Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pentagon defends NATO after Trump criticism

The Pentagon on Tuesday said NATO was "far from obsolete," defending the transatlantic alliance from Donald Trump's criticisms.
"NATO is far from obsolete. We think NATO is as relevant as ever right now in the current environment," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. 
Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner, has criticized the 67-year old North Atlantic Treaty Organization" as unnecessary and expensive, arguing that the U.S. pays a disproportionate share of its cost. 
"I think NATO is obsolete," Trump told ABC News on Saturday. "NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger -- much larger than Russia is today." 
Trump said NATO should be "readjusted to take care of terrorism."  
His remarks came after the March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels, where at least 35 were killed and more than 300 injured. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility. 
Trump first called into question NATO's value during a interview with The Washington Post's editorial board a day before the attacks, saying NATO "as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved." 
“I’m not even knocking it, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s fair, we’re not treated fair.”
Rival GOP candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has also criticized Trump for those remarks, saying that "abandoning Europe, withdrawing from the most successful military alliance of modern times makes no sense at all."  more
He added that withdrawing from NATO would "hand a massive victory to Putin" and a "massive victory" to ISIS.
"ISIS would be dancing in the street at the weakness and isolationism of Donald Trump," Cruz said.  

US Improving Accuracy of Airstrikes, Intel Against ISIS

As the White House mulls sending more troops into Iraq to support the fight against Islamic State fighters, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said existing efforts to counter the extremists, including airstrikes, were increasing in effectiveness.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said better intelligence enabled U.S. forces to hit targets affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, with more accuracy than they had just a year and a half ago.
His remarks came days after he told reporters that more U.S. troops were likely headed to Iraq to support an effort to take back the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
"As our intelligence has developed over time, we've been more effective in conducting strikes against [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] leadership as well as going after their resources, particularly in the north," he said, using another term for the extremist group. "Moving forward, we're going to look for ways to reinforce success as the Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga prepare for operations in Mosul, which we think is a strategically significant operation." more

Monday, March 28, 2016

Air Force Moves to Replenish Bomb Stockpile Drained by ISIS Fight

An Air Force official downplayed reports that the service is facing a shortage of missiles and bombs as a result of the air campaign against the Islamic State.
“We’re not concerned [about whether] we have the supplies to do what we need to do today,” Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, deputy chief of staff for operations, told reporters Thursday morning. “But we’re making sure we request [additional supplies] to take care of future, or potential future operations.”
In December, Raymond’s boss, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, made headlines when he said airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were denting the service’s stockpile of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles used in drone strikes and GPS-guided bombs such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), among other munitions.
The Air Force has expended more than 20,000 missiles and bombs in Iraq and Syria since it began its campaign against ISIS in 2014. It reportedly burned through more munitions in recent months, though still reportedly has an estimated 142,000 smart bombs and 2,300 Hellfires in the inventory. more

More US Troops Headed to Iraq in Push to Retake Mosul

Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said Friday that he expected more U.S. troops would be sent to Iraq in the coming weeks to support an offensive to retake the ISIS stronghold in Mosul.
Dunford said that he and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter "both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn't been made" yet by President Barack Obama.
"We have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi Security Forces," the chairman said.
Dunford did not say how many additional troops would be deployed, and he refused to say how many were now in Iraq beyond stating that the number currently exceeded the authorized level of 3,870 approved by Obama and agreed to by the Baghdad government.
However, Dunford denied published reports that the number of U.S. troops now in Iraq exceeded 5,000. He echoed previous remarks by defense officials who said that troop levels routinely went above the authorized 3,870 as troop rotations overlapped and troops were sent to Iraq temporarily on special assignments.
Dunford cited the deployment into Iraq of about 200 Marines from an artillery battery of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge as an example of the type of support the Iraqi Security Forces will need to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq.


In Syria, Militias Armed by the Pentagon Fight Those Armed by the CIA

Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.
The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.
In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.
"Any faction that attacks us, regardless from where it gets its support, we will fight it," Maj. Fares Bayoush, a leader of Fursan al Haq, said in an interview.
Rebel fighters described similar clashes in the town of Azaz, a key transit point for fighters and supplies between Aleppo and the Turkish border, and on March 3 in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud.
The attacks by one U.S.-backed group against another come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.
"It is an enormous challenge," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who described the clashes between U.S.-supported groups as "a fairly new phenomenon."
"It is part of the three-dimensional chess that is the Syrian battlefield," he said.

IS setbacks in Syria and Iraq

The Islamic State group, which came under attack this weekend by regime forces in Syria and Iraq, has faced major setbacks in the two neighbouring countries over the past year.
The latest offensives against IS, which has carried out brazen attacks in Europe, come as the jihadist group claimed suicide attacks on the Brussels airport and a metro station that killed 31 people."The more IS loses territory in Syria, the more they will export attacks," a senior French counter-terrorism official warned this week after the Belgium bombings.Here are the key IS losses since January 2015:

THAAD would greatly increase defense capability in South Korea

Right now, the United States and South Korea are in discussions regarding the feasibility of deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD system there, along with its associated radar, while nearby China has voiced objections to the idea.

No decision has been reached, but earlier this week Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense said such an emplacement would provide a "huge increase in capabilities," in South Korea to protect against threats posed by North Korea.

Mann is aware of China's concerns.

