Archive for April, 2021

FRIDAY FOTO (April 30, 2021)

Ice Palace.

(Photo by Benjamin Wilson) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

A soldier from the U.S. Army’s 52nd Aviation Regiment watches the mountains and glaciers of Alaska’s Denali National Park and Reserve pass below his CH-47 Chinook helicopter on April 22, 2021.

Members of B Company, 1st Battalion of the 52nd AR, known as “The Sugar Bears,” have permission to conduct training in the park in exchange for helping the National Park Service set-up base camp for the 2021 Denali climbing season.

The Army provides assistance annually to the Park Service by flying in supplies to the base camp, which is located at 7,200 feet.

While the landscape in this photo is breath-taking, new satellite imagery reveals that the world’s glaciers are melting faster than ever due to climate change — and half the world’s glacial loss is occurring in the United States and Canada.

According to a study in the science journal Nature, glaciers are melting faster, losing 31 percent more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, the Associated Press reported via NBC. The gloomy forecast is based on three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world’s mountain glaciers. Scientists blame human-caused climate change, the AP noted.

A French-led team assessed the behavior of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet. The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tons of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century, the BBC reported.

The research team, led by Romain Hugonnet from the University of Toulouse, France, used as its primary data source the imagery acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite, which was launched in 1999. Immense computing power was brought to bear on the process of interpreting these pictures and pulling out the changes in the glaciers’ elevation, volume and mass up to 2019, the BBC noted.

April 30, 2021 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

Robots, Droids & Drones: Navy “Bullish” on Aerial Refueler Drone; Air Force Testing Ways to Use MQ-9 Drone.


CNO Bullish on Drones.

Unmanned systems — in the air and both on, and under the sea — will help maximize the U.S. Navy’s range across the Pacific Ocean in the future, according to the Navy’s top commander.

The MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling vehicle, along with other unmanned aircraft, surface and under-sea vessels, will help maximize the U.S. Navy’s future range across the Pacific Ocean, according to Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations. The Navy plans to procure 72 Stingrays from Boeing. (Photo of Boeing)

Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, says the Navy’s “very bullish” about the MQ-25A Stingray, a carrier-based, aerial refueling drone. Once it’s integrated into carrier operations, Gilday told a think tank webinar April 27, the Boeing-built Stingray will extend aircraft carrier reach. In addition to being an unmanned fuel tanker,the Stingray can also provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance around the carrier strike group.

Gilday said he sees unmanned systems as a path to affordability and lethality in future defense budgets, which will likely be leaner in coming years. “Probably by the  mid-to-late 2030s, we think up to a third of the fleet could be unmanned, if everything goes right,” Gilday explained. “And for the air wing of the future, we think about the same, initially about 40 percent — potentially going to 60 percent — unmanned,” he added.

The Navy’s strategy in the Great Power competition with China calls for fielding highly mobile and distributed maritime operations across the Pacific. But during the question and answer session at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Gilday noted that with  ubiquitous satellite imagery, “it’s going to be difficult to hide” in the future. And that’s why unmanned vessels armed with directed energy weapons like high-energy lasers could become “really important” in force protection, Gilday said.

To see your 4GWAR editor’s story on this topic on the Seapower magazine website, click here.

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Naval Exercise (UxS IBP)

A number of unmanned systems were put to the test in the air and on and below the waters off the coast of California April 19-26 during Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP).

The Pacific Fleet exercise was designed to integrate manned and unmanned capabilities into operational scenarios to generate advantages in conflict. The week-long event involved surface, subsurface, and aerial unmanned assets, operating with littoral combat ships, guided-missile destroyers, guided-missile cruisers, submarines and helicopter squadrons.

It was the first large-scale unmanned systems (UxS) integrated battle problem (IBP) involving manned/unmanned teaming. One goal was  to develop a targeting solution for a planned missile shoot, which was accomplished. Participants successfully teamed air and surface, manned and unmanned capability, to put an SM-6 missile well over the horizon from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn to target, according to Seapower.

The manned/unmanned chain of events for the missile shoot was totally passive, [without] any active sensor. The target was detected by a combination of manned and unmanned platforms and a space system to locate and identify the target, track it with electronic support measures (ESM) bearings, and pass the information to the John Finn, which was able to shoot the SM-6 at range, well beyond line of sight.

