When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.
Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.
But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.
As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.
Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.
And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.
Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.
Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.
The Vikings used known points
The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.
They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.
Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.
Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.
Let me sing you the song of my people…
The Polynesians used songs
The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.
The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.
With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!
The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude
Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.
Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.
Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.
The Army has doubled the amount of parental leave available to fathers and other secondary caregivers of newborn infants with a policy that also provides more leave flexibility for mothers.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper signed a directive Jan. 23, 2019, that increases parental leave from 10 to 21 days for soldiers who are designated secondary caregivers of infants. The new policy makes the Army’s parental leave comparable to that of other services and in compliance with the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
Mothers will now be granted six weeks of convalescent leave directly after giving birth and can be granted another six weeks of leave as primary caregiver to bond with their infant anytime up to a year after birth.
“We want soldiers and their families to take full advantage of this benefit,” said retired Col. Larry Lock, chief of Compensation and Entitlements, Army G-1. He said parental leave is a readiness issue that ensures mothers have the time they need to get back in shape while it also takes care of families.
A soldier shares a high-five with his daughter.
The new policy is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016 — the date the NDAA legislation was signed for fiscal year 2017.
In other words, soldiers who took only 10 days of paternal leave over the past couple of years can apply to take an additional 11 days of “uncredited” leave as a secondary caregiver.
An alternative would be to reinstate 11 days of annual leave if that time was spent with their infant.
Eligible soldiers need to complete a Department of the Army Form 4187 and submit it to their commanders for consideration regarding the retroactive parental leave.
Fathers can also be designated as primary caregivers and granted six weeks or 42 days of parental leave, according to the new policy. However, only one parent can be designated as primary caregiver, Lock pointed out.
If a mother needs to return to work and cannot take the six weeks of leave to care for an infant, then the father could be designated as primary caregiver, he said. However, if the mother has already taken 12 weeks of maternal leave, that option is not available.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lewis, a motor sergeant assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Battalion, plays with his daughter.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Heather A. Denby)
Until now, mothers could receive up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, which had to be taken immediately following childbirth. Now, only the six weeks of convalescent leave needs to be taken following discharge from the hospital. The second six weeks of primary caregiver leave can be taken anytime up to a year from giving birth, but must be taken in one block.
In the case of retroactive primary caregiver leave, it can be taken up to 18 months from a birth.
This provides soldiers more flexibility, Lock said.
The new directive applies to soldiers on active duty, including those performing Active Guard and Reserve duty as AGRs or full-time National Guard duty for a period in excess of 12 months.
Summing up the new policy, Lock said the Military Parental Leave Program, or MPLP, now offers three separate types of parental leave: maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave, and secondary caregiver leave.
Mothers who decide to be secondary caregivers are eligible for the convalescent leave and the 21 days for a total of up to nine weeks.
Parents who adopt are also eligible for the primary or secondary caregiver leave.
The new policy is explained in Army Directive 2019-05, which is in effect until an updated Army Regulation 600-8-10 is issued.
Bowe Bergdahl was Pfc. Bergdahl when he walked off his post in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was captured by the Taliban. Five years later, however, when the White House exchanged five Taliban detainees for his release, he was Sgt. Bergdahl.
According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries. They must be considered for promotion to the next highest grade when they become eligible.
For enlisted, it is based on time in grade and time in service. The eligibility for officers is based on the date of rank in their current grade.
A notable story is of then-Cmdr. James Stockdale. When he was captured and sent to the Hanoi Hilton, he was the most senior POW and so was the ranking officer among the prisoners there. When Lt. Col. ‘Robbie’ Risner was also captured, he outranked Stockdale by time in grade.
Later, a newly captured naval pilot informed Stockdale of his promotion to captain, he assumed command again.
This continues for prisoners of war but stops for those on missing status when they are presumed dead under Title 37 of the U.S. Code, section 555.
This happened with 1st Lt. John Leslie Ryder. His aircraft, nicknamed “Bird Dog,” went missing during a visual reconnaissance flight during the Vietnam War on June 9, 1970.
During the flight, the crew failed to report in by radio and calls were not answered. The search could not be mounted until the next day. The search continued until the 19th to no avail. A year to the day later, Lt. Ryder was promoted to captain.
