The first operational KC-46A Pegasus — the tanker being designed by Boeing to replace the aging KC-135 — took its maiden flight on Dec. 5.
That flight came after numerous delays and cost overruns that have stymied the tanker’s development over the past several years. Even though it got off the ground in December, Boeing admitted at the time that it would miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first operational KC-46 by the end of 2017.
Now the Air Force expects to receive the first operational KC-46 by spring 2018, and Boeing is obligated to deliver 18 of the new tankers by October. But major defects remain unresolved, according to Aviation Week.
The most worrying deficiency is the tendency of the tanker’s boom — where the fuel flows — to scrape the surface of the aircraft receiving fuel.
The problem could endanger the aircrews involved and risks compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded.
Representatives from the Air Force and from Boeing told Aviation Week that they are working on the problem, with personnel from the government and industry reviewing flight data to assess such incidents and compare them to international norms.
Their assessments will help decide whether changes are to be made to the camera used for refueling on the KC-46. The Pegasus’ boom operator sits at the front of the aircraft while directing the boom, relying heavily on the camera. Older tankers have the boom operator stationed at the back of the plane to guide the boom in person. A decision on the camera is expected by March.
A Boeing spokesman said similar contact between the boom and the receiving aircraft happens with the Air Force’s current tankers as well.
A Boeing spokesman also told Aviation Week in December that an issue with the KC-46’s high-frequency radio had been resolved, but an Air Force spokeswoman said the force was still working on it, expecting to have options to address it by January.
The radios use the aircraft’s frame as an antenna, which sometimes creates electrical sparks. The Air Force wants to ensure they can never broadcast during refueling in order to avoid fires.
Issues with uncommanded boom extensions when the refueling boom disconnects from the receiving aircraft with fuel flowing have been reduced to a Category Two deficiency, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week. The solution to that problem is expected to be implemented in May, the spokeswoman said.
The Air Force still expects the first operational KC-46s by late spring, arriving at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.
Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times that once testing is finished and the new tankers start to be delivered, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.
Boeing won the contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. Under the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. As of late 2017, the defense contractor had eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.
Despite his limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, telling them he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.
Russia deployed two Su-57 advanced fighter jets to Syria in a move widely seen as a marketing ploy for the troubled plane that’s struggled to attract international investment, but they recently hinted at another purpose behind the deployment.
The Times of Israel reports that Russia gave a “covert warning” to the Jewish state by saying the Su-57 will serve as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states, which periodically fly into Syrian airspace uninvited.”
The veiled warning comes after Israel and Syria had a heated air battle with Syrian air defenses downing an Israeli F-16. Israel said that it took out half of Syria’s air defenses in return.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Ronan Bergman reported that Israel planned a larger response to Syria’s downing of their jet, if not for a “furious phone call” between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s ally, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But whatever the two heads of state said on the phone, it’s unlikely the Su-57 had anything to do with it. The Su-57, as it is today, doesn’t pose a threat to Western fighters despite being Russia’s newest and most advanced fighter jet. It awaits a pair of new engines and has significant problems flying and releasing bombs at supersonic speeds.
“I don’t think anyone is too worried about a kinetic threat from Su-57s over Syria in its current state,” Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Bronk pointed to problems with the Su-57 integrating its radar into data the pilot can actually use in the cockpit, and difficulties in getting the jet to drop bombs properly, calling it “far from combat ready.”
Though the Su-57’s advanced and “innovative” radar set up could pose a threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22, also operating in Syria, by scoping out its radar signatures and helping inform future battle plans, it’s just not ready for a fight with Israel, the US, or even Turkey.
A commercial for a struggling Russian military export?
Another Russian official gave Russian media an additional reason for the Su-57’s presence in Syria that seemed to confirm Western analysis that the deployment is a marketing ploy and test run for the unproven jet.
The official said the jet had a “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.”
Yet another Russian official said in Russian media that “as we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” which have included very advanced systems like submarine-launched cruise missiles designed for high-end warfighting.
But as Bronk pointed out, “the only declared combat which the Russian air contingent in Syria is engaged in is bombing rebel and Daesh forces in support of Assad’s ground forces,” which he added was “hardly relevant for the air-superiority optimized Su-57.”
Essentially, all Russia’s air force does in Syria is bomb rebel ground targets. In years of fighting, the bombings have only demonstrated one occasion that the target had anti-air defenses. On that one occasion, the rebels downed a Russian Su-25.
