Pair of Hunters
Two U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II aircraft prepare to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Harriers, which can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, were participating in Red Flag-Alaska 15-1.
Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces. It hones skills in combined offensive counter-air, interdiction and close air support missions as well as practicing large force training in a simulated combat environment.
The pilots are assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311.
To see more photos of Harriers, F-16 Fighting Falcons and EA-18G Growlers as well as runway operations coping with heavy snows in Alaska, click here.
ARCTIC NATION: Russia Moving on Arctic Bases; Swedes Hunt Russian Sub; U.S. Focusing on Climate Change
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shogiu says Russia will complete the deployment of military units Russian territory along the Arctic circle by the end of 2014, according to RIA-Novosti.
“We have been very active in the Arctic region lately, and this year we will have a large number of units deployed along the Arctic Circle, from Murmansk to Chukotka,” Shoigu announced at a meeting Tuesday (October 21) with top military brass in Moscow.
Over the past few years, Russia has been pressing ahead with efforts aimed at the development of its Arctic territories, including hydrocarbon production and development of the Northern Sea Route, which is growing importance as Arctic sea ice recedes as an alternative to traditional routes from Europe to Asia.
Attention has been focused on the Arctic by several nations including the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark since the region is believed to have large reserves of oil and gas.
On October 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a NATO presence in the Arctic isn’t necessary, because, he said, there are no problems in the region requiring the alliance’s participation.
Norway, the NATO member closest to Russia in the Arctic, announced two years ago that it wants more soldiers in the north. “Our ambition is a clear NATO footprint in the north,” said State Secretary Roger Ingebrigtsen of Norway’s Defense Ministry, according to the Barents Observer via Alaska Dispatch News
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Meanwhile, Swedish naval forces have been scouring their territorial waters since last week for what they think may be a Russian submarine.
Since October 17, surface vessels and helicopters 200 service personnel were mobilized along with helicopters, minesweepers and an anti-submarine corvette fitted with stealth-type anti-radar masking, according to The Guardian.
The operation began late on Friday following what Sweden’s armed forces said was a reliable tipoff about something in the Stockholm archipelago, which has 30,000 islands and rocky outcrops around which a submarine could lurk. The officer leading the operation declined to give more details, saying only that there had been no armed contact, according to the British newspaper.
Although officially neutral and not a NATO member, Sweden is no stranger to Russian provocations. Besides the possible submarine, Russian planes have violated Swedish and Finnish airspace in recent months. Against the backdrop of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Sweden, like other countries, is growing increasingly nervous about what Moscow might do next, according to The Economist.
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Admiral Robert Papp Jr., the special U.S. representative to the Arctic, says climate change will be a main priority for the U.S. when it takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year.
During one of his first speeches as the nation’s first Arctic envoy, Papp said the U.S. will be “more active and more forward leaning” when it comes to addressing the impact of climate change in the region, according to The Hill.
“It is imperative to address the effects of climate change before it’s too late,” Papp said during a September 30 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
If it weren’t for the “warming of the Arctic,” said Papp, the former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, no one would be up there exploring, shipping cargo or drilling for oil and gas, which is why the council will need to set more “actionable items and goals.” The U.S. is slated to take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada next year.
ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
Heading to Dry Dock.
The oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy — USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides“ — is heading for dry dock soon for several years of repairs and renovations.
Old Ironsides made a final tour of Boston Harbor on October 17 to commemorate the U.S. Navy 239th birthday and her own 217th birthday, according to the Navy.
The ship received a 21-gun salute off Fort Independence on Castle Island in South Boston before the 44-gun frigate returned to her berth at Charlestown Navy Yard.
More than 500 guests — individuals and organizations with long-standing ties to both the ship and the Navy — accompanied Constitution on her fifth and final demonstration voyage of 2014. It was also the historic warship’s final Boston Harbor underway (but not under sail) until 2018. She is scheduled to enter dry dock in March 2015 for a three-year planned restoration period.
Officials have said the effort is intended to more closely align Old Ironsides with its historical shape after decades of repairs that did not follow the original design, according to the Boston Globe.
Among the efforts, the Constitution will get new copper plates for the hull to make the ship more seaworthy. Officials will check the blueprints of the Constitution’s sister ship, the USS President, as they design the repairs. The repair work will include de-rigging and removal of the ship’s upper masts and offloading the ship’s long guns. Constitution will be open for public tours from Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting this week. The ship’s captain, Commander Sean Kearns, advises visitors who want to see the tall ship, should come and see her before she goes into dry dock in March.
The first time your 4GWAR editor saw the mighty frigate was back in the mid 1970s and she was in dry dock at Charlestown then.
To see a brief Navy video of The Last Ride, click here.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Raids and Skirmishes (Food Fights)
Cook’s Mills, Upper Canada.
While the British are building up an army in the Caribbean to invade Louisiana and seize New Orleans, skirmishing and raids continue along the U.S. Canadian border and in and around the Chesapeake Bay.
On October 18, Brigadier General Daniel Bissell leads an American force of 1,200 Army regulars out of Fort Erie toward the British line along Chippawa Creek in Canada. British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond orders Colonel Christopher Myers to conduct a reconnaissance towards Cook’s Mills to learn where the Americans are vulnerable.
