U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.
JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.
“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)
The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.
“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”
Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.
The Air Force said on May 2, 2018, that the new B-21 Raider bomber will go to three bases in the US when it starts arriving in the mid-2020s.
The service picked Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber.
The Air Force said using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs.
“Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a release. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota has said Ellsworth is a candidate to be the first to get the new, next-generation bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)
The B-21 will eventually replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit at those bases, as well — though the Air Force doesn’t plan to start retiring those bombers until it has enough B-21s to replace them.
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress, the workhorse bomber that was first introduced in 1952 and is expected to remain in service until the 2050s.
A final basing decision is expected in 2019 after compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulations.
“We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in the release.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, said in March that the B-21 will head to Edwards Air Force Base in California for testing “in the near future.” His announcement appeared to confirm that the Raider would undergo operational testing sooner than expected.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada)
The B-21 is being engineered to have next-generation stealth capability to allow it to elude the most advanced air defenses in the world, and it has been developed under a high level of secrecy.
There are no known photographs of the bomber, and few details about it have been released. A report in November 2017, suggested the Air Force could have been preparing Area 51 to host the bomber for testing.
The name “Raider” was selected from suggestions submitted by airmen in a contest in early 2016. The name refers to the daring Doolittle raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942.
The raid was the first US strike on Japan in World War II, and it boosted morale in the US and led the Japanese military to divert resources for defense of its homeland. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Lt. Col. James Doolittle’s copilot and the last surviving member of the raid, announced the new name in September 2016.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon is fast-tracking sensor and command and control technology development to improve defenses against fast-emerging energy hypersonic weapons threats from major rivals, such as Russia or China, U.S. Missile Defense Agency officials said.
Citing particular emphasis upon the area of Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC), Missile Defense Agency Director of Operations Gary Pennett said the Pentagon is working to address “sensor and interceptor capability gaps” exposing potential vulnerability to hypersonic weapons attacks.
“Any software associated with any of those systems might have some capability to track hypersonic systems. This evolving threat demands a globally present and persistent space sensor network to track it from birth to death,” Pennett told reporters during an MDA budget briefing.
While not specifically cited by Pennett, many at the Pentagon are doubtless aware of news reports citing Chinese hypersonic weapons development, to include details of various tests in some instances.
The MDA and Northrop Grumman are already working on command and control upgrades to the existing inventory of Ground-Based Interceptors with a specific focus on using next-gen sensors to exchange time-sensitive data with a kill vehicle targeting an enemy attack in space.
While a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) travels into space to discern and destroy an ICBM, sensors and communications technology are needed to connect with the interceptor prior to engagement.
While many of the details, sensors, or RF technologies involved are, not surprisingly, unavailable for public discussion, there are a number of substantial cutting-edge improvements emerging quickly, Northrop developers told Warrior Maven.
Artist’s concept rendering of Boeing’s X-51A Waverider. This unmanned, experimental aircraft will be suitable for hypersonic flight. (U.S. Air Force graphic.)
The specifics of U.S.-Chinese hypersonic weapons technical competition are, quite expectedly, not likely to be available, however many U.S. military leaders have consistently raised concerns about China’s focus on the technology. The speed and impact of a hypersonic attack, naturally, places an as-of-yet unprecedented burden upon layered defense systems and sensors engineered to cue countermeasures.
A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets, such as enemy ships, buildings, air defenses, and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft, depending upon the guidance technology available, Air Force experts have explained.
A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them — they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.
Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets, a senior weapons developer told Warrior Maven.
For this and other reasons, the U.S. has been fast-tracking development of its own hypersonic weapons; the U.S. has conducted various hypersonic weapons developmental experiments with Australia in recent months.
Air Force weapons developers say the service will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s. A bit further away, in the 2030s, the service could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle, former senior Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven over the course of several previous interviews.
A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.
By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform, able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven.
The pursuit of advanced sensor technology able to detect hypersonic weapons attacks emerged as Pennett’s explanation of the $9.9 billion MDA portion of the President’s defense budget.
Citing serious missile threats from North Korea, Iran, and other possible hostile actors, the US Missile Defense Agency is aggressively pursuing a plan to rapidly increase its number of Ground Based Interceptors to 64 by 2023, Pennett said.
U.S. plans to expand homeland missile defenses by adding a new missile field and deploying 20 additional GBIs at Fort Greely, Alaska, he added.
”MDA will ensure the number of fielded GBIs is sustained at 64, while performing GBI upgrades and maintenance by adding two additional silos in Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely and purchasing six additional configuration 2 booster vehicles,” Pennett told reporters.
Specific to North Korea, Pennett cited a fast-growing ICBM threat to the continental United States.
“In July 2017, North Korea launched two Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, on highly lofted trajectories that impacted in the Sea of Japan,” he said.
Pennett also cited North Korea’s November launch of a Hwasong-15 ICBM, which if fired on a lower trajectory could have reached the continental U.S.
“North Korea is developing a cold launch, solid fuel, submarine-launched ballistic missile. Today, North Korea fields hundreds of SCUD and No Dong missiles that can reach our allies and U.S. forces forward deployed in the Republic of Korea and Japan,” Pennett said.
Iran may also soon have an ability to produce and launch an ICBM able to reach the U.S., Pennett said, adding that the country already has ballistic missiles able to hit areas as far away as southeastern Europe.
