The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.


The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
(Photo from DoD)

In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.

“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.

Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.

Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.

After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.

“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran went from the Marine Corps to a successful photography career

Cedric Terrell exchanged a stable career in the Marine Corps to pursue his passion for photography. Now his efforts have resulted in growing name recognition and a footprint that stretches from coast to coast. In this Spotlight Series, Terrell focuses his lens on veterans who have separated and started their own careers in the entertainment industry.


Cedric joined the Marines during his junior year, and left for boot camp a week after he graduated. No gap year, no summer break. He didn’t even tell his mother he was joining until it was too late to stop him.

At the time in 2005, the situation in the Middle East was hairy and his friends and family had plenty of questions about why he wanted to go. Even though he knew what might be waiting for him, he had faith that everything would work out, and he would have his fellow Marines by his side through it all.

As a Marine security guard, his first station was in Beijing, China, where his love of photography began to develop. He bought his first camera, and he took more and more photos.

When he stepped out of the military in 2010, everyone around him once again wondered why he would move from a relatively routine life to photography, which offered no stability. He went to school first and used photography as a side gig, but it quickly became his main focus.

Garnering success, he put his attention into expanding his business and opening a studio. He especially loves working with veterans, because he can put his trust in them and they can trust him. They have a shared background, but are all working toward their own goals.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran claims it ‘successfully’ launched military satellite

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on April 22 that it launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of failed attempts.

State television and the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch on April 22, calling it “successful.”

The United States, Israel, and other countries did not immediately confirm the satellite reached orbit, but their criticism suggested they believed the launch happened.


Analysts said it raised concerns about whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor (light), was launched this morning from central Iran in two stages. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” state TV said.

The IRGC on its official website said the satellite reached an orbit of 425 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

The multistage satellite launch used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space — a previously unheard-of system, according to the paramilitary group.

Tasnim added that the operation was carried from a launchpad in Dasht-e Kavir, a large desert in central Iran.

Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The United States and Israel have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Following Iran’s latest launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done.”

“We view this as further evidence of Iran’s behavior that is threatening in the region,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told a Pentagon briefing.

General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the launched vehicle “went a very long way” but that it was too early to say whether it successfully placed a satellite in orbit.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “facade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology,” while German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger warned that “the Iranian rocket program has a destabilizing effect on the region.”

The launch comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States over the latter’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.

It also may signal that Iran is more willing to take chances during the current global coronavirus crisis, which has slashed oil prices to historic lows and forced many countries into an economic recession.

“This is big,” said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

“Big question now is what tech the first stage used. Solid propellant? Liquid using old Shahab 3 tech? Liquid using more sophisticated motors/fuels? This is key to establishing how worrisome the launch is from a security perspective,” he added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rebels recover vehicle of US Special Forces ambushed in Niger

A Tuareg rebel leader said March 13, 2018, that members of his group have recovered an American vehicle that was stolen in the ambush in Niger in which four U.S. forces were killed in October 2017.


The vehicle taken during the attack in Tongo Tongo, Niger was found on the Malian side of the border in the desert, said Fahad Ag Al Mahmoud, secretary-general of the rebel group known by its French acronym, GATIA.

Read more: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

“Our men are in the middle of digging out the vehicle to get it back in working order,” he said.

He said it was not immediately possible to send a photo to confirm they had retrieved the vehicle, because of the lack of internet in the remote border area.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Nigerien army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds.

A coalition of armed Tuareg rebels has been operating against jihadist groups active in the area between Mali and Niger for several weeks.

Four U.S. forces and four Nigerien troops were killed Oct. 4, 2017, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, Niger’s capital, when they were attacked by as many as 100 Islamic State-linked extremists traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Two other American soldiers and eight Nigerien forces were wounded.

More: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

A U.S. military investigation into the Niger attack concluded that the team didn’t get required senior command approval for a risky mission to capture a high-level Islamic State militant, though it did not point to that failure as a cause of the deadly ambush, several U.S. officials familiar with the report said.

The investigation found no single point of failure leading to the attack. It also drew no conclusion about whether villagers in Tongo Tongo, where the team stopped for water and supplies, alerted extremists to American forces in the area.

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This Red Flag is going to be incredible

F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise Red Flag 17-3.


Ten F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters.

This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise, officials said. The F-35B is the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the jet, and the F-35A has conventional takeoff and landing capabilities.

Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater, officials said.

The F-22 is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Burt Traynor

“We’re primarily an escort role,” said Air Force Capt. Brady Amack, 95th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We integrate with other aircraft, whether they’re fourth or fifth generation, and ensure they’re able to execute their mission. The amount of experience we get is huge. There is no other area, really, where we can train with so many different types of aircraft in such a large area.”

Higher Level of Training

By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level, as each unit rings specific expertise and talents to the table, officials said. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat, they added.

Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating fifth-generation assets, exercise officials noted, adding that Tyndall’s Raptors will be able to learn from working with both F-35 units taking part.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of US Navy

Both aircrafts’ stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities help augment the capabilities of the other aircraft, Amack said.
“Working with the F-35s brings a different skill set to the fifth-generation world,” he added. “Having a more diverse group of low-observable assets has allowed us to do great things.”

