The Navy is accelerating deployment of an upgraded Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile designed to better enable the weapon to destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.
The missile, which has been in development by Raytheon for several years, draws upon new software, computer processing and active-seeker technology, which sends an electromagnetic ping forward from the weapon itself as a method of tracking and attacking moving targets. The electronic signals bounce off a target, and then the return signal is analyzed to determine the shape, size, speed, and contours of the enemy target. This technology allows for additional high-speed guidance and targeting.
The Navy’s acquisition executive recently signed rapid deployment paperwork for the weapon, clearing the way for prompt production and delivery, an industry source said.
“The seeker suite will enable the weapon to be able to engage moving targets in a heavily defended area,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kara Yingling told Scout Warrior. “The Maritime Strike Tomahawk enables the surface fleet to seek out and destroy moving enemy platforms at sea or on land beyond their ability to strike us while retaining the capability to conduct long-range strikes,” she said.
The active seeker technology is designed to complement the Tomahawk’s synthetic guidance mode, which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves, Raytheon’s Tomahawk Program Manager Chris Sprinkle said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
The idea is to engineer several modes wherein the Tomahawk can be retargeted in flight to destroy moving targets in the event of unforeseen contingencies. This might include a scenario where satellite signals or GPS technology is compromised by an enemy attack. In such a case, the missile will still need to have the targeting and navigational technology to reach a moving target, Sprinkle added.
An active seeker will function alongside existing Tomahawk targeting and navigation technologies such as infrared guidance, radio frequency targeting, and GPS systems.
“There is tremendous value to operational commanders to add layered offensive capability to the surface force. Whether acting independently, as part of a surface action group, or integrated into a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, our surface combatants will markedly upgrade our Navy’s offensive punching power,” Yingling said.
Rapid deployment of the maritime Tomahawk is part of an ongoing Navy initiative to increase capability and capacity in surface combatants by loading every vertical launch system cell with multimission-capable weapons, Yingling explained.
Tomahawks have been upgraded several times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight retargeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras, and a high-grade inertial navigation system, Raytheon officials said.
The current Tomahawk is built with a “loiter” ability allowing it to hover near a target until there is an optimal time to strike. As part of this technology, the missile uses a two-way data link and camera to send back images of a target to a command center before it strikes.The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.
The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.
The Navy is currently wrapping up the procurement cycle for the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk missile. In 2019, the service will conduct a recertification and modernization program for the missiles reaching the end of their initial 15-year service period, which will upgrade or replace those internal components required to return them to the fleet for the second 15 years of their 30-year planned service life, Yingling said.
“Every time we go against anyone that has a significant threat, the first weapon is always Tomahawk,” Sprinkle said. ” It is designed specifically to beat modern and emerging integrated air defenses.”
American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.
But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.
Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).
Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)
These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)
While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.
Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.
Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.
When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.
But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.
The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
…to scrub-covered plains…
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)
…to sandy deserts.
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)
To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.
The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.
The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)
U.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to more safely and efficiently deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.
The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million U.S Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, firm-fixed-price design, build and deliver contract with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electric Boat.
USSOCOM has a long-term goal to develop an affordable dry combat submersible system that satisfies current SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime mobility requirements,” a SOCOM spokesman said. “Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments.”
The pressure hull and motor of the User Operational Evaluation System 3, or UOES 3, have already been built and have undergone key tests, Electric Boat officials said. Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, according to mission systems and business development officials with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.
“Right now when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” an Electric Boat official said.
While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission- fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water. Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements.
It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.
The dry submersible was slated to undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Special Operations Command officials said.
The idea is to use UOES 3 progress as a “technology development” effort to prepare for what will become a more formal effort to build a dry semi-submersible for SEALs.
The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Electric Boat officials explained. The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.
Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, an Electric Boat official added.
“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.
One analyst said such a technology could bring great advantage to the SEALs.
“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.
There’s almost no way getting around it — if you’re serving in the US military, maintaining one’s physical fitness is a duty that you have to fulfill, unless you’d prefer to struggle to catch your breath.
