The US government has a secret airline — and they're hiring - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

Forget secret agent. If you want one of the most exclusive, top-secret jobs about there, consider becoming a flight attendant.


JANET airlines, the secret airline run by the U.S. government, is hiring flight attendants to shuttle employees and contractors out of a private terminal at McCarran National Airport in Las Vegas to their jobs in places like Area 51.

As Business Insider previously reported, while some joke JANET stands for “Just Another Non-Existent-Terminal,” it may actually mean “Joint Air Network for Employee Transportation.”

Related: 6 top secret bases that changed history

The JANET airlines hires will perform all the usual flight attendant tasks, including providing food and drink service, giving pre-flight safety demonstrations, ensuring passenger safety throughout the flight, and providing assistance during emergencies.

And, like flight attendants working for other airlines, JANET flight attendants must have a high school degree or the equivalent diploma, pass flight attendant training, and comply with the airline’s dress code and uniform guidelines, among other things.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
Staff Sgt. Jimmie Williamson, 54th Airlift Squadron flight attendant, serves a purchased meal to 32 commanders from Scott Air Force Base, Ill on a C-40 aircraft Nov. 29. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

But JANET airline flight attendants bear the additional burden of qualifying for and maintaining a top-secret government security clearance and associated work location access.

According to the U.S. State Department’s website, “top secret” is the highest level of security clearance, and having this clearance gives you access to classified national security information.

Every application for security clearance is evaluated on an individual basis, and considerations include a number of deeply personal details including:

  • The person’s allegiance to the United States.
  • Foreign influence.
  • Foreign preference.
  • Sexual behavior.
  • Personal conduct.
  • Financial considerations.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Drug involvement.
  • Emotional, mental, and personality disorders.
  • Criminal conduct.
  • Security violations.
  • Outside activities.
  • Misuse of information technology systems.

If that sounds like the job for you, find the listing at AECom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our short, national nightmare is over – get back to work

President Donald Trump signed a short-term funding bill Congress passed on Jan. 22, officially ending the three-day federal government shutdown.


The key vote came in the Senate, where most members supported a key procedural vote to let the funding bill proceed without a filibuster. The cloture vote easily cleared the 60-vote threshold with a final vote of 81 to 18. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, voted against the measure, as did 16 Democrats.

The deal will keep the government funded until Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the date in the House-passed funding bill that the Senate rejected on Jan. 19.

The final bill passed in the Senate a few hours later with the same vote as the cloture measure. The delay between the cloture vote and the final vote was due to members working out language that will allow federal workers to receive back-pay for the days the government was closed, per reports.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

The House then agreed to the deal, passing the measure shortly after the Senate by a vote of 266 to 150. 45 Democrats voted for the funding bill, while six Republicans crossed party lines to vote no.

Trump weighed in on the deal following the cloture vote with a statement partially committing to an immigration deal.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

Given Trump’s wild change of hearts during the immigration discussion, it is unclear what exactly a deal that is “good for our country” would look like.

The impasse was broken after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to hold an open debate process on a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Securing a vote on DACA was a key priority for Democrats, but the deal with McConnell appears to have fallen short of the party’s original request.

Despite McConnell’s commitment, there is nothing binding the House to the deal. A 2013 immigration bill received bipartisan support in the Senate but never made it to the floor of the House.

Also Read: The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

McConnell previously promised Republican Sen. Jeff Flake there would be a DACA vote by the end of January, which does not look likely.

Schumer said that if McConnell did not hold a good-faith vote on the DACA issue by Feb. 8, the Republican leader “will have breached the trust” of Senate Democrats.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to keep the Dreamers from being deported,” Schumer said, referring to DACA recipients.

The program will expire on March 5, potentially leaving nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minors at risk of deportation.

The Senate funding bill will also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. CHIP funding technically expired in September.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting new radar in Hawaii to deter missile threats

The United States is to deploy radars in Hawaii by 2023 that could enhance efforts to deter North Korea missiles, a Japanese newspaper reported Feb. 15, 2018.


The Sankei Shimbun reported Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, or HDR-H, will be deployed in five years’ time in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The report comes after the U.S. Missile Defense Agency described in its documents the need for the radar, which will raise the “discrimination capability in the Pacific architecture” and increase “the ability of [ground-based interceptors] GBIs to enhance the defense of Hawaii.”

Also read: US detects, tracks multiple North Korea missile launches

Head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry B. Harris, said the radar would greatly improve the ability to detect and identify missiles that reach the Pacific Ocean, according to the Sankei.

Harris added the radar deployment would significantly increase the targeting ability of ground-based interceptor missiles currently located on the U.S. West Coast, and that Hawaii faces the most direct threat from potential North Korea missiles.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors are launched during a successful intercept test. (DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency)

The top military commander, who is expected to soon serve as the Trump administration’s U.S. ambassador to Australia, also said the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, deployed in South Korea, and Aegis Ashore missiles in the region, may not be enough to defend the U.S. homeland.