As a result, Bronk said the Su-57s “will no doubt fly above 15,000 feet to avoid” those missiles, meaning the new Russian jet won’t really be flying in combat conditions, only bombing defenseless targets.
Not really in combat, not really a threat
So, why do they need a next-generation, stealth fighter built to dogfight with US F-22s and F-35s that isn’t ready for combat yet? Bronk said the bombing campaign in Syria is “absolutely not the mission set [the Su-57s] are designed for.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now the Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies, told Business Insider that it’s a chance for Russia to test out its new jet where they “don’t have to pay for training ranges,” and concurred with Bronk’s assessment that the plane is not yet able to fully fight.
While Russia may have found a frugal way to boost the profile of an airplane they’re desperate to sell by testing it out in Syria’s almost eight-year-long civil war, nobody familiar with the state of the plane would take it seriously as an air-to-air threat.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”
The Army is now testing virtual-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to rehearse combat missions that they are about to undertake.
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, known as IVAS, will be tested by 82nd Airborne Division troops next month at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The IVAS goggles will allow soldiers to see simulated images superimposed over the actual terrain.
The soldiers will wear the goggles and miniature computer equipment as they negotiate obstacle courses, run land navigation and conduct other missions, said officials from Program Executive Office Soldier.
Called Soldier Touchpoint 2, the test is designed to provide feedback to PEO soldier so the IVAS heads-up display can be further enhanced before 200,000 of the headsets begin to be fielded in 2021.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Gary Sheftick)
IVAS has been touted by senior leaders as a “game-changer” for soldier lethality and a quick win for the modernization priority.
The IVAS headsets are a good example of how artificial intelligence is being used to enhance soldier lethality, said Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force.
Each pair of IVAS goggles has “significant amounts of high-tech sensors onboard and processors,” Easley said at a Warriors Corner presentation Monday afternoon during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Each IVAS headset has integrated AI chips built into the system, he said.
“Those chips are doing visual recognition,” he said. “They’re tracking a soldier’s eye movements, they’re tracking a soldier’s hand as it interfaces with the system, and they’re tracking a soldier’s voice.”
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
The IVAS headset “uses a customized AI piece” to make it work, he said.
AI will be an enabler for all of the Army’s modernization programs over the next decade, Easley said.
“Each one of those systems need AI,” he said, from Future Vertical Lift to Long-Range Precision Fires to the Next Generation Combat Vehicle.
“AI, as you know, is becoming a pervasive part of our society,” he said.
“Every system that you can think of — from self-driverless cars to ride-sharing applications, to restaurant recommendation systems to healthcare systems — they span every area of our society.
“They need to span every battlefield system that we have,” as well, he said, from maneuver to fire control.
U.S. military officials and policymakers are devoting increased attention to the potential for conflict with a near-peer competitor, and they’ve pursued a number of operational and equipment changes to prepare for it.
Among the latest moves is the rollout of more cold-weather gear among the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, underscoring the military’s growing concern about its ability to operate in extreme environments outside the Middle East.
For the last several years, the Army has been looking to update its gear for extremes, mainly jungles and the harsh cold. Included in that search was a new cold-weather boot and a cold-weather clothing system that could be adjusted for various temperatures.
In recent weeks, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York have done winter training operations with new gloves, headgear, socks, gaiters, parkas, and trousers. That new gear was focused on “face, hands, and feet,” 1st Sgt. Daniel Bryan, first sergeant of the division’s Light Fighters School, told Army Times.
The unit also received new skis. Built shorter and wider, like cross-country skis, they were brought in so inexperienced soldiers could strap into them with their cold-weather boots and be able to maneuver in short order. Those new skis were also being deployed among Army units in Alaska, Vermont, and Italy.
Troops at Fort Drum have done cold-weather exercises for some time, but the base’s recent designation as a Zone 7 — the same designation as Fort Wainwright in Alaska and Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont — steered millions of dollars more in funding there so soldiers could undertake more training.
The new equipment has been fielded as part of an effort to prepare troops physically and mentally for cold-weather operations.
“We don’t want [the cold] to hibernate us,” Bryan said. “We want to be physically and mentally prepared.”
‘You’re going to get your skis … so get ready’
The Marine Corps has also been reorienting itself for operations in the extreme cold.
