US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

The U.S. must “do something very different” in Afghanistan, such as placing American military advisers closer to the front lines of battle, or risk squandering all that has been invested there in recent years, the head of the Pentagon’s military intelligence agency said Thursday.


The grim assessment by Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, comes as the Trump administration considers Pentagon recommendations to add more U.S. and NATO troops and to deepen support for Afghan forces. The timing of a White House decision is unclear but is not expected this week.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Stewart said he visited Afghanistan about six weeks ago to see for himself what others have called a stalemate with the Taliban, the insurgent group that was removed from power in 2001 by invading U.S. forces.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
U.S. troops are going to have to get closer to the fight or risk losing hard won gains, DIA chief says. (DoD photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

“Left unchecked, that stalemate will deteriorate in the favor of the belligerents,” Stewart said, referring to the Taliban. “So, we have to do something very different than what we have been doing in the past.” He mentioned increasing the number of U.S. and NATO advisers and possibly allowing them to advise Afghan forces who are more directly involved in the fighting. Currently the advisers work with upper-echelon Afghan units far removed from the front lines.

If such changes are not made, Stewart said, “the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains we’ve invested in over the last several years.”

Testifying alongside Stewart, the nation’s top intelligence official, Dan Coats, said the Taliban is likely to continue making battlefield gains.

“Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Coats said, adding, “Afghan security forces performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertion, poor logistics support and weak leadership.”

The Pentagon says it currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, about one-quarter of whom are special operations forces targeting extremist groups such as an Islamic State affiliate. Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, has said he needs about 3,000 more U.S. and NATO troops to fill a gap in training and advising roles.

More than 2,200 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

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This Air Force family won a Super Bowl trip and they’re psyched

A Saber family will be heading to the “Lone Star State” to watch Super Bowl LI live on Feb. 5, after winning the Air Force Clubs’ Football Frenzy contest grand prize package.


US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, with his family are presented with the grand prize from the Football Frenzy contest by 52nd Fighter Wing leadership and 52nd Force Support Squadron at Club Eifel on Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 10, 2017. The grand prize is two tickets to Super Bowl LI with airfare and hotel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, and his wife, Stephanie, participated in the annual Football Frenzy promotion at their local club, and was randomly selected by the Air Force Clubs’ grand prize winner during the final drawing of the 2016 Football Frenzy season.

“It feels amazing, almost surreal like a dream,” said Stephanie Crites. “I’ve told my husband for so many years that one day I would get him to the Super Bowl, so here we go!”

Col. Joe Mcfall, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, along with 52nd FW leadership and Jarrod Garceau, 52nd Force Support Squadron Club Eifel programmer, presented the prize to Stephanie and her husband Jan. 10, at Club Eifel.

The package includes free airfare, rental car, and hotel accommodations to attend the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
Colton Crites, right, son of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, holds the giant ticket from the Football Frenzy contest at Club Eifel on Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 10, 2017. The grand prize is two tickets to Super Bowl LI with airfare and hotel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

During Football Frenzy season, club members have the opportunity to win weekly prizes such as a $100 gift card or National Football League game tickets.

Spangdahlem also had two additional winners of the $100 gift card during the Football Frenzy season going on from Sept. 2016 to Jan. 2017.

“Club Eifel does about 300 programs a year,” said Garceau. ‘We gave back over $200,000 in free stuff last year to club members, and this is one of those things that proves that club membership has its benefits.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is an actual Army report on witches in the Republic of the Congo

Please spare some sympathy for the member of the Special Operations Research Office who, in 1964, was ordered to take a good, hard look at the impact of “witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other psychological phenomena” during the civil war in the Republic of the Congo.

Yup. This poor soul was actually tasked with investigating the burning question of, “Are we losing because of the witches?

The surprising answer was, to paraphrase, ‘At least partially.’


In fact, the 1964 paper even analyzed the viability of U.S. forces and their allies adopting magic for their own purposes. Oh yeah, if you wanted to be a U.S. Army witch doctor, this was the time to do it.

