Syria’s Foreign Ministry reacted to Trump’s move by calling it a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.
Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli forces during the 1973 Middle East war, but their surprise assault was repelled.
In 1981, Israel extended its laws to the region, effectively annexing it, in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Trump’s move was unlawful and could lead to renewed tensions in the Middle East. “This could lead to a new wave of tensions…such things, they are outside the law for they ignore all international efforts…unfortunately, they can only aggravate the situation,” she told Russian radio.
Trump announced on Twitter on March 21, 2019, that the United States intended to “fully” recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the 1,800-square-kilometer territory — a decision that breaks with long-standing U.S. policy and international consensus.
Trump’s proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights comes less than a month before general elections in Israel in which Netanyahu is facing a stiff challenge from former military chief Benny Gantz, the head of a centrist party.
Former military chief Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington on March 24, 2019, for what was meant to be a three-day visit that included an appearance at the annual convention of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
But he announced on March 25, 2019, that he was cutting short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack from Gaza early on March 25, 2019, destroyed a residential home and injured several Israelis in the farming community of Mishmeret, north of the city of Kfar Saba.
Israel’s military said the rocket attack was conducted by militants from Gaza’s ruling Hamas. It also quickly mobilized troops and called up reserve forces, setting up the possibility of a major military operation ahead of the Israeli elections.
Netanyahu pledged to retaliate and return to Israel immediately after his meeting with Trump to manage the crisis.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the AIPAC gathering that that rocket attack “proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace.”
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, and the United States will never negotiate with terrorist Hamas,” Pence said.
BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.
“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.
CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.
The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.
(Photo by BAE Systems)
The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.
Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.
One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.
Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.
He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.
There can be no doubt that terrifying things can happen in times of war. However, in most cases it can at least be counted on that the enemy one faces is a living human being.
What happens when other, more supernatural forces creep into war zones? What are soldiers to do when faced with mysterious phantoms, ghosts, apparitions and entities against which they have no experience and which they have not been trained to fight? War zones have attracted tales of hauntings and supernatural phenomena since time unremembered, and certainly one of the more modern such places of paranormal terror is the desolate battlefields of the war in Afghanistan. This is a place that is not only plagued by fighting and violence, but also apparently strange forces that have shown some soldiers here that human enemies are not always the only thing to be scared of in these bleak, violent wastelands.
Several mysterious reports came from a United States Marine who had just come back home after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The witness tends to be quite secretive about his role in the war, only stating that his unit was “relatively safe,” and only suffered two non-combat related casualties. The witness claims to have had a couple of potential encounters with ghosts during his service, and one of them occurred as he was sitting with some superiors and colleagues within a makeshift office in the desert which had three rooms. There were reportedly four other people in the cramped room with him when, as he was standing near the backdoor, he noticed his Lieutenant step through the door and enter a small adjoining contractor’s office. He saw the man clearly, but at this point there was nothing particularly strange about it, and the witness explained “he was wearing a FROG suit and everything. Nothing unusual about him. Even had the moustache.”
Just 30 seconds later a call came through asking for the Lieutenant and the witness went to the contractor’s office to fetch him. Strangely, the room was completely empty – nobody was there. Since there was no other door out of the office, the witness asked if anyone had noticed the Lieutenant leave, but nobody had, even though there were four others in the enclosed space and it seemed that somebody would have noticed such a thing. The witness went to the rear door of the office they were in and looked around but there was no one there either. Even a look outside showed no signs of anyone. It was as if the Lieutenant had just disappeared into thin air. The witness explained:
I said ‘Disregard Sgt., nobody is around, looks like I was seeing things.’ Then, my roommate a fellow Lance says to me “That’s bull****, you and I both know somebody is in that room,” and I just said “Nope. You saw it too. Someone walked in, and nobody came out, but nobody is there.
Another incident in the very same office happened one evening at around 10PM. The witness claims that he was alone after working late and on his way out when the door to the contractor’s room opened by itself and stayed open. He went to investigate and shone a flashlight about into the dim space but no one was there. He said that at the time he had a very strange feeling like he was being watched and that it was quite unsettling. The very same witness claimed to have seen other strange things during his tour. He also says that there was a mysterious heat signature that would be seen on infrared equipment wandering and pacing around out in the desert outside in the dark, yet when it was observed with different cameras or the naked eye, nothing was there and there was no response when they called out into the night.
Another witness who reported strange, ghostly figures in the desert claimed that his unit was plagued by a mysterious phantom that would appear around the outskirts of their camp and vanish in the blink of an eye. The first time it appeared was a little after dusk, a couple hundred yards from their position. One of the men, described as a “random PVT,” told the others that there was a person out in the wilderness just standing there. The witness looked and at first couldn’t see anything but after a moment could make out a dark blob in the vague shape of a person. The Sergeant apparently was called over and saw it too. When asked where the figure had come from, the private explained that it had “just popped up.” Whoever was out there there was just standing motionless with its back to them. The witness described the eerie scene and what happened next:
So we watch this “person” for about 3hrs, who just stands there, motionless, with its back to us. You could put optics on it and see it was a person, adult male, average height and build. Best part: we “borrowed” a thermal monocular and this f*cker doesn’t register in it. ZERO F*CKING HEAT SIGNATURE. Then randomly, just poof, gone. Random PVT spends the next 6 weeks telling everyone about the ghost we saw.
