Friday, March 31, 2017

Air Force secretary nominee backs stealth of F-35 jets | TheHill

Air Force secretary nominee backs stealth of F-35 jets | TheHill: The Air Force secretary nominee on Thursday all but canceled out President Trump’s previous threats to replace the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 with Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, saying the Boeing jet didn’t have a needed stealth capability.

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) told the Senate Armed Services Committee she believed that the Air Force could not give F-18 fighter jets the same stealth capabilities the F-35 already holds.

“I don’t think you can do [that] with an F-18 or an F-15 or an F-16, to give it stealth capability retroactively,” she told lawmakers during her nomination hearing.

Wilson was responding to questions from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who asked if it would be a fair fight with potential adversaries “if we souped-up an F-18 versus move forward with F-35s?”

Trump in December criticized the F-35 costs as “out of control,” and wrote on Twitter that he had asked Boeing to price out a competitive alternative with its F/A-18.

DoD weapons designer: Swarming teams of drones will dominate future wars

DoD weapons designer: Swarming teams of drones will dominate future wars: Future wars will be fought with swarms of expendable, disaggregated, intelligent systems rather than the big, expensive weapon platforms the U.S. has relied on for fifty years, a top Pentagon weapons scientist asserted this week.

William Roper, the lead of the Pentagon’s semi-secret Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), made his prediction March 28, adding that he believes the Air Force will have a greater challenge adjusting to this new reality than the other services.

“What used to be solo systems are going to have to be teams to be relevant in the near future, maybe even the far future. The technology is available today to make teams of systems higher performing than solo systems can be on their own,” Roper said at an event hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute.

The idea of swarming systems being paired with a major system in a “loyal wingman” configuration isn’t a new one. The Pentagon’s various research groups, including DARPA and the service research labs, have been playing with the technology for years.

US Vice Admiral Calls for Code of Conduct for Space

US Vice Admiral Calls for Code of Conduct for Space: The deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command is calling for the development of a code of conduct for space as dreams of altruistic exploration fade. Vice Admiral Charles Richard believes establishing norms and practices of behavior in space would help nations better understand each other's activities.

"We're still sorting out what constitutes an attack in space," Richard said at a conference titled "Space Security: Issues for the New U.S. Administration" held last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"What is the indisputable evidence required within the international community to assert violation of sovereign territory in space? What constitutes provocation in space from our point of view?" he asked.

No rules of engagement in space

Conducting exercises with U.S. partners and allies has revealed the difficulty of answering those questions because there are no rules of engagement for space, said Richard.

While acknowledging that "space is different," said Richard, "Some of the questions we are answering have already been answered in the maritime domain and in the air domain so we have precedent to start from."

Army Shows Off Its Lightest Combat Helmet Ever |

Army Shows Off Its Lightest Combat Helmet Ever | Army equipment officials said Thursday that the service's newest combat helmet will feel significantly lighter to soldiers while providing the same protection.

The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II will replace the legacy Advanced Combat Helmet, which was fielded about 15 years ago.

The service earlier this month awarded Revision Military, based in Essex Junction in Vermont, a contract worth about $98 million to make 293,870 of the new helmets.

Made of high-density polyethylene instead of the current helmet's Kevlar, the ACH Gen II weighs about 2.5 pounds in size large -- about a 24-percent weight reduction, officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

For small and medium sizes, the Gen II is about 21-percent lighter than the standard ACH, making the new helmet an average of 22-percent lighter, Maj. Brandon Motte, assistant product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment, told reporters Thursday.

Despite being lighter, the ACH Gen II provides the same protection against fragmentation and 9mm projectiles as the current helmet, equipment officials maintain.

US Gives NATO Allies 2 Months for Defense Spending Plans |

US Gives NATO Allies 2 Months for Defense Spending Plans |

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned NATO allies Friday to boost defense spending or come up with plans to reach the alliance's budget guidelines within two months.

Tillerson, in his first talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels, said that Washington is spending a "disproportionate share" on defense compared with its 27 partners, and that he expects action by the time President Donald Trump meets with other alliance leaders on May 25.

NATO leaders pledged in 2014 to halt defense spending cuts and move toward a guideline target of 2 percent of gross domestic product within a decade. Only four other nations currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

"Our goal should be to agree at the May leaders meeting that by the end of the year all allies will have either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how, with annual milestone progress commitments, the pledge will be fulfilled," Tillerson told the ministers.

Tillerson did not say what would happen if European allies and Canada fail to respect their pledges. During election campaigning, Trump suggested that he might not come to the defense of those allies who do not do their fair share, rocking allies near an increasingly aggressive Russia, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman complete MAPS test

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman complete MAPS test: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and U.S. Army researchers have completed a round of testing with the branch's Modular Active Protection System.

U.S. defense manufacturers agreed to test the system after receiving contracts in 2015. For the demonstrations, Lockheed Martin provided its Open Architecture Processor, while Northrop Grumman provided additional sensors.

The Open Architecture Processor is designed to direct information gathered from multiple sensors, and power a variety of information displays.

The tests were completed using an M1 Abrams main battle tank.

"Industry's commitment to collaborate in developing this critical capability is the key to a truly modular active protection system," Lockheed Martin's Paul Lemmo explained in a press release. "Through our collaboration, we verified the value of an open-system design, which allows for easy integration of current and future MAPS components."

Lockheed Martin officials went on to add the system tested provides its client with a soft-kill capability, which allows active protection systems to confuse incoming sensor-based weapons and eliminate threats. Northrop Grumman says the system makes ground-based assets more effective in combat.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

US general seeks weapons support for Ukraine

US general seeks weapons support for Ukraine: The commander of US forces in Europe said Tuesday that United States should consider arming Ukraine with defensive weapons as it fights Russian-backed rebels in the country's east.

Ukraine has long sought supplies of US weapons, but was rebuffed by former president Barack Obama's administration, which sent US military personnel to train Ukrainian forces instead.

"I personally believe we need to consider lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine," Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is NATO's supreme allied commander and head of the US European Command, said.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Scaparrotti described the rebels as a "lethal tough enemy."

"The Russians provide some of their newest equipment in order to test it," he told the lawmakers.

The Russians notably have tested the use of drones to provide lethal targeting data to artillery units, he said.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of masterminding the rebellion, a charge that Moscow denies. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in April 2014.

Scaparrotti's remarks came ahead of a meeting in Brussels Thursday between NATO ambassadors and the Russian envoy in a new bid to ease tensions, including over the crisis in Ukraine.

Report: China's Man-Made S. China Sea Islands Nearly Complete |

Report: China's Man-Made S. China Sea Islands Nearly Complete | A report from a U.S. think tank says China has nearly completed construction work on three man-made islands in the South China Sea, giving it the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets to the disputed region.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies analyzed recent satellite photos and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters have either been finished or are nearing completion.

The report, released Monday, appears to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to give teeth to its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs.

The islands in the study -- Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs -- are part of the Spratly chain, which is claimed in whole or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

On each of the islands, China has constructed enough concrete hangers for 24 fighter jets and four or five larger planes such as bombers or early warning aircraft, CSIS reported.

Conservative Group Calls for Curbing Troops' Housing Allowances |

Conservative Group Calls for Curbing Troops' Housing Allowances |

An influential conservative think tank is calling for reducing the cost of troop housing allowances as part of the fiscal 2018 budget.

The Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., proposed reforming the Basic Allowance for Housing to more closely match actual spending as part of a report released Tuesday, called "Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2018." The blueprint provides guidance on how to curb the $20 trillion federal debt in part by eliminating the annual deficit.

"This allowance is designed to help service members pay for housing," the report states. "This is not military compensation. Housing allowances should be based on the amount of money that service members must pay to obtain adequate housing."

It continues, "Service members are not entitled to, nor should they have any expectation, that money above what they pay for housing can be retained as 'extra compensation.' "

Specifically, the document cited the potential value of previous, though so far unsuccessful, attempts by Congress to base BAH on proof of a lease or mortgage in the amount a service member spends on housing and consolidate allowances for married couples -- changes estimated to save $116 million in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

EUCOM Commander Calls for Larger Force to Deter Russia |

EUCOM Commander Calls for Larger Force to Deter Russia |

The commander of U.S military forces in Europe told lawmakers Tuesday that he needs a larger combat force, including an armored division and increased naval power, to deter Russian military forces on the continent.