The budget also emphasizes MDA’s Redesigned Kill Vehicle, Long Range Discrimination Radar, and Sea-Based X-Band radar, among other things.
The guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham seized an illicit weapons shipment containing 2,521 AK-47 rifles Aug. 28, 2018, U.S. 5th Fleet officials announced Sept. 6, 2018.
The weapons were found aboard a stateless skiff in international waters in the Gulf of Aden.
The full count follows an initial estimate of more than 1,000 rifles. The skiff was determined to be stateless following a flag-verification boarding conducted in accordance with international law. The origin and intended destination of the skiff have not yet been determined.
Searching for illegal weapons
“As a part of our countertrafficking mission, we are actively involved in searching for illegal weapons shipments of all kinds,” said Navy Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and the Combined Maritime Forces.
“Ensuring the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and countering malign actors at sea continue to be paramount to the U.S. Navy and its regional partners and allies,” Stearney added.
The seizure comes after four weapons seizures in 2015 and 2016 accomplished by Combined Maritime Forces and U.S. 5th Fleet assets.
The first seizure was by the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Melbourne, Sept. 27, 2015, when it intercepted a dhow containing 75 anti-tank guided munitions, four tripods with associated equipment, four launch tubes, two launcher assembly units, and three missile guidance sets.
U.S. sailors stack AK-47 automatic rifles aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the Gulf of Aden, Aug. 30, 2018. The ship’s visit, board, search and seizure team seized the weapons from a skiff during a flag verification boarding as part of maritime security operations.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)
The second seizure was by the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin, which intercepted a dhow Feb. 27, 2016, and confiscated nearly 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 81 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 spare PKM barrels and 20 60 mm mortar tubes.
The third seizure was by the French navy destroyer FS Provence March 20, 2016, and yielded again almost 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 64 Dragunov sniper rifles, nine anti-tank missiles and six PK machine guns with bipods.
The fourth seizure was by U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship USS Sirocco, which was operating as part of U.S. 5th Fleet, March 28, 2016, when it intercepted a dhow containing 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns.
The United Kingdom-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research studied and linked three of the caches to weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.
Based on an analysis of all available information, including crew interviews, a review of onboard records and an examination of the arms aboard the vessel, the United States concluded that the arms from the four interdictions in 2015 and 2016 originated in Iran and were intended to be delivered to the Houthis in Yemen in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.
Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment — is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22, 2019.
Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of Red Flag-Alaska. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JB Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base.
In addition to the U.S., airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JB Elmendorf-Richardson during the exercise to engage with airmen and leaders of all participating countries.
“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Ra Young-Chang, chief master sergeant of the South Korean Air Force, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior enlisted leaders are briefed before an F-22 Raptor jet engine test cell function check at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Valdes)
“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”
Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand gathered in the same location.
“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota, Japan Air Self-Defense Force senior enlisted advisor.
This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, 2019, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.
“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at (JB Elmendorf-Richardson),” Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”
An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot from the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, performs pre-flight checks at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 25th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation’s’ air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
All Red Flag-Alaska exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska. The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.
Red Flag-Alaska exercises, which provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments, date back to 1975, when the exercise was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.
Red Flag-Alaska executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. Red Flag-Alaska has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combined warfighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, taxis at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 13th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation”s air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
Wright offered a message to RF-A global airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.
“Come here, work hard, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”
Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in Red Flag-Alaska.
“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”
HBO’s epic miniseries Chernobyl is quickly gaining fans around the world, including in Iran, where an adviser to President Hassan Rohani has suggested that it carries lessons for political leaders.
The five-part series has been widely praised for its dramatization of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster, including portrayals of victims sacrificing themselves to prevent an even greater catastrophe following an explosion at the Soviet-built power plant in 1986.
The adviser, Hesamedin Ashena, who also heads the presidential research arm known as the Center For Strategic Studies, on June 4, 2019, highlighted the joint U.S./U.K. production’s central theme — “What is the cost of lies?” — and said “those in politics and government” could learn from that “mind-boggling question.”
Ashena did not elaborate.
He appeared to have Iranian politicians in mind, since he posted his tweet in Persian. Ashena routinely tweets in English when directing his comments toward Westerners.
In a separate tweet, he shared an HBO promotional image for Chernobyl.
The show appears to be reaching Iranians who, despite restrictions that include tough Internet filtering and censorship as well as U.S. financial sanctions, are usually quick to access the latest Hollywood and Western movies and TV series.
Several episodes have already appeared online dubbed or subtitled into Persian.
When asked by another Twitter user whether he had downloaded the series or has an HBO subscription, Ashena cited the Filimo.com portal, a video-on-demand app that makes Iranian and Western movies and TV shows available to customers.
Not often discussed
There has been little public debate within Iran’s state or semiofficial media about the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, although some Iranians have used open letters, blogs, and social media to question the need for a nuclear program or warn about the potential health or environmental risks of nuclear energy.
In 2012, comments by an Iranian health official who had expressed concerns about nuclear health hazards and suggested that there had been “accidents” at one of the country’s nuclear sites were quickly removed from the website of a semiofficial news agency.
Iranian officials have said their facilities have been designed and built based on the latest state-of-the-art technology and don’t pose a threat to the environment or people.
They have also maintained that the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor that went online in southern Iran in 2011 is safe and build to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 8. Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Iran.
