The United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan and stop listening to “stooges” in Kabul, the Taliban warned in an open letter to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a regional strategy that could include nearly 4,000 additional US troops, part of a NATO-led coalition, that have been requested by commanders in the country.
That plan has faced skepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the English-language letter released to media and addressed to Trump.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a US-led military operation in 2001.
In the lengthy statement, the Taliban criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who are providing Washington with overly optimistic “rosy pictures” of the situation in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the statement said, while arguing that the only thing preventing the insurgents from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The statement also took aim at generals, who the Taliban said “are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled” soldiers.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the letter said. “A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces.
Powerful voices in the US government, including Republican Senator John McCain, have also called for an “enduring” US military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban letter concludes by saying the conflict could be resolved by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
By now you’ve more than likely heard the news that there was a soldier who fell into the Kilauea volcano. His identity hasn’t been made public, and it’s probably for the best. What is known is that he ignored all of the railings and safety protocols put in place that normal tourists follow, and then he fell 70 feet into the pit.
Before everyone starts worrying about volcano safety briefs coming soon to your obviously volcano-free installation, just know that the only bit of information that we know of him is that he was an officer. Which makes absolute sense and I’m going to go out on a limb and imply that he was the type of officer who wouldn’t go to weekend safety briefs anyways.
Well. The Hawaii County Fire Department chief has said that “He obviously is doing remarkably well for his fall; only time will tell what injuries he has.” So knowing that he’s not in any grave danger – that opens the door for any and all ridicule! Because it takes a certain type of ASVAB-waiver to commission someone who’s willing to look at all of the signs saying it’s a freaking volcano and all the railings around said volcano only to say “This selfie will look cool as f*ck on my Instagram!”
Anyways. Here are some memes to help you get over the added section to every single troops’ safety brief this weekend about using common sense around active pits of boiling lava.
The US has been steadily ratcheting up the pressure on China’s sea forces in a way that could lower the threshold for conflict in the South China Sea, already a hotbed of tension and dispute.
The US is signaling a tougher stance toward the Chinese maritime militia, a paramilitary sea force disguised as a fishing fleet and known to harass foreign rivals to enforce China’s vast sovereignty claims in the contested waterway.
The Chinese maritime militia “thrives within the shadows of plausible deniability,” according to Andrew Erickson, a leading expert at the US Naval War College, but it can no longer hide like it once could.
The Department of Defense first called attention to the maritime militia in its 2017 report on China’s military power. The report explained that China uses its commercial fishing fleet to engage in gray-zone aggression, “to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes)
It wasn’t until this year, though, that the US really began putting pressure on the militia forces.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson warned his Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Beijing in January 2019 that the US Navy will treat coast guard and maritime militia vessels as combatants and respond to provocations the same way it would a Chinese navy ship, the Financial Times reported.
In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly assured the Philippines that the US would come to its defense in the event that it was attacked in the South China Sea. “Any armed attack,” the secretary explained, “on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim clarified the earlier assurances on June 14, 2019, telling reporters that US security guarantees apply to potential acts of aggression by the Chinese maritime militia.
“Any armed attack, I would think that would include government-sanctioned militias,” the ambassador explained, according to The Philippine Star. He did not say what type of behavior would constitute an “armed attack.”
The increased pressure is intended to change China’s strategic calculus in the disputed waterway, experts argue.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
“By injecting greater uncertainty about how the US will respond to China’s grey-zone coercion,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Financial Times, “the US hopes to deter Chinese destabilizing maritime behaviour, including its reliance on coast guard and maritime militia vessels to intimidate its smaller neighbours.”
At the same time, it potentially makes it easier for a lower-level dispute between China and its neighbors to escalate, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding both the US deterrence posture and the role of the maritime militia.
Incidents involving Chinese fishing vessels, potential members of the maritime militia, are frequent occurrences in the South China Sea. It is unclear exactly what kind of incident might trigger US defense obligations.
For instance, in April 2019, more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels allegedly swarmed Thitu Island, a Philippine-occupied territory in the Spratly Islands.
And, last week, a suspected Chinese vessel allegedly rammed a Philippine ship in the South China Sea, sinking it and then sailing off as nearly two dozen Filipino fishermen fought for their lives in open water.
China has denied allegations of misconduct.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Marines received training from their British counterparts in how to operate in the extreme cold of the Arctic.
The training took place in Norway near the border with Russia, a region that’s relevant based on current events in places like the Ukraine and the state of NATO. Bottom line: Marines need to be ready to fight in this environment.
British Royal Marines hosted the training and included the obligatory inter-coalition harassment like dumping the Yanks into the cold water . . .
