern end a little bit of a ‘hey, maybe it’s a turn.'”
For the Marines, Marjah is a region full of history. It’s the site of some of the service’s most hard-fought battles in Helmand. Some 50 American troops died in the 2010 joint siege on Marjah, known as Operation Moshtarak. When Marines departed Afghanistan in 2014, Marjah was considered relatively stable; but by 2016 it had fallen back under Taliban control.
Marines are now working to empower Afghan troops from the local 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army to hold the line. When the small task force arrived, the provincial capital city of Lashkar Gah was on the verge of being overtaken by the Taliban, Marines said. Now, with support from the Task Force, the soldiers have restored stability to the town and are beginning to move offensively against the Taliban.
In a shura with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Dec. 23, Helmand provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said Afghan troops continue to take daily casualties in the fight.
But task force personnel continue to exact a daily toll against the Taliban as well. On a December visit to the operations center, a dark plume of smoke rose from a road on one of the screens — evidence of a precision strike carried out only minutes before.
From the screens, Hubert said, Marines had watched a pair of Taliban fighters carrying weapons dig a hole in a road south of the Marjah district center, intending to emplace IEDs ahead of a trip Afghan National Security Forces intended to make to the center.
Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos were in the air at the time, and Marines reached out and shared what they were seeing, offering them the opportunity to take out the fighters.
“They couldn’t quite get it, so we stepped in,” Hubert said. “We took the shot with F-16s and killed the two enemy. So now, they’re free to move toward the Marjah district center unimpeded by any kind of enemy contact right now.”
The process of identifying targets and executing strikes is a collaborative one, Hubert explained. Often the Marines will share what they’re seeing and make recommendations to the Afghan troops about how to respond, but leave the decision-making to them. The Afghan troops also play a significant role in the intelligence-gathering: in addition to ground reports, they maintain their own ScanEagle drone, its footage featured on one of the screens at the operations center.
As one target smoldered on the screen, Marines were tracking another: two men traveling up a road, south of friendly forces, one carrying a weapon on his back, concealed by clothing.
“We can see [the weapon] by the shape and size of what it looks like, then we’ll see him take it out,” Hubert explained.
In the course of several hours that morning, the Marines would coordinate the elimination of a half-dozen Taliban fighters.
The recent strike against Mohammad, and the daily strikes on Taliban targets, illustrate the intensity of the fight the Marines are still waging, albeit from a greater distance than they were during active combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom four years ago.
“I know we want to bring in governance, and I know we want institutional fixes. But right now, this is a fight,” said Reid, the task force deputy commander. “And as Marines, when we’re fighting, we’re going to kill the enemy, and we’re going to kill as many as we can.”
Putin turned toward offensive nuclear-capable systems near the end of his annual, wide-ranging state of the nation address in Moscow, in which he also said Russia needed to spend heavily on improving conditions for average Russians.
Putin described at least five new weapons systems, emphasizing how each could defeat US missile defenses and characterizing nearly all of them as nuclear-capable.
But in typical fashion, Putin’s descriptions contained wild, scientifically unimaginable claims about how great the weapons were.
A computer-generated animation accompanied each weapon announcement, perhaps illustrating that they exist mainly in a conceptual state.
First, Putin mentioned a new intercontinental ballistic, which he claimed had unlimited range and could get past all US missile defenses.
An animation showed the missile taking two trajectories toward the West. Without showing much real video of the product, Putin said, “our defense companies have launched mass production of this new system.”
Here is your Russian NPR, delivered by Putin https://t.co/LQJgyzm85a. Very interesting, although I would note that there is a lot of animation there
Next, Putin announced what he called a “global cruise missile,” which he claimed had unlimited range and was nuclear-propelled.
An animation showed the missile fired from Russia’s north, flying north of Europe into the Atlantic, weaving through US air-defense zones, and then inexplicably traveling south the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean before wrapping around Argentina and ending up near Chile.
The doomsday device
Then, Putin seemed to confirm a long-feared “doomsday” weapon: an unmanned, undersea vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear weapon across oceans at high speeds.
Previous reports of the weapon have stated it may be a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon with additional metal in its core to keep radiation in the atmosphere for years.
The undersea weapon’s concept has been mocked as an over-the-top system with little purpose other than destroying massive swaths of human life.
Russia may have intentionally leaked images of it in 2015, because it’s suspected that a major purpose of this weapon would be to deter attacks on Russia. The animation of the system showed it striking both US Navy formations and a coastal city.
Putin said the undersea weapon was successfully tested in December 2016, and the US intelligence community seems to have been aware of it, as such a weapon was mentioned in President Donald Trump’s recent review of US nuclear policy.
Other crazy weapons
Putin then discussed a hypersonic plane-launched, nuclear-capable missile and showed it hitting US Navy ships.
The US, Russia, China, and others are working on hypersonic weapons designed to defeat today’s defenses by flying at many times the speed of sound.
Finally, Putin talked up Russian laser weapons, showing a brief video of an electronic system with lenses pivoting on the back of a truck. He provided little detail about the system.
For many of the systems, Putin asked Russian citizens to send in suggestions for their names. He used the opportunity to stoke Russian pride by saying the systems were not reworkings of Soviet designs but had been developed in the past few years.
“They kept ignoring us,” Putin said of the West, to a standing ovation. “Nobody wanted to listen to us, so listen to us now.”