The White House is giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to determine the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, in another move by President Donald to shift greater power to his military leaders.
The decision will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to send more forces into Syria, to assist U.S.-backed local troops as they move to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group, which has used the city as a de facto capital.
It will also let him adjust the force numbers in Iraq, in the ongoing fight to oust IS from Mosul and stabilize it as the rebuilding begins.
The Pentagon has already been making quiet, incremental additions to the troop levels in both countries in recent months, adding hundreds of Marines in Syria to provide artillery support, and sending more advisers into Iraq to work with units closer to the fight in Mosul. Those moves were done with White House approval, but without any formal adjustment to the longstanding troop caps that had been set by the Obama administration.
Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said Wednesday that Mattis has not made any changes yet to the current authorized force levels.
Under the Obama White House, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that forced commanders to get approvals for routine tactical decisions and personnel moves, and provide justification for any troops sent into war zones. Commanders have argued that they should be able to determine troop deployments based on the military capabilities they believe are needed at any given time.
The new authority will provide greater transparency about the actual number of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria after several years of public confusion about the accurate totals. Under the Obama-mandated caps, the U.S. was limited to 503 officially deployed troops in Syria, and 5,262 in Iraq. The Pentagon, however, has closer to 7,000 in Iraq, and hundreds more than the cap in Syria, but doesn’t count them because they are on temporary duty or not counted under specific personnel rules.
The change, however, could trigger concerns — particularly in Iraq, where there are political sensitivities about the footprint of American and coalition troops and fears about occupation forces. Officials worry that if they publicly acknowledge there are thousands more troops there, it could fuel opposition and problems for the Iraqi government.
decision applies only to the two countries, and so far does not affect Afghanistan, although that change has also been discussed.
“This does not represent a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ,” said White, using another name for the Islamic State group. She said the U.S. will continue to work through and with local forces, but giving Mattis the authority to make troop-level decisions will allow commanders to be “more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”
She added that the the change will allow the Pentagon be more open with Congress and the public.
Thousands of U.S. troops who have deployed in support of the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are now eligible for a new medal, officials announced.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made announced the creation of the Operation Inherent Resolve medal during a change of command ceremony on Wednesday at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Carter segued into the announcement while noting that CentCom’s outgoing leader, ArmyGen. Lloyd Austin, and his successor, Army Gen. Joe Votel, have both “across their careers … demonstrated what can be described as inherent resolve.
“It is fitting then, that as we mark the change of command between these two leaders, that we introduce today the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal,” the secretary said.
“I am pleased to announce today, by the president’s order and upon [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.] and my recommendation, that our sailors, soldiers,airmen, and Marines serving in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are eligible for this medal and distinction,” he added.
“As we continue to accelerate our counter-ISIL campaign, we will continue to depend upon the men and women of CentCom,” Carter said. “It is you who provide us the flexibility to respond to any threat across a critical region.”
President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order establishing the medal to service members who “serve or have served in Iraq, Syria, or contiguous waters or airspace on or after June 15, 2014.”
With the operation still going on, an end-date for medal eligibility has yet to be established.
To qualify for the new medal, a service member must have been present in Iraq, Syria or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country on or after June 15, 2014, for at least 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days, according to the Defense Department.
Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated from the campaign theater due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for award, as do members who engaged in combat.
Troops awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for their service in Iraq and Syria after the start of Operation Inherent Resolve remain qualified for the older medal. They can apply to their military branch to be awarded the new medal, but may not receive both medals for the same act, achievement or period of service, officials said.
Service members serving deployed outside of Iraq and Syria for Operation Inherent Resolve will continue to be awarded the expeditionary medal.
A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.
The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.
The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).
On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.
That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.
The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
For the last three years, engineers and project officers from Marine Corps Systems Command have descended on the island of Oahu to put new technology to the test.
In the fall, MCSC — along with Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment and partner organizations from the requirements community — conducted the “Island Marauder” technology demonstration to integrate and evaluate emerging technologies with existing Marine Corps gear to help inform future capability decisions for the Corps.