"This is a sensitive issue for the partners throughout the region, and we understand the sensitivities that are involved, especially when you look at South Korea is one of the largest trading partners to China in the region," Mann said. "We don't minimize the sensitivity of these discussions."

Right now, he said, discussions are about the feasibility of putting a THAAD battery in South Korea. The system is designed to strike down incoming missiles in their "terminal" phase. THAAD missiles don't carry warheads, but rather rely on their own weight combined with the speed at which they travel to strike down the missiles they target. A THAAD battery consists of launcher vehicles with each vehicle holding 8 missiles; a radar system; and a fire control system which serves as the communications and data-management backbone.

The THAAD system, he said, is designed to provide greater capability to address "more challenging threat vehicles that are out there." The THAAD system augments existing capabilities such as the Patriot Missile system and the Aegis Combat System.

"THAAD, if you look at its performance, especially in past testing, it's just remarkable what its capability has proven to be," Mann said, praising the system's capabilities.

Were such a system ever put into South Korea, Mann said, it would be focused not on China, but on threats coming from North Korea.

"That radar and that system is not looking at China," he said. "That system, if the decision is made to deploy it, would be oriented on North Korea, quite frankly, and threats posed by the North Korean military. It's a missile defense capability, to make sure we provide our South Korean partners as well as other partners in the region, with protection."


In recent months, North Korea has become more aggressive in testing potential weapons technology. In January, North Korea detonated what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb. Last month, it launched an earth observation satellite into space. Mann said the North Koreans are making themselves a viable threat -- the kind of threat THAAD is designed to address.

"I think we need to take North Korea seriously," he said. Recent North Korean activity "shows that they have the capability for long-range flight. And so I would not minimize ... I think we need to take their capability seriously ... I think we need to take their developments very, very seriously."

Right now, the Army has a THAAD system in place in Guam, and Mann said that system is likely to stay there long-term. Were a decision to be made to place a THAAD system in South Korea, it could take several weeks to make happen, Mann said. While the system is mobile, site selection and site preparation will take some time.

The Army is looking at other locations for THAAD as well, Mann said. In addition to South Korea, he said, he believes Japan and other nations may also be interested in the system, but "to what degree I'm not prepared to say," he said.

Mann also said the Army is seeing a "demand signal' from other areas for such a capability, including from U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, and other areas

"If you look at their operation plan, they see a need ... for this capability," he said.


The older Patriot Missile System has a mission similar to that of the THAAD system, though there are many more in the Army's inventory. The Army plans to have up to seven THAAD batteries, for instance, while it currently maintains 15 Patriot Battalions. Nevertheless, Patriot systems and crews are overtaxed, and Mann said it's not prudent to look to the THADD system to relieve that stress.

With just seven planned THAAD batteries, he said, "you have to be so judicious, so careful as to where you deploy THAAD, because you have so few ... of that defense system. It's complementary, but I don't think you are looking at THAAD necessarily as being able to alleviate the stress on Patriot, just by the sheer numbers and where we have Patriot located throughout the U.S., and the world."

Instead, he said, the Army is looking at other options that will enable it to more effectively use Patriot. One solution is purchasing a dismounted command and control system for the Patriot battery to allow for it to serve a wider area -- "instead of deploying a whole battalion we can maximize what that battalion brings to the table by not having to send the whole battalion, but by using the dismounted capability to take different components within the Patriot battalion to different locations and really kind of spread its capability ... on the battlefield."

Mann also said that instead of deploying an entire Patriot battalion -- including all the equipment that supports the launchers and missiles, "maybe we can take a Patriot battery to a location and augment its capabilities by leveraging an Aegis radar, or an Air Force radar, or a coalition radar, and really kind of componentize the Patriot unit and optimize its capabilities across a battle space. Leveraging networks to be able to get the best return on investment, in order to have the best sensor, best shooter mix to address a threat."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pentagon muscles out State Dept. on foreign aid

Washington's newest arms race pits the State Department against the Pentagon, which are feuding over who should make the decisions on supplying military aid to foreign nations.
And to the consternation of the diplomats, the generals are on a winning streak.

The Pentagon is steering a growing pot of money, equipment and training to help countries fight terrorism, stem the drug trade and deter a rising China and resurgent Russia. Congress is poised to further expand the military's ability to ship arms overseas — causing the State Department and its supporters on Capitol Hill to warn that some of the aid may contradict broader U.S. interests, such as promoting human rights.

Read more: 

U.S. Marines have a new plan to prevent another Benghazi

U.S. Marines in Europe are training to descend on embassies overrun by terrorists, active shooters or violent rioters as concerns about safety at diplomatic facilities mount following sophisticated attacks on that continent.
Members of the Marine Corps' Spain-based crisis response unit recently spent three days at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, responding to mock emergencies. The exercises prepared the Marines for real-world missions since their unit could be tapped to rapidly reinforce security at State Department posts across Africa or Europe.
“The ability to do these kinds of missions in an actual embassy is only going to help us further down the line if and when we have to ... go and reinforce [one],” said 1st Lt. John McCombs, a spokesman for the crisis response force. more

Boeing Aiming to Extend V-22 Deliveries Through 2024

Boeing is currently negotiating a third multiyear contract with the Defense Department that would extend deliveries of the V-22 Osprey to 2024, a company executive said March 22.

