USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels - We Are The Mighty
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USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at a group of Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 8. The incident comes less than two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.


According to Reuters, the shots were fired after the Iranian vessels ignored requests by radio to slow down as they approached the American warship and came within 900 yards.

Similar harassment took place this past summer, with Iranian speedboats making close passes to USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Squall (PC 7), which also fired warning shots.

Iran also threatened U.S. Navy aircraft in September. In November, Iranian speedboats pointed weapons at a U.S. Navy helicopter.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired on U.S. Navy vessels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles this past October. The destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) defeated three attacks in the space of a week, and USS Nitze carried out a retaliatory strike on radar sites. This past September, while campaigning for the White House, Trump vowed that Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Navy forces would be “shot out of the water.”

The Iranian vessels were described in the Reuters report as “fast attack vessels.” These vessels, sometimes called “Boghammers,” are speedboats with a variety of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

According to “Combat Fleets of the World,” Iran has over 180 of these vessels. During the Iran-Iraq War, they were used to attack oil tankers.

A July, 1988 skirmish between those speedboats and the cruiser USS Vincennes and the frigates USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery lead to the downing of an Airbus passenger jet.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The USS Mahan is the first of seven Flight II Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These ships have a five-inch gun, a 29-cell Mk 41 VLS forward, a 61-cell Mk 41 VLS aft, Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.

But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.

When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Christopher Miller as a major in Afghanistan (Image found in Eric Blehm’s book “The Only Thing Worth Dying For.”)

A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.

At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.

So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.

Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group talking with General Tommy Franks, the commander of CENTCOM, in the early days of the war in Afghanistan (U.S. Army).

In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)

Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).

Now, after almost two decades, Miller is still advocating for the unconventional warfare approach, remaining a true believer.

Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.

On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.


US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Syrian Democratic Forces march in Raqqa in 2016

Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.

SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.

There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.

On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.

This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.

Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even more Russian ships are relying on tugs for breakdowns

In 2000, an explosion in the Russian submarine Kursk sent the vessel to the ocean floor, killing all 118 of its crew.

In the decade that followed, at least four fires broke out at Russian shipyards.

In 2009, Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov — which has been labeled one of the worst aircraft carriers in the world — lost a sailor when a fire broke out due to a short circuit.


And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.

This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.

Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

The Admiral Kuznetsov.

Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.

On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.

Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.

While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.

This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.

This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.

For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Later this month, our nation will mark a full calendar year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of our fellow citizens and people around the world. The U.S. Armed Forces, being a cross-section of America, have not been spared from the effects of the coronavirus. Across the military, COVID-19 has left a deep mark: PCS moves were delayed, school and childcare has been disrupted, promotion ceremonies and weddings have been put off – and, tragically, many lives have been lost.

In addition to the impact of the pandemic, the U.S. has also dealt with domestic unrest, social change, economic struggles not seen in generations, and the start of a new administration. To say that the last 52 weeks have been challenging and historic would be an understatement. However, March 2021 also marks another milestone, and a fresh opportunity to showcase the best of the ideals of selfless service and teamwork that is the foundation of America’s military: the launch of the Army’s Annual Campaign on behalf of Army Emergency Relief (AER).

AER 79th annual campaign

Most soldiers and their families are familiar with AER, the Army’s own financial assistance organization. Since 1942, AER has been 100% focused on helping soldiers and their families when they face financial challenges. Each year, we support over 40,000 Soldiers with nearly $70 million in grants, zero-interest loans, and educational grants for Army spouses and children. All told, that comes to more than $2 billion in support since our founding, with more than $1 billion of that since 9/11. Chances are, whether you are a single soldier or part of an Army family, you’ve either contacted AER for help yourself or personally know someone that has.

