Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria - We Are The Mighty
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Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.


Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
Kurdish Peshmerga near the Syrian border (photo by Enno Lenze)

The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.

The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.

The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.

“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.

He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”

Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.

Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.

The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
Kurdish Peshmerga forces shelling ISIS positions near Mount Sinjar.

The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.

Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.

“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.

In Damascus, meanwhile, officials denounced new U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. The move was part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Khaled Abboud, a member of parliament, said the center is “purely a research center, mostly for agricultural studies.”

“The sanctions are new attempts by the U.S. administration to put pressure on the Syrian state,” he told The Associated Press, adding that the center is a “peaceful research center.”

The U.S. has blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in the rebel-held northern Idlib province. Syrian officials strongly deny the charges.

An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.

Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Extremists and cheap drones are changing asymmetrical warfare

It is the definition of asymmetrical warfare: a fast-moving, lightly armed insurgency fueled by a radical doctrine uses simple weapons to attack a larger, seemingly more capable occupying force.


Taking inspiration from the doctrines of T.E. Lawrence, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, extremists in Syria have increased pressure on Russian forces in the region with another simple, innovative attack that heavily damaged at least one Russian aircraft and likely more. Previous similar attacks in the region around Jan. 4 were reported to have killed 2 Russian servicemen.

Recent photos surfacing on social media attributed to Russian military journalist Roman Saponkov show the tail of what appears to be a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft damaged by an attack earlier this month.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo from Russian Air Force)

A report that surfaced on Jan. 6, 2018 from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that was shared in several media outlets, including the BBC, says that Russian forces shot down several “unmanned aircraft” near Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia Jan. 6 in what appears to be the latest attack attempt by insurgents. In this week’s latest attack, the Russians claim there was no damage to aircraft or personnel and their air defense systems were successful in intercepting the small, store-bought quadcopter drones, usually used for cameras.

There has been a recent increase in attacks by improvised air-delivered weapons from remotely piloted aircraft on Russian installations in Syria. Additional insurgent attacks have been attributed to mortars. Some of the remotely piloted aircraft, in some instances commercial-style, quad-copter drones, have been modified to carry mortar rounds or grenades. Some grenade-bombs even used badminton shuttlecocks for improvised tail fin stabilizers. While this is not new, the frequency of the incidents and adaptability of the insurgents does seem to have increased.

Related: 7 new weapons in the war against drones

This increase in insurgent attacks comes just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian assets from Syria during a surprise visit to Hmeimim air base on Dec. 11, 2017. Hmeimim air base is the primary launch facility for Russian tactical air operations in Syria’s Latakia province. The political move by Putin is reminiscent of the May 1, 2003 political gaff by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. President Bush made a media event out of landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and speaking in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished,” acknowledging the progress of the U.S. in the Global War on Terror in Iraq. Although Bush never said the mission was accomplished in his remarks on the USS America, the event is historically regarded as premature to meaningful change in the ongoing Iraq conflict. Putin may face similar criticism if a meaningful victory in Syria does not happen soon.

The Russian success in intercepting improvised camera drones being adapted to carry weapons is at least partially attributable to what may be their most sophisticated air defense system, the Pantsir S-2 integrated missile and gun vehicle.

The Pantsir S-2, an advancement from the earlier Pantsir S-1, uses a combination of a high rate of fire anti-aircraft gun and surface to air missiles combined with advanced targeting radar to both detect aerial threats and target both the guns and the missiles on the Pantsir S-2.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Pantsir S-2 is armed with two 2A38M, 30mm automatic anti-aircraft guns derived from the GSh-30 twin-barrel 30mm aircraft-mounted cannon. The cannon system on the Pantsir S-2 has a very high rate of fire from 1,950 to 2,500 rounds per minute depending on the length of the burst. The 2A38M cannon can engage targets up to 2,000 meters, over 6,000 feet, altitude. More importantly in the context of the improvised insurgent threats, the 2A38M can engage targets down to zero altitude effectively, a problem older Soviet-era Russian anti-aircraft systems like the ZSU-34-4 faced since the guns could not depress below a certain elevation making it impossible to hit very low altitude targets in close proximity.

