North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.
“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.
The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.
Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded “within seconds” after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a “saturation attack” — a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.
Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea’s ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.
The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.
Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.
That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.
American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.
The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.
This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for threeattacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.
The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.
In another positive sign for the beloved A-10, Air Force maintainers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona have outfitted the Warthog with an upgrade for combat search and rescue missions, or CSAR.
Dubbed the lightweight airborne recovery system, the upgrade helps A-10 pilots “communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen, and joint terminal attack controllers,” according to an Air Force statement.
CSAR missions jump off with little warning and often involve going deep into enemy territory, so becoming certified to perform CSAR missions takes tons of training, which only A-10 pilots undergo.
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen
The A-10’s rugged survivability, massive forward firing power, newly acquired communication capabilities, and long loiter times at low altitudes make it ideal for flying low and slow and finding the lost person.
According to the Air Force, an “urgent operational need arose in August” for increased CSAR capabilities. Within a few months, the “massive logistical challenge” that required the Air Force to “build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement” came together, and now 19 A-10s sport the upgrade, according to the Air Force.
“A-10 pilots take the combat search and rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot, according to the Air Force statement. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to US soil safely.”
While the A-10 still faces the chopping block in 2018, new investment in the Warthog and the reopening of the production lines in October bode well for the plane’s future protecting American interests and infantry soldiers.
A Maryland-based company claims it can take control over an enemy drone while in flight without the use of jamming, a potential game-changer for the US military, prisons, and airports.
Started in 2010, Department 13 came out of DARPA-funded research into radio frequencies and Bluetooth technology. That was when CEO Jonathan Hunter realized his work could have real effects in mitigating radio-controlled drone aircraft — a frequent, and growing nuisance to militaries as well as the private sector.
“We’ve learned how to speak drone talk,” Hunter told Business Insider. Though D13’s technology has often been described as “hacking” a drone, he likes to describe it differently. Instead, his black box of antennas and sensors, called Mesmer, is able to take over a drone by manipulating the protocols being used by its original operator.
Let’s say someone is trying to fly a commercial drone over the walls of a prison complex to drop off some goodies for inmates — a problem that is increasing as off-the-shelf drones get better and less expensive. The prison can use Mesmer to set up an invisible geofence around its physical walls that stops a drone in its tracks, or takes complete control and brings it into the prison and lands it.
“If I can speak the same language as the drone, I don’t need to scream louder, i.e. jamming” Hunter said.
D13 was one of eight finalists last year in a counter-drone challenge at Quantico, Va., where it stopped a drone out to one kilometer away, though the company didn’t win first place (the winner, Skywall 100, uses a human-fired launcher to shoot a projectile at a drone to capture it in a net). D13 also demonstrated the ability to safely land a hostile drone with its technology at a security conference in October.
Besides setting up an invisible wall for drones, Mesmer can sometimes tap into telemetry data the drone would normally send back to the operator, or tap into its video feed. In some cases, Hunter said, it could even track down the person flying it.
The system does have its drawbacks: It only works on “known” commercial drones, so the library of drones it’s effective against only covers about 75% of the marketplace, according to Scout. That number is also likely much less for non-commercial drones made for foreign militaries.
Still, once a commercial drone makes it into Mesmer’s library, it’s unlikely that a future software update would help it overcome D13’s solution. That’s because Mesmer focuses on the radio signals, not the software.
“There is not a single drone that we haven’t been able to crack,” Hunter said. “We’re working our way through the drone families.”
The company plans to have the system on the market this month.
A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.
In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.
By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.
Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.
However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.
In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.
China’s naval mission
Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:
1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.
2. Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.
3. Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.
4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.
5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.
China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.
The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.
The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.
The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.
As the DOD states:
Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.
Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.
The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.
The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.
China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.
The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.
The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.
As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.
China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.
With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.
The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.
It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.
The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”
The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.
Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.
The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.
“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.
Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.
US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.
China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.
The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.
China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.
The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.
However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).
Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.
But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.
The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:
China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”
China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.
China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.
The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.
China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.
The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.
The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.
The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.
However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.
President-elect Donald Trump may name his nominee for Secretary of Defense before the week is out, and legendary Marine Gen. Jim Mattis seems to be fading among the candidate pool, according to a new report from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense.
The report cites two sources involved with the Trump presidential transition team. One source told the site that Trump may release his pick within the next two days, while the other source said that other candidates, such as former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are still very much in the running.
After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.
Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,”according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.
When reached by Business Insider, Mattis declined to comment.
Though Sen. Talent has been among the candidates floated almost since the beginning, Sen. Kyl is a new name to emerge as a possible pick. Now a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington Burling, Kyl previously served as the second-highest Republican senator when he retired in 2013, after 26 years in Congress.
Kyl was not immediately available for an interview, but soon after the Breaking Defense report was published, he told Politico he was not interested in serving again in government, which “the Trump transition team is well aware of.”
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
The U.S. Army believes that future, high-end conflicts will require aviation assets, particularly helicopters, that are long range, fast-moving, and highly lethal. Future military helicopters will need to lift more weight, generate greater power, and use less fuel.
This is why the Army has been spending billions on technologies for virtually every aircraft system: airframe, engines, flight controls, avionics, sensors, and weapons. Many of these are part of the Army-led, multi-service Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, the ultimate goal of which is to replace most of the U.S. military’s fleet of helicopters beginning in the 2030s. The Army has identified FVL as one of its highest modernization priorities.
The FVL program is focused initially on developing a new scout helicopter as well as replacements for the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Ultimately, the plan is to also develop a heavy lift helicopter and a super-size platform with a payload capacity equivalent to that of existing fixed-wing tactical aircraft such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas.
In order to ensure that FVL can achieve its ambitious goals, the Army began the Joint Multi-Role Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program in 2004. JMR’s primary objective is to develop and test advanced rotorcraft designs that can achieve a revolutionary leap in capabilities. In addition, JMR seeks to develop a common digital backbone and open architecture that will allow new systems, components, and weapons to be rapidly integrated.
The Army selected designs by two teams to build and fly JMR demonstrators. Bell Helicopter is offering the V-280 Valor, a third-generation tilt-rotor platform. The V-280 conducted its first successful test flight this past December. A Sikorsky-Boeing team will soon begin flight tests of the SB1 Defiant, a revolutionary design with two coaxial rotors on top and a pusher propeller in back. The current plan is to begin production of a new aerial platform around 2030, although there is growing belief that the current schedule could be substantially accelerated.
Although the FVL has received the lion’s share of media attention, the Army has a second major aviation modernization program underway. This is the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). ITEP is an Army-led program to develop a new engine for the military’s Blackhawk and Apache fleets, one that is 50 percent more powerful and 25 percent more fuel-efficient at no increase in weight. In addition, the ITEP engine will be designed with ruggedized parts to support operations in austere and stressful environments.
Why is the Army pursuing both the FVL programs for a new generation of rotorcraft and ITEP to put new engines in current helicopters? Put simply, even on an accelerated schedule, it will be decades before the products of the FVL program can replace the more than 2,000 Blackhawks and nearly 1,000 Apaches in the U.S. inventory. Since many U.S. allies also operate Blackhawks and Apaches, there is a long-term global requirement to modernize both platforms.
ITEP is critical to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Blackhawk and Apache fleets. As new technologies are added and additional protective measures deployed, the weight of military helicopters has steadily increased. It is estimated that the Blackhawk has gotten 78 pounds heavier every year since it was first deployed. Also, the U.S. military finds itself operating in more challenging environments and at higher altitudes than existing helicopter engines can readily support. Blackhawk and Apache crews often have had to reduce their loads of personnel, munitions, and even fuel to get off the ground.
