Category Archives: Military

Recruitment Issues

Here’s a stunning, if not surprising, bit of data in the Washington County Daily News:

According to a news release, 71 percent of the nation’s youth are ineligible for military service. The most common reasons for exclusion are obesity, drug use, low aptitude and physical and/or mental health issues. Muth said obesity is the “largest disqualifier” at about 31 percent.

On the other hand, I would question the need for physical fitness for many jobs. In an era where many military jobs – even combat roles -involve sitting at a computer, who cares how many sit-ups the person can do? Cyberwarfare is probably fought best by the Cheetos-eating basement-dwellers.

Trump Moves to Cancel $300 Million to Pakistan

Good.

The US military says it is cancelling $300m (£230m) in aid to Pakistan over what it calls Islamabad’s failure to take action against militant groups.

President Donald Trump has previously accused Pakistan of deceiving the US while receiving billions of dollars.

Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Koné Faulkner said the US military would aim to spend the money on other “urgent priorities”.

The move, which needs to be approved by the US Congress, is part of a broader suspension announced in January.

The US state department has criticised Pakistan, a key ally, for failing to deal with terrorist networks operating on its soil, including the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Col Faulkner said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the $300m aid – which had earlier been suspended – should be used elsewhere due to “a lack of Pakistani decisive actions” in tackling the issue.

Foreign aid is a foreign policy tool like any other. It is to be used as leverage to advance America’s interests. If it’s not working, then look for another place to place the fulcrum.

Cannon Returned to Alamo

Gig ’em.

Texas A&M University’s Alamo cannon conservation project came to a historic conclusion Wednesday as the last of seven battle-used cannons were returned to the Alamo in a changing of the guard ceremony between living historians and members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.

During the “Texas A&M and The Alamo Present: A Salute to Alamo Cannon Conservation” event at the Texas A&M System’s RELLIS Campus, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp thanked Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) Director Donny Hamilton and Research Associate Jim Jobling and the students who worked on the project for their year of conservation work. He also recognized members of the Corps of Cadets on who participated in the changing of the guard ceremony.

“I’m also proud to be part of a place that has the men and women in the Corps of Cadets, who have the same attitude that the people in the Alamo had, and that is life is not worth living without liberty,” Sharp said.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose General Land Office manages the Alamo, called the event an “important milestone in preserving Texas history” and commended Texas A&M and the CRL for undertaking the conservation effort.

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Taliban Hold Peace Talks with US

According to them.

The Taliban held their first direct contact with a US official in a preliminary discussion about future peace talks on Afghanistan, a senior member of the insurgent group claimed on Saturday.

If correct, it marked one of the most significant developments amid efforts to find a negotiated end to the country’s protracted war.

The Taliban source described as ‘useful’ a meeting with Alice Wells, America’s top diplomat for South Asia, earlier this week.

One can hope.

Oshkosh Working on Autonomous Vehicles

This is the perfect application for this technology.

OSHKOSH (WLUK) — Oshkosh Defense will be adding self-driving technology to some vehicles as part of a $49 million contract with the U.S. Army.

The company says the vehicles will allow soldiers to be removed from the vehicles in highly contested areas. Under the contract, Oshkosh will initially convert 70 palletized load system (PLS) vehicles, with an option for as many as 150 vehicles total.

“The PLS has been an integral part of the U.S. Army’s resupply and distribution fleet for over 25 years,” Pat Williams, Vice President and General Manager of Army and Marine Corps programs for Oshkosh Defense, said in a news release. “By equipping these vehicles with autonomous capabilities, we can significantly reduce our soldiers’ exposure to enemy threats by taking them out of the vehicle altogether.”

Some Gave All

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Remembering those who gave their lives so that we may live free.

Five IS Leaders Captures with App

Good!

A jubilant President Trump tweeted on Thursday to announce that five of the ‘Most Wanted leaders of ISIS’ have been captured after they were lured from Syria to Iraq with fake Telegram messages.

Iraqi officials used the cell phone of already captured ISIS lieutenant Ismail al-Eithawi to send instructions via the app for the four other leaders to come to Iraq, where they were seized.

The encrypted app was officially named by ISIS as one of its favored mobile messaging services in 2015 and has been regularly used by the terror group for private communication and to spread propaganda.

Western Allies Strike Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

All things considered, Trump got this exactly right.

The US, UK and France attacked three government sites, targeting what they said were chemical weapons facilities.

More than 100 missiles struck in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week.

[…]

At a Pentagon briefing on Saturday, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck in a “precise, overwhelming and effective” manner:

  • The Barzah chemical weapons research and development centre near Damascus was hit by 76 missiles, 57 of them Tomahawk cruise missiles, and “destroyed”
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 “weapons” – US, UK and French
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven Scout missiles and was “successfully hit”

Gen McKenzie said the “initial indications are that we accomplished the military objectives without interference from Syria”.

