The Department of Defense confirmed to CNN that a test had taken place, but did not mention the result.
“The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii,” DoD spokesman Mark Wright told CNN.
If confirmed, the test would be the second time this year that the missile, made by Raytheon, failed to intercept its target during tests. The last failure happened in July of 2017, and was blamed on a sailor accidentally entering data that identified the target as a friendly, causing the missile to self-destruct.
Raytheon is developing the missile as part of a joint project between the US and Japan, which plans to install two of the systems on its mainland in order to defend against threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
The failure comes amid high tensions between the US and North Korea. Defense officials told CNN that they would not publicly discuss the failed launch, in part because of “sensitivities surrounding North Korea.”
The U.S. Army is accelerating a number of emerging counter-drone weapons in response to a warzone request from U.S. Central Command — to counter a massive uptick in enemy small-drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Theater has asked for a solution, so we are looking at what we can apply as an interim solution,” Col. John Lanier Ward, Director Army Rapid Equipping Force, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
New electronic warfare weapons, next-generation sensors and interceptors, and cutting edge improved targeting technology for the .50-Cal machine gun to better enable it to target enemy drones with more precision and effectiveness — are all key approaches now being pursued.
Ward said the Army is fast-tracking improved “slue-to-cue” technology, new sensors, and emerging radar-based targeting technology to give the .50-Cal more precision accuracy.
“Targeting is getting better for the .50-Cal…everything from being able to detect, identify and engage precise targets such as enemy drones,” Ward added.
In service for decades, the .50-Cal has naturally been thought of as largely an area weapon able to lay down suppressive fire, enabling troops to manuever and blanketing enemy targets with rounds. The weapon, of course, still has this function, which could seek to eliminate attacking drones. At the same time, technical efforts are underway to make .50-Cal targeting more precise, such that it could shoot down swarms of quadcopters or other commercially avail mini-drones configured for attack.
Precision-guided weaponry, such as JDAMs from the air, have been operational for decades. GPS-guided land weapons, such as Excalibur 155m artillery rounds or the larger GMLRS, Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems, have been in combat since 2007 and 2008; engineering comparable guidance for smaller rounds, naturally, is a much more challenging task.
Non-Kinetic EW approaches have already been used effectively to jam signals of ISIS drones by the Army and Air Force; Ward explained that these tactics would be supplemented by emerging kinetic options as well.
Various technical efforts to engineer precision guidance for the .50-Cal have been in development for several years. In 2015, a DARPA program called Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) demonstrated self-steering bullets to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots. DARPA’s website, which includes a video of a live-fire demonstration of the technology, states that EXACTO rounds maneuver in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. “EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits,” DARPA.mil states. Laser range-finding technology is a key element of EXACTO in order to accommodate for fast-changing factors such as wind and target movement; since the speed of light is a known entity, and the time of travel of a round can also be determined, a computer algorithm can then determine the exact distance of a target and guide rounds precisely to a target.
(DARPAtv | YouTube)Elements of the fast-tracked counter-drone effort, with respect to forward base protection, involves collaboration between the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the service’s program of record Forward Operating Base protective weapon — Counter-Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM).
Also, according to an article in Jane’s Defence, Orbital ATK is developing a range of new advanced medium-calibre ammunition variants drawing upon EXACTO-like technology for use with its 30/40 mm calibre MK44 XM813 and 30 mm calibre lightweight XM914 Bushmaster Chain Guns.
From Janes Defence: “The EXACTO effort has resulted in a guided .50 calibre round – equipped with real-time optical sensors and aero-actuation controls – that improves sniping performance in long-range, day/night engagements. The EXACTO system combines a manoeuvrable bullet with a complementary laser designator-equipped fire-control system (FCS) to compensate for weather, wind, target movement, and other factors that can reduce accuracy.”
C-RAM FOB Protection
C-RAM is deployed at numerous Forward Operating Bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and the system has been credited with saving thousands of soldiers’ lives and is now being analyzed for upgrades and improvements.