Starting in the early 1800s, United States Military Academy (USMA) cadets neglected physical exercise and merely practiced military drills — even recreational activities were frowned upon. After realizing their mistakes, Congress and Army leaders sent officials to Europe to determine the best course for implementing a physical education program for their future officers.
Tasks within this new program included scaling a 15-foot wall without using tools, vaulting on a horse 15-hands high, leaping a ditch 10-feet wide, an 8-minute mile run, and a 3-mile march carrying a 20-pound knapsack in one hour. Also recommended in this new program was the ability to dive and remain underwater for 45-seconds.
Shortly after the Civil War, the USMA appointed its first pedagogically-trained instructor, Herman Koehler, as its “Master of the Sword.” As the new head of West Point’s Department of Physical Education, Koehler focused on gymnastics as a key element for fitness and brought into existence the first Army-wide training manuals for physical training in 1887.
In 1906, the Army then implemented its first unit-wide physical training program. Tasks included a weekly 12-mile march for the infantry and 18-miles for horse-mounted artillery and cavalry units. Even the President at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, was obsessed about starting a physical regimen for the military — as a sickly kid during his childhood, he developed a philosophy of strenuous exercise.
World War I then brought new fitness requirements for the Army — the first manual to identify quantifiable physical objectives was developed. This Individual Efficiency Test measured combat physical readiness with the following requirements: running 100 yards in 14 seconds, a 12-foot broad running jump, an unassisted 8-foot wall climb, throwing a hand grenade for 30 yards into a 10′ diameter circle, and an obstacle course run.
Shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US’ involvement in World War II, the US was seen as a complacent country that neglected physical activity due to the 20 years of peace and continued innovations to make life easier — over a third of the military’s inductees were considered to be in “miserable shape”, and half of them weren’t even able to swim well.
This proved to be a harrowing precursor to the landing of D-Day, when it was determined that a significant number of deaths were attributed to the fact that many servicemembers had drowned in waters that were 10-15 feet deep.
To address these inadequacies, in 1944, the Physical Efficiency Test Battery was created. This battery of tests included pull-ups, 20 seconds of burpees, squat jumps, push-ups, a 100-yard pig-a-back run, sit-ups, and a 300-yard shuttle run. Normative scales were included during this examination to provide participants with the added incentive to score higher and to incite a “competitive spirit” amongst themselves.
Finally, in the 1980s, testing requirements shaped into what it currently resembles within the Army. The gender-integrated Army Physical Readiness Test (APRT) evaluated soldiers on their ability to do push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run in that order, with 10-20 minutes of rest time between each event.
After receiving initial data on the results, research teams concluded that about 5% of soldiers should be able to score the maximum points allotted for the test. During the beginning of this era, there were no scoring standards for soldiers over the age of 40, and those that were only authorized to be tested on the 2-mile run.
Since then, there has been much debate with the current scoring system in the Army’s physical fitness test — many scorn the “corporate fitness” model and it’s detraction from its more combat-oriented roots. It remains to be seen if the Army implements a more functional assessment to meet the demands of today, such as the Marine Corps’ Combat Fitness Test.
Whichever way the Army decides to keep rolling along, you can be sure that servicemembers will be profusely sweating.
Donald Trump played Kim Jong Un a Hollywood-style video hyping the prospect of peace, which cast Kim as its leading man.
The video, which Trump made public later that day at a press conference, made a dramatic pitch for the benefits of peace between the two nations. You can watch the English version above.
The film, credited to “Destiny Pictures” drew on the “in a world” and “one man, one choice” framing of Hollywood action movies.
It labored the comparison further by including credits for Trump and Kim like Hollywood stars. The dramatic voiceover framed Kim as a potential “hero of his people” with the chance to achieve “prosperity like he has never seen.”
It includes a sweeping orchestral score, epic shots of earth from outer space, and horses galloping along the beach, interspersed with imagery of Kim and Trump.
