MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.


The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.

Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.

But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.

There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.

But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.

The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.

Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.

upload.wikimedia.org

The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”

Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.

Later suits building on Feres limited soldiers’ rights even more – barring claims by a soldier allegedly raped by her drill sergeant and by members of the military harmed by their exposure to nuclear testing and the defoliant chemical Agent Orange.

Questionable doctrine survives

All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.

This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.

The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.

The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”

In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.

Green Beret goes to Congress

Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.

After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.

But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.

So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.

A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

Cup only half-full

The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.

And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.

While Rep. Speier still thinks that military claimants “deserve their day in federal court,” this would not be the first time a legislature provided a remedy for personal injury through an administrative process outside the courts. Workers’ compensation and the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund are examples of the use of administrative processes to determine compensation for injury.

Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.

Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fake soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie got the boot from Berlin

The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.


The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.

One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.

The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.

(Blake Stilwell)

Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.

Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new UK defense secretary wants to kill every Brit who fights for terrorists

Britain’s new Defence Secretary has unequivocally threatened to kill Britons who leave the country to fight for ISIS.


Gavin Williamson told the Daily Mail on December 6th:

“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country. […]

“Quite simply my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

Williamson added that British fighters who flee the UK for other countries would be hunted down and prevented from returning home or finding havens in other countries.

Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)

He said: “Make sure there is no safe space for them, that they can’t go to other countries preaching their hate, preaching their cult of death.”

This could mean seizing their passports if they try to cross international borders, the Daily Mail said.

Williamson’s threat was harsher than that of his predecessor, Michael Fallon, who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations last month.

In October, Fallon said British nationals who have chosen to fight for ISIS in Iraq or Syria have made themselves “a legitimate target” and “run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile,” according to The Telegraph.

Also Read: How the SAS has deployed to London’s streets to stop another terrorist attack

Williamson’s Wednesday remarks echoed those of Rory Stewart, an international development minister, who said last month: “The only way of dealing with them [foreign fighters] will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”

Meanwhile, Max Hill QC, the UK’s official anti-terror watchdog, has said that teenagers who joined ISIS “out of a sense of naivety” should be reintegrated into British society so as to avoid “losing a generation.”

At least 800 Britons have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS, according to the BBC. Sally Jones, a British woman who fled to join ISIS, was reportedly killed in a drone strike last month.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want to arm the Osprey for assault missions

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely “forward firing” weapons.

“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement — we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement.


Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.

“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.

All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.

“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.

The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.

Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.

(BAE Systems)

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.

Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.

For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.

New Osprey Intelligence System – Sustainment to 2060

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Burns said.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.

Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.

As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability (DI). This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.

“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.

Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.

(Marine Corps Photo By: Pfc. Alvin Pujols)

Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems, and targeting technologies.

Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.

While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.

Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.

The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.

At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope and operational tempo.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

Russian undersea naval activity in the North Atlantic has reached new levels, and NATO is worried that the undersea cables connecting North America and Europe and the rest of the world are being targeted.


“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces, told The Washington Post. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

Moscow’s subs appear to be interested in the privately owned lines that stretch across the seabed, carrying insulated fiber-optic cables. The cables are strewn across the world’s oceans and seas, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.

A Russian Sierra-class attack submarine. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

Blocking the flow of information through them could scramble the internet, while tapping into them could give eavesdroppers a valuable picture of the data flowing within. The cables are fragile and have been damaged in the past by ships’ anchors, though usually in areas where repairs are relatively easy.

Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, the UK’s defense chief, has also sounded alarm about Russia’s apparent focus on the undersea cables. “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he said earlier this month.

Lennon’s and Peach’s warnings are only the latest about Russian undersea activity in the vicinity of important underwater infrastructure.

The New York Times reported in late 2015 that increased Russian naval activity near the lines led US military officials to fear Moscow planned to attack the cables in the event of conflict. US officials said they had seen elevated Russian operations along the cables’ routes in the North Sea and Northeast Asia and even along US shores.

Many undersea cables are in familiar places, but others, commissioned by the US for military purposes, are in secret locations. US officials said in 2015 that increased Russia undersea activity could have been efforts to locate those cables.

There was no sign at that time that any cables had been cut, and Lennon declined to tell The Post if the defense bloc believed Russia has touched any of the undersea lines.

But elevated Russian undersea activity comes as NATO members and other countries in Europe grow more concerned about what they see as assertive Russian activity on the ground, in the air, and at sea around the continent.

