Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.
Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.
That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.
Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”
“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”
The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.
“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”
The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.
Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.
“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.
Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.
“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.
The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.
When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.
“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”
ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests, officials said.
Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes, officials said.
In southern Syria, officials said, vetted Syrian opposition forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.
China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.
The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.
China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.
The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.
The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.
Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.
China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.
A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.
The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A little over a month after the Helge Ingstad sank after colliding with a tanker in a Norwegian fjord, the Norwegian military has released footage from the submerged frigate.
The warship was rammed by a Malta-flagged tanker in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2018, in the port of Sture, north of Bergen, which is Norway’s second-largest city.
The frigate displaces 5,290 tons, and the tanker displaces over 62,500 tons when empty. But when the tanker is fully loaded, as it was at the time of the collision, that jumps to about 113,000 tons, more than an aircraft carrier. The collision tore a large hole in the starboard side of the frigate’s hull, which caused other compartments to flood.
Footage released by the Norwegian military, which you can see below, shows the damage sustained by the frigate.
A Norwegian rescue official said at the time of the collision that the frigate was “taking in more water than they can pump out. There is no control over the leak and the stern is heavily in the sea.”
According to a preliminary report released at the end of November 2018, control of the frigate’s rudder and propulsion systems was lost, which caused the ship to drift toward the shore, where it ran aground about 10 minutes after the collision.
Recovery operations for the Helge Ingstad on Nov. 28, 2018.
(Norwegian armed forces photo)
Running aground prevented it from sinking in the fjord, but later, a wire used to stabilize the sunken vessel snapped, allowing it to sink farther. Only the frigate’s top masts remain above the surface.
In December 2018, Norwegian explosive-ordnance-disposal divers returned to the ship to remove the missile launchers from its foredeck.
Below, you can see footage of them detaching the launchers and floating them to the surface.
“All diving assignments we undertake require detailed planning and thorough preparation. We must be able to solve the assignments we are given, while providing as low a risk as possible,” diving unit leader Bengt Berdal said, according to The Maritime Executive.
“Our biggest concern [during this mission] is any increased movement of the vessel.”
With the missiles off the ship, all its weapons have been removed. Recovery crews are preparing to raise the ship, putting chains under the hull to lift it on a semisubmersible barge that will take it to Haakonsvern naval base.
The frigate will not be raised until after Christmas, according to The Maritime Executive.
Chains being readied aboard the heavy-lift vessel Rambiz to lift the sunken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad on Dec. 7, 2018.
(Norwegian armed forces photo by Jakob Østheim)
The oil tanker was not seriously damaged in the incident and didn’t leak any of its cargo. Only eight of the 137 crew aboard the Helge Ingstad were injured, but the multimillion-dollar ship was one of Norway’s five capital Nansen-class frigates and was one of Norway’s most advanced warships. (It also leaked diesel and helicopter fuel, but that was contained and recovered.)
The preliminary report found that the warnings to the frigate, which was headed into the port, went unheeded until too late, allowing the outbound tanker to run into it.
According to the report, the frigate’s automatic identification system was turned off, hindering its recognition by other ships in the area, and there was confusion on its bridge because of a change in watch — both of which contributed to the accident.
The preliminary report also raised questions about other ships in the class and the Spanish shipbuilder that constructed it.
The review board “found safety critical issues relating to the vessel’s watertight compartments. This must be assumed to also apply to the other four Nansen-class frigates,” the report said.
“It cannot be excluded that the same applies to vessels of a similar design delivered by Navantia, or that the design concept continues to be used for similar vessel models.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In October 2014, ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq was at its maximum. The radical Islamist group controlled land stretching from central Syria all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad including major cities like Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and Raqqa.
Although the region ISIS controlled was mostly desert, it encompassed an array of ethnic and religious groups, including Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Arabs. Many of the non-Sunni groups were the victims of targeted violence by ISIS, which perpetrated genocide against the Yazidis and Assyrians.
The map of ISIS territory from October 2017 shows that the group has lost all of its major urban strongholds and is now confined to the sparsely-inhabited border territories between Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, experts say the sparse desert area that ISIS has fallen back on is part of the same Sunni-majority region that fueled its rise.
“When we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003 we created ungoverned space for Sunni Arabs in Iraq which then spilled over in nearby Syria,” Professor Robert Pape, who heads the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, told Business Insider. “The worry here is that as that area of Iraq and Syria now could remain ungoverned space from the perspective of the Sunni Arabs, this problem may just simply fester and continue.”