Payment is also changed from regular enlistments. Instead of being involved in DFAS, the payment is authorized by Congress and made directly through the Secretary of the Treasury, tax-free. Any earnings, leave and money, are still given to the individual at their appropriate rank and are held until return.
There is also no limit on leave accrual, meaning it is well deserved for the returning service member to take all of the leave at two and-a-half days per month.
At the onset of World War II, writing letters was the preferred communication between soldiers and family members. In fact, oftentimes it was the only form of communication. Phone calls were few and far between, and usually, technology like telegrams were reserved for internal military communication. When it came to talking with loved ones, letters were their bread and butter. On average, each soldier wrote six letters per week — almost one every day — with each one taking up to four weeks to make it to their delivery address. If they were lucky, letters would be delivered in a single week. The process was long, tedious and expensive logistically, but also incredibly reassuring for those on the receiving end.
In June of 1942, the U.S. Government announced a change in the way they delivered mail. Rather than collecting and delivering physical letters, they created Victory Mail. Shortened to V-Mail, it was a technology that took images of letters, then shipped the films — rather than sacks and sacks of paper — then re-printed smaller versions back in the U.S. The service was discontinued on November 1, 1945.
The benefits of V-Mail meant reducing plane cargo space; a film was 1/37th the space and weight of a paper letter. Films recorded up to 40 letters per minute, holding 1,600 on each roll of film. V-Mail letters could also be delivered quickly. As this was considered the number one morale booster to soldiers, there was heavy motivation to make V-Mail a success.
V-Mail thwarted espionage
However, space wasn’t the only benefit to V-Mail, it also helped eliminate traitor and/or spy efforts against the U.S.
It did so in two ways:
First, all letters that went through V-Mail were censored. Sensitive information was deleted or removed from the correspondence altogether. There were folks whose entire job was to read letters and remove anything offensive or sensitive. Therefore, someone — willingly or not — sharing confidential information would have parts of their message redacted, ensuring nothing classified was transmitted.
Second, because V-Mail took images of letters, many spy tactics were made moot, to include invisible ink, microdots and microprinting. The latter two involved very small writings or codes that could only be deciphered by someone who knew what to look for, usually with a magnifying glass. But as V-Mail re-prints were at a quarter of the size of the original, tiny artifacts could not be identified. (It’s also likely that the image qualities were not clear enough to pick up such details.)
Original copies of letters were kept by the receiving Post Office, assigning numbers so that “no V-Mail letter could ever be lost.” However, this meant copies with secret ink, etc. would not be seen by its intended recipient.
Along with the speed of delivery, the ability to fight espionage was marketed as a patriotic way for V-Mail to help the war. In total, more than a billion V-Mail letters were sent until the end of the war in 1945.
Featured image: Left, National Archives; Right, WWII Museum
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Dec. 8, 2018, to announce his nomination of General Mark Milley, 60, as the new chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military position.
“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” wrote Trump.
Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since August 2015.
He reportedly graduated from Princeton before serving as a Green Beret. He would go on to hold leadership roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The selection of Milley breaks the unofficial tradition of rotating chairmen by which service they’re a part of. Milley is replacing Dunford, a Marine, who took the reigns from an Army chairman.
General Joe Dunford.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The announcement comes surprisingly earlier, considering Dunford’s official tenure doesn’t end until October 2019. Trump went on to tweet, “Date of transition to be determined.”
Trump was expected to make the announcement at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy game, reportedly telling White House pool reporters on Dec. 7, 2018, “I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game, I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the first season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, the eponymous character begins as a low-level financial analyst within the CIA. The series is, essentially, one big prequel, connecting to what will ultimately become Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse, a fictional reality that’s the basis for many great films, like The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.
At the series’ start, Ryan is just a lowly desk-jockey, reluctant to embrace danger — he begins the series complaining about being sent into a combat zone. Now, it’s not necessarily a plot hole, but a CIA analyst being reluctant to get into the mix is a lot like a young private complaining that they’re being sent to Afghanistan: It happens so often that they should kind of expect their number to be called.
CIA analysts often provide the Department of Defense with the actionable intelligence they need to conduct their missions. That being said, the life of a CIA analyst isn’t the fun, high-stakes adventure that films often make it out to be. Since information about specific events is rarely released to the public, we often only hear about their missions well after the fact, or in some broad, vague way.
