Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.
Turkey, as well as a host of other US allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.
Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.
But after the curtain rolled back on Turkey’s single F-35, and Turkey’s military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?
Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. It’s an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The US bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
There’s deep concerns in the US over Turkey’s human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkey’s recent interest in Russian missile defenses.
Turkey is on track to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
For that reason, and human rights concerns, the US Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkey’s F-35s held back.
Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.
Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the US to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but it’s also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single US-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hollywood spies often have a myriad of amazing devices at their disposal for getting rid of bad guys in a clandestine way. It turns out, occasionally so do real spies.
Exhibit A: the CIA’s “undetectable” poison dart gun that near silently shot frozen darts comprised of an unspecified, undetectable poison. The individual hit reportedly would at most just feel something like a mosquito bite as the dart penetrated their skin. It would then quickly melt and the poison would do its work, leaving the victim dead of an apparent heart attack, with no detectable evidence of the poison remaining.
The weapon was revealed as part of a broader Senate investigation into intelligence and covert action abuses by the Agency. The disclosure of the full gamut of activities and devices caused Senator Frank Church (D-ID) to conclude that the CIA had become a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.”
Air rifle with tranquilizer dart — not CIA-issue (that we know of…). (Image via the website of the President of the Russian Federation)
Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s game-changing article in The New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974, which relayed assassination attempts and covert activities to subvert both foreign governments as well as American antiwar and other dissidents, the Senate formed the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities in 1975.
Chaired by Senator Church, during its two years of hearings, the Church Committee, as it came to be known, published 14 reports on a variety of abuses by the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA), as well as others.
These included routinely opening (and resealing) US citizens’ mail since 1952, misusing tax information to target domestic dissidents, and conducting domestic, electronic surveillance of peace and black power activists.
In addition, for the CIA, this also included developing weapons such as “a pistol [that] can fire a poison dart 328 feet, kill a man before he knows he has been hit, and leave no clue as to what killed him.”
Part of a program named MK Naomi, established for conducting and managing bacteriological warfare, the poison dart gun was just one of many experiments by the agency, which also included pesticides to ravage crops and on one occasion, using the NYC subway to test out a “trial model” of a biological warfare attack.
On Sep. 16, 1975, then CIA Director William Colby testified before the committee, which also included Senators Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), John Tower (R-TX), Walter Mondale (D-MN), Gary Hart (D-CO), Howard Baker (R-TN), Philip Hart (D-MI), Charles Mathias (R-MD), Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Richard Schweiker (R-PN) and Robert Morgan (D-NC).
The director gave remarkable testimony regarding the development of “toxic agents” at a laboratory at Fort Detrick, MD. Notably, Director Colby testified that only “limited records” remained of these activities, even though the program spanned from 1952-1970.
Among the director’s many extraordinary statements were these from his prepared remarks:
— The specific subject today concerns CIA’s involvement in the development of bacteriological warfare materials . . . retention of an amount of shellfish toxin, and CIA’s use and investigation of various chemicals and drugs
— The need for such capabilities was tied to . . . the development of two different types of suicide pills to be used in the event of capture [during WWII] and a successful operation using biological warfare materials to incapacitate a Nazi leader temporarily
— A . . . memo of 1967 identified . . . [the range of] project activity: maintenance of a stockpile of temporarily incapacitating and lethal agents . . . assessment and maintenance of biological and chemical dissemination systems . . . [and] adaptation and testing of a dart device for clandestine and imperceptible inoculation with biological warfare or chemical warfare agents
— The only application of this [shellfish] toxin was in the U-2 flight over the U.S.S.R in May 1960 [Gary Powers flight]
— Various dissemination devices, such as a fountain pen dart launcher and an engine head bolt designed to release a substance when heated [were developed]
— A large amount of Agency attention was given to the problem of incapacitating guard dogs
— Work was also done on temporary human incapacitation techniques . . . to incapacitate captives before they could render themselves incapable of talking, or . . . take retaliatory action
— Success was never achieved [for the temporarily incapacitating dart system] since a larger amount of an incapacitating agent is required to safely inactivate a human than of a lethal agent . . . to kill him
— Though specific accounting for each agent . . . is not on hand, DOD records indicate that the materials were, in fact, destroyed in 1970 by SOD personnel, except for the 11 grams [of shellfish toxin]. . . plus the 8 milligrams [of cobra venom, both found in a vault]
— A complete inventory . . . was taken . . . consisted of . . . materials and delivery systems . . . lethal materials, incapacitants, narcotics, hallucinogenic drugs, irritants and riot control agents, herbicides, animal control materials and many common chemicals
Former CIA employee Mary Embree discusses a similar weapon — the infamous heart attack gun, which was first made public during the Church Committee hearings in 1975.
President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.
The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.
The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.
Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”
“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.
Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.
Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.
“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.
The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.
Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”
Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.
“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”
Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.
More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.
McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”
Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.
Extremist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaida could use the coronavirus outbreak as a chance to ramp up attacks across the globe, the Associated Press reported.
While the group previously advised its fighters not to travel and carry out attacks in areas afflicted by the coronavirus outbreak, it appears the group and those like it are using the opportunity to plan and launch merciless attacks.
