A bit of budgetary gamesmanship by the US Air Force earlier this month seems to have paid off, as the House Armed Services Committee has allotted money to keep the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt in the air, according to Defense News.
The committee chairman’s draft of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes $103 million for an unfunded requirement related to the A-10 that the Air Force included in its budget request.
The $103 million, plus $20 million from this fiscal year, will go toward restarting production of A-10 wings to upgrade 110 of the Air Force’s 283 Thunderbolts.
Defense experts told CNN earlier this month that the Air Force’s inclusion of the A-10 wing money in its unfunded requirements was likely a ploy to get Congress to add money for the venerable Thunderbolt on top of the money apportioned for the service branch’s budget request.
Members of the House Armed Service Committee looked likely to approve money for the A-10, which is popular among both service members and elected officials like committee member Rep. Marth McSally, herself a former A-10 pilot, and Sen. John McCain.
Photo courtesy of USAF
McSally noted during a hearing earlier this month that the Air Force had committed to retaining just six of its nine squadrons of A-10s and pressed Air Force officials to outline their plans for the fleet.
The Air Force currently plans to keep the A-10 in service over the next five years at minimum, after which point the fleet will need some maintenance. US Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes told Defense News this month that without new wings, those 110 A-10s would have to go out of service, though he did say the Air Force had some leeway with its resources.
“When their current wings expire, we have some flexibility in the depot; we have some old wings that can be repaired or rejuvenated to go on,” he told Defense News. “We can work through that, so there’s some flex in there.”
The Air Force has been looking at whether and how to retire the A-10 for some time, amid pushback from elected officials and increased demand for close air support against ISIS, in which the A-10 specializes.
The five-year cushion described by Holmes gives the service more time to evaluate the aircraft and whether to replace it with F-35s or another aircraft.
The National Defense Authorization Act only approves a total amount of funding, Defense News notes, which means others in the House and Senate could choose to direct those funds to projects other than the A-10’s refurbishment.
The Air Force’s priorities may change as well.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Defense News that the service had a defense strategy review in progress, after which the service life of the A-10 — which has been in the air since 1975 — could be extended. Though, Wilson said, the Air Force has a number of platforms that need upgrades.
The Greatest Generation is being lost to the unalterable process of aging. Today’s youngest World War II veteran is more than 90 years old, and fewer than 400,000 of the 16 million American’s who served still survive.
Drafted in 1943, Clifford Stump of the famed 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate his 95th birthday one week after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day he experienced firsthand, and will soon relive, as he returns to the shores of France for the first time since he fought there in 1944.
“We were 18, 19, 20-year-olds, we were tough, we knew everything,” says Stump as he recalled that infamous day. “But on D-day, we sobered up really quick to life.”
Stump was a U.S. Army Airborne artilleryman operating a ‘British 6 pounder’ as 156,000 allied troops landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious military assault in history. Stump fought in campaigns in France, Belgium, Germany and was part of the final push to Berlin in 1945.
Stump is a long-time VA North Texas Health Care System patient with an active fan base. When he visits Dallas VA Medical Center, Stump makes his rounds visiting with employees and his fellow veterans, schedules appointments, and regales many with stories of our Nation’s history from the first-person perspective.
“It’s humbling to get to know our veterans, to care for them, and most importantly, to learn from them,” says Lara Easterwood, Physician Assistant with VA North Texas’ Community Living Center.
On his most recent visit to the Dallas campus, Stump shared the news that he’ll soon travel to Normandy, France, to participate in 75th anniversary D-Day events in early June 2019. Stump will also re-visit other locations during the week-long trip–locations he last saw as a 20-year-old soldier, operating in support of his fellow soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.
“You think about all the buddies you made over there and you always have to keep them in mind,” said Stump. “I wanted to stay with them and you had to be ready to save them.”
Stump’s trip to Normandy, France and other battlefield locales he last visited 75 years ago is part of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and USAA’s support to honor 20th-century Veterans’ sacrifice before they pass.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Ballistic missile defense has become a growing concern. Russia has been modernizing not only its strategic forces, but has also deployed the Iskander tactical ballistic system. China has the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The need clearly exists for new assets to stop these missiles — or at least lessen the virtual attrition they would inflict.