"We're looking forward to a Multiyear 3 contract that would be awarded in December of '17," said Rick Lemaster, director of V-22 tilt-rotor global sales and marketing for vertical lift programs at Boeing. "That would be for a five-year period, essentially FY18 through FY22, and then the deliveries would go on out through 2024."

In 2008 the Naval Air Systems Command awarded the first multiyear procurement contract to Bell Boeing, covering V-22 purchases from 2008-2012. In 2013, the Navy signed a second multiyear contract for production of the tilt-rotor aircraft, which is jointly manufactured by Boeing and Bell Helicopter. That contract authorized the purchase of 99 V-22s from 2013 through 2017 — 92 MV-22s going to the Marine Corps and seven CV-22s going to Air Force special operations forces. It also included an option for up to 23 additional aircraft. The multiyear resulted in a total cost savings of about $1 billion, according to Boeing.

Over the summer Boeing will work with both the Navy and the Marine Corps to discuss the quantities that the services would purchase as part of a five-year production buy, he told National Defense at the Boeing facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, where the fuselage for the V-22 is built.

The company is hoping to reach quantities and cost savings similar to what was achieved through the second multiyear contract, which would enable Boeing to produce aircraft at the current rate of about 19 to 20 per year.

To meet that production rate, Boeing is looking at both new domestic and international opportunities — in addition to what the Navy and Marine Corps plan to purchase — to fill the gap, Lemaster said. 


US Army Orders First JLTV Lot

The US Army has ordered its first lot of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles from Oshkosh Defense, the company announced Wednesday.
The first order includes 657 vehicles along with kits and related support for “more than” $243 million, according to Oshkosh.
The JLTV program was finally able to move ahead after work stopped on the program for 98 days while Lockheed Martin protested the Army’s award to Oshkosh to build the vehicles. Lockheed then filed a lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims because it claimed newly supplied Army information that emerged toward the end of the Government Accountability Office’s protest process was enough to move the protest to court. Oshkosh did not have to stop work while the lawsuit played out in court. Lockheed dropped its lawsuit last month. more

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The U.S. military is moving into these 5 bases in the Philippines

A new agreement between the United States and the Philippines clears the way for a new permanent American military presence across five bases that will support rotational deployments near the contested South China Sea.
The bases include:
Antonio Bautista Air Base. Located near the capital of the island province of Palawan, which is strategically located near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Basa Air Base. Located about 40 miles northwest of the Philippines' capital, Manila, the air base was originally constructed by the U.S. Army Air Corps before the Second World War.
Fort Magsaysay. Located on the northern Island of Luzon, Fort Magsaysay is the largest military installation in the Philippines, and is one of the primary training areas of the Philippine Army.
Lumbia Air Base. Located on the southern island of Mindanao, the air base is connected to a civilian airport. Local media reports say construction of a new U.S. facility will begin soon.
Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base. Located on Mactan Island of the coast of Cebu in the central Philippines. It was originally built by the U.S. Air Force before the American pullout in the early 1990s.

Japan law to defend US, allied troops takes effect next week

Laws that would allow Japan’s forces to defend its close allies if under attack will take effect March 29, following a Japanese government cabinet resolution Tuesday.
The enactment of the security laws, which passed the national Diet in September despite majority opposition in most polls, broadens Japan’s ability to work with the United States and other militaries to its greatest extent since World War II.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his cabinet Tuesday that the legislation “further ensures peace and security of our country through increasing deterrence and proactively contributing to peace and stability of the region as well as the international community,” according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Under existing law, if U.S. forces were attacked in a scenario where Japan was not also being attacked, Japanese forces could not legally fight back.
The new laws also permit Japanese forces to deploy globally through a less cumbersome process. Previous non-combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan required the Diet to pass special temporary laws. more

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carter Open to DoD-wide Nuclear Weapons Fund

For the first time, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has shown public support for the idea of a national nuclear modernization fund, one which would cover all three legs of the nuclear triad.
Appearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said that a nuclear deterrent fund “may make sense.”
“I am agreeing with you that I think that a broader nuclear deterrent fund may be appropriate,” Carter added to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., when pressed on whether a Navy-only fund to support the Ohio class submarine replacement makes sense.
The Pentagon faces a major nuclear modernization bill in the mid-2020s, with the core of the nuclear deterrent — the SSBN(X) program to replace the Ohio-class nuclear submarines, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) replacement for the aging Minuteman III ICBMs, the B-21 bomber and the Long Range Stand-Off (LRSO) cruise missile — all needing to be funded during that time period.
Brian McKeon, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, said in February testimony that he expects the next ten years of nuclear weapon spending to come to $350-$450 billion. A think tank estimate from 2015 has put that total at over $700 billion for the next 25 years. more

US, Philippines Announce Locations Covered by Defense Pact

The US and the Philippines announced Friday five locations where American forces will have access under a new defense pact, including one facing disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The announcement came at strategic talks in Washington, where the allies reiterated their opposition to the militarization of outposts in those waters, where six Asian governments have competing claims.
China has built artificial islands with airstrips and military facilities as it asserts its claim to virtually all the South China Sea, including land features claimed by the Philippines.
Another of the five Philippine military bases where the US will have access is on southern Mindanao island, where the US is concerned about the presence of Muslim extremist groups.
The 10-year defense pact was signed by US and Philippine officials in 2014, but it only got the green light this January after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional. It is a key part of the Obama administration effort to reassert its presence in Asia.
Philip Goldberg, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said the pact would allow the US to rotate more forces and military assets through that country on a basis of mutual agreement with Manila. It can also conduct construction and position supplies, including for humanitarian relief.
Goldberg said the US is not establishing its own bases as it had in the Philippines until 1992. more

