We sent our “Vet On The Street,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, CA. to find out if people could name the official title of the Afghanistan War. Check out the result here:
North Korea experts at the Nuclear Threat Initiative have meticulously labeled, curated, and brought to life a museum of missiles detailing the rise of Pyongyang as a de facto nuclear power.
With missiles from the early days of Pyongyang’s program to the final intercontinental-range ballistic missile that led Kim Jong Un to declare his country’s nuclear ambitions completed in 2018, the museum will be a stroll down memory lane for seasoned North Korea watchers.
The virtual tour can also bring relative novices up to speed in a more hands on way than dry intelligence reports. The 3D tour features dozens of individual missiles, components, and real life pictures of the process.
Each scale model of a missile or component comes with a detailed slide.
In the window below, tour North Korea’s nukes the safe way thanks to the NTI. Click here to find out how to tour it in virtual reality with Google Cardboard.
During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.
To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.
Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.
The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.
Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.
XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.
“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”
Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.
“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”
The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.
A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.
China is working on a third aircraft carrier, one expected to be much more technologically advanced and powerful than its predecessors, the Department of Defense said in its new report on China’s growing military might.
China has one carrier — the Liaoning — in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Formerly a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, this vessel is the flagship of China’s navy.
China is believed to be close to fielding its second aircraft carrier, the country’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier. This new ship recently completed its fifth sea trial, and the Pentagon reported that this vessel will “likely join the fleet by the end of 2019.”
Type 001A, China’s first domestically produced carrier.
While based on the Liaoning, the second carrier is slightly bigger, creating the potential for a larger carrier air wing, most likely consisting of the J-15 “Flying Sharks,” with which the Liaoning sails. Like the Liaoning, the Chinese navy’s newest carrier will use a ski-jump-assisted short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery (STOBAR) launch system to sortie aircraft.
Incorporating this new aircraft carrier into the fleet will be a major milestone, but that achievement may be overshadowed by a more impressive achievement in just a few years, the Department of Defense said in its latest report.
“China began construction of its second domestically built aircraft carrier in 2018, which will likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” the Pentagon said in its annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving China. “This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”
Catapult launch systems are much more effective than the ski jumps, which tend to put greater strain on the aircraft and tend to result in reductions in operational range, payload size, and ultimately the number of flights the onboard aircraft can fly.
A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
“The new one is something that might be a little more interesting, a little more compelling,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told Business Insider. “If the third carrier does have some catapult-assisted launch system, that will be a huge step forward for China.”
“They would very quickly have moved closer to what current technology is,” he added. “That’s something that very few countries can do. That would put China in a very elite status.”
It is unclear if the catapult launch system will be steam-powered, like those on the US Nimitz-class carriers, or electromagnetic, like the catapults on the Ford-class carriers. It is also unclear whether or not the new Chinese carrier will be conventionally powered or nuclear-powered, like those of the US. China has expressed an interest in the latter, but the country may not have overcome the developmental hurdles to building one.
China is focused on building a world-class military, and a key part of China’s military-modernization program is building power-projection platforms, such as increasingly capable aircraft carriers. The country still has a ways to go to catch up to the US Navy, which has 11 modern aircraft carriers in its arsenal.
China’s third carrier is expected to be completed and operational by 2022.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis used to doubt the need for the U.S.’s massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, but he has changed his tune since joining President Donald Trump’s administration as secretary of defense.
When Trump’s team rolled out the Nuclear Posture Review, a report laying out U.S. nuclear policy, Mattis, who vocally opposed expanding or even keeping all of the nuclear arsenal in the past, gave it his blessing.
In 2015, Mattis questioned whether the U.S. still needed ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, as he found the risk of accidental launches a bit troubling. When the Senate was confirming him as Trump’s secretary of defense, Mattis refused to offer his support for a program to update the U.S.’s air-launched nuclear cruise missile.
But now, Mattis has signed off on a new nuclear position that not only will modernize the ICBMs and cruise missiles but also calls for the creation of two new classes of nuclear weapons.
“We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” Mattis wrote in the review, perhaps an acknowledgment that, as secretary of defense, Mattis learned something about U.S. national security that changed his mind.
