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.

Air Mobility Command head calls for more survivable tanker fleet

Air Mobility Command head calls for more survivable tanker fleet: The Air Mobility Command chief has an ambitious vision for the Air Force’s aerial refueling fleet that ranges from increasing the survivability of the 60-year old KC-135 to starting development on a next-generation penetrating tanker.

Once AMC’s tanker capabilities-based assessment wraps up this summer, the command will know more about how it wants to pursue KC-Z, a leap-ahead development that will incorporate technologies for minimizing the aircraft’s visibility to radar and infrared sensors, said Gen. Carlton Everhart.

“I’m looking for a platform that is going to give me persistence in the airspace,” he told reporters March 2 at the Air Force Association’s air warfare symposium. “I’m looking at a platform that is going to be able to change the waveform signature.”

Trump's cutting $1 billion from the Coast Guard at a time when it's doing more than ever - SFGate

Trump's cutting $1 billion from the Coast Guard at a time when it's doing more than ever - SFGate: President Donald Trump's proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.

Trump's budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.

"Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total," Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.

"With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events," Zukunft said. "We are really besieged down there," he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.

In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.

Air Force leaders confirm light attack aircraft demo to take off this summer

Air Force leaders confirm light attack aircraft demo to take off this summer: The Air Force’s light attack aircraft flight demonstration is officially on the books, with an experiment scheduled this summer at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

That event could be the first in a series of demos to determine the business case for a program of record, which has been termed OA-X.

“We’re going to formally invite industry to participate,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Friday. “Bring us what you have that fits the basic criteria of what we’re looking for. We call it ‘shovel ready.’ This is not something we’re looking to do a lot of research and development on. This is commercial, off-the-shelf that we can rapidly employ.”

A second phase of the experiment would send those aircraft to the Middle East, in very much the same manner as the Combat Dragon II exercise earlier this decade, when two OV-10 Broncos were deployed to Central Command, Goldfein said.

Navy Subs Still Show Issue with Stealth Coating |

Navy Subs Still Show Issue with Stealth Coating | In 2010, when rubberlike quieting material started to peel off the hulls of newer Virginia-class submarines, the Navy said it was fine-tuning a fix for a problem occurring on the first few ships made.

Seven years later, the Navy still appears to be seeking a cure.

When the $2 billion USS Mississippi recently returned to Pearl Harbor, its "Mold-In-Place/Special Hull Treatment" looked ragged and was missing chunks on at least one side of the hull. The sub was commissioned in 2012.

The loss of stealth comes at a time when China and Russia are making worrisome advances in submarine technology.

A photo that appeared on Facebook prompted the comment that the Mississippi looked "pretty banged up." No collision, no accident, and no hull damage, reported the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force at Pearl Harbor.

The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington skirted questions about what happened to the Mississippi and how much of a problem the debonding remains for Virginia-class attack boats.

Asked what caused the damage, the command in an email cited the "wear and tear from the harsh environment in which the submarine operates," but would not say when or why it occurred.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

EU military headquarters to open soon: sources

EU military headquarters to open soon: sources: A controversial European Union military headquarters to coordinate the bloc's overseas security operations will open in the coming months, EU diplomatic sources said Friday.

Brexit and doubts about US President Donald Trump's commitment to European security have given fresh impetus to EU ambitions to step up military cooperation, with France and Germany taking the lead.

"This is a big leap forward. It is supposed to start working initially in March and fully in June," one of the sources said.

EU foreign and defence ministers meeting Monday in Brussels will approve what is known as a Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) unit, the sources said.

It will oversee the European Union's "non-executive" operations -- those that do not use force -- such as civil-military training missions in Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia.

The EU also runs Operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, which can use force to stop migrant smugglers, and Atalanta, part of international anti-piracy forces off the Horn of Africa.

These "executive" operations have their own command centres which will remain separate

Friday, March 3, 2017

MV Liberty Passion Joins US MSP Fleet

MV Liberty Passion Joins US MSP Fleet: The Liberty Passion, built in 2016, adds more than 165,000 square feet of militarily useful deck area into U.S. sealift service. It has the capacity to transport up to approximately 6,500 cars on 12 decks, as well as military wheeled and containerized equipment such as M-ATVs, HUMVEEs, MRAPs, armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters and unit equipment. Together with Liberty’s other two MSP vessels – the Liberty Pride and Liberty Promise – the three ships add nearly 400,000 square feet to the MSP fleet, with the capability of transporting hundreds of combat and support vehicles.

Legislators Call For US-Flag LNG Carriers

Legislators Call For US-Flag LNG Carriers: New legislation proposed this week would require up to 30 percent of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to travel on U.S.-flagged vessels.

The U.S. is expected to continue ramping up its LNG exports in the coming years and become a net exporter by 2020, yet there are currently no U.S.-flag carriers to carry the cargo.

