Archive for April, 2022

FRIDAY FOTO (April 29, 2022)

Desert Water Hazard.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Blake Wiles)

OK, hold on tight. This one will make your head spin.

This week’s photo shows U.S. troops with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) performing a swimming obstacle course during a French Desert Commando Course (FDCC) pre-assessment  — that’s right a Desert Commando Course — in the East African nation of Djibouti on April 19, 2022.

During the FDCC, participants are evaluated on mountain confidence, knot tying, night obstacle courses, aquatic obstacle courses, and battle maneuver tactics as well as physical challenges like timed pushups.  Since 2015, the French Forces stationed in Djibouti, a former French colony, have invited U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier (the only U.S. base on the African continent) to participate in the course at the 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment base in Dijbouti.

The 5th OIR is a troupes de marine regiment, and has been the Djibouti garrison since November 1969. Despite its name, the Marine troops are part of the French Army, not the Navy.

April 28, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 22, 2022)

Something Different.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

No this isn’t a new space age lighthouse or an upgraded version of the daleks from Dr. Who.

You ‘re looking at the first of the U.S. Navy Zumwalt-class stealthy, guided-missile destroyers, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) steaming through the Pacific Ocean. Zumwalt is underway conducting routine operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet. The vessel’s distinctive knife-like appearance is designed to create a low radar cross-section — the equivalent area seen by a radar — making it harder for an enemy to spot.

Its wave-piercing  tumblehome hull,  whose sides slope inward above the waterline, dramatically reduces RCS by returning much less energy than a conventional flared hull. The Zumwalt class ships were designed to operate in littoral waters against threats of the post-Cold War world. However, the Navy decided to end the program with the completion of the third vessel. Originally, 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class.

The Zumwalts are classed as destroyers, but they are much larger than any other active destroyer or cruiser in the US Navy. Last year, the Navy announced the Zumwalt-class will be the Navy’s first platform to field hypersonic weapons.

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) and USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) are in commission, while the third, the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson (DDG 1002), was undergoing sea trials earlier this year.

April 21, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: 80 Years Ago, Doolittle Raiders Bombed Japan

Target Japan.

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942 . (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.)

At 1:15 p.m. (local time) Saturday, April 18, 1942 — about 600 miles east of  Japan — 16 U.S. Army Air Force twin-engine, B-25 Mitchell medium bombers began taking off from the wet, windy, rolling deck of America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. Their destination: The industrial cities of Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka and Japan’s capital, Tokyo. Their mission, a largely symbolic act of revenge for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii four months earlier, and to shake Japanese confidence in their military invincibility and the security of their islands from attack by a distant foe.

The “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. Planners hoped that the former would include the destruction of specific targets “with ensuing confusion and retardation of production.” Those who planned the attacks on the Japanese homeland hoped to induce the enemy to recall “combat equipment from other theaters for home defense,” and incite a “fear complex in Japan.” Additionally, it was hoped that the prosecution of the raid would improve the United States’ relationships with its allies and receive a “favorable reaction [on the part] of the American people,” according to documents held by U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

U.S. Army Air Force bombers crowd the flight deck of the USS Hornet. The B-25 was picked for the Doolittle Raid because it was the only aircraft available with the required range, bomb capacity and short takeoff distance. The B-25Bs and volunteer crews came from the 17th Bombardment Group, Pendleton Field, Oregon. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The odds seemed to be against the daring operation. It was the first combat mission for the both the B-25 bombers and the carrier that transported them. The pilots had been intensely training for a little more than a month — mostly on how to take off from an aircraft carrier with a large land-based plane never designed for that kind of performance.The Navy Task Force escorting the Hornet, was spotted by Japanese surveillance boats more than 600 miles from Japan. The decision was made to launch the Army bombers even though they were 200 miles farther from Japan than planned. Extra gasoline was loaded on the planes which were stripped of excess equipment — including their machine guns. While the B-25s would make it to Japan, whether they would have enough fuel to land safely at airfields in China was unknown.

Doolittle on his Curtiss R3C-2 Racer, the plane in which he won the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race (NASA photo)

Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, 45, — who planned the operation, trained the crews to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission — had no combat experience. He was, however, one of the best pilots in the world. In the 1920s and ’30s, he made early coast-to-coast flights, record-breaking speed flights, won many flying races and pioneered the use of “blind flying”, relying  on flight instruments alone. That gutsy experiment won him the Harmon Trophy and made all-weather airline operations practical. Doolittle also earned the first doctorate in aeronautics issued in the United States from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1925.