The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a preflight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.

The 95th Fighter Squadron benefits by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties, officials said.

“Since Red Flag 17-3, in particular, is U.S. only, we get to take the opportunity to take things to the next level,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.

“This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest fifth-generation footprint, which allows us to learn as we continue to build new ideas. As we look to be innovative and solve problems, we’ll only increase our readiness by getting smarter as a force and as joint warfighters.”
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Australia to resume bombing of ISIS targets in Syria

Australia will resume air combat missions against Islamic State targets in Syria after the Australian Defense Force lifted a temporary suspension initially sparked by Russian threats to shoot down coalition planes.


The Australian Defense Force is fighting IS in both Syria and Iraq under the name ‘Operation OKRA.’ Australian Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin said on June 21st the operations were halted while the Australians examined what was happening in what he had described as a “complex piece of airspace” over Syria.

“Australian force protection is uppermost in our minds” in deciding when to resume missions over Syria. The fighter jets had been occupied recently supporting Iraqi security forces in retaking the city of Mosul, so the suspension had little effect on their operations, The Guardian quoted defense minister Marise Payne, as saying.

Australia had suspended air strikes over Syria ‘as a precautionary measure’ after Russia threatened that it would consider any plane from the US led coalition flying west of Euphrates as potential targets.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Three Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets. USAF photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch

The threat was seen as retaliation for the US downing of a Syrian air force jet, as tensions in the region rose.

The Australian Defense Force, which includes about 780 personnel, including 300 service members working in its air group, has announced it would resume airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

Australia has six fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates that strike targets in Syria and Iraq. Australia said its sorties in Iraq would continue as part of the coalition.

Australian defense force personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” Guardian quoted the spokesman for the Department of Defense .

The tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated after United States Navy F-18 attacked Syrian Su-22 government warplane on June 18th, which was carrying out operations against the Syrian Democratic Forces positions south of Tabqah.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Australian army soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Consequently, the Russian military halted cooperation with its US counterparts in the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.

The US military failed to use the communication line with Russia concerning this attack, despite the fact that Russian warplanes were also on a mission in Syrian airspace at the time, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Russia’s defense ministry said the US had given it no warning, following which Moscow was also suspending coordination over “de-confliction zones” that were created to prevent incidents involving US and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria, reports the Guardian.

However, the Pentagon states that the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to extract Raqqa from Islamic State control.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MARSOC gets more lethal with this new sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.


The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
.300 Winchester Magnum (center) flanked by its parent cartridges.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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UAVs could put a new twist on an old airplane weapon

During the early days of World War I, it was not unheard of for airplanes to drop mortar rounds on the enemy. In fact, that was pretty much all those early air warriors had as an ordnance option.


But dropping mortar rounds was soon superseded by dedicated bombers that held racks of dumb bombs that weighed as much as 2,000 pounds.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
A German pilot prepares to drop a mortar round on a target. This was what passed for bombing in the early days of World War I. (Youtube screenshot)

Now air-dropped mortar rounds are making a comeback, and they promise to be much more effective. That’s because a new generation of extended-range GPS-guided 81mm and 120mm mortar rounds will be leveraged for use from UAVs. These rounds deploy winglets that allow them to glide towards a target as opposed to being committed to a ballistic arc.

As such, they can not only strike within six feet of their aim point thanks to their precision guidance (an optional low-cost laser seeker will give the rounds the ability to engage a moving target), they can also travel over 12 miles when fired from a baseline mortar like the M120 120mm mortar or the M252 81mm mortar.

Now, imagine if these were dropped from a UAV from, say, 25,000 feet, as opposed to being fired by a mortar on the ground. During a presentation at the 2017 Armament System Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, Alan Perkins of UTC Aerospace Systems discussed how these mortars could be used on UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper instead of the usual AGM-114 Hellfire missile.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, is briefed on the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar (ACERM) during an Office of Naval Research (ONR) awareness day. The ACERM uses dual-mode guidance, advanced aerodynamics and improved propellants to increase the performance significantly beyond that of current systems. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The reason: The mortar rounds will have long range – in excess of 30 miles – when dropped from a UAV’s normal altitude. Furthermore their warheads are much smaller than the Hellfire’s. The 120mm mortar’s M57 round has about four and a half pounds of high explosive. Compare that to the 20-pound warhead on a Hellfire. That greatly reduces collateral damage, but when a 120mm mortar round lands six feet away from some ISIS terrorists, it still ruins their day.

In short, the old way of hitting ground targets for airplanes has become new again.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why do we put our military community at risk with on-base quarantines?

In our small town of Pacific Grove, Calif., an email alerted us that our community would be “hosting” 24 Grand Princess cruise passengers who display mild symptoms of COVID-19. The other California “hosts” are military installations, Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., and Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.


A press release sent out by the governor’s office tells residents, “We have an opportunity to provide an example of a compassionate humanitarian response,” but omits specific measures being taken to quarantine the passengers and protect the community, which is known for having an elderly population. The town jokes that people move here to die or multiply, with many young residents coming for the excellent schools and the elderly for the moderate climate and breathtaking Monterey coastline.