… and giving them a shot at building a snow shelter …
Senior Air Force officials want to return a number of C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft to active duty after budget cuts pushed them out of service over the last few years.
The C-5 Galaxy is the largest airlifter in the Air Force, standing 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan.
The C-5M model, first deployed in 2009, featured more powerful engines that allowed it to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.
The C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.
It can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies. The C-5M also set 45 aviation records in one flight.
Because of previous budget cuts as well as sequestration, the Air Force has already moved 12 C-5s and C-5Ms into backup aircraft inventory, “which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them,” Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II told lawmakers at the end of March.
Everhart also said the C-5 inventory had fallen from 112 C-5s a few years prior to just 56 now.
In the coming years, the Air Force wants to move at least eight of the mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, according to DodBuzz.
“We’re going to buy back two a year for four years, if we’re able to have a predictable budget to get the fleet back to higher quality,” Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee this week.
“I need them back because there’s real world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March. The C-5M’s increased range makes it doubly valuable in the vast Pacific theater.
“Recently, one of these aircraft flew from Travis Air Force Base, California, to Yokota, Japan,” Everhart said of the C-5M. “It’s the only airlifter in the inventory that can make the flight nonstop, which means we can put the American flag on the ground in hours versus days.”
Air Mobility Command also intends to improve its current active fleet of airlifters, “upgrading the avionics to improve communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance as well as adding new safety equipment and installing a new autopilot system,” according to an Air Force release.
The project, slated to wrap up in 2018, will also upgrade C-5As, C-5Bs, and C-5Cs into C-5M Super Galaxies by installing the F-138 commercial engine, the release said, giving them a “22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter takeoff roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances.”
As the military services moved to admit women into previously closed special operations and ground combat jobs in 2016, Army officials were tasked with looking for ways to get the best performance out of female troops in order to minimize injury and boost their opportunities to succeed.
And they discovered one unlikely culprit that was holding some women back: chronic iron deficiency.
While it’s well known that women tend to be more iron-deficient than men for various reasons, the scope of the problem, and its impact on overall performance, was eyebrow-raising.
About a quarter of the women who enter the Army training pipeline have an iron deficiency, said Scott McConnell, who discussed Army Training and Doctrine Command’s efforts to improve training at the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services on Wednesday. After several weeks of training, that figure can double, he said.
“That impacts your body’s ability to carry oxygen to the vital organs. And so iron deficiency can actually be reflected in poor aerobic fitness levels and physical performance,” McConnell said.
In February 2016, the Army announced it would begin providing iron-rich multivitamins to female soldiers. And, McConnell said, the move has made a difference.
“The statistic we have is that the iron supplements can actually shave two minutes off the two-mile run time,” he said.
As services address the challenge of preparing female troops to meet stringent physical standards designed for men, they’re gaining new insights about the way nutrition affects performance – insights that have the potential to benefit the total force.
Since the services began opening previously closed jobs last year in response to a mandate from then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, it has become clear that it’s completely possible for women to meet minimum infantry requirements.
To date, 14 female Army officers, 16 noncommissioned officers, and 21 junior enlisted soldiers have been assigned to infantry positions in the active component and Reserve, according to Army data presented Wednesday.
On the Marine Corps side, nine officers and 63 enlisted women have graduated military occupational specialty school for previously closed fields, including one in the rifleman MOS.
At the same time, it’s evident that women face greater physical hurdles just because they’re built differently than men and have different average capability ranges.
And that’s where tools such as nutrition, supplements and smart training can help.
While the Corps has not announced a specific new supplement regimen, the service is working to overhaul its entire approach to fitness and health with the new Force Fitness Division activated this year. Part of what the division will do, officials have said, is review meal options in chow halls with an eye to making offerings healthier and more conducive to peak performance.
Brian McGuire, the Corps’ deputy force fitness branch head, told DACOWITS members Wednesday that the service is also looking to offer “post-exercise nutritional supplementation” to boost Marines’ performance and recovery. Officials are also setting up some young officers at The Basic School with wearable devices that measure biometrics and performance and may serve as a warning measure against heat sickness and other injuries.
And while standards to enter various ground combat jobs are the same whether you’re male or female, the Marine Corps is making some changes to the way it trains in order to avoid injury while maximizing performance.
“We have reduced running mileage,” McGuire said. “Because lather, rinse, repeat shows us that shorter, harder, faster has equal or greater benefit than longer, slower, less intense.”
On the Army side, McConnell said other aids, such as the calcium-rich performance nutrition bar introduced as a bedtime supplement for recruits earlier this year, are also proving useful.
