US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Were the US to go to war with China or Russia today, it might lose, a new report to Congress from a panel of a dozen leading national-security experts warns.

“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained, calling attention to the erosion of America’s edge as rival powers develop capabilities previously possessed only by the US.


The commission highlights China and Russia’s energized and ongoing efforts to develop advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weaponry, systems that could result in “enormous” losses for the US military in a conflict. “Put bluntly, the US military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.

The National Defense Strategy Commission has concluded that US national security is presently “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”

“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit to Moscow in May 2015.

The report calls into focus a concern that the US military is trying to address — that while the US put all of its efforts and energy into the fights against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, adversarial powers have been preparing for high-end conflict.

“Many of the skills necessary to plan for and conduct military operations against capable adversaries — especially China and Russia — have atrophied,” the commission argues.

The National Defense Strategy emphasizes the return of “great power competition,” placing the threat posed by rival powers like China and Russia above terrorism and other challenges. The military branches are, in response, shifting their attention to the development of future warfighting capabilities — even as the ISIS fight and Afghanistan War grind on.

Preparation for high-end conflict is visible in the efforts across the Army, Navy, and Air Force to develop powerful stand-off weapons, such as long-range artillery and hypersonic strike platforms.

The commission is supportive of the National Defense Strategy, but it calls for faster measures and clearer explanations for how America plans to maintain its dominance. The report also called for an expansion of the current 6 billion defense budget, the bolstering of the nuclear arsenal, and innovative development of new weapons systems.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain revives its carrier warfare program with trip to U.S.

Britain’s newest and most powerful aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is on its way to America to train with F-35 jets for the first time.

The British Royal Navy’s £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) aircraft carrier left the UK for America on Aug. 18, 2018, to start September 2018 training with F-35B jets based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, the Royal Navy wrote on its official website.


Crowds turned out to wish the carrier well on its 3,400-mile trip from Portsmouth, a city on England’s south coast.

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The deployment is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years.

Shortly after leaving, the crew carried out their first relief effort: two baby pigeons were found on board, which had to be fed porridge through a syringe and returned to land in a helicopter, the Royal Navy said.

“While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets onboard for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so. We just didn’t think that would be quite so soon,” Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby said.

The first landing on the HMS Queen Elizabeth will happen at the end of September 2018, according to the Portsmouth News. The jets are expected to perform 500 take-offs and landings over an 11-week period, the Royal Navy said.

The F-35B is designed to operate from short-field bases — like on the Queen Elizabethand has vertical landing ability.

It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways at major bases.

Watch one landing here:

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The jets will be flown by four F-35B pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.

On this mission, three British pilots — a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force, and one civilian test pilot — will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As the US’s biggest partner in the F-35 programme, we jointly own test jets which are on track to fly off the deck of our new aircraft carrier later this year.”

He said the training will “strengthen our special relationship with US forces.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the third largest aircraft carrier in the world at 280 meters long and a weight of 65,000 tonnes. In total, there will be about 1,500 people on board, the Portsmouth News reported.

It is expected to be on active duty in 2021.

Before leaving for America the carrier was in Portsmouth, running helicopter tests using Chinook Mk 5 helicopters and Merlin Mk 2s:

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

popular

This is how the FBI responded to the worst biological attack in US history

One week after the September 11 attacks on New York City, another devastating terrorist attack targeted our people. On September 18, 2001, letters were mailed to several news stations and senators. The FBI organized a task force titled Amerithrax to hunt down whoever was responsible and bring them to justice.

As the case progressed it became a media circus, and the stakes were never higher. The FBI themselves called it “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.” Across the United States, law enforcement took a stand against terror and through great personal risk took on a killer with the ability to murder millions.

Our greatest fear had come to pass, the FBI found mounting evidence pointing towards one of America’s top research facilities. The worst biological attack in US history was not al-Qaeda — it was an inside job.


US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
(FBI)

The attacks

September 18, 2001 – Five letters are believed to have been mailed to ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all located in New York City, and to the National Enquirer at American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida.

October 5, 2001 – The first fatal recipient of the anthrax letters was admitted into the hospital with pulmonary problems. Robert ‘Bob’ Stevens reported having symptoms similar to the flu. Doctors believed he had meningitis, but after the doctors completed further testing, it was discovered that he had developed pulmonary anthrax. His death was the first death from anthrax in 25 years. He had come into contact with anthrax through the letter that was mailed to him at American Media in Boca Raton, Florida.