Huntington Ingalls Industries has a solution — but this solution comes from a surprising basis. The company, which builds everything from Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to amphibious assault ships, has proposed using the hull of the San Antonio-class landing platform dock amphibious ship to mount.
The design is still a concept — there’s a lot of options in terms of what radars to use, and how the exact weapons fit would work. The model shows at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 featured 96 cells in the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, or the equivalent of a Burke-class destroyer. That’s a low-end version, though. A handout provided says the system can hold as many as 288 cells. This is 225 percent of the capacity of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and 300 percent of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s capacity.
Of course, the Mk41 can hold a number of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2, the RIM-174 SM-6, the RIM-161 SM-3 — all of which can knock down ballistic missiles. For local defense, a quad-pack RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is an option. The Mk 41 also can launch the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. In other words, this ballistic missile defense ship can do more than just play defense — it can provide a hell of an offensive punch as well.
The handout also notes other armament options, including a rail gun, two Mk 46 chain guns, advanced radars, launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and .50-caliber machine guns. Yes, even in a super-modern missile-defense vessel, Ma Deuce still has a place in the armament suite. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of firepower.
The propulsion options include the diesel powerplants used on the San Antonio, providing a top speed of 22 knots. Using an integrated power system similar to that on the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) would get a top speed of about 29 knots, according to a Huntinton Ingals representative at the expo.
The ship is still just a concept, but with President Trump proposing a 350-ship Navy, that concept could be a very awesome reality.
The British Ministry of Defence announced July 9 that it’s investing up to $160 million in testing, procuring, and fielding directed energy weapons for their three military branches, starting with tests on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles by 2023. Directed energy weapons require serious juice from a generator or other power source but can inflict targeted damage without ammo.
Britain’s plans center on three demonstration weapons that use lasers or radio waves to damage enemy forces and equipment.
One is a British-designed weapon that earned a lot of attention. The Dragonfire laser weapon system packs a 50 kW laser that is a significant jump from the American 30 kW laser once deployed on the USS Ponce for training. (The American program aims to eventually support weapons up to 300 kW, and American researchers are part of the current U.K. effort.)
The lasers are primarily aimed at taking out drones, mortars, rockets, planes, and missiles that have already come close to the laser-armed vehicle or ship. Traditional interceptors like missiles will deal with targets further away.
(U.K. Ministry of Defence, Crown Copyright)
In addition to lasers, England will be testing radio frequency weapons that could disable target computers and electronics.
According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “The MOD also has over 30 years’ experience in Radio Frequency DEW, during which time the UK has become a world leader in developing new power generation technologies and a global hub for the performance testing and evaluation of these systems.”
Britain is creating and staffing a joint programme office to oversee this new effort, and they expect that the demonstrator weapons will be ready for broad fielding with 10 years.
“Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces” said British Defence Secretary Penny Mourdant.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.
The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.
The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.
Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.
It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.
But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.
That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.
The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.
Renewal for six years
The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.
The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.
Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.
But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.
Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.
It may come as a surprise, but until President Obama signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in November, military working dogs who were retired while overseas were sometimes left in the country in which they were deployed, separated from their handlers instead of returning back to the U.S. Sometimes the dogs would be left on the base until they were adopted locally.
Some handlers were able to return with their dogs, but the handler would have to pay for it out-of-pocket. If the handler couldn’t afford it, that was tough luck. The 2016 NDAA how the armed forces retires its working dogs. Those dogs will now be guaranteed a ride home thanks to a bipartisan amendment, which also allows their handlers to adopt them after their service ends.
The American Humane Association lobbied for the amendment for a year. Before the bill passed through Congress and was signed by the President, theAssociation spent thousands of dollars to repatriate retired dogs and reunite them with their handlers. They handled 21 cases in 2015 alone.
Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza pets his military working dog, Rico, wearing “doggles,” during air assault training aboard a helicopter at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller)
The Humane Association estimates there are upwards of 2,500 dogs at work with the U.S. military overseas. They believe the bond between a dog and its handler is a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s not just those 2,500 precious canines it’s also their handlers at the other end of the leash,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association told the Washington Free Beacon. “When they come back suffering from those invisible wounds of war, we’re hoping that their four legged battle buddy will help them heal from PTS. We know it works. We’ve seen it work.”