Except, of course, the U.S. didn’t actually believe magic was affecting the physical world. Instead, it was studying how the belief in magic affected the morale of troops fighting on each side of the conflict, and then it had to decide whether to engage in some play-acting; doing fake magic in order to affect the enemy’s perceptions.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

A Swedish soldier with U.N. forces on duty in Congo during the crisis.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

This wouldn’t be the Army’s only flirtation with the supernatural at the time. In 1950, a U.S. Army colonel helped fake a vampire attack to terrify communists in the Philippines, and psychological operations soldiers pulled a similar (but less effective) trick in Vietnam when they played ghost sounds over enemy troop concentrations.

The magical beliefs in the Congo revolved around two supposed classes of powers. There was sorcery, a system of magic that relied on rituals that were usually performed while mixing ingredients for a traditional medicine or preparing a charm. And there was witchcraft, a method of doing magic that relied on an innate ability that some people had from birth. These witches could simply wish for certain things to happen and, for some inexplicable reason, they would.

This magical belief was deep-seated in the Congolese. It had survived and even flourished despite nearly 100 years of economic and religious colonization. What missionaries and Belgian representatives sent to the country always found was that when push-came-to-shove, the bulk of the Congolese people would only incorporate European beliefs and power structures into their belief in magic. European beliefs were never able to replace traditional, magical ones.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

A Shona witch doctor in Zimbabwe.

(Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

When Belgium finally began relaxing its stranglehold in 1957 over what was then the Belgian Congo, this struggle had resulted in a deep rift between the Congolese who embraced European education and methods and those who were more dedicated to tribal beliefs and power structures. But both sides held magical beliefs. The European-influenced évolués, as they were known, simply hid those beliefs.

The Belgian Congo collapsed in 1960 and U.N. forces were eventually sent in to try and keep a tentative peace after repeated fighting and clashes. The stakes there were high. Certain parts of the Congo were quite resource-rich, including one of the breakaway zones. It also had Uranium that would be quite valuable to either the Soviet Union or the U.S., depending on who tied the emerging but troubled Republic of the Congo to their sphere of influence.

Hence U.S. military planners debating on twisting magical beliefs to their own ends. The rebellious forces often had the sorcerers (and the occasional witch) prepare magical defenses that were supposed to stop harm from European weapons.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

Swedish soldiers from the U.N. man a fighting position near a road in Niemba.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

Upon deeper study, though, the 1964 paper recommended against weaponizing these beliefs against the Congolese rebels. There were a couple of major concerns. One was that these évolués were the ones most likely to be Congolese leaders that the U.S. would work with. Since they still believed in magic, they would probably balk at a U.S. mockery of it.

But they would balk even harder if their forces or their Western allies began dabbling in magic. Their entire political brand was built on not being superstitious and backwards like their peers (even though they did believe in the same magic).

Even more troublesome, though, was that while the belief in magic was near universal across the country, the exact details of the belief varied wildly between tribes and, sometimes, even between sub-tribes. As the paper described it, “Literally, one man’s charm might be another man’s potion.”

So, if a psychological operations unit were sent to capitalize on these beliefs, they would have to surreptitiously gather data on every targeted tribe and keep detailed records of it. Then, when crafting their messaging or other plots, they would have to adjust it for each tribe and then take care to keep the messages from sabotaging each other.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

Irish forces on duty in Congo during the Crisis.

(Irish Defence Forces)

But the most awesome concern with the program was the author’s worry that, if the U.S., Western, and government forces began openly engaging in magical operations against tribal leaders and insurgent witch-doctors, and the witch-doctors engaged in open counters, then the one near-guaranteed result would be an increased belief in magic.

In the post-war Congo, that would grant a ton of power to tribal leaders and witch-doctors, potentially necessitating power sharing that the évolués and their Western backers wouldn’t necessarily want. And, while there were government-friendly tribes, nearly all the insurgents were part of traditional tribal structures, so potentially strengthening the belief in magic would be a long-term problem for the West whether they won or lost.

Instead, the paper recommended overturning magical beliefs by showing them to be false. The biggest magical claim that witch-doctors made was that they could make troops invulnerable to Western weapons. So, every enemy soldier killed with a Western weapon weakened belief in magic. As the paper states it:

In the Congo, as elsewhere in black Africa, there is every reason to believe that disciplined troops, proficient in marksmanship, and led by competent officers, can handily dispel most notions of magical invulnerability.

