A US Army Green Beret was found strangled to death in his hotel in Bamako, Mali.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating two Navy SEALs who were flown out of the country just after the killing and placed on administrative leave.
After Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar of the US Army’s elite Special Forces turned up dead at his hotel in Bamako, Mali, military criminal authorities launched an investigation into two Navy SEALs who were flown out of the country just after the death, and placed on “administrative leave,” according to The New York Times.
Melgar, who was found dead on June 4, belonged to the same unit that lost four soldiers in an ambush in Niger earlier in October. The SEALs in question belonged to SEAL Team 6, the same unit that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
Military medical examiners ruled Melgar’s death “a homicide by asphyxiation,” and the two SEALs who were staying at the same hotel have gone from being referred to as “witnesses” to “persons of interest,” according to the Times.
Melgar, and the SEALs in question, worked in Mali gathering intelligence and helping local forces train and conduct counterterrorism missions, according to the Times.
Outside of tragic mistakes and friendly fire episodes, US servicemembers rarely kill each other, prompting wild speculation about why the SEALs may have acted against Melgar. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is on the case.
More than 1500 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
For those faced with this traumatic injury, the Department of Defense medical system has adapted in the last 20 years to speed up the recovery process and improve prosthetics.
“Our patients have challenged us by wanting more,” said Col. (Dr.) Mark Mavity, Air Force Surgeon General special assistant for Invisible Wounds and Wounded Warrior Program. “One of the unfortunate truths of war is that medicine does advance based on the large numbers of our service members who become injured.”
About 1.8 million Americans are living with amputations. The psychological challenges patients battle every day can be harsh. For most people, losing a limb profoundly impacts every aspect of their life: mentally, physically and spiritually. A strong support system can be vital to recovery and returning to duty.
Capts. Christy Wise and Ryan McGuire can attest to this. Both Wise, a C-130 pilot, and McGuire, a C-17 pilot, lost a limb and credited their support systems with helping them continuing their service and remain flying.
“In April of 2015, I was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. I had been flying for a couple years and had just got back from a deployment,” Wise said. “I was in Florida … out on my paddle board, just behind my best friend’s house, and I was hit by a hit-and-run boat driver. My boyfriend at the time used his t-shirt and made a tourniquet to save my life.”
A couple on a fishing boat saw it all happen and transported Wise to medical care. She lost 70 percent of her blood in approximately three minutes.
Lucky to be alive, Wise said she thought about McGuire, who in 2009, while in pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, lost his leg returned to flying C-17s. She remembered him because he was only a year ahead of her in pilot training.
It was Labor Day weekend when McGuire’s accident happened. He and some friends from pilot training were out tubing.
“There was no place to tie the tube into the boat, so we had the tube in the back of the boat, and I was holding the rope,” McGuire said. “The tube caught some air and flew out the back of the boat, and then the rope unraveled, cinched around my leg and pulled me out of the boat, slammed me into the side of the boat on the way out.”
McGuire said he flew over his friends’ heads and landed in the water. The rope then unraveled around his leg and caused traumatic rope-burn damage from his right knee down to his foot.
“I was able to get back into the back ledge of the boat that’s level with the water, and then the pain started setting in, I knew something was really wrong,” he said. “My pelvis had popped open, or fractured, and my hip had dislocated, so I was in an incredible amount of pain.”
After multiple attempts to save his foot and leg, doctors were forced to amputate below the knee.
“That was probably the lowest point of my life, just going through the amputation surgery, and losing my leg for something that seemed like it was so trivial, and not that big of an accident,” McGuire said.
Even at this low point, McGuire never doubted he wanted to return to flying. But for service members to return to duty after accidents such as these, they must be able to prove they can continue to function, while maintaining the safety of those they support.
McGuire’s unit and leadership backed the idea and began the process of returning him to duty.
“One of the things that I insisted on from the beginning, and all the commanders below me and above me insisted on, is if we’re going to do this, this isn’t a [publicity] stunt,” said Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, director of strategy, plans and programs for Pacific Air Forces.