ITEP is currently in the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase. Two companies, both with extensive experience producing high-performance engines, are competing to be the single provider of the new Blackhawk/Apache power plant. One is GE Aviation. Its design for ITEP, the T901 Turboshaft Engine, is a single spool engine meaning that it consists of a compressor and turbine section connected by a single shaft. GE Aviation believes that this design provides reliability and ease of maintenance.
The other competitor is the Advanced Turbine Engine Company, a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt Whitney. Its T900 engine is a dual-spool design with two rotating turbine-compressor assemblies instead of one. A dual-spool engine automatically distributes the load between the two assemblies, allowing real-time adjustments to optimize performance, run cooler, and reduce fuel use. As a result, the new engine can be designed with less need to make compromises in key performance requirements such as speed and power. The dual spool approach also tends to result in less wear-and-tear and reduced maintenance costs.
The Department of Defense needs to move forward aggressively with both FVL and ITEP. This means providing sufficient funding to accelerate FVL while also ensuring that ITEP can successfully develop a higher performance engine for legacy Blackhawks and Apaches.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) had what one report described as a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel on April 24.
According to a report by Fox News, the Iranian vessel was a “fast attack craft” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. USS Mahan was forced to change course, the crew manned weapons, fired flares, and sounded a danger signal. The Iranian vessel stayed over 1,000 yards from the Mahan, but its weapons were manned.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran has over 100 “fast attack craft” of varying types. The most notorious of these are roughly 30 Boghammers, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, and are armed with .50-caliber machine guns or twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns and either a 12-round 107mm rocket launcher, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a RPG-7. American forces destroyed at least five of these vessels during naval clashes with Iran in 1987 and 1988.
This is not the first time USS Mahan has had a close call with Iranian vessels. In January, 2017, the Mahan had to fire warning shots at similar craft that came within 900 yards. The Iranian vessels backed off.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel, citing Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
At some point in their military careers, all servicemembers have said: “I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”
From 1975 to 1984, a division of government contractor Litton Industries and two of its executives were accused of defrauding the government of $15 million through grossly inflated prices in its contracts. A 1986 book titled “The Pentagon Catalog” documented some of the Pentagon’s worst buys and the contractor who charged the government for them. It included a claw hammer sold by Gould Simulation Systems to the Navy for $435, McDonnell Douglas’ $2,043 nut, and the same McDonnell Douglas’ $37 screw.
Other items offered in the catalog include a $285 screwdriver, a $7,622 coffee maker, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, and a $659 ashtray. And those examples listed above aren’t the only expensive military programs. Those aren’t even the most ridiculous programs the U.S. military implemented lately. Here are a few more things the Pentagon saw fit to buy without shopping around.
1. Giant, unmanned surveillance blimps
A live symbol of military spending run amok, in October 2015, a surveillance blimp escaped from its mooring in Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The balloon took out power lines as it floated 100 miles over Pennsylvania.
Its technical name is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (or JLENS). It’s part of a $2.7 billion test to see if it can detect all the cruise missiles and aircraft that are constantly bombarding Maryland.
2. Luxury villas in Afghanistan
Complete with private security, the Defense Department spent $150 million on these Afghan McMansions between 2010 and 2014. The villas were built for 5-10 Pentagon employees from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a group whose mission includes rebuilding Afghanistan.
The $150 million they spent was approximately one-fifth of their operating budget. The villas included queen-size beds, mini refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. All meals had to come with at least two entree options and three side order options. The TFBSO spent $800 million before it was disbanded in March 2015.
3. What should have been the world’s most amazing gas station
The same IG who uncovered the lush Afghan villas, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), found the same task force – the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) – awarded a $3 million contract for a gas station in Afghanistan. The final price tag ballooned to $42.7 million.
USAID’s $259.6 million program is a dangerous one, considering all the harm that could come to the health facilities. The SIGAR report that documented the missing hospitals noted the attack on the Kunduz hospital highlighted the need for the military to have GPS coordinates of hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
5. An 80-year supply of V-22 Osprey parts
The Defense Logistics Agency recently purchased spare parts for the V-22 from Bell Helicopter and Boeing at a total cost of $9.7 million. The U.S. military goes through roughly two aircraft frames per year. The DLA purchased 166.