Friday, March 18, 2016

Air Force Clarifies A-10 Retirement Plans

Amid some confusion over when the Air Force will retire the A-10 attack plane, top service officials this week clarified the plan to start drawing down Warthog squadrons in fiscal 2018.
Comments from Defense Secretary Ash Carter in early February seemed to indicate the Air Force would postpone divesting the A-10 until fiscal 2022. In a speech previewing the budget release, Carter noted commanders' demand for the A-10 and other fourth-generation aircraft in the fight against the Islamic State.
“The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35s on a squadron-by-squadron basis so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today’s conflict,” Carter said Feb. 2. more

New NATO Units Will Help US Army Move Across Europe

As the US Army grows its presence and steps up its activities and partnerships in Europe, the service has learned many lessons on navigating border crossings and securing diplomatic clearances across the region.
In fiscal year 2014, the Army processed about 2,000 diplomatic clearances, one for every border crossing, said Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, commanding general of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. That number almost tripled in fiscal 2015, with soldiers handling almost 5,700 diplomatic clearances as troops moved and trained in countries such as Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria.
“It frustrates us all that we can’t move stuff rapidly across these borders, but they’re sovereign borders,” Gamble said Wednesday during a meeting here with reporters at the Association of the United States Army Global Force Symposium and Exposition. “The No. 1 friction point is diplomatic clearances.”
For example, it takes 15 to 30 days to get clearance to move materiel across the Polish border, he said.
But “the countries are listening,” Gamble said, adding that at least one is looking to ease its border restrictions for US troop movements. more

Northrop Grumman Hellhound Draws Crowd at AUSA

The Hellhounds of folklore were supernatural dogs that wielded fire and served as harbingers of the afterlife.
Today it’s an apropos name for a light recon vehicle with a 30mm cannon up top and six troopers inside.
Northrop Grumman’s Hellhound, on display here at the AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exhibition, continues to raise eyebrows on the trade show floor.
The jet black vehicle was unveiled last fall at the AUSA show in Washington, D.C. Northrop has designed the Hellhound for the US Army’s light reconnaissance vehicle acquisition program. more

SecDef Carter: Return to Sequestration Biggest Threat to National Security

Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and ISIS all pose threats, but the "biggest strategic danger" to U.S. national security would be a return to the arbitrary budget caps of the sequester process, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Thursday.
"If the bipartisan budget agreement were to fall apart, as everyone has said, that is our biggest strategic danger because that would affect in future years our ability to recover full-spectrum readiness," Carter said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the proposed DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2017.
"That is the greatest risk to the Department of Defense -- the reversion to sequestration. We very much hope to avoid that," said Carter, who testified with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford in support of the Obama administration's proposed defense budget of $583 billion -- $524 billion in the base budget and $59 billion in the war fund for Overseas Contingency Operations.
As they have previously, Carter and Dunford said that Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria all posed main threats, adding that those threats would possibly go unchallenged if the budget caps of the 2011 Budget Control Act returned in 2018. more

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Corps' Warfighting Strategy Update to Focus on High-Tech Fights

The Marine Corps will roll out a brand-new version of its 21st century warfighting strategy in May, the commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said this week.
The Corps will debut a refreshed edition of Expeditionary Force 21 at the massive Sea Air Space symposium near Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said, allowing troops to get a glimpse of what lies in store for Marine Corps operations. The symposium kicks off May 16.
First published in early 2014, the 47-page EF-21 document drew a roadmap for the Marine Corps into the 2020s, emphasizing smaller units operating independently and a return to sea-based operations. But Walsh told the document may have focused too much on the non-combat elements of the Corps' global role.
"I think the original writing, in a lot of ways we got a lot of comments back that it made it look like we were doing distributed operations to do theater security cooperation, to touch more countries, train with more people, more in that sense. That's exactly opposite of what we originally intended," Walsh said. " ... Some of it works in a non-hostile environment, to do [humanitarian assistance and disaster relief], that sort of thing. But I also think what we're seeing is, how we're going to operate on a future modern battlefield is to be able to disaggregate."
He likened the Marine Corps' new approach to an amphibious version of the Navy's "distributed lethality" concept, with deployed ships spread out across one or more areas of operations, instead of grouped closely together. The ships can then move back in close in the event of a large-scale fight. more

Raytheon to offer new tactical missile design

Raytheon reports it will offer a new missile design to the U.S. Army to replace its current tactical missile system weapons.
The new design for the Army's Long-Range Precision Fires requirements adds enhanced speed, range and power, as well as cost-effectiveness, Raytheon said. more

IS lost a fifth of its territory since January 2015

The Islamic State group has lost 22 percent of the territory it held at the start of 2015, military analysts IHS Jane's said Wednesday, as US and Russian air strikes have helped the jihadists' opponents advance.
IS controls swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria but lost 14 percent of it last year and a further eight percent this year, according to the IHS Conflict Monitor.IHS Jane's said the jihadists controlled 73,440 square kilometres (28,360 square miles) of ground as of Monday, an area equivalent to around half the size of England.The Syrian government has made gains in the west of the country and is now five kilometres outside the ancient city of Palmyra, which was overrun by IS fighters in mid-2015."The Islamic State is increasingly isolated, and being perceived as in decline," said IHS senior analyst Columb Strack. more

WASPs: First women in history to fly for Army Air Corps

Before there could be women flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were the pioneers of the Army Air Forces of World War II.