Wills was the operations group commander at Laughlin AFB when the accident happened. He believes McGuire’s character, and the support he received, was the key to his recovery and return to duty.
“I think this story shows that we have great squadron commanders out there, and in my mind, the squadron commanders involved were the key to this thing,” he said. “Because they never stopped believing in [McGuire], they never stopped for one minute trying to think of a way to help this Airman succeed.”
One of the things McGuire had to prove was that he could stop the airplane with a prosthetic leg and that he could control it without any additional risk.
McGuire also appeared before a board. But even here he wasn’t alone. His squadron commanders and some classmates also flew to San Antonio to testify on his behalf.
“It was amazing for me as the group commander to just look around see all these gentlemen that were lining up to support Ryan,” Wills said.
In 2010, McGuire received word from the medical board that he was cleared to return to pilot training.
Now, several years later, Wise was in the back of an ambulance worrying about her Air Force career.
“I remember laying in the back of an ambulance thinking, ‘I can’t feel my leg, this is not good,'” Wise said. “But worst-case scenario, ‘Ryan did it, I can do it.'”
Wise’s injuries were so severe her leg had to be amputated above the knee.
But before she even left the hospital Wise said the support from her unit and other Airmen had already commenced. She even received phone calls from other amputees wanting to help.
“They would say, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to talk, I got back to flying, we’ll tell you the steps, you can do it, don’t doubt it,'” Wise said.
So, like McGuire, Wise put in the work and proved she could still fly.
“And now I’m here, I’m at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base [Arizona] back on flying status, back to my job and loving it,” she said.
McGuire’s injury may have paved the way for Wise to return to duty, but it is not what helped her regain her flying status.
“That’s when I realized how much support I really had from my unit, from the Air Force, from my family, from my friends,” she said. “I mean, half of my base showed up in the hospital room the next day in Florida. So it’s weird, because it’s such a dark chapter, but such a good chapter too.”
The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.
By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.
Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.
The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.
The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.
Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.
The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.
Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)
The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.
After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.
It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.
To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.
During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.
Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.
Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.
Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.
Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.
More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.
There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.
Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.
Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.
According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.
On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”
Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.
In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”
Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.
“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”
Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.
“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”
Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.
“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”
At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.
“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”
Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.
“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”
But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.
“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”
DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.
“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”
Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.
“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.
“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”
The Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, said Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia, that this future platform — a Group 5, the largest class of military drone — will be equipped to fight from sea as well as land.
“I would say we’re very aggressive with what we want that Group 5 to be,” Davis said. “I want my airplane to go off a seabase and, frankly, I think the Group 5 [unmanned aircraft system] for the Marine Corps will have [AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] on there, will have AIM-9X [Sidewinder missile], will have all the weapons that an F-35 will carry, maybe even the sensors the F-35 will carry.”
This future drone will not be a competitor with the Corps’ new F-35B Lightning II 5th-generation fighter but a collaborator, able to team with the aircraft on missions, he said.
“It’s about … making sure that the Marines have the very best protection wherever they go, whatever they do, and manned-unmanned teaming is not just with attack helicopters — it’s with jets, it’s with grunts,” Davis said.
In the Corps’ 2016 aviation plan, the MUX is described as filling an extremely broad range of missions, including electronic warfare; reconnaissance and surveillance; command, control, communications and computers [C4]; aircraft escort; persistent fires; early warning; and tactical distribution.
“It will be a multi-sensor, electronic warfare, C4 bridge, [anti-air warfare] and strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 and F-35, giving MAGTF commanders flexible, persistent, and lethal reach,” the document states. “It will provide scalable MAGTF support deploying as detachments or squadrons supporting commanders at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.”
Call it a mega-drone, if you will.
Prominent candidates for such a role include the Bell-Textron V-247, an unmanned, single-engine armed tiltrotor platform designed to operate from the sea; the Lockheed Martin K-Max built by Kaman, an optionally manned cargo chopper used to transport gear in Afghanistan and now being developed to accommodate sensors; and the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, or Tern, an aircraft developed by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research that sits on its tail so it can launch and recover on a ship’s deck.