HBO’s miniseries appeared to rekindle a debate about nuclear safety among Iranians.
“If this happens in Iran, would our health system be ready to handle so many irradiated patients?” a user who claims to be a physician tweeted from Tehran.
A scene from HBO’s Chernobyl.
In a reference to Iranian defiance at Western criticism of its contentious nuclear program, the same user reminded those who repeat the state-promoted slogan of “nuclear energy is our absolute right” not to forget Chernobyl.
The HBO miniseries has shone a bright light on Soviet attempts to cover up the scale of the Chernobyl disaster.
Some Iranians on social media said that scenario was all too familiar for Iranians living in an ideologically driven system that frequently silences critics under the pretext of national security or to avoid grim accounts of life in Iranian society.
Iran has steadfastly insisted its nuclear efforts are strictly for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and other governments as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have accused Tehran of duplicity and stonewalling about its nuclear activities.
International fears that Iran was seeking a nuclear bomb-making capability led to a deal between world powers and Tehran in 2015 that the United States has since abandoned in favor of renewed sanctions and other economic and diplomatic pressure.
On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.
Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).
Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.
“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”
Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.
Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.
“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.
Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.
“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”
Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.
“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”
Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.
“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision. “He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”
On Feb. 27, the Pentagon confirmed that the recruit signed a contract to join the military after a federal judge ruled that transgender individuals who meet the standards for military service must be allowed to join.
Here is a brief timeline of recent events concerning transgender military eligibility:
• June 30, 2016: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. was lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military.
• June 30, 2016: A RAND study determined medical care for individuals who transition would cost roughly $2.4 to $4 million annually, thus amounting to no more than 0.13% of spending on healthcare for active duty armed service members.
• July 26, 2017: President Donald Trumped announced on Twitter that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
• Aug. 29, 2017: Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that currently serving transgender troops would be allowed to remain in the armed services, pending the recommendations of a panel study and consultation with Homeland Security.
• Jan. 1, 2018: Transgender individuals were allowed to join the U.S. military after the Pentagon was forced to comply with a federal court ruling issued in December 2017.
• February 23, 2018: The Pentagon confirmed that there is one transgender individual under contract for service in the U.S. Military.
Under the guidelines effective Jan. 1, 2018, transgender applicants must be certified by a medical provider as stable without “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” for 18 months in order to be eligible to serve.
Secretary Mattis maintains that “our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.”
He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.
But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.
The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.
The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.
These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.
But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.
It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.
The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.
“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”
After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)
“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”
So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.
The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.
Several US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers have flown through the contested East and South China Seas multiple times in August 2018, sending an unmistakable message to potential challengers.
Four flights involving no more than two bombers each time were carried out in the disputed seas as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission. Two B-52s assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS) participated in joint anti-submarine training exercises with two US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft on Aug. 1, 2018, in the East China Sea, US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in an official statement.
“Ultimately, it increased our readiness to serve as a credible deterrent force and presence within the theater,” Maj. John Radtke, 96th EBS mission planner, explained.
One B-52 bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam participated in a CBP training mission in the East China Sea on Aug. 22, 2018, PACAF public affairs told Business Insider, adding that two more B-52s with the 96th EBS conducted CBP operations in the South China Sea on Aug. 27, 2018. It is unclear if the bombers flew past Chinese occupied territories in the area, as PACAF refused to provide the information, citing “operational security concerns.”
The flights were initially detected by Aircraft Spots, on online military aircraft tracking site.
The site’s latest flight tracking data suggested that two more B-52s conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Aug. 30, 2018, which would mean that American heavy bombers have been active in the disputed waterway twice in a week. PACAF confirmed in a public statement the Aug. 30, 2018 flight following queries from Business Insider.
“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked in an editorial Aug. 30, 2018.
The CBP flights are “flown in accordance with international law” and are consistent with America’s “long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies,” PACAF public affairs said. China has often expressed frustration with the US position on this particular matter.
In early June 2018, a pair of B-52s ripped across the South China Sea, causing the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accuse the US of “running amok” in the region. China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the time, “We will only even more staunchly take all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”
The US Air Force similarly sent B-52s into the South China Sea in late April 2018.
In response to questions about a possible B-52 overflight in the East China Sea in August 2018, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We hope that actions taken in this region by any country could help enhance mutual trust and show respect for the legitimate security interests of regional countries. Nothing that undermines mutual trust and regional security and stability shall happen.”
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense has warned repeatedly that China “will firmly defend the sovereign security and territorial integrity of the country.”
News of the recent bomber flights in the East and South China Sea comes just after the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military power. The report specifically noted that Chinese bombers were operating with increased frequency in flashpoint zones in the region.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report explained. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”
The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese air force is pushing to become a “strategic” force capable of power projection.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. and Russian space agencies have announced a new collaboration to build a space station orbiting the moon, a rare glimpse of bilateral cooperation amid bitter tension between Washington and Moscow.
NASA and Roscosmos said in statements released on September 27 that the two entities had signed an agreement to work together on a project that will eventually serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface.”
NASA has dubbed the long-term project the Deep Space Gateway, a multistage effort to explore, and eventually send humans, farther into the solar system.
The two countries’ space agencies will cooperate to build the systems needed for both the lunar-orbiting station and a base on the moon’s surface, Roscosmos said.
With tension at levels not seen since the Cold War, space exploration is one of the only areas in which the United States and Russia continue to cooperate.