Unmanned systems participating in the IBP included two medium-displacement unmanned surface vessels, Sea Hunter and its new sister ship, Seahawk; an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); an MQ-9 Sea Guardian UAV; a Vanilla ultra-long-endurance UAV; the Office of Naval Research’s Super Swarm Project; and the Ocean Aero Triton-Class Dual-Modality Underwater and Surface Autonomous Vehicle.

In  the photo below, sailors attached to Unmanned Undersea Vehicles Squadron 1 monitor the launch and operation of an unmanned undersea vehicle at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport’s UUV Operations Center in Washington state as part of Battle Problem 21 on April 21. To see more photos of this part of UxS IBP, click here.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Foley)

Unmanned surface and air systems were used to prosecute a submarine-like target. This event included an MQ-9 SeaGuardian UAV dropping sonobuoys and up-linking data after a P-8 maritime patrol aircraft departed station.

According to MQ-9-manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the event demonstrated a number of actions for the first time including: successful Link connectivity with U.S. Navy surface ships and aircraft; cooperative anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, with the first successful high-altitude sonobuoy drop from an unmanned aircraft; Automatic Identification System (AIS) correlation with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and a MH-60R Seahawk helicopte;r and long-range over-the-horizon targeting from drone to a U.S. Navy Destroyer.

In the photo below, an MQ-9 Sea Guardian unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft system flies over the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

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Marines Dropping their Blackjacks.

According to the Drive, the Marine Corps has announced it was retiring all of its RQ-21 Blackjack drones and is shifting attention to other unmanned platforms, including the MQ-9 Reaper and the V-Bat. (see related story below).

The Marines announced earlier this week that they had “initiated the divestment of all RQ-21 aircraft” in the first annual update on the Corps’ progress with the Force Design 2030 effort, publicly unveiled last year. The restructuring plan scaled back infantry and artillery units and eliminated tank battalions, in favor of a lighter, more nimble force with a renewed emphasis on expeditionary and distributed operations.

The Blackjack, built by Boeing’s Insitu, is a twin-boom, single-engine, small tactical unmanned aerial vehicle that carries modular payloads mostly for surveillance. It is pneumatically launched and is recovered using a skyhook arrestment system. A single Blackjack system includes five UAVs, two ground control stations, various payloads and a set of launch and recovery systems.

The fielding of the RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system achieved full operational capability in 2019. All 21 systems for the Marine Corps and 10 for the Navy had been delivered to fleet and training units, by Fall 2020, according to Seapower.

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Navy Picks Martin UAV V-BAT

The Navy has selected Martin UAV’s V-BAT for a vertical take-off and landing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) prototyping and development effort to fulfill new technological requirements, the Plano, Texas company announced April 28.

V-Bat stationary (Courtesy Martin UAV)

Those requirements were driven by the changing nature of threats in austere operating environments.

Martin UAV was one of thirteen respondents to the Navy’s Mi2 Challenge and was later down selected with L3Harris Technologies to compete in a technology demonstration at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona. The competition sought maximum portability, self-sufficiency and modularity in UAS hardware and payload capabilities without the need for ancillary support equipment.

The BAT system offers vertical takeoff with a single-engine ducted fan, automatic transition to straight and level flight, easily commanded hovers and stares, interchangeable payloads, and an open architecture.

According to the company. the V-BAT is currently deployed in various areas in support of Defense Department activities including the U.S. Army’s Future Tactical UAS program as well as with a Marine Corps expeditionary unit, and with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Air Force testing  MQ-9 Drone for New Mission.

The Air Force is testing ways to use the MQ-9 UAS in island-hopping missions, reports.

Long used for the counter terrorism mission, the Air Force’s principal hunter-killer drone is finishing up a joint exercise (Agile Reaper) with the Navy and Marine Corps at Naval Air Station Point Mugu and San Clemente Island in California. The aim was to prepare crews to use fewer personnel and less equipment at forward-deployed locations as the MQ-9 takes on more maritime missions, officials said, according to the website.

Like the Marines, who are shifting from counter-terrorism, counter insurgency operations to prepare for possible conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region, the Air Force drone operators practiced enhanced maritime surveillance missions and moved toward close-air support strike, to back up Marines going ashore.

Read more here.

April 29, 2021 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

LAT AM: China, Russia Capitalizing on Organized Crime Chaos; Politics and COVID-19 in Brazil.

Dual Threat.