"We need a greater force there, I think, potentially in the land component," said Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, testifying before the House Armed Service Committee.

The general said he needs the "enablers of an armored division -- a fires brigade, an engineer brigade, air defense -- those kinds of systems in the numbers that I need there."

Currently, the Army has one armored brigade combat team on a continuous rotation to Europe to bolster the Stryker and airborne infantry brigades stationed there permanently.

"I am suggesting an additional division because ... I need armored and mechanized brigades," Scaparrotti said.

"The reason a division is so important is at that level you can then have the command and control, communications capability to integrate the different domains in the way we fight. And that division brings the enablers like appropriate artillery, engineers, air defense, etc. that fill out a proper defense."

Scaparrotti said he could also use an "additional naval component on rotation through Europe to deter specifically with respect to anti-submarine warfare," an area Russia continues to modernize.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Russia Joins US in Race to Field Gun-Launched Swarmbots - Defense One

Russia Joins US in Race to Field Gun-Launched Swarmbots - Defense One: Russian arms makers have announced efforts to shoot multiple small drones in rapid succession from small arms and cannons, hastening a day when Russian and U.S. drone swarms may meet each other over the skies of distant battlefield.

On Thursday, Russian news site Tass revealed a reconnaissance drone that a soldier would shoot from “a hand-held grenade launcher.”

“The drone is prepared for launch within a period of 5 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the time of preparing a flight program in cases when other similar drones require much more time for accomplishing the mission,” Tass reported.

The unveil was part of a military robotics show that brought together more than 30 Russian defense companies and 500 participants.

Other robots on display included an armed ground tank robot called the Vikhr, or “Whirlwind,” which has been recently updated with a 30 mm gun and optional rockets. The Whirlwind works with a small quadcopter and a couple of toaster-sized bots that perform resupply and maintenance. A crew can control it remotely from a kilometer away or it can run semi-autonomously according to Tass.

New Black Hawk Variant on the Horizon

New Black Hawk Variant on the Horizon

The Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk program recently hit a key milestone when a
prototype of the V-variant successfully completed its first test flight. The
project is an effort to enhance the service’s aviation fleet without breaking
the budget for modernization.

The Black Hawk helicopter transports troops
and equipment into battle. It also supports other logistics activities and
medical evacuation.

The aircraft gained fame in popular culture when it
was featured in the film Black Hawk Down about the 1993 Battle for Mogadishu in
Somalia. It was back in the spotlight in 2011 after a modified, stealthy version
of the platform carried Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan
where they killed the al-Qaida leader.

But many of the Army’s Black Hawks
are outdated and aging, and the service is looking to modernize its

The first UH-60A was built in the 1970s, with the follow-on
L-variant coming online in the 1980s.

“The Lima cockpit largely has not
changed since that time,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Duus, H-60 product manager at
Army program executive office aviation. “There have been upgrades to radios and
to the GPS of course, but the primary instrumentation … has pretty much remained

The UH-60V program looks to transform the UH-60L into a more
capable platform by installing a digital cockpit.

“What we’re doing is
taking out the old cockpit, all the analog gauges, and we’re replacing them with
state-of-the-art multifunction … displays and all of the computing hardware to
go along with that,” Duus said.

The upgrades will provide operational
advantages for aviators, he said.

U.S. Army studies 'third arm' device for soldiers

U.S. Army studies 'third arm' device for soldiers: The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is studying the use of a body-worn weapons mount for soldiers to carry and fire their weapons.

The prototype mount is made of composite materials, weighs less than four pounds and is attached to a soldier's protective vest.

"We're looking at a new way for the soldier to interface with the weapon," Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the lab's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, told the Army News Service. "It is not a product; it is simply a way to study how far we can push the ballistic performance of future weapons without increasing soldier burden."

Some soldiers are weighed down by combat loads that weigh more than 110 pounds, Wingard said. Those heavy loads may worsen as high energy weapons, which could be larger with heavier ammunition, are developed for future warfare.

The laboratory is conducting a pilot program with a few soldiers using an M4 carbine on a firing range at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. As part of the pilot, soldiers wear electromyography sensors on their arms and upper body to measure muscle activity to determine if there's a change in fatigue when shooting with the device.

Researchers also score the soldiers' shots to see if there's an improvement in marksmanship.

US Senate advances approval of Montenegro into NATO

US Senate advances approval of Montenegro into NATO: The US Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to advance the approval of Montenegro as the newest member of NATO, in what supporters of the alliance's expansion argue would send a stern message to Russia.

The procedural step, which advanced on a 97-2 vote, sets up a final approval in the chamber in the coming days.

President Donald Trump's administration has encouraged lawmakers to back the small Balkan nation's bid.

"It is strongly in the interests of the United States that Montenegro's membership in NATO be ratified," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Senate leaders in a March 7 letter.

To date, 25 of NATO's 28 members have ratified Montenegro's accession, a country of 620,000 people seen as a geostrategic ally.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization holds its summit on May 25 in Brussels, where Trump will use the opportunity to reaffirm Washington's strong commitment to the alliance, according to the White House.

US leads boycott of nuclear weapons ban talks

US leads boycott of nuclear weapons ban talks: More than 100 countries on Monday launched the first UN talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, as Washington led an international boycott of a process it deems unrealistic.

Before the conference had even begun, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke out to reject the proposal in the light of current global security threats.

"As a mom and a daughter there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons," Haley, who represents the world's largest nuclear power, said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"But we have to be realistic," she added. "Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?"

Haley spoke in a group of some 20 ambassadors from US allies which are boycotting the negotiations, including Britain, France, South Korea, Turkey and a number of countries from eastern Europe.

The ambassadors of Russia and China were notably absent, but both major nuclear powers are also sitting out the General Assembly talks.

Haley estimated that "almost 40 countries" were not participating.

The push for a ban was announced in October by 123 UN members who say the threat of atomic disaster is growing thanks to tensions fanned by North Korea's nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington.

Leaders of the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, supported by hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

But Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States all voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained -- together accounting for most of the world's declared and undeclared nuclear powers.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Female Helicopter Pilot Took on the Taliban—and the Pentagon

Female Helicopter Pilot Took on the Taliban—and the Pentagon: Mary Jennings Hegar, a former helicopter pilot for the U.S. Air National Guard, is only the second woman, after Amelia Earhart, to get the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device. So it’s not that surprising that Angelina Jolie is in talks to play Hegar in the movie version of her new memoir, Shoot Like A Girl.

When National Geographic caught up with Hegar by phone at her home in Austin, Texas, the Purple Heart recipient explained why she sued the Pentagon, how she would never have become a pilot if her mother had not left an abusive husband, and how, in 2009, in Afghanistan, everything she had prepared for came together when her chopper was hit by the Taliban.

KC-46 tanker modernization program facing delays: GAO

KC-46 tanker modernization program facing delays: GAO: The U.S. Air Force's KC-46 tanker modernization program could be facing additional delays, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

In a 26-page report, GAO notes the project has experienced fewer engineering changes than expected, and the cost has fallen by 14 percent, or $7.3 billion. The agency adds, however, that the program is still falling behind schedule.

"The aircraft is projected to meet all performance capabilities. However, Boeing experienced some problems developing the aircraft," GAO said in its report.

Boeing, the prime contractor for the project, plans to deliver 18 tankers to the Air Force by Oct. 14, 2018. Deliveries are slated for 14 months later than initially planed.

GAO adds flight tests delays could further push back deliveries.

US General Seeks Flexible Rules of Engagement for Somalia |

US General Seeks Flexible Rules of Engagement for Somalia | The head of U.S. Africa Command said Friday that the White House is considering his request for more "flexibility" on the rules of engagement to attack Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, but "we are not going to turn Somalia into a free-fire zone."

Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser confirmed that a small contingent of U.S. troops is still in Libya to call in airstrikes, adding that a Russian ground presence in North Africa is contributing to instability and political turmoil.

At a Pentagon news conference, Waldhauser said he is seeking "a little bit more flexibility" to "allow us to process targets in a more rapid fashion" by giving combatant commanders the authority to order strikes by drones and manned aircraft rather than going to the top of the chain of command.

