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- 10/13/16--12:21: _At this point, the ...
- 10/13/16--13:54: _The US Navy had 90 ...
- 10/13/16--14:10: _Iran sends warships...
- 10/14/16--07:29: _The US military may...
- 10/14/16--12:10: _How a US destroyer ...
- 10/15/16--16:14: _Startling facts abo...
- 10/16/16--08:00: _Take a look at MARS...
- 10/16/16--08:13: _US and UK: Cease-fi...
- 10/16/16--10:47: _Britain and US may ...
- 10/16/16--12:32: _The US Navy just co...
- 10/16/16--15:41: _An Army Ranger desc...
- 10/17/16--06:42: _Forget the F-35, th...
- 10/17/16--11:46: _The Pentagon is pla...
- 10/17/16--16:22: _Even if Mosul is li...
- 10/18/16--07:53: _US Navy to fight br...
- 10/18/16--08:15: _Dramatic video show...
- 10/18/16--08:35: _Iraqis fleeing ISIS...
- 10/18/16--09:18: _Why Japan has the b...
- 10/18/16--12:32: _Russia has muscled ...
- 10/18/16--22:29: _Why Malaysia and Si...
- 10/14/16--12:10: How a US destroyer responds to an incoming missile threat
- 10/15/16--16:14: Startling facts about World War II
- 10/17/16--16:22: Even if Mosul is liberated, it won't be the end of the Islamic State
- 10/18/16--07:53: US Navy to fight breast cancer with a bright pink fighter jet
- 10/18/16--09:18: Why Japan has the best navy in Asia
- 10/18/16--12:32: Russia has muscled the US out of Syria
On Friday, Obama is set to meet his top military advisers to discuss possible kinetic solutions to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal Russian-backed bombing campaign, Reuters reports.
Obama has faced increased pressure to intervene against Syria and Russia after they were linked to the bombing of a UN humanitarian aid convoy heading to besieged Aleppo, where airstrikes and a lack of food and water are affecting 275,000 civilians.
Many questions will weigh on Obama in making his determination: What is the extent of the US's duty to ease suffering in Syria?
What are the political ramifications for each different course of action?
Should the US embark on another mission for regime change in the Middle East?
Besides these questions, none of which are easy, the US will have to consider something that was unthinkable in previous decades — does the US have the military capacity to carry out strikes on Assad should they choose to?
Russia has recently deployed another advanced missile defense battery to Syria, the S-300. This joins the even more advanced S-400 system already in place.
Together, these road-mobile missile batteries provide serious air defenses that the US would need to think long and hard about breaching, even with stealth aircraft like the F-22, F-35, and B-2.
Russia went as far as subtly threatening to shoot down US or coalition aircraft without warning, should they attack the Assad regime.
Dr. Igor Sutyagin, an expert on Russia, the US, and air defenses at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the US Air Force's offensive output roughly meets its match with Russia's entrenched and defended position in Syria.
US pilots in fifth generation aircraft would have to be extremely well trained and "operationally, tactically brilliant" to knock out a Russian missile defense battery in Syria, Sutyagin said.
However, Russia could take steps to improve the missile battery's defensive position. Russia lacks radar planes, or Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), in Syria, but they have them in their inventory. Should Russia deploy these planes, which act as eyes and ears in the sky, they could greatly increase the range and efficacy of their groud-based missile defense systems.
Additionally, Russia's air force has a strong presence in Syria. Although they field older, non-stealth aircraft, confronting them while simultaneously going after air defense batteries would present additional difficulty to US forces.
Regardless, the determination of the US armed forces to conduct any mission remains strong. A pilot with the F-22 program recently told National Interest's Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail against Russia's defenses in Syria.
The Obama administration is said to be considering air strikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots, or radar and anti-aircraft bases according to Reuters. However sources close to Obama also told Reuters they do not think he will go through with any aggressive military action.
Of course, this is only the latest example of Obama mulling military intervention against Assad, as he famously backed down from his "red line" when he refused to bomb Assad after it became clear the Syrian president was using chemical weapons on his own people.
Later it became clear that Obama refused to bomb Assad in order to preserve negotiations for the Iran deal.
Whether Obama will strike or not is an open question, though some experts have speculated that he is "phobic" of a confrontation with Syria because they are aligned with Iran, who he has chosen to engage with diplomatically.
At about 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday in the Bab-al-Mandab Strait between Yemen and Eritrea, the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer, detected an incoming missile.
The ship's Aegis Combat System, an advanced radar and fire control system spotted the thread as it zoomed towards the ship.
“You have about 90 seconds from saying ‘yes, that’s a missile” to launching an interceptor missile, one US official told Stars and Stripes.
And that's exactly what the commanding officer of the Mason did.
“We actually saw an explosion,” an official involved with the operation told Stars and Stripes.
For decades now Aegis radar and fire control systems have protected US ships and citizens by keeping a close eye on the skies.