On July 5, 1943, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS, and the Women's Flying Training Detachment merged into a single unit for all female pilots. The new group called itself the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, with its pilots known as WASPs.


The women paid their own way to travel to basic training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. More than 25,000 women applied, even some from Canada, England and Brazil, said Bernice "Bee" Falk Haydu, a WASP pilot from Montclair, New Jersey. Only 1,830 U.S. women were accepted into the program. Of those, 1,074 earned their wings.

To qualify, applicants had to be at least 5 feet, 4 inches tall, pass Army physicals and have a pilot's license, Haydu said. Women also had to have at least a high school diploma and be age 18 to 35.

"Most of the women were college graduates, but the toughest part of the training was you started out in a basic aircraft and then you'd go to a medium and then an advanced," Haydu said.

When she joined the WASP program in 1944, Haydu said training was being accelerated.

"They wanted to experiment with the women to see if they could eliminate one of the phases of training, so we went from the Stearman, which is an open cockpit biplane, in primary [training], and after about 60 to 70 hours of that, we went directly into the advanced, which was the AT-6 [Texan] -- that's 650 horsepower comparted to 220 horsepower," she said.

During training, the women had to pay for their dress uniforms and their room and board, but were issued men's coveralls that they nicknamed "zoot suits," Haydu said. There were six women per bay in the barracks, with one latrine, one sink, one shower and one toilet. If the winds kicked up, the women would lie on the bottom wings of the airplanes to help keep them down, she said, "because they needed more weight to keep the airplanes on the ground."


After graduating, the women would go to either Ferrying Command or Training Command. Lucile Doll Wise was a pilot at Ferrying Command, and she said she ferried aircraft from factories to air bases and points of embarkation.

"There was an alarming shortage of pilots at the beginning of the war," Wise said, "and we delivered more than 12,000 aircraft in the two years we operated. We also performed many other domestic flying duties."

"I loved every minute of it," she added, "but it was not easy. It was hard work, and I came back from trips pretty tired."

Haydu served as an engineering test pilot and a utility pilot in the Training Command, where the women's missions ranged from towing aerial targets for the infantry, flying tracking missions, smoke-laying, searchlight strafing and simulated bombing, and testing radio-controlled aircraft. The women were also flight instructors, engineering test pilots and utility pilots and performed all stateside flying duties.

"If an engine needed to be flown a certain manner for a certain number hours before it went into regular service, I would do that," she said. "I also would fly personnel to wherever they had to go."

Haydu said she was disappointed when the WASPs were disbanded, Dec. 20, 1944, just 11 days before she was to begin training to fly the B-25 Mitchell bomber. The last class graduated, Dec. 7, 1944.

Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold of the Army Air Corps told the last crop of pilots, "We of the [Army Air Forces] are proud of you; we will never forget our debt to you."

The WASPs had ferried more than 50 percent of the combat aircraft within the U.S. during the war and flew at 126 bases across the country. Thirty-eight of these women died in their service: 11 in training and 27 during missions.


The women had been paid as civil service employees, with the promise that they might be able to join the Army Air Service eventually.

Arnold told the WASPs, "We have not been able to build an airplane that you can't handle. It is on the record that women can fly as well as men." He planned to commission the women pilots as second lieutenants within the Army Air Force, but political opposition meant the plan never came to fruition. As a result, for 35 years, the women weren't allowed to call themselves veterans and their records were classified and sealed from the public. They lobbied Congress and pushed to be recognized as veterans.

The legislation eventually "became the only bill in history to be co-sponsored by every woman member in Congress," Haydu said.

On Nov. 23, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-202, Title IV, which granted former WASPs veteran status with limited benefits.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ivory Coast Resort Attackers Likely Targeted US Official, Source Says

A deadly attack on a popular Ivory Coast beach resort Sunday that killed at least 16 most likely targeted a U.S. delegation led by the assistant commerce secretary, who was visiting the country, a diplomatic source in the region told Fox News.
There was no indication any Americans had been killed or wounded in the attack, according to the source.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte was leading a group of Americans in Grand-Bassam, including college recruiters from the University of Florida. U.S. Embassy officials from the capital city of Abidjan were also included in the group, according to the source.
The delegation was supposed to arrive at the scene of the attack, Etoile du Sud, a hotel popular with Westerners. The delegation had not yet made it to the hotel when the attack occurred.
A jihadist group called Ansar Dine, or "defenders of the faith," linked to Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb was suspected of the attack, according to the source. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb later claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a Jihad monitoring website cited by the Associated Press. more

Two-Armed Robots for US Army

The Army has fielded a lot of "one-armed bandits" over the years, said Maj. R. Clayton McVay, referring to robots with just one arm.

While they work well for many tasks, explosive ordnance disposal personnel, or EOD, have different requirements. "They want two-armed robots" to diffuse bombs, he said.

"I'm looking for one to put in a program of record," he added. "We want to write the right kind of requirements. I don't care which contractor does the job, I just want one that works."

McVay, Robotics deputy branch chief, Dominant Maneuver Division, Army G-8, spoke at a robotics conference here, March 2.

