While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.
After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.” He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”
The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.
Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.
Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.
As part of the newly passed COVID-19 relief legislation, lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. intelligence agencies and the Defense Department on the potential existence of UFOs and other unidentified aerial phenomena.
The $2.3 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation passed last month includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2021, which provides more resources toward investigation gathering and “strengthening open source intelligence” collection among the agencies, according to a release from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill in June. The Senate passed the legislation in July.
Some of that information includes what the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its counterparts know about unidentified aerial phenomena — also known as “anomalous aerial vehicles.” Lawmakers expect to see a report on the collected UFO data 180 days from the bill’s passage, according to the legislation.
News website Complex was first to report the details. The report will be unclassified, but will include a classified supplement.
Lawmakers are concerned that there is “no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” which is why a sweeping report on all relevant information regarding UAPs is essential, according to the bill’s text.
Lawmakers want information on any UAPs that were found using geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, or measurement and signature intelligence, regardless of which agency or service collected the data, the bill states.
The UFOs don’t have to be out of this world, either. The legislation requires information on any technologies China, Russia, Iran, North Korea or others may possess in this field, including “aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries,” it adds.
In April, the Pentagon officially acknowledged three incidents reported by NavyF/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots after years of speculation that pilots were encountering alien spacecraft during training missions.
The Defense Department that month published videos of the incidents — one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015 — “which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017,” officials said in a statement.
“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military airspace incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said at the time.
The New York Times reported that pilots had sightings — and, in one instance, a near collision — while flying training missions off the East Coast between 2014 and 2015.
Then last August, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist officially created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, a Navy-led unit, to hunt down any pertinent encounters service members may have had with aerial objects that pose a threat to national security.
The U.S. government has looked into UFOs for years, most notably between 2007 and 2012 when the Pentagon began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, an effort championed by then-Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and the Senate majority leader at the time.
The program was meant to “pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Defense Department said, motivated by events such as the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident, which was documented in one of the Navy’s released videos.
In that incident, F/A-18 pilots from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, operating off the San Diego coast, reported spotting a large, Tic Tac-shaped object that appeared to be floating without the assistance of an engine or exhaust plume.
The Trump administration has decided not to send the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into retirement two decades early, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the carrier’s decks April 30, 2019.
“We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” Pence said, The Virginia-Pilot reported. “The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come,” the vice president added.
President Trump asked Pence to deliver the message, he revealed.
The Navy announced in its FY 2020 budget proposal that it had decided to mothball the Truman rather than go through with its planned mid-life refueling. The move was intended to free up funds for the purchase of new systems to give the US Navy an edge against rivals China and Russia, technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed-energy weapons, among other things.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“Great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity, demanding prioritization and hard strategic choices,” the US Navy had explained.
US military leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, have defended the move before skeptical lawmakers in recent weeks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke in favor of the Navy’s decision April 29, 2019.
“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” he said at a security forum in Washington, DC. “We’re trying to move, and that is exactly the decision dynamic with respect to what’s more relevant for the future. Is it going to be the Harry S. Truman and its air wing where there’s a lot of innovation taking place, or is it something else?”
But the Trump administration took a different view after overruled its military leaders.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Shortly after converting to Islam, then-Sgt. Khallid Shabazz struggled to find his way while his devout Lutheran family and fellow soldiers questioned his move.
And with a few Article 15s for insubordination on his record, Shabazz, a field artilleryman at the time, wanted out of the military.
Then, one day while training out in the field, an Army chaplain approached him and struck up a conversation.
“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz said. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”
The Christian chaplain had told Shabazz, who was a teacher before he joined the Army, that he should consider being a Muslim chaplain. That way, the chaplain said, he could help other Muslim soldiers in need of guidance.
Shabazz later became a chaplain, and proudly wore his uniform with the Islamic crescent moon stitched onto it. The career change was a catalyst for him, as he went on to achieve several other goals.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service, which is held on Fridays, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sept. 21, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)
Currently a lieutenant colonel, Shabazz holds two doctorate degrees on top of four master’s degrees. He has written three books and teaches online courses at four colleges. This fall, he plans to teach at a fifth one, the University of Hawaii.
He recently was chosen to study at the National War College, a rare feat for chaplains — only three of them are accepted each year.
And in 2017, Shabazz became the U.S. military’s first Muslim division-level chaplain, a position he held with the 7th Infantry Division.