This probably means that when the rest of the military is flying hovercraft and Iron Man suits in 2097, the Marine Corps will still be running off of Ospreys. To make matters worse, the IG reports the markup on some of those parts was a whopping $8,123.50, up from $445.60 – as much as eighteen times what the military should have paid.
6. Bomb-sniffing elephants
This one may sound like a crazy Cold-War era scheme that was somehow going to bring down the Iron Curtain, but no. In 2015, Sen. John McCain slammed the DoD for a study trying to find if elephants were more useful than dogs in sniffing bombs. The surprise is that they are but – to no one’s astonishment – they are not as practical.
Another Afghan boondoggle, Afghanistan’s Highway 1 was funded jointly with American and Saudi money. The 1677-mile stretch of road whose shoddy construction means high maintenance costs on top of construction costs. The $4 billion project also costs $5 million per mile to rebuild or maintain.
Designed to link Afghanistan’s major cities, the highway was of no real use to Afghan civilians and is primarily used by foreign militaries. This last fact means it’s also a bomb magnet, only adding to its deterioration. On top of that, billions of dollars tagged for the project just disappeared.
8. The HQ no one needed…
… to the tune of $25 million, no less. This headquarters office is 64,000 square feet of prime Afghan real estate that three generals tried to kill before it could be built. No dice, though. The new HQ features a 125-person auditorium, special entrance for VIPs, and $2 million worth of furniture.
The HQ is in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with an additional $20 million of infrastructure built around the base to support it, even though U.S. troops left Helmand after the temporary surge in 2010.
9. Warlord Truckers
This should be a reality show, except it’s not a show; it was a program that hired local truckers in Afghanistan to move material with their own trucks.
Except twenty percent of that money went to local warlords for protection, which fueled unrest, corruption, and warlordism. It’s kinda like that $37 million bridge from Afghanistan to Tajikistan built by the Army Corps of Engineers, which really just helped drug runners run drugs. Unfortunately, that’s not the first time the military helped spur on an illegal trade.
10. Paying stoners from Florida to be their arms traffickers
It must have been a huge surprise to everyone involved when the Pentagon awarded an actual lowest-bid contract to a few unknown stoners from Miami Beach. These guys were awarded a $300 million contract to deliver arms to U.S. allies in Afghanistan. Instead of shiny new weapons, the guys run old Communist guns from the Balkans and repackage Chinese ammo. It’s the subject of the new Jonah Hill-Miles Teller movie “War Dogs.”
“War Dogs” is in theaters August 19th. The U.S. military will be throwing money around like an Afghan warlord long after that.
As a West Point cadet, Claire Dieterich thought she would be career military. She commissioned as a Military Police officer in the U.S. Army in 2010 and met her now-husband, Kevin, while she was stationed in Washington state. During her time on active duty, she deployed to Afghanistan and shortly before her five-year contract was up, she gave birth to her first child and decided to take life in a different direction.
“Leaving active duty was an easier decision than I thought it would be,” she shared. “While I loved my time in the Army and am so proud of it, I knew that it wasn’t the long-term lifestyle that I wanted for myself or for my family. I [transitioned into working] as a project manager and oversaw projects that put fire alarm and security systems in schools and hospitals. While I did enjoy that I was making local schools and hospitals safer, especially as a parent myself, it wasn’t something I wanted to do long-term.”
It was in this period of transition that a lightbulb went off for Dieterich.
(Courtesy of Claire Dieterich)
“When I was pregnant with my second child and working in corporate America, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom before he was born,” she explained. “But I also wanted to create something as an outlet for my passion of cooking that I could grow into an actual job. From this, ‘For the Love of Gourmet’ was born!”
For The Love of Gourmet is a website founded on the basis that delicious food does not have to be hard or take all day to prepare.