He said the White House is considering but has not yet approved the request for more relaxed rules of engagement against the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab group, which has been trying to bring down the new government of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual Somali and U.S. citizen who holds a masters degree in political science from the University of Buffalo.

Waldhauser said he had "no problem" with the rules of engagement under the Obama administration but felt the time has come to "power-down the decision making" to meet the Al- Shabaab threat.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pentagon enjoying greater leeway under Trump

Pentagon enjoying greater leeway under Trump

The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants -- and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.

Many in the military appreciate this increased autonomy, but critics charge it is raising civilian death rates, puts the lives of US troops at greater risk and leads to a lack of oversight of America's conflicts.Nowhere has the shift been more visible than in the fight against the Islamic State group in northern Syria, where under Barack Obama even minor tweaks to US plans underwent exhaustive White House scrutiny.Since Trump's inauguration, the Marine Corps has brought an artillery battery into Syria, and the Army has flowed in hundreds of Rangers, bringing the total number of US forces there to almost 1,000.Commanders are weighing the possibility of deploying hundreds more, and the Pentagon this week announced it had provided artillery support and choppered local forces behind enemy lines in a bid to seize a strategic dam.The greater leeway marks a departure for the National Security Council (NSC), which coordinates foreign and military policy and implements the president's national security agenda.Under Obama, the NSC oversaw just about every aspect of America's wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, with then Pentagon chief Ash Carter was kept on a short leash.Trump, conversely, has repeatedly deferred to his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, on military moves. Mattis, a retired general, has delegated expanded authorities to his battlefield commanders.

Friday, March 24, 2017

NASA taking first steps toward high-speed space internet

NASA taking first steps toward high-speed space internet: The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will help NASA understand the best ways to operate laser communications systems. They could enable much higher data rates for connections between spacecraft and Earth, such as scientific data downlink and astronaut communications.

"LCRD is the next step in implementing NASA's vision of using optical communications for both near-Earth and deep space missions," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which leads the LCRD project. "This technology has the potential to revolutionize space communications, and we are excited to partner with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate's Space Communications and Navigation program office, MIT Lincoln Labs and the U.S. Air Force on this effort."

Laser communications, also known as optical communications, encodes data onto a beam of light, which is then transmitted between spacecraft and eventually to Earth terminals. This technology offers data rates that are 10 to 100 times better than current radio-frequency (RF) communications systems.

Just as important, laser communication systems can be much smaller than radio systems, allowing the spacecraft communication systems to have lower size, weight and power requirements. Such capability will become critically important as humans embark on long journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Top U.S. General in Europe Says Russia May Be Supplying Taliban in Afghanistan - NBC News

Top U.S. General in Europe Says Russia May Be Supplying Taliban in Afghanistan - NBC News: Russia may be influencing and supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan, the top U.S. general in Europe said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told Senators that Russia's role in Afghanistan seemed to be growing, according to Reuters.

"I've seen the influence of Russia of late — increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban," Gen. Scaparrotti said.

EUCOM commander: US needs stronger response to Russian disinformation

EUCOM commander: US needs stronger response to Russian disinformation: The U.S. has not done enough to reinforce its own and NATO’s nascent efforts to fight Russia’s prolific propaganda against European allies, the top military commander in Europe told lawmakers Thursday.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe and chief of U.S. European Command, said both should do more to confront Russian disinformation campaigns.

“I think we’re focused on it, I don’t think we’ve had enough of a response at this point,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have to both as the U.S. and also as allies come together and take a more aggressive confrontation of Russia, particularly in this grey area.”

The general recommended bolstering two existing efforts, beyond the military’s one-off tactical efforts. The Russian Information Group, co-chaired by his command and the State Department, should be reinforced, financed and granted expanded legal authorities, he said. There’s also the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, whose scope includes countering disinformation from state and non-state actors, but “it’s not robustly supported,” he said.

U.S. turns down Russia invitation to Afghan peace conference

U.S. turns down Russia invitation to Afghan peace conference: The United States won't attend a multinational peace conference on Afghanistan next month in Russia, a State Department official said Thursday.

The reasons: The U.S. wasn't consulted before receiving the invitation and doesn't know Russia's objectives for the gathering.

The official said that Washington wants to work with Moscow on regional efforts to end the 16-year war, and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would bring up the matter when he visits Russia in April. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and several Central Asian nations are among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Afghan and U.S. officials say the Taliban aren't invited. The State Department hasn't publicly announced its position on the planned conference.

Last year, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met to jump-start the peace process but that effort faltered.

The official said the U.S. wants nations in the region, which have a shared interest in peace in Afghanistan, to increase pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

Reports of Sangin’s fall are 'complete fabrication,' U.S. military insists

Reports of Sangin’s fall are 'complete fabrication,' U.S. military insists: U.S. officials are disputing reports the Taliban have retaken a hotly contested region in the opium-rich Helmand valley, saying local security forces made a planned, deliberate withdrawal from the Sangin district center after months of heavy fighting left their facilities in ruins.

"It is a complete fabrication," Navy Capt. William Salvin, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, told Military Times on Thursday. "This move has been in the planning for months. ... There is nothing left in the old district center except dirt and rubble."

The Taliban, he added, caused extensive damage to the local bazaar in Sangin, rendering it impossible for citizens to access government officials and services. A new municipal complex has been established about a mile to the south. From there, "the Afghan police can now do their jobs effectively," Salvin said, and the Afghan army elements posted to Sangin are "better positioned to take the fight to the Taliban."

An Afghan defense official echoed those sentiments.

U.S. aircraft were called in to airlift Afghan personnel to the new facility and, once the transfer was complete, destroy remaining structures and inoperable vehicles left behind. And while Afghan officials said they're preparing to mount an offensive aimed at reclaiming lost territory, the Taliban have branded the incident a retreat. Veterans of the war and those who've followed it closely over the years seem to agree, with some openly ridiculing the Americans' explanation of what transpired on Thursday.

Army Chief in Europe Wants More Weapons to Combat Russian Threat |

Army Chief in Europe Wants More Weapons to Combat Russian Threat | NATO's supreme commander called Thursday for an escalated military buildup in Europe to deter Russia as senators from both sides of the aisle questioned whether President Donald Trump would confront or cooperate with President Vladimir Putin.

"His intent is to fracture NATO," Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said of Putin. NATO needs more troops, ships, planes and munitions -- including an aircraft carrier battle group -- to shore up allies against Russia, he said, adding he also needs strong support from the State Department.

"I rely heavily on our relationships with the other agencies in our government," Scaparrotti, who doubles as NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "That's the way we traditionally operate."

Trump's budget outline, released last week, proposes a 28 percent cut to the State Department in part to pay for a $54 billion increase in military spending.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and the SASC chairman, asked, "It wouldn't help if we slashed spending for the State Department?" Scaparrotti replied, "No, sir."

US Pilot Describes Challenges of Bombing ISIS |

US Pilot Describes Challenges of Bombing ISIS | The crowded skies over Islamic State-held territory have complicated U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the extremists, though military planners are working to keep fliers safe, an American pilot involved in the bombing campaign has told The Associated Press.

Lt. Cmdr. William Vuillet also described the efforts American forces use to try to minimize civilian casualties from strikes on major cities such as Mosul, where allied forces are trying to sweep the remaining militants out of the western half of Iraq's second-largest city.

Vuillet said he believes coalition forces will "eradicate" the extremist group responsible for mass killings, beheadings and other atrocities targeting civilians across the Middle East and around the world.

It "is really above and beyond what we saw in the past from al-Qaida," he said. "It is really a fight of good and evil."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

'Lab-on-a-glove' could bring nerve-agent detection to a wearer's fingertips

'Lab-on-a-glove' could bring nerve-agent detection to a wearer's fingertips: organophosphate nerve agents - can be used as deadly weapons. Now researchers have developed a fast way to detect the presence of such compounds in the field using a disposable "lab-on-a-glove." The report on the glove appears in the journal ACS Sensors.

