Deficiencies in Afghanistan’s security forces, including the military and police, are getting renewed attention as the US administration considers sending more than 3,000 additional troops to the country.
President Donald Trump held talks on Sept. 21 with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, where both expressed optimism about the planned increase in US troop numbers.
The US has spent $70 billion training Afghan forces since 2002 and is still spending more than $4 billion a year, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, published on Sept. 21.
Despite those sums, Afghan security forces are struggling to prevent advances by Taliban fighters, more than 16 years after the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government that gave al-Qaeda the sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
According to US estimates, government forces control less than 60 percent of Afghanistan, with almost half the country either contested or under the control of fighters.
The report said US forces focused on carrying out military operations during the initial years after the 2001 invasion, rather than developing the Afghan army and police.
When the US and NATO did look to develop the security forces, they did so with little input from senior Afghan officials, according to the report.
“The report does not surprise us. We’ve been hearing about these irregularities for many years now, and many here in Afghanistan have witnessed it,” Habib Wardak, an Afghan security specialist, told Al Jazeera from Kabul.
“When the idea of creating the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) came up, it was a rapid building up of the army. The government was recruiting anyone from militias to warlords.
“In 2010 and 2011, the focus was on building the capabilities of assets. We’ve seen a helicopter pilots going in and teaching Afghan security forces how to battle insurgency, which is ridiculous.
“You have a military which is fighting the war, but no one is raising questions that at what cost is the Afghan army fighting the Taliban.”
At one point, the report said, training for Afghan police officials used PowerPoint slides from US and NATO operations in the Balkans.
“The presentations were not only of questionable relevance to the Afghan setting, but also overlooked the high levels of illiteracy among the police,” the report said.
John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, said that one US officer watched TV shows such as Cops and NCIS to understand what to teach Afghan officials.
He said the US approach to Afghanistan lacked a “whole of government approach” in which different agencies, such as the state department and Pentagon, coordinate efforts.
The inability of embassy officials in Kabul to venture far outside their secure compound also affected oversight and coordination, he said.
“The rules of engagement what President Trump is talking about might be able to contain Taliban up to certain extent, but it’s not the Afghan army in true essence that will be able to contain or confine the Taliban and not let them advance,” Wardak told Al Jazeera.
Afghan police and army units in 2015 took over from NATO the task of providing security for the country.
According to SIGAR, 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed between January 1 and November 12, 2016, with another 11,777 wounded.
Even those partial numbers showed an increase of about 35 percent from all of 2015 when some 5,000 security forces were killed.
Still, Sopko credited the Afghans for “fighting hard and improving in many ways”, but stressed the US and NATO have to do a better job helping them.
Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japan Self-Defense Force, and US Armed Forces united to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim during Exercise KAMANDAG 3 on Oct. 12, 2019.
The ship-to-shore maneuver, which was the culminating event of two weeks of combined training focused on assault amphibious vehicle interoperability, marked the first time the AFP conducted a multilateral amphibious landing with its own AAVs.
The drill’s success validated the multinational forces’ ability to conduct complex, synchronized amphibious operations, and it reaffirmed the partnerships between the Philippines, Japan and the United States.
US Marine amphibious assault vehicles in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)
“It’s a major challenge taking three different elements with different backgrounds and bringing them together to execute one goal,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Roderick Moreno, an assistant team leader with 61st Marine Company, Force Reconnaissance Group.
“It was definitely a learning experience, but every year we participate in KAMANDAG, we get more in tune with our allies.”
US Marine amphibious assault vehicles participate in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)
US Marine amphibious assault vehicles approach shore during an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, October 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)
“Today was about effectively coordinating with our allies from the Philippines and Japan,” said US Marine 1st Lt. Malcolm Dunlop, an AAV platoon commander with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
“AAVs representing each country maneuvered simultaneously to conduct a movement up the beach. It’s crucial that we know how to do things side by side, so that in the face of serious military or humanitarian crises, we can work together to overcome the challenges that face us.”