October 9, 2001 – Two more anthrax letters were addressed to two Democratic senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

At least 22 people developed anthrax infections, half from inhaling the deadly bacteria. Five died from inhaling anthrax.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
U.S. Army

Years later

A media circus criticizing the FBI’s inability to bring the investigation to a close placed intense pressure to deliver. The letters and mailboxes were examined in forensic laboratories, the killer left no DNA evidence, and the FBI labs were not equipped at that time to handle the deadly anthrax bacteria.

The FBI sent their evidence to be held at Fort Detrick in the USAMRIDD bio-weapons lab. They wanted to run a series of tests to identify where the anthrax was created. It was a sophisticated strain because for anthrax spores to be seen as a white powder, they would need the support of a state-funded program for the expensive drying process. The US suspected that Iran or Iraq could be capable of sponsoring terrorists with the weapon.

During this time the Bureau followed up on suspects and made very public raids on Steven Hatfill’s property. He was a bio-weapons expert and (at the time) the primary suspect of the investigation. He refused to be strong-armed into producing a confession and defended himself publicly in the media. He was eventually exonerated.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The FBI looked into another expert, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins as another potential suspect. Colleagues of his reported that he had an unusual interest in anthrax and was working extra hours on an unauthorized project. The FBI confirmed the increased activity in August, September, and October. The irony was that he worked at the very lab where the FBI first went to seek help for the investigation, Fort Detrick.

RMR-1029 is the evidence flask that tested positive for AMES, the strain of anthrax used in American laboratories, specifically Fort Detrick. His tests came back negative at the original testing, but when the FBI tested them again, they returned as positive. The FBI believed they caught him trying to intentionally deceive them.

November 1, 2007 – The FBI executes a search warrant of his property and interviews Ivins’ family.

The FBI continued their strong-armed tactics to get a confession out of Dr. Ivins. The pressure of surveillance was so intense that he had a psychotic break during a group therapy session. He stated that he had had enough and was going to go out in a blaze of glory. He had a gun and was going to go into work and shoot all his coworkers and everybody who wronged him. He was arrested the next day.

Two weeks later he was released and returned home. He committed suicide by overdosing on Tylenol PM and died in the hospital four days later from liver and kidney failure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and Europe want to sidestep sanctions, angering U.S.

The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.

“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”


Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.

The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.

“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”

Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.

U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”

Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.

“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.

But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.

Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.

Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.

Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.

Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.

The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.

It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.

Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How it feels for an airman to help rescue Thai kids from a cave

The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”

Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”

“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.


The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.

“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.

“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.

Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.

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Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.

Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.

The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.

Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.

The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.

The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.

The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.

Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.

“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”

There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.

In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.

“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.

Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.

“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”

“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strikes on Syria were a public spanking of the Assad regime

President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.

The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.


Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.

“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.

What did the strikes change on the ground?

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
One of the US’s targets before and after the strike.
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.

Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.

The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.

Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.

Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.

Performative allyship in cruise-missile form

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
A poster of Bashar al-Assad at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus

Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.

But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.

The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS ripped off ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in its latest propaganda video

The self-styled Islamic State is trying to lure people to fight for the terror group with a scene from “The Lord of the Rings.”

In a propaganda video published on May 22, 2018, bearing the terrorist group’s watermark, the group’s chapter in Kirkuk, Iraq, used four seconds of footage from the trilogy to encourage followers to “conquer the enemies.”


The clip was taken from the third LOTR movie, “The Return of the King.” It shows the riders of Rohan charging an orc army at the Battle of The Pelennor Fields, but seems to be in the video more as a generic medieval battle scene.

Here’s the scene. The part that ISIS repurposed comes around the 2 minute 30 second mark:

The ISIS video, which Business Insider has reviewed, then cuts to footage of soldiers on horseback fighting each other, with the voice of an Arabic-language narrator — which was also taken from a Hollywood movie.

That scene was from “Kingdom of Heaven,” a 2005 film starring Orlando Bloom as a French blacksmith joining the Crusades to fight against Muslims for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The medieval scenes are spliced inbetween images of ISIS fighters in the field, and news footage showing Donald Trump and various news anchors talking about ISIS.

The terror group is fond of crusader imagery, and often frames its battle with the west as a new-age crusade. Its official communications describe routinely describes people from western nations, especially victims of terror attacks, as “crusaders.”

ISIS’s use of Hollywood films in the propaganda video was first pointed out by Caleb Weiss, an analyst at the Long War Journal, on Twitter.

The Ride of the Rohirrim scene appears to be popular among jihadis. It was also used by the Turkistan Islamic Party, an extremist group founded in western China, Weiss pointed out in 2017.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This corpsman’s sea story starts with a ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo

Navy Corpsman Victoria Lord endured a difficult childhood in foster care before finding a home in the military. Deployed on a hospital ship during the Iraq War, Lord was profoundly moved and inspired by the strength and sacrifices of her fellow sailors.