The Humane Association’s next push is for ongoing veterinary care for returning canine veterans.
“We also did a call to action to the private sector and said, okay guys, time to step up and provide for veterinary care,” Ganzert said. “We achieved free specialty veterinary care but I’m still calling for free primary care. These handlers that are former-military, a lot of them, to have a battle buddy in their home is a grand expense.”
Ten years after Russia and Georgia went to war, the West on August 7 condemned Moscow’s continued military presence in the Caucasus country’s territory and reiterated support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a stern warning to NATO that Georgia’s joining the Western military alliance could lead to a “horrible” new conflict.
Medvedev said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station on August 6 that NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to Georgia are “absolutely irresponsible” and a “threat to peace.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
Late on August 7, 2008, Georgian troops rolled into the Russia-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to reclaim the territory from what Tbilisi said was growing Russian militarization.
The conflict erupted into a five-day war in which Russian forces drove deep into Georgia before pulling back in the wake of a European Union-brokered peace agreement.
The conflict, which Tbilisi and Moscow accuse one another of starting, left hundreds dead and drove thousands from their homes.
After the war, Russia left thousands of troops in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, and recognized both as independent countries.
Marking the 10th anniversary of the conflict, Georgia and the United States on August 7 condemned Russia’s continued “occupation” of Georgian territory.
“This is a war against Georgia, an aggression, an occupation, and a blatant violation of international law,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said during a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.
“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he added.
The “aggression” against Georgia did not start in August 2008, but much earlier, in 1991-1992, the Georgian president also said, when “Russia detached two regions from the Georgian central authorities by means of hybrid war.”
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili
’Georgia’s Sovereign Choice’
In a joint statement, the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Ukrainian ministers called on the international community to continue to demand that Russia “fully and without any further delay implements its international commitments and starts honoring international law and the right of sovereign neighboring states to choose their own destiny.”
They also expressed “strong support for Georgia’s sovereign choice to pursue the ultimate goal of membership in the EU and NATO.”
Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, reiterated support for Georgia’s membership at a meeting in Brussels, but did not mention when that could happen.
Before the Russia-Georgia war, Russian officials had made clear that they vehemently opposed Georgia’s efforts to achieve NATO membership.
“Ten years of occupation is ten years too long,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement.
“We will continue to work together with the Government and the people of Georgia and with our friends and allies to ensure the world’s continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” it also said, adding, “Georgia, we are with you.”
The European Union praised the truce deal putting an end to the fighting and called the continuing Russian military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a “violation of international law” and the agreement.
“The European Union reiterates its firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” a statement said.In an interview with Current Time TV on August 6, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s president at the time of the 2008 conflict, said that Russia’s motive in the war was to attack “Georgian statehood.”
Saakashvili said that Moscow was concerned because reforms had made the South Caucasus country a “role model” for others in the region.
Elizabeth Honig pleaded guilty June 21 to theft of government funds. The 52-year-old Morganville, New Jersey, resident faces up to 10 years in prison when she’s sentenced Sept. 25.
Honig owns the Eatontown-based Computer Insight Learning Center.
Federal prosecutors say she helped 182 veterans enroll to receive federal funding under a program designed to help older, unemployed veterans receive training and find employment in high demand occupations.
But the vast majority of these veterans were either not eligible or not actually attending the training.
Honig admitted logging on to the applications system more than 100 times and certifying that she was the actual veteran who was applying for benefits.
An ammo depot in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia has been the scene of a series of large explosions over the past two weeks, killing one Russian soldier and injuring at least 32 other people thus far.
The first massive explosion occurred last Monday, killing one and injuring at least ten others. Then, two more large explosions tore through the facility on Friday, reportedly as a result of lightning due to the facility’s lightning management apparatus being destroyed in the previous explosions. Multiple smaller explosions have also been reported at the facility during the intervening days, resulting in more than 16,000 people being evacuated from nearby communities.
MASSIVE Explosions at Ammunition Depot – Achinsk, Russia – Aug. 5, 2019
Soldiers assigned to Russia’s “74008 military unit,” as officials called them, were ordered to take cover in bomb shelters until the explosions stopped.