US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and amphibious assault vehicles ashore after an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)
US forces have been partnering with the Philippines and Japan for many years, working together in many areas to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Training efforts between the AFP, JSDF, and US Armed Forces ensure that the combined militaries remain ready to rapidly respond to crises across the full range of military operations, from conflict to natural disasters.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Weldon scans his surroundings during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)
“Although the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force normally participates in KAMANDAG, this was my team’s first time working with the Filipinos and the Americans together, and it went well,” said Japanese Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Itaru Hirao, an AAV crewman with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, ARD Training Unit.
KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan. KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Manirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.
In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”
“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.
However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.
The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”
“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.
The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.
In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.
But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.
China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.
China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.
But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:
“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.
China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.
But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.
Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.
As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.
For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.
The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space.
“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”
The power and propulsion element will be the initial component of the gateway, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the gateway’s position and can move the gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. As part of the agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element. NASA will leverage capabilities and plans of commercial satellite companies to build the next generation of all electric spacecraft.
The power and propulsion element will also provide high-rate and reliable communications for the gateway including space-to-Earth and space-to-lunar uplinks and downlinks, spacecraft-to-spacecraft crosslinks, and support for spacewalk communications. Finally, it also can accommodate an optical communications demonstration – using lasers to transfer large data packages at faster rates than traditional radio frequency systems.
Habitation capabilities launching in 2023 will further enhance our abilities for science, exploration, and partner (commercial and international) use. The gateway’s habitation capabilities will be informed by NextSTEP partnerships, and also by studies with the International Space Station partners. With this capability, crew aboard the gateway could live and work in deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time.
Crew will also participate in a variety of deep space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon. The agency recently completed a call for abstracts from the global science community, and is hosting a workshop in late February 2018, to discuss the unique scientific research the gateway could enable. NASA anticipates the gateway will also support the technology maturation and development of operating concepts needed for missions beyond the Earth and Moon system.
Adding an airlock to the gateway in the future will enable crew to conduct spacewalks, enable science activities and accommodate docking of future elements. NASA is also planning to launch at least one logistics module to the gateway, which will enable cargo resupply deliveries, additional scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.
Following the commercial model the agency pioneered in low-Earth orbit for space station resupply, NASA plans to resupply the gateway through commercial cargo missions. Visiting cargo spacecraft could remotely dock to the gateway between crewed missions.
Drawing on the interests and capabilities of industry and international partners, NASA will develop progressively complex robotic missions to the surface of the Moon with scientific and exploration objectives in advance of a human return. NASA’s exploration missions and partnerships will also support the missions that will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are the backbone of the agency’s future in deep space. Momentum continues toward the first integrated launch of the system around the Moon in fiscal year 2020 and a mission with crew by 2023. The agency is also looking at a number of possible public/private partnerships in areas including in-space manufacturing and technologies to extract and process resources from the Moon and Mars, known as in-situ resource utilization.
May 2, 2018 – Update
As reflected in NASA’s Exploration Campaign, the next step in human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars. The gateway is necessary to achieving the ambitious exploration campaign goals set forth by Space Policy Directive 1. Through partnerships both domestic and international, NASA will bring innovation and new approaches to the advancement of these U.S. human spaceflight goals.
NASA published a memorandum outlining the agency’s plans to collaboratively build the gateway. Learn more:
Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.
Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.
“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.
Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.
Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.
Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.
“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
ISIS used oil to raise money — the places they’d based out of (Iraq and Syria) were rich in the black liquid. However, Afghanistan, the base of operations for the Taliban, doesn’t have a drop. So, the Taliban turned to another means to generate income. After all, radical Islamic groups who harbor terrorists still need to make payroll every month.
