What it's like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The below is an excerpt from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad:

In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.


What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”

Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.

That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.

In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.

In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.

Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.

Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.

A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?

This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.

My mind was spinning.

What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?

Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
The author, Michele Rigby Assad, was an undercover CIA agent for 10 years.
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.

The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”

“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”

“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”

Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.

My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.

I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.

My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.

They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.

Taken from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.

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

Articles

This former SEAL Team 6 member is climbing Everest for vets

A former member of SEAL Team 6 and founder of Frogman Charities is headed to Mount Everest to try and become the first Navy SEAL to summit the world’s highest peak.


What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
Former Navy SEAL and adventure racer Don Mann. Photo: Will Ramos Photography

Don Mann is an accomplished athlete and climber with the goal of standing on top of the tallest summit on each continent. He’s starting with a climb up Everest, and at the same time he hopes to draw attention to the challenges that the military community faces every day.

“The challenge seems almost insurmountable with the conditioning required, the funding required, and the non-stop worries of altitude mountain sickness, avalanches, crevices, hypothermia, frostbite, etc.,” Mann said in a press release. “But the prize, to have an opportunity to stand on top of the world while raising awareness for the needs of our military personnel and their families, is beyond description.”

Mann has proved that he has the athletic chops for such a climb. Besides being selected as a member of SEAL Team 6, he was once rated as the 38th best triathlete in the world and has been climbing mountains for years.

Still, he acknowledges that weather and the mountain often decide who will and will not survive the climb. In 1996, a record eight people died in a single day on the mountain when a sudden blizzard descended on the mountain. Dozens have died attempting to climb the mountain since 1922.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
Adventure racer and former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Don Mann poses on Mount Denali, Alaska, a mountain with a 20,310-foot summit. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

During his attempt, Frogman Charities, a nonprofit organization that hosts virtual run and walk events to raise money for Navy SEAL charities, will be updating their Facebook page and website every day with stories from veterans and with organizations that support veterans and service members.

After the Everest climb, Mann wants to climb the rest of the continent’s highest peaks and to bring other veterans with him on the climbs. As with his Everest attempt, he hopes to raise public awareness of veterans’ causes.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
Don Mann will be carrying a custom flag from a business sponsor during his climb. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

The team that Mann will be climbing with aims to summit between May 13 and 25 but the buildup to the final summit attempt starts in early April. The climbers will trek to base camp from Apr. 3 to Apr. 12 and then begin the process of acclimating and climbing

Mann’s climb is being financially supported through business sponsorships and a GoFundMe page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian plane full of meat goes down, killing at least 7

A cargo plane coming from Kyrgyzstan has crashed near the Iranian capital, with the country’s military saying only one person of the 16 on board survived.

The Boeing 707 exited the runway and hit a wall while trying to land in bad weather at Fath airport near the city of Karaj, 40 kilometers west of Tehran, reports said on Jan. 14, 2019.


Only one person, a flight engineer, of the 16 people who were onboard was found alive and taken to hospital for treatment, the military said in a statement carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

The head of Iran’s emergency department, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV that seven bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the plane and that the search continued for others on board.

State television showed pictures of a plume of smoke rising from the crash site.

One survivor, 15 dead in Boeing 707 cargo plane crash in northern Iran

www.youtube.com

“A Boeing cargo 707 place carrying meat from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan had an emergency landing at Fath airport today…the flight engineer has been dispatched to the hospital,” the military said.

The aircraft “exited the runway during the landing and caught fire after hitting the wall at the end of the runway,” it added.

There was some confusion about who owned the plane.

A spokesman for Iran’s civil aviation said the aircraft belonged to Kyrgyzstan, but a spokeswoman for Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said the plane belonged to Iran’s Payam Air.

The spokeswoman also said that the Boeing crashed in Iran after departing Manas airport.

General Shahin Taghikhani, a spokesman for Iran’s army, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.

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

popular

Graphic novel series explores the life of the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor

Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.

Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.


She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.

Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.

By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.

With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.

Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.

Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.

After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.

Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Destroyer pierces Chinese claims in Pacific waters

In what a Chinese official deemed a “provocation,” the US sent one of its guided-missile destroyers through Chinese claimed waters on Jan. 7, 2019, as the two nations kicked off trade talks in Beijing.

Reuters reported Jan. 3, 2019, that the talks, held between trade representatives from both countries, are meant to begin “positive and constructive discussions,” ultimately aiming to ease an ongoing and increasingly devastating trade war.

But just as the talks began Jan. 7, 2019, guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell sailed by the Paracel Islands, one of several hotly contested chains in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.


The same day, Chinese media aired a clip depicting a Chinese air force pilot issuing a warning to an unidentified aircraft in the air defense zone they imposed, although it is unclear when the encounter occurred.

Both encounters took place in areas where China has made sovereignty claims that are not internationally recognized. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all made competing claims in the South China Sea; the air defense zone was claimed in 2013 in an attempt to justify China’s grasp for control of the East China Sea, which has been disputed by Japan, according to the South China Morning Post.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

A still image from footage of a Chinese fighter jet engaging a foreign aircraft over the East China Sea.

(China Central Television/YouTube)

Lu Kang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Jan. 7, 2019, that China had sent warships and aircraft in response, calling the McCampbell’s transit a violation of international law.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rachel McMarr, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said the operation was not meant as a political statement or directed at any one country, but designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims.”

Known as “freedom of navigation” operations, ships and aircraft challenging excessive claims is not a new concept, nor one exclusively practiced by the US. In August 2018, a British amphibious ship sailed close to the Paracels, sparking a confrontation by a Chinese frigate and two aircraft. That same month, the US Defense Department published a map showing instances of Chinese vessels operating in established economic zones of other countries.

While US officials said there is no connection between the transit and the trade talks, Chinese spokesman Kang took a different approach.

“Both sides have a responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he told state media, according to Reuters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Stumbling block or bargaining chip? The fate of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan

The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country.

The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.


Those intra-Afghan talks, slated for mid-March, will begin after the United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace deal that will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

Experts said the issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country’s peace talks or, conversely, be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants.

There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield.

‘Trust-Building Measure’

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 26 that Kabul will free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces held by the militants.

Shaheen said the “trust-building measure” was a prerequisite for the launch of the intra-Afghan talks.

He added that the prisoner release was part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, although Afghanistan is not a signatory to that bilateral agreement.

But the Taliban and the United States have not yet disclosed the contents of the deal.

The Kabul government has ruled out releasing the prisoners before the start of talks.

“When we, as the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and they demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and [our decision] will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, on February 20.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

‘Quid Pro Quo’

Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the issue could be used as a “political stumbling block or a bargaining chip.”

“Bargaining chip can mean quid pro quo,” he said.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Afghan government could offer the Taliban a major concession before intra-Afghan talks with the expectation that the militants will reciprocate.

Kugelman said that could mean the insurgents agreeing to reduce violence during the negotiations, which analysts expect to be complicated and protracted.

The United States and the Taliban agreed to a weeklong reduction of violence across Afghanistan before the signing of the peace deal. The partial truce has largely held, with a dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks from around 75 per day down to under 15.

The militants contest or control nearly half of the country.

A similar truce during intra-Afghan talks has been mooted, although the Taliban has not commented on the possibility.

But analysts warned that there was a risk in the government giving away one of its primary bargaining chips at such an early stage of the peace process.

“The Taliban has ample leverage because it’s in no hurry to conclude a peace deal,” said Kugelman. “If it receives a major concession it may hold out and demand more before giving something up in return.”

10,000 Taliban Prisoners

There are an estimated 10,000 Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan. But the militants have said that some of those detained were accused of being sympathizers or members of the group, often to settle old scores, and are not actually combatants.

There have been several high-profile prisoner swaps and releases of insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

In November 2019, two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three senior Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction.

The prisoner swap was seen as an attempt to kick-start U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks over rising Taliban attacks.