The planes did make it to Japan and mostly hit their targets (one bomber dumped its load of explosives in the sea to evade pursuing Japanese fighters). All the bombers made it out of Japanese airspace. One, very low on fuel landed in the Soviet Union, which was not at war with Japan, and the crew was interned for 13 months before the Soviets let them “escape” to Iran/Persia. The other 15 planes all crashed in China or into offshore waters when they ran out of fuel. Three of the U.S. airmen died in crashes. Eight were captured by the Japanese. All were tried as war criminals by a military court because civilians were killed in the raid including some children in an elementary school that was mistakenly strafed. Three of the POWs were executed. Another died of starvation and abuse in prison. The remaining four managed to survive harsh conditions and were liberated in 1945.

Furious about being caught off guard by the Americans, the Japanese Army unleashed its rage on the region where Doolittle and his men evaded capture with the aid of local Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese government said the Japanese killed more than 250,000 men, women and children, leveled villages leaving thousands destitute and burned crops leaving thousands more to starve.

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle (left front) and Captain Marc Mitscher, commanding officer of USS Hornet, pose with a 500-pound bomb and Army aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet’s flight deck prior to the raid. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The remaining 64 airmen were able to make it to unoccupied China, with the help of local villagers and missionaries. Doolittle, who thought he was going to be court-martialed for losing all of his planes, was instead awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt and promoted to brigadier general. The raid was a major morale booster for the United States and prompted Japanese leaders to move up their planned attack on Midway to June, which ended in disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy and became the turning point of the Pacific War. All the raiders became national heroes, forever known as the Doolittle Raiders.

*** *** ***

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.

 

April 18, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Move Closer to NATO Membership; Russia Blusters and Threatens

Sweden, Finland and NATO.

The Nordic nations of Sweden and Finland, neutral during the Cold War, have been moving closer to NATO — participating in multi-national exercises with the forces of the western alliance — since Russia seized Crimea and grew increasingly belligerent in its military moves both on and above the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of non-NATO member Ukraine alarmed the Eastern members of NATO who used to be under the sway of Moscow — like Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — to spend more on their defense forces and participate in more NATO exercises.Several are also supplying arms, medical equipment and technology to embattled Ukraine.

Finnish Troops participate in Exercise Cold Response 2022, a multinational Arctic weather military exercise hosted by Norway between March 14 and March 31. (Maavoimat – Armén – The Finnish Army, photo via Facebook)

The war in Ukraine pushed leaders in Sweden and Finland to publicly announce plans to consider joining the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization — where an attack on one means an attack on all.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference in Stockholm on April 13 hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed.”

Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, is “highly likely” to join NATO despite the Russian government’s threats to deploy nuclear weapons, Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen said in an interview with Sky News Friday.

The people of Finland, they seem to have already made up their mind,” Tuppurainen told Sky News, noting that polls show overwhelming support for joining NATO.

The Finnish government is expected to submit a report to parliament on the changed security environment by the end of this month, kicking off a debate and eventually a recommendation on applying for NATO membership, according to Axios.

Meanwhile, Sweden has decided to examine a range of security-related options, including deepening Nordic defense cooperation and urging the European Union to develop enhanced defense policies to offer greater military protection to EU member states that border the highly sensitive Baltic Sea and High North regions, Defense News reports.

The Swedish government is expected to deliver its National Security Report to the Riksdag, the country’s legislature, before May 31.

“What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“Russia’s invasion has dramatically changed the political discourse in Sweden and Finland and also crucially public opinion,” Alistair Shepherd, senior lecturer for European security at Aberystwyth University, told Al Jazeera.

There are indications both Finland and Sweden are heading towards a genuinely historic change of course in their respective security policies. During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland were essentially considered neutral states, although for different reasons.

“Sweden’s neutrality was much more part of their national identity, whereas Finland’s neutrality was more pragmatic and virtually forced upon them by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed between Finland and the USSR in 1948,” said Shepherd.

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Moscow Reacts with Threats

Russia warned Finland and Sweden on Thursday (April 14) that if they join NATO, Moscow will reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including with nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported.

The threat came just a day after Finnish officials suggested their country could request to join NATO within weeks, while Sweden mulled making a similar move.

Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that NATO expansion would lead Moscow to strengthen air, land and naval forces to “balance” military capability in the region.

“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Medvedev added.

Even before his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sweden and Finland of “retaliation” should they join NATO.

The New York Times notes that “if his invasion of Ukraine has succeeded at anything so far, it has been to drive the militarily nonaligned Nordic countries into the arms of NATO, as Russian threats and aggression heighten security concerns and force them to choose sides.

Finland and Sweden’s shift to NATO membership “would be another example of the counterproductive results of Mr. Putin’s war. Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, he has enhanced it. Instead of weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance, he has solidified it. Instead of dividing NATO and blocking its growth, he has united it,” the Times observed April 13.