Now the lead chaplain of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here, he plans to surpass yet another milestone. That’s when he is slated to be promoted to colonel, which will be the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim chaplain.
“It’s phenomenal first, but it’s unbelievable second,” Shabazz said of his pending promotion.
Born as Michael Barnes, Shabazz grew up in a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Once a faithful Lutheran himself, Shabazz often attended church and even graduated from a Christian college.
His religious views changed in the Army when he decided to debate a Muslim soldier on the merits of both religions. He admits he was ill-prepared for the debate and had misinformation about what Muslim people actually believed in.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)
Afterward, he became curious about Islam and began to study the Quran.
“I didn’t want to convert; I was happy where I was,” he said. “I’m a very inquisitive person. If I don’t know something, I’m going to get to know it.”
While Shabazz found more peace and solace by switching faiths, which included the Islamic custom of changing his name, many people in his life stopped talking to him.
His commander at the time, Shabazz said, even asked why he sided with the enemy.
“I was so hurt by those statements,” he said.
He eventually came to realize it was a lack of understanding some people had with Islam, which he was also guilty of until he studied it.
Islam is sometimes distorted by extremist groups, he said, similar to how other religions can be twisted to incite violent acts.
“Whether it’s the Bible, Quran, or the Torah, I want people to understand that religion really has nothing to do with violence,” he said. “99.9 percent of the people in religion are good people.”
As a whole, he said, the Army has improved its inclusiveness of Islamic culture. Religious accommodations allow Muslim soldiers to worship on Fridays and now give female soldiers the option to wear a hijab and males to have a beard.
He also educates leaders and soldiers about Muslim holidays and other traditions.
For those struggling as he once did, he encourages them to pursue knowledge, too. Often, he receives calls from Muslims across the Army asking for help on issues or how to deal with blowback from others in their unit.
“What I ask you to do is, keep doing your job and keep working hard,” he said he tells them. “Go to school at night and stay focused on everything else besides the treatment.
“That’s coming from a person like me who went through that type of turmoil. I was an E-5 and I received some pretty tough treatment back then. I can tell them those stories and I think it helps.”
As a chaplain, he strives to inspire soldiers to be successful, no matter their religious preference. To date, he has helped at least 70 soldiers become officers and many other NCOs gain promotion points by taking college courses.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz speaks during his Change of Stole ceremony inside the Lewis Main Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2017.
“I’m like a chaplain life coach,” he said, laughing. “I’m telling them don’t quit.”
While proud of his faith, he does not want to be known only as the Muslim chaplain — he is one of five currently in the Army. Unless a soldier wants to talk about religion, he will leave those types of discussions at the door.
“I meet soldiers where they’re at. I attack problems,” he said. “My job is not to be your spiritual advisor, your religious guru. I want to help soldiers with school, with their family, their marital problems, and be almost like an arbitrator or a mediator.”
Years before, he had to overcome many of his own issues.
In high school, he failed the 9th and 12th grades. He was not able to graduate with his class and had to go to summer school. His destructive behavior continued throughout his first stint of college, he said.
When he was later able to get a job as a teacher, he made just under ,000 per year.
So, he decided to join the Army as a 23-year-old private to take care of his wife and children.
He also sought discipline and stability, which the Army could provide. As he initially thought it was a good idea to sign up, he admits it was a difficult change.
“I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. Having a 19-year-old sergeant cussing at you and telling you what to do didn’t go over very well with me,” he said, laughing.
Then that chaplain decided to stop and take the time to chat with Shabazz, who had just turned Muslim but still wrestled with his identity.
“I was at my lowest level and the chaplain came by and gave me what I needed at that point,” he said. “I wanted to dedicate my life, and I have, to helping people who are in that position. Not by converting them, but by being a person who can put their arm around them and try to help them get to the other side.”
The US Department of Defense may have wasted nearly $30 million over the past decade on uniforms for the Afghan military that featured a camouflage pattern inappropriate for the country’s desert landscapes, a top government fiscal watchdog said June 21st.
A 17-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says $28 million has already been spent by the Pentagon on the uniforms — and perhaps another $72 million will go toward them in the next decade.
According to the analysis, the Pentagon decided in 2007 on a uniform for the Afghan National Army that included a camouflage pattern that presented two problems: First, it included a forest pattern for a Middle Eastern country dominated by deserts — and second, the US government didn’t own the pattern, meaning it had to pay a private company for its use.