“We have found that when soldiers have food in their stomach, they are actually less susceptible to heat injuries,” he said. “That’s actually one of the other aspects of this nutrition bar, and who would have thought, in the 21st century, that we’re kicking over that rock and understanding something that we did not understand.”
Is it an absolute? Is it to be avoided at all costs? Obviously, it’s an undesirable outcome when lives are on the line.
In horseshoes and hand grenades, failure exists on a suckiness sliding scale, from “Finish your beer” on one end to the Ultimate Oh Sh*t on the other.
In training, though, failure is a teacher, a mentor that can take you to levels of preparedness you never imagined attainable by your puny, mortal self.
“I don’t know, why would
you say your ass is candy?” is what shrugging makes Max think. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)
When Max “The Body” Philisaire is leading your PT, failure is a
directive. As in, “execute as many repetitions as you can until failure.”
In the Army, Max earned the nickname “The Body,” not because he had a good one, but because he was first recruited as an incorporeal Warrior Spirit, until Mighty Zeus came down in the form of a Lightning Eagle and lightning-sculpted Max a body out of mountain granite, saying “Go Forth, Max, And Enlighten The People As I Have You. With Lightning!”
(Max uses kettlebells these days, and he GETS BETTER RESULTS.)
And here is what Zeus looked like. Exactly. Like. This. (Gif by
Jaybyrdamw78)In this episode, Max takes issue with an important set of muscles, those responsible for executing high-speed, high-stakes ammo resupply in the field, a situation in which failure will land you on the sh*t end of the sliding scale. Make these exercises part of your regular routine, though, and nothing short of an anti-tank round will be able to stop you.
Watch as Max shows you how to go from finishing beers to banishing fears, in the video embedded at the top.
Maritime forces from France, Australia, and the United States participated in Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness and Evaluation Measurement (SHAREM) 195 exercise in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14-18, 2018.
Participating ships included French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614), and Royal Australian navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Spruance (DDG 111), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), and Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Additionally, U.S. P-3C Orion aircraft and a French Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft supported the exercise from the air.
“SHAREM provides a great opportunity for realistic training, strengthening the maritime relationship between France, Australia, and the U.S. as our forces work together to refine and develop anti-submarine warfare tactics,” said Lt. Ryan Miller, lead exercise planner from U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 54. “We are stronger when we work together.”
The exercise put the ships through several structured events to collect data and train sailors against a known adversary. The ships then tested their offensive prowess by tracking and prosecuting the submarine in a “freeplay” event.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) and the fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) are underway in formation during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
In the culminating event, the warships defended the supply ship, Richard E. Byrd, from a submerged threat with conducting replenishment operations.
The SHAREM program focuses on developing anti-submarine warfare in the surface community by reviewing performance and tactics and recommending solutions to warfighting gaps.
Task Forces 54 and 50 led segments of the exercise.
The fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) surfaces during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
TF 54 is the submarine force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, and commands operations of U.S. submarine forces and coordinates theater-wide, anti-submarine warfare matters. Their mission covers all aspects of submarine operations from effective submarine employment to safety and logistics.
An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 approaches the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon)
Stockdale and Spruance are both part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which serves as Task Force 50 while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Their participation and SHAREM 195 is a part of the U.S. 5th Fleet’s theater security cooperation engagement plan to improve interoperability with partner nations, while ensuring maritime security.
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), left, the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), and the French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) are underway during anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
Afghan special forces have freed 61 captives held by the Taliban in an operation in the southern province of Helmand, the military says.
Jawid Saleem, a spokesman for the elite commando units, said the operation was conducted late on Aug. 2, 2018, in the Kajaki district in Helmand, a stronghold of the Taliban.
Saleem said at least two Taliban militants were killed during the rescue mission by Afghan special forces.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the matter.
The prisoners were transferred to the provincial army headquarters, said Munib Amiri, an army commander.
Those held had been captured for a range of reasons, Saleem said, from cooperating with Afghan security forces to belonging to the local police force.
According to Saleem, the prisoners were held in poor conditions, including a lack of proper food and health care. They were also tortured, Saleem added.
Hundreds of prisoners have been freed from Taliban prisons by Afghan security forces in Helmand Province in recent months.
On May 31, 2018, Afghan special forces freed 103 people held at two sites run by the Taliban in Kajaki district.
According to the latest report by the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent U.S. federal auditor, the militants control nine of 14 districts in Helmand. Half of the population of the province lives in areas under Taliban control.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” — the sequel to the sequel to the second remake of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classic — picks up the saga of ape freedom fighter Caesar (Andy Serkis), as he and his army of super-smart, genetically-modified apes seek to turn what’s left of the United States into their own banana republic.