Each analyst is specifically trained in a given field and is sent to a specific region to learn one specific thing. This is fairly well represented in the show — Ryan is sent to Yemen to learn about terrorist spending habits there. Actual analysts would be given more mundane tasks, yes, but their missions would be along those lines.
Even if it’s a tad unrealistic, upping the ante makes for a great show.
Hacking in the real world is more like using software to crack passwords than improvising lines of written code, just to demystify that one, too.
For the most part, analysts often only report local happenings to their higher ups. Sure, a deep-undercover operative sent to Afghanistan in 2000 may have been doing all that secret-squirrel stuff and agents sent to Berlin in the 70s could have been living it up like James Bond — but analysts might be sent anywhere for any reason, like to get a feel of the trends in the Kazakh media.
The whole spy world gets demystified when you realize that it’s actually kinda boring. Take the often-misunderstood CIA cyber analysts, for example. Moments where you can flex your super-hacker muscles like they do in the movies probably exists, but you’re mostly just gathering intelligence via social media analysis.
Don’t get that twisted, though. They’re still going to be involved with the cool moments you see in spy films — just not very often.
Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001.
Then there’re the analysts that get embedded with the troops. On one extreme, they’re working hand-in-hand with the special operations community to collect as much information as possible about any given threat, like on the Abbottabad Compound where Osama Bin Laden hid. Or they could be working with conventional forces to gather whatever the troops learn while deployed.
Everything just comes down to the second word in the CIA’s name — intelligence — and learning what they can from anywhere and everyone.
It’s not often that the Big Army follows the lead of the nation’s smallest fighting force, but the Corps’ recent moves to outfit its infantry grunts with high-technology small arms has gotten the attention of the Army’s top general.
At a recent meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers he was seriously considering outfitting front-line soldiers with a new rifle just adopted by the Corps for all its infantry troops.
In 2010, the Marine Corps shocked the services by providing an alternative to the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun with what was essentially a souped up M4 carbine. The new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle was made by German firearms manufacturer Heckler Koch — dubbed the “HK416” — and featured a better, longer barrel, a gas-piston operating system and an automatic fire capability.
It is a rifle very similar to ones fielded to SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.
The Corps argued that precise fire was more effective at suppression than area fire, so the SAW gunner on some missions carried the new M27 instead of the SAW. Fast forward seven years, and the Corps has decided to outfit all its infantrymen with the Gucci rifle.
Now the Army is taking a hard look at the M27 and its advantages of reliability, accuracy and function as a potential near-term replacement for the M4 — which is gas operated and features a 14.5-inch barrel.
“We’re taking a hard look at that and probably going to go in that direction as well,” Milley told lawmakers. He also added that the service is developing a 7.62 round that can penetrate new body armor manufactured by Russia.
The revelation comes as the Army is set to release a years-long study on whether to replace the 5.56 round with a new one in the face of a growing threat from enemy weapons the fire a Russian-made round that can reach nearly double the range of the current M4 chambered in the 1950s-era caliber.
Sources say the Army is also inching toward issuing an “Urgent Needs” request to field more than 6,000 rifles chambered in the heavier, longer-range 7.62 NATO round for troops deployed to battlefields like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.
Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.
Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.
But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”
President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.
If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.
Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.
With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.
Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”
Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”
As the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program nears its end, the Army is now using lessons from it to establish three similar task forces.
Assigned under U.S. Army Pacific Command in 2017, the pilot has participated in several exercises, including nine major joint training events across the region, to focus on penetrating an enemy environment.
With the 17th Field Artillery Brigade as its core, the task force also has an I2CEWS detachment testing intelligence, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare and space assets that can counter enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities.
“It’s predominately network-focused targeting and it’s echelon in approach,” said Col. Joe Roller, who heads future operations, G35, for I Corps. “So it’s not taking down the entire network, it’s focusing on key nodes within that network to create targets of opportunity and basically punch a hole in the enemy’s threat environment in order to deliver a joint force.”
Run by USARPAC’s I Corps, the pilot has already uncovered ways to improve future formations as it prepares to become a permanent task force itself at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord in September 2020.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Timothy Lynch, commander of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, shakes hands with the battalion commander of Western Army Field Artillery of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.