According to Russian state media, the facility housed thousands of artillery shells and propellant bags filled with explosive material used to launch the artillery. While Russian authorities have not offered any detailed explanation as to what may have caused the incident, at least one Russian Defense Ministry official cited “human error” as the preliminary cause of the first explosion, pending a more thorough investigation.
The local governor’s office offered only slightly more detail, explaining that the first explosion took place during “shell clearing” operations. That, combined with reports of two “disposal sights” that are still burning, suggests that the munitions involved in the explosion may have been old and awaiting disposal. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that the site of the explosion is among Russia’s oldest existing munition storage and logistic sites, dating back to its use by the Soviet Union. The entire facility is slated for demolition in 2022.
Russia’s Uran-14 Robot can supposedly fight fires and clear mines. Two have been deployed to Achinsk.
(Russian Ministry of Defense via WikiMedia Commons)
Russian firefighting efforts, which are already largely taxed by a series of large wildfires in the Siberian forest, are reportedly being bolstered by Uran-14 firefighting robots that, according to Russian state media, can spray water a distance of up to 180 feet and move up to ten tons of debris.
These claims, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, as Russia also once claimed their Uran-6 infantry robot had successfully participated in combat operations in Syria, only for it to be revealed months later that the robot had actually been a dismal failure.
Unfortunately for the Russian military, these explosions are not the highest-profile incident to occur last week, with another explosion at a missile test site that seems to have involved Russia’s much-touted nuclear-powered cruise missile claiming the lives of at least five and injuring a number of others.
Bell Boeing recently test fired laser-guided rockets from the V-22 Osprey aircraft in a series of mock combat demonstrations at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., showing for the first time that the tiltrotor aircraft can be used for offensive missile and rocket attacks.
The forward-firing flights at Yuma shot a range of guided and unguided rockets from the Osprey, including laser-guided folding-fin, Hyrda-70 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System rockets and laser-guided Griffin B missiles, Bell helicopter officials said.
“The forward-firing demonstration was a great success,” Vince Tobin, vice president and program manager for the Bell Boeing V-22 said in a written statement. “We’ve shown the V-22 can be armed with a variety of forward-facing munitions, and can hit their targets with a high degree of reliability.”
Bell Boeing has delivered 242 MV-22 tiltrotor for the Marine Corps and 44 CV-22 for Air Force Special Operations Command. Bell Helicopter began initial design work on forward fire capability in mid-2013, company officials said.
V-22 Osprey aircraft have been deployed in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. The aircraft are often used for humanitarian assistance, casualty recovery, medical evacuation, VIP transport and raid missions. If the Marines or Air Force choose to use the rocket or missile capability, the Osprey will gain additional offensive attack mission possibilities.
“Integrating a forward firing capability to the Osprey will increase its mission set,” Tobin continued. “These weapons, once installed, will provide added firepower and reduce reliance on Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs, which are sometimes necessary to supply short range attack rotorcraft in support of V-22 operations. Without the need for FARPs, V-22s can be launched more frequently, and on shorter notice.”
In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.
The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.
Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.
“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”
The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.
“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”
The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.
There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.
“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.
The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.
The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.
“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”
The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.
“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”
After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.
“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.
Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.
“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.
“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released an incendiary video this week, describing the “humiliation” the U.S. would experience if it were to invade Iran. The video reminds the viewer of the protracted American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Hezbollah’s perceived “victory” over Israel in 2006.
The video is as meaningful as any propaganda produced by any government – dubious at best. Iran has never started a war in the modern era. Its standing orders are to never launch a first strike and the success of the Iranian nuclear deal means we will likely not go to war with Iran anytime soon.
That does not keep Iran from trolling the United States more than any country, group, or individual (and we tend to remember that kind of sh*t talk).
Iran is the industrial, military, and economic Shia counterweight to Saudi Arabia, the preeminent Sunni monarchy in the Middle East. Iran considers the Middle East their backyard: sending money, weapons, and supplies to Shia Islamic groups in neighboring countries in an attempt to destabilize or undermine the Sunni (or secular) leadership there.