In the end, it appears that no magical campaign was launched. But that hasn’t prevented decades of rebellions, coups, and other violence.

This unrest has unfortunately continued to this day — literally. On the day this article was written, accusations of recent murder by police, election violence by the state, and other human rights abuses were in the news.

Almost makes you wish the magic was real. Would be a perfect time to whip up a few charms to protect the population.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines are testing out a new ‘lethal’ grenade launcher

The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.

The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.

“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.


The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.

“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)

Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.

In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.

The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.

The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.

“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”

The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.

“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.

Analyses supports sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.

The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.

During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.

“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.

The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.

“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”

However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.

“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”

Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.

“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.
(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.
(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis may see himself as the president’s ‘babysitter’

Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly views himself as President Donald Trump’s “babysitter,” and his efforts to restrain the bombastic leader apparently created tensions with former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

McMaster sought to provide Trump with an array of military options against North Korea, but the defense secretary allegedly refused to put all the options on the table in front of Trump, McMaster aides told The New Yorker. Meanwhile, the president reportedly did not pick up on Mattis’s alleged attempts at stonewalling, and McMaster declined to expose his colleague.


One senior National Security Council official told The New Yorker that Mattis felt like he had to play “babysitter” to Trump.

What’s more, McMaster’s aides claimed the widespread reports that he was specifically pushing for a so-called “bloody nose” strike against North Korea were false. A bloody nose strike would involve an attack against North Korea strong enough to intimidate and embarrass Kim Jong Un’s regime, but not serious enough to spark a full-blown conflict. Many experts have warned such a strike could have catastrophic consequences and would not go as smoothly as its proponents believe.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
H.R. McMaster
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl)

There is limited intelligence on the location of North Korea’s military assets — including its nuclear weapons. Moreover, in November 2017, the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that a ground invasion would be necessary to fully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. In short, a bloody nose strike would risk allowing North Korea to retaliate against the US or its allies with any number of military options, not excluding its nuclear arsenal.

The Trump administration’s discussions surrounding military options against North Korea largely came as the rogue state conducted a series of long-range missile tests in 2017. These tests — part of Pyongyang’s larger goal of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the mainland US — resulted in harsh economic sanctions being leveled against the reclusive nation and led to a war of words between Trump and Kim.

But North Korea’s relationship with the US appears to be shifting in 2018 as Trump and Kim are set to hold a historic meeting about denuclearization. On April 20, 2018, North Korea announced it would cease its long-range missile and nuclear tests and close its primary nuclear testing site. Trump celebrated this development on Twitter, describing it as a sign of “progress being made for all!”

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

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10 New Year’s Resolutions to help you knife hand more and talk about ‘combat’ in Kuwait less

The Recruiter

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
  1. Lose the decades’ long lie of promising naive 18-year-old’s that their selected occupation specialty will be the “tip of the spear” when the next war kicks off. What’s the difference between Military Police and Delta Force anyway?
  1. Resolve to stop using the poster of HALO school pictures of grunts in OIF I when explaining what being a cook in the Army is like. The naive kid will likely be none the wiser if you use polished, Army-approved images of Culinary Specialist AIT, and your quota gets filled either way.

The Drill Sergeant

  1. The kinder and gentler Army is here and Drill Sergeants aren’t supposed to yell anymore. Resolve this year to strike fear in the hearts of your trainees in other ways. Never underestimate the power of a knife-hand, dark sunglasses and blank expression in any given situation.
  1. Maybe don’t use every negative instance in your life to exert your rage onto your platoon of trainees. Maybe you’ve only slept two hours in the past two days and you got a ticket for going one mile over the speed limit on post. Take out that anger in the gym instead and turn it into gains.