Getting a two-armed robot, or any other robot into a program of record is challenging,"given the bureaucracy," he lamented. It often takes four or five years to work through the process.

McVay noted that he's sorting through piles of some 10,000 robots used in Afghanistan, trying to determine which are worthy to become programs of record. The two-armed one, he said, is high on his list.

All robots, he said, will need to be operated wirelessly, so all the cabling needs to be ripped out. Another important aspect is cybersecurity. "You don't want the enemy hacking into your robot and taking control of it."

Hau Do, EOD Robotics Tools and Equipment Team lead, EOD Technology Directorate of the Armament, Research Development and Engineering Center, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, said:

"We're working closely with the requirements community as well as the developers to come up with this new capability," he said, meaning two-armed robots. "Our No.1 priority is saving Soldiers' lives and providing Soldiers additional capabilities to do their tasks more easily and efficiently as well."


One such two-armed robot was traipsing around the Waterford Hotel, greeting guests and performing feats, where the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored robotics events took place.

Do said his team at Picatinny was working with its developers, RE2 Robotics, out of Pittsburgh.

Reeg Allen, RE2's director of business development, spoke as the robot unzipped a woman's purse, extracted a widget, danced about, put the widget back into the purse and zipped it back up. A one-armed robot can't do that, he said.

Asked if the robot had a name like R2D2 or something, he said it's called the highly-dexterous manipulation system. That's the control system for the arms, which sits atop a legacy TALON unmanned ground vehicle.

RE2, he explained, is using an Army small-business innovation research grant, funded through Do's office.

EOD operators are currently using one-armed robots to diffuse bombs, he said. "Have you ever tried unscrewing a water bottle cap with one arm? You can't."

That's the dilemma facing EOD operators every day in Afghanistan and elsewhere when they need to countercharge a bomb, he said. Their robots can only do so much before a human operator needs to intervene.

Soldiers are currently testing and evaluating this robot, he said. "They say we are on the right track, but they wanted the control system improved, so we designed a joystick to control the two-armed manipulator downrange, a safe distance from the Soldiers."

The controller has such a good ergonomic design that a Soldier can get the robot to unzip the purse and do the tasks described previously in just one minute, he said. They love it.

The controller doesn't just control the arms, he said, it controls the tracks, cameras, speed, direction and so on.

Human arms have seven degrees of freedom, Allen said. That's the number of ways a person's arm can twist and rotate. The manipulator arms on this robot have five degrees of freedom, with one degree of freedom for the torso. That means the torso tilts up and down.

While more degrees of freedom might seem the way to go, the Army doesn't think so, he said.

The Army is looking at keeping the system to the minimum degrees of freedom necessary to do the job in order to control the cost. "You want to also minimize the cost when these things do blow up."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

General Tapped for Central Command Opposes No-Fly Zone in Syria

Gen. Joseph Votel, who has been nominated to take command of U.S. Central Command, told lawmakers Wednesday that he did not support establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian refugees.
Votel, the outgoing commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testified at a March 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Thomas also testified at the hearing for his nomination to become the next commander of SOCOM.
Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the committee, asked Votel if he supported using U.S. air power to protect Syrian refugees fleeing from their war-torn country.
"Do you believe that perhaps we should have a no-fly zone in order for refugees to have some place to go besides going to Europe where basically they are being shut out now as we speak?" the senator asked.
McCain has been a long-time advocate of establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria.
Votel, who asked for a chance to explain, said, "Mr. Chairman, reluctantly my answer is no. First of all, I share in your concern and the committee's concern on the humanitarian disaster that is in place.
"That said, as I have looked at what the potential options are, I have to do a more complete look at the assessment of those to ensure that they will achieve the end states that we truly desire and if confirmed I commit to do that."

US in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia

Washington is in talks to station its strike bombers in Australia, according to a US general, amid concern about China's military expansion in the South China Sea.
General Lori Robinson, commander of US Pacific Air Forces, said negotiations were under way to have American B-1 bombers and aerial tankers temporarily stationed in northern Australia."We're in the process of talking about rotational forces, bombers and tankers out of Australia and it gives us the opportunity to train with Australia," she said according to national radio aired Wednesday."It gives us the opportunity to strengthen the ties we already have with the Royal Australian Air Force and it gives the opportunity to train our pilots to understand the theatre and how important it is to strengthen our ties with our great allies, the RAAF."The US has been pursuing a foreign policy "pivot" towards Asia, which has rattled China, and already stations Marines in Australia's north. more

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Navy Successfully Completes First Live Fire Test Of SeaRAM From Destroyer

The Navy successfully launched the Raytheon SeaRAM Anti-Ship Missile Defense System from an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer for the first time ever on March 4, a final step in rapidly fielding a self-defense capability on the Mediterranean-based USS Porter (DDG-78) through an unconventional acquisition process.
Porter last week went through structural test firings to ensure a shield would properly protect the ship from the SeaRAM blast, followed by tracking exercises to verify the accuracy of the detect-to-engage sequence. Finally, on Friday the Navy had its first-ever live fire test of a SeaRAM from a DDG, which took place on a Spanish Navy test range in the Mediterranean.
USNI News understands the qualification test was successful and Porter will soon be able to use SeaRAM operationally, according to a source familiar with the test event. Additionally, the SeaRAM system has recently been tested successfully in another location against supersonic targets, expanding the utility of the system meant to address close-in threats such as helicopters and cruise missiles.
The SeaRAM, which replaces the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System’s 20mm gun with a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block II launcher, is in production for use on the Littoral Combat Ship. more

Boeing Sees New RD-180 Replacement Engine Ready by 2019

A U.S.-designed replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine can be delivered for certification tests by the end of the decade, the president of Boeing’s network and space systems division said March 8.