“I’ve always loved to cook, and I am a big believer that cooking good food doesn’t need to be difficult. When I was working full time and as a mom, sometimes it truly is hard to get dinner on the table,” Dieterich said.
(Courtesy of Claire Dieterich)
Dieterich’s recipes, complete with mouth-watering photography, range from dinner to dessert, snacks, drinks and entertaining spreads.
“I wanted to share the simple joys of cooking with others and encourage everyone to get into the kitchen even if they previously didn’t enjoy or didn’t have time to cook,” she shared.
Today, Dieterich navigates life as a veteran, military spouse and mom of three in Seattle, Washington.
(Courtesy of Claire Dieterich)
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
Find your tribe and hold them close. I didn’t have kids yet when my husband deployed, and it was very, very lonely. I had just moved to Washington and didn’t know anyone yet, and the man I loved was on the other side of the globe. The friends that I made got me through that deployment. Having been the person deployed and the person who has been the one home, I can say that it is much harder to be the person here waiting and worrying. My friends made sure I stayed busy; we went on weekend trips and explored the Pacific Northwest together. And my second part of advice is to find a hobby for yourself. I started running ultramarathons in college, but when my then-boyfriend now-husband was deployed I ran even more. I trained hard and did a lot of races, ultimately laying the groundwork for me to achieve my goal of running the Badwater Ultramarathon. My running goals gave me something to focus on.
What is your life motto?
You can achieve your dreams. And also, it’s OK if those dreams change. At 20 years old, I thought I would be in the Army for 20 plus years. At 25, I thought I would climb the corporate ladder. And at 30, I was a stay-at-home mom to three kids with a food blog that I wanted to grow into something big. I’ve achieved all that I’ve wanted to, but my dreams have also changed as I have changed. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed at a previous goal, it just means I’m focusing on a different one.
If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?
It’s so hard to pick one song, but because it is my boys’ favorite song, I will have to go with “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco. I think it’s such a fun, upbeat song about working hard and achieving your dreams. Not to mention it’s a great song to run to!
What has been your toughest professional challenge?
Hanging up my uniform for the last time was hard. Even though I knew I didn’t want to continue serving my country in that way, it was still a big part of my life that came to a close and there were a lot of emotions wrapped into that. I spent years working hard to get into West Point, then years working hard there, then years serving my country. I met my husband through the military. I live in a place that I love and may have never traveled to had I not been in the military. I am who I am today because I was in the Army, even though I no longer serve. Even though it was the right decision to close that chapter and start something new, it was still hard for it to be over because I had worked so hard to get there.
What’s your superpower?
I’m a multi-tasker and can organize my day to ensure I get everything done that I need to. That means I wake up two hours before my kids do to work out and edit blog posts. It means I have adventures with my kids in the morning and test recipes when they nap. I plan out my day to take advantage of the time that I have to ensure everything gets done. I’m not unstoppable, I definitely take afternoons off when I need to, but for the most part, I feel really balanced and happy to be able to focus on my family and also something outside of my family that I’m passionate about and want to grow.
When paratroopers assaulted Sicily during the night of Jul. 9-10, 1943, they suffered some of the worst weather that could affect that kind of a mission.
The men were supposed to conduct two airborne assaults and form a buffer zone ahead of the 7th Army’s amphibious assault on the island, but winds of up to 40 knots blew them far off course.
The 3,400 paratrooper assault took heavy losses before a single pair of boots even touched the ground. But what happened next would become airborne legend, the story of the “Little Groups Of Paratroopers” or “LGOPs.”
The LGOPs didn’t find cover or spend hours trying to regroup. They just rucked up wherever they were at and immediately began attacking everything nearby that happened to look like it belonged to the German or Italian militaries.
This mischief had a profound effect on the defenders. The Axis assumed that the paratroopers were attacking in strength at each spot where a paratrooper assault was reported. So, while many LGOPs had only a few men, German estimates reported much stronger formations. The worst reports stated that there were 10 times as many attackers as were actually present.