Every POG Veteran on TV shows  

  1. When told, “Thank you for your service” this time, resolve not to bust into the highly suspect monologue about cooking under fire.
  1. Try to use the phrase,“I was pretty much Infantry” a little less when explaining your military service to a civilian, especially when you detail your traumatic “deployments” to Kuwait and Bahrain. Oh, the horror…

The brand-new Second Lieutenant

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
  1. It’s been exactly six minutes since you’ve arrived at your first unit and no one has saluted you or asked you about your vast experience at Ranger School? Maybe let it slide this year and also give up on demanding that the Command Sergeant Major stands at attention when talking to you.
  1. Speaking of Ranger School, stop talking about it. You are not the first barrel-chested freedom fighter to graduate from the course and unless you want to be punched in the throat by your Platoon Sergeant or duct taped to a tree by your entire platoon, maybe try to be humble about your first Army experience.

The Infantryman back from his first deployment

  1. Resolve to not bring up Afghanistan in every single conversation you have with civilians. Your six-month stay on tranquil Bagram Airfield where you went to the gym four times a day and left the wire exactly zero times does little to bolster your image of a stone-cold killer and the lack of a CIB on your chest isn’t fooling anyone.

10. Perhaps listen to your NCO for once and don’t marry the stripper you just met in Nashville who you suddenly feel is your soulmate regardless of how much cash you have given her in the past two hours. Remember when you bought that 2020 Ford Mustang at 26 percent interest rate? Yeah, maybe your Squad Leader was right about something.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just sent an F-35 carrier to the South China Sea

The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.

When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.


The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.

The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

The F-35

(Photo by Tom Reynolds)

Naturally, the US military would be keen to show off the jets, which it bills as a revolution in aerial combat because of their stealth design and advanced sensors and controls. But it seems it has opted to skip the public-relations coup for something a bit more operational.

The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.

The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)

What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?

The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.

It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.

But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.

When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.

The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.

China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.

By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.

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

Articles

This is how the Special Forces turn North Carolina into Afghanistan

Welcome to Pineland, the fictional country made up of more than 20 North and South Carolina counties — including Alamance — that US Army Special Forces students will infiltrate to overthrow its oppressive government.


Students at the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg, and role-players will conduct training missions during the exercise, dubbed “Robin Sage,” such as controlled assaults, but also live, eat, and sleep in civilian areas, according to a Fort Bragg news release.

The Army notified local law enforcement agencies, said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. This is something the Army has done several times a year for many years,” Jones said.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
Army photo by Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment

“We just know they’re in the area and how they’re flagged,” he said.

Students will wear civilian clothes only if instructors determine the situation warrants it and then will wear distinctive armbands, according to Fort Bragg, and training areas and vehicles used during exercises will be clearly labeled.

Service members from other units at Fort Bragg will support the exercise by acting as opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters — Pineland’s resistance movement. Civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players.

Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, according to the release. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to people or property.

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
A US solider treats a role-player while another watches for the use of proper procedures, during the Robin Sage exercise. Photo from public domain.

The Army has been conducting Robin Sage since 1974, but it has not always gone smoothly.

In August 2002 a Moore County deputy, who didn’t know Robin Sage troops were in his area, shot and killed one army trainee and wounded another. The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were shot after they tried to disarm the deputy, who they thought also was part of the exercise.

US Army officials have since modified the exercises to make the public and law enforcement aware of what is happening, and to make sure troops know how to deal with civilians and civilian authorities.

Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who can contact officials in charge of the exercise.

Articles

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

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The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

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Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

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6 Army Chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice

Chaplains have long held a special place in many troops’ hearts. In fact, at times, they become legends. In the Army, the first chaplains were authorized on July 29, 1775. They’ve been with the troops on the front lines ever since.


Some chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most famous instance was that of the “Four Chaplains” who were on board the transport SS Dorchester when it was torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55AM on Feb. 3, 1943.

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Painting of the rescue of USAT Dorchester survivors by USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77) on Feb. 3, 1943, in the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard image)

According to HomeofHeroes.com, when the transport was hit, the four chaplains, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington promptly began to aid the troops who were on the stricken vessel.

One sailor was heading back to his bunk for gloves, but Rabbi Goode instead handed his over. Despite a loss of power, they got some of the troops to the deck. Then, they began handing out life jackets, even as the Dorchester was rapidly headed to a watery grave.