Russia rockets and capsules bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, and Russian cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts work alongside one another on the orbiting station.
In October 2018, Airman Magazine sat down for a conversation with Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Twenty-fourth Air Force commander; Air Forces Cyber commander and Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. He is responsible for providing Air Force component and combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan, direct and execute global cyberspace operations.
Airman Magazine: In July, the Twenty-fourth AF moved from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command. At the same time you moved from AFSPC to ACC. What are the reasons for that restructuring?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: This allows Gen. Raymond, as the Air Force Space Command commander, to truly focus on space operations. The other thing is this brings cyber within Air Combat Command, which has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control and the air domain. Bringing all these forces together under one four-star MAJCOM (major command) commander, Gen. Holmes, allows him some more flexibility to be able to present forces across the spectrum of operations.
The networks for those operations need to be resilient and they need to be protected. When you bring together the ISR, cyber, information operations, electronic warfare and command and control, that’s a lot under one hat. But it allows us greater integration as we move forward. At the end of the day, this is about multi-domain operations and the more we can bring those together, the more successful we’ll be.
Airman Magazine: How are your responsibilities divided between your three commands? It seems that just the information technology portion alone would be a huge demand on your resources.
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Cyber operations have four or five different lines of effort. One is to actually build the networks, build the applications and build the systems.
Another is to operate and maintain the networks, but also secure and protect them from vulnerability to adversaries. We also defend networks for our maneuver forces and then we have full spectrum operations, which is on the offensive side.
We also have combat communications airmen and engineering installation airmen who extend the network out to a multitude of places, whether that’s tactical basing or at the forward battle edge.
With that said, information technology is still a key part of the cyberspace domain and we are moving forward in the Enterprise IT as a service. We are going to utilize things industry does very well as a commodity type of action activity.
We are going to leverage what industry does great, providing some services and network infrastructure, and re-mission our airmen to do core Air Force missions on the defensive and offensive side, while providing assurance for the many missions the Air Force presents to the combatant commanders on the joint side.
The bottom line is we’re in the cyber operations business — information technology, networks, both operating and defending — and we provide full spectrum operations in this thing we call the cyberspace domain.
Tech. Sgt. Wyatt Bloom uses a spectrum analyzer to check television broadcast network routers at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., July 18, 2012. Bloom is a cyber-transport technician assigned to DMA.
Airman Magazine: Would you explain your duties as commander of the Air Force component at Cyber Command? How is that different from the hat you wear as commander of Twenty-fourth AF and Air Force Cyber?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: This could actually be a dissertation. To break it down a little bit, the Twenty-fourth AF is where we organize, train and equip our airmen. The perfect example is we have an organization down at Hurlburt Field — they train almost every cyber professional. Now we do a lot more than that, but that’s one example of the Twenty-fourth AF piece.
In the Air Force cyber piece, I am charged by the Air Force to present forces to Gen. Paul Nakasone, the U.S. Cyber Command commander, for his missions and functions as the combatant commander.
We provide offensive forces and defensive forces, DODIN (Department of Defense Information Networks) ops cyber professionals and ISR professionals to Gen. Nakasone, so he can perform his mission.
Then the third area is the Joint Force Headquarters side. That’s where Gen. Nakasone has asked us to align to three different combatant commanders to provide additional joint support for their missions.
We have planning elements that are aligned to these three combatant commanders, as well as some cyber teams supporting the commanders’ efforts in defense of the mission. Our teams are able to deploy and employ forces against a particular adversary at the time and place of the combatant command commanders’ choosing.
Our job within Twenty-fourth AF, AF Cyber JFHQC and Cyber Command, is to be ready at a moment’s notice to protect our systems and defend the networks and defend the core missions of our military and our joint war fighters. Then deter, disrupt and degrade an enemy’s ability to perform those functions against us. Part of that goes into making sure that we have persistent engagement, a persistent presence, and a persistent innovation as we continue to move forward.
Airman Magazine: Across the Air Force, joint force, partner agencies and nations, do cyber operations equate to kinetic operations or is that a completely different animal?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say it is not a completely different animal. To be successful in cyber operations and have cyberspace superiority at the time and place of our choosing, we need a team of teams that is internal to the Air Force.
Every single airman in our Air Force needs to be a cyber sentinel. We need every airman to be very conscious of cyber security, cyber hygiene and things that are going on within the cyberspace domain.
We have branched out and are part of several joint organizations that perform functions and missions within the cyber domain. The National Security Agency is a huge partner with us as we perform these missions, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency and Department of Homeland Security — a lot of different agencies across the board.
We are also great partners with commercial industry and academia because we’re all in the same field and in the same cyber domain.
Within Twenty-fourth AF, we have a United Kingdom representative and an Australian liaison officer, but most of our allies and partners are really up at the Cyber Command level. We leverage those partners through U.S. Cyber Command, NATO and other organizations.
Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: What is it that makes your cyber airmen “cyber warriors”?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Our airmen are absolutely warriors. We have teams in the fight operating constantly: 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and New Year’s.
If you’ve heard Gen. Nakasone speak recently you’ve heard him say we’re no longer solely responding to network intrusions, we have cyber forces persistently engaged against state and non-state adversaries, actively identifying and countering threats in the cyber domain.