In 1984, the Army was studying all sorts of paranormal phenomena, from men trying to walk through walls and move objects with their mind to killing goats from 100 feet away. One of the lesser-known experiments was in “astral projection” with soldiers trying to move their consciousness to a different time and space. And the most exotic locale they tried to reach was a million years ago on Mars.
They didn’t let him read the information in the envelope. So he didn’t know he was being asked to focus on the planet Mars in the year 1 million B.C.
His reports get pretty weird, pretty fast though. At the first set of coordinates, the subject claims to see a pyramid and the “after effect of a major geologic problem.” When told to go back to a time before the geologic event, he starts describing an entire ancient civilization.
I just keep seeing very large people. They appear thin and tall, but they’re very large. Ah…wearing some kind of strange clothes.
These thin and tall people lived in a series of structures built in the walls of massive canyons.
…it’s like a rabbit warren, corners of rooms, they’re really huge, I don’t, feel like I’m standing in one it’s just really huge. Perception is that the ceiling is very high, walls very wide.
The best part is how the guide responds to this. Remember, he’s hearing a “psychic” describe what ancient Mars was like. And when he hears that the rooms are large and laid out like a rabbit warren, he responds, “Yes that would be correct.”
Yeah, the dude asking psychics to describe an ancient Martian civilization was pretty sure what the rooms should look like.
The subject goes on to describe aqueducts, pyramid-shaped storm shelters, and more.
And in the storm shelters, the test subject actually spoke with these massive Martians. It turns out, their society was dying, and massive storms were destroying the planet. The Martians that the subject was speaking to were waiting for it all to collapse. But they had sent a group to populate somewhere new.
It’s like I’m getting all kinds of overwhelming input of the….corruption of their environment. It’s failing very rapidly, and this group went somewhere, like a long way to find another place to live.
No one says that this party of ancient Martians were the first humans. But we all get it, right?
According to a Slate article, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Joseph McMoneagle claims to have been the test subject. He believes that the experiments were real and that he was really seeing the surface of an ancient planet. But he also says that such exotic requests were rare. He also said that he didn’t like studying Mars or UFOs or anything similar because “there’s no real way to validate the information.”
The Army’s remote-viewing program supposedly shut down in the 1990s because it “failed to produce the concrete, specific information valued in intelligence gathering.”
On the 15th anniversary of the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, a startling new number was released: more than 1,000 first responders had died due to illnesses related to the ash and debris from the attack – and some 37,000 were sick at the time. Experts predicted that within five years from that 2016 milestone, more would have died from their illnesses than were killed at Ground Zero.
We are three years removed from that date, and the response from Congress has been woefully inadequate, as evidenced by the recent controversy in Congress sparked by Jon Stewart on behalf of 9/11 first responders. But even the response garnered by Stewart may not be enough for the tens of thousands of victims who could come forward in the next few years.
“Within the next five years we will be at the point where more people have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses than died from the immediate impact of the attacks,” said Dr. Jim Melius, a doctor at the New York State Laborers Union and health advisor to the Obama White House.
The attacks killed 2,977 people with 2,753 dying at the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan. The debris of those towers contained asbestos, lead, glass, poisonous chemicals, heavy metal toxins, oil, and jet fuel. The resulting dust was a menagerie of toxicity that coated throats, mouths, and lungs. Resulting diseases have included cancers, lung disease, digestive disorders, and even cognitive impairment on par with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The federal World Trade Center Health Program has 75,000 registered members with 87 percent of those who worked on rescue and recovery efforts on the ground that day. New York City residents and workers make up the rest of the list. In 2016, the number of registered people on the list who died of related cancers was 1,140. By 2017, that number was more than 2,000. The rate of cancers among first responders to the attacks is up to 30 percent higher than in the general population.
As of Sept. 2018, the number of dead from related illnesses was due to outpace those killed in the attack by the end of 2020 – and the rate of new cancer diagnoses in 9/11 first responders continues to grow.
A 19-year-old participant in Iran’s recent street protests says that while the wave of public demonstrations has subsided, the antiestablishment unrest in December and early January opened many Iranians’ eyes and the underlying anger remains.
“Nothing [the authorities] do will decrease people’s anger and frustration,” Hadi, the son of a working-class family in the northwestern city of Tabriz, told RFE/RL.
Tabriz is one of more than 90 cities and towns where protests were unleashed after a Dec. 28 demonstration in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances.
At least 22 people are thought to have been killed in the unrest, which targeted government policies but also featured chants against Iran’s clerically dominated system and attacks on police and other official institutions.