The Pantsir S-2 also carries the new highly capable 57E6-E guided surface to air missile. The missile uses a bi-caliber body in tandem, one stage in front of the next, with a separate booster stage then in-flight stage. The newest versions of the 57E6-E are reported to have range of up to 20-30 kilometers with and reported engagement ceiling of 10,000 meters (approx. 33,000 feet).

While the new Pantsir S-2 provides significant protection from what appears to be the entire threat envelope from enemy fixed-wing aircraft to improvised quad-copter bombs the hallmark of the insurgent adversary is adaptability. While Russia appears to be emerging in the lead of the conflict in Syria as Putin announces their withdrawal, one has to wonder what shift in insurgent tactics will follow their drone attack campaign.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team RWB encourages Veterans to stay connected, stay active

Every year, more than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life, joining more than 18 million Veterans to form one of America’s largest and strongest communities. But like most big transitions in life, this one is not easy. Since its inception in 2010, Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) has been helping Veterans stay active, connecting to their new communities and developing a resilient mindset. Today, Team RWB is 217,000 members strong, with chapters across the country. Volunteer leaders run these chapters, and collectively, they host nearly 40,000 events per year.


Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Providing Veterans more opportunities

Through a newly formalized partnership (signed memorandum of understanding) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA stakeholders will have access to Team RWB’s wide-ranging network of events, providing Veterans and supporters everywhere opportunities to connect at the local, regional and national levels.

In addition, Team RWB will work with local VA staff to bring the power of the Eagle network to communities across the country. Events range from hikes to yoga classes, to preparing care packages for deployed service members.

“Team RWB is a non-profit organization, but in that, we are so much more, ” says Mike Erwin, founder and Executive Director of Team RWB. “We are a movement and an identity, a mindset and a community that challenges and supports each other. We are accountable to each other, especially when it comes to creating healthy habits in our post-military lives. Through this new partnership with VA, Team RWB is positioned to engage every Veteran in our country—to help them re-discover the power of physical activity in their lives. And through that, a sense of pride, confidence, purpose and belonging.”

Last fall, Team RWB released a mobile app to engage Veterans wherever they are throughout the day. The Eagle app makes it even easier to discover nearby events and participate in virtual challenges like last month’s March Madness Challenge that had states competing with each other. In May, a new update will introduce social networking, the ability for members to create events and more.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Born for the Storm

As Team RWB prepares to celebrate its 10th year, the organization has rolled out a new mantra for its Veterans: Born for the Storm. It’s a virus now, but it could be something else by the fall. Life is unpredictable and adversity is certain. Team RWB knows that every Veteran has persevered through numerous physical and mental challenges while serving the nation, and reminds its Veterans that they have the character to weather whatever storms they may be facing.

Team RWB is fired up to partner with VA and wants you to explore the idea of joining the Team and becoming active in virtual challenges right away. You, the Veteran community and our country, will be better for it.

Download the Team RWB app
Android
Apple

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Most soldiers do not think much about what happens to improvised explosive devices once they are found and disarmed by friendly forces. Some may believe that IEDs are taken somewhere in a controlled environment to be safely detonated or disposed of properly.

Sometimes properly disposing of IEDs is the only thing to do.

However, most times, IEDs are sent to specialized laboratories where they can be analyzed and researched to help counter enemy forces.


The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command here is one of the many facilities where enemy weapons such as IEDs are analyzed by highly trained and educated professionals in various disciplines of forensic science.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Denise Myers, a DNA analyst assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, labels containers that hold samples recovered from an item that will generate a DNA profile for a person of interest at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018. The capabilities of the FXL-C provide critical intelligence to combat forces on ground.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Dedicated technicians

“The great thing within our laboratory is that everyone is really passionate about the work we do,” said Roman Aranda, the supervisory chemist and laboratory manager for the FXL-C.