The nuclear review, rolled out this year along with new national defense and national security strategies, points to a U.S. more focused on combating major powers like Russia and China. Before joining the president, Mattis openly questioned the purpose of U.S. nukes: Do they exist only to deter attacks? Or do they have an offensive value?
The nuclear posture now advocated by Mattis calls for an increase in an already massive arsenal and actually advocates building smaller nuclear weapons to make them more usable in “limited” nuclear conflicts.
In the years since 2015, when Mattis spoke of reviewing the U.S.’s 400-some hair-triggered nuclear ICBMs, the world was a different place but starting to change. China was building islands in the South China Sea, and Russia had only just swept into Crimea.
Now the U.S. has resolved to match Chinese and Russian military strength and change up the rules of engagement. The nuclear review advocates using nuclear force against nonnuclear attacks, like massive cyber campaigns targeting U.S. infrastructure.
Additionally, the review indicates that the U.S. believes Russia is building an underwater nuclear torpedo as a kind of doomsday device.
Mattis has always offered thoughtful answers and pledged to operate on the best information he had on the topic of nuclear weapons, but he has clearly done an about-face since joining the Trump administration.
The abrupt change in Mattis’ nuclear posture prompts the question: What new information did he receive upon joining the Trump team?
To support ongoing domestic efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, the US military will provide millions of masks to support civilian public health agencies and other responders, Pentagon leadership said Tuesday.
“The Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from our own strategic reserves to Health and Human Services for distribution,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
“The first 1 million masks will be made available immediately,” he added.
“The Pentagon will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to aid in our whole of America Coronavirus response. This critical equipment will keep our health care providers safe as they care for patients,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter.
COVID-19 has spread to more than 5,800 people and killed nearly 100 people in the US. As the illness spreads domestically, masks and other protective equipment are becoming harder to find.
Additional support measures include providing up to 2,000 deployable ventilators to HHS and making 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DoD personnel. “We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
He added that the Pentagon is also looking at the activation of National Guard and Reserve units to assist states as needed. The National Guard is already assisting in 22 states.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e711fe6c485405f643525ea%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=854&h=c8fd00bbb1548bb7f169cdec260eaa7dda4adebe57bc41e83be459155a18fc4b&size=980x&c=4089572589 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e711fe6c485405f643525ea%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D854%26h%3Dc8fd00bbb1548bb7f169cdec260eaa7dda4adebe57bc41e83be459155a18fc4b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D4089572589%22%7D” expand=1]
USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk after a five-month deployment, November 15, 2019.
The military is preparing its hospital ships for possible deployment to assist during the crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The US Navy has two hospital ships available, the USNS Comfort in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USNS Mercy in San Diego.
“The Comfort is undergoing maintenance, and the Mercy is at port.” Esper told reporters Tuesday, revealing that the Department of Defense has already given Navy orders “to lean forward in terms of getting them ready to deploy.”
The defense secretary explained that US military assets like hospital ships and field hospitals are designed for trauma response rather than matters like infectious diseases, so these assets would likely be used to take the pressure off civilian medical facilities with regard to trauma care.
Esper also said that the Army Corps of Engineers could be made available to assist states in need but suggested there might be more effective options.
The secretary stressed to reporters that “if we can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus over the next 15 days, together we can help restore public health and the economy and hasten a return to our normal way of life.”
Update: This post has been updated to include the vice president’s tweet, as well as clarify that the masks are going to HHS to support civilian public health agencies and other responders.
The 2018 Star Match between the Army and Navy women’s soccer teams lies ahead this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis. A key part of the Star Series presented by USAA, the Mids will host their service academy rivals from New York in a matchup of two of the Patriot League’s top-five teams.
Navy comes into the contest at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a 8-4-3 record and a 4-1 mark in Patriot League play, while Army will enter at 6-3-5, 2-2-1 in league action.
Army infantry veteran Joshua D. Hardwick will make his professional MMA debut Sat., May 14 in Bellator 154 in San Jose, California. The 160-pound striker is facing off against Staff Sgt. Jorge Acosta, a California Army National Guardsman.
Interested in going to Bellator 154 in San Jose? Get half off your tickets by entering the promo code “MIGHTY” at checkout.
