Archive for July, 2020

FRIDAY FOTO (July 31, 2020)

Tanks for the Memory.

The Last Ride

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Patrick King)

With their turrets reversed, it’s hard to tell if this line of Marine Corps Abrams main battle tanks are coming or going. But make no mistake, these behemoths are definitely going — away, forever.

The official caption of this photo reads:

U.S. Marines with 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division, track through tank trails on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 27, 2020. For nearly 80 years, 2d Tank Battalion left the tank lot and would return after combat or training operations. This time, the tanks will not return. After serving 2d MARDIV for more than three quarters of a century, 2nd Tank Battalion will deactivate in accordance with the future redesign of the Marine Corps.

It isn’t just the 2nd MARDIV’s tanks that are going away. The Marine Corps is unloading all of its M1A1 Abrams tanks, M-88 Recovery Vehicles and Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges as part of the United States Marine Corps Force Design 2030 guidance published in March by General David  Berger, the Marine Corps commandant.

The 15-page document outlines a plan to modernize the Marine Corps in accordance with the National Defense Strategy, which pivots away from two decades of counter insurgency and special operations combat with terrorist groups around the world to Great Power competition with Russia and China. The Force re-design calls for a shift from big guns, tanks and infantry units to  rocket artillery batteries, light armored reconnaissance companies and unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons.

The Marine Corps will eventually divest of all three of its active tank battalions as it moves from a “second land army” back to its maritime roots of defending ships at sea, island-hopping and battling for contested coastlines, in preparation for potential conflict with near-peer adversaries such as China, according to Stars and Stripes in a July 30 article under the headline: A  farewell to armor.

July 31, 2020 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Robots, Droids & Drones: July 2020


Air Force/Skyborg

The U.S. Air Force is planning operational experiments in 2021 with new unmanned aerial system prototypes for the Skyborg program, National Defense Magazine report.

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that the Air Force says will enable it to operate and sustain low-cost, manned/unmanned teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries in contested environments.

skyborg concept design

A Skyborg conceptual design for a low cost Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. (Artwork courtesy of AFRL)

During this effort, the Air Force Research Lab will create prototypes of a suite of autonomy and unmanned system technologies, equipped with capabilities to support a range of Air Force missions.

The aim, according to National Defense, is to integrate attritable drone technologies with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming.

The autonomous platforms are expected to operate as robotic wingmen for manned aircraft, perform dangerous tasks and serve as low-cost force multipliers on the battlefield.

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Boeing’s carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

Later this year, Boeing’s unmanned aerial refueling test vehicle — the MQ-25 T1 — will  return to flight test later, with a U.S. Navy aerial refueling store, Seapower magazine reports.

The store was recently integrated under the wing of T1 during a planned modification. It is the same store currently carried by F/A-18 fighter jets that perform aerial refueling off aircraft carriers. MQ-25 will relieve F/A-18s of carrier-based aerial refueling, freeing up those assets to perform other missions.

The MQ-25 will be the U.S. Navy’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft. Boeing is under contract to manufacture seven aircraft that will subsequently go into Navy flight test.

When T1 returns to flight with the aerial refueling store, it will be under the control of Boeing air vehicle operators and monitored by a team of flight test engineers, including those from the Navy.

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How to Hide from Enemy Drones.

A new manual independently compiled by 11 seasoned U.S. Marines and veterans aims to provide guidance to ground troops seeking to avoid detection against a growing enemy threat: drones.

Published at the end of June, the 96-page guide proposes a standard operating procedure, or SOP, for Marines training for and operating in an environment where enemy drones, more formally known as unmanned aerial systems, are part of the terrain, according to the website.

The guide proposes code words Marines can use to signal that a UAS has been spotted; to tell the unit to camouflage itself; and to order an attack on the drone. It also offers detailed guidance on effective camouflage, building on existing practices such as covering a helmet with foliage and a vehicle with netting and adding in newer precautions such as heat signature masking.

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Schiebel Pacific and Raytheon Australia have teamed up for the Australian Army’s LAND 129 Phase 3 project to replace its Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).


CAMCOPTER_S-100_195 Land129 Phase 3 Australia (Photo courtesy Schiebel)

The teaming pairs the Austrian unmanned aircraft maker’s Camcopter S-100 with Raytheon Australia, a prime systems integrator across multiple domains. Together, the companies will deliver a solution that provides a highly capable, low risk offering that is intended to establish an enduring sovereign TUAS capability, according to a Schiebel press release.