Organophosphate nerve agents, including sarin and VX, are highly toxic and can prevent the nervous system from working properly. Organophosphate pesticides are far less potent but work in a similar way and can cause illness in people who are exposed to them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Detecting either type of these sets of compounds accurately and quickly could help improve both defense and food security measures. So, Joseph Wang and colleagues set out to develop a wearable sensor that could meet the requirements of field detection.

The new wearable, flexible glove biosensor carries out the sampling and electrochemical biosensing steps on different fingers, with the thumb finger used for collecting the nerve-agent residues and an enzyme immobilized on the index finger. The researchers created stretchable inks to print the collection and sensing elements on these fingers.

U.S. Army emphasizing mobility for next combat vehicle

U.S. Army emphasizing mobility for next combat vehicle: The U.S. Army is seeking lighter armored vehicle concepts to better prepare for fighting in future battlefields, the service announced.

Lighter combat vehicles, Army officials say, support the branch's strategy for placing a heavier emphasis on armored mobility. Army leaders discussed future designs and procurement concepts ahead of releasing a new maneuver force modernization strategy.

"M1 and Bradley take us out to 2050, which is not sustainable if you want a weapons system that's going to be dominant," Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley said in a press release, referring to two legacy armored platforms.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mattis: US-NATO Ties Getting Stronger |

Mattis: US-NATO Ties Getting Stronger | NATO is growing stronger with an increasing U.S. commitment despite allies' concerns over recent comments by President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.

"We have a very strong trans-Atlantic bond," Mattis said at the start of a meeting at the Pentagon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. "It's getting stronger," he said, though "relationships don't stay the same" in the 28-member NATO alliance. "They are always changing," he said.

"In this case, the bond is getting stronger," Mattis added. "It's built on a legacy of common commitments and common defense and we never forget that in this building."

Stoltenberg ignored shouted questions for comment on reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would skip a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April but will travel to Russia for high-level talks.

In a statement, Stoltenberg commended Mattis "for your strong personal support and leadership when it comes to NATO and the trans-Atlantic bond." The general's commitment was on display last month at the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels where Mattis pledged an enduring U.S. commitment to the common defense of Europe, Stoltenberg said. "We are very grateful for that," he said.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

US Navy Tests UUV for Mine-hunting Operations - maritime global news

US Navy Tests UUV for Mine-hunting Operations - maritime global news: The General Dynamics Mission Systems Knifefish team completed acomprehensive evaluation of Knifefish, an autonomous surface minecountermeasure (SMCM) unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV). Incoordination with the U.S. Navy, the test events took place offthe coast of Boston using submerged Navy mine test targets. Theevaluation represents a significant milestone in the Knifefishprogram and demonstrates the UUV's capability to detect andclassify potential mines, at a variety of depths, each posing aunique threat to naval vessels operating in a mission area.

"The information and situational awareness Knifefish will deliverto sailors is a quantum leap in clarity and accuracy over othermine-hunting systems currently used by the Navy," said CarloZaffanella, vice president and general manager of Maritime andStrategic Systems for General Dynamics Mission Systems.

Simulating mine-hunting missions, the UUV located and classifiedmine test targets submerged at various depths and on theseafloor. Knifefish is also capable of locating and identifyingmines buried in the seafloor.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Boeing Might Be the Biggest Winner in Trump’s Military Buildup - Defense One

Boeing Might Be the Biggest Winner in Trump’s Military Buildup - Defense One: The Chicago aerospace company leads more than a half-dozen contractors whose programs stand to get 9- or 10-figure boosts if the president’s budget proposal becomes law.

It’s been a good week for Boeing.

On Wednesday, the firm received a five-year, $3.4 billion deal for 268 Apache attack helicopters. Then on Thursday morning, President Trump said he would nominate Patrick Shanahan, a top Boeing executive, to become deputy defense secretary.

Later on Thursday, the White House said it would seek an immediate $30 billion boost in defense spending — $15.5 billion of which would go toward new planes, ships, tanks, bombs, and other military equipment. The company that stands to get the largest slice? Boeing.

According to documents released by the Pentagon, programs run by the Chicago-based firm would see funding rise as much as $4.3 billion, more than one-quarter of the total proposed boost to acquisition. If approved by Congress, the money would buy 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets for $2.3 billion; two P-8 submarine-hunting planes, $920 million; 20 Apache attack helicopters, $708 million; and two C-40 passenger transports, $208 million.

The White House doubts climate change. Here's why the Pentagon does not

The White House doubts climate change. Here's why the Pentagon does not: The contentious debate over climate change is entering a new phase, with skeptics in the Trump administration poised to roll back regulations governing everything from clean-water standards to fracking — convinced that doing so will boost the U.S. economy. But the Pentagon views the issue differently.

For Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, climate change represents a significant national security threat, one that's "impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today," according his written testimony to Congress provided in January ahead of his confirmation. The news site ProPublica was first to publish Mattis' remarks, pitting the retired Marine general's views against those held by the commander in chief and others in his administration.

F-35B stealth fighter makes first aerial refueling

F-35B stealth fighter makes first aerial refueling: The U.S. Air Force's F-35B stealth fighter stationed in Japan made its first in-flight refueling last week, expanding its radius of operations, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Sunday.

The 909th Air Refueling Squadron based in Okinawa, Japan, conducted the F-35B Lightning II fighter's first aerial refueling mission over the western Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, according to the USFK.

The success vastly extends the fighter jet's ability to stay in the air, enabling it to carry out key missions over the Korean Peninsula if the need arises.

The U.S. Air Force's latest stealth fighter will take part in the ongoing Foal Eagle joint exercise with South Korea to hone its strike capabilities this month.

The F-35B Lightning II fighter is expected to carry out ground attack maneuvers during the two-month-long exercise between Seoul and Washington.

China to disband over a quarter of its army corps, sources say | South China Morning Post

China to disband over a quarter of its army corps, sources say | South China Morning Post: China will disband five of the PLA’s 18 army corps, according to military sources, as part of a huge overhaul initiated by President Xi Jinping aimed at turning the world’s biggest army into a more nimble and modern ­fighting force.

The cuts could affect up to 200,000 troops, but some military personnel might be deployed to other units such as the newly ­developed rocket force, the navy or the air force, two of the sources said.

The units affected in the cutbacks include the 20th and 27th army corps in the Central Theatre Command, the 14th Army Corps in the Southern Command, the 16th Army Corps in the north and the 47th in the west, one of the sources told the South China Morning Post.

The 16th and 47th corps were the power bases of disgraced former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.

Amid North Korea threat, Tillerson hints that 'circumstances could evolve' for a Japanese nuclear arsenal | The Japan Times

Amid North Korea threat, Tillerson hints that 'circumstances could evolve' for a Japanese nuclear arsenal | The Japan Times

The possibility of a nuclear-armed Japan has again been raised by the Trump administration, after U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson appeared to say in an interview ahead of his visit to Beijing that, with “all options on the table” regarding the North Korean threat, “circumstances could evolve” in terms of Tokyo acquiring atomic weapons.

In an interview Saturday with the lone reporter allowed to accompany him on his visits to Japan, South Korea and China, the top U.S. diplomat, who had previously dismissed the need for Tokyo and Seoul to acquire nuclear weapons, was asked if his views had shifted, given the surging tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“We say all options are on the table, but we cannot predict the future,” Tillerson replied. “So we do think it is important that everyone in the region has a clear understanding that circumstances could evolve to the point that for mutual deterrence reasons, we might have to consider that.”

Still, Tillerson said that there were “a lot of steps and a lot of distance between now and a time that we would have to make a decision like that.”

For now, he said, Washington’s policy of working to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program remained unchanged.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Budget experts wary of Trump military buildup long-term impact

Budget experts wary of Trump military buildup long-term impact: President Trump's proposed 2018 budget is billed as the initial investment on his planned military buildup, but Pentagon officials are worried about the long-term costs — and whether Congress can be counted on to keep paying.

At a Defense Department press conference after the White House budget blueprint was released Thursday, John Roth, the acting comptroller for the Pentagon, acknowledged the budget office is keeping a nervous eye on the costs for increasing the force, saying they hope to see a “pattern” of growth for future budgets.

“The answer is, we’re looking, ultimately, for a commitment, particularly from Congress but also from the administration, for long-term growth in defense spending,” Roth told Reporters. “Seventeen is the down payment. [In] FY18, the [administration's planned] top-line is something above FY17, so the trend is good.”