Around 6 months later, the same witness was out on patrol when two of his unit reported seeing two figures standing on top of a berm a couple of hundred yards away. Anticipating an enemy IED (Improvised Explosive Device), they stopped the vehicle and examined the figures, which appeared to be men just standing with their backs to them. They were motionless and would not respond when called to, just like the strange phantom previously seen 6 months earlier. The Lieutenant called it in and some of the men got out to go investigate. The witness would explain what happened next thus:
We dismount, LT calls over terp asks if he knows what’s up. Terp gives blank stare and shrugs. LT decides we should go have a look-see and do some hearts-and-minds sh*t. I stay in the truck (which feels like 140 f*cking degrees), 20min goes by LT comes back with weird look on his face and says ‘we’re outta here.’ Later that day I asked another guy WTF happened, he says they get within 50yds of aforementioned “persons” and, presto, gone. I ask “what do you mean, gone?” and he just looks at me with this blank stare and says “gone. They were there, and then they weren’t. Weird huh?’
In another account, a marine who served in Afghanistan and Yemen from 2009-2013 relates an odd experience. One evening at 1AM, the witness had just finished setting up a patrol base with four members of his squad while the other seventeen men slept. In front of the patrol base was a huge, open field and to the left was, rather spookily, an Afghan cemetery. As the witness was looking out over the field on watch duty, he claims that a rock came hurtling through the air to land at his feet. Thinking this to be peculiar he peered out into the darkness over the field, which was wide open with no blind spots or hiding places, but he couldn’t see anyone there nor any movement. As he was looking, another rock reportedly was tossed in his direction from the field. The witness put on night vision equipment but could still see no one there, and infrared turned up no heat signatures either. The night was completely quiet and that field was totally empty. Yet another rock would be lobbed at him as he tried to figure out what was going on, and the whole thing was quite unnerving. The marine would say of the eerie incident:
At this point I’m kinda freaked out. This happened right after my team leader died. So I was freaked out and nothing to rule out what threw rocks at me because no one was there.
Equally as bizarre as any of these accounts of strange intruders is that of another soldier who was operating with a special forces squad in the mountains of Afghanistan with the mission of setting up a hide-to-survey in a village several miles away that was believed to be harboring a Taliban person of interest who the military had been tracking for years. The squad’s main goal at the time was to observe the village for a few days for any suspicious activity or persons, as well as to collect any useful information that could be later used in a raid. To this end they set up a team of six men at the base and two others whose job was to creep in closer to observe from a different vantage point.
Things went well at first, but on the second day the squad began having trouble maintaining radio contact with the observation team and the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). They found that transmissions were plagued by static and sometimes would not go through at all. It was chalked up to the magnetic content of the rocks in the area and the witness and some of the men went out to re-position the Satcom in order to get a better signal. As they were doing this at around dusk, one of the soldiers said he spotted a man wearing a white robe who looked to be flitting and running through the rocks outside of the village. When this was reported the men were immediately suspicious, and the witness would say:
There was something odd about the way he described it, but we were more worried about being compromised. Needless to say, we folded up our sh*t and got ready to move out. We weren’t going to end up in some Lone Survivor type clusterf*ck. We were the f*ck out of there. So at this point it’s late dusk, and we were moving pretty quick. Everyone is on high f*cking alert, we are a small element in a remote area without ready access to any kind of quick reaction force and we had no reliable comms.
The team continued their hasty trek back towards their outpost, and the witness took up the rear, walking backwards and making sure they weren’t being followed or leaving a clear trail, his gun trained on the darkness the whole time. As he did this he spotted a fleeting glimpse of something white moving in the distance, although he could not be sure just what it was or if it was following them. Oddly, he would later report that at the time he had begun to sense the smell of freshly baked bread permeating the air and a sudden onset of a feeling of peace and relaxation, which he sensed was emanating from the direction they had come from. This sensation was so profound that he actually slowed down, and thoughts danced through his head of running over to this comfortable place he felt pulling at him from where they had been. He shook off this daze and reported to the other men what he had seen and that he thought they were possibly being trailed, to which an officer replied that he had seen something white moving as well. The witness would say:
I asked my dudes to keep their eyes open for anything, because I thought I had seen someone trailing us. Our senior scout piped in “That’s strange mom, (I was mom, long story) I thought I saw some dude in white on the ridge in front of us.” At this point all the hairs on my neck are standing up. Everything felt strange. The air felt heavy, and sort of sweet. The silence hummed loudly.
With the night steadily moving in, a sense of urgency, panic, and dread set in and the men picked up the pace, even though they were already exhausted from hauling their heavy packs over the uneasy, rugged terrain. As darkness creeped over the landscape to slowly envelope them in pitch blackness, they put on their NODS (night vision goggles), turning the world into a green haze. The night was incredibly silent, even more than usual, and there was no movement out there in the mountainous moonscape bathed in the green cast of the night vision goggles. But this eerie silence would not last, and this is when things allegedly got very strange indeed. The witness describes it best:
Hallucinations happen. But what happened was beyond comprehension. First, we heard a sound like a huge airplane taking off. A loud low buzz that slowly increased in pitch. We had to yell over comms to hear each other. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing what looked like glowing eyes staring back at me, but once i would center my focus on where I saw them, they would disappear. We were f*cking panicked. Everyone was holding their rifles at the high ready, we were expecting some kind of ambush attack and we started talking out the RP we would meet at if we needed to start a peel and move. Then it all just stopped. Everything got dark. The only thing I could hear was my breath and the blood pumping in my head. We stopped, dug into the side of the mountain, and performed SLLS (Stop look listen Smell) for about 10 minutes. Nothing. Not even bugs. The air and the land were silent.