However, the sight of massive US Navy destroyers equipped with the powerful radar has always been enough to deter such attacks in the past. The SM-2 interceptor missile fired by the Mason on Wednesday was likely the first combat use seen by the US Navy ever.
That night, the US responded to the missile fire from Houthi-controlled Yemen, and fired a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles that obliterated the radar sites that had been active during the attempt on the USS Mason.
The incident, while highly dangerous and destabilizing, proves that the Navy can trust their systems, equipment, and commanders to make the right choice.
Iran sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, establishing a military presence in waters off Yemen where the US military launched cruise missile strikes on areas controlled by Iran-backed Houthi forces.
"Iran's Alvand and Bushehr warships have been dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to protect trade vessels from piracy," Tasnim reported.
The US military strikes were in response to failed missile attacks this week on a US Navy destroyer, US officials said.
Iranian naval vessels have made a habit of repeatedly harassing US Navy vessels in the Persian gulf. Experts who spoke to Business Insider have indicated that Iran provides weapons and training to the Houthi militants who control the Western coast of Yemen.
Tasnim said the Iranian ships will patrol the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen, which is one of the world's most important shipping routes.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Gulf states that are currently blockading Yemen as the Houthi uprising seeks to overthrow the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi.
The US Navy has two guided missile destroyers, the USS Nitze and the USS Mason, and an amphibious transport ship, the USS Ponce, off the coast of Yemen.
According to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), the cost to replenish a worn out military after 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq – as well as other military operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria – would be about $1 trillion over the next decade.
An additional $100 billion a year for the next 10 years would bust the current defense spending caps imposed by Congress on the Department of Defense. But do we really need to spend $1 trillion to reboot the military?
To begin, without a thorough top-to-bottom audit of the Pentagon we don’t know how the Department of Defense spends its $600-plus billion budget, so how do we know that the $1 trillion is the right number?
Part of the $1 trillion would be to replace all the equipment destroyed (sometimes lost or even left behind) in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the peak of U.S. military operations in those two countries, one estimate was that $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment had been destroyed, used up, or worn out yearly by those wars. A lot of that equipment has already been replaced. So a more than generous assumption for a decade-plus of fighting is maybe $200 billion to repair or replace all that equipment (the real number is almost certainly less).
But even with being conservative and erring on the high side, that’s still a far cry from $1 trillion.
Also a factor in the $1 trillion price tag is the so-called readiness crisis, otherwise known as the hollowing out of the military. Part of this is shortages of equipment for troops based at home because that equipment is being used for overseas military operations. For example, at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, there is an F-16 squadron with 30 pilots but only four flying aircraft.
But it’s not just equipment, it’s manpower too. The Air Force claims it could be short as many as 1,000 fighter pilots in the next few years. Certain occupational specialties are in short supply – such as master gunners for Army armored units in South Korea.
Training is also an issue. Army Aviation is providing only 11.5 out of a required 14.5 training hours per month for foundational flight skills and to operate effectively in the field. The sum total of all these and other shortfalls means that only 443 out of 1,040 Marine aircraft are ready to fly, half of the Navy’s F-18s are out of circulation, and just 2 of the Army’s 43 active-duty brigade combat teams are fully ready and available – to name a few examples.
Interestingly and surprisingly, retired Army general David Petraeus – who commanded coalition forces in Iraq (2007-08) and in Afghanistan (2010-11) – and Brookings Institution senior fellow Mike O’Hanlon argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the readiness crisis is a myth.
But whether the readiness crisis is a myth or a reality, what really drives the $1 trillion figure is the assumption that we need to buy back a military that is forward deployed around the globe to continue global counterinsurgency/antiterrorism operations and to be able to fight major air and ground wars.
Both of these assumptions should be subject to strict scrutiny and challenge.
If ISIS represents the terrorist threat that the U.S. military is combatting, while menacing and deplorable, it is not an existential threat – even Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, admits this.
Moreover, politicians and pundits conveniently overlook the reality that the rise of ISIS was an unintended consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which created a vacuum that was filled by al Qaeda in Iraq which morphed into ISIS. ISIS is certainly a threat in Iraq and Syria, but it is up to those countries and their neighbors who are endangered by ISIS to shoulder the primary responsibility of quelling the menace.
This is why most Americans and politicians refuse to put large numbers of U.S. boots on the ground. The same is true for the remnants of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
A corollary is that regime change is also not a reason to continue overseas military operations (or initiate new ones).
Syria’s Bashar Assad may be a thug (just as Saddam Hussein was), but being a thug is not the same thing as being a direct military or terrorist threat to America, which should be the sole criteria for employing U.S. military force.
So while Assad may be a threat to the rebel groups who oppose him in that country’s ongoing civil war, it’s not the responsibility of the U.S. military to be the world’s policeman and meddle in the internal affairs of other countries.
Moreover, the raison d’être for regime change (for both neoconservatives and liberal internationalists) – democratic nation building in far off countries – is not what a military is built to do. It’s an unfair misuse of our brave service members to ask them to carry out missions for which they were not actually trained.