Pentagon’s FY17 supplemental sets up budget caps fight

Pentagon’s FY17 supplemental sets up budget caps fight: By presenting the majority of its fiscal year 2017 defense supplemental funding request as base budget dollars rather than special war funding, the Trump administration has set itself on a collision course with Congress, top Pentagon budget officials confirmed Thursday.

John Roth, the acting comptroller for the Pentagon, Army Lt. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment (J8) on the Joint Staff, confirmed that the $30.9 billion supplemental request will require Congress to pass language changing caps put in place by the Budget Control Act — something analysts were quick to point out is unlikely to happen.

Of the supplemental request, $25 billion is in base budget funding, which will largely go towards equipment — including adding five F-35 joint strike fighters, buying 24 new F/A-18E/F planes for the Navy, and giving the Army 20 new AH-64 Apache helicopters. There is also a wide-ranging investment in munitions, something the Pentagon has expressed concern about over the last two years.

F-35 test fires European-made missile for first time

F-35 test fires European-made missile for first time: An F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter has conducted its first firing trials of MBDA's Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile.

The flight trials and missile launches, conducted from the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland and Edwards Air Force Base in California, were the first by an F-35 of a European-made missile, the company announced this week.

MBDA said they were part of an integration program for its ASRAAM system for British F-35 aircraft.

MBDA, headquartered in Britain, is under contract to produce the infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the F-35s ordered by Britain.

Germany wants change to NATO two-percent budget goal

Germany wants change to NATO two-percent budget goal: Germany's defence minister called Friday for changes to the way NATO members' commitments to budget targets are assessed, in the face of bigger demands from US President Donald Trump.

Just ahead of the first face-to-face talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump, the minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told AFP that the NATO target of spending two percent of GDP on defence painted an incomplete picture of actual contributions.

"For me the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance," she said.

Von der Leyen proposed using an "activity index" that would take participation in foreign missions into account when assessing budget earmarks for defence.

Von der Leyen acknowledged that the German military "urgently needs a modernisation drive" and that boosting military spending was "simply a matter of fairness in the alliance".

"Germany has a strong economy. None of our partners would understand it if we didn't manage to do our part while poorer countries have to tighten their belts to meet the target."However she said member states that take part in NATO operations and exercises or contribute personnel and hardware should get credit towards their two-percent goal.Von der Leyen insisted that Germany was also putting its money where its mouth is, with a 3.9-percent increase in defence spending already set out in the 2018 federal budget."That means we are growing twice as fast as the total budget. I am grateful for that," said von der Leyen, who belongs to Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

Lawmakers: Trump's $54 Billion Defense Hike 'Not Enough' |

Lawmakers: Trump's $54 Billion Defense Hike 'Not Enough' | President Donald Trump's "America First Budget" renewed his pledge to boost defense spending by $54 billion and congressional Republicans immediately renewed their complaint that it was "not enough."

Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request released Thursday included $639 billion for the Department of Defense, a sum that the White House Office of Management and Budget said was an increase of $52 billion over the level authorized under a stopgap funding measure known as a continuing resolution on the 2017 budget.

The $639 billion total included $574 billion for the base budget, a 10 percent increase from the 2017 CR level, and $65 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations -- the so-called "war budget."

OMB said the budget request would end sequestration "by restoring $52 billion to DoD, as well as $2 billion to other national defense programs outside DOD, for a $54 billion total increase for national defense discretionary budget authority above the sequestration level budget cap."

The budget office claimed that the $54 billion hike over the 2017 budget of $587 billion would exceed "the entire defense budget of most countries, and would be one of the largest one-year DoD increases in American history."

"Unlike spending increases for war, which mostly consume resources in combat, the increases in the President's budget primarily invest in a stronger military," it said.

The chairman of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees -- Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican -- quickly said the $54 billion wasn't enough and would not provide for a quick enough military buildup to deter threats.

White House Names Pick for Pentagon No. 2 |

White House Names Pick for Pentagon No. 2 | President Donald Trump named a Boeing Co. executive Thursday to replace Deputy Secretary Bob Work, a holdover from the Obama administration, as the No. 2 civilian at the Pentagon after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The White House, on Mattis' recommendation, announced that fixed-wing and rotorcraft specialist Patrick Shanahan, now the senior vice president for supply chain and operations at Boeing, would be nominated as the successor to Work, a retired Marine artillery colonel who has taken on some of the toughest management assignments at the Defense Department on budgets, modernization and health care.

At Boeing, Shanahan previously was senior vice president of airplane programs and oversaw the management for the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs, the White House said.

Before that, Shanahan was vice president and general manager of Boeing's Missile Defense Systems unit and vice president and general manager for Rotorcraft Systems in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for all U.S. Army Aviation, including the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, the CH-47 Chinook and the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter.

Shanahan's was one of six nominations -- five of them from Virginia -- to fill posts at the Pentagon sent over to the Senate, all with Mattis' recommendations, according to the Pentagon.

David Joel Trachtenberg of Virginia will was named to serve as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, following the withdrawal of the nomination to that post of former Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson. Several Republican senators had signaled their opposition to Patterson's nomination.

Trachtenberg is the president and CEO of Shortwaver Consulting LLC, a national security consultancy, and formerly was a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee. He previously served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security policy where he was responsible for issues relating to NATO, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, technology security, counter-proliferation, missile defense, nuclear forces, and arms control, the White House said.

Pentagon Seeks $30 Billion Extra in This Year's Budget |

Pentagon Seeks $30 Billion Extra in This Year's Budget | The Pentagon with White House support asked Congress Thursday to approve $30 billion in supplemental funding as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 defense budget to accelerate the anti-ISIS campaign, add more troops, replenish munitions and boost readiness.

With or without the additional money, the 2.1% pay increase for all Defense Department uniformed and civilian personnel will remain in effect, said John P. Roth, a Pentagon budget analyst who was listed as "performing the duties" of the vacant post of Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump nominated David L. Norquist, a partner with the accounting firm of Kearney and Co., to serve as Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller.

Of the $30 billion requested in supplemental funding, $24.9 billion would be added to DoD's requested base budget for FY2017 of $524 billion, bringing the base budget total to $549 billion. An additional $5.1 billion was requested for the Overseas Contingency Operations budget -- the so-called "war budget."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Army Growth May Not Keep Pace with Deployments: General |

Army Growth May Not Keep Pace with Deployments: General | Even as the U.S. Army prepares to grow, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson still worries about units not having enough time to recover between deployments amid a rising demand for the service to take on more missions.

President Donald Trump's pledge to increase defense spending by $54 billion in fiscal 2018 will allow the Army to go to a 476,000-soldier active force by Oct. 1.

The move will also give leaders some flexibility to meet demands around the globe since it reverses the plan to shrink the service to 450,000 active force.

Despite the increase, Anderson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training, said Tuesday he's concerned that the increasing demand for the service to take on more missions is placing too much strain on operational units.

"I still worry about our demands," he told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama. "We have got to find a way for people to reset."

Trump Administration Rejects 'Pivot' to Asia, At Least in Name |

Trump Administration Rejects 'Pivot' to Asia, At Least in Name | The new U.S. administration has yet to unveil its plans for a new strategy toward the Asia-Pacific, but the "pivot" or "rebalance" -- as former President Barack Obama's policy of deeper engagement was known -- has been officially put to rest.

A senior State Department official rejected the terms while acknowledging there's nothing yet to replace them.

The comments came on the eve of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's first trip to Asia in his new role, with stops planned in Japan, South Korea and China.

"On the issue of pivot, rebalance, et cetera, I mean, that was a word that was used to describe the Asia policy in the last administration," said Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

During a press briefing in Washington on Monday, she outlined general principles as part of a preview of Tillerson's Asia trip.

Those included remaining "engaged and active in Asia," working on fair trade and free trade issues and of course addressing the growing threat from North Korea, which has test-fired two ballistic missiles in defiance of economic sanctions since Trump took office on Jan. 20.

The Seal Whiskerers: Navy Looks to Sea Life for New Ships |

The Seal Whiskerers: Navy Looks to Sea Life for New Ships | The U.S. Navy is enlisting the help of seals — but not the kind of highly trained special operatives with whom it usually associates.