How can AER help? In 2019, we provided $9 million to more than 5,000 soldiers who were impacted by hurricanes, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation hard, we established new relief programs to help Soldiers and their loved ones navigate childcare, remote education, PCS moves, and other critical financial needs caused by the pandemic, including expanded eligibility for U.S. Army Reserve & National Guard Soldiers. Overall, we have more than 30 categories of assistance; whether it’s personal vehicle repair, emergency travel, damage to your house from natural disasters, or funeral expenses caused by the loss of a loved one, we help soldiers deal with life’s unexpected costs. What’s more, all of our financial assistance is provided either as a grant or a zero-interest loan – unlike the payday lenders near Army installations that prey on soldiers, charging up to 36% interest (and sometimes higher) on short-term loans.

Even though our mission supports the global Army team, AER receives no funding from taxpayer dollars. Every dollar we provide to those in need is from donations by soldiers (active duty and retired), the American public, and industry partners. That’s where the Annual Campaign comes in— the main goal of the campaign is to raise awareness across the Army Team of AER’s benefits, while offering soldiers the opportunity to support their fellow brothers and sisters in arms by making a donation.

The many difficulties we’ve faced as a nation over the past year has re-emphasized the importance of supporting those who practice selfless sacrifice on behalf of others. That’s why the theme of this year’s Annual Campaign is “A Hand-Up for Soldiers”. Details on the campaign, which kicked off March 1 and runs through May 15, can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign. Donations can be made online, through an installation’s AER Officer, or your Unit Campaign Representative.

AER isn’t a giveaway program; it’s a hand-up for soldiers and Army families experiencing temporary financial need. We help soldiers get back on their feet and back in the fight; as the Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville says, “People First – Winning Matters”.  Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength! Let’s work together these next two months and make the 2021 Annual Campaign a success.


Retired Lt. Gen Raymond V. Mason is the Director of Army Emergency Relief. The Army’s Annual Campaign runs from March 1st through May 15th across all installations.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL is learning how to fight as a unit from Special Forces vets

Veterans and military personnel are still understandably frustrated with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem — but that doesn’t mean the league is at odds with the military-veteran community. If the response from our community has taught anything to NFL franchises, it’s that teams have a lot to learn about how veterans and military units come together and operate as a team.


NFL players, for the most part, spend their whole lives training and preparing for the chance to play on Sundays in the fall. But throughout the course of their careers, they may end up playing for a slew of different teams with different objects, different methods, and different goals. No matter which city you’re representing, there’s a lot about football plays that can be related to small-unit tactics on the battlefield. The most important parts of both are to ensure each member of the team follows the plan, follows their orders, and covers their position. Your squad mates are depending on each man to do their part.

So, it makes sense to bring in some of the U.S. military’s finest veterans to show these players how individuals in military units come together to form a cohesive fighting force when the stakes are life and death. That’s where Mission6Zero comes in.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

Jason Van Camp served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

(Mission6Zero)

“How can you fight for the guy next to you if you don’t even know who he is?”

Jason Van Camp is the Founder and Chairman of Mission6Zero. He’s also a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who graduated from West Point and played football for the Army’s Black Knights. He founded Mission6Zero to help teams in professional sports, the corporate world, and law enforcement optimize their performance through knowledge — knowledge of themselves, their organization, and their surroundings.

While Mission6Zero isn’t limited to the NFL, the NFL needs Mission6Zero now more than ever — and the Army football player is uniquely situated to address their issues. He put together his own expert team, one that included fellow SF veteran and Seattle Seahawks longsnapper, Nate Boyer.

“When things get really bad, the warfighter is thinking only of his team.”

Van Camp’s organization brings Special Forces veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors, drill instructors, and other exceptional veterans (along with human performance psychologists and behavioral experts) to the fore when dealing with athletic franchises. In their most recent case study, they found it wasn’t just what team members communicated to one another that was important, it was how they communicated that mattered.

Mission6Zero does more than tell war stories and lecture teams on how to be more like a unit. The science behind how members of a unit bond in combat is the same as how members bond on a team. The more you learn about someone, the closer you get to that person. When you start to know everyone on that level, the team becomes the most important part of life.

You will never want to let the team down, but, just as importantly, you know they will never let you down.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer.