In mid-January, the Corps issued two requests for information for a cap and gloves for intense cold. The Marines want both to be able to withstand temperatures down to 50 below zero and be fast-drying and water repellant, with the gloves able to work with touchscreen devices.
The Corps also plans to spend $12.75 million — $7 million in fiscal year 2018 — to buy 2,648 sets of the NATO ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen, with the first sets arriving at the end of the 2018 calendar year.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in December that the Marine Corps Rotational Force Europe, based in Norway, would be the first to get the gear.
“No Marine is going to leave here unless they know how to ski,” Neller said at the time, according to Military.com. “You’re going to get your skis here in about a week, so get ready.”
U.S. Marines have been in Norway on rotational deployments since early 2017, though they’ve stored equipment there for some time.
The deployments, the first of their kind, have focused on tactical training for offensive operations in cold weather (and irked Russia).
The primary reason for creating the rotational force was improving cold-weather training, one of Neller’s main goals.
Some exercises, done with NATO allies and non-NATO partners, have taken place just 200 miles from Norway’s border with Russia. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has also been conducting cold-weather training in neighboring Sweden.
The adjustment to the region hasn’t been totally smooth.
Marines in Norway’s Arctic region in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear, which was pulled from the service’s inventory of cold-weather equipment. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped, and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings, according to Military.com.
The equipment problems spurred a wave of feedback from Marines, leading the Corps to start looking at upgrades and replacements — including some cold-weather gear used by the Army as well as reinforced backpack frames suitable for frigid temperatures.
The Marine Corps’ overall plans for new gear goes beyond just outfitting a small rotational force, however, and those moves fit in with preparations for a future fight that Neller has said could be on the horizon.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said during a December address to Marines in Norway. Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future and told them to be ready for a variety of missions.
Neller also said he expected the force’s attention to shift to new areas. “I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
Increasing tensions with Russia and North Korea have increased the potential the U.S. military could face cold-weather fighting again — particularly in Northwest Asia.
During the Korean War, brutal cold plagued U.S. troops who lacked enough cold-weather gear and faced problems like frozen rations and gear damaged by subzero temperatures. Decades later, soldiers who recovered from frostbite and other injuries found themselves suffering from new symptoms related to their exposure.
Claims piled up at the VA Regional Office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A $16 billion effort to give veterans lifetime electronic health records that meshed with the Pentagon’s has been marked by repeated delays and oversight failures that could have put patients at risk, according to reports from the VA Inspector General.
The IG reports released Monday detailed confusion in the overall implementation of the plan and failures to train staff and put in place adequate equipment for the pilot program, such as new laptops.
The first IG report, titled “Deficiencies in Infrastructure Readiness for Deploying VA’s New Electronic Health Record [EHR] System,” looked at how the Department of Veterans Affairs went about implementing the initial billion, 10-year contract with Cerner Corp. of Kansas.
The VA now estimates that the contract, awarded in May 2018 by then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie without competitive bidding, will now cost at least another billion for management and equipment.
The second report focused on delays and failures in the pilot program, even after it was scaled back from three test sites to one at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington.
One of the main findings of the second report was that patient safety at the Spokane facility could have been put at risk due to poor preparation for the planned switchover to the Cerner system in the pilot program.
The IG’s report found that the VA and the Spokane leadership failed to hire and train adequate staff to handle the transition, and overlooked the impact on how the hospital would continue to function while the inevitable kinks in the system were worked out.
“For example, online prescription refills, the most popular form for refilling prescriptions at the facility, was identified as a capability that would be absent when going live,” the IG’s report said of the pilot program at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “The OIG determined that the multiple work-arounds needed to address the removal of an online prescription refill process presents a patient safety risk.”
In addition, the IG found that the VA’s expanded program to allow veterans to choose community care — made policy by the Mission Act of 2018 — had suffered as the Spokane facility focused on the switchover to EHR.
“The OIG identified that facility leaders addressed recent in-house access to care challenges within primary care, but a significant backlog of 21,155 care in the community consults remained as of January 9, 2020,” the report said.
Outrage on the Hill
In May 2019, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie identified the transition to EHR as one of his top priorities, noting its potential “to change the way our veterans are treated, but also change the way we do business, to make the delivery of our services more efficient, make it more timely.”
In that same month, then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took a beating during a hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee when he projected a possible four-year delay in implementing the transition.
“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan.
“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”
Veterans were suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he added.