The demonstrations have tapered off in the past week amid a pushback by authorities that included harsh warnings and a conspicuous show of force by security troops, the blocking of Internet access and social media, and reports of three deaths in custody and thousands of arrests.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have blamed the flare-up on foreign “enemies.”
But President Hassan Rohani took a different tack, leaving open the possibility of foreign influence but adding, “We can’t say that whoever who has taken to the street has orders from other countries.” Rohani acknowledged that “people had economic, political, and social demands” and said Iranians “have a legitimate right to demand that we see and hear them and look into their demands.”
Iranian officials were said to have eased some of the price increases stoking some of the protests.
Won’t get ‘fooled’ again
Hadi, who asked RFE/RL not to publish his last name, dismissed that and other steps as mere attempts to ward off public anger in the short term and said he thought such tactics have lost their effectiveness.
“They may decrease the price of eggs, thinking that they can fool people. But people are now very much aware,” Hadi said.
Hadi talked of his own frustration at being accepted into Iran’s Islamic Azad University but being unable to afford the school’s fees.
“My father says [Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] promised that we won’t even pay for water, [that revolutionaries] said they would give everyone free housing,” he said, adding that four decades later many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.
Hadi said he and dozens of others took to the streets of Tabriz to complain of high prices, poverty, and repression in a country where he says authorities “bully” citizens.
The protests, Iran’s largest since a disputed election sent millions into the streets in 2009, were initially fueled by economic grievances and mostly young citizens frustrated by an ailing economy and a potentially bleak future.
Some Iranians envisaged rising prosperity two years after an international deal traded sanctions relief for checks on Tehran’s nuclear program, and Rohani campaigned for election in 2013 and reelection last year pledging mild reforms and more jobs.
Angry young men
A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named attributed the protests to “angry young men” disappointed by reformists and conservatives, with no hope in the future.
“They have nothing to lose,” said the reporter, who had witnessed several protests in the Iranian capital.
The demonstrations morphed quickly into protests against the clerical establishment and the country’s leaders. Protesters called for an “Iranian republic” instead of an “Islamic republic,” while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should “get lost.”
Many demonstrators also complained of Iran’s actions in the Middle East, including its military and other support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aid to militants in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. They said Tehran should instead focus its resources on Iranians.
“Where in the world does a government spend its money on another country?” Hadi said. “[Assad] supports Iran because he is investing Iran’s money in his country.”
Hadi said he was frustrated at Rohani for abandoning social and economic promises: “He should take action, not just talk. He made many promises four years ago, but he hasn’t achieved them.”
But Hadi primarily blamed Khamenei — who, as supreme leader, holds the final word on religious and political affairs in Iran — for the state of affairs in the country, including the ailing economy and corruption.
“He is the main culprit, and his establishment,” Hadi said, adding that Iranian leaders “don’t know how to rule.”
Khamenei was the target of some of the chants, with protesters shouting, “Death to the Dictator!” and, “Death to Khamenei!” in many places.
Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week that the people and security forces had ended the unrest, which it said was fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies.
Former student leader Ali Afshari, who has been tortured in an Iranian jail for protesting against the establishment, also warned that there could be more unrest in Iran’s future.
“The forces that took part in these protests are different than those behind other demonstrations we’ve seen in past years,” said Afshari, who now lives in the United States. “They came out because of their basic needs; and since the establishment has serious problems on the economic front, it doesn’t have the ability to respond to these needs.”
Afshari predicted the latest wave of protests would mark a “turning point” in Iran’s modern political history.
“The geographical scope of these protests were unprecedented in Iran’s recent history. Within a week, protests were held spontaneously in 82 cities across Iran.”
Meanwhile in Tabriz, Hadi insisted that the rage that sent him and others into to the streets won’t go away.
“This regime has to go, that’s what I want,” he said. “In Tabriz, we say that now the regime is even afraid or our silence.”
Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.
“Even if there are no more protests [right now], it will explode one day,” Hadi said. “This is not the end.”
The Department of the Air Force awarded a nearly $1.2 billion contract for its first lot of eight F-15EX fighter aircraft, July 13, 2020. (U.S. Air Force)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract to acquire its first fourth-plus-generation F-15EX fighter aircraft from Boeing Co.
The service said Monday that the nearly $1.2 billion contract will cover eight jets, including initial design, development, test and certification, plus spare parts and support equipment, training and technical data, and delivery and sustainment costs.
“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a release. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”
In January, officials posted a presolicitation notice with the intent of awarding two sole-source contracts, one for the F-15EX and the other for its F110 engines. The move initiated the Air Force’s first fourth-generation fighter program in more than 20 years.