Russian planes have had numerous near-misses with their NATO counterparts over the Baltics in recent months, and Russia’s massive Zapad 2017 military exercises in Russia and Belarus during September had NATO on edge.

A force multiplier

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

Moscow has also pursued naval expansion, with a focus on undersea capabilities. A modernization program announced in 2011 directed more money toward submarines, producing quieter, more lethal designs. Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014, according to The Post.

Among them was the Krasnodar, which Russian officials boasted could avoid the West’s most sophisticated radars. US and NATO ships tracked the Krasnodar intently this summer, as it traveled from Russia to the Black Sea, stopping along the way to fire missiles into Syria. More advanced subs are reportedly in production.

Subs are seen by Moscow as a force multiplier, as rivals would need to dedicate considerable resources to tracking just one submarine.

Subs are also able to operate without being seen, to carry out retaliatory strikes, and to threaten resupply routes, allowing them to have an outsize impact.

Russia now fields 60 full-size subs, while the US has 66, according to The Post.

Adding to Russia’s subsurface fleet are deep-sea research vessels, including a converted ballistic missile sub that can launch smaller submarines.

“We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they’re transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor,” Lennon told The Post.

 

Russian officials have also touted their fleet’s increased operations.

In March 2017, Adm. Vladimir Korolev, commander of the Russian navy, said the Russian navy in 2016 “reached the same level as before the post-Soviet period, in terms of running hours.”

“This is more than 3,000 days at sea for the Russian submarine fleet,” Korolev added. “This is an excellent sign.”

‘Those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats’

Western countries have also pursued their own buildup in response.

While US plans call for curtailing production of Virginia-class attack subs when Columbia-class missile subs begin production in the early 2020s, a recent study found that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-class subs and one Columbia-class sub a year — averting what Navy officials have described as an expected submarine shortfall in the mid-2020s and keeping the fleet ahead of near-peer rivals like Russia and China.

The US is looking to sensors, sonar, weapons control, quieting technologies, undersea drones, and communications systems to help its subs maintain their edge. (Government auditors have said the Columbia-class subs will need more testing and development to avoid delays and cost overruns down the line, however.)

Elsewhere in NATO, Norway and Germany — the latter of which does not currently have any operational subs — recently agreed on a deal to build two submarines for each country.

The response extends to tactics as well. US and NATO personnel have dedicated more time to anti-submarine-warfare training and operations. Transponder data shows that the US Navy has in recent months flown numerous sorties over areas where Russian subs operate, according to The Post.

Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, told The Wall Street Journal this fall.

As the number of sub-hunting ships that can patrol the North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean has fallen since the Cold War, NATO members are working to deploy more air and sea assets. This summer, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey signed a letterof intent to start development of new submarine-detecting aircraft.

The number of frigates — typically used for anti-submarine warfare — in use by NATO allies has fallen from about 100 in the early 1990s to about 50 today, prompting the US to rush to field more in the coming years.

Attention has also returned to the North Atlantic choke point between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK. The GIUK Gap was a crucial element of Cold War naval defenses, and US anti-submarine planes were based in Iceland for decades before leaving in 2006.

Also Read: This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

The US Navy has been upgrading hangers in Iceland to accommodate new P-8A Poseidon aircraft, however, and the Pentagon has said the US and Iceland have agreed to increase rotations of the US surveillance planes there next year.

As the Russian navy seeks to reverse the contraction it experienced after the Cold War, NATO too is looking to expand its commands after shrinking in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

A recent NATO internal report found that the alliance’s rapid-response abilities had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War” and recommended setting up two new commands to streamline supply efforts.

One, based on the continent, would oversee the movement of personnel and material in Europe, and the other, potentially based in the US, would oversee transatlantic resupply efforts and the defense of sea lanes.

“If you want to transport a lot of stuff, you have to do that by ship,” Lennon, NATO’s submarine commander, told The Journal this fall. “And those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats.”

A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Plans for the new commands were approved in early November. More details are expected in February, though current plans include embedding the NATO North Atlantic command with US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We are a transatlantic alliance, and we must therefore be in a position to transport troops and equipment over the Atlantic,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “For that we need secure and open seaways.”

Articles

US commander sees major progress with Iraqi army after Mosul fight

Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.


Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.

In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.

The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.

Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.

ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.

Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.

Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.

“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.

Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.

That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.

A member of the Iraqi federal police stands guard on a street during operations to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. The breadth and diversity of partners supporting the Coalition demonstrate the global and unified nature of the endeavor to defeat ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.

Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.