“The laboratory takes the anonymity away from the adversary,” he added.

Removing anonymity from enemy forces is a crucial advantage for any combatant commander in any area of responsibility. “The lab is a culminating point for everything that comes off the battlefield in order for the intelligence community to get those products and information distributed out to those that are on the ground,” said Army Maj. Allen Spence, the officer in charge of the laboratory operations, assigned to U.S. Army Central and attached to the FXL-C.

Flexibility

A forensic lab can adapt and move more quickly compared to stateside and other federal laboratories, Aranda said. The FXL-C networks with explosive ordinance device units, Special Forces and often with partner nations to protect and support U.S. forces.

They work closely with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and the Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit, Spence said. They also work with the FBI and the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol, to push out information to 192 countries.

So far in 2018, the FXL-C has closed more than 440 cases, processed more than 45,000 exhibits, documented almost 650 latent prints and found more than 70 biometric matches.

The FXL-C’s accomplishments have come through modernization and research efforts that help support its four core principles: firearms and tool marks, DNA, chemistry, and electronics exploitation.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Timothy Kesterson, a latent print examiner assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, inspects a recovered piece of metal used as a pressure plate in an improvised explosive device uncovered in Centcom’s area of responsibility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Being deployed and closer to the battleground is an additional capability the FXL-C provides to ground forces.

“Working directly with the submitters, we can provide them what they need to know as fast as we can,” said Mark Chapman, an electrical engineer assigned to the FXL-C.

“This mission is critical to the Army, and it’s the focal point where everything meets,” Spence said.

“Our main goal is to find the smart guy that is developing these tools such as IEDs and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Chapman said. “Not so much that guy that is using them — they are still a target — but if we can find that smart guy and eliminate him, that’s the main challenge.”

The men and women of the FXL-C deployed to these forward laboratories put in long work days and sometimes nights. They also work every day of the week during their six-month tour, because they recognize the contribution it makes on the battlefield by exposing enemy forces new and old tactics.

“If it’s a new device that’s come out, we will find it and figure out how it works and we will get that information back out to the [intelligence] community,” Spence said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The US treaty with Morocco dates back to the 1700s

Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base [in Morocco], marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.


More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
Members of Morocco’s special operations forces clear buildings during a direct action raid as part of the Flintlock 2017 exercise in Chtouka Ait Baha province, Morocco, March 3, 2017. The operators partnered with Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command throughout the exercise to build interoperability and support their common goal of countering violent extremism across the region. Portions of this photo have been blurred for security purposes. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler)

The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.

Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots

African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.

Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier.

Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores.

In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco.

Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.

“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., help inspect Malian army soldier’s weapons at their garrison in Tombouctou, Mali, Sept. 4, 2007, during exercise Flintlock 2007. The exercise, which is meant to foster relationships of peace, security and cooperation among the Trans-Sahara nations, is part of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. The TSCTP is an integrated, multi-agency effort of the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Defense Department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ken Bergmann)

‘A Golden Opportunity’

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.

“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.

Also read: This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska

Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.

The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate, and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.

Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis’ brother says he has ‘no anger’ about early departure

The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.

“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”

Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.


Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.

Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.

But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.

On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.

The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.

Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”

“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.

But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.

On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”

On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China plays it both ways in disputes over sea territory

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.

China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”


The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.

In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.

“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.

“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.

Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.

Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.

In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)

The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.

In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.

Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.

“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Air Force jets will control small groups of drones

The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.


At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
US Air Force

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot.  As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
US Air Force

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the  progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria
US Air Force

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch that massive battle with Russian mercenaries in Syria

The US military has released footage it says came from a massive battle that reports have indicated took place between Russian military contractors and the US and its Syrian allies in February 2018.


The battle, wherein as many as 500 or so combatants loyal to the Syrian government were said to have advanced toward a known US position in western Syria and fired with tanks and artillery, reportedly ended with up to 300 attackers killed by US airpower and artillery.