We also should ask: What threats require the United States to be able to fight a major ground or air war? Russia is a pale shadow of the former Soviet Union. Indeed, the entire Russian army today is smaller than what the Soviet Union had forward deployed in Eastern Europe at the height of the Cold War – as a result, the balance of military power is far more favorable to NATO today.
While Putin has been annexed Crimea, Russia is not a threat to overrun and occupy Europe. If there’s a need for U.S. troops in Europe as part of our NATO commitment, it certainly shouldn’t be a need for 65,000 – especially when our European allies are rich countries that can afford to pay for their own defense requirements. The U.K., France, and Germany spend $144 billion on defense (less than 3% of their GDPs) while Russia spends less than half that amount, $66 billion (more than 5% of its GDP).
As a rising power, China is developing power projection to conduct combat operations beyond its immediate region. Such a build-up of military power is a natural and inevitable process as China brings its military capability into line with the scale of its economy, territory, and population. To the extent China represents a threat, it is more of a regional threat – not a direct military threat to America.
As such, the U.S. has rich allies such as Japan and South Korea (and to a lesser degree, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand) who can act as regional balancers-of-power – just as our NATO allies can in Europe.
Nonetheless, China is a potential future peer competitor that bears watching – but also keeping in mind that China is America’s second largest trading partner. However, it certainly doesn’t warrant the more than 75,000 U.S. troops deployed in Japan and South Korea (nor does the threat of North Korea require U.S. troops stationed in those two countries).
And if we are worried about Russia’s and China’s nuclear weapons, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal acts as a strong deterrent – just as it did during the Cold War. It is also a deterrent against North Korea or any other smaller power that might eventually acquire nuclear weapons.
The bottom line is that – especially with the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans on our flanks and friendly neighbors to our north and south – the United States is in an extremely secure geostrategic position. So the military does not need to be sized and structured to maintain the operations tempo of current overseas military operations as well as the ability to fight other wars.
The military may need to be refurbished after more than a decade of war, but the realities of the strategic environment don’t justify anything close to $1 trillion.
Charles V. Peñais a senior fellow with Defense Priorities. He has more than 25 years of experience as a policy and program analyst and senior manager, supporting both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. Peña is the former director of defense-policy studies at the Cato Institute and author of Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism. He gave us permission to run this op-ed.
VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE!
When I was in the Navy, it was my job to push the button. I was a fire controlman and I worked on multiple weapons systems across several classes of ship, including as an AEGIS weapon system supervisor aboard a US Navy Cruiser.
I also spent time as an instructor, training young sailors in the applications of force as well as the operations and maintenance of the Mark 92 Fire Control System. This week, the USS Mason was attacked two separate times, with two missiles each time — once on Sunday and then again on Wednesday — the anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole, which was attacked when in port taking on food, stores, and fuel in Yemen in 2000.
The next day, the USS Nitze fired three Tomahawk missiles in retaliatory strikes at radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory within Yemen.
Without getting into the geopolitical situation, or disclosing any classified tactics, techniques, and procedures, let’s talk about what happens aboard a US Navy warship when something like that happens.
Missiles come in all shapes, sizes, and speeds. The response weapon changes with the variables. The missiles fired at Mason were likely a variant of the C-802, a Chinese missile with the NATO designation “Saccade,” widely used by Iranians. Most of the Saccade missiles are subsonic, meaning they travel below the speed of sound.
They generally fly about 10–20 meters off the surface until the final stage of flight when they drop down to three-to-seven meters off the surface of the ocean. Flying so low during all stages of flight make the Saccade a sea-skimming missile, designed to make it very difficult to detect.
Modern US destroyers and cruisers employ the Aegis Weapon System. The AWS was created in the 1970s and remains one of the most capable and advanced weapons systems in the world. In fact, the system kicks so much ass that people refer to the ships that use them as Aegis destroyers and Aegis cruisers.
So what happens when some bad actor fires a missile at a warship that’s just minding its own business and maintaining freedom of the seas for the world?
Step one: Missile inbound.
Someone in the combat information center will notice a very swiftly moving contact on the radar screen. Missiles, in general, are easy to spot because they move faster than anything else. A slow missile may look like an aircraft, but various indicators generally give them away. The first person to detect the missile will yell out, “VAMPIRE INBOUND!” along with some proprietary Navy information to make sure folks know the situation.
Step two: Confirm it’s a missile.
The ship has onboard sensors along with any information from units in and around the area of operations. These sensors range from passive to active, which means some just listen and others actively broadcast to look. It’s like the difference between having night vision that no one can see you using, and turning on some really bright stadium lights to light up the area. Sailors in the combat information center will confirm that it’s a missile and not a radar anomaly or some other phenomena.
Step three: shoot that vampire down.
Once we’ve confirmed that an anti-ship missile is headed toward the ship, it’s time to take action. Sailors from Combat Fire Control division are responsible for the operations and maintenance of the weapons systems and will likely be the ones taking action. Each class of ship has multiple close, medium, and long-range weapons and countermeasures to address the threat.