The Islamic Republic is currently projecting power all over the region, well beyond the borders of the old Persian Empire: they assist Houthi rebels in Yemen, fund and supply paramilitary organizations like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon as well as others, all fighting Sunni paramilitary organizations funded by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, such as the al-Nusra Front. These Iranian-funded and Saudi-funded groups both fought U.S. troops during the Iraq War (though likely not side-by-side). The goal is to keep the fighting there, and not in Iran.
Those are the bare basics of the Sunni-Shia religious civil war everyone is always talking about. The promise of military support from the United States is one of the pillars of Saudi (and global oil market) security. Israel is the U.S.’ eternal ally. America has made promises in to fight ISIS in the region, alongside (but not with) Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, Syrian rebels, and Sunni-funded al-Qaeda groups. Now the Russians are sending more advisors and weapons to the Asad regime (which is also an Iranian client state). All this means we could be right back to where we started.
The nuclear deal also doesn’t rule out a military strike from Israel. Israel has long depended on security and defense guarantees from the United States and is not averse to starting wars with countries it deems a threat to their long-term survival. As an added bonus, Israel already has nuclear weapons.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government depends on a motley mixture of right-wing political parties and ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, who are convinced Iranian leaders want to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, despite the fact that this phrase is a misquote from a bad translation.
And a surprise from Israel is not unheard of.
Much of Iran’s military hardware predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the resulting arms embargo. Because of that embargo, a lot of the Iranian defense industry is homegrown, which means the Iranians are not limited to arms deals with foreign powers.
They can build their own tanks, fighters, and subs. Anything not built in Iran or coming from Russia is likely aging very poorly. Overall defense spending is relatively minuscule, especially in comparison to the GCC.
Keep in mind, U.S. defense spending wouldn’t even fit on the scale above.
Iran has about a half million troops on active duty, not including the 125,000 in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. As the name suggests, the IRGC are the most devoted members of the Iranian military. All Iranian forces take men as young as 18, but the Basij Forces (meaning “Mobilization of the Oppressed”) will take a male as young as 15.
The Basij mainly acted as human minesweepers and led human wave attacks to great effect during the Iran-Iraq War.
The Iranian conventional forces have 4 branches: The Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA), Navy (IRIN), Air Force (IRIAF), and Air Defense Force (IRIADF). Iran’s conventional military are considered “severely limited, relying heavily on obsolescent and low quality weaponry.”
The IRIA has a large tank force of over 1600 but as with other materiel, it’s aging rapidly. They are able to make their own tanks (the most recent based on the design of the M47M Patton), but not in significant numbers and the U.S. has effective anti-armor tactics.
The Iranian Air Force is currently inconsequential. 60 percent of it was purchased by the Shah before he was forced into exile in 1979 and then augmented by Iraqi fighter pilots fleeing to Iran during Desert Storm. It’s a mess, a mishmash of American, Russian, and Chinese planes with some homemade ones thrown in the mix.
The lack of spare parts for these planes caused the development of a robust aerospace industry in Iran, along with their own fighter planes, which the Iranians say can evade radar (good thing the U.S. Air Force created the ultimate dogfighter). With the sanctions being lifted, the government is already putting feelers out to modernize their aging air forces.
The Iranian Navy and Missile forces are the most important branches in its arsenal. If a war ever did break out, Iran’s first tactic would likely be to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world economy.
The Air Defense Forces consists of ground-based air defenses, using American, Italian, and Chinese surface-to-air missiles, built on Chinese Radar and electronic warfare technology. The deployment and number of Iranian SAM and other Air Defense forces is not entirely known, but reports range from porous to a “significant issue.”
The Iranian Navy is traditionally the smallest branch, numbering some 18,000, including some 2,600 naval Marines, and 2,600 naval aviation forces (but has not carriers) and boasts naval elements from China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union. It has no capital ships and the bulk of its warships are corvettes and destroyers, all heavily armed with anti-ship missiles.
They dp have home-built frigates, however, with up-to-date radar systems, arms, and electronic warfare equipment as well as many helicopters, either Italian, French, or Russian built. They even have some captured from the United States after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw.
The IRIN is augmented with Chinese fast attack ships, Russian Kilo submarines, some home-grown midget submarines which act as torpedo ships and mine layers. The Iranian fleets of patrol boats, missile ships, and mine layers could close the Strait of Hormuz for up to ten days under full attack by the U.S. military.