“We should have engines available around the 2019 timeframe for certification,” Craig Cooning said at a briefing on the sidelines of the Satellite 2016 conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

Boeing and Lockheed Marrtin are the two partners comprising United Launch Alliance, and Cooning sits on its board of directors. The company has relied on Russian-made engines for its Atlas V rockets to launch national security space satellites. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked Congress in 2014 to halt future acquisitions of the engine, although ULA has since been given a reprieve until a domestic engine has been developed.

Cooning said there should be two concurrent programs going forward, the BE-4 being developed by Blue Origin, a start-up founded by billionaire founder Jeff Bezos and the AR-1 from Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“Anything that United Launch Alliance does is ultimately to assure mission success and we think the best way to assure that is to hedge our bets and go forward for as long as possible with two engine providers,” he said.

ULA is developing its own new Vulcan family of rockets. “What ULA is doing is investing in a new rocket engine, and we’re doing it incrementally as we understand what the ultimate acquisition policy is here.”

The government is providing seed money for engine development to several companies, he noted. But the engine is only one component, he added.

“We think that is a step in the right direction, but an engine alone does not make a rocket,” he said. The corresponding investment to integrate the engine with the rest of the system needs to happen, he added. There is money in the 2017 budget proposal for rocket development. That is encouraging, but there should be an alignment between the Defense Department and Congress as development moves forward, he said.

Before Congress reversed its decision to completely stop RD-180 procurement, it appeared that rival SpaceX and its Falcon family of rockets would have a competitive advantage over ULA. Now that the alliance can continue to procure RD-180 engines for as long as needed, it is pushing ahead with investments using private and public funding, Cooning said.


Survey: US Voters Favor Cutting Defense Spending

A majority of Americans favor cutting the US defense budget in five out of seven key areas, including nuclear weapons and missile defense, according to a new University of Maryland survey released March 9.
Nationally, a majority supports modest budget cuts to air power ($2 billion), ground forces ($4 billion), naval forces ($2 billion), nuclear weapons ($3 billion) and missile defense ($1 billion). No majority emerged for either cutting or increasing the budgets of the Marine Corps or Special Ops forces.
In total, a majority of respondents would cut the defense budget by $12 billion. When broken down by party, a majority of Republican respondents would leave the defense budget as is, while the majority of Democrats would cut it by $36 billion (including $11 billion cuts to both air power and ground forces), a larger cut than the $20 billion cut supported by a majority of Independents. more

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pentagon starts planning to base more troops in Europe

The Pentagon is discussing plans to permanently move one or more Army brigade combat teams back to Europe, where the top American commander has signaled an urgent need to shore up allied defenses against the Russians, Military Times has learned.
If approved, the move could involve thousands of troops — an average BCT is composed of between 3,000 and 5,000 personnel — and mark the first time in decades that U.S. European Command has increased its footprint on the continent.
The EUCOM Commander, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, discussed his proposals with top-level Pentagon officials while in Washington last week, according to a defense official familiar with the plans. Any increase would come in addition to the brigade-size force that would rotate through Eastern Europe as part of the $3.4 billion “European Reassurance Initiative,” which was included in the Pentagon’s latest budget request.
“They are looking at ways to increase the permanent Army forces in Europe,” the official said. “They're trying to figure out ‘how much do we need, and where would it come from?’” more

Thursday, March 3, 2016

GOP national security leaders sign letter vowing to actively oppose Donald Trump

On Wednesday, 60 prominent Republican former national security officials and experts released an open letter calling Donald Trump a dangerous foreign policy naif who as president "would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe" and pose "a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States." Therefore, the signatories concluded, "as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office."
The national security experts, as they say at the top of the letter, do "represent a broad spectrum of opinion." There are noted hawks like Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Randy Scheunemann, John Noonan, and Roger Noriega, and also more centrist experts like Robert Zoellick, Daniel Drezner, and Andrew Natsios. And after this, it's hard to imagine any of them having a job in a Trump administration.
They don't just disavow Trump, they also list some reasons why, including: "His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin"; his "wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle" vision of "American influence and power in the world"; his economically disastrous "advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars"; his "inexcusable" and repugnant "embrace of the expansive use of torture"; "his hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric" and "utter misreading of, and contempt for," Mexico; and their belief that Trump "is fundamentally dishonest." more

New JSTARS To Begin Testing in 2021?