Over the years, previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems of the VA and DoD have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and about id=”listicle-2645875913″ billion spent.
The goal of the new effort to integrate the records was to overcome the track record of failure by the VA and the DoD to meet a congressional mandate to bring their separate medical records systems in line with one another, ensuring a seamless transition for service members to civilian life.
In its overview of the VA’s latest attempt, the IG report noted that “there are tremendous costs and challenges associated with this effort.”
Under the current plan the VA’s legacy information system — Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) — would be replaced by Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf solution called “Millennium.”
The plan was to have VA’s Millenium mesh with DoD’s electronic health record system — Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS — which at its core also consists of Cerner’s Millennium, the IG report said.
The ultimate connection of VA and DoD’s electronic health records “will result in a comprehensive, lifetime health record for service members,” the report said, improving health outcomes by giving providers more complete information.
However, the indefinite hold put on the pilot program in Spokane underlines the huge challenges ahead in implementing the transition as the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the IG said.
The report found widespread failure in VA’s preparations to start up the new system in Spokane.
“The lack of important upgrades jeopardizes VA’s ability to properly deploy the new electronic health record system and increases risks of delays to the overall schedule,” the report said. “Until modifications are complete, many aspects of the physical infrastructure existing in the telecommunications rooms [such as cabling] and data center do not meet national industry standards or VA’s internal requirements.”
The VA’s response essentially concurred with the findings and recommendations of the IG’s overview and the separate report on the pilot program in Spokane.
In his response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the VA was working to correct the problems with infrastructure and staffing noted by the IG.
“I appreciate the concerns regarding mitigation strategies and capabilities of the new electronic health records [EHR] system,” Stone said.
He said that as the target date was approaching for the launch of the pilot program in Spokane, “Secretary Wilkie received feedback from clinical and technical staff.”
“He decided to postpone the Go-Live so that the system can provide the greatest functionality at Go-Live and VHA staff are confident in providing care with the new system with the least mitigation strategies,” Stone said.
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said the United States must be ready to resist attempted Russian interference in the country’s elections later this year.
“I don’t think there is any question in the [intelligence] community or at [the Department of Homeland Security] that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral systems,” Nielsen said at a security forum in Colorado on July 19.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they did it, and I think we should be prepared given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again.”
The chief of staff of the US Army says his troops must have a “laser-focused sense of urgency” on military preparedness, a day after the defense secretary told troops “to be ready” with military options to deal with North Korea.
Speaking at the US Army’s annual conference Oct. 10, General Mark Milley said improving readiness must be his military service branch’s top task, calling the present day an “inflection point in history.”
“It has never been more important than it is today,” Milley said in Washington. “We are more prepared today and a better Army for our efforts, but we are not there yet.”
Milley said the Army must continue to grow its numbers, develop a large-scale urban combat training center, and streamline acquisition processes, while improving technologies in cyber, combat simulation, and robotics.
He also pushed Congress to pass a budget so the military can move forward with strengthening its force, noting if the US military doesn’t adapt to changes in the global threat, it will lose the next war.
“Preparation for war is very expensive,” Milley told troops. “But preparation for war is much cheaper than fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting and losing a war.”
Milley’s comments come a day after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US relationship with North Korea remains a diplomatic one, but that the military must be prepared in case the situation breaks down.
Speaking at the conference Oct. 9, Mattis noted the effort to turn North Korea off its nuclear path is currently “diplomatically led” and buttressed by economic sanctions.
“What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the US Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” Mattis said.
Tensions with North Korea have escalated since the start of the year due to a series of missile launches from North Korea and a nuclear test last month.
The US has responded to these acts with military shows of force in international and allied air space. Last month, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-16 fighter jets flew the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that any US fighter or bomber aircraft had flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.
American President Donald Trump has engaged in weeks of taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling the dictator “Rocket Man” and saying the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea, if necessary, to protect itself and its allies if Pyongyang attacks.
Speaking to the BBC on September 10, Stoltenberg described the behavior of North Korea as “reckless” and said NATO should part of “a global response.”
He called on North Korea to “abandon its nuclear programs” and its “missile programs, and to refrain from more testing” — saying recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests were “a blatant violation of several UN Security Council resolutions” and a “threat to international peace and stability.”
Jens Stoltenberg. Wikimedia Commons photo by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org
Stoltenberg refused to say whether an attack on the Pacific US territory of Guam would trigger NATO’s collective defense clause, saying “I will not speculate about whether Article Five will be applied in such a situation.”