One of Lord’s favorite tattoos is Hello Kitty wearing Navy Dress Blues.

“She kinda represents me,” explains Lord, “I put her in Blues for the Navy because they taught me so much about family.”

Lord’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force is fixing up a base that could keep an eye on Russia

US airmen ventured north to the island of Jan Mayen in the Norwegian Sea in November to survey the isolated island’s airfield.

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron “assessed runway surfaces, glideslope obstructions and firing capes,” the Air Force said in a release.

Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.


It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.

The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The runway on Jan Mayen Island around 1968.

(US Navy)

The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.

The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.

“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.

(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)

The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.

Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.

“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.

“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The European Arctic has become an area of increasing focus of the Navy and the Air Force.

The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.

The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.

In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland.

(US Navy/Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)

US Air Force B-2 stealth bombers also recently made their first visit to Iceland, landing at Keflavik in late August to exercise it “as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said at the time.

That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.

While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.

But it’s always better to have more places to land.

“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.

During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.

Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.

“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this military spouse will memorialize fallen EOD airman

Bronze statues can be seen almost anywhere but one rarely hears the amazing stories behind their creation.

The spouse of an Air Force Reserve airman at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, recently sculpted a bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Johnson was killed in action Oct. 5, 2010, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“My husband has a contact with the EOD Warrior Foundation, so through the contact we came up with the idea to give back in some way because the military family and the EOD family had done so much for our family,” said Stephanie Hunter, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD program manager. “Lauren (the point of contact) was very helpful. She got behind the idea and sent out emails looking for Gold Star families we can honor.”


Gold Star families are those with family members in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.

The response was massive. Stephanie and her husband received a flood of emails from families hoping to memorialize their fallen heroes. One email in particular connected with Stephanie in a special way.

“We chose to honor Senior Airman Johnson because his duty background mirrored my husband’s, plus Johnson is from Minnesota, my home state, so I felt a bit of a hometown connection with him.”

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

A sculpted bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter)

Johnson was assigned to the 30th CES at Vandenberg AFB. He deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson deployed again in 2010, this time to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, he was credited with single-handedly saving an Afghanistan National Army soldier injured by an improvised explosive device.

“I just wanted to make the Johnson family proud of this memorial for their son and realize that he’s not forgotten,” Stephanie said. “The Johnson family has been very supportive of this project.”

Hunter said he’s very proud of his wife’s contribution to his military family.

“I’m in awe of Stephanie’s unique way of supporting the EOD community and our fallen comrade,” he said.

Even though sculpting the bust was a labor of love, Stephanie was dissatisfied with her work.

“I’m an artist and extremely critical of my own work,” she said. “Sometimes all I can see is what’s wrong with the project. But Jim Johnson (Senior Airman Johnson’s father), gave me approval to move forward. I felt great.”

The sculpted bust is now at a foundry where a mold will be made before being cast in bronze.

“The sculpture is going to change a couple times before the final product, so it’ll be a different feeling when I finally see it in bronze,” Stephanie said. “It’ll be permanent.”

The Johnson family intends to place the finished bust at a climbing center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

Stephanie hopes her work will encourage others to give back to the Air Force family.

“I just want to inspire others to do the same thing for their military family and do something outside of themselves,” she said. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to be part of this project and I’m thankful to the EOD Warrior Foundation for helping to support this project.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Hallo-memes! Wait … that’s not right. Meh, whatever.


1. Remember, terrorists “trick or treat” too (via Military Memes).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Get special candy for them.

2. Pretty sure DA PAM 670-1 Chapter 5 Section 7 addresses this.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

SEE ALSO: From 1860-1916 the uniform regulations for the British Army required ever soldier to have a mustache

3. How the invasion of Iraq really went down:

(via Pop Smoke)

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

4. When you join the Navy to see the sights:

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
At least you’re in California. You could be stuck with those same sights in Afghanistan.

5. Your trip to find yourself in Vienna does not impress your elders (via Air Force Nation).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
If you were finding Nazis there, maybe. You’d have to fight them too.

6. How the military branches decide who’s the most awesome/fabulous (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Coast Guard has it made.

7. Just two combat veterans letting off a little steam in a war zone (via Ranger Up).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Bet the A-10 kept flying combat missions until at least the second trimester.

8. The standard is Army STRONG …

(via Marine Corps Memes)

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
… we’re not worried about much else.

9. He forgot how to Marine (via Terminal Lance).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Hey, staff officers have to practice throwing grenades too. Just don’t give him a real one.