This achieves several benefits at once: first and foremost, it gives us control over the cyber terrain that serves as the foundation for superiority in cyberspace. It also keeps our operators ready and their skills honed and imposes cost on the adversary so they can no longer operate freely without repercussion. There’s already a massive demand signal for our cyber operators that will only increase, so we have to ensure we’re fielding proficient, ready and lethal operators at scale.
Because of this, we are investing not only the readiness of our mission, but also in the readiness of our people. This means examining everything within our scope of control, including the effect the operational tempo of our 24/7/365 mission has on our operators.
Just like you see within the (remotely piloted aircraft) field, cyber can mean long periods away from the sunlight and abnormal sleep hours, and that can absolutely have an effect on people. Any leader will tell you—if you take care of the people, they will take care of the mission.
Airman Magazine: What part does the total force play in cyber operations and defense?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I will tell you, we could not do our job on a day-to-day basis without the total force. The majority of the forces within Twenty-fourth AF are guard and reserve components.
Our engineering installation mission is 85 to 90 percent within the guard. More than 50 percent of our combat communications capability, which extends and expands our capabilities to the tactical edge, is in the guard. We have guard organizations up in Washington. We have some in Rhode Island. We have some here in Texas. I will tell you they provide great day-to-day work.
What’s even more important is the expertise that they bring from their civilian jobs. We have vice presidents of some corporations who are part of our total force as well. Bringing that expertise, leadership, things that the public is good at and things that industry is focused on benefits the military and vice versa. They take lessons learned from the military and take it to their company. So it’s a great yin-yang relationship.
Whether it’s an offensive operation or a defensive operation or even DODIN ops, there has to be a tight tie between all of those as we move forward because the defense learns from the offense and the offense learns from the defense. DODIN ops learn from defense to figure it out where we need to be resilient, where some of our mission critical assets are and how to defend them.
All the computer networks, email, applications and systems in the cyberspace domain are what we call the Department of Defense Information Networks. There are pay applications that we have in the Air Force that are part of DODIN. If you get paid electronically within the Air Force that’s part of the DoD information network.
Airman Magazine: Is it an advantage that those reserve and National Guard personnel tend to have long histories with one unit?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. In some places having continuity is good. I would say having too much continuity isn’t necessarily good in cyber because you want some fresh blood, some fresh ideas.
Airman Magazine: Would a technical track for active-duty cyber operators benefit the force?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Similar to other domains and weapon systems, we have to be proficient to be effective. Since cyber is a technical domain we do need technical expertise.
However as our people gain that expertise and increase in rank and responsibility, we need them to be leaders and lead teams to success while still maintaining credibility in their profession. We, ACC and Headquarters Air Force are working closely together to determine what the right “path to greatness” will look like, in order to build a force that generates maximum lethality.
Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: As cyber tools and methods seem to change constantly, ow can the acquisitions process be altered to make sure the Air Force has the best technologies and practices in the cyber domain?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The Air Force and DoD leadership are laser-like focused on our ability to acquire things in a more agile, fast and relevant way. We have leveraging other authorities, like 804 authorities, to bring on the future faster and to bring innovation faster.
As an Air Force we are becoming more of a software force than a hardware force. The ability to bring the new wave of agile software development operations, DevOps, is going to be key in maintaining our superiority and operating within the enemy’s OODA loop (time it takes to observe, orient, decide, and act).
We’re bringing in individuals who understand the old waterfall model is not the right model because by the time that you set the requirements and start developing to those requirements, the environment, threats and priorities have changed.
If you’re spending weeks, months and years identifying and defining hundreds or thousands of requirements, you definitely can’t meet those requirements in a timely manner. So leverage industry, leverage developers who are innovative, define the left and right limits or requirements.
So you get a three to five-page requirements document, which is much better than a 100 to 200-page document. Let them innovate and come back with a solution and in a much more timely manner—days and weeks versus months and years. Then you iterate and you continue to iterate on that minimum viable product.
Then also leverage some of those techniques to buy the right hardware in a timely fashion and focus on the approval top rate process, to reduce the amount of time to approve either software or hardware for connecting to the network. I know that Dr. Roper, Air Force Acquisition and the chief and secretary are very focused on bringing the future faster.
Airman Magazine: The Air Force is considering launching a cyber rapid capabilities office. How would that benefit the Twenty-fourth AF and the cyber community as a whole?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The traditional slow-and-steady acquisition model is great for buying a fleet of fifth-generation aircraft, but it isn’t ideal for cyberspace where the landscape is changing constantly and where the state-of-the-art is available to anyone interested in buying. We need to get faster.
The DNA of the Air Force RCO brings agility and flexibility, which drives down timelines and increases capability. Right now we can’t say what form a cyber RCO would take, but will benefit us by getting the right capabilities and weapons at the right time to our operators. We need to respond to malicious cyber activity with greater speed and tempo employing a calculated, “spectrum of risk” framework which is properly delegated at echelon to enable responsible and responsive cyberspace operations in support of assigned missions.
The concept of Fusion Warfare gathers all intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data across all Air Force platforms into the “combat cloud” through and autonomous process where it’s analyzed and combined to create a real time big picture for commanders.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)
Airman Magazine: What effect will advances in big data research have on cyber operations?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Data is the game changer in our business. If I own the data battle space, then I will definitely be within the OODA loop of the adversary. Being able to leverage quantum computing, artificial intelligence and analysis of big data platforms is really the future of our mission.