(Mission6Zero)

“The warfighter’s biggest fear is to let down the teammate to his left or right. “

It may seem obvious to a military veteran, but to many athletes and professional sports teams, it’s not so obvious. Through the course of Mission6Zero’s work in the NFL, the organization found instances of teammates who had never spoken to one another – even after the season began.

When Mission6Zero finds that the best predictor of team productivity is how teams communicate outside of the workplace and there are teammates who never talk at all, it’s easy to identify potential problems in an organization. Those “Mandatory Fun” sessions we weren’t so keen on attending while we were in the military were actually one of the most useful training opportunities we could ever have attended.

That’s the science of teambuilding.

Articles

The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?


The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.

The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.

Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.

Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio.  What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions.  This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.

While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union.  Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.

That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries.  Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries.  Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.

The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Photo: US Navy

You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.

Bonus Facts:

  • When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
  • A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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Another close call as Russian provocations of the American military continue

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Russian SU-27 Flanker. (Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin, Creative Commons)


Earlier this week a Russian Su-27 Flanker made what DOD officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” pass on U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon. The Russian fighter came within ten feet of the American maritime patrol jet, which was operating over international waters in the Black Sea.

The incident is the latest involving American surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft. Earlier this year, an RC-135U Combat Sent surveillance aircraft also had a close encounter with a Russian Flanker. Russian Su-24 Fencers have buzzed American and Canadian ships in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since 2014, the year that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Russians aren’t alone with these types of acts. In 2014 and 2015, the Pentagon reported on incidents involving Chinese fighters also acting in an unsafe manner while intercepting P-8 and RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea.

And in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback piloted by Wang Wei collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. The J-8 crashed, killing Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for over a week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force secretary’s cry for help over a service under strain

The Air Force has over the past few years grappled with operational demands that have drained its resources and strained its personnel.


Wars in the Middle East, ongoing tensions in Europe and Asia, and budgetary issues are a few of the issues that confront a leaner Air Force.

In recent months, the service, which celebrates its 70th birthday on Monday, is looking at personnel and administrative shakeups to streamline the way it recruits, trains, and deploys.

“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Air Force Times at the end of August.

“We have readiness issues at home already, and if we were to have to continue next year, either on a continuing resolution that [keeps Air Force funding] flat from last year or, even worse, under a sequester … it would be devastating, and [it would take] years to recover from it,” she added.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Members of Air Force Special Operations weather teams participate in a training scenario on a CH-47 Chinook during Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on March 7, 2012. (USAF photo)

According to the Government Accountability Office, less than 50% of the Air Force’s units were at acceptable readiness levels. The highest-profile personnel issue facing the service may be its shortage of qualified pilots.

While the Air Force expanded its ranks during the 2016 fiscal year, as of April 2017 it was still short of its mandated 20,300 pilots by 1,555 — 950 of whom are believed to be fighter pilots. It also reported a shortage of 3,400 aircraft maintainers.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, called the shortfall a “quiet crisis” in July 2016.

To reverse that trend and keep pilots in uniform, the service plans top boost pay and bonuses, ask retired pilots to return and bring more support staff to free fliers from administrative duties, increase the number of pilots it trains each year, and give personnel more say in their rotations.

The Air Force is also outsourcing some of its “red air” needs by bringing in outside pilots to play the role of rival aircraft. It is also converting mothballed F-16s into training aircraft for manned and unmanned exercises.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin

But pilots are not the only Air Force members who find themselves taxed by a high operational tempo.

Air Force Special Operations Command has borne the brunt of 16 years of military operations. About 1,200 AFSOC personnel are deployed to over 40 countries at any given time, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb told Air Force Times. With only 14,461 active-duty officers and airmen in the the command, the scale of those deployments “can obviously create demands on them and their families,” Webb said.

“We have many airmen who have deployed more than a dozen times in the last 15 years. That’s a deployment rate our nation has not seen before,” Webb said, noting that his command has had to get waivers from the secretary of defense to allow more frequent deployments.