Related: The Navy failed to intercept a test missile in Hawaii

Harris said he thinks North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ulterior motives that are dangerous.

“I do think that he is after reunification [of the Korean peninsula] under a single communist system,” he said, adding, “The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of [North Korea’s] threats for years, and now the shadow looms over the American homeland.”

Articles

These 6 photos show how 21 countries invaded Jordan

The Eager Lion exercise doesn’t have the long history of Cobra Gold or Team Spirit, nor does it have the immense scale of RIMPAC. But is still important, particularly with the Syrian Civil War raging – not to mention having to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


According to a CENTCOM release, 21 countries, including the United States, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Poland are invading Jordan for the Eager Lion 2017 exercise.

“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region,” Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press event launching the exercise. “For much of the past two decades our militaries have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation … where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict.”

Here are some photos showing just what is going on with this friendly multi-national invasion:

1. They travel there by sea and air

It is said that half the fun is getting there. It’s a safe bet that the CO of USS Bataan (LHD 5) got tired of hearing 2,000 Marines ask, “Are we there yet?”

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. Eager Lion is an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

2. The gear gets set up

Exercises like Eager Lion are not thrown together on a whim. Support troops like these help make the multi-national wargame run smoothly.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
The 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, is participating in Exercise Eager Lion 2017 at the Joint Training Center in Jordan. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Zoe Morris)

3. They prepare for the worst

This includes being sure that the medevac people are fully spun up in case there is an accident during the training. Hopefully, they are very, very bored during Eager Lion 2017.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
US Navy and Jordanian Armed Forces service members evacuate a simulated casualty into a AS332 Super Puma Helicopter during a medical evacuation drill during Eager Lion 2017 at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center Amman, Jordan on May 6, 2017. Eager Lion provides bilateral forces with an opportunity to promote cooperation and interoperability among participating units, build functional capacity, practice crisis management and strengthen our relationship with potential regional threats. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Y. Lucio)

4. They hit the ground running

Fast-roping from helicopters helps to secure the LZ.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
Airmen secure a landing pad during a fast-roping exercise as part of Eager Lion 2017 in Amman, Jordan, May 7, 2017. The airmen are assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. (US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

5. They move out to their objectives

Now that their way out has been secured, the troops are off to happily go about the day’s work of dropping tangos.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
Members of the Air Force Special Operation’s 23rd Special Tactics Squad and Jordanian Special Forces participate in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

6. They achieve the objective…

…Which is for the last thing the bad guy sees to be something like this:

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

Articles

How the US Navy plans to fix the F-35’s most troubling problem

In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.


The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.

Business Insider has uncovered footage that appears to show the problem:

Essentially, the takeoff in the F-35C is too rough, jostling the pilots so they can’t read flight-critical data on their $400,000 helmet-mounted displays.

Also read: Here’s when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. ‘beast mode’

“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.

F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”

Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.

Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.

“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”

The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how much of Afghanistan the Taliban reportedly control

Taliban militants now control or contest nearly half of all districts in Afghanistan as the U.S. pours thousands more troops into the country, a new analysis from The Long War Journal reveals.


The insurgent group predominately controls rural districts throughout the country where the Afghan government and national security forces do not have an extended presence. “Rural areas in Afghanistan are essential to the Taliban’s resilience and ability to consistently undermine Afghan security,” the LWJ noted, citing the insurgent groups ability to use rural districts to mount attacks on urban centers.

 

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The large Taliban control of the country comes as the U.S. is sending approximately 3,000 more troops to the country to support the Afghan National Security Forces. This deployment is in tandem from a new declared strategy from the Trump administration which will place an emphasis on cracking down on Pakistani sanctuary for Taliban militants, and making a sustained and prolonged commitment to Afghanistan.

The Obama administration made a point of tying its troop deployments to a declared timeline for withdrawal, something President Donald Trump has explicitly rejected instead embracing a “conditions” based approach.

The conditions however are dire. The Taliban now control more territory than at any time since 2001 and the Afghan National Security Forces’s are suffering historic casualties.

Articles

Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was a World War II hero

Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring


In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds).  Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds.  Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.

Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942).  Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states.  Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.

In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain.  During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major.  During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.

For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France.  This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force.  Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.

After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base.  On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).

During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve.  He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).