“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.

ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Navy testbed is a very fast – and “sharp” – ship

Believe it or not, the United States Navy has a very fast testbed vessel — one that not only looks futuristic, but is also being used to test all sorts of futuristic technology. That vessel is known as the Stiletto, and while it looks like something out of science fiction, it’s actually 13 years old.

Sailors assigned to Naval Special Clearance Team One (NSCT-1), prepare to dock in the well deck aboard experimental ship, Stiletto.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)

When you look at the Stiletto, your first impression, based on its shape, is that it’s some sort of stealthy vessel. That’s a common misconception. During a tour at the Navy League’s SeaAirSpace 2018 expo in National Harbor, Maryland, members of the Stiletto program explained that the ship’s radar cross section is about what you’d expect for a ship of its size.


The Stiletto’s hull is made from carbon-fiber composites.

(Harold Hutchison)

The ship looks as it does because it has a carbon-fiber hull. The material is incredibly light — I had the opportunity to handle a roughly softball-sized chunk of the material and can tell you first-hand. While the exterior is durable (the ship has handled seas rough enough to make lab-acclimated scientists queasy), it’s also vulnerable to being punctured.

SEALs prepare to enter the Stiletto. The vessel is small, but can accommodate the SEALs’ vessel inside.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)

According to an official handout, the Stiletto has a top speed of 47 knots. However, during builders’ trials, the crew reported hitting a speed of 54 knots. Normally, the ship cruises along at a comfortable 30 knots and can go 750 nautical miles on one tank of fuel.

In addition to being able to carry a RHIB, the Stiletto can also launch drones.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)

But the Stiletto also has ample space – it easily accommodated a rigid-hull inflatable boat that was over 30 feet in length, and there was still plenty of space left over for other gear. The crew explained that adding new systems to the adaptable ship takes a few hours or a day at most.

The wide array of sensors on the Stiletto show how easy it is to add something new to try out.

(Harold Hutchison)

One thing that was skimpy on the Stiletto, however, was the galley, which consisted of a microwave oven and stack of paper plates. The ship of the future, it seems, didn’t quite have everything.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany’s newest warships are total duds

The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.

In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.


Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.

The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.

Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.

The Baden-Wu00fcrttemberg, lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.

In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.

During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.

For starters, the new ships are drastically overweight.

The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.

The Baden-Wurttemberg, the lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.

Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.

To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.

In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.

There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.

And you thought the LCS was bad…

Articles

Army Sergeant wins gold at Rio Paralympics

U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps


U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.

She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.

Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.

She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.

Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.

In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.

Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.

Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 15

It’s been only seven days since our last meme call, and…where do we even begin?


Army beats Navy. Trans troops get the green light. We have a new NDAA for 2018 — no one cares about any of that. The real Star Wars Day is today.

Celebrate with memes. These memes.

1. He can’t name drop PJs and JTACs like the rest of the Air Force does when Marines make fun.

Let’s be honest, he looks Air Force.

2. But suffering leads to a lobbying job. (via Coast Guard Memes)

This is how icebreakers get made.

3. “Look at how shiny those floors are.”

Also, how do you pee in that armor?

4. I didn’t know Meth came from fabric softener.

Ewoks should use Snuggle on their fur instead of drinking it.

5. New Yorkers aren’t like the rest of us.

Terrorism fail.

6. Basic training is the hydroelectric dam.

Who needs fusion when you have every day life?

7. “Things you’ll never actually say to an E-7” for $100.

There’s a reason dude got choked out.

8. It’s not the worst grouping. (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said)

But you’d still be dead. Or unqualified.

9. No passes in the Army-Navy Game, just like in real life. (via Decelerate Your Life)

To be fair it’s usually the Coast Guard chasing little white lines.

10. I was more of a Han Solo fan until this.

Majestic reveal.

11. Your girl knows.

You know he has one.

12. It doesn’t show the NCO school on Dagobah.

Life is pain.

13. Who’s in the Christmas spirit?

popular

7 terrifying enemy weapons that probably suck

There are so many terrifying weapons that have come out in the last few years or are going through testing now that make it seem like the next war, no matter where it happens, will see friendly troops fighting a “War of the Worlds”-type conflict against unstoppable foes.

But many of these new weapons are either over-hyped, impossible to make work, or prohibitively expensive. In no particular order, here are seven of them you can probably stop worrying so much about:


Russia’s new Burevestnik will be the scariest doomsday weapon in the world if it can ever fly more than 22 miles.