In 2014, five senior Taliban members were released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are based in Qatar, where they have taken part in negotiations with U.S. officials.

In 2013, former President Hamid Karzai controversially released scores of Taliban prisoners from a formerly U.S.-run prison near Kabul as an attempt to convince the militants to open direct talks with Kabul.

The move failed to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Analysts said some of those freed returned to the Taliban, bolstered their ranks, and increased the insurgency’s efficacy on the battlefield.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 planes that hope they can survive an F-22 assault

Air forces around the world have to wrestle with one simple but scary fact: Their fighters may have to go against the F-22 and, to maybe a lesser degree, the F-35, both fifth-generation stealth fighters equipped with modern, lethal air-to-air weapons and great sensors.

Here are five fighters that nations are hoping can hold their own against the kings of the skies, even if, so far, it doesn’t appear that any are up to the task:


What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

Chengdu J-20s maneuver during a public airshow.

(Alert 5, CC BY-SA 5.0)

Chengdu J-20

China’s J-20 fighter is arguably the greatest actual threat to America’s fifth-generation fighters. China has a number of fighters in development, production, and early deployment, but the J-20 appears to be the crown jewel. It’s large, but appears to be stealthy at least from the front. It can carry lethal, extremely long-range missiles, and the Center for Strategic International Studies reported as late as 2017 that it could be a full fifth-generation stealth fighter.

Now, some fifth-generation traits have turned out to be absent from the J-20, most notably the super cruise feature. But while the J-20 can’t go above the speed of sound without afterburners, it’s still likely to be dangerous. Luckily, India has claimed that the J-20 isn’t as stealthy as advertised, saying its pilots have tracked the planes near the countries’ shared border from miles away.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The Russian Air Force flies its Sukhoi Su-57 fighters.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sukhoi Su-57 (formerly known as PAK FA)

The Russian Sukhoi Su-57 is one of the few rival fifth-generation fighters that currently exist, and its creators insist that it not only rivals the F-22, but some even claim it’s better in air-to-air and air-to-surface operations. Russia really hopes this fighter can dominate the F-22 and F-35 if it ever goes to war with the west.

But the plane doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. It’s woefully underpowered, according to most experts and the Indian leaders who backed out of buying the plane (more on that momentarily), it’s not all that stealthy, and its weapons capabilities are fine, but nothing to brag about. For it to approach anything like the speed of the F-22, it needs to use its afterburners which destroy what little stealth it does have.

Even worse, Russia can’t afford the plane, opting not to buy the it in significant numbers as sanctions and low oil prices continue to cripple its economy.

​TAI TFX

Turkey is chasing a fifth-generation fighter of its own called the TFX under the umbrella of Turkish Aerospace Industries. While Turkey is a NATO member and is slated to buy F-35s, its relationship with America and the west has become more tenuous and tense, and Turkey needs its own weapons to guarantee its security as it drifts closer to Russia.

The aircraft is under development with a first flight scheduled for 2023. It’s envisioned as having a stealthy fuselage, high speed, and a focus on air-to-air operations with air-to-surface capabilities. It is supposed to be capable of Mach 2 speeds and an almost 700-mile combat radius. If relations with the west hold, the TFX will fly with Turkish F-35s. Otherwise, it will work with Russian S-400s and older F-16s.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) model

(Johnxxx9, CC BY-SA 3.0)

HAL AMCA

India was part of the PAK FA program that created the Sukhoi Su-57, but when it got its hands on the early planes, they were underpowered and failed to meet up to specs, according to Indian military leaders. So India proceeded from the Sukhoi program and ramped up their program for a homegrown fifth-generation fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

The goal aircraft looks a lot like the F-22 with stealth, super cruise, dual engines, and all-weather capabilities. It’s getting high-end engines, radar, and long-range missiles. Oddly enough, those high-end engines might come from America. While India and the U.S. often have a tense relationship, the AMCA is even more likely to fly against China’s J-20 than it is against the F-22, so America wants the profit of selling engines while also increasing China’s risk.