Real seals, specifically their whiskers, may be the key to a new way for ships and underwater vehicles to sense their environment, scientists think.

When a fish swims by, a hungry seal senses the wake with its whiskers. It can tell characteristics of the fish, such as shape and size, and track the location even when it's murky or dark.

Despite the adorable possibilities, scientists aren't looking to outfit ships and vehicles with whiskers. They're studying how the whiskers function to learn how to reverse-engineer the system. The science could be applied to the development of a future sensor.

"If we want to design the best systems, it makes sense to take advantage of millions of years of work that nature has done for us," said Christin Murphy, a marine mammal biologist.

The research is taking place at the Newport division of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

As overseas ambitions expand, China plans 400 per cent increase to marine corps numbers, sources say | South China Morning Post

As overseas ambitions expand, China plans 400 per cent increase to marine corps numbers, sources say | South China Morning Post: China plans to increase the size of its marine corps from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel to protect the nation’s maritime lifelines and its growing interests overseas, military insiders and experts have said.

Some members would be stationed at ports China operates in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan, they said.

The expanded corps is part of a wider push to refocus the world’s largest army away from winning a land war based on sheer numbers and towards meeting a range of security scenarios using highly specialised units. Towards that end, Chinese President Xi Jinping is reducing the size of the People’s Liberation Army by 300,000, with nearly all of the cuts coming from the land forces.

U.S. and Russian troops are now in the same Syrian city

U.S. and Russian troops are now in the same Syrian city: The U.S. military's "reassurance and deterrence" mission in the Syrian city of Manbij is achieving its goal of preventing key American allies from battling one another, the Pentagon said Monday, but what's already a tense situation could become more complicated with the arrival of Russian troops and continued advances by Turkish-backed rebels.

Fewer than 100 elite Army Rangers are in Manbij to keep the peace between Syrian Kurdish forces and those loyal to Turkey, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. Russian troops are there providing security for humanitarian convoys that have entered the war-torn city, a development he called unsurprising in light of last week's high-level talks between the senior-most military commanders from Russia, Turkey and the U.S.

NATO Chief Seeks to Reassure Trump on Defense Budgets |

NATO Chief Seeks to Reassure Trump on Defense Budgets | NATO's secretary-general on Monday urged European allies to spend more on their military budgets as he seeks to reassure President Donald Trump that members will pay their fair share.

"We still do not have fair burden sharing within our alliance," Jens Stoltenberg told reporters as he released his annual report on the world's biggest military alliance.

Only five allies meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense: the U.S., Britain, Estonia, debt-plagued Greece and Poland.

"All allies should reach this goal. All allies have agreed to do it at the highest level," he said, recalling a commitment by presidents and prime ministers in 2014 to do so.

Trump suggested during election campaigning that he might not defend allies who fail to meet the target, rattling the 28-nation military alliance, particularly countries bordering Russia.

Stoltenberg's report, part of his drive to mollify Trump, shows that European allies and Canada spent a total of roughly $10 billion more on defense last year in real terms than in 2015.

Army Leaders Search for Answers to Multi-Domain Battle |

Army Leaders Search for Answers to Multi-Domain Battle | U.S. Army leaders wrestled Monday with the challenges of equipping and supplying soldiers in what the service sees as a multi-threat battlefield of the future.

To Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the Army has grown too dependent on contractor support to sustain its combat units, a practice that has led to bad habits over the last 15 years of war.

"I personally believe we are not ready to execute a decisive action fight against a near-peer competitor," said Perna, the commanding general of Army Materiel Command, before an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama.

"It's not because we don't have the great leaders and soldiers who have been trained in the last 15 years … it's because the skills we need for sustainment have atrophied."

Army leaders are keenly focused on the service's vision of Multi-Domain Battle, a picture of warfare in the not-too distant future that will challenge brigade combat teams and higher command structures across land, sea, air, space, cyber and electromagnetic domains.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Will Jon Huntsman Go Rogue in Moscow? - POLITICO Magazine

Will Jon Huntsman Go Rogue in Moscow? - POLITICO Magazine: One of Jon Huntsman’s biggest moments as U.S. ambassador to China was also one of his most ambiguous.

At the height of the Arab Spring, just ten days after Hosni Mubarak resigned as Egypt’s president, anonymous calls for a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” suddenly appeared online. Vigilant cadres sensitive to the news from the Middle East sent police officers out to swarm the busy commercial thoroughfare where the scheduled protest would take place. And at the appointed time, Huntsman appeared — in full Americana, sporting dark sunglasses and a leather jacket with an affixed Stars and Stripes patch.

Few Chinese activists turned up. As Huntsman walked past, a bystander recognized him and posted a video to social media. Chinese nationalists went berserk. Here was proof that the United States foments unrest in their country, and that the American ambassador had come to gawk at potential Chinese vulnerability. The U.S. Embassy moved quickly, insisting the episode was just a coincidence and that Huntsman and his family had decided to take a stroll that Sunday afternoon without knowledge of the event. I was a correspondent based in Beijing at the time, and remember how no one was really sure what to believe.

“It wasn’t quite Victoria Nuland handing out bread to protesters on Maidan Square,” recalls Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, referring to the recently departed U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and her dramatic personal diplomacy at the height of the uprising in Ukraine. “But it was an interesting and evocative gesture of concern about the right to peaceful protest."

The incident displayed Huntsman’s savvy as a principled diplomat. The move — however implausibly innocent — prevented the Chinese from giving official censure, yet still sent the intended human rights message. Throughout his two-year tenure in Beijing, Huntsman spoke out repeatedly, both publicly and privately, on human rights matters. In a frustratingly controlled “town hall” in Shanghai during President Barack Obama’s first trip to the country, it was Huntsman who slipped the only tough question, on internet censorship, past Chinese handlers.

Now Huntsman has been tapped to be President Donald Trump’s man in Moscow, easily his most politically charged ambassadorial appointment. Given Trump’s desire to reconcile with Russia and his remarkable solicitousness toward its strongman leader Vladimir Putin, the world will be watching closely to see how the new U.S. ambassador approaches the job. But if Huntsman approaches Russia in the same way he took on China, Moscow should expect a man who has no love for authoritarianism—and isn’t afraid to show it.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is heaven — for spies - POLITICO

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is heaven — for spies - POLITICO: President Donald Trump relishes the comforts of his Mar-a-Lago estate for repeated weekends away from Washington, but former Secret Service and intelligence officials say the resort is a security nightmare vulnerable to both casual and professional spies.

While Trump’s private club in South Florida has been transformed into a fortress of armed guards, military-grade radar, bomb sniffing dogs and metal-detection checkpoints, there are still notable vulnerabilities, namely the stream of guests who can enter the property without a background check.

And security experts warn that the commander in chief’s frequent visits — four since he took office in January — afford an unprecedented opportunity for eavesdropping and building dossiers on the president’s routines and habits, as well as those of the inner circle around him. They add that with each repeat visit, the security risk escalates.

“The president is the biggest, richest intelligence target in the world, and there is almost no limit to the energy and money an adversary will spend to get at him,” said David Kris, a former Obama-era assistant attorney general for national security.

Former Secret Service agents said the setup at Mar-a-Lago and the president’s other regular clubs presents challenges that their agency wasn’t built to deal with. The Service’s main job is to protect the president from physical threats and monitoring for wiretaps and other listening devices — but not from the kinds of counterespionage challenges presented by the president’s choice to eat, sleep and work at a club accessible to anyone who can get a member to invite them in.

Pentagon delivers fiscal 2017 supplemental defense request to OMB

Pentagon delivers fiscal 2017 supplemental defense request to OMB: The U.S. Department of Defense has delivered its fiscal 2017 budget supplemental plan to the White House for review, the agency announced Friday.

The Pentagon was supposed to deliver the budget amendment material to the Office of Management and Budget by March 1, but that delivery was delayed.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Badger emphasized that the budget process is “iterative” and said the Pentagon will continue to work with OMB to finalize the details. He also underscored calls from top department officials for a return to regular budgetary order.

“Of note, the amendment doesn't change the fact that we strongly favor passage of the FY 2017 DoD appropriations bill, and avoiding a year-long continuing resolution,” Badger said in a statement.