Davis said he wants the Marines’ Group 5 UAS to be able to fly at 30,000 feet, the typical cruising altitude for an airliner, and to carry weapons internally to maximize efficiency and time on station. Ultimately, he said, he wants an unmanned aircraft that can do everything a manned aircraft can.
“Do I think it will replace manned platforms? No, but I think we have to integrate, look for capabilities, cover down our gaps, our seams, that are out there,” he said. “Frankly, no matter how many airplanes I have, I don’t get 24/7 coverage with my manned platforms, especially from my seabase. If we do distributed operations, we’re going to need all the game we can bring.”
Davis said he wants to see a tech demonstration flight of the MUX by 2018 and early operational capability for the system by 2024.
That timeline puts development of the mega-drone slightly ahead of the joint Future Vertical Lift program, which will select a next generation of helicopters for services including the Army and Marine Corps.
The movie “12 Strong” arrives in theaters this Friday, and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. special forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following is the second part of an Army.mil exclusive three-part feature recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in that country.
ON THE GROUND
Special operations forces have a famously tight bond. As the Green Berets stepped off the SOAR’s highly modified MH-47 Chinooks into Afghanistan, they stepped back in time, to a time of dirt roads and horses. They stepped into another world, one of arid deserts and towering peaks, of “rugged, isolated, beautiful, different colored stones and geographical formations, different shades of red in the morning as the sun came up,” said Maj. Mark Nutsch, then the commander of ODA 595, one of the first two 12-man teams to arrive in Afghanistan. The world was one of all-but-impassable trails, of “a canyon with very dominating, several-hundred-feet cliffs.” It was a world of freezing nights, where intelligence was slim, women were invisible, and friend and foe looked the same.
They arrived in the middle of the night, of course, to the sort of pitch blackness that can only be found miles from electricity and civilization, at the mercy of the men waiting for them. “We weren’t sure how friendly the link up was going to be,” said Nutsch. “We were prepared for a possible hot insertion. … We were surrounded by — on the LZ there were armed militia factions. … We had just set a helicopter down in that. … It was tense, but … the link up went smoothly.”
The various special forces teams that were in Afghanistan split into smaller three-man and six-man cells to cover more ground. Some of them quickly found themselves on borrowed horses, in saddles meant for Afghans who were much lighter and shorter than American Green Berets. Most of the Soldiers had never ridden before, and they learned by immediately riding for hours, forced to keep up with skilled Afghan horsemen, on steeds that constantly wanted to fight each other.
But that’s what Green Berets do: they adapt and overcome. “The guys did a phenomenal job learning how to ride that rugged terrain,” said Nutsch, who worked on a cattle ranch and participated in rodeos in college. Even so, riding requires muscles most Americans don’t use every day, and after a long day in the saddle, the Soldiers were in excruciating pain, especially as the stirrups were far too short. They had to start jerry-rigging the stirrups with parachute cord.
“Initially you had a different horse for every move … and you’d have a different one, different gait or just willingness to follow the commands of the rider,” Nutsch remembered. “A lot of them didn’t have a bit or it was a very crude bit. The guys had to work through all of that and use less than optimal gear. … Eventually we got the same pool of horses we were using regularly.”
Nutsch had always been a history buff, and he had carefully studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he had never expected to ride horses into battle. In fact, it was the first time American Soldiers rode to war on horseback since World War II, and this ancient form of warfare was now considered unconventional.
“We’re blending, basically, 19th-century tactics with 20th-century weapons and 21st-century technology in the form of GPS, satellite communications, American air power,” Nutsch pointed out.
And there were military tactics involved. Even the timing of the attacks was crucial. Nutsch remembers wondering why the Northern Alliance wanted to go after the Taliban midafternoon instead of in the morning, but it accounted for their slower speed on horseback, while still leaving time to consolidate any gains before darkness fell. (They didn’t have night vision goggles.)