The chaos created by transnational organized crime groups in Central and South America is creating opportunities for China and Russia to undermine United States influence in the Western Hemisphere, two top U.S. military commanders say.

The littoral combat ship USS Wichita (LCS 13) conducts a bi-lateral maritime exercise with naval counterparts from the Dominican Republic on March 24, 2021. Wichita is deployed to support the Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Two of the most significant threats are China and transnational criminal organizations,” Navy Admiral Craig Faller told a House Armed Services Committee hearing April 14. Faller, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), said China is the “Number One strategic threat of the 21st century,” adding that the Chinese Communist Party — with what he called its “insidious, corrosive and corrupt influence” was seeking “global dominance.”

Faller said China was increasing its influence in the Western Hemisphere with more than 40 commercial seaport deals, making significant loans for political and economic leverage, pushing its IT structure and “engaging in predatory practices” like illegal fishing by industrial fleets.

Southcom’s 2021 posture statement to Congress noted that South and Central America have been reeling under a wave of challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic that has savaged Brazil, political instability and corruption in Venezuela and back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America,  prompting mass migrations north. The statement notes external state actors like China and Russia are “looking to exploit the conditions posed by these threats.”

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), agreed, saying the rise of transnation criminal organizations and the “subsequent instability they create, has generated opportunities for our competitors to exploit.”

To read more of this article by your 4GWAR editor, click here.

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Brazil’s Troubles.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the army might be called into the streets to restore order if lockdown measures against COVID-19 — that he opposes — lead to chaos.

In an April 23 television interview with TV Criticia in the Amazon city of Manaus, Bolsonaro repeated his frequent criticism of restrictions imposed by local governments to curb infections — measures he claims do more harm than good, the Associated Press reported (via the Stars and Stripes website).

(Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
(Photo by Marcos Corrêa/PR via wikipedia)

The right-wing populist president called lockdowns and quarantine “absurd,” adding “If we have problems … we have a plan of how to act. I am the supreme head of the armed forces.”

Concerns about a military takeover in Brazil — like the one in 1964 that lasted for 20 years — have grown after the leaders of Brazil’s army. navy and air force all resigned March 30 when Bolsonaro replaced the defense minister. The government shake-up began, according to NPR, after Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo tendered his resignation. A few hours later, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva said that he too was leaving the government.

Bolsonaro, is under intense pressure and mounting criticism as Brazil’s coronavirus cases spin further out of control. The departures accompany lawmakers’ threats to impeach Bolsonaro as well as his dropping popularity with the public.

Bolsonaro said April 7 that he had asked the armed forces if they had troops available to control possible social unrest from the COVID-19 crisis — adding to fears that he is pushing the military into a political role.

Critics fret that Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, aims to marshal the army and police as a political force ahead of a fraught 2022 election, Reuters reported.

Bolsonaro has long sought to minimize the coronavirus, has shunned masks and was slow to purchase vaccines. Recently, he has suggested Brazilians could revolt against stay-at-home measures imposed by governors and mayors.

Brazil’s health crisis is being described as a “humanitarian catastrophe” by the international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF), which has teams in parts of the country, NPR reported.

“The Brazilian authorities’ … refusal to adopt evidence-based public health measures has sent far too many to an early grave,” MSF’s international president Dr. Christos Christou said in a statement on April 14.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths remain high in Brazil as the country’s campaign to vaccinate against the disease stumbles, according to the VoA website.

With more than 386,414 total deaths, Brazil has the second highest toll in the world from the pandemic, behind only the United States, which has recorded 571,883 COVID fatalities, as of April 24.

People wait in the observation area after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City April 13, 2021. The convention center serves as a mass vaccination site with more than 600 National Guard personnel assisting. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Specialist Li Ji)

Just over 5 percent of the population of South America’s largest nation’s has been fully vaccinated. The United States has fully vaccinated more than 26 percent of its population, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

ICU wards in cities within Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area are reportedly nearly full, with many patients sharing space and oxygen bottles. Brazil’s vaccination campaign has been slow because of supply issues. The country’s two biggest laboratories face supply constraints.

The nation’s health ministry bet on a single vaccine, the AstraZeneca shot, and after supply problems surfaced, bought only one backup, the Chinese-manufactured CoronaVac.

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More Covid Woes.

