The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria early February 2018 led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces.
The comments by Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White on Feb. 22, 2018, add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the Feb. 7 incident, which Moscow said this week caused dozens of casualties among fighters from Russia and other former Soviet republics but did not involve uniformed Russian troops.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that U.S. military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts at the time of the clash. But White’s comments are the clearest to date that the U.S. military was told there were no Russians in the attacking force.
“The strike in Syria — our strikes were done out of self-defense. We were very clear about that. We saw those — that group moving towards us. We still don’t know, and I won’t speculate, about the intentions or the composition of that group,” White said.
“What I can tell you is that we used our deconfliction phone line, and we used it before, during, and after the strike. And we were assured by the Russians that there were no Russians involved,” she said.
The clash in Deir al-Zor Province appears to be the first time that U.S. forces engaged directly with Russians in Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government in a devastating seven-year civil war.
The revelation that Russian mercenaries were killed stoked fears of an outright hostile confrontation between Russians and U.S. forces. But the Russian government has distanced itself from the incident and its public comments have been subdued.
The United States has said that air and artillery strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing U.S.-backed opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.
No Russian official directly acknowledged that Russian citizens were involved until Feb. 15, 2018, when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about five people who were “presumably Russian citizens” may have been killed.
On Feb. 20, 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics were wounded in the lopsided exchange.
With accounts from relatives and acquaintances of Russian fighters in Syria mounting, some open-source researchers and media reports have said that dozens or hundreds of Russians were killed.
The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.
“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.
“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.
There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.
Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.
The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.
New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.
The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.
While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.
China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.
The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.
Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.
The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.
The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.
“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”
The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.
The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.
U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”
The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.
Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.
A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”
The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.
“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”
The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.
The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.
Military veterans are getting unlimited access to college assistance under legislation President Donald Trump has signed into law.
The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately. The measure increases financial assistance for National Guard and Reserve members, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state, public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.
Purple Heart recipients forced to leave the service due to injury are eligible for benefits, as are dependents of service members who are killed in the line of duty.
Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology, and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare them for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes mid-semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.
“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting education,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a briefing after Trump signed the measure at his New Jersey golf club following two nights at his home at New York’s Trump Tower.
Trump is staying at the New Jersey club on a working vacation. Journalists were not permitted to see the president sign the bill, as the White House has done for other veterans’ legislation he has turned into law. That includes a measure Trump signed at the club August 12 to provide nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for a temporary veterans health care program.
The August 16 signing came the day after Trump was rebuked for continuing to insist that “both sides” were culpable for an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. One woman was killed.
Also, two Virginia state troopers died in the crash of their helicopter. They were monitoring the rally.
A wide range of veterans groups supported the education measure. The Veterans of Foreign Wars says hundreds of thousands stand to benefit.
Student Veterans of America says that only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Elleana Bowler cleans a headstone Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia.
Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.
More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”
Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.
“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.
The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.
“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”
Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.
“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”
National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.
Volunteers are essential
Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.
“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”
Seven Soldiers will be among the other athletes representing the United States Feb. 9-25, in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Returning in bobsled will be 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Sgt. Justin Olsen from San Antonio, Texas; 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Cpt. Chris Fogt from Alpine, Utah; and 2010 and 2014 Olympic team member Sgt. Nick Cunningham from Monterey, California, who are all part of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s World Class Athlete Program. Olsen and Cunningham are members of the New York National Guard. They will be joined by Sgt. First Class Nathan Weber, who is not part of WCAP.
Sgt. Emily Sweeney from Suffield, Connecticut, and Sgt. Taylor Morris from South Jordan, Utah, will complete in singles luge, along with Sgt. Matthew Mortensen from Huntington Station, New York, who is competing in the doubles luge event. They are also Soldier-athletes in WCAP who have made the U.S. Olympic Team.
The Soldiers’ participation in the Olympics is a testament to their enduring resilience and the Army’s commitment to teamwork, determination and perseverance, and the nation encourages the world to follow and share their progress in social media using #SoldierOlympians.
Opening Ceremonies for these Winter Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 9, and luge events run Feb. 10-15. Bobsled competitions are scheduled to run Feb. 18-24, all to be broadcast by the National Broadcasting Company through NBC News and NBC Sports.
The WCAP program is composed of national and international caliber Soldiers who have been recognized in their sport, and who maximize and embody high performance agility, mental preparedness and physical strength. These Soldier-Olympians connect Americans with the Army and show that they are more than just war-fighters.
Other Soldiers are in contention to coach these Olympians on Team USA.
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.
Marine Corps Systems Command has partnered with Marine Corps Recruiting Command to develop a new tool with the goal of making the job of recruiters a little easier. The launch is part of a strategic initiative to modernize the tools and technologies available to the recruiting force.
The Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II, or MCRISS II, is a mobile platform that provides Marines with all of their recruiting needs from the moment they meet an applicant to the time they leave boot camp.
MCRISS II features a customizable platform where recruiters can tailor their dashboards to help them perform their daily tasks. They can also access the platform while offline in airplane mode when connections are unreliable. The application uses cloud technology and can be accessed using government-issued cellphones, laptops, and tablets.
“The dynamics of having Marines work directly with MCSC software developers from the beginning was invaluable because we were able to adequately describe and display exactly what Marine recruiters wanted in the new system,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Mayfield, MCRISS operations officer for MCRC. “As the project progresses, we have a sufficiently staffed cadre of Marines who gather input from users to keep that line of communication open, so it will help us enhance MCRISS II with more capabilities in the future.”
Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command G3 Team develop user stories for the Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II Feb. 8, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia.
Recruiters gather the applicants’ personal information, background history, goals, and other details to assess if they will meet the standards of a Marine and possibly serve for more than four years. The tool also helps recruiters compare applicants.
“MCRISS II offers greater convenience and helps Marine recruiters maintain their availability and responsiveness, so they can be successful recruiting the next generation of Marines,” said Jason Glavich, MCRISS project Manager in Supporting Establishment Systems at MCSC. “Now that we are using the commercial cloud, our system is more secure, fast and reliable.”
Currently, the MCRISS II team is working on minimal viable product releases that will launch in March 2019. Small capabilities will be released every two to four weeks, so recruiters can receive the benefits of updates to the platform without having to wait the standard time it takes for an entire system to be fielded, Glavich said. The entire rollout will most likely take a little more than 12 months.
“We are leveraging industry best practices and their ability to innovate, and we’re taking those innovations and applying them without having to spend program dollars,” said Glavich. “Because this new technology is more secure and it is built on a low-code platform instead of using traditional computer programming, it allows us to provide recruiters with new capabilities at a much faster pace.”
In the future, the team will use artificial intelligence and new technologies to look at data sets and predict an exact outcome based on previous outcomes and future conditions.
“This predictive analysis will give us a better understanding to determine what’s going to happen, which will help us enhance MCRISS II even more in the future,” said Glavich.
There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.
Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.
Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.
So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.
Check them out below:
1. China’s Liaoning (16).
Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.
The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.
“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”
Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.
Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.
Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.
So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.
A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.
“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”
One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.
The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.
(United States Navy photo)
6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).
Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.
The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.
Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.
(United States Navy photo)
7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).
Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.
The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.
When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.
“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”
“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.
Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.
Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.
Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.
These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.
To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.
A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, late July 2019.
The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.
“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto, “You call, we haul.”
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Cosaboom with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company in Fort McCoy, Wis., prepares a truck during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside,” said McKenzie. “We always go out in the worst possible conditions.”
The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the soldiers carried on without hesitation.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, walk through deep water during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.
Each soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, perform reconnaissance before an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other soldiers can get on with theirs, she added.
Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Austin Smith with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, rinses out his uniform after getting soaked during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.
“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.
U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Kaleen Hansen with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wrapped up July 24, 2019, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.
On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.
Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.
As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.
When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.
By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.
What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.
After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.
Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.
Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.
As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.
But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.
The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
The promised investigation into the circumstances of the recent, devastating Navy collisions has turned up zero evidence that cyber attacks disabled either the USS Fitzgerald or USS John S. McCain.
Navy Adm. John Richardson said in an all-hands call streamed live on Facebook Aug. 30 that, despite the Navy giving an “amazing amount of attention” to the postulate that cyber attacks were behind the collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain, the investigation has found no evidence of such claimed attacks.
“We’ve given that an amazing amount of attention,” Richardson said. “It is sort of a reality of our current situation that part of any kind of investigation or inspection is going to have to take a look at the computer, the cyber, the information warfare aspects of our business. We’re doing that with these inspections as well, but to date, the inspections that we have done show that there is no evidence of any kind of cyber intrusion.”
“We’ll continue to look deeper and deeper but I just want to assure you that, to date, there’s been nothing that we’ve found to point to that,” Richardson said.
Richardson said in a tweet Aug. 21 that there may have been indications of cyber intrusion, but said the Navy would continue looking into that possibility. With his recent all-hands call, Richardson has all but foreclosed completely the potential for a discovery of a cyber intrusion involved in the collisions of the Navy vessels.
2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
The statement effectively puts to rest the enormous amount of speculation in security circles about whether cyber attacks were in any way involved in disrupting the navigational systems of these two Navy vessels, but even in the beginning other experts suspected that negligence was a far more likely explanation.
“The balance of the evidence still leads me to believe that it was crew negligence as the most likely explanation — and I hate to say that because I hate to think that the Navy fleet was negligent,” University of Texas at Austin aerospace professor Todd Humphreys told USA Today.