According to President Trump, Kim “loved” the video, which he played in Korean to the North Korean leader and eight aides on an iPad at their private bilateral meeting.
Here is a transcript of the pivotal part of the video, which offers Kim the chance to “remake history.”
“A new world can begin today. One of friendship, respect and goodwill. Be part of that world, where the doors of opportunity are ready to be open: investment form around the world, where you can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources innovative technology and new discoveries.
“What if? Can history be changed? Will the world embrace this change? And when could this moment in history begin?
“It comes down to a choice. On this day, in this time, in this moment the world will be watching, listening, anticipating, hoping.
“Will this leader choose to advance his country, and be part of a new world? Be the hero of his people? Will he shake the hand of peace and enjoy prosperity like he has never seen?
“A great life, or more isolation? Which path will be chosen?
“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un… in a meeting to remake history. To shine in the sun. One moment, one choice. What if? The future remains to be written.”
Trump was asked a question about the video at the press conference, during which he said he commissioned the video as a way to sell peace to Kim.
“I showed it to him today, actually, during in meeting, towards the end of the meeting and I think he loved it. We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having, we didn’t need it because we had it on a cassette, an iPad, and they played it and about eight of their representatives were watching it and I thought they were fascinated by it.
“I thought it was well done, I showed it to you because that’s the future, I mean, that could very well be the future. The other alternative is just not a very good alternative, it’s just not good.
“But I showed it because I really want him to do something.”
He later said that the video showed a vision of “the highest level of future development,” and that North Korea could also opt for “a much smaller version of this.”
The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.
Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.
Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.
The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.
In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.
The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.
The US continues to suffer losses as well.
Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.
The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.
Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.
He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first landmark Pacific policy address, the newly installed PM said Australia will commit anew to the Pacific, setting up a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank to fund projects in the region and appointing a series of new diplomatic posts.
“Australia will step up in the Pacific and take our engagement with the region to a new level,” the prime minister said Nov. 8, 2018.
“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the southwest Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Morrison said.
Morrison announced new defense force mobile-training team, annual meetings of defense, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.
The centerpiece will be a billion AUD financial facility to help fund major regional projects while the existing export financing agency (EFA) will be boosted by another one billion dollars.
Referring to Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Morrison said the stability and economic progress of the Pacific region are of “fundamental importance,” and no single country can tackle the challenges on its own.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)
Morrison announced his Pacific Pivot ahead of a milestone meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asia-Pacific regional leaders next week at the APEC forum in Papua New Guinea.
Morrison said it was time Australia opened a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family.” “Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”
A familiar tone
In a speech that strongly echoed former US President Barack Obama’s “Asian Pivot” address in Canberra in 2011, Morrison outlined his own plan to project Australian soft power in an attempt to thwart China’s unchecked economic and industrial expansion across the Pacific over the last decade.
In a pretty unforgettable speech to Australia’s parliament on Nov. 17, 2011, Obama declared that “America is back!” “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all-in.”
That was about the zenith of the much-vaunted pivot, and at around exactly the same time China started to take its interests in the Pacific to a fresh intensity.
According to Reuters’ calculations, since Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” China has poured id=”listicle-2618687423″.3 billion in concessionary loans and gifts to almost instantly become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia.
Falling under Beijing’s influence
Today, China is the region’s biggest bilateral lender, although Australia’s significant aid programs mean it remains the largest financial backer in the South Pacific.
While China has always maintained a political stake in the region as part of its ongoing diplomatic chess battle with Taiwan, the sheer magnitude and speed of Chinese assistance eventually raised alarms and even hysteria among Western-aligned nations that the string of southern Pacific island states was very quickly falling under Beijing’s influence.
But if Australia’s backyard was finding itself over a Beijing barrel, then Morrison put his hand up for the first time to acknowledge that Australia and its major allies, the US foremost amongst them, wore some of the blame for that and had neglected the region for too long.
Australia, he said, had taken the Pacific and its nations “for granted.” Speaking from a military facility in Townsville where US troops are based, Morrison redrew the Pacific’s strategic importance to Australia’s foreign and defense policy.