C-RAM uses sensors, radar and fire-control technology alongside a vehicle or ground-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire. As an area weapon, the Phalanx then fires thousands of projectiles in rapid succession to knock the threat out of the sky.
Engineers with Northrop Grumman integrate the Raytheon-built Phalanx into the C-RAM system; C-RAM was first developed and deployed to defend Navy ships at sea, however a fast-emerging need to protect soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired the Army to quickly adapt the technology for use on land; C-RAM has been operational on the ground since 2005.
Northrop developers are assessing new optical sensors, passive sensors and lasers to widen the target envelope for the system such that it can destroy enemy drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles. Engineers are also looking at new interceptor missiles to compliment the Phalanx, Northrop developers said.
The basis for integrating emerging technologies is grounded in a technical effort to construct the system with “open architecture” and workable interfaces able to accommodate new sensors and weapons. This hinges on the use of common IP protocol standards engineered to facilitate interoperability between emerging technologies and existing systems.
“Regardless of what is used to defeat the threat, we are looking at changing the sensors as technology evolves. You can also integrate new weapons as technology changes. In the future, we plan to have weapons talk to the interceptor,” said Sean Walsh, C-RAM project management, Northrop.
The rationale for these potential upgrades and improvements is grounded in the recognition of a fast-changing global threat environment. Drone technology and drone-fired weapons, for instance, are proliferating around the globe at a rapid pace – therefore increasing the likelihood that potential adversaries will be able to surveil and attack forward operating bases with a wider range of air and ground weapons, including drones. Army base protections will need to identify a larger range of enemy attack weapons at further distances, requiring a broader base of defensive sensors and weaponry.
Adding new sensors and weapons to CRAM could bring nearer term improvements by upgrading an existing system currently deployed, therefore circumventing multi-year developmental efforts necessary for many acquisition programs.
“There is some work being done to add missiles to the system through an enterprise approach,” Walsh said.
U.S. Army Specialist James Finn, B Battery, 2nd Bn 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, loads rounds into a Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar system at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Ben Santos, U.S. Forces Afghanistan public affairs)
Lasers Missile Interceptors
Northrop’s plan to develop ground-fired laser technology is consistent with the Army’s current strategy to deploy laser weapons to protect Forward Operating Bases by the early 2020s.
Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.
Other interceptor weapons are now being developed for an emerging Army ground-based protective technology called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023, senior service leaders say.
Army weapons testers have already fired larger interceptors and destroyed drones with Hellfire missiles, AIM-9X Sidewinder weapons and an emerging kinetic energy interceptor called Miniature-Hit-to-Kill missile. The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and the AGM-114 Hellfire missile are typically fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily and air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.
Made by Lockheed Martin, the Miniature Hit-to-Kill interceptor is less than 2.5 feet in length and weighs about 5 pounds at launch. It is designed to be small in size while retaining the range and lethality desired in a counter-RAM solution. As a kinetic energy interceptor destroying targets through a high-speed collision without explosives, the weapon is able to greatly reduce collateral damage often caused by the blast-fragmentation from explosions.
Integrated Battle Command System
The Army has been testing many of these weapons using a Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML — a truck-mounted weapon used as part of Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2; the system uses a Northrop-developed command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.
IBCS uses a netted-group of integrated sensors and networking technologies to connect radar systems — such as the Sentinel — with fire-control for large interceptors such as Patriot Advanced Capability – 3 and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.”If I lay down my sensors, I can see any kind of attack coming from those origins to take kill vectors as far forward as possible. If an enemy has a cruise missile, I want to kill them over the top of the enemy,” said Kenneth Todorov, Director, Global Air and Missile Defense, Northrop Grumman.
With IBCS, sensors can be strategically placed around a given threat area or battlespace to optimize their detection capacity; IBCS is evolving more toward what Pentagon strategists called “multi-domain” warfare, meaning sensors from different services can interoperate with one another and pass along target information.
While some of the networking mechanisms are still being refined and developed, the idea is to enable ship-based Aegis radar to work in tandem with Air Force fighter jets and ground-based Army missile systems.
