The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.


All without risking lives.

Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.

“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.

Also read: How the Army plans to counter massive drone attacks

In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.

The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.

Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.

The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.

The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (Spc. Roland Hale)

Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.

The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.

“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.

Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.

The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.

The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.

To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.

Related: Why the Air Force will get more enlisted drone pilots

“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”

The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.

The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.

It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.

“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Apache helicopters may see drone integration technology in the very near future. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.

“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.

Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.

Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.

It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.

“I love it,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Navy’s new Tritons crash lands at Point Mugu

An MQ-4C Triton experienced a technical failure that forced it to perform a gear up landing at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) at Point Mugu on Sept. 12, 2018, the U.S. Navy confirmed

“The Navy says as a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and tried to make a landing at Point Mugu but the aircraft’s landing gear failed to deploy and the aircraft landed on the runway with its gear up, causing some $2 million damage to the plane,” KVTA reported.

No further details about the unit have been disclosed so far, however, it’s worth noticing that two MQ-4C UAVs – #168460and #168461 – have started operations with VUP-19 DET Point Mugu from NBVC on Jun. 27, 2018.


Here’s what we have written about that first flight back then:

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

P-8A Poseidon.

The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations: as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.

The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.


Featured image: file photo of an MQ-4C of VUP-19 Det PM during its first flight (U.S. Navy)

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch live: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship is docking 4 astronauts to the International Space Station

Update: The spaceship docked with the International Space Station at 11:01 p.m. ET on Monday.

SpaceX rocketed four astronauts into Earth’s orbit on Sunday, kicking off its most ambitious spaceflight yet for NASA.

The mission, called Crew-1, is set to bring Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, to the International Space Station. They’re scheduled to stay there for six months, constituting the longest human spaceflight in NASA history.

The astronauts launched aboard a Crew Dragon spaceship on Sunday evening. Once in orbit, the crew changed out of their spacesuits into more comfortable clothes, ate dinner, and settled down for a night’s rest.

All in all, they’re set to spend 27 hours inside the Crew Dragon capsule, which the astronauts have named Resilience, before the ship fully lines up with and docks to a port on the station. The docking operation requires a complex set of maneuvers, and the Crew-1 launch won’t be considered complete until it’s done. If the spaceship can’t dock, it may have to turn around, plummet through Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute into the ocean so NASA and SpaceX can recover the astronauts.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
The Crew Dragon docks to the International Space Station, May 31, 2020. 

If docking succeeds, though, Crew-1 will become the first operational mission to come out of a decade-long effort to restore NASA’s human spaceflight capabilities. Through its Commercial Crew Program, the space agency has funded the development of private, astronaut-ready launch systems from SpaceX and Boeing. NASA has spent more than $6 billion on the program, according to The Planetary Society.

SpaceX on Tuesday became the first company to receive NASA’s human-spaceflight certification for a commercial system, and Crew-1 marks its first “operational” mission. The company proved its human-launch abilities this summer when it successfully rocketed NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS and back in a test flight called Demo-2.

Now, the four astronauts on the Resilience spaceship are awake and monitoring the docking operation.

“We’re not done yet,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, told reporters two hours after the launch. “That spacecraft’s out there with those four precious crew members on [it], and we’re going to get them safely to the International Space Station tomorrow.”

NASA TV is broadcasting live video of the docking on its stream below:

NASA plans to continue broadcasting through about 2 a.m. ET, after the agency expects Crew-1 astronauts to float inside the ISS, greet each other, and wrap up a traditional docking ceremony. 

How a 13-ton spaceship precision maneuvers into an ISS port

The flight is programmed to be automatic, but the crew will keep tabs on the process. If anything goes wrong, the astronauts can manually control the spacecraft.

“They won’t have to push any buttons or fire any thrusters, Dragon is doing this all on its own — it’s completely autonomous,” Leah Cheshier, a NASA communications specialist, said during NASA TV and SpaceX’s joint broadcast on Monday night. “The crew is just monitoring when you see them looking at their screens.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley prepare to depart the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on August 1, 2020. 