To pay their fighters, the Taliban have turned to drug production. Specifically, they’re making heroin. A September 2017 article from the Quad City Times notes that two kilograms of black tar heroin seized in a bust was worth $600,000. While the Taliban likely doesn’t pocket 300 grand per kilo, the lower amount they do receive likely goes a long way in funding their operations.
Part of the strategy to weaken the Taliban has been to cut off their income. With Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosening rules of engagement, American troops now have a much freer hand when it comes to using artillery and air strikes. As a result, the Taliban’s drug labs have become fair game.
The video below shows how such strikes are being carried out in Afghanistan. A M142 HIMARS is used to send the Taliban’s drugs up in smoke. The HIMARS fired five of the six rockets it can carry. Based on the impacts, unitary warhead versions of the rockets were used in this particular strike. The Taliban will have to figure out if their fighters will accept smoke signals as payment.
Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a “fog of lies,” the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.
In a May 14, 2018 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks becoming an “isolated pariah.”
Parker’s address to the gathering hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.
Parker said that a March 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil, and one of Moscow’s “flagrant breaches of international rules.”
London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.
Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.
Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.
He said there was a need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”
Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.
Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.
Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.
The extremist group Islamic State is plotting “devastating and more complex attacks,” Parker said.
“The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together,” he concluded.
Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s soldiers and equipment.
Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.
According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60’s lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.
US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
“Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections,” US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.
“We’re inspecting each individual component to make sure it’s still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service.”
Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.
US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
“It’s a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience,” Strella said.
“A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it’s good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers’ skill level.”
The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.
Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.
US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it’s his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it’s carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.
He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit’s labor.
“Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you’ve worked on, it’s just a good feeling,” Turner said. “That’s one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you’re like — I put my hands on that.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Over the past two decades, the strategic landscape has changed dramatically. While the fundamental nature of war has not changed, the pace of change and modern technology, coupled with shifts in the nature of geopolitical competition, have altered the character of war in the 21st century.
Advancements in space, information systems, cyberspace, electronic warfare, and missile technology have accelerated the speed and complexity of war. As a result, decision space has collapsed, and we can assume that any future conflict will involve all domains and cut across multiple geographic regions.
Today’s strategic landscape is also extraordinarily volatile, and the nation faces threats from an array of state and nonstate actors. Revisionist powers such as China and Russia seek to undermine the credibility of our alliances and limit our ability to project power. North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile now threaten the homeland and our allies in the Pacific. Iran routinely destabilizes its neighbors and threatens freedom of navigation while modernizing its maritime, missile, space and cyber capabilities. Violent extremist organizations (VEOs), such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda, remain a transregional threat to the homeland, our allies and our way of life. These realities are why some have called today’s operating environment the most challenging since World War II.
At the same time, the U.S. military’s long-held competitive advantage has eroded. Our decisive victory in Operation Desert Storm was a wake-up call for our enemies; they observed that our operational source of strength is the ability to project power where and when needed to advance U.S. interests and meet alliance commitments. This spurred dramatic tactical, operational and strategic adaptations and accelerated modernization programs to asymmetrically counter our ability to project power. All the while, budget instability and the challenges of a decades-long campaign against violent extremism adversely affected our own modernization and capability development efforts required to preserve – or in some cases restore – our competitive advantage.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Additionally, the Joint Force lacks sufficient capacity to meet combatant command requirements. Over the past 16 years, we made a conscious choice to limit the size of the force to preserve scarce resources necessary for essential investments in immediate upgrades to critical capabilities. And requirements have not abated, as we assumed they would after major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended. As a result, global demand for forces continues to exceed the inventory.
Finally, as a nation that thinks and acts globally, the United States cannot choose between a force that can address IS and other VEOs and one that can deter and defeat state actors with a full range of capabilities. We require a balanced force that can address the challenges outlined in the recently published National Defense Strategy and has the inherent flexibility to respond to the unexpected.