10. Stolen valor airman can’t be bothered to learn your Air Force culture (via Air Force Nation).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

11. This is true (via Military Memes).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Iraq and Afghanistan would look a little different if soldiers and Marines had access to nukes.

12. First sergeant just wants you to be ready to fight in any environment.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Side note: If you ran at the actual pace he was trying to set, you would be warm during the run.

13. Real warriors like to stay cool (via Marine Corps Memes).

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Don’t like the view? Get out of the mortar pit.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why artillerymen might be the most essential land assets in World War 3

Artillery, the “King of the Battle,” has been crucial to land warfare since cannons were made of wood, but recent developments with battlefield sensors and networking may ensure that artillery sits atop the heap during a future war with China or Russia.


US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report
Oscar Battery, 5/14, blast through ITX 4-17

While World War III might be fought in megacities, where infantry and cavalry will reign supreme, a fight in the South China Sea or on the plains of Ukraine pretty much guarantees that soldiers and Marines will be looking to get high explosive warheads raining on the enemy, and recent Army and Marine Corps breakthroughs are ensuring that the artillery troops will be ready for the challenge.

First, in case of war over the South China Sea, America needs to be ready to fight where the enemy has local superiority of forces and is on near technical parity. America’s ships are larger and stronger on average than China’s, but China has 300 more ships and can focus nearly all of it forces on a fight in the Pacific and Arctic while the U.S. will still have obligations in the Middle East and the Atlantic.

That means the Navy will need all the help it can get from Marines and soldiers, and the Marine Corps has figured out how to get their High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems into the ship-on-ship fight. A 2017 test showed that HIMARS parked on an amphibious transport dock can hit targets over 40 miles away, and an October 2018 test proved that the HIMARS can successfully sync those shots with F-35Bs and their sensors.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Army fires HIMARS in support of Air Force operations during Red Flag-Alaska in Alaska in October 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Valdes)

So, if the Navy gets into a fight, the Marines can fire long-range rockets in support, essentially turning amphibious ships into over-sized missile destroyers. And that’s before the Marines land the rockets on islands and then impede Chinese naval operations in a wide area around the land.

The Army’s HIMARS should have no issue plugging into this same system, and the Army is also developing howitzers with double the range of its current weapons, possibly topping 80 miles, allowing them to assist naval forces with a cheaper cost per shot.

But the Army is actually researching multiple range extension technologies, and its “moonshot” research aims for artillery that can reach over 1,000 miles. The Strategic Long Range Cannon is very hush-hush and likely not very advanced yet, but it calls for an Army weapon with a range of 1,150 miles, over twice as far as any successfully tested or even proposed cannon from history. It’s 10 times as far as the Navy’s railgun prototype.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The High-Altitude Research Project, or HARP, featured a massive cannon that tested firing rounds with extreme force, once launching a round 112 miles into the air, but it still paled in power compared to what the Army would need to fire rounds laterally 1,150 miles.

(Department of Defense)

If successful, a handful of cannons in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan could strike targets across the Russian and Chinese coasts. A weapon south of Seoul, South Korea, could cover all of North Korea, Northeast China, and could even strike targets in Mongolia, if it came to that. Beijing lies well within range of a Strategic Long Range Cannon in South Korea.

But of course, these weapons would likely have to be stationary. All cannon shots that flew over 100 miles have been fired from artillery built into a site. And Chinese and Russian forces would focus on destroying artillery with the ability to pelt their cities with constant bombardment.

So, the Army would need to defend these weapons and fortify them, but it would be worth it for land-based artillerymen to be able to have a direct effect on any naval battles in the disputed waters in the Western Pacific.

But all of these weapons and upgrades would also have a great effect on combat in Eastern Europe. A Strategic Long Range Cannon west of Berlin could strike over 100 miles into Russia. Build them in Finland, Estonia, or Latvia, and you can hit as deep as Volgograd, crossing Moscow in the process. And HIMARS receiving targeting data from F-35s can likely have just as much impact on Arctic fighting or conflict in Europe as they could in the South China Sea.

When the fighting of World War III moves into the cities, artillery may be too destructive, too imprecise to rule the day. But when it comes to conflict in the ocean and open grasslands, artillery may be the most potent weapon that ground pounders can bring to the fight.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most accurate military representations on screen

A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.

Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.

But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:


US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.

(Warner Bros.)

‘Full Metal Jacket’

Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.

(Universal Pictures)

‘Jarhead’

Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.

So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The Marines in this series are downright authentic.

(HBO Films)

‘The Pacific’

Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The nod of approval for this series.

‘Generation Kill’

If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.

Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

The cast of this series could not be more perfect.

(HBO Films)

‘Band of Brothers’

Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.

So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?

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