German commanders were hard-pressed to rally against what seemed to be an overwhelming attack. Some conducted limited counterattacks at what turned out to be ghosts while others remained in defensive positions or, thinking they were overrun, surrendered to American forces a that were a fraction of their size.
The Axis soldiers’ problems were made worse by a lack of supplies and experience. Fierce resistance came from only a handful of units, most notably the Hermann Goering Division which conducted counter-attacks with motorized infantry, armored artillery, and Tiger I heavy tanks.
World War II paratroopers jump into combat. Photo: US Army
The American campaign was not without tragedy though. On Jul. 11, paratroopers from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were sent in to reinforce the American center which had struggled to gain much ground. Some naval and shore anti-aircraft batteries, weary from constant German bombing missions, had not been told that American planes would be coming in that night.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, U.S. troops occupied the Mexican port at Veracruz. The occupation came at a cost to both sides: the Americans lost 20 sailors over the course of killing 150 Mexicans.
The violence leveled off after a few weeks, and life in the city became relatively routine. War correspondents traveling with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet became bored with the calm and started to focus on the troops’ everyday life in the hopes that that might yield something their readership would respond to. One of these headlines was “The ‘Happy Hour’ Aboard Ship Makes Tars Contented.”
According to the Early Sports Pop Culture History Blog, one well-meaning Navy officer, Lieutenant Jonas Ingram, originated the practice of “Happy Hour” aboard his ship, the USS Arkansas. Since the Arkansas was the flagship of Admiral Charles Badger, the commander of the Atlantic Fleet, officers encouraged its spread to the other ships of the fleet and into the ships of the wider U.S. Navy. The practice would carry on throughout the coming world wars.
The Arkansas‘ Happy Hours included athletic competitions (usually boxing), dancing, and a band while at sea. The enlisted men on board couldn’t drink, as per Navy regulations since 1899 (though officers could). In port, dancing girls from local bars were the center of the fun. The sailors ashore had easy access to liquor. Navy regulations at the time only prohibited the sale or issue of booze aboard ship, not the consumption on land.
When sailors and soldiers returned home from the Great War, they introduced the idea of “Happy Hour” into the American vernacular. The idea of “happy hour” as we know it came from the use of the term in a “Saturday Evening Post”article in 1959, entitled The Men Who Chase Missiles. The article was about U.S. Air Force airmen working at remote island outposts in the Caribbean and how they saved money by not having anywhere to spend it… unless they spent it all at the local watering hole.
“Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast.”
The USS Arkansas, once a state-of-the-art modern battleship, found itself obsolete at the end of World War II and did its country one last service – this time in a more of an academic research role.
In an embarrassing moment for the Swiss Air Force’s demo team, the Patrouille Suisse squadron made a low-altitude pass over a yodeling festival when it was supposed to be making a commemorative flight honoring a local aviator a few miles away.
The Swiss aerial display team was expected to fly over an event marking the 100th anniversary of the death of aviation pioneer Oskar Bider in Langenbruck, but the team missed their mark by about four miles, flying over the nearby Muemliswil instead, The Aviationist first reported.
The obsolete F-5E Tiger II fighters flown by the demo team are not equipped with GPS, and the team did not have a man on the ground, as is often the case for these types of events. As the team was approaching the intended destination, the team leader spotted a festival area with tents and incorrectly assumed they were in the right place for the show.
The Patrouille Suisse.
Spokesman for the Swiss military Daniel Reist, local media reported, explained that the instruments in the aircraft flown by the display team are over four decades old. “Navigation is done with a map, a feeling and sight,” he said in a statement, adding that these aircraft are no longer suitable for combat and would never be used in a crisis.
“Unfortunate circumstances led to the mistake” the spokesman said. Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense said that the demonstration team had not had a chance to practice the maneuver prior to the event, explaining that the team was distracted, The Associated Press reported.
The commander of the Swiss demo team has apologized for the error.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.