Why then was this elderly community chosen, despite our population’s median age being 49, over 10 years older than the national average? Because the passengers will be quarantined on government-owned land. This is also why military bases are “go-to” locations for other, more serious cases.
The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

The Pacific Grove coastline is just across the street from where the 24 quarantined Grand Princess cruise line passengers are staying. They will be monitored for the next two weeks as part of the state of California’s plan to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Why is it that the military community is always the first to be put at risk? As a military spouse and mother of three, I’m not so much scared of the Coronavirus as I am perplexed.

If military communities are already being asked to sacrifice more than most, don’t we at least deserve concrete facts on how we are being protected instead of attempts to pull at heartstrings?

The military housing areas on Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station are less than a mile away from where exposed citizens are being housed. I can’t imagine what these military families are feeling. As some previously in quarantine leave, new patients arrive. I hope that they are looped in, that they feel taken care of and reassured that their lives are just as important as those they are being asked to support.

While some communities may be better at communication than others, the press release likely caused more panic than reassurance. Given the current climate, words sent out through official channels carry weight. So instead of adding to the hysteria, I emailed the local public officials quoted in the article for clarification.

No response.

However, within 24 hours, I did get reassurance from every travel-related company I have ever had an online shopping relationship with that they were on top of COVID-19 and take sanitation seriously.

Shortly thereafter, I finally received an update from my daughter’s elementary school, the only reliable source of information. It seems that clarification from public officials was possible. But instead of hearing from the governor’s office again, our small town’s City Manager set the record straight, or as straight as possible given all this confusion.

According to his release, “the state of California made the determination” to temporarily house 24 exposed passengers (less than two miles from my house). Thankfully, it turns out that he did have good news. The 24 have tested negative for the virus and “are not permitted to leave the confines of their hotel rooms.”

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Costco runs feel like hoarding, but they are not. However, you might be a hoarder if you are one of the people who purchased all the paper towels, water and toilet paper.

Slightly relieved, I chuckled when I saw that “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman was trending on Netflix. Watching it served as a reminder that Americans don’t like rules or borders. We rebelled against the British. We conquered lands that weren’t our own. We believe rules are made to be broken. I hope these 24 are rule followers who regret our forefathers breaking from England and “displacing” Native Americans.

Unsurprisingly Costco was packed, leaving me either highly exposed or highly prepared. In the hidden back corner of the warehouse, a lady was positioned, not with samples, but with a clipboard and bouncer-like confidence, “we are out of water, paper towels and toilet paper.”

Twenty four hours after the first press release, I’m not scared of death or quarantine. We have Cheerios, bread, shelf-stable milk, charcoal and… champagne, because if I have to stay in the house with my three kids and husband for a month without toilet paper, I’m gonna need it.

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Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

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All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.


According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
An M55 rocket being disassembled at Umatilla Chemical Depot. This was one delivery system for VX, a very deadly nerve agent. (US Army photo)

VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.

A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
DOD graphic showing the effects of various chemical agents, including VX. (DOD graphic)

The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
(YouTube screen grab from John Mason)

The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.

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This Civil War veteran served all the way through World War I

Just days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Peter Conover Hains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At a time when officers and cadets were deserting the U.S. military in favor of serving their home states, especially those who seceded from the Union, this Philadelphia native stayed put — and the U.S. Army would get their investment back in spades.


After 26 of his 57 classmates left to join the Confederacy, Hains became an artillery officer, firing off the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run. There, he fought bravely, even though the Union Army lost terribly. After as many as 30 smaller combat engagements, he eventually found himself in the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States would never be the same.

During the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, the Union’s Chief Engineer fell ill and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, the responsibility shifted to then-lieutenant Hains. The engineering at Vicksburg would be crucial to the Union victory, so there could be no mistakes. The 12-mile ring of fortifications and entrenchments around the city kept the 33,000 Confederate defenders bottled up and isolated from the outside world. The surrender of Vicksburg, after a 40-days-long siege, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg sounded the death knell for the Confederacy.

Grant promoted Hains to captain for his work.

In the postwar years, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board and his constructions were so sound that many still stand to this day, undisturbed by rising sea levels or tropical storms. He also fixed the foul-smelling swamp that was Washington, D.C. by designing and constructing the Tidal Basin there, a sort of man-made reservoir that flushes out to the Washington Channel.

Still in the Army by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he served as a brigadier general of volunteers, but no known record of deploying to fight exists. Before and after the Spanish-American War, Hains served on the Nicaragua Canal Commission and was responsible for successfully arguing that such a canal should be built in Panama.

He retired from the Army in 1904 — but the Army wasn’t done with him. World War I broke out for the United States and in September, 1917, Peter Conover Hains was recalled to active duty one last time. For a full year, he managed the structural defenses of Norfolk Harbor and was the district’s Chief Engineer. At age 76, he was the oldest officer in uniform.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Just be advised, every veteran who just got off IRR: They will find you.

His sons and their sons all continued Hains’ military tradition, attending West Point and serving on active duty. He, his sons, and his grandson are all interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

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