Baffled, frightened, and overcome with fatigue, the men quickly resumed their trudge through the wilderness back to their camp, very aware that something very possibly malignant and beyond their experience was out there in the dark somewhere. As they scrambled over loose rock and through scrub and brush the witness claims that he suddenly noticed on a parallel hillside the very clear sight of a man dressed in light colored robes, which seemed to be slowly making his way towards their position. Bizarrely, it seemed that that the stranger was just passing through any obstacles he came across as he moved slowly but inexorably closer. The witness would describe the rest of the surreal encounter thus:
He seemed to melt over and around the rocks, it was f*cking unnatural the way he was moving. Through the NODS, his eyes glowed. I scoped up on him, and saw that he was looking directly at me. It was pitch black, there is no way he could have saw us from that distance without any kind of night optics. Suddenly, he stopped. He picked up one of his limbs and held it in the air, almost like he was waving at me. Then the arm melted back into his form, like it wasn’t an arm at all, but some kind of extendable proboscis that was meant to look like an arm from a distance. I was about to ask the guy’s if they could see him, when he suddenly disappeared.
The witness also saw lights flickering in the distance near the town, which he presumed to be the enemy closing in on the area where the booming sound had originated. The team moved on and managed to make it back to their recovery location. They went on to recount their strange experiences and were reportedly told that it was probably all attributable to weariness, panic, and adrenaline. The whole thing was more or less forgotten until a few days later, when the story would take another weird turn. According to the witness:
The reason we did the observation was so we could bring the intel back for a raid that was to be conducted. The raid was ‘successful’, in the sense that finding a deer hit by a car is a successful deer hunt. Apparently, the team that moved into the village found it completely abandoned. They also found several men in the area where I had seen the lights the night we were hauling ass out of there. The corpses had been ripped to shreds, and based on the sheer amount of blood, the general consensus was that there were more men that were killed there than just the bodies that were found. It went in the official records as a successful raid with several enemy KIA’s. Unofficially? No one has any idea what killed them. All I know is whatever it was…it chose. It chose those men and not us.
Whatever that “it” was remains unknown. Another account that most certainly belongs here is one given by a commenter on another article of mine on mysteries in the war in the Middle East. It is an account that seems hard to really categorize, but seeming to deal with ghosts, demons, or some other supernatural beings. The commenter, Jerry Aberdeen, related a truly bizarre experience that happened to him when he was stationed in Mosul, Ninewah Province in 2004, and it is so intriguing and fitting that I felt compelled to share it here. Jerry Aberdeen explains his very weird story thus:
I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.
So far here we have been looking at assorted isolated incidents of the strange and supernatural, but the war in Afghanistan also seems to have certain places that draw in such bizarre tales. One such place is a lonely outpost called Observation Point Rock, also known as simply “The Rock,” which sits exposed around 20 meters (65ft) above the desert and situated near what appears to be a looming, giant rock, but which is actually the ruins of a caved-in, ancient mud fort, complete with arrow slits and the crumpled remains of turrets. Captured from the Taliban in 2008, the isolated outpost typically holds a small contingent of U.S. Marines to keep watch and guard it, and in addition to its reputation as being a harsh, forbidding place full of dust and grit and sporadic rocket attacks by Taliban fighters, it has also gathered about it an even more sinister reputation of being an intensely haunted and cursed one.
Almost as soon as the Marines moved in there were strange stories and dark rumors swirling about the place. It was said that Taliban fighters had been buried alive in the caves below, and that there were numerous bodies of Russian soldiers buried here during the failed Soviet invasion of these lands. One group of Marines digging a trench claimed to have come across a human leg bone, which led to the discovery of another piece of human remains, followed by another and another, including skulls and whole desiccated corpses and skeletons, which were all believed to have possibly been Russian since a stake with Russian writing was found. They would later find out that a contingent of Russian soldiers had been supposedly executed there in the 1980s after being found by the Taliban while using the rock as a hideout. Also among the macabre remains were found shards of ancient pottery long buried within the dry earth with more inscrutable, unknown origins.
With the creepy ambiance and all of the bodies said to be entombed here it was perhaps no surprise that weird reports would start popping up amongst those stationed here in these badlands. Noises with no discernible source, objects moving on their own, strange lights, disembodied cries or screams, the sound of footsteps or crunching gravel even when there was no one there, the sudden onset of heavy feelings of dread … the men serving here were often plagued with various strange phenomena. Electrical equipment was also said to often malfunction here, and that fresh batteries had a habit of going dead within minutes. On some occasions, machine gun fire or incoming rockets could be heard, but nothing was hit and none of the guns had been fired. There were cases of movement seen on the perimeter only to turn up no trespassers on thermal equipment and no footprints. A Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, once said of Observation Point, “The local people say this is a cursed place. You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night,” and another soldier named Lance Corporal Austin Hoyt, 20 has said:
This place really sucks. The Afghans say it’s haunted. Stick a shovel in anywhere and you’ll find bones and bits of pottery. This place should be in National Geographic — in the front there are weird-looking windows for shooting arrows. You know, they say the Russians up here were executed by the Mujahidin.
Strange phenomena were said to have been going on before they had even arrived. The British soldiers who had occupied the base before them also supposedly had experienced such strangeness, and even warned the American troops of what to expect when they got there. They claimed that lights prowled the bleak landscape, that phantoms and shadows moved about in the desert which were only briefly glimpsed by infrared cameras before vanishing, that there were dancing lights that could be observed through night vision goggles, that there were often noises and voices from nowhere, screams or shrieks out in the desert at night, and that to touch any relics or bones found there was to invite great misfortune.