We must adapt to maintain a competitive advantage
Advances in technology and the changing character of war require that our plans address all-domain, transregional challenges and conflict. In the past, we assumed most crises could be contained to one region. That assumption, in turn, drove regionally focused planning and decision making processes. Today, this assumption no longer holds true. Our planning must adapt to provide a global perspective that views challenges holistically and enables execution of military campaigns with a flexibility and speed that outpaces our adversaries.
We must also be prepared to make decisions at the speed of relevance. While the cost of failure at the outset of conflict has always been high, in past conflicts there were opportunities to absorb costs and recover if something went wrong. Today, that cannot be assumed, and our strategic decision making processes must adapt to keep pace. Senior leaders require routine access to synthesized information and intelligence to ensure their ability to see the fight in real time and seize initiative.
We must manage the force in a manner that allows us to meet day-to-day requirements, while maintaining readiness and the flexibility to respond to major contingencies and the unexpected. To ensure that the Joint Force provides viable options and is in position to execute when called on, our force posture must be optimized to strategic priorities and provide strength, agility and resilience across regions and domains.
To arrest and, in time, reverse the erosion of our competitive advantage, our force development and design processes must deliver a Joint Force capable of competing and winning against any potential adversary. This future force must remain competitive in all domains, deny adversaries’ ability to counter our strengths asymmetrically, and retain the ability to project power at a time and place of our choosing.
Finally, we must further develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war – leaders who can adapt to change, drive innovation and thrive in uncertain, chaotic conditions. The nature of war has not changed, and, in a violent clash of wills, it is the human dimension that ultimately determines the success of any campaign.
The “how” of global integration
To address these imperatives, we are adapting our approach to planning, decision-making, force management and force design. These processes are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – intended to drive the changes required to maintain our competitive advantage. Over the past two years, we have made progress in each of these areas, but more work remains.
(DoD photo by Dominique A. Pineiro)
The National Defense Strategy establishes clear priorities for the Department of Defense, and the National Military Strategy is nested within to provide a global framework for the Joint Force to operate across regions, domains and functions. We reoriented the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to operationalize the strategy and developed global campaign plans to provide a framework for planning an all-domain, transregional approach to the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. These plans are designed to bring coherence to operations of all functional and geographic combatant commands.
The Joint Force is also improving how it frames decisions for the Secretary of Defense in an all-domain, transregional fight. This begins by developing a common intelligence picture and a shared understanding of global force posture, which then serves as a baseline to test operational plans and concepts through realistic and demanding exercises and wargames. By testing our assumptions and concepts, exercises and wargames provide senior leaders with the “reps-and-sets” necessary to build the implicit communication required to facilitate rapid decision-making in times of crisis.
Our force management processes are evolving to support the objectives laid out in the National Defense Strategy. Setting the globe begins by allocating resources against strategic priorities – optimizing the way we posture capabilities globally to support our strategy, provide strategic flexibility and ensure our ability to respond rapidly to the unexpected. Once the globe is set, we are applying the concept of Dynamic Force Employment to provide proactive and scalable options for priority missions while maintaining readiness to respond to contingencies. In a global environment that demands strategic flexibility and freedom of action, these adaptations enable the Joint Force to seize the initiative rather than react when faced with multiple challenges.
To ensure our competitive advantage, we are implementing a process for force design that provides the secretary with integrated solutions to drive the development of a more lethal force. This process begins by assessing our ability to execute the strategy and compares our capabilities and capacities vis-à-vis our adversaries. Assessment findings shape the development of comprehensive materiel and nonmateriel recommendations that inform the secretary’s priorities for investment, concept development, experimentation and innovation. This approach is designed to provide integrated solutions, across the services, which ensure competitive advantage today and tomorrow.