In the case of the Mason, they used Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) and Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missiles to “splash” the missiles. The SM-2 and ESSM are medium range missiles stored in the ship’s Vertical Launch System cells, along with Tomahawks and other weapon systems. ESSMs are unique in that each VLS cell can hold 4 of the missiles, meaning Navy ships can hold several to protect themselves or the units around them.
If the missiles made it through those defenses, or were fired closer, the shipboard Phalanx Close-In Weapons System — also known as the CIWS (pronounced “sea-wiz”) — would engage it. The CIWS looks like a really excited R2-D2 and terrifies helicopter pilots all over the Navy, and for good reason.
CIWS shoots upwards of 4,500 rounds per minute, creating a wall of tungsten in front of an incoming contact, and can be operated fully autonomously. When all of the weapons and countermeasure systems are combined, a US Navy warship is basically Skynet.
Step four: Maintain readiness and evaluate further action.
Okay, so the warship has shot down a couple of incoming missiles and everyone is on high alert. The folks who were watching movies, sleeping, eating, or otherwise engaged heard the weapons systems being employed and hauled ass to the their respective command and control stations to find out the latest info on the situation.
The engineering team will ensure that all systems are online and that peak readiness is achieved. The commanding officer and executive officer are split between the combat information center and the pilot house, ready to continue the fight. The whole ship is ready and are hoping for a shot at lobbing the retaliatory Tomahawk missiles at whatever targets fit the appropriate response.
The idea that rebel groups are attacking warships with our friends and family may sound alarming, but the good news is that these ships, and the sailors aboard them, are ready, willing, and able to handle the threat. US Navy warships train for various scenarios, many of which include the prospect of incoming missiles. In fact, these incidents show that the weapons systems aboard our warships work as designed and that our sailors are well-trained.
Here are some bizarre and startling facts that you may not know about World War II.
Produced by Eames Yates. Original reporting by We Are The Mighty.
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Amid the Department of Defense's historic change to open all combat jobs to women, the Marine Corps accepted the first female applicants to the sister service branches' special operations command (MARSOC).
An average of 11 months of grueling training and the mastery of seven weapons are just some of the hurdles to join the elite tier of the Corps'.
After serving three years as a Marine, MARSOC candidates arrive at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the best shape of their lives.
Some of the physical assessments include a 300 yard swim in cammies and a brutal 12-mile timed rucksack run carrying 45 pounds of gear.
Come along to MARSOC and see what the training is like.
SEE ALSO: The 50 best US military pictures of 2015
MARSOC training begins with Phase One, a 10 week long course that focuses on basic skills that all operators will need to master.
These skills include general fitness ...
... And significantly more advanced swimming skills.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The United States and Britain called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end violence between Iran-backed Houthis and the government, which is supported by Gulf states.
A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy criticism since an air strike a week ago on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations' estimate and 82 according to the Houthis.
On Saturday, a US admiral said a destroyer had again been targeted in the Red Sea in an apparent failed missile attack launched from the coast of Yemen.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said if Yemen's opposing sides accepted the ceasefire then the special envoy to the UN, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details and announce when and how it would take effect.
"This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table," Kerry told reporters.
"We cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen," he said after meeting British foreign minister, Boris Johnson, and other officials in London.
Kerry said they were calling for the implementation of the ceasefire "as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday".
Johnson said the conflict in Yemen was "causing increasing international concern; the fatalities that we're seeing there are unacceptable".
"There should be a ceasefire and the UN should lead the way in calling for that ceasefire."
Their call came after meetings in London with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and senior UAE officials.
Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday in Switzerland on the sidelines of Syria talks.
"It is a crisis now of enormous proportions with an increasing economic, increasing humanitarian and health crisis, and obviously the military components are troubling to everybody," Kerry said.
"We have over the last days been in touch with the parties. I have talked with the foreign minister of Oman, as well as with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, and everybody agrees the moment calls for moving forward with efforts to try and deescalate and find a way forward."
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and the United States said on Sunday they were considering additional sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, and called on Russia to help end the Syrian conflict.
"It is vital that we keep that pressure up and there is a lot of measures we're proposing, to do with extra sanctions on the Syrian regime and their supporters, measures to bring those responsible for war crimes to the International Criminal Court," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters.
"These things will eventually come to bite the perpetrators of these crimes and they should think about it now," said Johnson, who also said there was no appetite in Europe for "going to war" in Syria.
He said it was "highly dubious" that Assad's government and its ally Russia were capable of retaking the city of Aleppo or winning the war, calling on Russia and Iran to show leadership to end the conflict.
"It is up to them to show mercy, show mercy to those people in that city and get the ceasefire going," he added.
He was speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who briefed nearly a dozen European and Middle Eastern allies on talks with Russia and a group of Middle Eastern countries that had taken place in Switzerland on Saturday with the aim of ending the fighting.