Synergy between nodes, using radio, LINK 16 data networks and GPS can greatly expedite multi-service coordination by passing along fast-developing threat information. IBCS, an Army program of record, uses computer-generated digital mapping to present an integrated combat picture showing threat trajectories, sensors, weapons and intercepts, Todorov explained.
C-RAM utilizes several kinds of radar, including an upgraded AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Radar which, operating at a 90-degree angle, emits electromagnetic pings into surrounding areas as far as 50-kilometers away. The radar technology then analyzes the return signal to determine the shape, size and speed of an attacking enemy round on its upward trajectory before it reaches it full height.
The AN/TPQ-37, engineered by ThalesRaytheon, has been completely redesigned, incorporating 12 modern air-cooled power amplifier modules, a high-power RF combiner and fully automated transmitter control unit, according to ThalesRaytheon information.
“Radar Processor Upgrade The new radar processor combines the latest VME-64x architecture and full high/low temperature performance with AN/TPQ-37 Operational and Maintenance software programs. Containing only three circuit cards, maintenance and provisioning are simplified while overall reliability and power consumption is improved,” ThalesRaytheon data explains.
Army “Red-Teams” Forward Operating Bases
Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Forward Operating Bases.
The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, senior Army leaders said.
The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.
“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.
This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or deployed.
Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies.
They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Army leaders explained.
Results from these exercises figure prominently in planning for weapons upgrades and modernization efforts such as the current C-RAM effort; technologies added to a weapons system can be tailored to address a specific vulnerability which could emerge as enemy weapons become more advanced.
Major Power War New Army Doctrine
Upgrades to C-RAM, along with development of emerging launchers and interceptors, are fundamental to a broader Army strategic equation aimed at engineering weapons and technologies able to succeed in major-power, force-on-force mechanized warfare against a near peer.
Forward bases will no longer need to defend only against insurgent-type mortar attacks but may likely operate in a much higher-threat environment involving long-range, precision-guided ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drone-fired weapons, among other things.
New sensors, laser weapons and more capable interceptors, such as those being explored by Northrop, are being evaluated for both near term and long-term threats.
The Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in what many Pentagon planners call contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyberattacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping.
The Army recently unveiled a new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China – able to substantially challenge U.S. military technological superiority.
It is intended as a supplement or adjustment to the Army’s current Field Manual, Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This field manual for operations, which looks at where we are and where we are going. You cannot view the current force as the only answer. Things are evolving and you do not want to wait for some perfect end state,” Smith said.
When it comes to land combat, the renewed doctrine will accommodate the current recognition that the U.S. Army is no longer the only force to possess land-based, long-range precision weaponry. While JDAMs and GPS-guided weapons fired from the air have existed since the Gulf War timeframe, land-based precision munitions such as the 155m GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to hit 30 kilometers emerged within the last 10 years. This weapon first entered service in 2007, however precision-guided land artillery is now something many potential adversaries now possess as well.
While the emerging “operations” doctrine adaptation does recognize that insurgent and terrorist threats from groups of state and non-state actors will likely persist for decades into the future, the new manual will focus intently upon preparedness for a fast-developing high-tech combat environment against a major adversary.
Advanced adversaries with aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft, emerging hypersonic weapons, drones, long-range sensors and precision targeting technology presents the U.S. military with a need to adjust doctrine to properly respond to a fast-changing threat landscape.
For instance, Russia and China both claim to be developing stealth 5th generation fighters, electronic warfare and more evolved air defenses able to target aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at much farther distances. Long-range, precision guided anti-ship missiles able to target U.S. carriers at ranges up to 900 miles present threat scenarios making it much harder for U.S. platforms to operate in certain areas and sufficiently project power.
In addition, the Army’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) is a GPS-guided rocket able to destroy enemies at ranges up to 70 kilometers; the kind of long-range land-fired precision evidenced by GMLRS is yet another instance of U.S. weapons technology emerging in recent years that is now rivaled by similar weapons made my large nation-state potential adversaries. GMLRS warheads are now being upgraded to replace cluster munitions with a unitary warhead to adhere to an international anti-cluster munitions treaty.