As in 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is on the retreat as the ape army gains ground, and the last armed resistance against the simian conquerors appears to be in the hands of a ruthless — and mostly shirtless — Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
While Caesar’s voiceover in the trailer makes it clear that the apes never wanted war, they’re determined to defend themselves at all cost. Even if it means armageddon.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ swings into theaters everywhere on July 14, 2017.
A low-flying military plane zoomed between buildings in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, for roughly half an hour on Jan 18, 2019, panicking residents who said they had no warning of the flyover, and feared it might strike a building.
Residents took to social media, sharing photos and videos of the sight. The large, dark gray plane could be seen circling the city’s skyline, flying just over the tops of buildings and past office windows.
But local news outlets reported that the flyover was just part of a training exercise ahead of Governor-elect Bill Lee’s inauguration on Jan. 18, 2019.
One Nashville resident, Madison Smith, told INSIDER she works on the 16th floor of the Fifth-Third Bank building in downtown and her colleagues phoned the police, and later evacuated the building, when they realized the plane kept weaving through the city’s downtown core.
“You kept seeing it circle around downtown,” she said. “So it came back by our building a second time, and the whole building shook.”
Smith said she and her colleagues realized it was a military plane, due to the size and color, and figured it must have been some sort of government operation. But they couldn’t help but think of 9/11, she said.
“What if something malfunctioned and the wing came into one of our buildings? That wasn’t far-fetched because of how low it was,” she said. “Definitely people were concerned. I was concerned. My colleagues were concerned.”
Nashville residents complained on Twitter that the plane was flying too low over the city, and appeared to just barely miss certain buildings and landmarks.
People in the videos can be heard exclaiming and cursing as the plane draws closer. One person can even be heard speculating which buildings the plane might strike.
But the test run may all have been for nothing — The Tennessean reported that Jan. 19, 2019’s inaugural flyover has already been canceled due to weather concerns.
Smith said the idea was “ridiculous in the first place,” adding that she hoped Lee would release a statement reassuring the residents who panicked.
“Congrats on your inauguration, I don’t think that’s a great start. Just to frighten your people straight off the bat,” she said. “A military operation in a city is just striking to me. Especially to have it all for nothing, I wouldn’t have wanted him to do it in the first place. Let’s just have a parade.”
Lee’s transition team did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.
French President Emmanuel Macron believes Europe is standing on the edge of a precipice and needs to think of itself as a power in the world in order to control its own destiny. He told the Economist the European alliance needs to “wake up” to the reality that the alliance and its deterrent is only as good as the guarantor of last resort – the United States. In his view, the United States is in danger of turning its back on NATO and Europe, just as it did to the Kurds in October 2019.
Along with the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of Russia and Turkey, Europe needs to act as a strategic power, perhaps without the US.
Macron spoke to the Economist for an hourlong interview from Paris’ Elysée Palace and spoke bluntly about NATO, its future, and the United States.
“I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” he said. “… [President Trump] doesn’t share our idea of the European project.”
Europe faces myriad challenges that go far beyond the expectations of NATO and its American ally. Brexit looms large over European politics, while new EU membership is a point of contention within the European Union, especially in France. There is also much disagreement over how to engage with Russia, especially considering there are many NATO allies and EU members who used to be dominated by Moscow. But it wasn’t just Trump’s policy that concerned Macron.
“Their position has shifted over the past 10 years,” Macron said. “You have to understand what is happening deep down in American policy-making. It’s the idea put forward by President Obama: ‘I am a Pacific president’.”
That isn’t to say Macron is rejecting the American alliance. France’s president has taken a lot of time with Trump to keep that alliance closely engaged. But when the U.S. wants to go, it can go in the blink of any eye, just like it did in Syria. Meanwhile, Macron sees Europe as increasingly fragile in a hostile world, and he wants Europe (and France alone, if necessary) to be strong enough to stand up for itself.
“Our defence, our security, elements of our sovereignty, must be re-thought through,” he said. “I didn’t wait for Syria to do this. Since I took office I’ve championed the notion of European military and technological sovereignty… If it [Europe] can’t think of itself as a global power, that power will disappear.”
All it will take, he says, is one hard knock.
Germany expressed outrage at the comments, while Russia called them “Golden.”
While some conceded that Macron has a point about the strategic coordination of the alliance, many others were angered by his remarks. In response, the November 2019 meeting of NATO held a discussion about the validity of the French president’s description and what, if anything, they should do about it. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reminded reporters that week that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the only body where North America and Europe sit together and make decisions together.
“I think it has value to look into how we can further strengthen NATO and the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said as he made plans to visit Paris in the coming days. “We need to look into this as we prepare for the upcoming leaders’ meeting and then we will see what will be the final conclusions.”