For regular airmen, demand is high as well. The pace of deployments was high in 2017 and is expect to remain the same in years to come.

“We can anticipate that the thickness of the training events and exercises that occurred in 2017 will be equally as thick in 2018, and we think those numbers of events are just about right,” Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, said on September 8.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
An Air Force Special Tactics airman surveys a remote landing strip in his offroad motorcycle. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

The more than 30,000 Air Force personnel in Europe now are enough to meet the service’s needs, Wolters said. Despite concerns about pilot shortages and the amount of downtime, he added, “We certainly have the right number of airmen in theater at this time, when you take into account the ones we rotate in on an episodic, periodic basis.”

The Air Force is also looking to fill gaps in its ranks of officers and enlisted personnel through promotions.

This month, it said 2,001 enlisted airmen had been picked for supplemental promotions, which are typically given to airmen who face extended temporary duty assignments or are deployed to work on contingency operations.

In December, the Air Force will also offer 100% promotion opportunities to officers at captain rank.

As long as they’re qualified, recommended for promotion, and have an unblemished conduct record, the promotion is assured.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015. Following his promotion to senior airman minutes earlier, Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant by order of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. According to Air Force Instruction 36-502, the chief of staff of the Air Force has the authority to promote any enlisted member to the next higher grade. Stone became the recipient of the rare honor following his heroic actions in August when he and two friends thwarted a potential terrorist attack on a train traveling to Paris. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

The sweeping promotion opportunity comes in response to mission demands requiring more field-grade officers, which includes majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. The Air Force is currently at 92% manning for field-grade officers and 74% manning for non-rated field-grade officers, who typically fill support roles.

“There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a release announcing the promotion opportunity.

Those promotions come as the service is also reviewing and implementing other changes meant to adjust the administrative burden faced by airmen, as well as the strain service puts on their personal life.

“We strive across the command to encourage our airmen to achieve work-life balance,” said Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Air commandos are proud of what we continue to accomplish alongside our joint [special operations] partners, but we also know the importance of resiliency.”

US airmen “are doing some amazing things,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the Air Force’s top enlisted man, told Air Force Times. But they’re also dealing with manpower shortages, a lack of funding and resources, a high operational burden, and a plethora of extra duties, all of which has inspired frustration and stress.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
Staff Sgt. Leland Hastings, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, monitors the Raven-B, a four-by-four foot unmanned aerial system, through a laptop computer at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., Aug. 4. The 919th SOSFS brought the UAS to demonstrate its capabilities to other security forces units involved in a large field training exercise at the camp. The Raven-B has the ability to take photos, video in day or night, and even designate locations via an IR laser. It also provides coordinates, magnetic azimuths, and linear distances creating a birds-eye view to topographical map. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

“We can’t ask the world to calm down and not be so unstable,” Wright added. “Absent that, the best thing we can do to make our force more efficient and more effective and lethal is, with some of these additional requirements that we’ve levied upon them over the years, let’s slowly take them away, right?”

Wright said the Air Force is weighing the elimination with some performance evaluations and some units have pursued programs to improve mental health and resiliency. The Air Force has lost 62 airmen to suicide this year and looks set to match the 100 suicides seen in most years.

In addition to mental-health and professional-development initiatives, Grosso said the Air Force has started a broad overhaul of its personnel information technology systems.

The service’s personnel operations run on 200 applications using 111 different systems that date to the 1990s. Streamlining those operations will ease the manner in which airmen can handle personnel issues, like problems with paychecks that roughly 5,000 airmen deal with each month.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Grosso also said the service was looking at a two- to three-year overhaul of its performance management and evaluation systems.

“We’re not trying to speed through this,” Grosso told Air Force Times this month. “We need to get this right.”

The operational demands the Air Force faces look unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite a series of victories against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, partner forces there will need support going forward.

That, coupled with the potential expansion of Air Force duties in Afghanistan, will come as the US military faces heightened tensions in Eastern Europe and northwest Asia.