Kerry confirmed that the United States and its allies were considering additional sanctions over Syria, but did not name Russia as a target.
Western powers have accused Russia and Syria of committing atrocities by bombing hospitals, killing civilians and preventing medical evacuations, as well as targeting an aid convoy with the loss of around 20 lives.
Syria and Russia counter that they are only targeting militants in Aleppo and accuse the United States of breaking the ceasefire by bombing scores of Syrian troops fighting Islamic State insurgents, over which the United States has expressed regret.
"We are considering additional sanctions and we are also making clear that President (Barack) Obama has not taken any options off the table," Kerry said.
The largest destroyer ever built for the US Navy, the USS Zumwalt, was commissioned on Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland.
The 600-foot guided missile destroyer was named after legendary naval officer Admiral Elmo Russell "Bud" Zumwalt. His daughters, Ann Zumwalt and Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weatherly, joined commanding officer Captain James A. Kirk for the ceremony.
"Zumwalt is today a technological marvel. When deployed, our Navy and nation will have ... a multi-mission destroyer with the stealth survivability and combat power to take on our most challenging missions," Kirk said.
"If Batman had a ship, it would be the USS Zumwalt," Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of the US Pacific Command, told CNN.
The USS Zumwalt has a sleek, streamlined appearance and will be fitted with some of the military's most advanced weapon systems. The Zumwalt sports an advanced power plant that Navy planners hope to use to support next generation weapons like railguns or laser systems.
Additionally, the Zumwalt has a large flight deck that may one day accommodate the Marine Corps variant of the F-35B.
As the Zumwalt was being commissioned, another US Navy destroyer was targeted in a failed missile attack from territory in Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, the third such incident in the past week, US officials said.
Nicholas Irving is a retired US Army Ranger sniper. Irving, author of "Way of the Reaper," discusses the most challenging part of the military's elite sniper school.
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Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called "smart-skins" where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.
Some of these characteristics may have been on display earlier this year when Northrop Grumman's SuperBowl AD revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet. Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane - when the time is right.
The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft.
The Navy's new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.
The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.
Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.
Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well.
Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”
Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot.
Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.
This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.
It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.
The Pentagon on Monday played down any new role for US forces in Iraq's battle to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS, saying American personnel were behind the forward line of troops and acting in an advisory role to support Iraqis.
"Americans are again playing an advisor role, an enabler role for these Iraqi forces ... Most of the American forces in Iraq are not anywhere close to the front line," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing, saying many U.S. troops were on advisory or logistical support missions.
"The role of the US forces today is no different than up to this point."
However, throughout the campaign against ISIS, the US has suffered combat losses on the ground.
Charlie Keating IV, a Navy SEAL, was killed by ISIS fire earlier this year when his quick reaction force responded to a rush of 120 or so ISIS fighters storming mainly Kurdish forces just north of Mosul.
Video of the incident shows US troops out front fighting alongside the Kurdish forces as the battle rages.
After weeks of speculation about an attempt to retake the city of Mosul from the so-called Islamic State (IS), Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the start of the offensive. “God willing, the decisive battle will be soon,” he said at a press conference.
This could well be a major turning point in the battle against IS. Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been under IS’s control since June 2014, when it became the group’s biggest prize yet.
It brought global attention that IS have enjoyed ever since.
In the ensuing two or so years, it has ruled over the city’s hundreds of thousands of residents in accordance with a strictly enforced fundamentalist version of Sharia law.
The group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, Mosul is one of the jewels in IS’s crown, and losing it would be a huge blow – especially after the group was routed from Dabiq, the Syrian town whose name graces the IS magazine.
Fearing the worst, IS set oil refineries on fire to obstruct and delay the oncoming forces, while the Washington Post reports that the group has strategically decided to flee Mosul and regroup in Syria, moving from defensive to insurgency tactics.
Such a move is facilitated by the strategy coming out of Baghdad, which has encircled Mosul but left a corridor to the West of the city where IS fighters (and supporters) can flee to Syria. This strategy seeks to move the IS problem out of Iraq and into Syria.
The forces assembled to mount the offensive include somewhere in the region of 45,000 troops; they include Iraqi Shias, Sunnis, Christians and Kurds, but also Shia paramilitary groups known as the Popular Mobilisation Units. Supporting and advising this assault are British, American and Turkish special forces, while the US-led coalition has targeted IS mortar positions close to Mosul.
Final authority rests with the Iraqi army – but as is true of the Iraqi state generally, the army’s authority is seriously undercut by the tensions between the country’s different tribal factions. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the US’s Operation Inherent Resolve against IS in Iraq, stressed that despite these differences, “the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis”.
Nonetheless, one of the most immediate and serious challenges for the Mosul offensive is to keep this rather motley crew together. Many of them have competing loyalties and goals; they have a long and complex history with each other, and ensuring their unity is paramount.
There’s also the imperative of keeping Mosul’s civilians safe during what promises to be a period of uncertainty, chaos and violence. Stephen O'Brien, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs at the UN, called for all parties “to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they are entitled to and deserve”.