Supported by the Green Berets, Northern Alliance fighters directly confronted the Taliban over and over again. Some factions, like Nutsch’s, relied on horses for that first month. Others had pickup trucks or other vehicles, but they usually charged into battle armed with little more than AK-47s, machine guns, grenades and a few handfuls of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Taliban had tanks and armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns they used as cannons, all left behind by the Soviets when they evacuated Afghanistan in the 1980s.
It took a lot of heart, a lot of courage. “We heard a loud roar coming from the west,” said Master Sgt. Keith Gamble, then a weapons sergeant on ODA 585, as he remembered one firefight. “We had no clue what it was until we saw about 500 to 1,000 NA soldiers charging up the ridge line. I called it a ‘Brave Heart’ charge. What the NA didn’t realize was that the route leading up the ridgeline was heavily mined. The NA did not fare too well, as they received numerous injuries and had to retreat. We continued to pound the ridge line with bombs until the NA took it that evening.”
“They weren’t suicidal,” Nutsch, who worked with different ethnic groups, agreed, “but they did have the courage to get up and quickly close that distance on those vehicles so they could eliminate that vehicle or that crew. We witnessed their bravery on several occasions where they charged down our flank (to attack) these armored vehicles or these air defense guns that are being used in a direct fire role, and kill the crew and capture that gun for our own use.”
Those possible responses include destroying a launch site before North Korea could test a missile and targeting a stockpile of weapons, according to The Telegraph.
“The Pentagon is trying to find options that would allow them to punch the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that we’re serious,” a former US security official briefed on policy told The Telegraph.
Attacking North Korea would make the Syria strike look easy
When US Navy ships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield, President Donald Trump had the world’s support in attacking a nation accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.
Syria’s military was already stretched thin fighting a civil war and multiple Islamist terrorist groups. The strike went virtually unpunished.
But that most likely wouldn’t be the case with a US strike on North Korea, which has a massive standing army and a military posture geared toward offense.
And there are practical reasons the US can’t just blow up a North Korean missile launch site. As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter, “Mobile missiles don’t need launch sites, Donald.”
Instead of using designated launch sites, North Korea puts its missiles on mobile launchers, some of which have treads to launch from off-road locations.
Lately, North Korea has varied its launch sites, most likely to make it harder for the US to track and possibly intercept missiles.
If the US wants to give you a bloody nose, nothing can stop it
The US does have tools to give North Korea a “bloody nose.”
Short of blowing up a launch site, which could kill launch officers — and possibly Kim Jong Un, as he usually watches launches from close by — the US could attempt to intercept North Korea’s next missile launch.
The US and allies have not only increased missile-defense deployments to the region — they’ve also deployed F-35 stealth fighters that have some capability to shoot down missile launches.
Submarines like the USS Michigan, which has frequently visited South Korea in recent months, could send a volley of cruise missiles at any military site in North Korea without ever surfacing.
Forward-deployed Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the US Navy could intercept the missiles as they launched, Sid Trevethan, a former US Navy specialist in ballistic missile defense and electronic countermeasures, told Business Insider.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently said that though North Korea’s last ballistic missile test demonstrated a very long range, he’s not convinced the entire missile system works. US policy on North Korea explicitly calls for denying it the means to perfect its missile program.
Destroying North Korean missiles during launch would rob Pyongyang of valuable testing and could ensure it never tests an ICBM at full range, meaning it could never be fully confident in its ability to hit the US.
Calling Kim’s bluff risks nuclear war
The US knows what capabilities it has to counter North Korea, but not how North Korea would respond.
If the US were to send Tomahawk missiles toward a launch site, North Korea might interpret the incoming salvo as targeting its supreme leader and being an outright act of war.
The bloody-nose scenario comes down to a gamble on whether North Korea is ready to enter all-out war over a limited strike.
North Korea has sunk US and South Korean ships without proportionate punishment in the past. It has shelled South Korean islands, captured Americans and South Koreans, and killed civilians without US retaliation.
North Korea, despite having the weaker hand militarily, has often gambled that the US and South Korea value prosperity and peace — albeit an uneasy peace — too much to respond tit-for-tat to its military provocations.