The Pentagon says the video it shared showed the US responding to an “unprovoked attack.” News reports indicated the attacking force included mostly Russian nationals, potentially making this one of the deadliest clashes between US and Russian fighters in decades.

Also read: A mortar attack might have destroyed 7 Russian fighters in Syria

The Russian military has denied having a large ground presence in Syria and has sought to distance itself from those it describes as independent contractors. According to Reuters, Russia said only five of its citizens may have been killed in the battle.

The US said it called the Russian military to inform it of the strike before letting loose what multiple reports called a significant air offensive. Sources later told Reuters that Apache helicopters cleaned up what was left of the advance after an initial wave of airstrikes.

Watch the strike footage below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Larry Yake, an Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was one of several “Vets in Vettes” at the front of the Oct. 28 Meadville Halloween Parade.


When the Corvettes provided by Community Chevrolet pulled over alongside the stage erected in front of the Market House, Yake thought it was just part of the parade. Little did he know that he would be going home with one of the cars in the parade — not one of the Corvettes, but a car that promises to go a long way toward improving Yake’s quality of life.

Also read: Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

“I was surprised,” Yake admitted from in front of the Market House, where he had returned after finishing the parade. His daughter, who he’s raising on his own, and friends and family members were there, as they had been for the presentation moments earlier — they had known of the surprise presentation, but none had let on to Yake.

“I was almost emotional,” the disabled vet said. “I had to choke it back a little bit.”

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Army veteran Larry Yake (center, leather jacket) accepts a vehicle from Operation Build Up. Video still from Operation Build Up Facebook.

Yake is the fourth Meadville-area veteran to receive a refurbished car from Operation Build Up, a nonprofit based in Lima, New York. Representatives of the organization rode in the parade behind the Corvettes, pulling a trailer with the white 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer that would be given to Yake.

Justin Cogswell, CEO of Operation Build Up, said the organization had recently started a Pennsylvania hub.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Cogswell knows firsthand the challenges vets can face upon returning home, especially if those challenges include transportation. Soon after he returned from serving with the Marines in 2009, his vehicle became disabled and before he knew it, he had been evicted and had lost his job. For nine months, he bounced from one living situation to the next.

“When I actually got a vehicle,” he said, it only took me a couple of weeks to get my life back in order. I realized the main thing that was preventing me from establishing a solid civilian life was not having a vehicle.”

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Operation Build Up’s logo, from Facebook.

“I feel that once veterans lose transportation,” he added, “they lose the ability to prosper.”

Jim Severo owns RANZ Bar and Grill, a veteran himself and has served on the Operation Wounded Vetz organizing committee for the past five years. Over the summer, Severo hosted an earlier car presentation at RANZ and helped arrange the surprise for Yake, even scheduling “chance encounters” so that Yake was in the Corvette Severo was driving in the parade.

“This town has really embraced them,” Severo said of Operation Build Up. “These guys are very passionate about what they do and there’s definitely no shortage of struggling vets.”

Yake was similarly passionate about his appreciation as he watched the tail end of the parade march past the Market House.

“This car is really going to help me take care of my daughter and meet my VA appointments,” Yake said.

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Paratroopers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. US Army Photo by Pfc Liem Huynh.

After entering the Army in 2005, Yake served as a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. After returning home, he served again in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008.

It’s been about five years since he had a car, Yake said, and he already knows what he wants to do first with the car Operation Build Up is giving him.

“I’m going to my parents’ house and show them the car,” he said, “because they’ve always been there for me through everything.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Retired Austrian officer arrested as alleged Russian spy

Austrian authorities have questioned a recently retired military officer under suspicion of spying for Russia for almost 20 years, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and canceled an upcoming trip to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, Kurz added.

“We demand transparent information from Russia,” Kurz said on Nov. 9, 2018, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.


“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he said.

Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April 2018 for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.

“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” Kurz added.