Early in the docking process, Resilience stopped about 400 meters below the space station, later swing up and in front of the facility. The capsule then began a series of automated maneuvers to close in on the ISS. First, it began slowly pulling up to a point about 220 meters ahead of the station’s Node 2 forward port.

Assuming all goes well, the spaceship’s autopilot will continue inching it toward the football-field-size, orbiting laboratory and line up its docking system with the adapter on the port.https://gfycat.com/ifr/QuerulousThickHamster

Crew Dragon’s automated and manual docking systems have both been tested. During Demo-2, Behnken and Hurley turned off the auto-pilot to and controlled the vehicle. Demo-2 was a test flight, after all, and part of it was making sure the backup systems worked.

“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast after the docking, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though this was as expected.

If there are no issues, and the new Crew Dragon firmly secures itself to the ISS in the same way the last ship did, the station’s adapter will slowly fill with air, allow the astronauts inside to open their hatches, and then greet each other with zero-gravity hugs.

Kate Rubins, the NASA astronaut currently on the ISS, will be waiting to greet them.

“I have some great friends flying on that vehicle, so I’m going to be pretty happy to open the hatch and welcome them to the space station,” she told Business Insider.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins. 

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will also welcome Crew-1 to the space station.

The Crew Dragon will remain attached to the ISS for the astronauts’ entire stay there. The Resilience capsule has a new set of solar panels that are much more durable than the ones that flew with Behnken and Hurley. Those previous solar panels would have begun to degrade in the harsh radiation of space after just 110 days (that mission only lasted two months). Resilience, however, is certified to weather 210 days — nearly seven months — in space.

This may not be the only docking in the Crew-1 mission

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spaceship photographed by astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy while performing a spacewalk on July 1, 2020. 

In another major upgrade, Resilience is programmed with the ability to move itself to another of the four ports on the US section of the ISS, in order to make room for other incoming spaceships.

“It’s getting a little crowded in space. And that’s a really good thing,” NASA astronaut Suni Williams said in a Friday briefing.

Williams is set to fly on the first operational mission of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner — that company’s spaceship for astronauts, which was funded and designed through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as well. The Starliner is set to reattempt an uncrewed test flight to the space station in 2021, since the first test failed. That might require the Crew Dragon to move to a different port.

To relocate the spaceship, the crew will climb back in and run new software that should maneuver the Crew Dragon away from its original docking point, the Forward Port, and re-dock to the station’s Zenith Port.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

WATCH: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace skydived into the Daytona 500 with the Air Force

The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.

Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.


The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.

One way was a little skydiving.

The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.

Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.

After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”

Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.

Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC

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Now let’s get to the beautiful machine Wallace is driving.

Rain postponed the race after the 20th lap on Sunday until Monday, but the weather wasn’t the only thing that stopped the show.

Dale Earnhardt had his black #3, Jeff Gordon had his #24 rainbow car, and Richard Petty had the #43 STP with its iconic paint job.

Wallace will be racing the #43 too, but with a serious Air Force twist.

You know that A-10 Warthog? The one that makes that beautiful sound?

The paint job on Wallace’s #43 honors that plane.

While the pictures look great, to see it in motion shows the true beauty of this magnificent racing machine.

pic.twitter.com/YNIZlSQTbs

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Wallace added a few personal touches honoring recently deceased driver John Andretti and the victims of the recent helicopter crash in LA including one of his heroes, Kobe Bryant.

Awesome job to the Air Force, Richard Petty Racing, and Bubba!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how much ground ISIS has lost


  • ISIS territory reached its height in 2014, when the group controlled several major cities in Syria and Iraq.
  • By 2017, ISIS has lost control of its major strongholds, and now the terrorist group occupies only a small enclave in the desert.
  • Experts agree that although the group will lose its territorial holds, it will continue to “fester” as an insurgency and global terrorist network.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
This map from approximately April, 2015, shows who controlled what areas in Syria. ISIS is show in black. (Image Wikipedia)

Since ISIS made international headlines by invading Iraq from Syria in June of 2014, its territory has shrunken considerably.