(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
In 2021, the Army plans to establish a second stand-alone MDTF in Europe that will merge the 41st FA Brigade with an I2CEWS element. The following year, a third task force, which is yet to be determined, will stand up in the Pacific.
One lesson so far from the pilot is for the task force to better incorporate its joint partners. Leaders envision the specialized units to be about 500 personnel, including troops from other services.
“It needs to be a joint enterprise,” Roller said. “The Army will have the majority of seats in the MDTF, but we don’t necessarily have all the subject-matter expertise to combine all of those areas together.”
The Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 in the spring, he noted, highlighted the task force’s need for a common operating picture to create synergistic effects with not only the other services but also allied nations.
“It goes back to communication with our joint partners and our allies,” he said, “and the infrastructure that’s required to create that communications network and shared understanding of the environment that were operating in.”
Last month, the task force also took part in the Orient Shield exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, which recently created its own Cross-Domain Operations Task Force to tackle similar challenges.
For the first time, Orient Shield was linked with Cyber Blitz, an annual experiment hosted by New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst that informs Army leaders how to execute full-spectrum information warfare operations.
The task force’s I2CEWS personnel and their Japanese counterparts were able to conduct operations together in both exercises via networks in Japan and New Jersey.
Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force observe and facilitate reload operations on the U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket System with Soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.
(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
“If there was a culminating event thus far, that was about as high level as we’ve gotten to with real-world execution of cyber, electronic warfare and space operations in coordination with a bilateral exercise,” said Col. Tony Crawford, chief of strategy and innovation for USARPAC.
In an effort to embolden their defense, the Japanese published its cross-domain operations doctrine in 2008, Crawford said. Its defense force is now working with USARPAC in writing a whitepaper on how to combine those ideas with the U.S. Army’s multi-domain operations concept in protecting its country.
“They’ve been thinking about this for a long time as well,” Crawford said.
The Australian Army has also worked with the task force, he added, while the Philippine Army has expressed interest along with the South Korean military.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is making the Army’s MDO efforts its foundational concept as it develops its own joint warfighting concept for the region. Crawford said this comes a few years after its former commander, Adm. Harry Harris, asked the Army to evolve its role so it could sink ships, shoot down satellites and jam communications.
“Moving forward, MDO is kind of the guiding framework that were implementing,” Crawford said.
The colonel credits I Corps for continually educating its sister services of the Army’s MDO concept and how the task force can complement its missions.
U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Judy, commander of Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 17th FA Brigade, examines a field artillery safety diagram alongside members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts. Three similar MDTFs are now being built using lessons from the pilot.
(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
“The level of joint cooperation has grown exponentially over the last two years,” he said. “That’s definitely a good thing here in the Pacific, because it’s not a maritime or air theater, it’s a joint theater.”
But, as with any new unit, there have been growing pains.
Crawford said the biggest challenge is getting the task forces equipped, trained and manned. Plans to build up the units are ahead of schedule after former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley decided to go forward with them earlier this year.
“We’re so accelerated that we’re all trying to catch up now,” he said. “This is literally a new force structure that the Army is creating based upon these emerging concepts.”
The fluid nature of these ideas has also presented difficulties. Roller said they are currently written in pencil as the task force pilot continues to learn from exercises and receives input from its partners.
“It’s taking concepts and continuing to advance them past conceptual into employment,” Roller said, “and then almost writing doctrine as we’re executing.”
While much of the future remains unclear, Roller does expect the task force to participate in another Pacific Pathways rotation after completing its first one this year.
In the long term, he also envisions a more robust training calendar for the task force so its personnel can maintain their certifications and qualifications.
“We’ll have some culminating training events purely MDTF focused,” he said.
At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.
In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.
The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.
The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.
China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.
In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.
Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.
While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.
Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)
In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.
“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.
Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”
If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.
The Doklam Plateau
The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.
While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.
India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.
India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.
But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.
Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.
Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.
Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.
Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)
An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI
China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.
Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.
India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)
A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”
Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.
Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.
India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.
Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.
Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)
Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”
Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.
“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”
Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.
“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”
The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.
“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.
As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”
The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.
Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.
“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.
Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”
“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.
The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.
Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.
Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”
“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.
“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.