Although the tales of the supernatural surrounding the haunted base are numerous, some stand out as particularly creepy. One Corporal Jacob Lima had a few spooky stories to tell concerning the Observation Point Rock. In one account he claimed that one night he was startled by a chilling scream coming from one of the men. When Lima ran to investigate, he found a Corporal Zolik cowering in fear at his guard post. Zolik claimed that as he had been sitting there, he had felt breath on his ear and heard a clear voice whisper something in Russian. The man was so terrified that he begged Lima to stay with him until his shift was finished. As they waited there together Lima said on several occasions they heard footsteps up on the observation post above them, even though no one else was there. At one point during the night Lima was scanning the area with thermal imaging and allegedly saw what looked like another soldier with “balled fists” standing out in the desert. As he tried to discern whether it was friend or foe, the mysterious figure vanished into thin air right before his eyes. The whole incident was enough to make Zolik desperately requested a transfer out of there. Interestingly, other men also frequently reported hearing disembodied whispers in Russian around the outpost.
On another occasion, Lima was on watch and suddenly heard a dog that was kept there, named Ugly Betty, barking wildly at something. Thinking it could be the enemy, Lima put on his night vision goggles and scanned the night for movement, which turned up what appeared to be a figure in the distance. Not sure what he was seeing, he switched to thermal imaging and tried to find the figure again but it was gone. When he went back to night vision he was able to see the mysterious figure again, which had inexplicably closed a large distance in just moments. A switch back to thermal once again turned up no heat signatures at all, even though Lima was sure that the whatever-it-was was still there. At some point in all of this switching between thermal and night vision, he lost sight of the figure altogether, at which point he claims he felt a heavy tap on his shoulder. When he turned around there was supposedly no one there. Somewhere out in the night, the dog was still barking.
Observation Point Rock is not the only supposedly haunted military outpost in Afghanistan – another notorious one is called Forward Operation Base Salerno. The location of the base already lends itself well to spooky tales, as on its outskirts is an old Afghan graveyard, which is overlooked by two high watchtowers. Indeed, it is these towers that are said to be intensely haunted by what appears to be the spirit of a little girl, said to be sometimes heard or seen wandering around aimlessly either in the towers themselves or in the area around them.
One frightening report concerns two paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment named Painter and Jackson, who one night were on watch duty when they were startled by a blood curdling, shrill laugh emanating from their radio, so high-pitched as to almost cause pain. The laugh was described as sounding like that of a little girl, and Painter would claim that “No grown man in the Army could have made it.” When the unearthly laugh stopped, the two men radioed to others on watch but it turned out that no one else had heard a thing. The very next evening, the two men were on watch duty again in the same place, still rather unnerved by what had happened the night before. As they sat there in the dark, they claim that they heard movement and footsteps in the tower, particularly on the trap door that led to another level, even though they were the only ones there. The room also allegedly suddenly became very cold for no apparent reason.
This was unsettling enough, but then there came a call over the radio from the other watch tower, claiming that they were detecting a small, 3-foot-tall figure wandering around in the dark outside. Creepily, although no details of the strange phantom could be seen, what did appear to be clear was that whatever it was reportedly seemed to be waving at them. Jackson says he went out onto the balcony to investigate but saw nothing but the desolate nighttime landscape and that graveyard out in the murk. A scan of the surroundings with thermal imaging equipment also turned up no heat signatures of any kind. After that, the scared men reluctantly continued the rest of their shift with no further such phenomena. Interestingly, although this incident was indeed frightening, neither of the men felt that the ghost was malevolent, but rather that it seemed to just want to play.
In this case the figure had been small but rather indistinct, yet other stories add more eerie detail. On another occasion that supposedly happened years earlier, two Marines were in one of the watch towers when they looked out and clearly saw through their night vision goggles a young girl walking along in the desert night with a goat, but when they took the goggles off the both the girl and the goat were gone. As soon as they put the goggles back on the girl was back, this time shockingly standing on the watchtower balcony, much to the horror of the guards. The event was so upsetting that these toughened Marines were supposedly reduced to tears and refused to go back to the tower. This is not even an isolated incident, and there have been other sightings of a ghostly little girl out walking abut, either by herself or with a goat, both always undetectable by thermal imaging or night vision.
Adding to ghostly lore of Forward Operating Base Salerno is the account of an Airman who had done two deployments in Afghanistan and had spent much of that time stationed at the base, where he stayed at a compound designated for aviation personnel. One night, he says he was out with another person from his platoon to go visit a friend of theirs who was doing guard duty at one of the towers. The friends spent some time chatting and, by the time they left the guard, it was quite late and the moonless night was pitch black, making it hard to get back to their compound since they did not have night vision goggles with them. They got lost and decided to head back to the guard tower to ask for directions back. As they set out into the night again towards the compound, they claim they heard a rustling and footsteps like someone coming up behind them, but when they looked, no one was there. This would happen several times as they picked up their pace and finally reached their destination. Could this have been the same spectral little girl? The mysteries of this place have yet to be explained, and there have been so many strange, unexplained phenomena at Forward Operating Base Salerno that it has become almost legendary in the region among military personnel.
What lies behind cases like these? Is there anything to them, or is this all the result of a scared mind seeing the world through the cracked sense of stress, horror, fatigue, and hallucination? There are many who say that this is precisely what it is. However, although I can see this being the case with lone, isolated individuals, it becomes harder to explain in these terms when the apparition is seen and experienced by several men at once. Is this possible that it is just a mass hallucination where each one sees exactly the same thing at exactly the same time down to every detail? Is this something that truly happens with mere hallucinations? There is also the fact that they may be lying, which is a possibility, but then again we are dealing with men with more on their mind, like staying alive and combating the enemy, than coming up with fanciful tales for the amusement of it all. Then there is the possibility that something truly strange is really going on, but what that could be remains evasive.