Acosta is 1-1 on the professional circuit. Hardwick is 5-2 on the amateur circuit (including three international fights in Thailand).
Hardwick served predominantly as a sniper in reconnaissance platoons. The future MMA fighter had relatively tame ambitions when he transitioned from the military.
“When I got out of the Army, I went back to Washington and started logging and working in a mill with the intent of going back to school,” he told WATM. “Then when my girlfriend and I broke up, I decided to move to Denver and chase my dream. It’s worked out really well for me.”
Hardwick said that he’s excited to face off against another veteran chasing his dreams in MMA. While Acosta has more experience on the professional stage, Hardwick said he was sure that he can still control the fight and come out on top.
“I’m very confident in what I’m able to do and in my ability to defend from what he’s going to do and establish my game plan and my style in the fight,” he said.
“I’ve been training for my pro debut since I first started,” he said. “Every camp, every day that I’ve been training it’s been for this opportunity. I lived in Thailand for 6 months, I train on the best team in the world with Elevation Fight Team, world-class fighters. I couldn’t be more prepared for this fight than I am.”
While Hardwick prefers to fight a striking battle, he’s comfortable heading to the floor if the situation calls for it.
“I think I’m pretty decent everywhere,” he said. “I like to strike but I have three first-round submission finishes.”
Hardwick has been out of the military for a few years but stays close with his former brothers-in-arms. Their support is part of why he fights.
“So many of them are like family,” he said. “But even ones that I’ve lost touch with, they reach out and tell me that they’re inspired by what I’m doing and how hard I’m working.”
Inspiring other vets to go after the life they really want is important to Hardwick.
We all fought so hard for freedom, and when we get done fighting for it, we need to fight for our own dreams. Stop doing what society says we need to do and do the things that we think will make us happy.
He hopes that his own story will remind vets that they don’t have to come home to desk jobs if they don’t want to.
“Like me, I got out of the Army and I worked some jobs that made good money and I was going to go to school because I thought that was what I was supposed to do but that stuff didn’t really make me happy,” Hardwick said. “And, when I got the opportunity to give that all up and make zero money and move back in with my mom and start chasing me dream, and now it’s kind of all coming together.
“This is just the beginning and there’s a long, long road ahead but I couldn’t be any happier than I am today being a poor MMA fighter.”
The Air Force is reving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter as a way to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.
Boeing has secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology called with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.
Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor.
Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
The Turkish Armed Forces – or at least elements of them – carried out a coup d’etat in the late-night hours Friday. The intention of the coup was to depose President Recip Tayyip Erdogan. This was quite a shock to most Americans, as Turkey would strike many people to be a very unlikely country for a coup. This is partially due to its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it has in the past petitioned for admission into the European Union. Turkey, though, has had a turbulent domestic history with military involvement.
This should have Americans’ attention. Not only is Turkey next door to the Syrian civil war, as well as on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State, but American forces, notably the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, are deployed in-country. The safety of American troops during this time is one area of concern.
Turkey is not the only NATO country to have seen a military coup. Portugal had one in 1974 that toppled a dictatorship (the “Carnation Revolution”), and Greece saw a coup in 1967 that catapulted a notorious military junta into power for seven years. Spain saw attempted coups in 1981 and 1982, both of which were thwarted by the government. France also famously had a close call with a coup in 1958.
Since Turkey’s admission to NATO in 1952, the country has seen two full-fledged military coups take place (in 1960 and 1980) as well as three other military interventions (“memorandums” issued in 1971, 1997,and 2007) in Turkish domestic politics prior to the one that started Friday. Some circles believe that the Turkish military carried out a “stealth coup” in 1993, citing a number of suspicious deaths, including that of then-President Ozal. In most cases, the coups took place when the government was perceived as going too far in an Islamist direction.
Erdogan had faced a number of allegations that he was going in an Islamist direction during his rule. The Turkish government had been reportedly turning a blind eye to fighters joining ISIS. Erdogan’s government also had been arresting members of the military, including some who were purportedly involved in the alleged 1993 coup. Erdogan had also been accused of trying to set up a dictatorship, involvement in electoral fraud, and even imprisoned a former Miss Turkey over comments she made. He may have had this coup coming.