Drones, such as the Army’s Shadow or Gray Eagle aircraft, are the kind of ISR platforms now similar to many technologies currently on the global marketplace.
All of these advancing and increasingly accessible weapons, quite naturally, foster a need for the U.S. to renew its doctrine such that it can effectively respond to a need for new tactics, concepts, strategies and combat approaches designed for a new operational environment.
The new manual will also fully incorporate a fast-evolving Pentagon strategy referred to as “multi-domain” warfare; this is based upon the recognition that enemy tactics and emerging technologies increasingly engender a greater need for inter-service, multi-domain operations.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, in the case of Charlynda Scales, when life gives you a secret sauce recipe, you make sauce and build a company.
While serving in the Air Force, Charlynda’s grandfather invented a sauce that he’d use on every meal, but he never got to see it bottled and sold in stores. To honor her grandfather’s legacy, Charlynda built a business using his secret recipe — and she’s helping a lot of people in the process.
Above, Charlynda Scales in her Air Force dress blues.
Born in 1981 in Cookeville, Tennessee, Charlynda lived with her family in a small home in the countryside. Her family ignited her passion for serving others and propelled her into pursuing a higher education. She holds a degree in Aerospace Science and Business Management from Clemson University, along with an MBA in Strategic Leadership. You could say that her family is the beacon that guided her down the path to the eventual creation of Mutt’s Sauce, LLC.
Charlynda joined the Air Force in 2004 as a 63A, Program Manager. She obtained the rank of Captain and switched over to the Reserves in 2015, presently still serving as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee. When she got out of active duty, she focused on growing her business.
Charlynda’s grandfather is on the label of every bottle of Mutt’s Sauce.
Mutt’s Sauce was born out of the memory of Charlynda’s grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr. who was also an Air Force veteran that served in Vietnam and the Korean War as a crew chief. Charlie earned the name “Mutt” because of his ability to fit in anywhere he went. Considering that Mutt’s Sauce has been dubbed “the sauce for every meal,” it’s safe to say Charlie’s reputation lives on as part of the company.
To the surprise of Charlynda, after her grandfather’s passing, she was the one in her family entrusted with the knowledge of the secret recipe. Her mother revealed the recipe to her in 2013, and Charlynda was inspired to bottle it and share his legacy with the world.
Charlynda Scales poses with Bob Evan’s after winning the 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest.
(Bob Evans Farms)
Mutt’s Sauce has already started to carve out a name for itself by winning the Bob Evan’s Farms’ 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest. Not only has Scales successfully bottled her Grandfather’s secret recipe, but she has memorialized his values of serving others and continues to propel forward in the business world.
Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.
Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.
I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.
In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.
Enter Team Cobra
A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army. They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.
Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece. Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.
Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.
Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.
Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them. I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.
When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.
In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and some of them are there today.
I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.
The Medal of Honor awarded to Pvt. Thomas Kelly was sold for 14,000 Euros by auction house Hermann-Historica. (Screengrab from LiveAuctioneers.com)
A Medal of Honor awarded to an Army infantryman for heroism during the Spanish-American War has been sold for $14,000 euros, or nearly $15,500, a Munich-based auction house confirmed Thursday.
The sale comes after advocates including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and the National Medal of Honor Museum staged a late campaign to stop the auctioning of the medal, saying it damaged the dignity of the nation’s highest award for combat valor. It belonged to Pvt. Thomas Kelly, who earned it in 1898 while fighting in Santiago, Cuba.
But the German auction house Hermann-Historica, which is not bound by U.S. law, went through with the sale. The listing site shows just one bid; the medal ultimately went for four times the starting bid of 3,000 euros.
Bernhard Pacher, managing director of Hermann-Historica, told Stars and Stripes that he had previously sold four Medals of Honor, and added that the seller was a private individual “looking to beef up his pension.”
Reached for comment Thursday, a Hermann-Historica employee confirmed the medal’s sale but asked that further queries be sent by email. An emailed query did not receive an immediate response.