Better Tech Is Arriving to Defend Against North Korean Missiles. It Won’t Cool Regional Tensions - Defense One

Better Tech Is Arriving to Defend Against North Korean Missiles. It Won’t Cool Regional Tensions - Defense One: Next year, the U.S. plans to deploy a shipboard interceptor to help protect Japan. China and Russia will not be amused.

The new anti-missile system the U.S. is sending to South Korea is a far-from-perfect solution. Though it will help protect Seoul against North Korean missiles, it antagonizes China while leaving allies like Japan still vulnerable. Next year, a new shipboard interceptor is slated to arrive in the region, promising more protection — and more controversy.

On Monday, U.S. troops began setting up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, anti-missile batteries in South Korea. The deployment, announced last year and sped up by several months after a quartet of North Korean missile launches, brings to the Korean peninsula land-based missile launchers and sophisticated radars. China views the move as hostile because the radars could allow the U.S. to better track some Chinese missiles.

“It’s a classic case of a security trilemma, where actions taken by one country in response to the actions of another—here the deployment of enhanced U.S.[missile defense] capabilities to offset North Korea’s growing missile capabilities—complicate relations with a third player,” Rod Lyon explained in The National Interest.

To interest Trump, Afghanistan dangles investment opportunity - POLITICO

To interest Trump, Afghanistan dangles investment opportunity - POLITICO: When Donald Trump said in late January that America should have “kept the oil” after invading Iraq — “To the victor go the spoils,” he declared — foreign governments were horrified.

But one country is now actively promoting its natural resources to win Trump’s attention for its desperate cause: Afghanistan. The government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, has pitched Trump on its vast mineral reserves in an effort to keep the new president invested in the country’s fate.

AFRICOM commander voices concern over Russian meddling in Libya

AFRICOM commander voices concern over Russian meddling in Libya: Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, raised the alarm Thursday about Russian interference in Libya during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill.

“It is very concerning, senator," Waldhauser said in response to Arizona Sen. John McCain's question about Russian involvement in the region. "General Haftar has visited, as you said, on the carrier with the Russians. He's also visited in the country of Russia. Also, this week it's reported in the open press, [Prime Minister Fayez al-] Sarraj from the Government of National Accord has also visited Russia.

In January, Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar — a former general whose militia opposes the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli — was invited onto the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov for a tour and video conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army has been waging a battle against ISIS militants and rival political factions in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The situation in Libya right now is highly “fractured,” Waldhauser told lawmakers.

U.S. Army seeks larger munitions stockpile, citing 'readiness crisis'

U.S. Army seeks larger munitions stockpile, citing 'readiness crisis': U.S. Army leaders implored lawmakers to fund more munitions procurements, citing a shortage of spares, in a statement to a House Armed Services subcommittee.

The meeting was overseen by House Armed Services Subcommittee On Readiness Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who echoed Army concerns over an alleged stockpile shortage.

"Over the past several weeks, both our full committee and this subcommittee have received briefings and hearings from leading national security experts on the current threat assessment," Wilson said during his opening remarks. "After listening to these sobering assessments, there's no question in my mind our services are indeed in a readiness crisis."

The meeting included testimonies from Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham and Lt. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee. According to Piggee, the Army has enough munitions to sustain normal requirements, but runs the risk of falling short in the event or a surge or additional contingency operations.

"Under funding caps in current law, the Army will be forced to draw down end strength and underinvest in readiness," he said.

South Korea's Impeachment Heralds Major Test for US Alliance |

South Korea's Impeachment Heralds Major Test for US Alliance | The ouster of South Korea's president ushers in an era of uncertainty for its longstanding alliance with the United States at a critical time as the threat from North Korea is growing.

Tens of thousands of South Koreans waved flags and pumped candles in the air Saturday as they celebrated the constitutional court's historic decision to impeach President Park Geun-hye.

Amid the chants and banners with slogans against Park were calls for the removal of an advanced U.S. anti-missile battery known as THAAD, less than a week after the military began shipping launchers and other parts to the divided peninsula.

"Park go to jail; THAAD go back to the U.S.," one woman said as she addressed the crowd packed into the Seoul square that has been ground zero for anti-Park protesters. A musical group performed a catchy anti-THAAD song and dance.

THAAD opposition is the clearest sign that the road ahead may be rocky for U.S.-South Korean relations. But South Korea's shift in power also raises the possibility of differences over ways to deal with an increasingly menacing North and economic powerhouse China.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Democrats renew attack on new nuclear cruise missile

Democrats renew attack on new nuclear cruise missile: Hours after top Pentagon officials traveled to the Hill to defend the need for a new nuclear-capable cruise missile, a group of nine Democratic Senators has introduced legislation to slow the development of the system, known as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO.

The bill, headlined by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and announced Wednesday, would cap funding for the LRSO and its associated warhead at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to Congress.

“If the United States wants other countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and restrain their nuclear war plans, we must take the lead,” Markey said in a statement. “Instead of wasting billions of dollars on this dangerous new nuclear weapon that will do nothing to keep our nation safe, we should preserve America’s resources and pursue a global ban on nuclear cruise missiles.”

B-21 Raider covertly completes preliminary design review

B-21 Raider covertly completes preliminary design review: The US Air Force’s new B-21 bomber stealthily hit a milestone recently, wrapping up its preliminary design review.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on nuclear deterrence, Gen. Stephen Wilson, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, told lawmakers that he receives regular updates on the uber-classified program and is happy with its progression.

“They just finished a preliminary design review recently,” he said. “It's making great progress, and we’re pleased with the way it’s headed."

The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to develop and produce the B-21 Raider in October 2015. The company beat out a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team, a decision that was sustained even after the losing competitors filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A-29 Super Tucano Crashes Outside Moody, Pilots Eject |

A-29 Super Tucano Crashes Outside Moody, Pilots Eject | An A-29A Super Tucano attack aircraft slated for the Afghan air force crashed in a residential area outside Moody Air Force Base on Monday, but neither the pilots nor residents on the ground were injured, the U.S. Air Force said.

Two pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron -- who weren't identified and whose nationalities weren't released -- ejected from the turboprop aircraft during a routine training flight around 2:50 p.m. near Homerville, Georgia, the service said in a statement late Monday.

While the aircraft crashed into a residential area, it didn't strike any structures, a spokesman at the base told on Tuesday morning. Both pilots were taken to the nearby Clinch Memorial Hospital for evaluation and were released, according to the statement.

The U.S. Air Force will investigate the cause of the mishap and release the findings at a later date, the service said.

As of last month, the Afghan air force had trained about 20 pilots to fly eight of the Super Tucanos. The training takes place at Moody.

THAAD May Be Operational in South Korea Next Month |

THAAD May Be Operational in South Korea Next Month | The THAAD anti-missile launchers that have prompted condemnations from China and threats from North Korea could go operational in South Korea next month, according to South Korean officials.

Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces-Korea, said in a statement that the U.S. is moving "as quickly as possible" to put the "hit-to-kill" Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in place. South Korean military officials said the system could be functioning by April, the Yonhap news agency reported.

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft delivered the first elements of the THAAD system to Osan Air Base, about 43 miles south of Seoul, on Monday, shortly after North Korea launched at least four medium-range missiles that fell into the Sea of Japan -- within Japan's exclusive economic zone, the Pentagon said.

The missile launches were seen as a response to the ongoing Foal Eagle military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea that North Korea views as a practice run for an invasion.

"The timely deployment of the THAAD system by U.S. Pacific Command and the secretary of defense gives my command great confidence in the support we will receive when we ask for reinforcement or advanced capabilities," Brooks said.

Top Trump Security Adviser Faces Questions in Rare Hearing |

Top Trump Security Adviser Faces Questions in Rare Hearing | The senior Army officer tapped by President Donald Trump to be his national security adviser faces questions from senators during a rare closed-door meeting amid intense scrutiny of the White House for alleged Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster's appearance before the Armed Services Committee, slated for Tuesday, is unusual because national security advisers aren't subject to Senate confirmation and typically don't testify on Capitol Hill. But McMaster's situation is different. He elected to stay on active duty rather than retire from the military and generals of his grade need the chamber's approval when they're promoted or get new assignments.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee's Republican chairman, said members will vote at the end of session on whether to recommend to the full Senate that McMaster retain his three-star rank.