The coup could also have some serious consequences for the Turkish military. The United States has generally issued sanctions against juntas installed via military coup. One notable case was in 2013 when weapons sales were placed on hold in the wake of the coup that deposed Morsi. Egyptian forces facing a fight against terrorists in the Sinai peninsula did not get Apache helicopter gunships that had been provided as military aid.
What effects could this coup have on the Turkish military? Surprisingly, the Turkish military may be better postured than some other countries to weather some sanctions from the United States. Turkey does produce the F-16 Fighting Falcon locally, so its force of over 200 Falcons will still be able to operate. The same is true for its UH-60 Blackhawks, and some other systems.
But the older F-4E and RF-4E Phantoms in the Turkish Ai Force could have readiness issues, as the United States could cut off spare parts for the fighter-bombers and recon planes. The same would also apply for other modern systems Turkey has, including the M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System, the MGM-140 ATACMS, and the eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates that the United States gave to the Turks in the last 1990s. Turkey also could see trouble remaining a partner in the F-35 program for the duration of military rule, and it is an open question whether it would be able to keep its stocks of AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AIM-120 AMRAAMs operational. Furthermore, the Turkish Navy’s force of SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, which operate off frigates and corvettes, could have problems operating.
U.S. officials have sounded the alarm about growing Russian activity in the Arctic for some time, warning that Moscow’s expanding capabilities in the high latitudes threaten to leave the U.S. behind.
The Arctic region, and its natural resources, have become more accessible as the surrounding ice recedes.
In an interview at Coast Guard headquarters at the end of December 2017, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider that while the U.S. should regard Russian activity in Arctic warily, the relationship between the two countries going forward may depend on “who you relate with.”
“Our natural relationship is with the FSB within Russia, and that’s their border security — equivalent to a coast guard when you look at maritime” activity, Zukunft said.
Operational exchanges between the U.S. Coast Guard and its Russian counterpart have gone well, the commandant said, citing fisheries enforcement as an area where cooperation has yielded positive outcomes.
“We have a boundary line between Russia and the United States. In years past we would have Russian vessels sneak over the line because the fishing was much better on the U.S. side of the Bering Sea because of our fishing-management protocols. That doesn’t happen anymore,” Zukunft said. “We have real-time communications with our Russian counterparts. If we detect a Russian vessel coming over the line, they will prosecute it on the other side.”
“At the same time, we’ve had allegations of fish being illegally harvested in Russian waters and then being sold or basically being distributed out of a port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” he added. “We interact with Russia in real time when we have those cases, and so [it’s] very transparent.”
In November, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, the commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th district — which encompasses more than 3.8 million miles through Alaska and the Arctic Sea — spoke similarly about U.S.-Russia ties in the Arctic.
“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” McAllister said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. McAllister also called China “a good partner” in the Arctic.
‘This looks eerily familiar’
Zukunft drew a distinction between Russian internal-security and law-enforcement activity and Russian naval activity, saying the latter presented more of a concern going forward.
“Now when you start looking at the Russia navy, or if you start looking at why is Russia launching icebreaking corvettes — these are really warships that can also break ice at the same time, that can operate in the high latitudes, at a point in time where Russia is claiming a good portion of the Arctic Ocean … to say that, ‘this is ours,'” Zukunft told Business Insider.
“This looks eerily familiar to what China is doing the East and South China Sea, what we could call access denial to all others … that you pay homage to Russia,” Zukunft said.
Russia has “not been transparent in what their intent is, and so we’re playing a strategic game of chess up in the Arctic,” he added. “And Russia’s got … all the pieces on the chessboard. I’ve only got a couple of pawns. I don’t even have a queen, let alone a king. Might have a rook.”
According to a Congressional Research Service report, as of May 2017, Russia — which has the world’s longest Arctic coastline and gets 20% of its GDP from activity in the region — had 46 icebreakers of all types. Four of those were operational heavy polar icebreakers, with another 23 medium or light icebreakers for polar or Baltic use.
The U.S. government had three icebreakers at that time, but just one, the Polar Star, was an operational polar icebreaker. The U.S. also has the Healy, a medium polar icebreaker, and the National Science Foundation operates another, primarily for scientific work.