A US attack on North Korea might just call a long-standing bluff and show that Pyongyang’s bark is worse than its bite — or it might unleash nuclear war.
China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.
China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.
The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.
In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.
China is building impressive and inexpensive drones
The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.
The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.
The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.
The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.
The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.
The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.
The US has restrictive regulations and policies
Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.
A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.
In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.
Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.
The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.
In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.
China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.
Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.
In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.
By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.
In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.
China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.
China’s future drone projects are even more impressive
Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.
There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.
Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.
China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.
Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.
In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.
In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.
This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.
Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.
“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”
For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.
However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.
Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.
The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.
At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.
“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.
He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.
Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.
At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.
The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.
The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.
Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.
Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.
The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.
Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa will soon train at the first indoor rifle range in the Army Reserve, a Modular Small Arms Range scheduled for a grand opening the end of April 2019.
“The sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the Armed Forces will have the single best indoor training facility in the Army,” Brigadier Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command Commanding General, said. “We are providing our soldiers in American Samoa state of the art training facilities and the ability to conduct training at home, keeping these citizen soldiers with their families and employers to the maximum extent possible.”
Prior to this construction, soldiers of the region flew to Hawaii to conduct their regular required training. Now with the training site locally based, soldiers will be able to complete their annual requirements without having to leave home to do so.
“We need to train our soldiers to be ready so that when they are called to go in harms’ way they can meet the challenge but also defeat the enemy,” Jon Lee, 9th MSC civilian executive officer, said. “They are all serving our country to protect our freedoms. So we are giving them the newest and best to train and succeed.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“We have a commitment to the community to build the soldiers’ readiness so they can be ready at their home station which lessens their time away from their families,” Lee said.
Lee, a retired general officer and former 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment commander, his first unit was the American Samoa-based 100th Battalion, B Co., in 1984. Years later he deployed with American Samoan soldiers in 2004 to Operation Iraqi Freedom and recalled what the soldiers previously endured in order to train for said deployment.
“The first time the 100th Battalion was mobilized to go to Iraq, the soldiers of American Samoa spent almost 9 months to train and get certified,” he recalled. “So that’s almost two years they were away from home. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“The Army is committed to the training and readiness, for the people of American Samoa who have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands who serve, and we are bringing in a State of the Art facility, the first of its kind for their sons and daughters,” Lee said. “We are bringing them the best of the best so that they can maximize to train in their local area.”
“We now have a greater chance to focus on the mission and training instead of spending a whole day at the shooting range,” Staff Sgt. Faiupu Tagaleo’o, unit supply sergeant for Theater Support Group- Pacific, American Samoa. “Now we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles to qualify with weapons. We can do it right here at home.”
Other Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa expressed similar sentiments.
(U.S. Army photo)
“I support the building of MSAR because I won’t have to wait a whole year for Annual Training to shoot,” Sgt. K. Moetala, C. Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Inf. Regt. said. “Also I get to train but I will be spending more time with my family.”
Furthermore, Lee stated, the MSAR is safe.
“It has zero escape for a round, 100 percent containment, from the ceiling to the walls to the ground,” he specified. “We issue ammo inside the building, with the doors closed and lock the building while firing. We take accountability of spent casings. We do accountability before we open the room again.”
The MSAR is also environmentally safe, with a filtration system so the fumes and gases released from the weapons are filtered. An additional benefit of the indoor facility, not only is it environmentally sound, but contains literal sound within from insulation.
“Noise abatement measures have been taken so that our community neighbors aren’t listening to the sounds of the rifle range during a training weekend,” said Anderson.
While maintaining U.S. Army Safety standards during use of the facility, the existence of the facility will also enable law enforcement and other security and protection entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, access to train.
Through the duration of construction, 9th MSC has hosted three community town halls continuing the relationship with its neighbors.
“Thanks to the community for participating in the three community engagements that we’ve held,” Anderson said. “Safety is a priority for the Army Reserve and the Modular Small Arms Range is safe and we welcome any opportunity to show this.”
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.