There is so much data out there in today’s environment there is no way that you can get through all of it (manually). So you may miss a key data point that would help you make a decision. In a future conflict, being able to have the right data at the right time analyzed at the right tempo is key to success.
We’re putting a lot of effort into better understanding the data, not just from cyber standpoint, but also in logistics, in intelligence and even in personnel. The more we can analyze the data, the better that we can perform education and training, perform timely logistics, perform ISR operations. Every single Air Force core mission is reliant on data to be more effective, more efficient and more successful.
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about Hack the Air Force and its value to the force?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: The first Hack the Air Force iteration was in late 2017, after the successful Hack the Pentagon initiative by Defense Digital Services. When the first hackathon sprint kicked off it took less than a minute for a hacker to find a valid vulnerability. By the end, over 200 holes in our boundary had been patched—and that was just the first iteration.
Hack the Air Force gets after two important focus areas: first, it builds capacity for the Air Force by leveraging expertise from a multitude of places, and second, it leverages innovative thinking to find vulnerabilities we otherwise might not uncover.
Take, for example, the person who won the first hackathon sprint, a 17-year-old high school student from Chicago. Maybe his path won’t lead him to the Air Force, but we were still able to use his talents to make ourselves more resilient. To me that’s a win.
Quynh Tran, right, a Raytheon Corporation software engineer, talks with Capt. Nick Lundin, Product Management lead, about a software coding project May 30, 2018 at Kessel Run, a program within the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a United States Department of Defense organization, in Boston.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: What lessons can be learned from commercial companies about practices that enable those fresh ideas to come forward?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great lessons learned from Silicon Valley and I would offer Silicon Valley has also learned from the Department of Defense.
As I’ve said many times over my 33-year career to date, if I came into the military today, compared with a talent level of the individuals that we have now, I would not be as successful as I have been.
The talent today is amazing and our job as senior leaders is how do we unleash that talent? How do we have the right policies and the right directives leveraging the right acquisition authorities and unleash this talent on the hard problems that our force and our nation face today.
The key is getting the right people in the room to determine how best to provide solutions, whether it’s software development, hardware acquisition or cyberspace operations. It’s getting the right people in the room and getting through the bureaucracy, pushing the bureaucracy to the side and being able to unleash the talent.
Airman Magazine: How can, especially when it comes to the cyber domain, the Air Force compete with civilian industry to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There was always a competition between academia, research labs, commercial industry and the military. We as a military cannot compete from a dollar standpoint.
But where we can compete is with the great things you can do within the DoD, that you probably can’t do within the commercial world. We have great missions coming from the research we’re doing.
Some of the operations we’re doing on a day-to-day basis, you can’t do that on the commercial side. We have opportunities for individuals at a variety of levels to perform things they couldn’t do outside of the military. That’s our calling card.
Airman Magazine: Peer and near-peer competitors have been going to school on us since World War II; how do we offset that advantage?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say every threat is an opportunity. While we have been focused over the last 10 to 15 years on the violent extremist, the latest National Defense Strategy, National Security Strategy and National Cyber Strategy outline strategic competition, peer competitors, and has turned the focus there.
You’ll hear a lot about readiness. Readiness is very important to our chief, very important to our secretary and very important to the secretary of defense. We need to make sure that we have a lethal force. In order to do that, you need to have a ready force.
In order to be ready, you need to have a disciplined force. Especially when there is strategic competition out there and adversaries who on a day-to-day basis are performing actions and operations that are probably right below the level of conflict.
But, I would not want to go and do a mission against a threat with anyone else but the airmen we have in our service today. Our airmen, with our joint partners in the other services, still have the most critical, credible and lethal force in the world.
Airmen with the 68th Network Warfare Squadron monitor Air Force communications to analyze disclosures of critical information and perform data loss prevention at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: You talked about having a disciplined force in order to be lethal. What constitutes discipline in the cyber world?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Discipline is key. I’m not talking about discipline from a uniform code of military justice aspect. This is discipline in processes, discipline in procedures and discipline in command and control. We spent a lot of time going back and trying to figure out what happened on something because there was an undisciplined tactic, technique, procedure or process. We’re trying to leverage discipline to make our force more effective and more capable and build capacity.
Then we come to a readiness standpoint. Readiness, as you know, is made up of personnel, equipment, procedures and training. We are continually leveraging our innovative airmen to improve the training they receive, how we purchase equipment, how we educate our airmen.
Part of all this is proficiency. Proficiency against a violent extremist organization is much different than proficiency against strategic competitors. Our focus continues to be how to maintain and improve the readiness and proficiency against strategic competitors.
We are also leveraging our airmen and technology to be more efficient and more effective.
Leveraging artificial intelligence can decrease the amount of time that our airmen spend doing manual work so they can focus on the higher end discussions of cognitive actions and activities.
For example, manually looking through thousands of pages of data takes a very long time. We have airmen who are leveraging technology, whether it’s using keywords or bringing a couple of technologies together, that can take those thousands of documents and run through them in minutes versus hours, days or weeks.
Then taking what the technology has given you and put the human eye on it — are there any other needles in the haystack?
That’s what our airmen are doing on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s from a data collection standpoint, whether it’s from a cyber operation standpoint, whether it’s looking through logs to see if we have an adversary presence on our networks. Looking through logs to make sure that our user experience is where it needs to be on a daily basis, but leveraging technology to reduce the amount of manual steps.