Morrison promised closer economic, military and diplomatic ties in what will undoubtedly be seen from Beijing as a move to counter its efforts to drive its controversial One Belt, One Road initiative or in this case its 21st-century maritime silk road.
One Belt, One Road initiative. China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black.
Fortunately, Beijing won’t even have to pick up the phone with Morrison’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne already in Beijing heading up Australia’s first mission to China in several years after an extended diplomatic freeze out. “This is not just our region, or our neighborhood.
It’s our home,” Morrison said. Morrison flagged that the region requires around billion per year in investments up to 2030, adding, “It’s where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs.”But that is something China has been more than happy to help achieve.
Beijing has sewn up diplomatic relations with eight Pacific island countries, from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. (Others of course, recognize Taiwan.)
In the ten years between 2006 and 2016, The Lowy Institute a Sydney-based think tank, reckons Beijing has probably injected more than .3 billion into the region.
China has been more than happy to accommodate small nations such as Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands with concessional loans, criticized by many as overt “debt-trap diplomacy.”
Colombo’s failure to get on top of billion in debt repayments to Beijing’s state-owned enterprises has already given Beijing what many analysts consider a critically handy strategic toehold in Sri Lanka, in the port of Hambantota, including a 99-year-lease.
The port has idyllic views of the major Indian Ocean sea lanes. Elsewhere China is copping its first significant OBOR pushback out of the Asia-Pacific.
Malaysia is trying to find itself some wriggle room, preferably around perceived inequalities in the huge billion of China-originated infrastructure deals Kuala Lumpur has signed off on. Part of Australia’s appeal to the Pacific will be in aid and funding transfers that have traditionally not been about incurring trade deficits or weighty balance of payments crisis.
However, academics including James Laurenceson, deputy director of the Australia China Research Institute say that analysis of debt in the Pacific strongly suggests that the “debt-trap diplomacy” argument is without much foundation.
What is certain, however, is that over and above China’s bilateral aid programs across the pacific and its support for regional organisations, Beijing has been at pains to show it is a partner in good faith.
Beijing has backed and hosted major regional meetings, most recently in 2013, in which it announced a suite of aid measures to boost economic resilience and diplomatic engagement, while also providing strong support to regional organisations, most particularly the Pacific Islands Forum.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
China has provided generous scholarship programs for Pacific islands students and contributes significant human resources and training for pacific island government officials.
Johnny Koanapo Rasou, Vanuatu’s Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency, where China has been delivering badly needed road works and infrastructure, said in a press statement in 2017 that Vanuatu had its eyes wide open as China’s assistance becomes more and more evident.
“Our people are now learning more about China’s capability to positively contribute to our development aspirations.” “The manner in which the Chinese Government is delivering their aid to Vanuatu is different from the styles we are used to from New Zealand or Australia.
“But we must accept that all our development partners have different state structures. China is a communist state but it has created an enabling environment for its own citizens to flourish and therefore they themselves can go out and invest in other countries.”
League of debtor nations
However, according to Thomson Reuters almost half (49.08%) of Vanuatu’s external debt belongs to China. In August 2018, Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he hoped Pacific states could negotiate together to find a way out from under Beijing’s loans, before Tonga began to lose control of state assets as was happening in Sri Lanka.
Chinese loans make up more than 60% of Tonga’s total external debt burden. Another focus for Beijing has been the variety of resources available in loosely governed Papua New Guinea, which lays claim to the biggest Chinese debt, nigh on 0 million.
New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu all receive military aid from China. Fiji’s military leaders in particular have been welcoming of Chinese economic, military and strategic assistance.
China’s state media Xinhua has a quiet, but impactful bureau in Suva. While the US and its allies have been distracted with conflicts in the Middle East, China stepped up its military activities in the South Pacific. Chinese companies have sought and often secured access to strategic ports and airfields across many regional archipelagos.