While the sale and barter of the Medal of Honor is illegal in the U.S., the law is not binding on international sellers.
Dave Knaus, a spokesman for the National Medal of Honor Museum, told Military.com that the museum is looking into who bought the medal and contemplating future steps. He said the museum is currently compiling historical data on other medals that have gone missing or changed hands.
Efforts to locate a surviving relative of Kelly, who died in 1920, had not been successful, Knaus said.
According to Kelly’s medal citation, he “gallantly assisted with the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and while under heavy fire from the enemy.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of conflict between his army and U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon — prompting a warning from the Pentagon.
In an interview with Russia’s RT television on May 31, 2018, Assad asserted that he is willing to negotiate with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are allied with and embedded with U.S. forces and currently hold about one-quarter of Syria’s territory.
But he said he will reclaim their territory by force, if necessary.
“The only problem left in Syria is the SDF,” Assad told RT, adding he sees “two options” for solving the “problem.”
“The first one: We started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians, supposedly they like their country. They don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said in English.
“We have one option: to live with each other as Syrians. If not, we’re going to resort…to liberating those areas by force.”
Assad added that “the Americans should leave.” He said Washington should learn a “lesson” from its experience in Iraq.
“People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.
Assad’s threat to use force against U.S. allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.
“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, said at a press conference in Washington on May 31, 2018.
The U.S. State Department also said that while Washington is not seeking conflict with Syria, it would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces, which have teamed up to fight Islamic State militants in the region.
In the RT interview, Assad responded sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent description of him as an “animal,” saying, “What you say is what you are.”
Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad’s forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million abroad as refugees.
After regaining control of Syria’s two largest cities — Aleppo and Damascus — Assad this spring set his sights on areas in the country that remain outside his control and in rebel hands.
The Kurdish militia group SDF that is backed by the United States holds the largest area of Syrian territory outside government control, but it has tried to avoid direct clashes with the government during the multisided war.
Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the SDF, said in response to Assad’s comments that a military solution would “lead to more losses and destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people.”
The SDF wants a “democratic system based on diversity, equality, freedom, and justice” for all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, he said in a voice message to Reuters.
Assad in the RT interview also sought to minimize the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria. Israel, which is alarmed by what it claims is a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, has recently destroyed dozens of military sites that it claimed were occupied and used by Iranian forces and Hizbullah militias.
But Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to a May 10, 2018 air strike by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent Britain-based war-monitoring group, has said at least 68 Iranians and pro-Iranian forces have been killed in Israeli air strikes since April 2018.
The venerable Vietnam-era OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopters have done the job as the valued eyes and ears of the Army‘s 82nd Airborne Division, but today’s more complex battlefields demand the switchover to AH-64 Apaches, Col. Erik Gilbert said Monday.
In a telephone conference from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Gilbert, commander of the 82nd Airborne’s Combat Aviation Brigade, said the Army’s “last pure Kiowa Squadron,” now deployed to South Korea, is preparing for the switch.
When the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, returns to Fort Bragg early next year, the Kiowas will likely be available for foreign sales; some will be put in storage; and others may go to the National Guard, Gilbert said.
“This rotation will be the final Kiowa Warrior Squadron mission in the Army,” Gilbert said of the South Korea deployment. He praised the Kiowa’s versatility but said the Apache has more speed, durability and firepower, and “is just a far more capable platform.”
However, Gilbert acknowledged that the Apaches still can’t match the speed at which the smaller and lighter Kiowas can be deployed to a remote airfield and be in the air to provide cover and reconnaissance for ground troops.
Kiowas can go aboard C-130 Hercules aircraft and be in the air within a half hour of landing, Gilbert said, while the bigger and heavier Apaches aboard a C-17 Globemaster take three hours.
The difference, Gilbert said, is that the Kiowas can simply be pushed off the C-130 while the Apaches have to be winched out of the C-17 and “their blades fold up a little differently.”