“Owning the ultimate high ground is continually going to be important as we go forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.

“Air superiority is not an American birth right. It’s actually something we have to plan for, train for, fight for and win,” he added. “I see it as nothing short of a moral obligation that when any soldier or airman hears a jet noise overhead, they don’t look up. They know it’s us.”

Articles

7 struggles these veterans know all too well about humping gear

SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.


Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.

1. The veteran grunt

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

2. The motivated Corpsman

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

 

Related: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

5. Packing some major heat

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

6. He’s down to do it all over again

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

7. Ready for just about anything

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

 

What gear did you carry? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian missiles in Syria might trigger a war with Israel

Russia announced on Sept. 24, 2018, it would send its advanced S-300 missile defense systems to Syria after it lost a spy plane to errant Syrian air defense fire— but the new set-up puts Israel at high risk of killing Russians and starting a war.

Russia blames Israel for Syria, its own ally, firing a Russian-made air defense missile that missed Israeli jets attacking Syria and instead killed 15 Russian servicemen on an Il-20 spy plane.

According to Russia, Israeli F-16s flew in low under the Il-20 to either shield themselves from air defense fire or make Syrian air defenses, which use outdated technology, shoot down the bigger, easier to spot Il-20 rather than the sleeker F-16s.


Whether or not Israel purposefully used the Il-20 to its advantage remains an open question. But it exposed a glaring flaw in Syrian and Russian military cooperation, which Moscow is due to close with the S-300.

Russians hit the front lines, and Israel won’t back off

According to Nikolai Sokov, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, the Russians will now sit on-site at Syrian air defense sites, which Israel frequently bombs.

Syria’s current air defenses lack the highly-classified signal Russian planes send to their own air defenses to identify them as friendly. Without this secret sign from the flying Il-20, Syria mistook it for an enemy, and shot it down.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

An Ilyushin IL-20 in flight.

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)

If Russia could simply give Syria the signal and fix the problem, it would have likely done so already. But if Syria somehow leaked the signal, the US or NATO could trick all Russian air defenses into their fighters were friendly Russian jets, leaving Russia open to attack, according to Sokov.

“The S-300 systems Russia plans to supply to Syria will feature a compromise solution,” said Sokov. “They will be fully equipped to distinguish Russian aircraft… but there will be Russian personnel present at controls.”

Israel has admitted to more than 200 air strikes within Syria in the last two years. These strikes have killed more than 100 Iranian fighters in Syria in September 2018 alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

Frequently, Syria responds to these strikes with air defense fire against Israeli fighter jets. In February 2018, Syria succeeded in downing an Israeli F-16. Israel responded with a sweeping attack it claimed knocked out half of Syria’s air defenses.

Trends point to a big fight

Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map, and has for decades tried to achieve that by transferring weapons across the Middle East to Israel’s neighbors, like Lebanon where Hezbollah holds power.

Israel has vowed in return to destroy Iranian weapons shipments wherever it finds them. In the past, Israel has struck Iranian uniformed personnel, munitions depots, and Iranian-backed militias.

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

A Russian S-300V (SA-12a Gladiator).

In short, Israeli strikes that require air defense suppression (such as blowing up Russian-made air defenses in Syria) will not stop any time soon, judging by Israel and Iran’s ongoing positions.

But now, when Israel knocks down a Syrian air defense site, it runs the risk of killing Russian servicemen. When Israel kills Syrians, Syria complains and may fire some missiles back, but its military is too weak and distracted by a seven-year-long civil war to do much about it.

If Israel kills Russians, then Russia’s large navy and aviation presence could mobilize very quickly against Israel, which has fierce defenses of its own.

“Obviously, this seriously constrains not just Israeli, but also US operations in case of possible bombing of Syria,” Sokov said of the new Russian-staffed S-300.

“Not only Syrian air defense will become more capable, but it will be necessary to keep in mind the presence of Russian operators at the Syrian air defense systems.”