(Military Aviation)

That new nuclear-powered missile

The Burevestnik is Russia’s splashy, new, nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed missile announced in a March press conference. In theory, this weapon would spew nuclear waste over a large area as it swiftly maneuvers past enemy air defenses and levels an unknown enemy capital (that’s obviously Washington, D.C.).

For all of you kept awake by night terrors, feel free to suck down some NyQuil and enjoy the dreams, because that missile barely works. And by barely, we mean that its “unlimited range” is actually 22 miles, otherwise known as 878 miles less than a U.S. astronaut will drive in a diaper to win a love triangle. ‘MURICA!

China’s Shenyang J-31 fighter will murder all the things.

China’s stealth jets, J-31 and J-20

The J-31 and J-20 would challenge the F-35 and F-22 for control of the skies, downing American fuel tankers at will and beating back flights of fifth-generation fighters too dumb to realize they were outmatched. Unfortunately, Chinese designers can’t get the engines, as well as some other details, right.

So, while the newest J-fighters are still a threat (fuel tankers will be vulnerable when the planes carry their longest range air-to-air missiles), American fighters will still hold a firm edge against them in nearly all conditions, especially knife fights and stealth battles where the Chinese fighters’ weak engines will make them have to choose between stealth and speed. Meanwhile, the American fighters can enjoy both at once, especially the F-22.

The tank can kill you without even breaking stealth. Or something.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

T-14 Armata tank

It’s the tank that will savagely murder every Abrams tank it faces using its autoloader and massive cannon while shrugging off enemy rounds and missiles with no problem thanks to advanced protection systems that shoot missiles down! That’d be real scary if it weren’t for the fact that it probably doesn’t work — and it costs too much for Russia to buy even if they knew how to fix it. At present, this is a tank that’s already 7 years overdue.

It looks like Russia might be throwing in the towel on ever deploying this boondoggle. The Russian Ministry of Defense allotted 7 million for upgrading existing vehicles and canceled the destruction of 6,000 current vehicles, almost as if they think they’ll need the current generation for a long time.

The Russian Bumerang can swim up behind you kill you, and then use your body as a raft.

(Photo by Boevaya mashina)

Russian Bumerang and Kurganets-25

Russia’s newest armored vehicles, designed to complement the T-14 Armata as Russian armored columns sweep through NATO formations like Han Solo flying through the Death Star (which, for the non-Star Wars fans, didn’t end well for the Death Star). And the Bumerang can do it while swimming.

But the Bumerang and Kurganets-25 rely on some of the same protection systems that don’t work on the T-14, and its offensive systems aren’t much better. The vehicles are supposed to be capable of remote operation, but that hasn’t worked well with their “tankettes” in Syria. And this only matters if the Russian Federation can buy them, but Russia’s economic problems are threatening all of their military upgrades.

China’s J-15 carrier-launched jet is a literal flying shark and Decepticon. It’s both of them.

(Photo by Garudtejas7)

China’s carrier jet, the J-15

The J-15 is only six years old would launch from carriers to enforce China’s will on any nation or region of the Pacific that dared stand up for freedom and justice. Too bad it’s too heavy for carrier operations, has flawed mechanics that keep failing, and is already being shelved for the J-31 (which, as noted above, has its own problems).

The J-15 has to take off from the ski ramps on China’s current and planned carriers, meaning it has a lower maximum takeoff weight than U.S. jets enjoying steam and electromagnetic catapults. This is an even bigger problem since its empty weight is nearly 3,000 pounds heavier than an F-18’s. Plus, the plane doesn’t work, suffering at least four crashes and multiple mechanical failures despite being relatively new airframes.

Watch out! It’s right behind you!!

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)

Su-57 Fighter jet

The Su-57 fighter jet is equal to the F-22, better than the F-35, and can carry cruise missiles, allowing it to fly up to the American seaboard, launch strikes against U.S. cities, and then down the late-arriving jets sent up to intercept it.

It’s so good, in fact, that Russia is not buying it. Yeah, that’s the weird reason a Russian deputy defense minister gave for not sending the jet into mass production. It was so good and everyone knew that Russia could buy it, so they shouldn’t buy it. So, if there is a shooting war, there won’t be very many Su-57s to fight.

Those that do show up might not actually pose a grave threat. Why? Because it’s not that good. India had paid massive development costs for a Su-57 variant but then went shopping for American jets when the Su-57 repeatedly failed to live up to its promises, especially in the power and stealth departments.