Airman Magazine: With a kinetic weapon, the effects are apparent and there is an inherent process to be able to determine origin, intent and purpose. The very nature of cyber is to hide the hand that dealt the cards. What kind of challenges does determining attribution pose for a commander?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: So attribution is a very significant challenge. There are not as well defined international norms in the cyberspace domain and therefore a multitude of nations and multitude of criminals and the multitude of other individuals are continuing to push the limits.
It is often very apparent in the other domains, from an effect or an outcome, who the actors are. In the cyber domain, you can have the same type of effects in as in other domains, but it is harder to determine the source, which is really important when you start talking about multi-domain operations.
Cyber is a critical enabler while also a critical operation because cyber can be both supporting and supported within multi-domain operations. As we continue to refine our operations, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will continue to get better at understanding attribution, understanding the outcomes, and making sure that we refine and define those outcomes and bound the outcomes to meet our mission objectives.
As cyber continues to get more profound and more pronounced in the day-to-day operations, attribution is going to become that much harder.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, then Deputy Commander of Air Force Space Command, speaks at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 6, 2018.
(Photo by Dave Grim)
Airman Magazine: How do you convince people that cyber and space have become foundational to everything that the Air Force, and our society as a whole, does on a daily basis?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ll give you a perfect example, the Global Positioning System is operated by Air Force Space Command: not only for the nation, but the whole world. The U.S. Air Force supplies and supports the system and satellites that enable the GPS navigation we use in our cars and on our phones every day, millions of times around the world.
It also provides timing. Every financial transaction is supported by the GPS system. So when you purchase something and put your credit card into that reader, there’s a timing aspect that is being supported by GPS. So the Air Force is supporting billions of activities and actions all the time.
Airman Magazine: The chief of staff and secretary have made it a priority to push command level decisions down to the lowest level possible. How is that manifested in your command?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Its not only because the chief and the secretary say they want it done. We have the greatest airmen in the world and we have the greatest commanders in the world—pushing authorities and responsibility down to the lowest level really enables them to unleash the talent around them and enables us to unleash their talent.
You don’t need higher headquarters micromanaging and directing things on a daily basis. Our commanders are boarded. We have a tradition of great commanders in our Air Force and we need to let them run. We need to let them determine how best to run their organizations and how best to be effective. The more that we can push decision authority down, the more bureaucracy we can eliminate and the more agile, lethal and effective we can be as an Air Force.
From a higher headquarters level and higher commander level, our responsibility is to give the left and right limits to those organizations and then let them run.
If we are in a conflict, especially against a peer competitor, the amount of time it would take to micromanage our tactical-level units would not allow us to be inside the OODA loop of our adversary.
We need to allow our commanders, in peacetime, to train like they are going to fight. To have that authority to perform the mission as they see fit. With more guidance, directives and limitations to that commander, there’s going to be some negative learning, first and foremost, but secondly, the safety of our airmen will be put in jeopardy.
Participants in the joint, multinational exercise Cyber Guard 2016 work through a training scenario during the nine-day event in Suffolk, Va., on June 16, 2016.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Hyatt)
Airman Magazine: As commander of Joint Force Headquarters Cyber, you’re responsible for cyber affects in campaign plans from U.S. Central Command to U.S. Transportation Command. How does that integration take place?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: Aligned to each of those combatant commanders we have an element called the Cyber Operations Integrated Planning Element. We are just now standing those up and they are at the combatant commanders’ headquarters.
They’re kind of our picture window into that combatant commander to enable cyber operations planning to be part of their overall plan. Each combatant commander has either a function or a region they’re responsible for and they have what we call a scheme of maneuver, which is either day-to-day or in conflict. It is the commander’s plan of how to ensure sure we are successful in that campaign.
These planning elements are aligned there so we can be part of that plan and make sure that cyber isn’t just bolted on, but integrated into that plan. Cyber will be one of the first options that are available to that combatant commander below the level of conflict to make sure that we are meeting our objectives.
Airman Magazine: How do you get everyone with a piece of the huge cyber puzzle speaking the same language? How do you communicate capabilities and vulnerabilities to leadership, agency partners and airmen who are not cyber experts?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say today we have the best understanding and the best alignment from the cyber domain standpoint that we’ve ever had with all the strategy documents – the National Defense Strategy, which is underneath the National Security Strategy, the National Cyber Policy and Strategy, the DoD Cyber Strategy and the Cyber Posture Review.
All of these documents are perfectly aligned and it’s a great understanding of the capabilities that we provide, but also the importance of cyber to the multi-domain operations. The education is continual, but I offer that our Air Force leadership understands the cyber domain. They understand how important the cyber domain is to multi-domain operations.
We continue to educate the entire forest. We’re continuing the education process of all of our airmen, from the highest level to the most junior airman and the joint community, but from a joint standpoint and a national standpoint cyber is more understood than it ever has been.
Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(AFIT CCR photo)
Airman Magazine: Do you see the Continuum of Learning concept and applications like the Cyber Learning Hub being developed by the Center for Cyberspace Research, Air Force Cyber College and U.S Air Force Academy’s CyberWorx, as aiding in that effort?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great opportunities with that as cyber continues to be more and more integrated into the day-to-day operations.
We currently have the Air Force Warfare Center where we bring a lot of different mission systems together, integrate them, exercise and train and cyber is a significant part of that.