“We conducted the Island Marauder technology demo to see if mature but leading edge command and control technologies work when we integrate them with our fielded systems,” said Basil Moncrief, Networking-on-the-Move team leader at MCSC. “We also wanted to see what fleet Marines thought about the emerging technology. [Island Marauder] helps Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group validate that the emerging technology supports or enhances the latest warfighting tactics and strategies they want to pursue.”
Marines use an armored vehicle equipped with the Networking-on-the-Move satellite communication system during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The demonstration included one week of intensive, hands-on field engineering and system integration, and a second week of VIP demonstrations. Most of the tactical command and control — or C2 — capability was integrated into a battlefield network controlled through the 3rd Marines’ Networking-on-the-Move Systems. NOTM is a vehicle-mounted satellite communication system that extends C2 for commanders and their staffs while on the move and beyond line of site at the tactical edge.
Developed by MCSC, NOTM has been fielded to all three Marine Expeditionary Forces.
“One of the powerful elements of the Island Marauder demonstration is a challenging tactical scenario that requires insertion of new technology and warfighting approaches while using currently-fielded equipment and fleet Marine operators,” Moncrief said. “The 3rd Marine Regiment gives us extremely useful information during Island Marauder that influences engineering, sustainment and user interface. This, in turn, assists HQMC with advanced concepts and out-year planning.”
During one demo, Marines on the ground used NOTM to simulate calling in air strikes and a medical evacuation — a feat that had not been successfully performed with live aircraft in past demonstrations.
Island Marauder also enables MCSC to perform integration engineering, troubleshoot any related issues and train Marines on how to use new equipment, Moncrief said.
“This year, we brought in some other MCSC programs that have a direct relationship with NOTM,” he said. “For example, the project officer for Identity Dominance Systems-Marine Corps recognized early on that NOTM could be a game changer for that program.”
“When Marines downrange encounter a person of interest, they use IDS-MC to collect biometric data,” said Teresa Sedlacek, lead engineer for Identity Operations at MCSC.
A Marine from the 3rd Marine Regiment uses a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld to call for simulated casualty evacuation during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Typically, Marines then have to get to a forward operating base or Combat Operations Center to download the information to receive feedback on submissions, she said. During Island Marauder, the demonstration team successfully connected IDS-MC wirelessly with NOTM, which enabled them to receive data retrieval and feedback almost immediately.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s important to us on the Island Marauder Team because it improves combat capability for other programs and for the Marine operating forces,” Moncrief said.
The command also demonstrated the ability to integrate the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld — or MCH — with NOTM, the Joint Tactical Common Operating Picture Workstation and Target Handoff System II. The MCH is a handheld C2 program that enables dismounted Marines to use tactical software applications on commercial handheld computing devices while securely accessing higher-level C2 systems for data, services and tactical sharing.
“Island Marauder 2018 was invaluable in generating user feedback for follow-on development and helping to inform future programmatic purchases,” said Maj. Travis Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “Island Marauder continues to be MCH’s go-to event to demonstrate interoperability with other MCSC systems and to assess innovative developments in a tactical relevant environment.”
Other programs and technologies that were part of the Island Marauder demonstration included the Secure Tactical Terminal and secure wireless networking techniques.
“Since the beginning, Island Marauder has been super useful in helping us push the envelope for technology exploitation,” Moncrief said. “As C2 technology continues to accelerate and Marine warfighting strategies adapt to new challenges, we need to show decision-makers some potential match-ups demonstrated together. In this way, Island Marauder enables a better understanding of the near-term possibilities by integrating new technologies with existing capabilities.”
Planning for Island Marauder 2019 is already in progress with the focus on joint C2 and disconnected operations.
North Korea launched its longest-range, most capable missile ever on July 28, and experts say that all of the US, besides Florida, now lies within range of a nuclear attack from Kim Jong Un.
Fortunately, unlike an attack from a nuclear peer state like Russia, North Korea’s less-advanced missiles would only be expected to hit a few key targets in the US. And even that limited attack would still take North Korea years to prepare, since it still needs to perfect its missiles engines with more tests, in addition to guidance systems. It also needs to build and deploy enough of them to survive US missile defenses.
But a North Korean propaganda photo from 2013 showing Kim Jong Un reviewing documents before a missile launch (pictured below) may have inadvertently leaked the planned targets for a nuclear attack on the US. On the wall besides Kim and his men, there’s a map with lines pointing towards some militarily significant locations.