The terrorist group’s steady loss of territory culminated in the fall of its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria last week.

Also read: Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

In October 2014, ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq was at its maximum. The radical Islamist group controlled land stretching from central Syria all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad including major cities like Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and Raqqa.

Although the region ISIS controlled was mostly desert, it encompassed an array of ethnic and religious groups, including Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Arabs. Many of the non-Sunni groups were the victims of targeted violence by ISIS, which perpetrated genocide against the Yazidis and Assyrians.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
This undated map shows a massive decrease in the territory controlled by ISIS. (Image Wikipedia)

The map of ISIS territory from October 2017 shows that the group has lost all of its major urban strongholds and is now confined to the sparsely-inhabited border territories between Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, experts say the sparse desert area that ISIS has fallen back on is part of the same Sunni-majority region that fueled its rise.

“When we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003 we created ungoverned space for Sunni Arabs in Iraq which then spilled over in nearby Syria,” Professor Robert Pape, who heads the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, told Business Insider. “The worry here is that as that area of Iraq and Syria now could remain ungoverned space from the perspective of the Sunni Arabs, this problem may just simply fester and continue.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Current area controlled by ISIS. (image wikipedia)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is sending 200 soldiers to combat US wildfires

The US Army is preparing to send hundreds of soldiers to fight the deadly wildfires raging in 11 states across the Western US.

Two hundred active-duty soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division’s 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state will be mobilized to assist in ongoing firefighting efforts, according to a statement from US Army North, which provides operational control for ground forces deployed in support missions during national disasters.


The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Pvt. 1st Class Jon Wallace, 3rd Platoon, 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade uses a fire extinguisher to put out a tire fire. The fire department offers classes to Army units to ensure that they are well trained in putting out mine resistant ambush protective vehicle fires during convoy operations.

(US Army)

The Army unit will be sent out as early as this weekend after a couple of days of training. The soldiers will be organized into teams of 20 members and deployed to combat fires in an unspecified area. The deployment location will be determined based on which area is in greatest need of assistance, a US Army North spokeswoman told Business Insider.

The 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion reportedly specializes in construction and demolition, skills that the unit has used in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Fox News. The soldiers will be “working side by side with civilian firefighters,” as well as experienced firefighting personnel from the wildlands fire management agencies, US Army North explained to BI, adding that the soldiers will be involved in activities like clearing brush or constructing fire breaks.

Prior to deployment, soldiers will learn fire terminology, fire behavior, and fire safety. They will also be issued personal protective gear, such as boots that will not melt on the fire line, masks, and so on. Once on the fire line, the soldiers will be given tools — axes, chainsaws, etc.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

“More than 127 wildfires are burning on about 1.6 million acres in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Alaska,” according to a statement from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho also announcing the deployment of US soldiers to combat the wildfires out west.

At least nine people have died in the wildfires spreading across the Western US, according to CBS News. President Donald Trumpdeclared the situation in California a “major disaster” Sunday, making it easier for local residents to secure access to much-needed government aid.

In many cases, the state National Guard units are already assisting state and federal agencies working tirelessly to put out the devastating wildfires. The US Army soldiers being sent to lend support are expected to be deployed for at least 30 days. The deployment could be cut short if necessary or extended, as long as doing so does not interfere with higher priority Department of Defense missions.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the Marine exercise in Syria to deter Russian attacks

Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.


The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.

Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.

“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.

Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.

Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.

The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.

The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.

The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.

Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds

Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.

During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 29

In Saudi Arabia, women are driving.


In America, women are graduating the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.

In Germany, women are being re-elected to their fourth consecutive term as Chancellor.

Ok, so America isn’t perfect but at least we didn’t elect HITLER, amirite?

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
This is literally the least offensive person I could put here. Bet you thought a Trump joke was coming.

You know what IS perfect? The invention of the meme. More specifically, memes from the veteran community. Here are the funniest we found this week.