“No other unit in the Army is capable of such rapid night-time employment of AH-64 Apaches,” Gilbert said, but “frankly, I think we can get faster.”
The great advantage of the Apaches will be their ability to marry up with expeditionary Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to provide commanders with more battlefield options.
“The UAS is a game-changer for us,” Gilbert said. The 82nd Airborne currently has the RQ-7 Shadow UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, which can be controlled by an Apache crewman to survey enemy positions and relay information to ground forces.
For commanders, “it gives them another data source,” Gilbert said.
In the coming months, the Combat Aviation Brigade also will be acquiring the MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS, similar to the Predator UAV, which has greater range, Gilbert said.
Against more advanced enemies, the Apaches tend to loiter low to avoid enemy radar, making it “harder for them to pick out targets,” Gilbert said, but the UAVs can provide that intelligence at less risk.
The transition from the Kiowa to the Apache was part of the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative, a five-year plan aimed at retiring “legacy systems” to make way for newer technologies.
The Kiowa first flew in 1966 and was used extensively from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kiowas first came to Fort Bragg in 1990.
A Pentagon official is urging Taiwan to boost its defense spending and “modernize its military” in the face of Beijing’s growing military prowess.
David Helvey, the US principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs said at a conference in Anapolis, Maryland, that the island “must have resources to modernize its military and provide the critical material, manning and training needed to deter, or if necessary defeat, a cross-strait invasion,” the South China Morning Post reported.
The official also took a shot at China for what they said was an attempt to “erode Taiwan’s diplomatic space in the international arena while increasing the frequency and scale of [The People’s Liberation Army] activity.”
“Taiwan’s current efforts will falter,” he warned, unless Taipei increases its military spending and improves its readiness for direct confrontation.
Helvey’s comments will be seen by many as a direct response to China’s President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping who told the command which oversees the tense South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war.“
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China’s Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe also warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded on Oct. 31, 2018, to enhanced exchanges between the US and Taiwan.
“China is firmly opposed to any forms of official exchanges and military contacts between the US and Taiwan,” he said, calling on the US to “stop its official exchanges and military contacts with Taiwan, and stop selling arms to Taiwan.”
Beijing has taken a strong stance against official US contact and arms sales to Taiwan. While the US has no formal ties with Taiwan it remains Taipei’s strongest ally and sole foreign arms supplier, including the approval of a 0 million arms sale in September 2018.
Ryan Pickrell contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the men accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in England has been identified as a high-ranking member of Russia’s intelligence service.
The UK in early September 2018 accused two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the names were most likely aliases.
Ruslan Boshirov, one of the men accused of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
According to Bellingcat, throughout his career, Chepiga had been given multiple rewards for his services, including the title of Hero of the Russian Federation — the highest award in the state, typically given by the president to a handful of people in a secret ceremony, according to the BBC.
It suggests Putin was aware of Chepiga’s identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were.
Bellingcat’s findings also cast doubt on Russia’s claims that Boshirov and Petrov were civilians and that the government had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.
The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.
May has also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, called Bellingcat’s findings “a new portion of fake news.”
Surveillance footage of Alexander Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day Skripal collapsed.
Zakharova said on Facebook, according to a translation by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency, “There is no evidence, so they” — the UK — “continue the information campaign, the main task of which is to divert attention from the main question: ‘What happened in Salisbury?'”
The UK has issued international arrest warrants for the two men, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement to Business Insider. However, Russia does not extradite its nationals.
Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defense secretary, appeared to confirm Bellingcat’s findings in a tweet on Sept. 26, 2018 that he appears to have later deleted.
“The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel,” he wrote. “I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.”
A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense told Business Insider that Williamson’s tweet, which was posted on his constituency’s account, was unrelated to his role as defense secretary. Williamson’s constituency office did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The British Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office, and Metropolitan Police all declined to comment on Bellingcat’s findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Air Force used the results from a 2015 US Army test of commercial magazines to make its decision to replace Army magazines with Magpul’s Gen 3 PMAG, according to Air Force officials.