So next time Israel or the US decides to strike Syria, it may not only find stiffer-than-usual resistance, it might find itself in a quickly escalating battle with one of the world’s greatest military powers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Swedish aircraft challenge Russians over the Mediterranean

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defense), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyze enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.


Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, 2018, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1, 2018:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the U.S. Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

ISIS wants you to know it has amusement parks, too

While many Westerners associate Islamic State propaganda with violence and beheadings, the terror group also likes to showcase its deceptively “softer” side to those within its territory in the Middle East, as a Vocativ analysis showed this week.


And given that their target audience is disaffected Sunnis living in war-torn Iraq and Syria, the plan is working.

Videotaped beheadings and action-packed fighting scenes might be effective recruitment tools for young people who are thinking about traveling to Syria to fight with the militants, but the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) knows that winning hearts and minds is just as important to its longevity.

Vocativ notes that “in the areas it already controls or is fighting to take over, almost half of what [ISIS] broadcasts has a positive theme to it. ‘Come to the Islamic State,’ is the message. ‘There is fun here, and food, and services.'”

ISIS markets itself as an Islamic utopia that can provide happiness and stability its residents. In addition to enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, ISIS sets up schools and consumer protection bureaus in the areas of Iraq and Syria it holds.

And apparently, ISIS also operates a mall and amusement park near Mosul, Iraq:

The above propaganda video shows children playing and residents talking about how much better life is now that ISIS has moved in and taken control of Mosul.

And it’s not just amusement parks — earlier this year, ISIS’ media wing announced that the group had re-opened a “luxury” hotel in Mosul.

The video makes no mention of the headless bodies that can also be seen in the streets of ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate,” an aspirational Islamic empire that aims to unite the world’s Muslims under a single religious and political entity.

With its civil services and positive propaganda, ISIS seeks to build a sense of community within its caliphate. And given that many ISIS members are from disaffected Sunni communities, the group has a natural advantage over Westerners in uniform trying to win hearts and minds.

Recruiting with camaraderie

ISIS also uses positive propaganda, along with more brutal propaganda,  to bring in foreign fighters replenish their ranks on the battlefield.

In an extensive analysis of ISIS propaganda for the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, Charlie Winter noted that the idea of belonging is “one of Islamic State’s most powerful draws to new recruits,” especially Westerners who are thinking of traveling to the caliphate.

“Through their regular publication of, for example, videos and photographic reports depicting istirāḥat al-mujāhidīn — fighters relaxing with tea and singing with each other — the propagandists emphasise the idea of brotherhood in the ‘caliphate,'” Winter wrote.

“The carefully branded camaraderie that one is absorbed into upon arrival in Islamic State-held territories is, as the propagandists would have their audiences believe, almost overwhelming.”

ISIS “recognize[s] that offers of friendship, security and a sense of belonging are powerful draws for its supporters abroad,” Winter wrote.

But ISIS doesn’t just want to attract fighters who are willing to die on the battlefield for their cause. They also see women and families as crucial to their long-term quest for dominance and control of territory.

In their recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger noted that ISIS leadership says “hijrah (or emigration) to the land of Islam is obligatory” for all Muslims. They recruit doctors, administrators, engineers, scholars, and women who could marry future martyrs and bear their children.

“They’re the first terrorist group that aren’t interested in [just] fighters, they want families to come,” Patrick Skinner, director of special projects at The Soufan Group, told Vocativ. “They need women and children, they believe they have a state, they now need a future. A lot of people are going there just to live in the caliphate.”

The propaganda depicting bucolic settings and a fully functioning society is obviously false.

ISIS’ caliphate is extremely violent, and militants loot homes, tax residents heavily, and behead opponents. Some who have decamped for ISIS territory have desperately sought to return to their home countries after realizing that the reality on the ground is vastly different from the propaganda they saw online.

Nevertheless, ISIS is still seeing foreigners stream into their territory (many through the Turkish border), and the US is trying to come up with ways to counter the propaganda and come up with an effective counter-narrative.

Check out Vocativ’s full report

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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