According to Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist from Canterbury University, satellite interests are an important aspect to China’s surge into the South Pacific. “In 2018, China launched 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space.
Beidou-3 is China’s indigenous GPS, it provides missile positioning and timing and enhanced C4ISR capabilities for the Chinese military, as well as navigation services to more than 60 countries along the Belt and Road, including in Oceania.
Professor Brady said China’s mobile satellite station receiving station vessels regularly dock in Papeete (Tahiti) and Suva (Fiji), as do other quasi-military boats such as the Peace Ark and China’s well-equipped polar research vessels.
Brady a leading expert on Chinese investment in then pacific said many Pacific leaders now acknowledged China as “the dominant power in the region.”
“China’s strategic and military interests in the South Pacific build on longstanding links and fill the vacuum left by receding US and French power projection in the region, as well as Australia and New Zealand’s neglect of key relationships in the region.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among soldiers returning from war and cannot always be treated with medication or talk therapy, causing some organizations to turn to service dogs to provide support and emotional relief.
Jordan Covin, founder of The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, has a husband and brother that served in the U.S. Army. Neither one of her family members suffers from service-related illnesses, but she says that her proximity to them gives her a unique sense of empathy, which she uses to help others.
“We are a coalition of nonprofits that only work with military veterans and focus on meeting their specific needs with service dogs,” Covin said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “But it’s not only about the dog. The dog is just a tool. What we actually provide is a place where veterans can gather to share their feelings of isolation and alienation. We help create a sense of community and purpose, by bringing the right people together.”
Covin said that groups within her organization have become a network — sharing information and resources instead of competing against one another. She hopes to continue expanding the association, adding more groups who share her vision and goal.
In fact, the idea of using a service dog for psychiatric or emotional reasons is relatively new. Service dogs were originally tasked to perform physical functions for those were incapacitated, such as a seeing eye dog. Covin said that’s all changing now, thanks to a demand for more alternative treatments to address PTSD.
“We all know about dogs for blindness and injuries, but using dogs as a psychiatric tool is very new. It’s an alternative treatment program and that presents challenges. But the niche group that looks only at this and is specializing in this, we can push this into mainstream. It’s not alternative anymore. That is how we want to be seen,” she said.
Eighty-two percent of voters from military households where at least one member is active support the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll. These numbers show that once-taboo treatment methods are beginning to find their way into the mainstream. Covin hopes this will continue happening with service dogs.
“We hope to bring in some grant money for research — bring together a group of experts, and help refine a programmatic model for these veterans that serves their needs best, and maximizes the efficiency of their service dog,” she said.
The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday with several lawmakers that supported passing the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act. The bill has bipartisan support and, if passed, would allocate grant money to eligible organizations that pair service dogs with soldiers suffering from PTSD.
“Veterans have given enough and need to be treated with dignity, respect and honor — that’s what our association ensures,” Covin said.
Robert Wilkie, President Donald Trump’s’ nominee to become the next VA Secretary, said June 27, 2018, that he was against “privatization” of VA health care and would work to break the bureaucratic logjams on wait times and benefits appeals.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wilkie also rejected allegations that he supported “racially divisive” issues in his private life and in his past work as a staffer for conservative senators.
Wilkie said he had previously attended events of the Sons of Confederate Veterans involving the display of Confederate flags but said he “stopped doing any of those thing at a time when that issue became divisive.”
He said that former President Barack Obama had sent a wreath to a Southern heritage event, an episode noted in a Washington Post report.
Wilkie also dispute the charge that in the 1990s he marked up draft legislation calling for young women to finish high school before they qualified for welfare.
Wilkie, who was working at the time for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Lott and other staffers made changes in the legislation.
When asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, whether he believed women should have to graduate from high school to receive government benefits, Wilkie said, “that would never enter my mind.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Wilkie he expected his nomination to be confirmed, but added that Wilkie had worked for a “very racially divisive senator,” meaning the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.
“[And] you were appointed to this job by a very racially divisive president,” Brown said.