According to Boeing, the F-15EX will be able to “launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds.” The company has said the fighter will be equipped with better avionics and radars and could carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.
“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing’s F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”
The service said the aircraft’s most significant upgrade will be its open mission systems architecture, allowing the plane’s software to be upgraded and installed more easily compared to its aging F-15C/D cousin, which the service has been on a quest to replace.
“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” a senior defense official said at the Pentagon on March 22, 2019. “Maintaining a diverse industrial base is in the best interest of the Department of Defense. The more diversity, the more competition … and the better prices we have.”
The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program, known as the FYDP, officials said Monday. It intends to build an inventory of at least 144 aircraft over the next decade.
The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for the testing wing at the base. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered in fiscal 2021, and the remaining six in fiscal 2023, the release states.
“When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years,” Holmes said.
“Marijuana is that drug — a violent narcotic — an unspeakable scourge — The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations — space expands — time slows down, almost stands still. …” — Reefer Madness, 1936
OK, so that propaganda film was 80-plus years ago. It turns out, marijuana is not a “scourge.” In fact, it might be a key to helping our veterans’ service-related ailments.
So why is the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Justice still treating cannabis like it’s dangerous reefer? Even the American Legion is pushing for further study into the benefits of marijuana, touting it as a safer alternative to opioid therapy, often used to treat chronic pain.
A recent study, released by the American Legion, found that more than 90 percent of veterans support expanding research into medical marijuana. In addition, more than 80 percent back allowing federal doctors to prescribe it to veterans.
Those findings are eye-opening for sure, and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin should see them as marching orders.
Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee have already petitioned Shulkin to use his department’s Office of Research and Development to explore cannabis medication. Thus far, these requests have gone nowhere. However, the American Legion’s study shows that this is not a partisan issue.
American Legion leaders stress this is not a call to legalize recreational use of marijuana. But we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who risked life and limb for our country. Today, they suffer with deteriorating bodies, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress.
We as a country must do everything in our power to find the safest and most effective treatments for them.
If that means studying cannabis, what is the downside? Uncontrollable laughter? That sounds pretty good.
The US Navy finally completed the repair work on the propulsion system on its new supercarrier, but two defense contractors are still trying to figure out who has to pay the Navy back for repairs likely to reach into the millions.
Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., the shipbuilder, and subcontractor General Electric Co. are in a dispute over who is responsible for covering the costs incurred by the Navy for fixing the propulsion system, which, among other problems, has delayed delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford amid rising costs for the already over-budget carrier, Bloomberg reported Sep. 4, 2019.
The service announced recently that the repair work for the propulsion system on the Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carrier, has been completed. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, as it still needs to be tested.
The Ford first began experiencing problems with its propulsion system in April 2017, but it started having problems again during sea trials in January 2018, when the crew identified what was later characterized as a “manufacturing defect.”
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
The January incident was tied to a problem with a “main thrust bearing,” with the Navy concluding in a March 2018 assessment that the failure was caused by “machining errors” attributed to General Electric, Bloomberg reported last year.
More propulsion plant problems were detected in May of last year, when the ship was forced to return to port early to be repaired. Then, in March of this year, the Navy revealed that the Ford would spend an additional three months at the shipyard undergoing maintenance, partially due to continued problems with the propulsion system.
After repairs, the system is said to be good to go, but there are questions about who is going to pay the Navy back after it picked up the tab for those repairs with taxpayer funds. And right now, the Navy won’t say how much the repairs cost, with one spokesman telling Bloomberg that publishing “cost information could jeopardize the pending negotiations.”
Huntington Ingalls signaled its intent last year to seek compensation from General Electric, but the issue reportedly remains unresolved. Huntington Ingalls told Insider that “we continue to work with appropriate stakeholders to support resolution of this situation.” General Electric declined to comment.
Gerald R. Ford sitting in drydock during construction.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl)
“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy explained last month when it announced that the Ford’s propulsion system has been repaired. Indeed, the carrier has been something of a problem child as the Navy tries to get leap-ahead technology to work to the high standards of reliability needed for combat operations.
For example, there have been issues with the aircraft launch and arresting gear, and there continue to be problems with the weapons elevators designed to move munitions more rapidly to the flight deck.
The Ford is billions of dollars over budget with a total cost above billion, and lawmakers have been fuming over the many issues with this project.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, sharply criticized the Navy in July 2019, saying that its failures “ought to be criminal.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A recent report from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf and supporting the US-led fight against ISIS contained a startling realization — US pilots are fighting in an insanely complicated space that puts them in danger.