The Air Force put out guidance in July that all government-issued M16/M4 magazines – including the Army’s new Enhanced Performance Magazine – will be replaced by the Magpul PMAG. The announcement occurred in the “USAF AUTHORIZED SMALL ARMS and LIGHT WEAPONS ACCESSORIES (as of 28 July 17).”
Military.com asked the Air Force how it came to the decision to choose the PMAG, and it sent the following response:
“When pursuing any capability based requirement, and before conducting any tests, the Air Force will first work closely with our joint partners to see if they have conducted any testing,” said Vicki Stein, a spokeswoman for Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
“In this instance, we utilized the US Army Aberdeen Test Center’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines to make our decision.”
Military.com contacted Program Executive Office Soldier for comment on this but has not received a response yet.
In May, the Army announced it was planning to evaluate how well the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines perform using a polymer magazine as part of a Solder Enhancement Program project that was approved in February, according to Army weapons officials at the NDIA’s Armaments Systems Forum.
What is interesting is that the Army test report on commercial magazines that the Air Force used to make its decision is dated Jan. 2015, according to Stein. US Army TACOM didn’t unveil its new Enhanced Performance Magazine until 2016.
The Air Force should be commended for using the Army’s existing test data rather than conducting a redundant test to make its decision.
The question that remains unanswered is why didn’t the Army come to the same conclusion as the Air Force and choose the PMAG when it appears that the service’s own test data shows the PMAG as the top performer.
Soldiers have used PMAGs in their weapons in combat for years because of their proven reliability.
Marine Corps Systems Command in December released a message which authorized the PMAG polymer magazine for use in the M27 infantry automatic rifle as well as in M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine.
Air Force officials did say that the Army Enhanced Magazine is also still authorized for use.
But the Air Force guidance on magazines states that 1005-01-615-5169 (Black) and 1005-01-659-7086 (Tan) Magpul – Gen 3 Polymer Magazine with window will replace 1005-01-630-9508 through attrition. The 1005-01-630-9508 is the Enhanced Performance Magazine (tan mag w/blue follower) the latest US Army magazine.
The PMAG will also replace 1005-01-561-7200 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (tan follower) and 1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (green follower), the document states.
There’s always a certain tension when two servicemen meet for the first time. The nature of the tension often varies based on branch, job, and life experience. One might reasonably expect a grunt, for instance, to size up another grunt, the tension of two warriors vying for dominance. When fellow Havok Journal denizen and POG Paul and I met up to discuss life, the universe, and the peculiarities of Fort Bragg, the tension was less caveman and more tired old men trying not to pick up hepatitis at any of Fayetteville’s fine dining establishments.
As tends to happen when two writers meet, the conversation meandered around, covering everything from sports (if you think men are less emotional than women, wait til football season) to observations on military culture. Paul had one observation in particular that, try as I might, I was utterly unable to refute.
When you get down to it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the apocryphal hipster and the GWOT vet.
Think about it for a moment. Beards- check. Tattoos- check. Insular culture that seems strange and unwelcoming to the outsider- check. Highly specific and objectively strange tastes in fashion (clothing, haircuts, etc)- check.
The only real differences are the typical veteran’s penchant for guns and hyper masculine attitude. Both communities eat some weird-ass food. Which is more strange, Mongolian Tex-Mex fusion, or dumping a bunch of MRE entrees in a pot and drowning it in Texas Pete? Both communities tend to enjoy things ironically. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen a bunch of dudes blasting Katy Perry in the motor pool, dancing, and lip-syncing their little hearts out.
I had the dubious privilege of being dragged through the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn a few months back, and I have to say, I was reminded of nothing so much as a trip to the PX on Bragg. Swap out T-shirts proclaiming one’s status as a sheepdog for highwater jeans and up the average muscle mass by about 30% and you’d hardly be able to tell the difference.
And as much as the veteran community likes to rag on hipsters for being whiny and entitled, we’re just as bad, when you get right down to it. Attack any one of our sacred cows and we come out in force, screaming and hollering and slinging mud at anyone who dares disrespect us.