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in an interview published on Sept. 10 that the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs is the world’s worst crisis “in years.”
“We have to hope that the seriousness of this threat puts us on the path of reason before it is too late,” Guterres told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
“It’s the most serious [crisis] we have had to face in years,” he said, adding that he was “very worried.”
“In the past, we have had wars that have been initiated after a well thought-out decision,” he said.
“But we also know that other conflicts have started through an escalation caused by sleepwalking.”
Guterres said it was important to get Pyongyang to end development of its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and respect UN Security Council resolutions.
“We must also maintain the unity of the Security Council at all costs, because it is the only tool that can carry out a diplomatic initiative with a chance of success,” he said.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres. US Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers.
The United States on Sept. 8 formally requested a vote of the Security Council on a US resolution to impose severe new economic sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, despite resistance from China and Russia.
The resolution, which the US mission to the UN said it wants a Security Council vote to be held on the issue on Sept. 11, would impose an oil embargo on North Korea and ban its exports of textiles as well as the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, mostly by Russia and China.
It would also impose an asset freeze and travel ban on leader Kim Jong Un.
US officials have said they want tough sanctions to maximize pressure on Pyongyang to agree to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear and missile tests.
UN diplomats said the latest US proposals would be the toughest ever imposed on North Korea in punishment for its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on Sept. 3.
News agencies Reuters and AFP cited UN diplomatic sources saying they doubted either Beijing or Moscow, both of which have the power to veto UN council resolutions, would accept anything more stringent than a ban on imports of North Korean textiles.
Chinese officials have expressed fear that imposing an oil embargo could trigger instability in North Korea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that such stringent measures would hurt the nation’s impoverished citizens as much as they would punish the government.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet is having a really tough year. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Navy is the full throes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal. The fallout began in November after 28 people were charged with crimes by the Justice Department.
The scheme is detailed in full by the Washington Post, but the gist of it is that the government believes those involved helped the Singapore-based firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its head, “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, milk the Navy out of some $35 million by overcharging for resupply – often by passing along classified information to GDMA.
All of this happened between 2006 and 2013. The conspirators weren’t dumb enough to use their Navy email accounts (one of them was dumb enough to transmit classified data via Facebook). Instead, they took out accounts on a consumer site. The indictment says Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch wrote to his conspirators,
“Just got turned on to this third-party email website that the military folks can’t block or track.”
Okay, so maybe in the annals of worldwide naval history, hookers aren’t that ridiculous. But Rear Admiral (that was his real rank, stop laughing) Robert J. Gilbeau once took in two at a time, paid for by Leonard. Leonard also used to hook Gilbeau up with a particularly famous one, known only as “The Handball Player.”
Commander Donald Hornbeck (aka “Bubbles” – not a joke) was taken with a lady he called his “new Mongolian friend.” Leonard even sent Cmdr. Stephen Shedd a catalog from VIP Tokyo Escorts, a high-end call girl service. Other brilliant call girl aliases include “BT” and “The Indonesian Detachment.”
Eventually, the indictment just gives up and refers to “other prostitutes.”
Francis allegedly also took Navy officers out to nightclubs accompanied by prostitutes and purchased dates for an unknown number of them, not just the core group of defendants – who called themselves “The Brotherhood,” “The Wolfpack,” and “The Cool Kids.”
4. Ca$h. Lots of it.
The former Rear Admiral “Tsunami Bob” Gilbeau (that was his nickname for himself) netted a cool $40,000 in cash for his part in the conspiracy. He pled guilty for lying to investigators, but was never charged with bribery or destroying evidence.
Other, non-cash windfalls for the officers included $37,000 hotel stays in the Philippines, $10,000 in Sydney, untold amounts for the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.
3. Sex acts with Gen. MacArthur’s corncob pipe
Navy investigators allege that one Lt. Cmdr. spent multiple days at the Manila Hotel, where Fat Leonard paid for the $3,300/night MacArthur Suite for a…
…raging, multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available.
That’s a quote from the actual indictment.
The 78-page indictment also says that, during this stay, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sex acts.” Looking at what’s available in the MacArthur Suite, it looks like the only usable “memorabilia” is the General’s iconic pipe.
In a thank-you email to Leonard, Shedd wrote that “it’s been a while since I’ve done 36 hours of straight drinking.” He had been emailing Leonard classified movement schedules for many Navy ships for months leading up to the weekend.