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Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Austria’s ambassador on Nov. 9, 2018, to demand an explanation about the accusations, Russian news agencies reported.

Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light “a few weeks ago” as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.

Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.

“We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive more accurate information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps,” Kurz said.

Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, due to the espionage case.

Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.

The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Costco’s ‘Hero Hour’ opens the store early for veterans

Costco locations across the US are opening an hour early for active duty members of the military, veterans, and their families.


On March 24, 2018, 117 Costco warehouses are holding a “Military Hour,” which some locations are calling “Costco Hero Hour.” Warehouses will open at 8 a.m., an hour before their normal opening times, to allow current and former members of the armed forces to shop before the crowds arrive at the popular retailer.

Also read: Why your next business book should be a military field manual

The bulk retailer is additionally offering a new membership deal for people in the military who are not currently Costco members. To participate, all shoppers must be Costco members.

To visit a Costco early for Military Hour, shoppers need to either have a Military ID or pre-register for the event online.

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(Photo by Mark Guim)

Additionally, not every Costco location will be holding “Military Hour.” You can see a list of the 117 locations hosting Military Hours here.

While some people were disappointed that their local Costco warehouses were not participating in the promotion, many are celebrating Costco’s decision to hold Military Hour on social media.

Related: How vet-owned Sword Plough is repurposing military gear for a mission of peace

“Just another plus for COSTCO honoring our sons and daughters who are willing to die for our country and us,” one person wrote on Costco’s Facebook page.

Other people are hoping the Military Hour becomes a more regular event.

“Would also be great if Costco had a couple shopping days a month for those of us that get stressed in crowded and noisy stores … I can only handle so much!” wrote another.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US military bases are still using Chinese surveillance cameras

US military bases continue to use surveillance cameras manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision, according to the Financial Times, despite security concerns that the cameras could give the Chinese government a way to spy on sensitive US military installations. Government agencies will be banned from purchasing the equipment starting in August 2019.

The Financial Times found that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado spent $112,000 in 2016 on cameras manufactured by Hikvision.

The headquarters of Air Force Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are both located at Peterson. NORAD is charged with ensuring the sovereignty of American and Canadian airspace, and defending them from attack.


A Navy research base in Orlando, Florida purchased ,000 worth of Hikvision cameras after last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which bans the purchase of such equipment, passed.

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A C-17 Globemaster III loads with cargo on June 6, 2019, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, one of the US military bases that purchased Chinese-made surveillance cameras before a ban took effect.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Bertain)

Both bases told The Financial Times that the cameras were not connected to the internet. The Florida base said that the cameras were being used as part of a training system. A spokesperson from Peterson said that the cameras were “not associated with base security or classified areas” and that the systems would be replaced.

The Chinese government owns 42% of Hikvision. Hikvision and Zhjiang Dahua Technology Co., another company banned by the NDAA, control approximately a third of the global video surveillance market, according to Bloomberg.

The 2019 NDAA cites several concerns about companies connected to the Chinese state using technology like Hikvision’s cameras to exploit vulnerabilities and access sensitive government information. Hikvision responded to the legislation at the time, saying it “was not based on any evidence, review, or investigation of potential security risks.”

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The ban extends to Huawei products and Hytera radios, too; the US State Department recently purchased ,000 worth of Hytera replacement parts for its Guatemalan embassy, and as of 2017, Army Special Forces used Hytera radios in training, according to The Financial Times.

Other bases, including Fort Drum in New York and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, purchased Hikvision cameras in 2018, but did not disclose to the Financial Times whether they were still in use. The Defense Logistics Agency purchased nearly 0,000 worth of Hikvision cameras since 2018 for bases in Korea and Florida, but did not confirm to The Financial Times whether the cameras were still being used.

Last year, five Hikvision cameras were removed from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, although Col. Christopher Beck, a spokesperson for the base told the Wall Street Journal, “We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” and that the cameras were removed to avoid “any negative perception.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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