Bonus Facts:

  • Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War.  He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.  His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
  • The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
  • As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader.  He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926.  Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
  • A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy.  A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
  • U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
  • Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers.  The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion.  Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens.  Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
  • The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed.  At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”.  For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished.  The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
  • At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
  • Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers.  Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
  • Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service.  He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents.  Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
  • Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII.  During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
  • After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
  • His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart.  Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
  • On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television.  A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
  • Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all.  This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film.  Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this.  He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey.  The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross.  He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone.  Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
  • By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne.  He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
  • Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry.  He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life.  One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears.  Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live.  These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
  • Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him.  Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
  • Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
  • Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education.  He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997.  Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist.  He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you need to know about the INF treaty in the news these days

In 1987, the Soviet Union had thousands of intermediate range nuclear missile pointed at Western Europe. On top of each of those thousands of missiles sat multiple nuclear warheads, ready to destroy the entire theater. The United States and its NATO allies had just as many — if not more — of the same kind. They were mobile and concealable, able to be fired from the Soviet Union or right on NATO’s doorstep.

By 1991, they were all gone.


The INF was the first agreement wherein the United States and USSR promised to actually reduce the overall number of weapons in their arsenals, eliminating an entire category of nuclear weapons altogether. Combined, the world’s two superpowers destroyed more than 2,600 nuclear missiles before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and President Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 8, 1987.

The buildup to the INF Treaty

In the mid-to-late 1970s, the Soviet Union began a qualitative upgrade of its nuclear arsenal designed for the European Theater. At the time, the Cold War doctrine for NATO held that the Soviets could maintain a superiority in conventional weapons and troop strengths, but the Western allies were going to launch a nuclear attack in the event of an invasion.

So, when the Red Army began replacing its old, intermediate-range, single-warhead missiles to new, more advanced missiles with multiple warheads, European leaders flipped. Meanwhile, the only nuclear missiles the United States had were its own aging, intermediate-range nukes: the single-warhead Pershing 1a. After NATO pressured the United States to respond, the allies developed a “two-track” system to counter the Soviet threat: they would seek an agreement to limit their intermediate nuclear weapons arsenals while upgrading and replacing their own systems with multiple-warhead launchers.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

A U.S. BGM-109 Gryphon intermediate-range nuclear weapon. The INF Treaty ended the service of these launchers.

Terms of the INF Treaty

The negotiations did not start off well. The Soviet delegation even walked out after the United States deployed its new Pershing II missiles in Europe in 1983. But, as talks continued, various ideas surfaced on how to best address the number of nuclear weapons. Ideas included limiting each country to 75 weapons each, a limit on the number of worldwide intermediate missiles (but none allowed in Europe), and, at one point, Mikhail Gorbachev even put forward the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons by 2000.

In the end, formal talks lasted from 1981 until the signing of the INF treaty in 1987. The agreement eliminated missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles. This included three types of nuclear missile from the U.S. arsenal and six from the Soviet arsenal. Signatories were also compelled to destroy training material, rocket stages, launch canisters, and the launchers themselves. The treaty also covered all future successor states to the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and others.

Signatories are also prohibited from testing ground-launched missiles and other tech related to intermediate nuclear forces. After the ten years of monitoring, any signatory country can implement the terms of the agreement and call for a new inspection or general meeting.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

A view of the Soviet Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) for the SSC-X-4 ground-launched cruise missile system with a close-up view of the SSC-X-4 missile in the insert.

Why President Trump is reconsidering the INF Treaty

The INF Treaty solved a very specific crisis at a very specific time. It limited ground-based weapons from the European theater of the Cold War, but it didn’t cover air- or sea-based cruise missiles. In the years since, Russia has tested a number of weapons the United States says violate the terms of the INF Treaty. Russia counters that the U.S. has broken it as well.

If Russia isn’t abiding by the terms of the agreement, then the U.S. is unnecessarily limiting its defense posture — but that’s not even what the Trump Administration and National Security Advisor John Bolton are worried about. They’re concerned with China, who isn’t a signatory to the INF Treaty.

Proponents of the agreement argue that leaving the INF Treaty won’t force the Russians to comply with the treaty any more than they are now, that it could lead to another global arms race, and that ground-based nuclear weapons in Europe (or East Asia) just aren’t necessary anyway.

Articles

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

The battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror group is a fight increasingly without front lines.


The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have breached the old city and control about a quarter of the terror group’s de facto capital, say American officials, but holding what has already been seized is proving a struggle.

Disputes between the SDF and some Free Syrian Army militias who have started to participate in the battle isn’t helping the advance, but the biggest obstacle remains the determined defense of IS fighters, who are using similar urban warfare tactics seen in the past nine months in the terror group’s fight to delay the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi security forces.

A month into the Raqqa assault, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and the use of an elaborate network of tunnels to mount ambushes — as well as exploiting civilians as human shields — are all being deployed by the militants. IS militants have also been using drones to drop explosives on SDF militiamen.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle. (Photo from Voice of America.)