The report said that because the Department of Defense opted to use a private pattern, it cost the Pentagon an additional $26 million to $28 million. What’s more, it added, is that the department could have used one of the many patterns it already owns that’s just as effective — or ineffective — as the woodland camouflage pattern.
“Our analysis found that DOD’s decision to procure ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern was not based on an evaluation of its appropriateness for the Afghan environment,” the report states.
“Our analysis found that changing the ANA uniform to a non-proprietary camouflage pattern based on the US Army’s Battle Dress Uniform … could save U.S. taxpayers between $68.61 million and $71.21 million over the next 10 years,” it added.
Because the US military continues to use the proprietary design, SIGAR recommended in the report that the Pentagon conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether there is a more cost-effective alternative in outfitting Afghan troops.
SIGAR, a congressionally ordered watchdog group that monitors US financial activities in Afghanistan reconstruction, said it shared its report with the Pentagon and department officials expressed “general agreement” with contents in the report.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the SIGAR report as of June 21st.
At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.
“Send the droid,” one of them says.
Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.
Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.
The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.
During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.
Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.
Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.
See if Domino’s can beat that!
Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.
SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.
The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.
Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.
The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.
Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”
The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.
The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.
For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.
Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)
By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.
Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.
In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.
See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.
These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.
(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)
But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.
In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.
A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.
Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.
But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.
But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.
Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.
Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.
In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.
So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.
So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.
Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?
Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.
One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.
But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:
A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.
The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.
The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.
The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.
Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)
At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.
While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.
A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every tidal wave starts with a single swell. There is a momentum building in the military community right now that feels like our hurricane moment is finally upon us — all in the name of getting our interpreter allies out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since 2001, we’ve promised our interpreters a safe haven in exchange for their help. We swore to them that if they translated our words into their native tongues, if they showed up for us — knowing they were putting themselves and their families in harm’s way — we would protect them from the warfare and the violence ravaging their homes. We told them four words that mattered on the battlefield: No One Left Behind.
For years, we left them behind. But now, there’s hope.
The non-profit organization, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND, is buying tickets for SIV holders to leave Afghanistan as well as offering financial support for interpreters and their families here at home. Army veteran James Miervaldis has been leading this charge.
“It’s part of our warrior ethos,” Miervaldis said. “We secured the funding to give anyone who qualifies for an SIV the option of flying to the U.S. commercially.”
For years, our bureaucracy has created insurmountable barriers to the Special Immigrant Visa these interpreters need to find their escape. Over 10,000 are still waiting for approval in a process that has significantly slowed in the past few years. With violence against civilians and targeted killings increasing in Afghanistan, and with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looming in the near future, many SIV applicants worry their visas will come too late, if at all.
Just this week President Biden announced Operation Allies Refuge, a coordinated effort to move interpreters out of Afghanistan. However, as many of us know, it takes valuable time to coordinate such a massive effort and that’s where the team at No One Left Behind comes in.
“Operation Allies refuge is a great and long needed effort,” Miervaldis told WATM. “But this will take time and we are ready to support SIV holders with a flight, right now.”
As part of “Operation Allies Refuge,” by the end of the month the U.S. is expected to begin relocation flights for eligible Afghan nationals and their families who are currently within the Special Immigrant Visa program, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing yesterday at the Pentagon.
Kirby said the Defense Department has not been asked, as of now, to provide military flights to support that relocation effort. Instead, he said, the department is involved in identifying potential relocation options for those Afghan nationals.
“The department’s role in Operation Allies Refuge will continue to be one of providing options and support to the interagency effort that’s being led by the State Department,” Kirby said. “To date, we have identified overseas locations and we’re still examining possibilities for overseas locations, to include some departmental installations that would be capable of supporting planned relocation efforts with appropriate temporary residences and associated support infrastructure.”
While Kirby didn’t name specific locations, he did say “all options” are being looked at, to include locations overseas and within the U.S.
“All options are being considered and that would include the potential for short-term use of CONUS-based U.S. installations,” he said. “We’re trying to provide as many options to the State Department-led effort as we can.”
As of now, he said, no final decisions have been made.
Kirby also said the department has stood up an internal action group that will, in part, work with the State Department to help better identify which Afghan nationals might be considered for relocation under the special immigrant visa program.