The hard work begins
For all the fanfare, the liberation of Mosul will not mean the end of IS. The group has never been defined by the territory it holds. As Stephen Royle and I argue in our book The Origins of IS, IS is the product of deep political and sectarian disenfranchisement and of the dire socio-political conditions on the ground in Iraq.
Mosul in particular is a largely Sunni city, and a number of its residents welcomed IS in 2014 simply because it broke the authority of the corrupt and sectarian Shia government in Baghdad. That said, opposition to IS’s reign has been steadily growing – documented among others by Mosul Eye, which has recorded instances of everyday resistance in the city.
The situation on the ground is shifting rapidly, and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have already reportedly seized control of a number of villages to the east of Mosul. The state of play is extremely fluid, and by the time forces reach the suburbs of the city it will surely look very different.
Despite al-Abadi’s proclamation that the people of Iraq would celebrate the fall of the city as one, the schisms among his people run deep. In the short term, he’s right to stress that “these forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul, which is to get rid of Daesh [IS] and to secure your dignity. They are there for your sake”. But in the longer term, the social and political situation in Iraq is not nearly so clear cut.
And while most Iraqis certainly would celebrate the defeat of IS, questions about what comes next – for Iraq, for Syria, and for the Middle East – simply throw up a whole other set of problems. Mosul will be far from the last battle.
October is breast-cancer awareness month, and the US Navy has stepped up to the plate with a bright pink F9F-8 Cougar fighter jet, 11 Alive News reports.
The USS Lexington Museum on the bay in Corpus Christi, Texas, is hosting the Cougar, which was a mainstay of the Navy's aviation fleet back when the Lexington, the last remaining World War II-era Essex-class aircraft carrier, patrolled the seas.
The paint job, a vivid shade named "hellonica," is mixed with a dish-washing liquid that will wash off after October ends.
The American Cancer Society states that "about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women" and that more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2016 alone.
On Oct. 17 an Iraqi-led coalition began the long battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and an important hub for ISIS.
And the Internet is already getting flooded with videos and photos from the fighting.
The Twitter feed Conflict News (@conflicts) released footage of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division rolling towards the fighting near the outskirts of Mosul:
About an hour later, Kurdistan24, a Kurdish news channel, released this footage of Iraqi Army tanks suffering a vehicle-borne IED attack by ISIS fighters:
The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:
The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.
American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.
Shi'ite irregulars will help storm a smaller city in northern Iraq while government troops launch their upcoming offensive against Islamic State's biggest stronghold Mosul, raising fears among Iraqi officials and aid workers of sectarian retribution.
The decision to steer the Popular Mobilisation Forces away from Mosul to Hawija 100 km (60 miles) away is intended to ease sectarian animosity during the fight for Mosul, expected to be the biggest battle in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The PMF units, formed from Shi'ite militia groups who now have official status from Baghdad, have been accused by the United Nations and others of carrying out killings and kidnappings in some other areas freed from Islamic State.
Their presence at the frontline is often bitterly resented by Sunni civilians in Sunni-majority areas the government hopes to free from Islamic State control, and authorities want to keep them off the battlefield in Mosul.
But they are also battle-hardened fighters with powerful supporters in Baghdad, and keeping them out of the fight altogether would be politically difficult.
A senior diplomat who has followed the planning for the assault on Mosul said the compromise to send the PMF to Hawija instead was the result of tough negotiations.
“I don’t think that was an easy agreement,” said the senior diplomat, giving details that were not public on condition of anonymity. “There was a lot of leaning and a lot of heavy lifting by a lot of people.”
But the diplomat acknowledged that the compromise had caused concern about abuses being carried out in the smaller city.
“We’re really worried,” the diplomat said.
The PMF says civilians in Hawija have nothing to fear.
“Our role will be liberating them from Daesh tyranny,” said Ali al-Hussaini, a PMF spokesman, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “We will make sure to save the families from any harm and preserve their dignity. We are their brothers, we are not an enemy.”
Fleeing under fire
Mosul, with a pre-war population of around 2 million, is five times bigger than any other city Islamic State militants have held, and the battle for it is seen as an existential fight for the group's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq.
Hawija, with around 200,000 people, is an important provincial city in its own right. Residents who have managed to flee say the fighters have imposed draconian rule there, growing increasingly violent as the expected battle looms.
“Everyone is trying to escape,” said Um Kamal, a woman in her fifties who swam to safety with her three children across a river in pitch black darkness last Tuesday night as Islamic State fighters fired at them from the shore.
A woman nearby was hit by the gunfire but Um Kamal and her family reached territory held by Kurdish security forces.
The militants, clearly aware of an impending attack, have become even more brutal in recent weeks, those who flee say: executions take place daily and corpses are hung on light posts as a warning to anyone who challenges the caliphate.
Um Yaqoub, another Hawija resident, tried to escape earlier this summer with members of her extended family but they were caught by IS fighters.