In Hawaii, one of the closest targets to North Korea, the US military bases Pacific Command, which is in charge of all US military units in the region.
San Diego is PACOM’s home port, where many of the US Navy ships that would respond to a North Korean attack base when not deployed.
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana holds the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the entity that would be responsible for firing back with the US’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Washington D.C., of course, is the home of the US’s commander-in-chief, who must approve of nuclear orders.
All in all, the targets selected by North Korea demonstrate a knowledge of the US’s nuclear command and control, but as they come from a propaganda image, they should be taken with a grain of salt.
North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security, according to more than a dozen experts interviewed by Business Insider. If Kim ever shot a nuclear-armed missile the US’s way, before the missiles even landed, US satellites in space would spot the attack and the president would order a return fire likely before the first shots even landed.
As unique as Kim is among world leaders, he must know a swift disposal awaits him if he ever engages in a nuclear confrontation.
Flexible Attack Innovations is a California-based company that’s come up with an idea it calls Precision Container Aerial Delivery System, or “PCADS,” which it says can deliver cases of 250 gallons of fire retardant – a ton of liquid apiece – onto a target from 300 feet.
The Flexible Attack fire-killing method takes advantage of something that looks pretty close to the Container Delivery System that the military has used to airdrop supplies to troops on the ground since the 1950s.
The video shows a 4,000-gallon drop from a C-130. When the containers of liquid hit the airstream behind the plane, the containers fall apart and the liquid forms a rain effect.
The addition of the PCADS would be significant support for the Forest Service, whose aging air fleet is ill-equipped to fight the number of wildfires they unit faces. A 2015 ABC News report found the Forest Service’s fleet is down to 11 planes from 44 a decade ago.
Since no plane has ever been designed specifically to fight wildfires, a package designed to integrate into the CDS is a distinct step forward.
The U.S military’s current efforts to augment Forest Service firefighting efforts is the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. Reserve and National Guard components put these in C-130s to convert them into tankers.
The palletized MAFFS tanks carry as much as 3,400 gallons of fire retardant, whereas the PCADS can carry up to 12,000 gallons. The MAFFS also act as more of a spray effect than a localized rain.
The problem is, the MAFFS takes 24 hours to spool up for a mission and get the plane on the scene. That’s a lot of time for a fire to go from manageable to out of control.
Reading this, you might be a little disappointed that the Air Force isn’t using actual explosives to extinguish wildfires. Luckily, there are some Australians working on that method.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales are woking to harness blast waves from high explosives to put out fires, preventing their spread while moving the fire away from its fuel source.
The Hungarians strapped MiG-21 jet engines onto a Russian T-34 tank. When it came time to put out the fire, water is put into the jet stream and they open the throttle. The “Big Wind,” as the tank is called, blows the fire out like a candle.
So the Forest Service may not only get air cover in the near future, they might get some armor as well.
President Donald Trump’s fiscal budget request for 2019 includes $686 billion for defense spending.
While Trump has pushed for a larger military since he was campaigning for president, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said more recently that the “real growth” in the military buildup begins with the now-unveiled fiscal 2019 budget.
With this behemoth amount, the military is setting up contracts that will help the US fight the next war against near peer threats. This includes vehicles, aircraft, ships, and hundreds of thousands of munitions, much of which was used up in the fight against ISIS.
Here are a couple purchases that stand out:
77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters
The military seems set on rolling out the new fifth-generation stealth jet. The fighter has recently gotten some good news for future international sales, as tensions in Asia and the Middle East rise.
The purchase of 77 F-35s is expected to cost $10.7 billion.
B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber
The B-21 Raider is a long range stealth bomber that is intended to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit. Details of the B-21 are scarce, as even Congress doesn’t know much about it.
$2.3 billion will be spent on further development of the aircraft, which is expected to be an important part of the future nuclear triad.
15 KC-46 tankers
Aerial refueling plays a massive role in operations against ISIS and the Taliban. The KC-46 Pegasus can carry 212,299 pounds of fuel, and has a maximum transfer load of 207,672 pounds. It is intended to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker.