Finally, when the life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They were among the 668 who went down with the Dorchester, but many of the 230 men who were saved owed their lives to the Four Chaplains, each of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

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Army Capt. (Chaplain) Emil Kapaun performs Mass in the field, Oct. 7, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Col. Raymond Skeehan)

In the Korean War, two other chaplains notably made the ultimate sacrifice. Chaplain Emil Kapuan, a Catholic priest, was captured during the Chinese offensive of 1950 — and shortly after his capture, he shoved a Chinese soldier who was trying to execute an America.

Then, while held as a POW, he would steal drugs and smuggle them to a doctor. He continued to steal supplies and bolster the morale of his fellow prisoners. He would die in captivity on May 25, 1951. In 2013, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

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Chaplain Herman Gilbert Felhoelter. (U.S. Army photo)

Then there was the case of Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, also a Catholic priest, who, during the initial salvos of the Korean War, offered to stay behind with a medic to help the wounded. As he was providing comfort, North Korean troops attacked and wounded the medic, who escaped.

The North Koreans then proceeded to carry out what became known as the Chaplain-Medic massacre, killing the wounded Americans and the chaplain. Felhoelter received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his actions.

These cases only begin to scratch the surface of why the troops love their chaplains.

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New evidence casts doubt on death of Amelia Earhart

A lost photo may shed new light on the mysterious death of famous aviator Amelia Earhart.


The photo, which will be featured in a new History channel special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was discovered in the National Archives more than 80 years after her death. In it, a woman who appears to be Earhart sits on a dock in the Marshall Islands near to a man who resembles her navigator Fred Noonan.

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Photo from US National Archives

After becoming the first female pilot to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart set off to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937. Her plane vanished without a trace during the flight and, by 1939, both Earhart and Noonan were declared dead.

But the new photo, which shows figures that appear like Earhart and Noonan, could challenge the common theory that the plane crashed somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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Photo from US National Archives

Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI, told NBC News that he’s confident the photo is legitimate and pictures Earhart sitting on the dock.

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” said Henry. Her plane appears to be on a barge in the background being towed by a large ship.

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Photo from US National Archives

According to NBC News, the team that uncovered the photo believes that the photo demonstrates that Earhart and Noonan were blown off course.  The latest photo could suggest that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, experts told NBC News.

 

While current Japanese authorities told the news outlet that they had no record of Earhart ever being in their custody, American investigators insisted that the photo strongly suggests that Earhart survived the crash and was taken into captivity.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer behind the History project.

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13 funniest memes for the week of Nov. 18

Another week down, another list of the 13 best military memes from around the web:


1. They’ve got you there, Army (via Air Force Nation).

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Some people polish floors, some people polish the battlefield.

2. It’s just so hard to choose (via Pop smoke).

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That mammoth skull looks pretty cool, though ….

3. These budget cuts are ridiculous (via Pop smoke).

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I hope they have a cable for my phone onboard.

4. Your animal stuck with you through that nasty breakup? That’s cool (via Military Memes).

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Army Sgt. Paulie here has stuck through two Purple Hearts.

5. “Where does it even plug into the computer?”

(via Military Memes)

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6. This meme gets recycled every year without getting any less true (via Military Memes).

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It’s getting pretty awkward.

7. The blue disc is always good for a few warm hugs and a cup of cocoa (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

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Sorry, I misspelled that. Blue discs are good for a few “living nightmares” and “an explosion of fury.”

8. The only reason to wake up is if someone is yelling “corpsman.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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Or sometimes if you feel a sharp pain at the same moment that you hear a boom.

9. There seems to be some sort of feed error with your weapon (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Check the weapon’s ID-10-T to identify the problem.

10. “He’s like, really spooky and stuff.”

(viaAir Force amn/nco/snco)

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Maybe you should call the MPs for help.

11. Basically spraying filtered water over here (via Military Nations).

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Forced hydration is life.

12. Hey, if it works in Atropia, then it must work in theater (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

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Of course, if these guys had actually learned their lessons in Atropia, then they’d probably have the muscle memory and discipline to keep their weapons at the low ready.

13. Some people call it crazy. Some people call it disciplined (via Team Non-Rec).

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Just headbutt the wall until the wall breaks.

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