“When it first started, ISIS was just steamrolling across Iraq and Syria and there wasn’t really much resistance going on … There weren’t a whole lot of places you could go where there was no ISIS presence about three years ago,” Lt. Joe Anderson, an F/A-18F pilot aboard the Roosevelt, told the US Naval Institute.
But in 2018, the US-led coalition against ISIS has all but crushed the terror army. Now, the US troops in Syria, and their backups aboard the Roosevelt, have moved on to other objectives.
“Now where we’re at, there’s not as much going on … Mostly they’ve been whittled down to just isolated pockets within Iraq and Syria,” Anderson said.
As the fight against ISIS dwindles down, the US has turned its attention to denying Iran influence within Syria and a land bridge to arm Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, as well as denying Syrian President Bashar Assad access to the country’s rich eastern oilfields.
US Navy pilots now spend much of their time “doing on-call [close-air support] and doing more defending the US and coalition forces on the ground in the area, and specifically Syrian Defense Forces who are in the mix doing their thing,” Anderson said.
That means the US is defending a group of Syrian rebels with embedded US ground troops in one of the most complex fights in history. The US supports the SDF and Kurdish forces in Syria’s north, but Turkey, a NATO ally, launched a military campaign against the Kurds. The US’s SDF allies oppose Syria’s government, but Russia and Iran back them.
US pilots fly the same skies as Iranian, Turkish, Syrian, and Russian aircraft, and they’re only allies with the Turks.
Crazy-complicated skies put the US at risk
Anderson’s commander, Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, told USNI that “the threat picture in Syria is just crazy.”
“How many different countries can you cram in one different place, where they all have a different little bit of an agenda? And you put a tactical pilot up there and he or she has to employ ordnance or make defensive counter-air decisions with multiple people – Russians, Syrians, Turks, ISIS, United States,” Koehler said.
As a result of the multi-faceted geopolitical complexity, US pilots are now in much more danger than a regular combat mission, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke.
“Now the pilots in the airplanes are under stress and using ordnance now have to do interpretations of human behavior and derive the intention of a potential adversary, or at least someone who’s not there for the same reasons,” Berke told Business Insider.
In normal situations, like over Iraq or Afghanistan, US pilots fly with coalition partners and against enemy aircraft, but the divergent agendas in Syria mean aircraft with potentially bad aircraft can square right up to the US without tripping any alarms.
Berke emphasized that the difference in each country’s agenda made the coordination and combat fraught with difficulty.
If an armed Turkish jet was speeding towards Kurdish forces with US troops embedded, how should a US pilot respond? US pilots and air controllers train endlessly on how to fight, but drawing the line between what constitutes aggression or self-defense is a different matter.
This could start a war
“If you misinterpret what someone does, you can create a massive problem, you can start a war,” Berke said. “I can’t think of a more complex place for there to be or a greater level of risk.”
As a result, US pilots are somewhat bound to deescalation, and may be tolerating higher levels of aggression from adversaries or non-allies in the skies above Syria. No US pilot wants to make headlines for kicking off an international incident by downing a Russian jet, or failing to defend US forces in a very murky situation.
“The less you know what’s going on, the more likely you’re going to make a bad decision that you’re not aware,” Berke said. “The fact that it hasn’t escalated beyond what it is now is a testament to the professionalism of the US military, it could have gone sideways any number of times.”
There’s a new mobile streaming app in town that’s hoping to corner the market on the white space in your day — specifically, those seven to 10 minute gaps where you’d love to be entertained. Introducing Quibi, whose name and premise are based upon giving you quick bites of big stories.
After watching some of their trailers, we can assure you: you won’t be disappointed. Spoiler alert: The release we’re looking forward to the most? We Are The Mighty’s very own show, TEN WEEKS — the first look inside U.S. Army basic combat training in two decades. Make sure you download Quibi now to know when TEN WEEKS is available.
Quibi Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg Goes Over The New Streaming Service
The daily essentials are a great way to get your news or recaps in just a few minutes. The movies in chapters and shows are equally captivating with excellent storytelling and star-studded casts.
From Reese Witherspoon narrating an animal documentary to the story behind the I Promise School with LeBron James, the cast of these shows is nothing shy of impressive. With celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Kristin Bell, Ben Stiller, Will Arnett, Ozzy Osbourne, Jay Leno, Ariana Grande, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, Matthew McConaughey, Tina Fey, Jack Black and the list goes on — it’s easy to see how co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman put id=”listicle-2645654109″.75B into content.