“We’re the most powerful nation in the world, but 99 percent of our trade travels on foreign-flagged ships,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, who introduced the bill (H.R. 1240 “Energizing American Maritime Act”) this week.

“We need to right this ship and grow America’s maritime sector,” Garamendi said.

Garamendi contends that requiring a percentage of energy American exports to be carried on U.S. ships would strengthen the nation’s economy as well as national security.

“We can’t rely on foreign-flagged vessels to provide the necessary movement of strategic materials in a time of war. Requiring even a minority of strategic energy asset exports to be carried on U.S.-flagged ships will compel us to rebuild the technical skill to man these vessels—and with that comes good, high-paying, maritime jobs.”

The proposed rule would require a new fleet of U.S.-built LNG carriers, which have not been constructed domestically since before 1980. There are currently no LNG carriers registered under the U.S. flag.

Donald Trump rapped for inattention, lack of funding for Coast Guard: 'Nonsensical' - Washington Times

Donald Trump rapped for inattention, lack of funding for Coast Guard: 'Nonsensical' - Washington Times: President Trump’s pledge Tuesday night in an address to Congress to rebuild the military did not include the armed services’ fifth branch — the U.S. Coast Guard.

In fact, some of the $54 billion in added Defense Department spending for the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps is being stripped from the Coast Guard’s budget.

“It’s nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the armed forces while proposing large reductions to the U.S. Coast Guard budget,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said Thursday in a letter to the president.

Guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget calls for cutting $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard’s $10 billion fiscal 2017 budget.

The cut comes at a time when some in Congress, led by Mr. Hunter, are calling for increased spending as Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues a military buildup in the Arctic. Mr. Putin is reopening air bases and deploying ground groups, complemented by nearly 40 icebreakers. The Coast Guard deploys just two. Its last “heavy” icebreaker was launched in the 1970s.

Mr. Hunter told Mr. Trump that the budget reduction would leave the nation less safe.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Army revises functional concept of intelligence

Army revises functional concept of intelligence: The Army is coming to grips with the notion that with a rapidly changing world and threat environment, intelligence must adapt in kind.

The Army is taking direct aim at intelligence practices with major revisions to the publication of Training and Doctrine Command’s “U.S. Army Functional Concept of Intelligence 2020-2040,” dated for February 2017.

The document is a revision to the previous iteration published in 2010 that covered an applicability period from 2016-2028.

“Enemies will employ countermeasures to avoid detection and cloud efforts to develop situational understanding; therefore, Army forces must be prepared to employ multi-disciplinary intelligence, simultaneously through multiple domains, and operate under conditions of uncertainty,” Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who at the time of the document’s publication was the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, wrote in the forward. “This concept serves as a foundation for developing future intelligence capabilities and helps Army leaders thinkclearly about future armed conflict, learnabout the future through the Army’s campaign of learning, analyzefuture capability gaps and identify opportunities, and implementinterim solutions to improve current and future force combat effectiveness.”

U.S. Navy orders 12 new fighter aircraft from Boeing

U.S. Navy orders 12 new fighter aircraft from Boeing: Boeing received a $678.6 million contract to provide seven Lot 40 EA-18G Growlers and five F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters for the U.S. Navy.

In addition to the aircraft, the contract also includes associated airborne electronic attack kits, which support the Growler's communication jamming capabilities.

The U.S. Department of Defense says work on the contract will be performed at various locations including El Segundo, Calif.; St. Louis, Mo.; Bethpage, N.Y., and others. The work is expected to be complete by February 2019.

Army Close to Final Jungle Boot Design |

Army Close to Final Jungle Boot Design |

The U.S. Army will soon outfit two brigades of soldiers with a new Jungle Combat Boot billed as more comfortable, faster drying and puncture resistant than the service's long-retired Vietnam-era jungle boot, equipment officials maintain.

Belleville Boot Company and Rocky Boots were selected in December to supply the Army with about 36,700 pairs of newly-designed Jungle Combat Boots as part of a direct requirement effort to select and field jungle boots to infantry soldiers to wear in the hot, tropical terrain of the Pacific theater.

The Army plans to field the 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii beginning in March

"We are really, really excited about the jungle boot program," Lt. Col. John Bryan, the product manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said during an interview with reporters at the base.

"This is important to the Army. It's important to soldiers in a hot, high-humidity, high moisture area, and we are responding as quickly as we possibly can with the best available, immediate capability we can get on soldiers feet quickly and then refine and improve as we go."

The Army and the Marine Corps retired the popular, Vietnam War-era jungle boots in the mid-2000s when both services transitioned to a desert-style combat boot for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new Jungle Combat Boot looks similar to the Army Hot Weather Boot and feature rough-side out leather and speed laces. But they are radically different than the jungle boots soldiers wore throughout the 1980s and 1990s.