Project Land 129 Phase 3 (L129-3) will replace and enhance the existing Shadow 200 v1 TUAS capability operated by 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment (20 STA Regt), according to the Australian Department of Defense. The project will grow the capability to provide a third sub-unit and provide an enduring capability effect that enables 24/7 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage in two separate focal areas. The TUAS capability should integrate with existing and future in-service systems in order to disseminate information and intelligence to the supported Land Commander


July 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 24, 2020)

Lighting, Three Ways.

Lightning Forge 20 Night Air Assault

 (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Sarah D. Sangster)

The lighting in this photo is almost surreal. Hawaiian sunset, stars above and the lights from an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

It shows soldiers assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team preparing for air assault operations training in total darkness to accomplish their mission during exercise Lightning Forge 2020 at Oahu, Hawaii July 17, 2020.

Lightning Forge is an annual brigade-level training exercise that prepares units for a deployment certification exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

July 24, 2020 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Air Force/Space Force Arctic Strategy; Navy Exercises; New Icebreakers for Coast Guard; Siberian Heat Wave

Defense and Homeland Security News.

U.S. Air Force/Space Force Arctic Strategy.

F-35s arrive at Eielson

Two F-35A Lightning II aircraft fly over the Alaska Highway on April 21, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Technical Sergent Adam Keele)

The U.S. Air Force and the new U.S. Space Force rolled out their combined Arctic Strategy on July 21.  The Arctic sits at the intersection between the U.S. homeland and two critical theaters, Indo-Pacific and Europe, making it an increasingly vital region for U.S. national security interests.

“The Arctic’s increasing strategic importance, coupled with the Services’ significant regional investment, requires the Department [of the Air Force] to have a unified, deliberate and forward-looking approach, ensuring the Air and Space Forces can compete and defend the nation’s interests in the Arctic region,” the strategy’s 14-page summary noted.

The strategy outlines four coordinated lines of effort that Air and Space Forces will use to enhance vigilance, reach and power to the nation’s whole-of-government approach in the Arctic region:

• Vigilance in all domains
• Projecting power through a combat-credible force
• Cooperation with allies and partners
• Preparation for Arctic operations

In the Arctic, U.S. Air and Space Forces are responsible for the majority of Department of Defense missions in the region, including the regional architecture for detecting, tracking, and engaging air and missile threats. Space Professionals in the region are responsible for critical nodes of the satellite control network that deliver space capabilities to joint and coalition partners, as well as the U.S. national command authority.


U.S.  Destroyer in Arctic Exercises.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) completed a passing exercise — also known as a PASSEX — with Norwegian navy ship off the coast of Tromso, Norway on July 15, 2020. Passing exercises are done between the ships of different navies to ensure they are able to communicate and cooperate in emergencies — whether war or humanitarian relief.


Norway, Sweden (CIA World Factbook via University of Texas Libraries)

The Roosevelt (not to be confused with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt) and the Norwegian ship HNoMS Gnist (P979) conducted the exercise in the waters of the Norwegian Sea.

Forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, the Roosevelt is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations which includes the waters of Europe and West Africa.

Earlier in July, the Roosevelt participated in an anti-submarine warfare exercise, Dynamic Mongoose 2020, with a number of NATO Allies off the coast of Iceland. Naval forces from Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States  participated in the exercise led by NATO Allied Maritime Command. Other U.S. Navy participants included Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Indiana (SSN 789), and two P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft based out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy.


Polar Security Cutter.

President Donald Trump has ordered a review of the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking polar security cutter (PSC) program, Seapower magazine reports.   The order seeks to focus on exploring options for including nuclear power and heavy armament — and leasing icebreakers in a stopgap measure.

In a June 9 White House memorandum to several federal departments —  “Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions” — Trump ordered a review of requirements of the acquisition program for a suitable fleet of polar security icebreakers “capable of ensuring a persistent United States presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in support of national interests and in furtherance of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, as appropriate.”

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Environment and Climate News.

Siberian Heatwave.

A heat wave continues in Russia’s Arctic, causing wildfires in Siberia. It’s also causing Arctic sea ice to melt at an alarming rate.

Sea ice loss accelerated in early- to mid-July, bringing sea ice extent — which measures the area of ocean where there’s some ice cover, down to record-low levels for this time of the year, the Washington Post reported. Using data from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Post said as of July 18, the Arctic as a region had an ice extent that was about 193,000 square miles below the previous record low for the date,

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado — which tracks ice trends and climate change — the record-low ice extent is in part the result of the Siberian heat streak that has lasted from January through June, and into July.

Arctic Region

Arctic Region (CIA World Fact Book map)

What’s the Cause?