.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the replacement for the service’s aging ground surveillance plane could begin testing as early as 2021 and be delivered ready for mission just two years later.
Welsh’s statement to Congress on Wednesday afternoon again tweaks the timeline on the successor to the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, whose contract and delivery dates already have been changed numerous times.
“It’s in the budget, it’s funded all the way through IOC,” Welsh said, referring to the initial operational capability — acquisition parlance for when the plane is supposed to be ready to conduct initial operations. “2024 is the delivery date but we’d like to pull it back to ’23 for IOC, which means we should be delivering airplanes into ’21 or ’22 at the latest” for testing.
Welsh designated the replacement aircraft an acquisition priority in 2013.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told lawmakers the start date for the program had changed for at least two or three reasons.
“The Air Force slowed it down at one point because I think it was the judgement of our service acquisitions executive and some others that the laydown and the strategy wasn’t quite ready,” she said. more

Pentagon Wants a Few Good Hackers

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has approved a “Hack the Pentagon” pilot program that will offer “bug bounties” for more than a few hackers who can find holes in the military’s cyber defenses.
In a statement Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the “Hack the Pentagon” initiative would be “the first cyber bug bounty program in the history of the federal government.”
Cook and a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on background, said details had yet to be worked out on when exactly the pilot program would begin and how large the cash awards would be, but the program was expected to launch sometime in April.
“Companies do this all the time” to test their systems, the senior official said, and the Pentagon was following suit. “The thinking was that this was a way  to bring in external experts” in the form of a  “white hat hacker who could come in and help us,” the official said.
The Pentagon is the target of daily cyber attacks and “now the good guys can come in and actually help. The bad guys aren’t waiting,” the official said. Those offering to compete for the “bug bounties” will be vetted to determine whether they are white hats or black hats, the official said.
White the amount of the awards was still to be worked out, “This is a far cheaper way for us to do security and penetration testing” than actually hiring the hackers, the official said. However, “traditionally bug bounties do involve financial compensation” in some form, the official said.
Participants in the bug bounty will be required to register and submit to a background check prior to any involvement with the pilot program,” Cook said. “Once vetted, these hackers will participate in a controlled, limited duration program that will allow them to identify vulnerabilities on a predetermined department system.” more

A Robot in Every U.S. Army Squad?

Soldiers are being asked to do the impossible, carrying out missions while humping over 100 pounds of gear, said Col. Kurt "Travis" Thompson.

They're doing the impossible every day, but they can do much more if that burden is eased, he said.

Thompson, chief, Soldier Requirements Division, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager - Soldier, spoke at a robotics conference here, March 2.

A promising solution, he said, is the Squad Maneuver Equipment Transport, or SMET.

What it looks like and what it will be capable of doing is still pretty much an open question, he said. But the important thing is that the Army, in partnership with industry, is in the process of developing those requirements and capabilities, and early prototypes are being tested by Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas.


While specific capabilities are yet to be put in writing, the Army has already provided the outline of what SMET might look like, Thompson said.

First and foremost, the SMET should be able to haul a squad of Soldier gear for a typical 72-hour patrol, he said.

It needs to be able to keep up, he said. If it doesn't keep pace and hold Soldiers back, "that will be in their head," he said, meaning it will be one more thing to worry about instead of the mission and tracking the enemy.

The SMET must also be able to carry more energy than that required to power it, he said. In other words, SMET must have enough power to charge devices Soldiers carry as well. If it can only power itself it will be like "a self-licking ice cream cone."

It goes without saying that on a 72-hour mission, Soldiers are not continuously moving. During the security halts, the SMET could be in the charging mode.

Operational energy, therefore, will play an important part in development. That's new battery technology, generation, alternative fuels and so forth.

Size matters as well, he said. If it's too small, it won't be able to carry heavy loads. Too big and it won't be able to go through a thick jungle. There's got to be a happy medium.

As of now, the Army is roughly defining its size as something capable of fitting in the back of a helicopter or slung load below.

SMET might also be able to carry an array of sensors and weaponry for which to defend itself, with a Soldier in the loop, he added.

Finally, SMET should be autonomous or semi-autonomous, meaning that it must be smart enough to follow along with the Soldiers with a minimum of control, he said.


Patrolling, while probably the most important SMET function, isn't the only one, Thompson said.

At a forward operating base, or contingency operating base, the SMET could be used for perimeter security, thereby reducing risk to Soldiers and manning requirements.

Inside the perimeter, it could serve to function supplies back and forth.

The Israelis are already using a SMET-type variant as a resupply vehicle, he said. This capability needs to be given to U.S. Soldiers so they can operate it and figure out for themselves what the tactics, techniques and procedures for it will be and what it will be capable of doing.

Stu Hatfield, chief, Robotics Branch, Army G-8, pointed out that some early variants of SMET were used to tow Soldiers on skis in Alaska, and follow Soldiers through jungles in Hawaii.

"We've been in the dating stage with ground robotics for quite some time," Thompson concluded. "Now we want to marry it by getting it in the hands of the Soldiers."

The Army is currently in the increment 1 stage, purchasing a limited number for testing by troops in the brigade combat teams, he said. The Army hopes to get a prototype in the coming years.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Longer wings boost Predator B flight endurance time

The Predator B remotely piloted aircraft, known as the MQ-9 Reaper, has successfully performed its first flight with extended wings for greater endurance.
The flight took place last month at Gray Butte Flight Test Facility in Palmdale, Calif., using a test aircraft, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said."Predator B ER's [extended range] new 79-foot wing span not only boosts the RPA's endurance and range, but also serves as proof-of-concept for the next-generation Predator B aircraft that will be designed for Type-Certification and airspace integration," said Linden Blue, GA-ASI's chied executive officer. "The wing was designed to conform to STANAG 4671, and includes lightning and bird strike protection, non-destructive testing, and advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme environments."STANAG 4671 is NATO's airworthiness standard for RPA systems. more