Finally, we are reinvigorating strategic assessments to support all these efforts. Assessments provide the analytic rigor to inform our ability both to meet the current strategy and to develop a future force that maintains our competitive advantage. A cornerstone of this process is the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, which evaluates our current ability to execute the National Military Strategy and provides a global perspective of risk across the Joint Force. And, in 2016, we published the Joint Military Net Assessment for the first time in 20 years – benchmarking the Joint Force against near-peer adversaries today and comparing our trajectory over the next five years. These assessments are essential to provide an analytic baseline for everything we do, from planning to force management and from exercise development to force design.
There is no preordained right to victory on the battlefield, and today the United States faces an extraordinarily complex and dynamic security environment. To keep pace with the changing character of war, we must globally integrate the way we plan, employ the force, and design the force of the future. If we fail to adapt, the Joint Force will lose the ability to compete.
A major strategic think-tank suggested that assuring US victory in a space war requires the military to develop a network of small satellites capable of rapidly replacing destroyed space assets.
During a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that took place on June 22nd, military experts and space industry representatives suggested the US invest in the technology to launch swarms of small satellites into orbit as an insurance policy for larger military satellites in the event of a conflict in space.
Developing the capacity to rapidly launch small and cheap satellites would create a “layer of resiliency,” preventing any disruption to space assets by quickly replacing any destroyed satellites.
The current network of large US military and intelligence satellites provide a major war-winning advantage over other countries, but “was really built in an uncontested environment,” Steve Nixon, vice president for strategic development for the satellite firm Stratolaunch, told SpaceNews. “It’s no longer resilient to threats and probably cannot operate through a contested military environment.”
The military relies on a network of Global Positioning System satellites to provide precision navigation, communications, weather monitoring, and to find intelligence assets. But those satellites could be vulnerable to Chinese and Russian weapons, according to General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command.
“We believe that for just one percent of what we spend on national security space, you could add this layer, both in terms of satellites and launch systems,” Nixon said. “One percent is your insurance or deterrent capability that preserves the rest of your architecture. It seems like a really good deal.”
Nixon’s company is developing technology to launch satellites into space from small aircraft, which could be done much more rapidly than a full rocket launch.
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.
“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Hyten wrote in a white paper published in July.
The Trump administration seems interested in maintaining space dominance. The Air Force requested $7.75 billion, a 20 percent increase, in their space budget from last year. The service could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.
With Russia’s announcement of a new permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria – long a port used by Russian (and prior to 1991, Soviet) forces, Moscow’s expansion into that war torn country continues even as the Assad regime is wracked by civil war.
But Russia has had a long history in the Med.
Tartus Naval Base has been used by the Russians since 1971. In those 45 years, it served as a forward operating location for the Fifth Eskadra (5th Operational Squadron). This unit was intended to counter the presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Med. The base had not been able to permanently support major vessels like the Kuznetov-class carrier; the Kirov-class battlecruisers; the Slava-class cruisers; or even modern destroyers and frigates in Russian service. The new construction at the base is intended to make it a permanent base for carriers and larger vessels as opposed to just a place to park.
The Fifth Eskadra was formed in 1967 after the Egypt-Israel Six Day War. The Soviets had been unable to find a way to inflict damage on the Sixth Fleet in the event of a war with the United States. This was not a solid strategic position from its perspective, and Russian naval legend Sergei Gorshkov pestered his superiors until the unit was formed.
The unit usually consisted of as many as 80 vessels, including two guided-missile cruisers and a number of smaller escorts like the Mod Kashin-class destroyer or Krivak-class frigate, ten diesel-electric submarines, and a host of auxiliary vessels. The Sixth Fleet usually had half that total, but much of its strength would be concentrated in a carrier battle group which could make life exciting (not to mention short) for the Soviet vessels.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians disbanded the Fifth Eskadra at the end of 1992 — a little over 25 years after the squadron was formed. Two decades later, in 2013, the Russians re-formed the squadron as the Syrian civil war heated up.
Now with about 10 vessels, it is a shadow of the force that faced off with the Sixth Fleet. Still, it is a sign that Russia is reasserting itself in the region.