2. Food and booze
Early on in the conspiracy, three of the Navy officers charged allegedly ate at the Petrus Restaurant in Hong Kong. The bill was $20,435 — of course, Fat Leonard picked up the tab.
Those same three drank cocktails on a helipad in Singapore the very next month at the Jaan Restaurant, where they ate a lavish meal, topped off with Hennessy Private Reserve ($600 a bottle) and Paradis Extra champagne ($2,000 a bottle).
Other dinners were similarly expensive: $30,000 in Tokyo, $11,000 in Sydney, $18,000 in Hong Kong, $8,000 in Thailand, and $55,000 in Manila.
On at least one occasion, Fat Leonard’s champagne bill for Dom Perignon at the Shangri-La in Manila totaled more than $50,000. The officers accompanied the champagne with $2000 Cohiba cigars.
1. Personal favors.
Leonard arranged for one of Cmdr. Hornbeck’s relatives to receive an internship at the Chalet Suisse Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and then paid for his living expenses – a total cost of $13,000.
Other favors include VIP services for an officer’s wife’s trip to Thailand, including a tour and shopping spree in Bangkok, a family vacation for the Shedds in Singapore and Malaysia totaling $30,000, gifts of iPads and Versace purses for officers’ wives, boxes of beef (I don’t want to know the details), and three hours of lap dances in Tokyo.
In Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first landmark Pacific policy address, the newly installed PM said Australia will commit anew to the Pacific, setting up a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank to fund projects in the region and appointing a series of new diplomatic posts.
“Australia will step up in the Pacific and take our engagement with the region to a new level,” the prime minister said Nov. 8, 2018.
“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the southwest Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Morrison said.
Morrison announced new defense force mobile-training team, annual meetings of defense, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.
The centerpiece will be a billion AUD financial facility to help fund major regional projects while the existing export financing agency (EFA) will be boosted by another one billion dollars.
Referring to Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Morrison said the stability and economic progress of the Pacific region are of “fundamental importance,” and no single country can tackle the challenges on its own.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)
Morrison announced his Pacific Pivot ahead of a milestone meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asia-Pacific regional leaders next week at the APEC forum in Papua New Guinea.
Morrison said it was time Australia opened a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family.” “Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”
A familiar tone
In a speech that strongly echoed former US President Barack Obama’s “Asian Pivot” address in Canberra in 2011, Morrison outlined his own plan to project Australian soft power in an attempt to thwart China’s unchecked economic and industrial expansion across the Pacific over the last decade.
In a pretty unforgettable speech to Australia’s parliament on Nov. 17, 2011, Obama declared that “America is back!” “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all-in.”
That was about the zenith of the much-vaunted pivot, and at around exactly the same time China started to take its interests in the Pacific to a fresh intensity.
According to Reuters’ calculations, since Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” China has poured id=”listicle-2618687423″.3 billion in concessionary loans and gifts to almost instantly become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia.
Falling under Beijing’s influence
Today, China is the region’s biggest bilateral lender, although Australia’s significant aid programs mean it remains the largest financial backer in the South Pacific.
While China has always maintained a political stake in the region as part of its ongoing diplomatic chess battle with Taiwan, the sheer magnitude and speed of Chinese assistance eventually raised alarms and even hysteria among Western-aligned nations that the string of southern Pacific island states was very quickly falling under Beijing’s influence.
But if Australia’s backyard was finding itself over a Beijing barrel, then Morrison put his hand up for the first time to acknowledge that Australia and its major allies, the US foremost amongst them, wore some of the blame for that and had neglected the region for too long.
Australia, he said, had taken the Pacific and its nations “for granted.” Speaking from a military facility in Townsville where US troops are based, Morrison redrew the Pacific’s strategic importance to Australia’s foreign and defense policy.
Morrison promised closer economic, military and diplomatic ties in what will undoubtedly be seen from Beijing as a move to counter its efforts to drive its controversial One Belt, One Road initiative or in this case its 21st-century maritime silk road.
One Belt, One Road initiative. China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black.
Fortunately, Beijing won’t even have to pick up the phone with Morrison’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne already in Beijing heading up Australia’s first mission to China in several years after an extended diplomatic freeze out. “This is not just our region, or our neighborhood.
It’s our home,” Morrison said. Morrison flagged that the region requires around billion per year in investments up to 2030, adding, “It’s where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs.”But that is something China has been more than happy to help achieve.