On October 19, 750 British and Canadian troops, heavily entrenched and supported by a cannon and Congreve rockets, attack a brigade of roughly 900 U.S. soldiers. The Americans outflank the British, forge across Lyons Creek at Cooks Mills, seizing the town and its important millworks. The British-Canadian force withdrew, but the following day — October 19 — 700 British troops march west to engage the Americans and retake the town. Then on October 20, it’s the Americans’ turn to withdraw and on the 21st they joined General George Izard‘s general retreat to Fort Erie, and back to Buffalo, effectively ending combat on the Niagara frontier.
The British lose 19 men killed or wounded and the American losses total 67 men. The skirmish had little consequence, apart from the American destruction of 200 bushes of wheat and flour
Castle Haven, Maryland
Meanwhile, far to the south, a British raiding party comprising of eighteen barges and a schooner entered the Choptank River on Maryland’s Easter Shore on October 19. Landing at Castle Haven they seize poultry and cattle from a tenant farmer.
At the peace treaty talks in Ghent, Belgium, they haven’t heard about the British failures in September to take Baltimore and Plattsburgh, New York. The British delegation are still ecstatic over the Americans’ rout at Bladensburg, Maryland and the burning of the White House, Capitol and other public buildings in Washington, so they’re pretty smug in their negotiations. They offer to end the fighting and send a treaty of uti possidetis: where both sides get to keep whatever territory they occupy. For the British, this would mean ownership of eastern Maine and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley near present day Wisconsin and Mackinac Island where Lake Michigan and Lake Superior meet.
The Americans hold only a small bit of land in Canada surrounding Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York.
This Way Out.
U.S. paratroopers rush from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Operation Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia, Oct. 5, 2014. The helicopter engines are so powerful, look at how the heat wave distorts the background to the right of the Chinook. Looks almost like an impressionist painting.
The multinational exercise includes forces from Latvia, Estonia, Great Britain, Norway and the Michigan Army National Guard, and is being held in conjunction with U.S. Army Europe and Operation Atlantic Resolve. The paratroopers are assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Airborne, Vicenza, Italy. Elements of the 173rd have been conducting exercises with troops in Poland and the Baltic states (like Latvia and Estonia) to show these NATO countries their partners support them in and response o Russian aggressive behavior in Eastern and Central Europe.
Ebola Death Toll
The death toll in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has risen to 4,493, according to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization.
The WHO said there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of what the U.N. agency calls Ebola virus disease (EVD) in seven affected countries: countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of October 12.
Today (October 17) the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over. The U.N. agency commended the country’s authorities for their “diligence to end the transmission of the virus.” The WHO said it has been 42 days since any new cases had developed in Senegal.
However, the WHO said the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone “is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD.” The situation report said an increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah.
“In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.” The the report stated, adding that it suspects “almost certainly significant under-reporting of cases from the capital, Monrovia.” While there does appear to be a genuine fall in the number of cases in Liberia’s Lofa district, the WHO said a concerted effort will be needed to confirm that drop and whether it means EVD has been eliminated in that area.
In Sierra Leone, intense transmission is still occurring in the capital, Freetown, and the surrounding districts.
Back in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, “a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran,” to manage the U.S. government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread, the New York Times reported. The new Ebola czar is a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges, according to the Times.
Hundreds of U.S. military personnel are already in Liberia assisting in the construction of Ebola treatment centers and training local personnel. They include Marines helicopter crews, Navy SeaBees and lab technicians, Air Force cargo handlers and Army engineers.
The Pentagon says between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel may be sent to Liberia to help with logistical, construction and administrative tasks. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reservists, if necessary. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says no U.S. military personnel will be involved in treatment of Ebola patients during the mission, which is called Operation United Assistance.
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Nigeria: Kidnapped Girls
Nigeria’s military says it has agreed to a ceasefire with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and that the militants will release hundreds of schoolgirls it kidnapped earlier this year.
Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce but Boko Haram has yet to make a public statement, according to the BBC.
Boko Haram, which seeks to create an Islamic state governed by a severe interpretation of Sharia law, requiring beheadings, whippings and limb amputations for crimes launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Thousands have been killed in the struggle, including some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year, the BBC said.
The group, whose name translates roughly into “Western education is fraudulent” and by implication, forbidden, has bombed police stations, churches and bus terminals and attacked high schools and colleges, killing students and teachers. It sparked worldwide outrage in April when it raided a high school in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria and carried off hundreds of teenage girls.
Many in the country have been critical of the government’s slow response to the kidnappings and the counterinsurgency in general. They remain skeptical about the ceasefire announcement.
Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says the negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Chad between the government and Boko Haram will only increase the stature of the group.
“It has acquired its own status that puts it on its own pedestal. But the reality is there [are] a lot of people in northeastern Nigeria who have an incentive to join Boko Haram because of the failures, corruption and the inability of the government to exercise transparency and good governance,” Nwankwo tells the Voice of America.
He’s also worried that Abuja’s willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram may reflect the government’s “desperation” bring the abduction crisis to a close.
Hitting the Beach.
This photo is so sharp, you can almost hear the splashing water as U.S. and Filipino Marines (in camouflage helmets) wade toward the beach during a simulated raid for Amphibious Landing Exercise at PHIBLEX15 in Palawan, Philippines on October 2. (Make sure to click on the photo to see a larger image).
PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to strengthen interoperability across a range of skills including disaster relief and amphibious warfare operations. U.S. Army officials this past week in Washington at the Association of the United States Army conference stressed the importance of such multi-national training exercises to solidify both militaries’ readiness for amphibious operations in times of crisis.