McCain said Democrats on the committee and even a few Republican members wanted McMaster to appear before the panel. But McCain, who called McMaster an outstanding choice, sought to cast the session as more collegial than a normal committee hearing.

"It's not like testimony," McCain said. "It's more of a meeting than a hearing."

Updated JASSM® Completes Important Lockheed Martin Flight Tests - Mar 8, 2017

Updated JASSM Completes Important Lockheed Martin Flight Tests - Mar 8, 2017: Lockheed Martin's  Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) completed two product verification flight tests at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Focused on demonstrating the updated Global Positioning System (GPS) anti-jam hardware and software, flight testing verified effective operation in both GPS-degraded and non-jammed environments. B-2 and B-52 bomber aircraft launched the JASSM missiles at altitudes greater than 24,000 feet. The missiles navigated to and destroyed their intended targets, completing all mission objectives.

"JASSM is effective in a variety of challenging mission environments," said Jason Denney, program director of Long-Range Strike Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "With these JASSM product updates, we continue to provide a wide range of affordable options that ensure a tactical advantage for U.S. and allied warfighters."

Armed with a penetrating blast-fragmentation warhead, JASSM and JASSM-Extended Range (ER) can be used in all weather conditions. They share the same powerful capabilities and stealth characteristics, though JASSM-ER has more than two-and-a-half times the range of JASSM for greater standoff distance. In addition to the enhanced digital anti-jam GPS receiver, these highly accurate cruise missiles also employ an infrared seeker to dial into specific points on targets.

Effective against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocatable targets, JASSM is integrated on the U.S. Air Force's B-1B, B-2, B-52, F-16 and F-15E. The B-1B also carries JASSM-ER. Internationally, JASSM is carried on the F/A-18A/B and the F-18C/D aircraft. Produced at the company's manufacturing facility in Troy, Alabama, more than 2,000 JASSMs have been delivered. Lockheed Martin delivered the 2,000th JASSM to the U.S. Air Force in August 2016.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THAAD deployment threat stokes US tensions with Beijing, Moscow | Fox News

THAAD deployment threat stokes US tensions with Beijing, Moscow | Fox News: The U.S. decision to send equipment needed to set up a controversial missile defense system in South Korea is likely to add to tensions with Beijing and Moscow, countries that have spoken out in the past about deploying the system.

China said Tuesday it would take measures against the U.S. missile system deployed in South Korea, and that the U.S. and Seoul would bear the consequences.

"China firmly opposes the deployment of THAAD," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. "We will definitely be taking necessary measures to safeguard our own security interest. All consequences entailed from that will be borne by the U.S. and (South Korea). We once again strongly urge the relevant sides to stop the process of deployment and refrain from going further down that wrong path."

Lou Yuan, an outspoken, retired Chinese general, wrote in the Global Times, a state-run paper, that the Chinese military “could conduct a surgical hard-kill operation that would destroy the target, paralyzing it and making it unable to hit back,” The New York Times reported.

Pentagon: U.S. troops play new role in Syria

Pentagon: U.S. troops play new role in Syria: The U.S. military has sent a team of troops to a small city in Syria to prevent the various forces present there from fighting one another.

The Pentagon calls its effort in Manbij "reassure and deter." It's focused on keeping peace between Syrian Kurdish militias and Turkish military units, both of whom are fighting the Islamic State group but remain deeply distrustful of one another.

"It's a visible reminder, for anybody who's looking to start a fight, that the only fight that should be going on right now is with ISIS," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Silent Sentry: Defending the final frontier

Silent Sentry: Defending the final frontier: Air, space and cyberspace - these are the three domains that the United States Air Force strives to defend. Of these domains, space has become one of the most crowded and competitive. At any given time, there are innumerable signals being transmitted to and from satellites, with each signal taking up space in the electromagnetic spectrum.

"Space is now contested and congested," said Deborah Lee James, the former Air Force secretary, during her State of the Air Force address in September 2016. "It is extremely important to everything that we do in the military, including precision guidance, navigation, missile warning, weather, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communication."

With so much of the Air Force's capabilities relying on space assets, defense of these assets is becoming increasingly important.

So, how does the Air Force defend its resources in space? One answer to this question was a proof of concept system started in 2005. At that time, the 379th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron was tasked with testing the capabilities of a new defensive space control system, which would protect U.S. Central Command's satellite networks. The proof of concept was so successful that the operation remained active, and is now called Operation Silent Sentry.

Turkey, Russia, US military chiefs weigh anti-IS steps

Turkey, Russia, US military chiefs weigh anti-IS steps: The top generals of the Turkish, Russian and US military met Tuesday for talks likely to be dominated by next steps in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

The meeting between Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov appears to be the first of its kind.

Their discussions in the southern Turkish city of Antalya come as a US-led coalition is making progress to push IS out of Syria, where Ankara has been increasing its efforts against the jihadists.

Turkey, Russia and the United States are all fighting IS, though they support different camps and military tension remains because of Turkish opposition to the involvement of Syrian Kurdish militia.

Turkey has said that the next target of its cross-border Syria campaign would be Manbij, which is now controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group dominated by Kurdish fighters.

US Moves Parts of Controversial Missile Defense to South Korea |

US Moves Parts of Controversial Missile Defense to South Korea | U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up a controversial missile defense system have arrived in South Korea, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said Tuesday, a day after North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan.

The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China and Russia, which see the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

Washington and Seoul say the system is defensive and not meant to be a threat to Beijing or Moscow.

The U.S. military said in a statement that THAAD is meant to intercept and destroy short and medium range ballistic missiles during the last part of their flights.

"Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday's launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea," Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in the statement.

Some South Korean liberal presidential candidates have said that the security benefits of having THAAD would be curtailed by worsened relations with neighbors China and Russia.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chinese troops appear to be operating in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is OK with it

Chinese troops appear to be operating in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is OK with it: There is mounting evidence that Chinese ground troops are operating inside Afghanistan, conducting joint counter-terror patrols with Afghan forces along a 50-mile stretch of their shared border and fueling speculation that Beijing is preparing to play a significantly greater role in the country's security once the U.S. and NATO leave.

The full scope of China's involvement remains unclear, and the Pentagon is unwilling to discuss it. “We know that they are there, that they are present,” a Pentagon spokesman said. Yet beyond a subtle acknowledgement, U.S. military officials in Washington and in Kabul would not respond to several detailed questions submitted by Military Times.

This dynamic stands in stark contrast to the two sides' feisty rhetoric over their ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, and to Washington's vocal condemnation of Russian and Iranian activity in Afghanistan. One explanation may be that this quiet arrangement is mutually beneficial.

Syrian airfield, once 'a flat spot on the ground,' helps with battle against ISIS

Syrian airfield, once 'a flat spot on the ground,' helps with battle against ISIS: The Air Force’s effort to build, rebuild and expand airfields in Iraq and Syria is a central element of the coalition’s push to defeat the Islamic State, the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria said that an airfield in northern Syria — the Air Force would not say on the record exactly where — and the Qayyarah West Air Field near Mosul, Iraq, are “key for setting a posture for the fight to continue” against ISIS.

About 500 U.S. combat advisers are in Syria coordinating efforts to destroy the Islamic State, while about 5,000 American troops are deployed to Iraq.

The Syrian airfield began as “a flat spot on the ground,” Silveria said during a meeting with reporters at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium.

Over time, engineers from Air Mobility Command lengthened it and are still building it out today, he said.

“The longer we made the runway, that allowed more cargo weight to be brought in,” Silveria said. “We were accelerating the number of sorties. [Having a runway in northern Syria] gave us the access to start to bring in supplies, ammunition, for our own forces, for opposition forces, etc, in the entire area.”

Last week, the runway in Syria saw its 50th C-17 landing, Silveria said. It has also seen more than 100 C-130 sorties. And without that runway, “we’d be operating at much greater distances and it’d be much more difficult to get into Syria.”

The Qayyarah West Airfield has similarly proved to be a vital staging area for the battle in Mosul, Silveria said. Without it, he said forces would have had to move from much further south to try to force ISIS out of the strategically key city.