A watchdog rights organization says in the assault’s first month it has documented 650 deaths — 224 of them civilians.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that relies on a network of activists for its reporting, 311 IS fighters, including a handful of commanders, and 106 fighters of the American-backed “Euphrates Wrath” forces have died so far.

“In addition, airstrikes left hundreds of civilians injured, with various degrees of severity, some of whom had their limbs amputated, some were left with permanent disabilities and some are still in a critical condition, which means that the death toll is still likely to rise,” the observatory says.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
SDF fighters among the rubble Raqqa. (Photo from Voice of America.)

Long battle ahead

Despite being only a tenth the size of Mosul, US officials say they expect the house-to-house fighting to last several weeks. Estimates on how many militants remain in the city range from between 2,000 to 3,000. Most of them are thought to be from eastern Syria or foreign fighters drawn mainly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

According to local activists, some Raqqa-born IS fighters have defected and are providing intelligence to the SDF. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, and co-author of the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” says local fighters have proven less than committed in the battle.

“The Islamic State will likely have to rely on the city’s still likely large population of foreign fighters as well as a new generation of young fighters brainwashed by the group’s ideology who typically fight viciously to the end,” Hassan argues in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the West Point military academy.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
YPJ and YPG forces work together. (Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle (CC by 2.0)

Despite the participation of experienced, battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, private security advisers say the SDF doesn’t have the same capabilities and training as the elite Iraqi units who have been confronting IS militants in Mosul since August.

“They are spread much thinner,” one European security adviser told Voice of America. “They are also not as well equipped and lack the armor the Iraqis have been able to use,” he added.

Keeping the advance going, and trying to pin the militants into smaller and smaller pockets, is proving grueling, he said.

On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to declare his security forces had wrested the wrecked city from the Islamic State, despite some continued fighting in at least one west Mosul neighborhood. Some US officials are reckoning IS fighters may be able to hold out in Raqqa for up to three months.

In a bid to disrupt the SDF momentum, IS is now more regularly using suicide bombers driving reinforced vehicles packed with explosives — although not to the same degree as seen in the battle for Mosul. Last week, one suicide bomber managed to destroy a forward HQ used by the SDF.

The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook.)

Civilian casualties

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, braving mines and savage IS sniper fire. Local activists estimate the number of civilians remaining in the city at about 60,000. They fault the international coalition for failing to have prepared for the handling of large numbers of displaced families.

Civilians have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food,” says the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The group has accused the attacking forces of using a scorched-earth strategy, utilizing indiscriminate aerial bombardment in order to force militants to withdraw. US officials admit there have been civilian deaths but say they are doing all they can to minimize casualties among non-combatants.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.

“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.


Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.

“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.

In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.

He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.

“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.

Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.

This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.

Networking and AI

The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.

The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

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Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.

LCS & AI

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.

CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Chinese & Russian Threat

While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.

“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.

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Vice Chief of Naval Operations – Vice Adm. Bill Moran

Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.

Chinese Naval Threat

A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.

Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

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The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

Russian Threat

On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.

“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation

The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi killed in combat

A son of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in battle in the Syrian province of Homs, IS’s propaganda agency Amaq announced.

Hudhayfah al-Badri was killed in an “operation against the Nussayriyyah and the Russians at the thermal power station in Homs,” the group said in a statement late on July 3, 2018, showing a photo of a young man holding an assault rifle.



Nussayriyyah is IS’s term for the Alawite religious minority sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

IS maintains only a small presence in Syria after being targeted for elimination by Syrian and Russian forces as well as U.S.-backed rebel forces in the last year. It is now estimated to control no more than 3 percent of Syria’s territory.

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President Bashar al-Assad

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they believe IS leader Baghdadi remains alive in Syria near the Iraqi border.

Baghdadi, who is originally from Iraq, has been dubbed the “most wanted man on the planet,” with the United States offering a million reward for his capture. He had four children with his first wife and a son with his second wife.

In September, 2017, the last voice message attributed to Baghdadi called on his followers worldwide to “resist” their enemies.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons the married service member is just as much a “dependa” as the spouse

The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.

Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.


The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.

Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?

While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:

Deployment

When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.

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Even when they are home, they aren’t really home

Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?

The PCS struggle is real

The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.

  • Organizing for the PCS
  • Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
  • Gathering copies of all the medical records
  • Finding new providers for the family
  • School enrollment
  • Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
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Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.

U.S. Air Force

Unit support

Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.

Caregiving

More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.

The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to be issued locator beacons like the Coast Guard’s

The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.

This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.


“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.

McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.

“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.

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The McMurdo Inc. FastFind 220 personal locator beacon used by the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army awarded McMurdo a $34 million contract for similar personal recovery devices to be used for locating missing soldiers.
(McMurdo Group photo)

Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.

McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.

“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.

The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.

The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.

The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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