According to the International Crisis Group, ISIS has acknowledged security forces that normally work against the group will be overloaded dealing with COVID-19, and fighters should take “maximum advantage” of that distraction.
The International Crisis Group has previously warned that such attacks could take place in light of the pandemic, especially in countries that are terribly afflicted by the outbreak or already dealing with insurgencies.
The AP reported that while analysts say it’s too early to tell which attacks are the result of fighters taking advantage of the outbreak, some examples of deadly attacks have already taken place.
“Never in our history have we lost so many men at one time,” Chad’s President Idriss Deby said, according to the AP.
The group killed 50 Nigerian soldiers in another attack the next day.
The main concern, however, is that military forces from the United States and the United Kingdom will withdraw or be significantly cut in places like Iraq, Syria, and parts of Africa, leaving room for extremist groups to expand and carry out attacks.
Politico reported that the US military is worried that ISIS could expand in northeast Syria. The worry is that if the conditions get worse due to a coronavirus outbreak, the region does not have the necessary supplies to help those who fall sick. ISIS could use that as a rallying cry for riots and recruiting others.
The international coalition to defeat the militant group started sending the Syrian Democratic Forces, which guard thousands of extremist prisoners, basic medical equipment, and other supplies to limit the group from resurging, according to Politico.
According to the AP, while the UK is sending its soldiers who were stationed on a mission in Kenya to give counter-terrorism training back home to the UK, France will keep its troops in West Africa’s Sahel region. Four French soldiers have already tested positive for COVID-19.
While the French troops will continue their work, other African units that are “already stretched thin and under attack” may take additional measures to protect their troops, the AP reported. For example, the Nigerian military is looking to stop most of its activities, especially large gatherings, and training to limit the spread of the virus.
According to the AP, a leaked memo showed that some military vehicles might instead be used to transfer coronavirus patients to hospitals or for mass burials. But the Nigerian military has already been struggling to contain Boko Haram.
Clionadh Raleigh, executive director of the Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project, which tracks extremists’ activities worldwide, told the AP: “Any state that was interested in pulling back in Africa will take the opportunity to do so. That will be unbelievably bad.”
“We are struggling with treatment as we found a large number of parasites in the soldier’s stomach, invading and eating into the wounded areas,” Lee Guk-jong, the physician who treated him, told the Review.
“We have also discovered a parasite never seen in Koreans before,” Lee said. “It is making the situation worse and causing tremendous complications.”
It’s unclear whether the parasite has been seen in other parts of the world.
A professor at a medical school told the Review that North Korean defectors would often come to South Korea riddled with parasites, with one patient having more than 30 types of roundworms in her body. The problem is common among defectors, the professor said, but may not be reflective of the North Korean population.
But the case of this defector stands above the others — his small intestine is ruptured, contaminated with fecal matter, and infected with parasites, Lee told the Review.
“He has everything that he could have,” Lee said. “It is very likely that the prognosis will be worse than other general trauma patients as he has been in a state of shock induced by heavy bleeding and we expect to deal with many complications.”
Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.
With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.
Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.
Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.
Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.
Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.
That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.
“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.
“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”
But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.
“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.
“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.
“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.
The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.
The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.
“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.
Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.
“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.
“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.
Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.
“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.
“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.
However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.
Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.
“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”
While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a surprise appearance at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang after some speculation over whether or not he’d actually show up — and he reportedly loved it.
Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, saw South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation member Seohyun, and many others play at a “Spring is Coming” concert that appears to have captured his imagination.
“When such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout, and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen,” Kim said, according to North Korean media.
Kim even told a South Korean performer he’d like to return the favor with a show in South Korea called “Autumn is Coming,” according to NK News.
“Please tell [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] that how great an event like this is,” Kim reportedly said, also explaining that he reworked his busy schedule to see Red Velvet.
Kim, and his wife watched the performance with South Korean officials including Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who said Kim “showed a lot of interest while asking about songs and lyrics during the South’s performance,” according to NK News.
The performance also included some North Korean songs which were greeted with loud applause. And, as the event took place in Pyongyang, Kim himself was loudly applauded by the crowd.
Kim’s surprise visit to the show underscores a massive change in North and South Korean relations. Under Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, North Korea kidnapped South Korean artists to help film propaganda movies.
In North Korea, citizens can be sentenced to death for simply possessing South Korean media. When South Korea used to air drop in media like DVDs, North Korea would respond extremely harshly.
But now, as tensions begin to thaw and Kim goes on a diplomatic offensive meeting with heads of state for the first time, his tone seems to have shifted.
Officials with U.S. Pacific Command concluded the two Chinese J-10 jets that intercepted an Air Force RC-135 spy plane during a routine patrol over the East China Sea were flying unsafely and improperly, but not being intentionally provocative.
In a statement released Wednesday by the command, officials said the Defense Department planned to address the problem with Chinese authorities using appropriate diplomatic and military channels.
The intercept, officials said, was unsafe because one of the Chinese jets approached the American aircraft at an excessive rate of speed.
“Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” they said in a news release.
A spokesman for the command, Cmdr. David Benham, told Military.com that the speed with which the J-10 had closed on the RC-135 had not been determined.
“We’re still reviewing the details of the incident,” he said. “Generally speaking, when assessing the intercept, we evaluate factors such as distance, closure, weather, maneuvering and visibility.”
The release cited the chief of Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who emphasized that unsafe intercepts by Chinese aircraft were a rare occurrence, and that most recent U.S.-Chinese maritime interactions “had been conducted safely and professionally.”
But this intercept maneuver comes less than a month after a May 19 incident in which two Chinese J-11 aircraft conducted an unsafe intercept of an American EP-3 reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. In that incident, the Chinese planes came within 50 feet of the American aircraft, according to media reports.
This most recent incident comes as U.S. and Chinese officials exchange stern words over the contested South China Sea.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that China risked building a “Great Wall of self-isolation” if it continued to alienate neighbors with aggressive sovereignty claims and militarization activities in the region.
China fired back on Monday, when Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying
accused “certain countries” of conducting a “negative publicity campaign” regarding Chinese activity in the South China Sea.
“By sensationalizing the so-called tensions in the South China Sea, and driving wedges between countries in the region, they are trying to justify their political and military involvement in the South China Sea issue,” Hua said. “That is what they really want.”
Army and Marine Corps may add a more-lethal 30mm cannon to its new JLTV to improve lethality for the emerging high-tech platform and better prepare it for large-scale, mechanized force-on-force warfare.
The Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.
While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.
As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.
As part of this effort, the Army is looking at options to up-gun JLTV with more lethal weapons such as a 30mm cannon. JLTV maker Oshkosh recently unveiled a 30mm cannon-armed JLTV at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium last Fall.
In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.
Several reports, from Breaking Defense and Military.com, have said that the Army is preparing to use its JLTV for missions previously slated for a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or LRV. The LRV mission sets, can be met by a better armed JLTV, allowing the Army to forgo construction of a new lightweight vehicle and therefore save money.
The Army has received the first 7 “test” vehicles from by Oshkosh Defense at different sites around the force.
A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country. In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said. The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.
“It’s on schedule,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”
JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War
Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.
Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.
The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.
The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.
The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.
With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.
The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.
TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.
Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.
Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.
The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.
When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.
The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.
Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.
Army Future Strategy
As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.
Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.
While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.
As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.
Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain as has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.
Mark Rasnake outside the hospital in October 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.
He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”
As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.
Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.
“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”
Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.
“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.
Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.
At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.
Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.
“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”
Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.
Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.
Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”
As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.
“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”
Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.
“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”
Accompanied by nothing but sand, rocks, and the desert sun, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division continue to prepare for the unrelenting forces ahead by training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 15-July 19, 2019.
U.S. Marines of Invictus participated in a five-day field operation where they were evaluated as squads, based on how well they shoot, move, and communicate towards their objective.
When asked what the purpose of the evaluation was, Cpl. Zorenehf L. Yabao, a squad leader said, “To see where their performance is at and what they need to improve on for the duration of the pre-deployment training. From here on out, it is not going to be easy.”
With temperatures reaching more than 110 degrees, the constant running, yelling and shooting takes its toll. Yabao added “At the end of the day, you are taking control of your squad. You should not freak out or worry about anything else. You have to focus on the mission, what your commander’ task and purpose is and what you need to do. Just focus on caring about your squad, controlling them and getting the mission done.”
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)
1st Lt. Michael Mursuli, a platoon commander with the company said, “Morgan’s Well is one of the most difficult terrains to navigate being that there are so many hills and crevices. The terrain here is unlike anything else.”
The company trained with a variety of weapons systems varying from rifles and grenade launchers to machine guns and anti-armour launchers.
While speaking to the Company, Capt. Richard Benning, the company commander asked what the difference between the tiger, the lion, and the wolf is.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)
After being met with faces of confusion he stated, ” The wolf is not in the circus. The wolf cares about the wolf pack and the wolf pack alone. Invictus is the wolf pack.”
When asked about the training area, Mursuli said, “Twentynine Palms is the varsity league. There are more areas and opportunity’s to train here. Negotiating the terrain is very difficult and there are more ranges, bigger ranges and the ranges themselves are a beast to tackle. You are doing what the whole Marine Corps is doing but you are doing it on more difficult terrain.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Army’s newest Medal of Honor recipient will be retired Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg from the 4th Infantry Division. President Obama will drape the medal around his neck in a White House ceremony on November 12.
Groberg was leading a personal security detail on Aug. 8, 2012 when he spotted a suicide bomber in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Groberg rushed the bomber and threw him to the ground, limiting the effects of the blast. Still, four soldiers were killed in the attack when the bomber released the dead man’s trigger he was using.
Another suicide bomber hiding nearby was surprised by the explosion enough that he triggered his own bomb prematurely, which saved more lives thanks to Groberg’s actions.
Groberg survived but was severely wounded. On Sep. 21, 2015, he was called by the president and told he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
Groberg tells the story in his own words in the video below. Read more here.