Russia’s super carrier

For those who haven’t heard, Russia is planning a supercarrier that is for-real going to happen and it’ll be the best carrier. Ever. But, if completed according to the little information released, it’ll be a little bigger than a Nimitz-class carrier and have similar capabilities.

So, still smaller and weaker than a Ford-class. Also, last time Russia attempted a supercarrier (or any carrier for that matter), they had barely laid the keel before their government collapsed and they took years to sell the thing off for scrap. Also, the guys who worked on that carrier and might have any idea how to build a new one are mostly retired and — this is even more important — Ukrainian.

Many Ukrainians haven’t been big fans of Russia for a few years. Something about “the Crime and Peninsula” and “the Dumbass Region” or something? Add to that all of Russia’s already-discussed budget issues and the fact that the carrier would cost 20 percent of the Russian military budget to build…

So, yeah, the carrier will either be imaginary or ridiculously underfunded. (Additional note: Their only current carrier needs a tug escort in case it breaks down and is filled with sewage and closed bathrooms.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine’s rap is just as epic and mysterious as his identity

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for any information on the underground music scene, you may have come across a Marine rapper that wears a gas mask to conceal his identity.


June Marx, a Brooklyn native, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I was a sophomore in high school when 9/11 happened,” June Marx states. “I just remember how chaotic that day was, but through all the confusion I knew one thing that day, I wanted to fight.”

Related: This Marine’s powerful music earned him an epic record deal

June deployed to Fallujah during OIF as Field Radio Operator and earned several awards during his time in service. He even credits the Marine Corps for giving him the needed discipline to continually write his rap lyrics drawing them from personal experience.

Afterward, he became a CBRN instructor and trained hundreds of Marines before they deployed to their combat zones.

June Marx keeps his dress blues and medals in his personal studio for lyrical motivation (Source: Writeous Optics)

In 2012, Marx received an Honorable discharge from the Marine Corps then spearheaded himself to focus on his true calling — a music career.

June wears the gas mask as part of his image and believes the modern music industry is too “toxic” and there aren’t enough artists with “substance” being promoted.

His unique writing discipline has attributed him to record nearly 20 albums via his record label Torchbearer Records — quickly growing audience fan base.

June Marx on the Heavy Artillery Tour signing posters his loyal fans. (Source: Writeous Optics)

He is best known for his “Modern Warfare” lyrical style and vivid wordplay. June is currently the lead of two music groups: Heavy Artillery and Cobra Unit.

After his album titled “Veterans Day” was released in 2015, Marx patriotically donated the proceeds to the VA Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

For other authentic June Marx content check the following links: Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora.

Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Check out June Marx’s video below to his unique look and hear his motivating sound for yourself.

June Marx, YouTube
popular

Watch these glorious videos of terrorist drug labs being destroyed

There are certain things that just put a smile on every veteran’s face. The first smell of a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, a child saying their first swear word, dogs jumping on their owners after they return from a deployment, and, of course, watching terrorist pieces of sh*t get blown to hell by precision-guided munitions. It’s the little things in life.


One of the key revenue streams of the Taliban comes from cultivating, manufacturing, and smuggling drugs. Nearly 90% of the heroin in the world comes from Afghanistan and 98% of that heroin comes from Taliban-controlled regions, which accounts for up to 60% of the Taliban’s half-a-billion dollar annual income. Not only do these labs directly fund terrorism, but the cultivation of the opium poppy fields outside them are often done using child and slave labor.

Destroying these labs and burning the fields is key to stopping terrorists in Afghanistan, which is exactly what Afghan National Police and the U.S. military have been up to in Afghanistan lately, employing 2 tons of laser-guided freedom at a time.

On Dec. 30, 2017, 24 precision-guided munitions were dropped on a Taliban drug lab and fighting position — setting a new record for munitions dropped from a B-52.

Since November, the ANDSF and U.S. forces in Afghanistan have destroyed more than 35 narcotics facilities, removing more than $30 million in direct revenue from the Taliban.
The average JDAM costs around $25,000. Each lab can generate over $1M every few months.
One of the primary reasons ISIS moved into Afghanistan was to gain control of the Taliban’s drug cartel. Thankfully, there’s more than enough ‘Murica to go around!
Everybody loves the A-10 Thunderbolt II for its BRRRRRT, but they also make things go “boom” very nicely.
In all seriousness, the shift to hitting the Taliban in the wallet has greatly weakened the recently emboldened terrorists. The Afghan National Defense and Security Force has been more successful than ever in regaining control of their country.