Beijing has sewn up diplomatic relations with eight Pacific island countries, from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. (Others of course, recognize Taiwan.)
In the ten years between 2006 and 2016, The Lowy Institute a Sydney-based think tank, reckons Beijing has probably injected more than .3 billion into the region.
China has been more than happy to accommodate small nations such as Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands with concessional loans, criticized by many as overt “debt-trap diplomacy.”
Colombo’s failure to get on top of billion in debt repayments to Beijing’s state-owned enterprises has already given Beijing what many analysts consider a critically handy strategic toehold in Sri Lanka, in the port of Hambantota, including a 99-year-lease.
The port has idyllic views of the major Indian Ocean sea lanes. Elsewhere China is copping its first significant OBOR pushback out of the Asia-Pacific.
Malaysia is trying to find itself some wriggle room, preferably around perceived inequalities in the huge billion of China-originated infrastructure deals Kuala Lumpur has signed off on. Part of Australia’s appeal to the Pacific will be in aid and funding transfers that have traditionally not been about incurring trade deficits or weighty balance of payments crisis.
However, academics including James Laurenceson, deputy director of the Australia China Research Institute say that analysis of debt in the Pacific strongly suggests that the “debt-trap diplomacy” argument is without much foundation.
What is certain, however, is that over and above China’s bilateral aid programs across the pacific and its support for regional organisations, Beijing has been at pains to show it is a partner in good faith.
Beijing has backed and hosted major regional meetings, most recently in 2013, in which it announced a suite of aid measures to boost economic resilience and diplomatic engagement, while also providing strong support to regional organisations, most particularly the Pacific Islands Forum.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
China has provided generous scholarship programs for Pacific islands students and contributes significant human resources and training for pacific island government officials.
Johnny Koanapo Rasou, Vanuatu’s Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency, where China has been delivering badly needed road works and infrastructure, said in a press statement in 2017 that Vanuatu had its eyes wide open as China’s assistance becomes more and more evident.
“Our people are now learning more about China’s capability to positively contribute to our development aspirations.” “The manner in which the Chinese Government is delivering their aid to Vanuatu is different from the styles we are used to from New Zealand or Australia.
“But we must accept that all our development partners have different state structures. China is a communist state but it has created an enabling environment for its own citizens to flourish and therefore they themselves can go out and invest in other countries.”
League of debtor nations
However, according to Thomson Reuters almost half (49.08%) of Vanuatu’s external debt belongs to China. In August 2018, Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he hoped Pacific states could negotiate together to find a way out from under Beijing’s loans, before Tonga began to lose control of state assets as was happening in Sri Lanka.
Chinese loans make up more than 60% of Tonga’s total external debt burden. Another focus for Beijing has been the variety of resources available in loosely governed Papua New Guinea, which lays claim to the biggest Chinese debt, nigh on 0 million.
New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu all receive military aid from China. Fiji’s military leaders in particular have been welcoming of Chinese economic, military and strategic assistance.
China’s state media Xinhua has a quiet, but impactful bureau in Suva. While the US and its allies have been distracted with conflicts in the Middle East, China stepped up its military activities in the South Pacific. Chinese companies have sought and often secured access to strategic ports and airfields across many regional archipelagos.
According to Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist from Canterbury University, satellite interests are an important aspect to China’s surge into the South Pacific. “In 2018, China launched 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space.
Beidou-3 is China’s indigenous GPS, it provides missile positioning and timing and enhanced C4ISR capabilities for the Chinese military, as well as navigation services to more than 60 countries along the Belt and Road, including in Oceania.
Professor Brady said China’s mobile satellite station receiving station vessels regularly dock in Papeete (Tahiti) and Suva (Fiji), as do other quasi-military boats such as the Peace Ark and China’s well-equipped polar research vessels.
Brady a leading expert on Chinese investment in then pacific said many Pacific leaders now acknowledged China as “the dominant power in the region.”
“China’s strategic and military interests in the South Pacific build on longstanding links and fill the vacuum left by receding US and French power projection in the region, as well as Australia and New Zealand’s neglect of key relationships in the region.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hopefully it won’t be the tweet that launched 1,000 ships — or nuclear weapons.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” President Donald Trump tweeted on Jan. 2. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Many people are concerned that statement was belligerent enough to back the U.S. into war.