In the end, it certainly seems that war zones can attract just as many strange specters, phantoms, and assorted entities and spooky tales of hauntings as any old derelict house or secluded, darkened forest. In fact, some of the most haunted places in the world are places that have been cast under the shadow of violent battle and strife, whether that is happening now or a dark piece of history from centuries ago. War zones and battlefields consistently draw to themselves such eerie stories, as if they are not only collecting ghosts in the sense of memories of a bloody past, but also literal ones as well. Is it because places so saturated with killing, anguish, and horrific struggle somehow tether the spirits of the dead to them? Does all of this negative energy manifest itself in some bizarre and mysterious fashion beyond our understanding? Is it because the gruesome horrors of war have managed to pervade the landscape and etch themselves onto the very fabric of reality, like light onto film, with events and individuals playing back like a video? We may never know the answers to questions such as these, but one thing that becomes apparent when looking at these accounts is that sometimes those in the field face terrors both human and otherwise, and must come face to face with fear both living and dead.
The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.
The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.
The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.
“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.
In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.
Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”
Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.
Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.
Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.
Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.
This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.
Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.
“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.
Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.
“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.
A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.
“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.
Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.
Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.
Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.
The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.
Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.
Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.
For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.
‘Things aren’t made the way they used to be’ is a sentiment often tossed around when a new car or appliance breaks down. Even with all the new inventions and integrated technology there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an original design. Mountain Home Air Force Base members are learning this lesson firsthand.
Airmen from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron, also known as Gunfighters, are the first in the Air Force to perform hot-pit refueling on F-35 Lightning II’s with a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose cart from the 1970s.
A hot-pit is when a plane lands, refuels then takes off again without turning off the engine, explains Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th LRS fuels operator. The typical refueling procedure consists of landing, turning off the engine and a laundry list of to-do’s.
Traditional refueling takes upwards of 2 hours while the hot-pit gold standard takes 13 minutes, which translates to huge monetary saving.
During hot-pits, Gunfighters initially used eight R-11 refueling trucks that hold 6,000 gallons of fuel each. One R-11 is only capable of refueling two jets and requires a new truck to come out with additional fuel to meet the demands of the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, 366th LRS fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge.
Senior Airman Michael Rogers, 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, and Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operator, performs a hot-pits refueling with a hose cart from the 1970s on an F-35 Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 20, 2019, at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
“This method is not time-efficient, ties up 50 percent of the base’s R-11’s and associated personnel and creates traffic on an active flightline that could pose a safety hazard,” Kiniry said.
His team realized that more moving parts was not the answer, Kiniry said. With a new, simplified approach they found a resourceful solution in using older-generation equipment to better complete the mission.
Now, Gunfighters use a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose carts from the 1970s directly connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing Gunfighters to virtually endlessly refuel F-35s.
“Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds,” Kiniry said.
With this new process, Gunfighters have the capability to run hot-pits 24/7, saving 15 minutes between every other F-35 that was previously needed to set up a new R-11.
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)
“We have eliminated safety concerns from the heavy traffic on the flightline and reallocated eight R-11’s with their associated personnel to perform the rest of the mission outside of hot-pits,” Cooks explained.
Gunfighters are continuing their legacy of excellence and are an example how flexibility is the key to air power.
“Mountain Home Air Force Base is proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment at unheard of turnaround times,” Kiniry said.
“We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep Airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given.”
A few airmen walk into a room, positioning themselves between you and the exit. As the “new guy” in the squadron, you likely know exactly what’s about to happen. You have to outsmart or elude them to avoid getting bound up and immobilized by rolls of duct tape.
Welcome to the tradition of “rolling-up,” or “roll-ups,” a practice that is often viewed as a game or initiation ritual in the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Air Force airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing, change the name on the flagship jet during the 354th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony July 6, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Isaac Johnson)
While there were no complaints or reports made by victims of the hazing, the investigation showed that “roll-ups” — or binding airmen’s hands and feet, and sometimes their entire bodies, with tape — was prevalent in those units, Nissen said in an email.
It “appear[s] to be a known hazing ritual within the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community,” she said.
A TACP airman familiar with the tradition who spoke with Military.com said it’s not all bad, though.
“It has not been the means of humiliating or harming someone; it’s [supposed to be] the opposite,” the airman said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press in an official capacity, he said he’s been in the community for eight years, but could not explain where the tradition came from or how long it has been in practice.
The TACP said he has been rolled up a few times, most often on his birthday by someone calling him into an office for what he thought was a formal meeting or ambushing him in a hallway. He said the point was to try to outwit his fellow airmen, much like a game. The consequence of losing: having his body bound with tape and immobilized, then carried off by airmen to be placed at locations around base for goofy photo ops before being set free.
“When I came into the community, it was just there,” he said, adding, “I’ve been in more than one unit and have had more than one birthday.”
In 2018, the Pentagon released a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members.
The policy reaffirmed that the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.
Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 21, 2014, during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
In line with the Defense Department, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance hazing policy.
“The Air Force does not condone hazing in any form,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said April 3, 2019. “We expect our airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”
The TACP said he agrees with the Defense Department’s policy.
“Hazing is as much about what the particulars of the event were and the creation of a feeling of being hazed,” the TACP said.
It’s why “rolling-up” shouldn’t be standard across the Air Force, even if its original intention was meant to be playful, he said.
“It’s not something we need to continue because it’s not a professionalized practice,” he said. “We should go do … things that are productive and constructive that doesn’t potentially create the hazing issues.”