“They executed my cousin in front of us,” she said. “My kids saw it.” She finally made it to Kurdish-controlled territory on her third escape attempt a month ago.
In a single night last week, approximately 800 people escaped Hawija. Many of those leaving are transferred to a camp near the town of Daquq, one of several camps in the region which aid agencies are expecting to fill when the military operations in Mosul and Hawija kick off.
“This is the beginning of a massive emergency we are preparing for,” said Maulid Warfa, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Erbil field office, speaking at the Daquq camp. He noted that some 200,000 people are expected to be displaced within the first two weeks of fighting in and near Mosul.
Aid workers worry that fear of retaliation by Shi'ite fighters could cause more panic and worsen the situation.
The United Nations said in July it had a list of more than 640 Sunni Muslim men and boys reportedly abducted by a government-affiliated Shi’ite militia during the battle for the Islamic State-held bastion of Falluja. About 50 others were summarily executed or tortured to death.
The PMF have said that there have been individual abuse cases but that it was not systematic and the government has promised to punish anyone involved.
Hawija residents have already experienced violence from Shi’ite-led security forces. In 2013, dozens were killed when Iraqi security forces raided an anti-government protest camp in the city, fuelling resentment that residents say eased Islamic State’s takeover of the town the next year.
Iraqi officials, aware of the sensitivities of sending Shi’ite fighters into a predominantly Sunni town, are trying to temper the role the PMF will play in Hawija, according to former finance and foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari. The hope is that more disciplined PMF units will be paired with the Iraqi army to create a sectarian balance in the fighting force.
“No one will condone any atrocities,” Zebari said.
In past battles, PMF units have not received air support from the U.S.-led coalition that assists the Iraqi army. Some PMF members fought against American troops in Shi'ite militias during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
However, Hussaini, the PMF spokesman, said coalition forces were expected to provide air support and intelligence during the assault on Hawija.
Asked about support for PMF units, coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said: “It would be appropriate to say we help the Iraqi security forces. As far as the specific disposition of who’s involved there I probably wouldn’t get into that.”
Um Kamal, now safely out of Hawija with her family, said she is looking forward to the day she can return.
“I want to go back to my house and my life,” she said. “But we are waiting. People are waiting to see what happens with the military operation.”
Writing for The National Interest, Kyle Mizokami recently made a solid case for Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) as the best navy in all of Asia.
While China fields a larger, ever modernizing navy with huge stores of cruise missiles and land-based assets, Japan fields a trim and very capable navy.
Their Kongo class destroyers share the Aegis combat system with the US's Arleigh Burke class of destroyer, which recently proved itself off the coast of Yemen.
But perhaps the greatest advantage Japan's MSDF has over China's navy is its aircraft carriers. Its latest Izumo class "helicopter destroyer" can carry 14 helicopters and engage in advanced anti-submarine warfare as well as air assaults.
Also, Japan awaits the the F-35B, the short takeoff/ vertical landing variant of Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive and complex weapons system of all time.
Most notably, Japan maintains this potent force not as a traditional navy, but as a self-defense force. The force, while well rehearsed in taking islands and training with their US allies, most recently saw action after the massive earthquake that rocked Japan in 2011.
During that disaster, Mizokami reports that the first ship responded in just 45 minutes, displaying the "professionalism and efficiency" expected from a world-class navy.
While citizens and combatants in Aleppo would likely welcome any cessation of the brutal Russian and Syrian air campaign, which has been linked to possible war crimes like bombing hospitals and using banned munitions, the unilateral move excludes the international community and the US.
To put it bluntly, the US and larger international community have been muscled out of Syria by Russia.
Kupchan says two key events have undermined the US's clout in Syria to the point that there are no longer any good options there for the US to pursue.
The rise of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — an Islamist group formerly affiliated with Al Qaeda that called itself Jabhat al Nusra — as the dominant opposition group to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime represents the first blow to the US's strategy of "training and equipping" secular, moderate rebels.
Kupchan says that toward the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, there was secular opposition to Assad that had "sufficient numbers to balance" Assad's forces on the battlefield.
Now, however, "the secular opposition is extremely small and not terribly relevant to the ongoing Syrian tragedy," Kupchan said.
After the erosion of meaningful opposition to Assad, Russia's intervention on behalf of Assad just over a year ago may have been the final nail in the coffin for the relevance of the US and larger international community.
"Assad was on his heels," said Kupchan. "Russian intervention put him back moving forward. Assad and his allies are now the dominant power on the battlefield."
In fact, Russia dominates Syria's airspace so much that the US can't really consider launching airstrikes against Assad — Moscow's recent deployment of advanced surface-to-air missile defenses to Syria has created a de facto no-fly zone over areas under government control.
Igor Sutyagin, an expert on Russian missile defenses at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the US would now strain to strike at Syrian government targets. Even the US Air Force's fifth-generation stealth aircraft would have to be "operationally, tactically brilliant" to strike Russian or Syrian targets, he said.
But as Kupchan notes, even if the US could readily destroy the missiles, risking war with Russia is not worth it.