Much of Iranian military spending is on thousands of missiles for air defense or for attacking ships in neighboring waters. The Iranian surface-to-air missile defense system is also a mixture of American, Russian, and Chinese weapons systems. The SAM system is considered “unlikely to pose a significant threat to American or Israeli aircraft as a long-range air-denial weapon.” The entire system is vulnerable to Stealth-equipped aircraft and would need to be advanced ballistic missile systems like the Russian S-300 (which Iran claims to have).
Here are the four weapons that would cause the most trouble for the U.S. military:
1. Ghadir Midget Submarines
Built with North Korean designs, the oldest finished in 2007, the Ghadir submarine fleet was designed to be sonar evading and carry a heavy load of torpedoes and Shkval rocket torpedoes, which travel through the water at more than 370 mph. The Ghadir submarines are produced by Iran in Iran and are unaffected by the arms embargoes. The Ghadir class can also fire anti-ship missiles at the same time.
2. Sejjil Missiles
Sejil missiles are a homemade, two-stage missile, capable of hitting targets from 2,000 km (almost 1,250 miles). No one knows the exact humber of missiles in the Iranian arsenal, but numbers are estimated in the hundreds and thousands.
The Sejil is another weapon the Iranians produce in Iran which is unlikely to be affected by sanctions or arms embargoes. The solid fuel allows a shorter prep time prior to launch and since they are launched from mobile units, a massive first strike from an attacking country is unlikely to neutralize the Sejil threat.
3. Khalij-e Fars Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile
This is also a self-produced weapon of Iranian design. The Khalij-e Fars Missile has a 350 kilometer range and delivers a payload similar to that of the Sejil missile. The homemade mobile missile also features the quickness of a solid fuel missile on a mobile launch system, but has the added benefit of being able to hit a maneuvering target (such as an aircraft carrier) within ten meters.
Uzi Rubin, the designer of the Israel’s Arrow missile defense system calls this Iranian missile “a total game changer.”
Hezbollah is no longer just a ragtag group of terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction. They are a legitimate political party in Lebanon, with a well-trained, well-equipped and well-funded paramilitary organization. They are trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the Islamic Republic’s special operations and unconventional warfare units, operating exclusively outside of Iran’s borders. The Quds Force was responsible for training most Shia militias to fight U.S. forces during the 2003-2011 Iraq War but also helped topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. They operate from North America to India and Scandinavia to Sub-Saharan Africa and answer directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran.
The United States considers the Quds Force and Hezbollah to be terror organizations. Hezbollah is currently bolstering the government forces of Bashar al-Asad in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Their primary opponents are ISIS and its affiliates.
Supporting the Asad government means Hezbollah is also fighting the Free Syrian Army, U.S.-backed “moderate” rebel groups, the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Hezbollah is such a capable force, they are able to project significant strength all the way into Iraq from its power base in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
It is important to remember that although the Iranian government’s extraterritorial forces have attacked U.S. forces and U.S. allies in the past, the Iranian state has never started an offensive war. Iranian military strategy is designed mainly for home defense and the direction of Quds Force operation is usually designed to keep potential threats to the Iranian regime fighting those forces as far away from Iran as possible.
Even a surgical strike against Iranian nuclear targets is likely to light the powder keg and trigger a greater regional war. A full-scale invasion of Iran would be necessary to forcefully curb the nuclear program. Iran is larger and more populous than Iraq and may require up to 75,000 troops to invade, could kill up to 15,000 U.S. troops and would cost $5.1 trillion. For the Iranians, troop casualties estimate from 300,000 to a million killed and up to 12 million people displaced. Even Israel’s own defense chiefs recommend against it. Only total war would keep Iran from getting the bomb if they wanted to.
A nuke is not what the Iranians were after. The regime’s best reason to obtain a nuclear weapon is to ensure the survival of the Revolutionary regime, for the government’s longevity to be more akin to North Korea’s rather than Ba’athist Iraq’s in the scope of the “Axis of Evil.” The Iran Deal gives the Ayatollah that longevity (and a lifting of greater sanctions) without having to expend the money and resources to build and secure a nuclear weapon, something it likely didn’t want to do in the first place.