The Syrian civil war is highly complex and there are no good options. The world has also returned to a state of Big Power geopolitics and Russia has clearly planted its flag in Syria. The struggle for America is that we have no real national interest in Syria other than to protect our allies in the neighborhood should the war spill over. We do, however, have a moral interest in protecting innocents and a strategic interest in keeping the conflict from spreading.

So what were the options?

  1. Do nothing
  2. Launch a ground invasion
  3. Covert action aimed at regime change
  4. A measured, surgical, retaliatory strike

There is no appetite in America to get into another war in the Middle East. Plus, launching an invasion in Syria risks escalating into a full scale with Russia. Option 2 is off the table.

Option 3 is interesting, but then what? There are no good sides left in Syria and removing Assad just leaves a vacuum for some other tyrant to fill.

Option 1 is one that I would have been satisfied with. It is difficult for me to justify expending more American treasure and possible lives in the morass of Syria. The downside is that both Obama and Trump promised the world that we would react if Assad used chemical weapons again. To not follow through on a threat would be to weaken America’s stature and ability to influence future events – especially in the face of a tyrant like Putin.

So we are left with option 4. The Trump Administration gathered our allies in France and Britain and stuck at specific targets related to Assad’s ability to conduct chemical warfare. They made it clear that this is not the start of a larger conflict and it is not designed to change the regime. It was just a hard spank from the Western Powers to make it clear that using weapons of mass destruction to kill innocent people is not acceptable. This approach also has the added advantage of dispelling the myth of Russia’s impenetrable air defenses. Perhaps Assad will be having a chat with Putin about this technological failure.

Again, there are not any good options left in Syria for America. Any good options evaporated within the first year of the conflict. Now it is just a matter of trying to prevent it from spilling out into the larger world any more than it already has.

Paul Allen’s Crew Finds the USS Lexington

Wow!

The Lexington was critically damaged. Despite the best effort of its crew, it was reduced to a burning wreck. It had to be scuttled.

Now, 76 years after it settled to the bottom, it’s been found.

It’s the latest find by billionaire Paul Allen.

And it’s in a remarkably well preserved condition.

Soon-to-be US ambassador to Australia, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris says he is elated at the find.

“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel for locating the ‘Lady Lex’,” he said in a tweet.

Chinese Allegedly Develop Functional Rail Gun

Whoa.

WANT to win a war? Build a better gun. Now China appears to have taken a huge stride ahead of the United States with the first experimental deployment of a new ‘supergun’ aboard a warship.

The first images began circulating on the internet last week.

They showed a Chinese amphibious assault ship — usually used to deploy troops and tanks on a beach — fitted with an enormous cannon on its bows.

Overnight, Beijing’s official mouthpiece The People’s Daily Online published an article reporting speculation the unusually large single-barrelled weapon was an electromagnetic rail gun.

This is significant.

[…]

The Chinese newspaper says cutbacks in US funding for rail gun research had allowed Beijing to catch up: “the US Navy demonstrated its rail gun prototypes in 2006 and announced in 2016 that it would test electromagnetic railguns on the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3), though no rail gun has ever been seen on any US military vessels …

“Though the test rail gun is not the final version of the hi-tech weapon, its size does fit the 055 destroyer, which would become an invincible vessel once equipped with electromagnetic weapons.”

Runners Map Military Bases

This seems unwise.

Military personnel around the world have been publicly sharing their exercise routes online – including those inside or near military bases.

Online fitness tracker Strava has published a “heatmap” showing the paths its users log as they run or cycle.

It appears to show the structure of foreign military bases in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, as soldiers move around inside.

The US military is examining the heatmap, a spokesman said.

Air Force Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, told the Washington Post that the US military was reviewing the implications.

Strava said it had excluded activities marked as private from the map.

Users who record their exercise data on Strava have the option of making their movements public or private. Private data, the company said, has never been included.

The appearance of military bases on the heatmap suggests that large numbers of military personnel across the globe have been publicly sharing their location data.

The latest version of the map was released in November 2017, but the implications for service personnel were only raised over the weekend.

Turkey Uses Advanced German Tanks Against Kurds

The Kurds are American allies too.

The German government is facing calls to halt arms exports to Turkey after reports emerged that German-made Leopard tanks were being used in an offensive against the Kurdish YPG.

Some German politicians have requested that any moves to approve a tank upgrade deal be halted.

Turkish-led forces began an assault in Syria’s north-west on Saturday.

The row comes just weeks after the two countries’ foreign ministers vowed to improve bilateral ties.

Relations between the two Nato members have soured dramatically in recent years.

Reports on Friday suggested Berlin was moving to approve a request from Turkey for German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall to upgrade its Leopard 2 tanks, to make them less vulnerable to explosives.

The tanks are thought to have been used by Turkey against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. However, defence experts have claimed in German media that recent images from Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” appear to show them being used against Kurdish groups.