In his opening statement, Wilkie said that there were no excuses for failing to address the VA’s problems after Congress gave the department nearly $200 billion in funding and passed the VA Mission Act to overhaul and consolidate the VA Choice Program on private health care options for veterans.
Wilkie said he favored private and community care when the VA could not meet the needs of the veteran, but added that he was opposed to privatization and would keep the Veterans Health Administration fully funded.
If confirmed, Wilkie said his goal would be to make the VA more “agile and adaptive” to meet the needs of a changing veterans population.
“It is clear that the veterans population is changing faster than we realize,” he said. “For the first time in 40 years, half of our veterans are under the age of 65. Of America’s 20 million veterans, 10 percent are now women. The new generation is computer savvy and demands 21st Century service — service that is quick, diverse and close to home.”
Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, had been undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness when he was moved over to the VA in March 2018 as acting Secretary after Trump ousted then-VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Tensions between the US and Russia and increasing activity in the Arctic have drawn more attention to the countries’ otherwise quiet boundary in the high north.
The Bering Strait, between Alaska and Russia’s Far East, has long been an area of low tension and cooperation on matters like waterway management and fisheries enforcement. But expectations of increased commercial and military activity in the Arctic have raised the strait’s strategic profile.
“The Northwest Passage and the Northern Passage all link through one strategic waterway in the West, and that’s through the Bering Strait,” retired US Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser said at a Wilson Center event in October, referring to sea routes along the northern coasts of Canada and Russia, respectively.
“The issues that we’re facing and talking about in the GIUK Gap, you need to be very cognizant that they could also appear in the Bering Sea,” added Fraser, who led Alaska Command in the mid-2000s.
Fraser is not alone in that assessment. At a Senate hearing in March, the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael Gilday, said he expected the Bering Strait to be “strategically as important as the Strait of Malacca or the Strait of Hormuz.”
The US military has been active in those straits for years, but its activity in and around Alaska is increasing.
“I think we ought to pay a lot of attention to the Aleutians,” Fraser said at the October event. “They provide, really, a string across the approaches into the Bering, and as more and more strategic activity happens … through the northern approaches, the Aleutians are going to be a strategic and key terrain.”
The Air Force and Space Force will be “key contributors” to addressing issues that arise in the region, Fraser said.
Other service branches want to increase their training in Alaska, and lawmakers have pushed for more investment there.
The US Army Corps of Engineers recently approved plans to expand the port of Nome, on Alaska’s Bering coast. That “will not only help from a national-security perspective but … help [local communities] to reduce the cost of living,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said at another event in October.
‘Not so much about signaling’
Russia’s Far East and Arctic regions are sparsely populated, and after the Cold War the military infrastructure there deteriorated, but Moscow is refurbishing those facilities.
“The physical proximity to both Canada and Alaska … makes the Far Eastern flank of the Arctic as … important to the Russians as the European flank, or NATO flank, of the Arctic,” Alexey Muraviev, head of the Department of Social Sciences and Security Studies at Australia’s Curtin University, told Insider this summer.
The work includes expanding and upgrading airfields to handle strategic bombers and support all-weather operations, though Russia is “mindful of China” and concerns it may have about such activity near their shared border, Muraviev said.
Russia has renovated Arctic bases to support maritime operations along the Northern Sea Route and added new radars and other installations to detect an airborne attack. The easternmost Arctic radar facility is on Wrangel Island, just 300 miles from Alaska.
Russia’s Pacific Fleet has received a variety of new ships and has increased its exercises. A major naval drill in August led to close encounters between Russian ships and US fishermen near Alaska.
That was Russia’s first significant exercise in the region in some time, but it wasn’t clear if it was a response to US actions, according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a nonprofit research group.
“A lot of big Russian military exercises, it’s not so much about signaling,” Kofman told Insider. “It’s much more about them actually being able to do it … to mass forces, to exercise farther away from the actual naval bases.”