Brazil is far from the only South American country hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Peru has one of the highest COVID-19 totals in Latin America, with more than 1,745,000 cases and 59,012 deaths as of April 24, according to Johns Hopkin University Covid Resource Center

Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.

Peru began new nationwide restrictions for one month starting April 19, a day after reaching a new record of COVID-19 deaths. The country’s health ministry registered 433 COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday April 18, following a steady increase in deaths this month, the VoA website reported.

The new government order also places limits on the size of gatherings and the mandatory social curfew accordance comes with threat alert levels, beginning with moderate, high, very high, and extreme risk.

The capital, Lima, is listed at the extreme risk level, meaning residents are prohibited from going outside on Sundays, the state run Andina News Agency reported. The decree also extends the national state of emergency for 31 days (about one month), beginning May 1.

Other countries south of the U.S. border with high COVID-19 infection and death rates include: Argentina with 2,824,652 cases and 61,474 deaths; Colombia with 2,740,544 cases and 70,886 deaths; Mexico,  2,323,430 cases, and 214,841 deaths; Chile 1,162,811 cases and 25,742 deaths; Panama 362,358 cases and 6,207 deaths; Venezuela with 185,278 cases and  2,028 deaths, as of April 24.

April 24, 2021 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 23, 2021)

Prepare to be Plucked.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter assigned to the Helicopter Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron based at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada practices pinnacle landings and extractions during a mountain flying SAR training event. In this photo, taken April 8, 2021, Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Brandon Butler waits to be picked up by the helicopter.

The Navy currently has six dedicated “Station SAR” units around the United States: Lemoore SAR in California,  Fallon in Nevada,  Whidbey Island in Washington state, China Lake (VX-31) also in California, Pax River in Maryland and Key West in Florida.

Their primary mission is to provide search and rescue and first responder support to Fleet flight training operations for the jets in their designated areas of responsibility. Since 1996, Naval Air Station Fallon has been home to the Navy Fighter Weapons School, or TOPGUN, now known as the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC). Originally named Desert Angels and later renamed Longhorns, the Fallon SAR team’s mission is to provide SAR support for visiting Carrier Air Groups and other commands based at Fallon.

The station SARs also work closely with local first responder agencies for civilian SAR/MEDEVAC needs when not engaged in primary military duties. Other missions may include aerial firefighting and general utility helicopter operations.

The photo below shows mountain flying from a different perspective. A Longhorns Knighthawk conducts a “one wheel landing” (video) during another simulated SAR training exercise on  April 15. Click on the photo to enlarge the image and you’ll see a crew member’s legs dangling on the chopper’s far side.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

April 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 16, 2021)

Cannon Ball!

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Jessica B. Scott)

It’s hard to imagine how this soldier from the 25th (Tropical Lightning) Infantry Division managed to extract himself from this crowded rigid inflatable boat, encumbered by life preserver, boots and other gear, launch himself into the air — and hug his crossed legs before hitting the water! Be all that you can be, we guess.

The 25th ID’s Artillery unit (DIVARTY) held a 3-day series of rigorous, competitive tactical events for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers from April 6 to April 8, 2021. The competition was designed to build cohesive teams by elevating these key leaders’ physical and mental toughness, camaraderie and commitment to the organization and Army values, according to the information that came with this photo.

For more about the division today, click here.

April 16, 2021 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Robots, Droids & Drones: AI and Mostly Unmanned Helicopters.


A Wing Man, Not a Lead.

While the U.S. Navy is all for integrating Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, humans will always be the lead in the decision-making process, according to an admiral.

MQ-25A Stingray (Photo courtesy of Boeing)

Rear Admiral Paul Spedero Jr., the director of Fleet Integrated Readiness and Analysis at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, says “From a warfighting perspective, artificial intelligence subsets would be enablers or augments to the human in the loop.” Spedero said that has always been the Navy’s approach and he doesn’t see that changing, according to the Seapower magazine website.

“There are some things that can’t be replaced; the experience of a seasoned warfighter in the field being able to assess things that a machine — no matter how much we teach it — may never be able to pick up on,” he told an April 8 Navy League webinar sponsored by Deloitte. Having a human in the loop is a “necessity for war fighting will never go away,” he said, adding  “AI will be our wingmen. It will not be the lead in a fight.”

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Mix and Match.

The Navy is looking at both manned and unmanned aircraft to replace its aging rotary-wing (helicopter) fleet, another admiral says.

Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, who leads the chief of naval operation’s air warfare directorate, told a recent Navy League breakfast that the service’s Future Vertical Lift program will include a family of systems, an approach similar to the one it’s taking for the Next Generation Air Dominance program.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard)

“We are working on what we’re calling Future Vertical Lift maritime strike – which is a family of manned and unmanned systems which will be a key component of our distributed maritime operations,” he said, adding “We are early in the stages of doing our development for that,” the USNI News website reported.

Harris said the Navy has hosted sessions with industry to discuss Future Vertical Lift and the service plans to start an analysis of alternatives (AOA) this fall. The MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters – which the FVL program is meant to replace – will come to the end of their service lives during the later part of the 2020s, Harris said.

The Army, Navy and Marine Corps are all pursuing FVL, but Harris added the Navy’s requirements – that its platform must operate off of the cruisers and destroyers — restricts the weight and size of aircraft, USNI News noted.

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Unmanned Black Hawk.

Sikorsky has demonstrated optionally piloted flight technology on an S-70 Black Hawk, highlighting a future in which the service’s next-generation helicopters may fly autonomously in combat , according to the website.

S-70i Black Hawks (Courtesy Lockheed Martin)

A contender in the Army Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, Sikorsky demonstrated the supervised autonomy capabilities of the Black Hawk — which was equipped with the company’s Matrix autonomous flight software and hardware — under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, effort.

Sikorsky’s test pilot used a special control tablet to oversee the demo as the aircraft conducted an autonomous takeoff, avoided two simulated obstacles and landed by itself, according to a March 29 Sikorsky news release.

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., developed its Raider X prototype helicopter for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA, effort, to replace the AH-64 Apache. And a team from Sikorsky-Boeing developed the Defiant X to compete in the service’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, effort, which is designed to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk., noted.

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 Anduril Industries, Venture-backed defense technology company, Anduril Industries, has acquired Georgia-based, air-launched effects company Area-I, according to Defense News and other news outlets.

“The acquisition expands Anduril’s portfolio of unmanned aerial systems, creates new opportunities for its software-defined capabilities such as mission autonomy and intelligent teaming and significantly accelerates the company’s strategic growth,” Anduril’s April 1 announcement said.

The company will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary under the Area-I brand, according to the Anduril statement.

California-based Anduril specializes in advancing technology like artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor fusion, optics and automation to “radically transform U.S. defense capabilities and solve complex national security challenges,” according to the company.

April 11, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 9, 2021)

Still Snowy in April.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rebeckah Medeiros)

U.S Air Force F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron fly alongside an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker (the wing on the left) from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron during ighter training near iconic Mount Fuji, Japan, on April 1, 2021.

The F-22 Raptors are the first to combine supercruise, supermaneuverability, radar-avoiding stealth and sensor fusion in a single weapons platform. These Raptors operate out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to support the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The F-22 is considered a fifth-generation fighter aircraft, meaning it includes major technologies developed during the first part of the 21st century. As of 2021 these are the most advanced fighters in operation. In addition to the Lockheed Martin F-22, which entered service with the U.S. Air Force in December 2005 they include: Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, which began with the USAF in July 2015; the Chengdu J-20, which joined China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in September 2017, and the Sukhoi Su-57, which entered service with the Russian Air Force in December 2020.

Please click on the photo to see a larger image.

April 9, 2021 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Big Multi-Service Exercise coming to Alaska; NORAD Tracks Russian Spy Planes;


Exercise Northern Edge.

U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel will be participating in Exercise Northern Edge 21 across Alaska this Spring, according to Pacific Air Forces, a unit of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The exercise, held in odd-numbered years, will take place May 3-14 at several military installations, as well as local airports and training areas around Alaska.

The exercise provides realistic war fighter training, develops and improves joint services interoperability and enhances combat readiness, Pacific Air Forces announced, adding that details on participating units and exercise locations will be released as it becomes available.

Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 7, conduct a training raid using air-delivered Polaris MRZR 4 all-terrain vehicles during exercise Northern Edge 2019 at Fort Greely, Alaska.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Rhita Daniel)

More than 25 units, 10,000 personnel, almost 200 aircraft and five naval ships — including the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt — participated in Northern Edge 2019.

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Russian Spy Planes

The Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region reported on March 29 that it positively identified and tracked two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

The Russian aircraft, which operated in international airspace, did not entered United States or Canadian sovereign airspace, and Alaska Command did not indicate whether U.S. or Canadian aircraft scrambled to intercept the big four engine Russian planes.