From an education standpoint we send people to the Air Force Institute of Technology. They not only have general education classes, but we they have Cyber 100, Cyber 200, Cyber 300 and Cyber 400 courses.
We have the 39th Information Operations Squadron, which does our cyber training. Keesler Air Force Base has a lot of our cyber courses. Just as Gen. Raymond over the last year has been working with Air University to make sure we have more space in our professional military education, we’re doing the same thing from a cyber standpoint.
We’re working with Gen. Cotton at Air University and Gen. Kwast at Air Education and Training Command to make sure that we continue to improve the amount of cyber and relevant topics in cyber education in basic military training through professional military education and to highlight cyber, both from a professional and a personal standpoint, because it impacts every part of your life.
Airman Magazine: In that vein, what would you like every airman to be aware of in their daily connectivity?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: One of the biggest vectors that our adversaries use to get into our networks is email. It’s called spear phishing. You can get those at your home and at the office. We continue to educate that you should know who the sender of an email is, that you do not click on links that you’re not certain are good links. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If you get an email offering a free vacation, there’s probably not a free vacation. That’s probably someone trying to gain access to your personal information or gain access into our Air Force systems to cause havoc and disrupt our ability to do our missions.
Additionally, be aware that our adversaries can put different pieces of unclassified information together, which in the aggregate actually become classified. So you always have to be careful when you’re outside of work, or even inside work, of what you talk about in the open.
You have to monitor your computer systems. Make sure your systems are patched, especially at home, because that is the quickest way for an adversary to exploit your system. Some vulnerabilities have been out there for years. We find that both on the commercial side and the government side — there are systems out there that have not been patched in a long time, even though a patch has been out there.
We’re continuing to leverage technology to make that a little easier, to make sure that we’re updating and protecting all those systems.
Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Commander, 24th Air Force; Commander, Air Forces Cyber and Commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber is photographed at his headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Airman Magazine: The Air Force places a premium on building leaders. What twists and turns has your career taken that culminated in command of the Twenty-fourth AF?
Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ve had multiple mentors who have taken a special interest in my career. They have said you need to go to this position. I questioned it. I didn’t understand it. But it turns out that developed a place in my leadership that was not refined well enough. We spend a lot of time and energy on managing our talent. What differentiates us from other nations and other militaries is our airmen, whether officer, enlisted or civilian.
Our Airmen are our most precious asset. It is our solemn duty to professionally develop our airmen to the best extent possible. We take special interest in placing them where they professionally develop, while making sure our missions continue to be successful.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The old saying, “women love a man in uniform” comes with a long list of exceptions. For example, the expression does not apply to service members wearing a pair of S9 GI glasses — more commonly known as “birth control glasses,” or BCGs. Even the updated 5A GI glasses are only just a slight improvement in style over their infamous predecessor.
The distaste held by many troops wearing them isn’t without merit. You’re asking big, badass troops to don a pair of prescription glasses that immediately makes them look like the biggest dorks on the face of the planet. But if you can get over the fact that you’re often going to be mistaken for the commo guy, you’ll see there’s a very valid reason why the military has issued them out for all these years.
And it’s related to one of their other nicknames: up-armored glasses.
This soldier’s look has been appropriated by hipster douchebags who raise hell if their organic kale smoothie wasn’t free-range.
(Tennessee State Library and Archives)
The very first version of GI glasses were issued out back in WWII. The P3 lenses they used were originally meant to be inserts for gas masks — but your average, visually impaired troop needed to see clearly, so the military started issuing out their own version of prescription glasses.
After the war, they switched the frames from a nickel alloy to cellulose acetate. Recipients could choose between gray and black frames. The glasses weren’t too out of the ordinary style-wise and they served a dual purpose of acting as thicker-than-average eye protection while improving a troop’s sight.
For the time, the glasses were aligned with fashion trends and, frankly, style wasn’t much of a concern — they were free, they worked, and they were definitely within military regulations. It was just a bonus that they didn’t look too bad, either.
They can do anything but help you talk to the ladies.
(Photo by Sam Giltner)
Then, the late 70s rolled around and the military went all in on the S9 GI glasses. The frames were bulky and only available in “librarian brown” cellulose acetate. Around this time, soft corrective contact lenses became more prevalent, but military regulation forbid contacts, so if you had a visual impairment, you were forced to look like a dork.
The restriction on contacts isn’t without merit. As anyone who’s ever worn contacts can tell you, they’re a pain in the ass to maintain everyday and almost impossible to keep up with in a military environment. A single speck of dirt can potentially irritate your eye and take you out of the fight. The S9s on the other hand, were intended to withstand the austere environments troops deploy to and the lenses and frame are durable.
All of the jokes we throw at each other for looking dorky as hell will soon be a thing of the past. Now we’ll need some other trait to poke fun at…
(Photo by Melissa K. Buckley, Ft. Leonard Wood)
The military has adapted to societal trends over the years to keep troops seeing properly and protecting their eyes. Wearing BCGs is a regulation that’s really only enforced during recruit training or Officer Candidate School. After the bespectacled troop gets to their first unit, they can swap them out for a pair of civilian, prescription glasses — so long as they don’t have any brand logos on the sides.
The modern version of the GI Glasses — the Model 5A — were released in 2012 to replace the awkward S9s. They offer the same protection, are still free, and they come in a variety of style options from which the troop can choose.