The TACP explained the concept behind the tradition.
When done right, the goal is never to pose a risk to a fellow airman who will work — and potentially fight — alongside you, he said.
“The intention of this is not to inflict pain,” he said. “Think of it like ‘capture the flag,’ or ‘Can you subdue a combative person without causing them harm?'”
In a sport like rugby, for example, “one minute [there’s contact] but, by the end of the game, you’re hanging out and you’re friends,” he said. “If you’re not laughing while you’re being rolled up, you’re doing it wrong.”
It has also been a way to vent pent-up energy for troops in a high-stress career field, the TACP said.
“When you take a whole group of very aggressive, Type-A people whose purpose is to go do violence unto others, the way you show affection, it gets shifted by the culture — we don’t necessarily go around and give each other hugs, although we do that too,” he said.
He added, “It’s both an outlet [to let] out steam … and for people to bond together” in what has become a “normalized way.”
“Rolling-up” hasn’t only been spotted in the Air Force. Videos and photos on social media that have quickly become memes have shown soldiers duct-taped to their cots, or bound with tape and left outside.
Some of those videos have shown the practice going too far, though, and not only within the special operations community. One source familiar with the tradition told Military.com it has been observed in other Air Force career fields, including nuclear operations and aircraft maintenance.
For example, airmen were shown in a 2005 YouTube video smearing chocolate syrup on a bound airman, then dusting him with powdered sugar before dousing him with a garbage pail of dirty water. The incident apparently happened at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The airman who spoke with Military.com said roll-up events sometimes happen out of sheer boredom while troops are killing time. And it’s easy to cross a line and have things get out of control.
“It’s counterproductive to everything we do: It doesn’t make an airman want to stay in the Air Force, it doesn’t make airmen want to go do their job. It’s beyond the right and wrong of morality, and it’s just bad for the mission,” the TACP said.
He continued, “That’s the problem with the normalization of it. It becomes that [time] could be spent in a much more productive way.”
He suggested developing a new tradition that fosters bonding and supports readiness, rather than one with the earmarks of hazing.
“There needs to be a competitive spirit” for stress to be relieved, the TACP said. “So replace it with [something] that’s tied to a real-world mission.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Russia has been investing heavily in its submarine fleet over the past decade and a half, restocking its fleet with more sophisticated and more capable boats that are more active than at any time since the Cold War.
That activity has worried Western officials, who have particular concern for what those subs might be doing around the undersea cables that link the US, Europe, and countries around the world, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.
Now the US government is targeting that undersea capability by putting sanctions on Russian firms and individuals that work with the country’s powerful FSB, the security and intelligence agency sanctioned in 2016 for interfering in the US election that year.
The US is pursuing “an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a release. “The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB.”
The Treasury said the sanctions were in response to “malign and destabilizing cyber activities,” like 2017’s NotPetya cyberattack and cyber intrusions of the US energy grid, which could allow future attacks.
Among the firms sanctioned on June 11, 2018, was Divetechnoservices, which, since 2007, “has procured a variety of underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, to include the FSB,” the Treasury Department said.
“Further, in 2011, Divetechnoservices was awarded a contract to procure a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million for the FSB,” according to the release.
‘The 21st-century, underwater equivalent’
Undersea espionage is not new. In 1972, specially equipped US submarines tapped a Soviet communications line off Russia’s Pacific coast as part of Operation Ivy Bells, which remained secret until information about it was leaked to the Soviets in the early 1980s.
One of the subs that took part, the now retired USS Parche, is the most decorated ship in the Navy, though most of its missions remain secret. The Navy currently operates the USS Jimmy Carter, an advanced Seawolf-class sub that’s believed to be modified to tap undersea cables.
“Just as the Russians have specialized submarines for this, we do too,” Magnus Nordenman, the director the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in an interview earlier this year, citing the Carter specifically. “And it’s certainly something that we did during the Cold War too.”
(US Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith)
Russia’s navy is smaller in numbers than its Cold War predecessor, but its subs have grown more sophisticated, departing from the previous approach of lots of ships of varying quality. “They are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead,” Nordenman said.
US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s subs forces, said in December 2017, that Russian underwater activity around those cables appeared to be unprecedented and that Moscow “is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”
“Intercepting and disrupting the opponent’s communications has sort of been part of warfare since the beginning of time,” Nordenman said earlier this year. “And this is the 21st-century, underwater equivalent.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.
It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.
The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”
The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.
The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.
“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.
Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.
(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)
The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.
Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.
“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.
“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)
The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.
The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.
In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.
That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.
While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.
But it’s always better to have more places to land.
“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.
US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.
During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.
Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.
“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Lockheed Martin executive hinted at a recent aerospace conference that the SR-72, the hypersonic successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, may already exist, according to Bloomberg.
Jack O’Banion, a vice president at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, made mysterious comments about the ultra-secret project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ annual SciTech Forum.
O’Banion said that new design tools and more powerful computers brought about a “digital transformation” and “without [that] digital transformation, the aircraft you see there could not have been made,” Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman reported, adding that O’Banion then showed a slide of the SR-72.
This digital transformation reportedly gave Lockheed the ability to design a three-dimensional scramjet engine. Scramjet is a kind of ramjet air-breathing jet engine where combustion happens at supersonic speeds.
O’Banion said that five years ago Lockheed “couldn’t have made the engine itself — it would have melted down into slag,” according to Bloomberg.
“But now we can digitally print that engine with an incredibly sophisticated cooling system integral into the material of the engine itself and have that engine survive for multiple firings for routine operation,” O’Banion said.