1. Let’s start with the Coast Guard (said no one ever). (via Coast Guard Memes)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Now they can wear the same NWU but pretend they aren’t interchangeable.

2. It’s now fall, but it will soon be winter. Get ready.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Winter is coming.

3. Stay warm with Urban Outfitters new Air Force supply stores.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
No one’s a thief, we’re just trying to get our sh*t back.

4. The best part about Fall? Football is back!

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
I’m always in the beer line during the national anthem so I’ve never noticed who stood or sat. Or kneeled. Also, all of those guys look like the E-6s in my first unit.

5. And who’s looking forward to Thanksgiving?

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Pearl Jam has a song about this.

6. Maintainers will probably not get that holiday. Or many holidays. (via Maintainer Humor)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
I was a nonner and can also say this for my career.

7. Everyone gets more breaks than maintainers.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
I clearly don’t know what grunt life is like.

8. For the E-4s of the world, it’s quality over quantity. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Haters will say it’s photoshop.

9. But when you make NCO, Thursdays get more special.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
This is the title of my autobiography.

10. Also, I get the feeling my girl’s been cheating on me.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
We get that feeling too.

11. Isn’t it worth it just to wear the uniform?

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Some days. Not today. But some days.

12. Keep holding on to that dream.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Just ETS things.

13. For now, just do what you do best.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
And dip.

Articles

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

Articles

The destruction of these villages shows the complex calculus of the Afghan War

On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.


A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.

Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.

The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.

Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.

The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Photo: Youtube.com

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Photo: Youtube.com

No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)

Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.

Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.

NOW: ‘The Fighting Season’ nails the gritty realities of the Afghan War

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

Articles

Army Reserve captain killed in mass shooting at Orlando nightclub

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines
Antonio Davon Brown, a 29-year-old captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was one of 49 people who was killed in the shooting. | Photo courtesy Texas AM University


A U.S. Army Reserve officer was among those killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Antonio Davon Brown, 29, was a captain in the Army Reserve and slain in the attack Sunday at an Orlando nightclub, Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman at the Defense Department, confirmed in an interview with Military.com.

The Pentagon plans to release more details about Brown’s service record on Tuesday, according to Smith.

Brown was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while a student at Florida AM University.

“We are especially saddened by the news that one of the victims was part of the FAMU family,” the university said in a statement.

“29-year-old Antonio Davon Brown was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach, Florida and a member of ROTC during his time on the Hill. He graduated from FAMU in 2008 and is being remembered fondly by classmates and fellow alumni on social media. We will continue to update you about plans for a memorial or service of remembrance for alumnus Brown,” it said.

“In the meantime, the Florida AM University community stands with the entire Orlando community in the wake of tragedy,” the university said. “Our thoughts, and prayers for peace, are with everyone in central Florida and across this nation.”

The gunman was identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin. While he was apparently acting alone, he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead, including the gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, and another 53 injured. Several remain critically injured.

The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday morning at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community and lasted until around 5 a.m., when a SWAT team raided the building.

The shooting is also the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda militants crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

One Twitter user said she and Brown served in the same ROTC class and that he served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I can hardly breathe,” she tweeted. “I never thought any one of us from Class of 08 would die young. We all came back from war safely.

“He killed my friend, my battle buddy,” she said of the shooter. “CPT Antonio Brown survived Iraq and Afghanistan to die like this.”

She went on to describe an incident during her senior year. After she was unsuspectingly dropped from her parents’ health insurance, she got sick with the flu and passed out during class. Brown and his roommate carried her to his car and drove her four hours from Tallahassee to Fort Stewart, Georgia, so she could receive treatment from the Army.

“Antonio saved my life when no one else could be bothered to care,” she said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. could send more advanced weapons to Ukraine

The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.

In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”


Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.

In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”

Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.

“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.

Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.

Sea Defense

In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.

“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.

International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.

That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.

In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.

Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.

Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.

Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”

“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.

He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.

Changing U.S. Policy?

Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.

However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.

More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.

“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.

“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.

“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.

In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”

Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”

“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.

“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.

Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.