Sikorsky’s S-92 has been selected to replace the Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King as the president’s official helicopter. Initial fielding is planned for 2020, and the helicopters will have the iconic white and green paint scheme that is unique to presidential helicopters.
The price for the six new helicopters is expected to be $900 million.
5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles
The Department of Defense wants to fully replace the Humvee, which has been the workhorse of the US military since the mid-1980s. DoD has selected Oshkosh’s L-ATV line as the primary vehicle for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.
The Pentagon has allocated $2 billion for the purchases.
Two Virginia Class submarines
The Virginia-class submarine is currently the Navy’s newest type of submarine. It is a nuclear-powered attack sub, and has the latest stealth technology. Virginia-class submarines are replacing older Los Angeles-class submarines, and are expected to be in service up to 2070.
Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers are the backbone of the current Navy fleet. The Navy currently has 64 of the destroyers in service, and want to add three more. The plans to buy more Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers may be an admission that the plans for the Zumwalt-class are not going well.
The three new ships will cost $6 billion.
43,594 Joint Direct Attack Munitions
JDAMs are unguided “dumb” bombs that have gotten equipment that turn them into “smart” bombs, meaning they can be guided to their targets. The war against ISIS has caused a bomb shortage, so it should come as no surprise that the military is ordering so many new ones.
The cost for the 40,000+ bombs will be $1.2 billion.
4,338 Hellfire missiles
Hellfire missiles have proven to be absolutely essential for precision strikes against terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Syria and Somalia. They are anti-tank missiles that can be loaded on helicopter gunships like the AH-64 Apache, or drones like the MQ-9 Reaper.
148,287 155mm artillery rounds
Despite the fact that precision guided strikes have become the dominant method of destroying enemy targets, good old fashioned artillery is still a vital part. In fact, Marines in Syria recently set a new record for artillery barrages that have been intact since the Vietnam War.
“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.
One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.
For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.
When British General William Howe landed 20,000 Redcoats on Long Island, the situation looked grim for the young Continental Army. General George Washington’s Continentals seemed to be pinned down as Howe simultaneously attacked the Americans head-on while he moved his troops behind Washington’s position.
In his book, “Washington’s Immortals,” Patrick O’Donnell describes how their only way out was a small gap in the British line, somehow being held open by a handful of Marylanders.
Well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence put the nascent United States on a war footing with the world’s largest, most powerful empire, Col. William Smallwood started forming a regiment of men for the coming conflict.
Smallwood formed nine companies of infantry from the north and west counties of the Maryland Colony. Though they would be reassigned multiple times, the 400 men of the 1st Maryland Regiment took part in many major battles of the American Revolution, most notably covering the American retreat out of Long Island through a series of brave infantry charges.
British forces occupied “The Old Stone House” with a force that outnumbered the aforementioned Marylanders. While the rest of the Americans retreated in an orderly fashion, the few hundred Maryland troops repeatedly charged the fortified position with fixed bayonets.
American forces survived mostly intact — except for the Marylanders. Only nine of them made it back to the Continental Army.
Their rearguard actions against superior British troops in New York City earned them the nickname “The Immortal 400.” Their stand against 2,000 British regulars allowed Washington’s orderly retreat to succeed so he could fight another day.
The Immortal Regiment went on to fight at the pivotal battles of Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown. The unit continued its service long after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.
Maryland earned one of its nicknames, “The Old Line State,” because Washington referred to Maryland units as his “Old Line.” The U.S. Army National Guard’s 115th Infantry Regiment could trace its origins back to the Immortal 400, but the 115th is now merged with the 175th Infantry Regiment.
The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.
The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.
But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.
Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.
Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.
“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”
With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.
“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”
‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.
As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.
Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.
“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”
Welcome to the free market, North Korea
Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.
“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”
But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.
Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.
Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.
The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.
Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.
But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.
Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.
“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.
Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.
But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.
These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.
“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.
However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.
“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook
“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.
But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.
“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”
Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.
Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.
“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.
Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.
Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.
The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.
The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.
The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”
US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.
Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds
Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.
During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On April 30, Riley Howell was killed while resisting an active shooter where he attended school at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department credited Howell’s efforts in disarming the gunman. “Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.” Howell was among six victims in the attack.
On Sunday, May 5, Riley Howell was buried with full military honors.