Jack O’Bannion, VP of Strategy at Skunk Works, is speaking today at SciTech conference. He showed a slide of the SR-72 and said: “Without digital transformation that aircraft you see there could not have been made.” Soooo … does that mean that aircraft was made? pic.twitter.com/dD7ovOG0rg
Lockheed Martin did not respond to any Business Insider’s request for comment, and declined to answer any further questions from Bloomberg. The U.S. Air Force also declined to answer any questions from Business Insider.
Lockheed announced it was developing the SR-72 in 2013, and that the “Son of Blackbird” would hit Mach 6 — over 4,500 mph — and possibly be operational by 2030.
Last year, reports emerged that Lockheed might test an “optionally piloted” flight research vehicle in 2018, and an actual test flight in 2020.
Reporters at Aviation Week also reportedly caught a glimpse last year of a “demonstrator vehicle” that may have been linked to the SR-72.
And, in perhaps a more far-fetched development, an American man named Tyler Gluckner, who runs a popular YouTube channel about aliens and UFOs called secureteam10, recently posted a video of images from GoogleEarth that he surmised looked like a hypersonic craft, reported by The Sun and Mailonline.
The satellite images were taken outside of a Pratt and Whitney building, which is not part of the Lockheed conglomerate.
Coincidentally or not, Boeing also unveiled a conceptual model for a new hypersonic jet that would hit Mach 5 and fulfill the same missions as the SR-71 at the same aerospace conference O’Banion spoke at.
Lockheed and Boeing are two of the largest defense contractors and political donors in the U.S.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) probably wouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to sail off the coast of Yemen. But in the wake of an attack on a Saudi frigate, the Cole is patrolling the waters near the war-torn country where she was attacked by a suicide boat in 2000.
That attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 39 and tore a hole in the hull that measured 40 feet by 60 feet. A 2010 Navy release noted that the Cole took 14 months to repair. That release also noted that the Cole’s return to Norfolk came through the Bab el Mandab, near the location where the Saudi frigate was attacked.
160710-N-CS953-375 The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Cole (DDG 67) maneuver into position behind three Japanese destroyers during a photo exercise. USS Cole is in the center of the photograph. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Cole’s mission is to maintain “freedom of navigation” in the region. In the past, things have gotten rough during the innocuous-sounding “freedom of navigation” missions.
The region has already seen some shots taken at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) on threeoccasions, prompting a retaliatory Tomahawk strike from the destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). The attacks on the Mason, the Saudi frigate, and the former US Navy vessel HSV-2 Swift were blamed on Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels. The attacks on USS Mason used Iranian-made Noor anti-ship missiles, a copy of the Chinese C-802.
More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. USS Cole has deployed off the coast of Yemen, where the ship was attacked in 2000. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Iran has been quite aggressive in recent months, making threats to American aircraft in the Persian Gulf. There have been a number of close encounters between American ships and Iranian speedboats as well. In one case this past August, the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian vessels. Last month, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) also was forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats.
Having completed their missions, some troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are heading back to their home bases, US Northern Command reported Dec. 13, 2018.
The number of troops at the border, which peaked at 5,900 troops from across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, has been decreasing. Around 750 service members serving in Texas and Arizona redeployed to their home bases to prepare for other missions on Dec. 12, 2018. The Department of Defense currently has roughly 4,200 active-duty troops at the southern border.
By state, there are 1,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,000 in Arizona, and 1,500 in California. There are also approximately 2,100 National Guard units deployed to the US-Mexico border. For the active-duty troops, the mission, originally known as Operation Faithful Patriot but later renamed “border support,” was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018, but the Department of Defense agreed to extend the mission to the end of January following a Department of Homeland Security Request.
Army engineers install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, on the Anzalduas International Bridge, Texas.U.S Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure the southern border of the United States.
(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)
The troops that have left the southern border are certain engineering, logistics, and headquarters units, some of which were involved in hardening points of entry and erecting barriers. Since late October 2018, troops have set up 70 miles of wire obstacles and moveable barriers at 22 ports of entry.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Among the remaining troops are military police units, which have completed 10,000 man-hours of unit training — including tactical and riot control training — in recent weeks, while military rotary wing aviators flew more than 740 hours in support of the border mission. These units will continue their service in border areas.
Several thousand troops were sent to the border toward the end of October 2018 to support Customs and Border Protection as large caravans consisting of thousands of Central American migrants marched northward. While the mission initially focused on barrier emplacement, a force protection element has also been incorporated for the active-duty military personnel deployed to the border.
U.S. Soldiers and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, practice non-lethal crowd control drills at the Calexico West Port of Entry in Calexico, California on Nov. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Nyatan Bol)
While there was a clash between migrants and CBP personnel at the San Ysidro port of entry November 2018, there have not been any serious escalations since. Some of the migrants have actually started heading home.
President Donald Trump stated Dec. 11, 2018, that the military could be directed to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but the Pentagon explained the same day that there is no plan at this time for service members to do so.
Many of the president’s critics have accused Trump of using the military for a political stunt. These accusations have been rejected by the Department of Defense and the administration.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Taiwan is facing a new source of pressure from rival China as the communist government increasingly often sends military aircraft to skirt the island, a challenge to the local armed forces.
Planes from China flew near Taiwan in November and December, raising concern last week at the presidential office in Taipei. Over the past two years, Chinese military units have sent planes 10 times just outside the Taiwanese air defense zone, former Taiwan defense minister Andrew Yang estimates.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory that must eventually be unified. Officials in Beijing resent Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for not accepting their “one-China” principle, which would bind the two sides under one flag, as a condition for any talks.