And yet, despite our vast collection of similarities, the veteran community and hipster community more or less hate each other. To the hipster, the average veteran is an uncultured killer who is just a swastika away from being a Nazi. To the veteran, the average hipster is an emasculated crybaby who’s just a stubbed toe away from dissolving into tears and blaming Trump for hard surfaces.
Where does all this hate come from?
There’s a phenomenon known as the narcissism of small differences. The term was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917 to describe the reason why similar communities so often find themselves at each other’s throats. We’ll gloss over the psychobabble and get down to the meat of the matter: In order to preserve a sense of uniqueness, communities often become hypersensitive to the little things that separate them from other groups. By exaggerating the differences and attacking them, individuals and groups can maintain their sense of identity in the face of overwhelming similarities.
This phenomenon has been witnessed time and time again over the centuries. Ever wonder why two tribes who live a short distance away from each other and have broadly similar cultures and beliefs have so often tried to kill each other? That’s why. They get all hung up on the little things, and the next thing you know, Catholics and Protestants spend a couple centuries tearing Europe apart in war after war.
In this case, hipsters and veterans have been locked in a culture war for the last decade. Only, the veterans have won. Hipsters don’t really exist anymore, outside of a few enclaves like Williamsburg, or in the fevered ranting of veteran Internet personalities. Veteran culture has swelled and expanded, united by a common experience provided by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and empowered by the World Wide Web.
We have all but supplanted hipsters in modern society, and in the process, we’ve become the new hipsters. We have stared into the abyss, and the abyss gave us a sense of entitlement and way, way too much beard.
The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.
The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.
“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.
“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.
Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.
Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.
Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.
The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.
If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”
The first female recruits at Recruit Training Command were issued their new enlisted white hats, or Dixie cups, as part of the Navy’s efforts for uniformity in service members’ uniform, April 4.
While the rest of the enlisted female E1-E6 Sailors have until Oct. 31 to begin wearing their Dixie cups, the recruits at the Navy’s only boot camp have already begun to do so as per NAVADMIN 236/15.
The Navy redesigned several uniform elements for Sailors that improve uniformity across the force as well as improve the function and fit of their uniforms. The changes will eventually make uniforms and covers more gender neutral.
“This feels incredible as we are making a part of history,” said Seaman Recruit Madeleine Bohnert, of St. Louis, Missouri, as she tried on her cover. “It’s really awesome how something as simple as our cover is so symbolic in regards to equality and the uniformity in the military. It’s a sense of pride knowing that we are a part of getting the first Dixie cups.”
During uniform issue, the female recruits lined up wearing their new covers as their Recruit Division Commanders ensured they were being properly worn.
As Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, RDC, helped adjust her recruits’ covers for proper fitting, she instructed those with longer hair in braids or buns how to make correct adjustments to accommodate the Dixie cup.
“We’re already part of a team and this just promotes it in a better way,” said Floyd. “Junior enlisted males and females already wear the same dress white uniform so this way when we get into the same dress blues uniform we’ll look more as a unit.”
The Alternative Combination Cover (ACC) and current male combination cover for officers and chief petty officers can now be worn by both men and women in service dress uniforms. All officers and chiefs will be required to wear the ACC Oct. 31.
“I am very excited to be one of the first females to be given the opportunity to wear the Dixie cup, and I believe we’ve come really far as a country and as a service,” said Seaman Recruit Maria Frazier, of Springfield, Ohio. “I think it’s really beneficial because as we work side by side, we have to work as a team. For me, it’s important that as we’re working together, we look uniform so we can work in uniform.”
The Dixie cup will match the recently redesigned Service Dress Blue uniforms in jumper style for both men and women, beginning Oct. 1.
The jumper will incorporate a side zipper and the slacks will have a front zipper to help with changing in and out of uniform. This will be the eventual end of the female version of the “crackerjack” uniform with a jacket and tie for female petty officers and junior Sailors.
“I feel that females have been performing to the standard equal to their male counterparts, and right now, with these new covers, we look more as a team,” said Floyd.