Since the kinetic solutions to ending the war have crumbled, US officials have been again discussing the idea of equipping and training rebels and the Kurds, but Kupchan says these are not good options either.
"In theory, there are sufficient secular and non-extremist members of the opposition that one could construe a train-and-equip program. The problems facing that strategy would be numerous — the Syrian/Russian/Iranian alliance has significant momentum on the battlefield, and while we may well give weapons to the 'sane opposition,' the chances they would end up in the hands of the radical opposition is extremely high," Kupchan said.
Indeed, US efforts to train and equip groups in Syria have failed spectacularly in the past. According to Kupchan, "the best shot is the shot we're taking — to continue to engage Russia and, to the extent practical, the broader community internationally (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran) to try to save lives."
But when Syria, Iran, and Russia increasingly control the situation on the ground, the prospect of leveraging these countries to act against their interests, with no threat of military challenge from the US, grows increasingly dim.
The US and international community can continue to nudge and prod Russia to do the right thing in Syria, but Washington's chances of exerting real influence on the ground have now dwindled to virtually zero.
Malaysia on Tuesday led calls for Southeast Asian governments to tighten anti-terror measures amid fears Iraq’s sweeping offensive to retake the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Mosul will trigger an influx of fleeing foreign fighters seeking safe haven in their home countries.
Baghdad with the support of US advisers and Kurdish fighters this week launched a long-awaited military campaign to retake the city of over one million people two years after the militant group seized control and declared it the centrepiece of a new Islamic caliphate.
There is a mix of around 8,000 homegrown and foreign fighters in the northern Iraqi city, which straddles IS-controlled areas in north-western Iraq and neighbouring parts of eastern Syria.
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister and interior minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Tuesday said the country’s border and airport security had been enhanced.
“We exchange information with intelligence agencies and we have a list of suspects. Our enforcement agencies are always at the ready not only at the airports but also at the rat tunnels,” Zahid Hamidi said.
The country’s defence minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, on Monday said he had instructed the military to “keep an eye on the development in Iraq and Syria because we are worried that [IS fighters] might come here and it won’t be a small number”.
“It will be thousands of them. This is why it’s important for us to have a trilateral relationship with Indonesia and the Philippines. We need to ensure we can get as [much] intel as possible to strengthen and to protect our region,” Hishammuddin was quoted as saying in the New Straits Times newspaper.
The deputy prime minister of Singapore, Teo Chee Hean, said on Tuesday following the country’s largest ever anti-terror drill – planned prior to the Mosul offensive – that the battle was “likely to increase the threat in our region”.
Since 2013, around 90 Malaysians have joined the militant group also known by the Arabic term Daesh, according to an official count. There is no official figure in neighbouring Indonesia, but Jakarta-based experts put the figure at around 500.
Terrorism experts told This Week in Asia the Mosul offensive would heighten the security risk faced by Southeast Asia as the slow trickle of returning fighters became an influx.
Iraqi forces in al-Shurah, some 45kms south of Mosul, during their advance against the Islamic State. Photo: AFP
The region last saw a spike in fleeing militants in the aftermath of the United States’ invasion of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks. Prior to that, homegrown veterans of the war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s were recruited to the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah.
“I think this is going to be an imminent threat. When the fighters return to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, they will build a kind of alumni network, like the fighters from Afghanistan nearly two decades ago,” said Ridlwan Habib, a counterterrorism expert at the University of Indonesia.
Ridlwan said the returning fighters would bring with them “new strategies and skillsets”.
“They will have exposure and training in things like cyberterrorism, and ‘lone wolf’ attacks with very soft weaponry,” Ridlwan said.
“With new low explosive forms and ‘lone wolf’ attacks, we can’t predict where and when they will strike,” he added.
IS established a regional affiliate in Southeast Asia called the Katibah Nusantara. Comprising Syria and Iraq-based fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it is allegedly led by Indonesian Muhammad Bahrun Naim.
Naim, who is based in IS-controlled territory, is seen as the mastermind of a coordinated attack in Jakarta in January that killed seven people.
In Malaysia, a grenade thrown into a bar on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur in June heralded the first successful IS-linked attack in the country.
Eight people were injured. Police said the two men arrested in the aftermath of the attack had received instructions from Malaysian IS fighter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi.
Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based international terrorism expert, said the return of foreign fighters like Naim and Wandy would have “major security implications for Southeast Asia, South Asia and northeast Asia.”
“With the IS heartland in Iraq and Syria coming under increasing threat from the coalition forces, it is inevitable for the foreign fighters to disperse,” said Gunaratna, a co-editor of the recently released book Handbook of Terrorism in the Asia-Pacific.
He said regional governments should “track each and every foreign fighter whether they have directly participated in violence or in support activities”.
Ridlwan, the Indonesia-based expert, said Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia in particular – faced challenges in rigorously monitoring returnees because of porous borders. Indonesia is the world’s biggest archipelago, with over 17,000 islands.