China is conducting the long-range flights in part to warn Taiwan against moving toward formal independence at the risk of a military strike, analysts say.
“They will try to test Taiwan’s government’s will to defend itself,” said Shane Lee, political scientist at Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “They believe that continued threats will really bend Taiwan to its claim.”
The two sides have been separately ruled since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war, but the government in Taipei has never declared official independence. Surveys in Taipei show most Taiwanese oppose unification.
China runs the world’s third most powerful military after the United States and Russia. Taiwan’s armed forces rank 18th, according to the database GlobalFirePower.com.
The flights send a message to multiple countries, scholars say. Some of China’s aircraft fly near outlying Japanese islets and on over the Pacific Ocean.
China wants to prove it can send ships and planes past the “first island chain,” said Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review in Washington.
The U.S. Navy and its allies, all leery of Chinese expansion, have normally dominated the waters east of that chain, which runs from Russia to the Philippines. The chain includes Taiwan.
China said in its official news media it had “fulfilled its long-held dream of breaking through” the island chain after ships passed in 2013 between Japan and Russia.
Exercises near Taiwan
A year ago December and into January, China sent an aircraft carrier, its only one at the time, around Taiwan.
Six Chinese bombers flew through the Miyako Strait north of Taiwan in July. Bombers and other aircraft flew through the strait in November as well as through the Bashi Strait separating Taiwan from the Philippines. On December 11 the Taiwan defense ministry said Chinese fighter planes had made another round through the two straits.
“This year there are many drills and training missions taking place surrounding the Bashi Strait,” said Yang, also secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank.
“We have to watch very closely what kind of tactics or fighting capabilities they have possessed so as to come up with countermeasures,” he said.
China has also shown discontent with the 20-month-old Tsai government by scaling back tourist arrivals to Taiwan, according to travel agencies in Taipei. Analysts and government officials suspect Beijing as well of persuading two countries to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China over the same period.
Taiwan, which sits 160 kilometers from China at its nearest point, has sent its own aircraft to monitor China’s movements and urged people on the island to stay calm.
Yang said the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei is probably now considering how to ensure Chinese aircraft avoid flying into its air defense identification zone. Neither side wants a mishap, he added, while both sides know how to avoid one.
Taiwan is also developing its own naval ships and a trainer jet to keep its military up to date. Its chief foreign arms supplier, the United States, approves only occasional sales, such as a $1.42 billion package announced in June, to avoid angering Beijing too often.
On December 21, Tsai called China’s flights around Taiwan a conflict with regional stability. She ordered an air force command center to step up vigilance.
Taiwan’s armed forces will “just keep silent and then send their airplanes in the sky and send their ships watching,” predicted Liu Yi-jiun, public affairs professor at Fo Guang University in Taiwan. “Then probably we can make the point clear.
Despite President Donald Trump’s national-security advisers’ note reminding him “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory during their call on March 20, 2018, Trump did anyway.
When asked whether Trump thought Putin’s election victory was free and fair during a press briefing that day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred.
“We’re focused on our elections,” she said. “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”
During another press briefing in February 2018, Sanders argued Trump had been “tougher on Russia in the first year than [former President Barack] Obama was in eight years combined.”
This argument has become a frequent line of defense Trump officials have used when pressed about the administration’s complicated relationship with Russia.
Trump, whose response to the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election has been lukewarm at best, is often perceived as being hesitant to confront the Kremlin’s aggression.
But the Trump administration has actually taken some concrete actions against Russia. Here are five examples:
Trump originally signed the sanctions bill — officially called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — August 2017, albeit begrudgingly.
The sanctions bill also imposes a wide range of sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
2. Closing of diplomatic facilities
After Congress approved Russia-related sanctions summer 2017, Russia expelled 755 American diplomats from the country.
In response, the Trump administration ordered Russia to close three of its diplomatic facilities in the US, including its consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, DC and New York City.
3. Arms sale to Ukraine
In December 2017, Trump announced his support for the sale of lethal munitions to the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s Donbas region, a move that angered Russia, which has been engaged in a hybrid war in the region for the past four years.
The State Department officially approved $47 million weapons sale in early March 2018. It included Javelin launchers and anti-tank missiles.
The US, the UK, France, and Germany all blamed Russia for the attack.
Although Trump initially failed to deliver a forceful condemnation of Russia for the attack, other officials in his administration picked up the slack.
“Over the past four years, Russia has engaged in a campaign of coercion and violence, targeting anyone opposed to its attempted annexation,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“We stand behind those courageous individuals who continue to speak out about these abuses and we call on Russia to cease its attempts to quell fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the attack “clearly came from Russia” and US Ambassador to the US Nikki Haley said the US stood in “absolute solidarity” with the UK after the attack.
A full day after the UK blamed Russia, Trump told reporters that “as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” Referring to the UK’s findings, he added, “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
National-security experts were baffled and alarmed by Trump’s delayed reaction to the chemical attack.
Trump then joined a statement with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreeing that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” than that Russia was to blame for the attack.
5. Trump officials repeatedly criticize Moscow
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley have been particularly critical of Russia.
On March 7, 2018, Nauert condemned Russia in a tweet, saying that it ignored a UN ceasefire agreement in Syria by bombing civilians in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta.
Her criticism elicited a direct response from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which told Nauert to “calm down.”
“Your propaganda machine is out of control — you’re spamming all of us,” the MFA added.
In January 2018, Nauert condemned Russia for supporting separatists in the country of Georgia. Trump recently promoted her to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Haley has also been critical of Russia over a variety of issues, including Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.