And if F-22s do end up fighting the AMCA? Well, the F-22 is likely to win no matter what engines the AMCA gets.

HESA F-313 Qaher

Look, we’re only including this plane because the Iranian government claims that it exists and that it exceeds the F-22 and F-35, but no one who actually follows Iranian developments really believes the plane exists or that it would have fifth-generation traits if it did.

Iran unveiled the plane in 2013 and made its claims, but the plane appears to be just a mockup, it’s shape isn’t actually all that great for limiting radar cross section or for taking on enemy jets, and the plane hasn’t been seen since that first, high-profile debut. So, you know, our money is on the F-22.

Articles

Air Force advances new A-10 requirements

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush


The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.

Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document.  We are staffing it around the Air Force now.  When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, recently told reporters.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be.  We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate about 1,900 A-10s or A-10-like close-air-support aircraft.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How enemy aircraft get their American nicknames

So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.


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This painting shows ground crews loading AS-16 Kickback air-to-surface missiles on a Tu-22M Backfire. (DOD painting)

In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.

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When it first was encountered in the Pacific, the A6M3 version of the Zero was given the code name ‘Hap,’ drawing the ire of ‘Hap’ Arnold. (Japanese Navy photo)

The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.

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This modernized MiG-21 Fishbed in service with the Indian Air Force is armed with AA-12 Adder and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sheeju)

When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.

For a comprehensive list, go to designation-systems.net.

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Chinese Communist planes, like the J-8 Finback — shown here flying a little too close to a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries — were also given NATO code names. (DoD photo)

The system also covered missiles: Air-to-air missiles start with the letter A, air-to-surface missiles start with the letter K, surface-to-surface missiles start with the letter S, and surface-to-air missiles start with the letter G. NATO even began to use code names for Soviet and Chinese Communist submarines and surface ships.

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Code names were also assigned to ships, submarines, and missiles. This Indian Navy Osa-class missile boat is firing an SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile. (Indian Navy photo)

McCoy retired as a two-star general in 1968, but what he did in World War II still helps pilots and troops today. So, that’s why they call a Flanker, a multisyllabic fighter jet, a Flanker.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea might build a US burger franchise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to US officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” one intelligence official told NBC News.


Recently, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated examples of Kim wanting to modernize his economy through international investment, such as a McDonald’s and a Trump Tower. The report said the north could open a burger joint as a show of goodwill to Trump.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States,” Professor Moon Chung-in said during a CNN International interview.

“They want American investment coming to North Korea,” he said. “They welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”

The CIA analysis, which was circulated in early May 2018, comes amid President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The meeting, if it happens, would mark the first time a sitting US president meets with a North Korean leader.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F9%2F8682%2F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com&s=73&h=4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52&size=980x&c=2349758428 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”President Donald Trump” photo_credit_src=”https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8682/30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F9%252F8682%252F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fc1.staticflickr.com%26s%3D73%26h%3D4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2349758428%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=”(Photo by Gage Skidmore)”]

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A growing consensus of foreign-policy experts have echoed the CIA’s assessment that Pyongyang is not planning on relinquishing its nuclear arms — a talking point the White House has stressed to North Korea as a precondition to easing its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Despite doubts of a denuclearized North Korea, Trump expressed optimism during the ongoing negotiations ahead of the summit.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a tweet. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.

Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.


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Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.

March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.

In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.

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Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.

The response was encouraging.

During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.

There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”

Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.

“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.

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Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.

Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.

“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”

In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.

“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.

Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.

Individuals can find a list of living recipients here, and pick those they’d like to write.

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A classroom of students showing their cards for the MOH recipients.

On or before March 15, send letters to:

Medal of Honor Mail Call
ATTN: (Your Recipient’s Name)
2400 Boston Street, Ste 102
Baltimore, MD 21224

Stange reminds letter writers to include their mailing address as the recipients may write back.

Janine can be found on her website, at @TheAnthemGirl on Twitter, and at NationalAnthemGirl on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

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The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

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He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

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He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

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The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

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