“We will do what we can to help the State Department in terms of the identification of those who should be validly considered as part of the SIV process,” Kirby said. “The department remains eager and committed to doing all that we can to support collective government efforts — U.S. government efforts — to help those who have helped us for so long.”
The Nigerian military has been fighting the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram since 2009. Now, Nigeria is getting some new firepower to deal with the group made infamous by kidnapping over 200 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.
According to the BBC, Boko Haram, which calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” and is also known as the “Islamic State in West Africa,” has conducted a lengthy campaign against the government of Nigeria. The group has suffered some recent reverses in the wake of the 2014 mass kidnapping, which drew international outrage. The United States has been involved in the campaign against Boko Haram, sending Special Forces to assist countries in the region.
To date, the JF-17’s primary user has been the Pakistani Air Force, which sought to replace a mix of French-built Mirages, Nanchang A-5 attack planes, and Chengdu J-7s. The plane was co-developed by Chengdu and the Pakistanis. Myanmar has also reportedly agreed to acquire the plane to bolster their existing force of 31 MiG-29 Fulcrums. They also have a total of 46 older jets, including A-5s, F-6s, and F-7s, according to FlightGlobal.com.
The JF17 is a good fit for the Nigerian Air Force. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons from both China and Western countries. This will allow Nigeria to use its current stocks of weapons to try and finish off Boko Haram.
A new sniper rifle that can change between three calibers at the twist of a barrel.
These are just a few of the new technologies America’s top special operators are looking for to help them go after the bad guys of the future.
According to an announcement released last month, the Joint Special Operations Command — the folks in charge of so-called “Tier 1” commandos, including SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force — is asking industry for help developing several new weapons technologies to help them do their job in a variety of battlefields.
First off, the JSOC operators are looking for a machine gun chambered in a “medium caliber” — usually considered anywhere between a 30-06 and 5.56 — that can reach out accurately to 2,000 yards. That’s slightly more than the maximum effective range of the new lightweight M240L that’s chambered in 7.62mm. The special operators want the machine gun to weigh 24 pounds or less — the M240L has a spec weight of 22.3 pounds.
But sources say what SOCOM is really leaning toward is a machine gun chambered in .338 — “it’s all the rage,” our source said.
It’s no secret that special operations troops put a lot of stock in silence and stealth. From advanced night vision to secret helicopters that cut down on rotor noise and radar signature, the Tier 1 commandos are always looking for ways to creep in and out of a target while most are unawares.
So that’s why JSOC is throwing out a request to industry for ideas on a so-called “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.” Essentially what the spec ops troops are looking for is a rifle upper that fits on current M4-style standard lower receivers that is designed to operate in full-time suppressed mode.
Most of today’s special operators use detachable suppressors that mount on the flash hider or muzzle brake at the end of the rifle’s barrel. But what JSOC wants is a specially-designed upper that has that suppressor built into it. Advocates argue a dedicated suppressed upper would help make the rifle perform better and run cleaner.
But SOCOM had to cancel an earlier request for proposals on the SURG due to unrealistic requirements, sources say, and that’s why JSOC is asking industry to see what it’s got.
The primary problem with the earlier request, insiders say, was how to deal with the heat a suppressor generates during high rates of fire. It was so bad, some say, that it could damage sensitive electronic sights and laser pointers mounted to the rifle’s handguard.
The special operators are “seeking a next-generation, modular upper receiver group that is interoperable with current lower receivers and is optimized for full time suppressed operation,” SOCOM says “[It] must have advanced heat mitigation technology to counter mirage effect.”
The new JSOC specs “are more realistic and not from a video game,” one source told WATM.
Lastly, JSOC has tweaked its request for a so-called Advanced Precision Sniper Rifle. While the ASR request has been out there for a while, SOCOM has changed the chambering options for the rifle.
Now the command wants a rifle that can change from a .308 caliber precision rifle to one in .300 Norma Magnum or .338 Norma Magnum. That’s a change from previous requests for .308, .300 WinMag and .338 Lapua Magnum.
A former special operations sniper instructor tells WATM that the Norma Magnum round feeds better from a magazine than its Lapua counterpart, and the .300 NM has a better ballistic performance than .338 LM.
Program officials with SOCOM are inviting industry to submit their ideas in person during an industry day in Florida in early November.
It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.
“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”
To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.
Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.
“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.
“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”
Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.
With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.
“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”