The Polar Star entered service in 1976 and was refurbished in 2012, but it is beyond its 40-year service life and “literally on life support,” Zukunft said in early 2017. (Some parts for the Polar Star are no longer made and have to be ordered secondhand from eBay or scavenged from other ships.)
The U.S. was behind Finland, Canada, and Sweden — all of which had several operational polar icebreakers, though none were heavy. China also had three operational light icebreakers or ice-capable polar ships, according to the report.
Experts have downplayed the likelihood that the Arctic will become as contested as the South China Sea, but Zukunft and others have warned that the U.S. is well behind Russia in the icebreaker capability necessary to operate in the region — and may soon fall behind China as well.
Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area chief, said in December that even with progress on U.S. plans for new icebreakers, Moscow was still outspending Washington. “If you look at what Russia is doing, there’s almost a mini arms build up going on in the Arctic,” he told CBS News.
“Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in November, emphasizing U.S. economic and national-security interests in emerging Arctic waterways. While China isn’t an Arctic country, Tillerson said, “they see the value of these passages. So we’re late to the game.”
In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.
Zukunft has said he hopes to begin construction on the first icebreaker early in fiscal year 2019, which starts in October. It could be in the water by 2023.
The commandant has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers, though he is open to trading mediums for heavies.
Some have argued that the challenge to U.S. security posed at sea comes less from icebreakers than Russia’s growing navy, which can project power far from the Arctic, but the Coast Guard is holding out the option of equipping its future icebreakers with offensive weaponry.
Zukunft said in early January that the newest icebreaker would have space, weight, and electrical capacity set aside for such armaments. Though he wouldn’t specify what types of weapons systems they would be — he has suggested cruise missiles in the past — Zukunft said they would need to be modular, allowing them to be switched out to meet different operational requirements.
“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of December.
“I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up,” he added. “And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.
Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.
The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.
Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.
Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.
Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.
Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.
Women in Combat
Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.
Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”
In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.
“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”
Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.
If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.
One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.
Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.
The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.
“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”
Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.
“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”
“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.
“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”
The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”
Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.
“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.
“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.
“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.
Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.
Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.
“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”
“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”
When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”
Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.
If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.
The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.
The Marine Corps is the latest service branch to announce a policy removing official photos from promotion considerations.
The directive states “photographs are not authorized information for promotion boards and selection processes pertaining to assignment, training, education, and command,” according to MARADMIN 491/20. It takes effect Tuesday.
The Army implemented a similar policy in August.
For those Marines who have already submitted promotion packages or have included recently-updated selection photos to their Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), those photos will not be considered by the board when selecting candidates for promotion, assignment, training, education, or command.
The move is in response to a larger effort to address diversity in the military, which includes the establishment of a Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion by Secretary Dr. Mark Esper.
Esper released a memorandum in mid-summer calling for “immediate actions to address diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in the military services.” The document outlines several tasks on how the different branches are to address these issues within the services including updating the department’s equal opportunity and diversity inclusion policies, increasing training regarding diversity, racial bias, and equal opportunity, updating policies on grooming with regards to racial differences and removing photographs from promotion boards and selection processes.
Read the full memo here: Immediate Actions to Address Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Military Services
Though photographs will be removed from OMPFs, additional guidance is expected that includes “provisions for establishing diverse selection panels and the removal of all references to race, ethnicity, and gender in personnel packets reviewed by panel members.” These processes will help to ensure that promotion boards and selection processes “enable equal opportunity for all service members, promote diversity … and are free from bias based on race, ethnicity, gender or national origin.” The USD(PR) has until the end of September to provide this additional guidance to all branches.
The Council of Foreign Relations examined diversity rates across all branches of the military. For the Marine Corps, about 90% of male enlisted recruits and 70% of female enlisted recruits are white. Only 15% of male and female enlisted recruits are Black, and Asians only represent about 5% of the enlisted recruit population. However, the Marine Corps has a higher rate of Hispanics than any other branch — outweighing the civilian workforce — with about 30% male and almost 40% of female recruits being of Hispanic ethnicity.
CFR also found that racial diversity decreases at the upper ranks with data showing generals to be disproportionately white. Complete findings can be found at Demographics of the U.S. Military.