U.S. Returns to Great Powers Defense Stance

A new era.

WASHINGTON – There is a major change in U.S. military strategy. On Friday, more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said terrorism is no longer the No. 1 priority.

[…]

Pentagon officials cite analysis by a U.S. Navy officer assigned to a Washington think tank as one of many reasons why China and Russia have replaced terrorism as the primary focus of the new national defense strategy. Maintaining a military advantage over China and Russia is now Defense Secretary Mattis’ top priority.

[…]

America’s military advantage has eroded in part because it has been fighting wars for the past 16 years. But Defense Secretary Mattis said “no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military” than the inability of Congress to agree on a budget.

Russians Step Up Activity Around Undersea Cables

These cables have been tapped and monitored for decades. The only way to secure the information that traverses them is to encrypt the data itself.

Russian submarines have dramatically stepped up activity around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic.

US Navy Admiral Andrew Lennon, the commander of NATO’s submarine forces, said Russian activity has reached a level unprecedented in modern times.

Fears have been raised Russia could covertly deploy submarines to sever communications cables spanning the world.

‘We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,’ said Admiral Lennon.

F-104 Will Launch Satelites

What an amazing journey this aircraft has had.

The F-104, designed just after the first jet-vs-jet air combat in The Korean War, was created to fly as fast as possible, hurtling past all the previous speed records. Less than a decade after test pilot Chuck Yeager first broke the speed of sound, it became the first jet to fly more than twice the speed of sound.

On top of a military career which lasted nearly 50 years, the F-104 found itself serving as an experimental testbed – a rocket-powered spacecraft stand-in that allowed pilots to practice the kind of rocket-thrust manoeuvring astronauts would use to control a spacecraft.

Now, some 60 years after the prototype first flew, the F-104 has found another role – as the launch vehicle for a new generation of tiny satellites.

[…]

Cubecab plans to launch very small satellites – known as cubesats – using a rocket that weighs a similar amount. It’s much smaller, and therefore cheaper, than any other launch  method currently available.

How will CubeCab launch these tiny satellites? Simple – they’ll use Starfighters.

Cubecab will strap its lightweight rockets, each carrying a satellite weighing around 10kg, on to the kind of underwing ‘pylons’ usually used to fire missiles. And Starfighters Inc, a Florida-based company which still flies a handful of F-104s, will take their pint-sized payloads up to the edge of the stratosphere and fire them into orbit.

Air Force Failed to Enter Conviction in Database

Not that it would have prevented the tragedy, but it sure didn’t help.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault on his spouse and assault on their child, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday. Kelley received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, she said.
The Air Force did not provide a date of the discharge, but his military record indicates he left the service in May 2014.
“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” an Air Force statement issued later Monday said.
The failure to relay the information prevented the entry of his conviction into the federal database that must be checked before someone is able to purchase a firearm. Had his information been in the database, it should have prevented gun sales to Kelley.

Saudis Intercept Missile Fired at Capital

Yikes. That comes after the Houthi fired missiles at Saudi refineries this summer.

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on Saturday evening.

The missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area, officials quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past , though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Last IS Strongholds Fall

Now the traditional antagonists in the region can get back to fighting each other.

The success of the Syrian government forces inevitably raises the potential for clashes between them and US-backed, predominantly Kurdish units who hold a significant swathe of northern Syria.

It is a powerful reminder that while the war against the IS “caliphate” is well on the way to being won, the situation on the ground in Syria is becoming ever more complex.

With Iran eager to consolidate its influence, questions remain as to the Trump administration’s future policy direction now IS is collapsing. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has consolidated his position and looks to squeeze opposition forces in the months ahead.

General Kelly Responds to Phone Call Controversy

Wow. I believe that’s the final word.

ISIS Almost Dead

Excellent. It’s good to see success in the field.

ISIS’s reign of terror is rapidly coming to an end. Within a matter of days, the jihadist menace that shocked the world for years with its pathological sadism will lose its final strongholds within the Syrian city of Raqqa. It has taken 5 months of bloody struggle but the de facto capital of the Islamic State will soon be entirely in the hands of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Across the border in Iraq, the process of rebuilding the devastated city of Mosul is underway after its liberation from the so-called caliphate in July. There are still areas of ISIS control in both Iraq and Syria, but the jihadists have lost over 60 percent of the territory they once held. Their sources of funding are drying up, hostile forces surround them, and ISIS can no longer count on tens of thousands of recruits to flood into Syria to replenish their ranks.

If the Islamic State’s fanatics were running an actual state instead of a glorified death cult, they would be negotiating terms for surrender and laying down their arms already.

The U.S. and its allies have effectively beaten the Islamic State. While the process has been slow and riddled with setbacks and restarts, this is a substantial accomplishment. In 2014, ISIS seized Mosul in a blitzkrieg and was threatening to march on the Kurdish city of Erbil.