Russian Navy Tu-142 patrol aircraft, known as Bear. (Photo by Fedor Leukhin – _MG_0277, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Captain Lauren Ott, director of public affairs for Alaskan Command, said the Russian planes came within 60 nautical miles of the Alaskan coastline. By international convention, a nations’ sovereign territory extends 12 miles from the coast, Medill News Service (via the website) reported.

It was at least the second time this year that Tu-142s have entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), after a similar incident in January. In 2020, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducted more intercepts than in recent years, as Russia repeatedly flew bombers, maritime patrol aircraft, early warning aircraft, and fighters into the region, according to Air Force magazine.

NORAD’s commander, Air Force General Glen VanHerck — who also leads U.S. Northern Command — said Russia’s expanding activities in the Arctic region was due to the current great power competition.

“We’re back in the peer competition,” he told a March 31st Defense Writers Group discussion. “Clearly, Russia is trying to reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities. That’s exactly what’s going on. It’s great power competition,” he said, according to the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) website. He added: “The difference between the past and now is the intercepts are more complex – multi-axis, multi-platforms and often times they’ll enter the ADIZ and stay for hours,” USNI reported.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee on March 16, VanHerck said the escalation “of Russian activity and Chinese ambitions in the region demonstrates the strategic importance of the Arctic. Competition will only increase as sea ice diminishes and competition for resources expands.”

“These Russian military operations include multiple flights of heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence collection platforms near Alaska. These efforts show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland,” VanHerck said in written testimony.

“Last summer, the Russian Navy focused its annual OCEAN SHIELD exercise on the defense of Russia’s maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific. The multi-fleet exercise, intended in part to demonstrate Russia’s ability to control access to the Arctic through the Bering Strait, included amphibious landings on the Chukotka Peninsula opposite Alaska, as well as anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches from within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone,” the testimony added.

In a first for the Russian navy, three Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarines surfaced simultaneously breaking the Arctic ice during drills, according to the commander-in-chief of the Russian fleet at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Reuters news service reported March 26.

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B-1 Bombers in Norway

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron sits on the flightline at Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, were deployed to Orland Air Base, Norway, for the first time in a bomber task deployment which included several firsts in the Arctic and across Europe.

During the deployment, which ended March 25, the B-1s flew nine sorties, including training with Norwegian F-35s, Swedish JAS-39 Gripens, Danish and Polish F-16s, and German and Italian Eurofighter Typhoons, according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The Lancers conducted a hot-pit refueling in Europe for the first time, and trained with U.S. special operations forces along with Norwegian and Swedish joint terminal attack controllers, according to Air Force magazine.

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Arctic Lightning Strikes

As the Arctic warms at an alarming rate, the frequency of lightning is also changing, according to a new University of Washington study, CNN reports. In fact, Arctic lightning has tripled in just the last decade, according to the study, published in late March in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

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Warmer Arctic Waters and the LNG Market

The discovery and extraction of vast liquefiable natural gas reserves on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia in the past decade has renewed interest in bulk transport on the waters of the high north, according to The Economist.

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Nuclear attack submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) surfaced in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military and environmental developments in the Far North. The 2013 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 protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation.

April 4, 2021 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 2, 2021)

Haul Away Joe!

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb J. Sarten)

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Global Positioning, cyber warfare — and a coronavirus pandemic,  the 21st century has gotten pretty complicated for the U.S. Navy. But some things never change, like hauling a line.

Here we see Sailors heave in line as the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) prepares to depart Souda Bay, Greece, on March 24, 2021. Mitscher is operating with the IKE (USS Dwight Eisenhower) Carrier Strike Group on a routine deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national interests and security in Europe and Africa.

Click on the photo to enlarge the image. For a little atmosphere try listening to the age-old sea shanty (you say shanty, I say chanty) “Haul Away Joe.” There are two versions below.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem,accompanied by historic 19th century Navy pictures. OR try members of the U.S. Navy Band in full evening dress, or as they call it, mess dress.

Let us know which one you liked, or if you can recommend an even better version.

Please note: These Sailors are wearing masks while doing some strenuous work. If they can do it, you should, too. Please, mask up until we’re all safer.

April 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm 1 comment


April 2021


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