Kofman was skeptical that the Bering Strait would take on the same strategic significance as the GIUK Gap but said the sea lines of communication that run through it mean it would be important if the US pursues a sea-control strategy in a conflict, particularly one with China, which brands itself a “near-Arctic power” and is increasingly active there.
“China’s quite interested in the Arctic,” Kofman said, “and the United States is always interested not just in Russia but anywhere China gets interested.”
A camouflaged soldier almost invisible to the naked eye may light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which is why advanced thermal detection capabilities are among the greatest threats to the concealed warfighter.
Thermal imaging systems have the ability to detect a soldier’s infrared heat signature, light or electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum emitted by a warm body. These sensors can distinguish between a person’s body heat and the ambient temperature of their surroundings.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing,” an Army sniper previously told Business Insider, adding that “emerging technology by our near-peer enemies” is making it increasingly difficult for soldiers to hide.
Thermal detection “is dangerous to a sniper because you can’t hide from that,” he explained.
Agreeing with the sniper’s assessment, two masters of modern camouflage explained to BI why this particular threat is so difficult to defeat.
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
“The big thing here is physics,” retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy O’Neill, a consultant for HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. and the inventor of digital camouflage, said. “For a thermal signature, you are talking about energy at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s energy. Energy, we recall, cannot be created or destroyed.”
This principle, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, complicates everything.
“You can put a soldier inside a suit that traps the heat inside so that he can’t be seen, but he gets roasted inside,” O’Neill, who did his doctoral dissertation on camouflage, added. “The heat’s there.” The problem is figuring out what to do with the heat energy.
“It has to go somewhere somehow,” Guy Cramer, president and CEO of HyperStealth, told BI. “You either need to vent it or convert it to a non-detectable signal.” There are certain fabrics that will actually cool the body down, but it doesn’t eliminate the person’s heat signature altogether.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.
“You get outside the visible spectrum, and you do have problems,” O’Neill added. “Right now, almost all of the threats that we face have late-generation image intensification and thermal detection. It’s not an easy fix.”
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
“There are things you can do, but you are still up against physics,” the father of digital camouflage said. “So, almost anything you do to reduce a thermal signature is going to be high-tech and a little difficult for the soldier.” He said that there are some strides being made in this area, but it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will be a game-changer.
US Army scientists, for example, are researching new infrared obscurants, aerosol particles that block infrared light to obscure the warfighter on the battlefield. The service also put in a multi-million dollar order for Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS), a new kind of advanced camouflage specifically designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.
Cramer told BI that he is currently patenting an idea known as “quantum stealth,” a light-bending camouflage material able to bend the electromagnetic spectrum around a target to achieve multi-spectral invisibility. This technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated.
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
The Army’s top general revealed earlier this month that the service is pursuing new camouflage systems to better protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields, and thermal is a priority.
“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”
“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions, you can hit a target, so camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.
Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.
Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.
“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.
The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”
Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.
“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.
Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.
Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.
Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.
Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.
Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.
Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.
“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.
All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.
Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.
“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.
Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.
Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.
The Navy announced a deal Dec. 22 to pay International Shipbreaking a penny and the value of the ship’s scrap metal to take it away. It must make a five-month, 16,000-mile trip around South America because it can’t fit through the Panama Canal. Crosby Tugs of Golden Meadow, La., has been contracted to tow it.
A Navy spokesman confirmed to Military.com the ship would towed away on Thursday from Bremerton, Wash. The decommissioned ship will be dismantled in Brownsville, Texas.
As WATM’s Orvelin Valle previously reported, the Navy kept the Ranger on standby from 1993 to 2004 for possible reactivation until the carrier was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, and redesigned for donation. Unfortunately, no group put up the funding or plans to have the ship converted a museum or memorial during that time.
There was some effort made to try and save the ship, to include an online petition.
“We know that saving the USS Ranger would have significantly more far-reaching economic, historic and social benefits than scrapping it,” Michael B. Shanahan, a leader of the effort to save the ship, said in a statement. “This is our last chance to stop the loss of an irreplaceable cultural and historic asset.”