A recent study concluded that the unusual warmth in Siberia could not have happened in the absence of human-caused global warming, the Post reported.

The study found that six straight months of anomalously mild conditions in large parts of northern Siberia so far this year — along with an Arctic temperature record of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) that occurred in June — would have been virtually impossible without human-induced global warming.

The study, released July 15 by the World Weather Attribution project, was produced through a collaboration between climate researchers from multiple institutions in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

July 23, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 17, 2020)

Four-Day Fire — Update

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Fire

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Haist)

This photo shows the Navy amphibious assault ship, USS Bonhomme Richard, on fire beside the pier at Naval Base San Diego, California on July 12. It wasn’t until Thursday, July 16, after four harrowing days of smoke, intense heat and flames that the fire was put out.

The Navy announced firefighters have extinguished all known fires on Bonhomme Richard, Seapower magazine reported. Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, said “fire teams are investigating every space to verify the absence of fire.”

Until every space is checked and there are no active fires we will not be able to commence any official investigations. We did not know the origin of the fire. We do not know the extent of the damage,” Sobeck said July 16.

The 22-year-old Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) had been in San Diego since 2018 undergoing modernization including being prepared to accommodate the F-35B, a vertical lift and short take-off variant of the Lightning II joint strike fighter.

Experts said the loss of Bonhomme Richard — whether completely or just lost for extensive repairs — deals a significant blow to the Navy’s plans to have F-35Bs continually deployed in the Pacific. according to Defense News. And that could pose problems for asserting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and rejecting China’s territorial claims in the area.

At a press briefing in San Diego Friday (July 17), the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday said the damage to the ship was extensive to electrical, mechanical and structural systems.   While he was confident the defense shipbuilding industry could restore the BHR so it could return to sea, he added “the question is, should we make that investment in a 22-year-old ship.”

Gilday praised the ship’s firefighting crew and Sailors from other ships in port as well as federal and local fighters for their lengthy battle against the inferno, which at times reached over 1,000 degrees. He said looking into the cause of the fire will be one of three parallel investigations.


(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalie M. Byers/Released)

A second investigation, routine in such incidents, will be conducted by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), to determine if the fire was caused by any malfeasance or criminal activity,  Gilday said the Navy also will conduct a third investigation that will look into several echelons of command to determine if the correct procedures were in effect during the emergency, Seapower reported. That third probe will look into whether the Navy reacted properly to the fire, and if measures should have been in place that were not, among other factors.

The top Navy commander promised “We will follow the facts of what happened here. We will be honest with ourselves. We will get after it as a Navy,” Seapower noted.

In the photo above, federal firefighters assess damage in the hangar bay aboard the Bohomme Richard on July 15. None of the firefighters or ship’s crew were seriously injured.

It’s worth noting that at Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois — the Navy’s only enlisted boot camp –recruits are trained in firefighting as one of five basic competencies, which also include damage control, watch standing, seamanship and small-arms handling and marksmanship.

July 17, 2020 at 10:10 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 12, 2020)

Paratroopers Don’t Travel Light.

Guam National Guard Supports Operation Spartan Flex

( U.S. Army photo by Captain Mark Scott)

We’ve run lots of photos of parachutists here at 4GWAR of the years, but this is one of the first to show a closeup view of a paratrooper while descending. Note all the kit he’s coming down with.

This photo was taken June 30, 2020 as U.S. Army paratroopers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), jumped from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft during training at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The jump was part of Spartan Flex, an operation to exercise joint capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.

July 12, 2020 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 3, 2020)

Solemn Masked Men.

Military Funeral Honors with Modified Funeral Escort are Conducted for U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jesse Lewis Jr.

(U.S. Army Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon conducts military funeral honors with a modified escort for Navy Commander Jesse W. Lewis Junior at Arlington National Cemetery on June 29, 2020.

It was the first funeral service since March 26 to include a caisson, the next step in Arlington National Cemetery’s phased plan to resume greater support to military funeral honors as COVID-19 cases within the national capital region trend downward.

According to the Arlington website:

 Military funeral honors with modified escort consists of individual service branch body bearers, a firing party, an escort commander with guidon, escort, bugler, drummer, national colors and chaplain. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment’s caisson platoon may also be requested. Additionally, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps service members with ranks O-6 [colonel] and above may receive a caparisoned horse and flag officers [generals and admirals] from all services may receive the appropriate presidential salute battery (PSB) gun salute. 

The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard also participated in the ceremony for the Navy veteran.

Military Funeral Honors with Modified Funeral Escort are Conducted for U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jesse Lewis Jr.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

July 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm 1 comment


July 2020


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