Shortly after Trump posted the statement, which received about 700,000 interactions, store managers across the country noticed a spike in sales of potassium iodide (or KI) pills, which are often advertised as able to block radiation from nuclear fallout.
“On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” he said.
In two days, Jones said he sent out about 140,000 doses of the drug, whereas he normally would have shipped about 8,400. Some local pharmacies have seen a similar rise in sales.
But the pill is far from a protect-all against a nuclear attack. In fact, radiation health experts say it’s pretty much the last thing people need in a nuclear-blast survival kit — especially with the type of strike North Korea might be capable of.
Why potassium iodide pills are probably a waste of money
Instead, the U.S. government says fallout is a greater concern in the event of a terrorist’s nuclear detonation, which would be close to the ground. That’s because fallout is formed and spread when dirt and debris get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances.
One of the products in fallout is radioactive iodine. Iodine is absorbed and used by the thyroid gland in the neck, so radioactive forms can concentrate there and promote cancer. KI pills — which cost anywhere from a few cents to more than a dollar per pill online — can block that absorption, though not without risk of side effects.
However, radioactive iodine represents a tiny percentage of the elements that the human body would be exposed to in the event of a nuclear disaster.
“Most people seem to think of the potassium iodide, or KI, pills as some type of anti-radiation drug. They are not,” Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and expert on radiation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, previously told Business Insider. “They are for preventing the uptake of radioiodine, which is one radionuclide out of thousands of radionuclides that are out there.”
Buddemeier estimated that radioiodine is just 0.2% of the overall exposure you may face outdoors, and said the pills are more helpful for addressing longer-term concerns about food-supply contamination. In the case of a nuclear blast, he said, “the most important thing is sheltering in place.”
The best thing you can do is stay put
If you’re lucky enough to survive the searing flash of light, crushing shockwaves, and incendiary fireball that is a nuclear explosion, your next item of concern is fallout.
“Get inside … and get to the center of that building,” he said. “If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below ground is great.”
Soil is a great shield from radiation, Buddemeier says, so ducking into a home with a basement would be better than going into a place without.
Besides cars, the poorest shelters are made of wood, plaster, and other materials that don’t shield against much radiation — about 20% of houses fall into this category. Better shelters, such as schools and offices, are made of bricks or concrete and have few or no windows.
Prepare an emergency kit with these items instead
Buddemeier recommends visiting Ready.gov to see a complete list of what to do in various emergency scenarios, including a nuclear blast, and what to include in a full emergency kit.
A radio is important for receiving emergency broadcasts and instructions. It’s one of the simplest ways to figure out where dangerous fallout has landed, when you can leave your shelter, and where the safest routes to exit a fallout zone are.
“If you have a cellphone, that’ll work too,” Buddemeier said, though he prefers a radio because “sometimes the cell towers may be affected,” by power outages, crushing demand, or an invisible yet powerful effect of nuclear weapons called electromagnetic pulse. (The effect can disable electronics, though a ground detonation would mostly confine EMP to the blast damage zone, where you’d have much bigger problems.)
Second, Buddemeier says, you’ll want water — ideally 1 gallon per person per day, according to Ready.gov. In addition to drinking it, you may need it to rinse off radioactive fallout after removing your clothes, since this can drastically reduce your radiation exposure.
Third, Buddemeier said, “I would probably grab a breakfast bar or two to stave off the hunger a little bit.” Fourth, he says, is any essential medications or treatments you might need.
If one of your kits isn’t handy in the event of an explosion, Buddemeier recommends trying to grab a few of these items — as long as that process doesn’t delay taking shelter by more than a couple of minutes. The first minutes and hours after a blast are when radioactive fallout exposure risk is the greatest, especially outdoors.
FEMA recommends each of your emergency kits have these essential items in a portable bag:
Water: 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
Food: at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
Flashlight and extra batteries.
Whistle to signal for help.
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place.
Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).
If you have the space, the need, and the foresight, FEMA also recommends beefing up your basic kits with these items:
Prescription medications and glasses.
Infant formula and diapers.
Pet food and extra water for your pet.
Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank-account records in a waterproof, portable container.
Cash or traveler’s checks and change.
Emergency reference material such as a first-aid book or information from Ready.gov.
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper: When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color-safe bleaches, or those with added cleaners.
Matches in a waterproof container.
Feminine supplies and personal-hygiene items.
Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, and paper towels.
Paper and pencil.
Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children.