 

More that 1,600 Swedish troops and civilian personnel participated in Exercise Cold Response 2022, Norway’s multi-national Arctic military training exercise. (Swedish Armed Forces photo by Mats Carlsson/Försvarsmakten)

 

April 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 15, 2022)

Under the Wire.

(U.S. Army photo by Army Specialist Kelvin Johnson Jr)

1st Lieutenant Joseph Martin from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), keeps his head above water (barely) as he low crawls under barbed wire in the Annual Best Ranger Competition in Fort Benning, Georgia on April 8th 2022.

Low crawling under the wire is one of the obstacles in the Malvesti obstacle course, one one of Ranger School’s toughest gut busting obstacle courses as this brief video explains.

To learn who won the competition, click here.

Army Colonel Richard J. Malvesti served his country for 23 years – in Vietnam, Grenada and Panama. He served with infantry, ranger, airborne and Green Beret units and was awarded the Legion of Merit, twice earned the Bronze Star Medal, once for valor, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. A master parachutist who earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge in Vietnam.

Malvesti was 44-years-old when he died in July 1990. His parachute malfunctioned in a jump at Fort Bragg’s Holland Drop Zone.

April 14, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 8, 2022)

The Marines Are Looking for a Few Good — Cooks

 

Marines from the 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division use foraging techniques to cook a meal during Spartan Fury 22.1, a battalion-level exercise, at Hawaii’s Pohakuloa Training Area on March 8, 2022. Instead of meals prepared by professionals at a dining facility or mess tent, the Marines of the individual artillery batteries procured local food and experimented with field cooking methods using lightweight, expeditionary equipment capable of functioning over long periods of time in austere environments.

Spartan Fury is designed to refine long-range communications, mission processing from battalion to firing sections and 21st Century Foraging techniques.

To see one of these batteries in action, check out this short music video with an off-beat but amusing soundtrack.

April 8, 2022 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Coast Guard Admiral Nominated to be First Woman Commandant

Another First for the Coast Guard.

Another glass ceiling in the military may be broken soon.

On April 5, word leaked out that President Joe Biden intends to nominate Admiral Linda Fagan to serve as the 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. If confirmed by the Senate, not only will Admiral Fagan be the first woman commandant of the Coast Guard, she would be the first woman in uniform to head one the military services.

Admiral Linda Fagan, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard since 2021, has been nominated to be the Coast Guard’s first woman commandant by President Biden. (Official U.S. Coast Guard portrait)

While the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, it operates under the Navy during times of war and by law is considered one of the six military services along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force.

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history.

The vice commandant is the No. 2 commander in the Coast Guard and its chief operating officer, responsible for executing the Commandant’s Strategic Intent, managing internal organizational governance, and serving as the Component Acquisition Executive.

Pending confirmation, Fagan is expected to relieve the current commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, during a change of command ceremony planned for June 1, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

“Admiral Fagan is an exceptional senior Coast Guard officer and nominee, possessing the keen intellect, the depth of operational experience, and the well-honed leadership and managerial acumen to serve with distinction as our Service’s 27th commandant,” said Schultz, SEAPOWER reported.

The potential gap in leadership between Schultz’s departure and his replacement’s confirmation raised concerns among lawmakers in recent weeks, On Monday (April 4) Senate Democrats Tammy Baldwin of  Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington, sent a letter to the White House urging the president to nominate a new Coast Guard leader as soon as possible, Military Times reported.

“Ensuring continuity of leadership is of the utmost importance to our national and economic security,” the pair wrote. “The Coast Guard is at the forefront of a number of strategic priorities for the United States, from the growing importance of security in the Arctic, to drug interdiction, environmental protection, and leading emergency response on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Congress is scheduled to break for two weeks starting April 8, but could schedule confirmation hearings for Fagan in late April or early May, Military Times noted.

Previously, Fagan served as commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area and and Commander, Coast Guard Defense Force West. She has served on all seven continents, from Ross Island, Antarctica to the heart of Africa, and in many ports along the way. Her operational tours include: Commander of the New York sector;ore than 15 years as a Marine Inspector; and sea duty on the heavy ice breaker POLAR STAR — her first at-sea assignment.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, seen here on Jan. 2, 2020, was Adm. Linda Fagan’s first sea duty assignment as an officer. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi)

Fagan is also the Coast Guard officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety field, earning the service’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident award.

***  ***  ***

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.

April 7, 2022 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict; Into Somalia; Savage Attack in DRC

EAST AFRICA

Ethiopia-Tigray War

A convoy of food and other supplies arrived safely in the capital of Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray on Friday (April 1). It was the first aid to arrive in Mekelle since December, the United Nations said.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that more trucks and fuel would follow on Saturday morning (April 2) – a week after a humanitarian truce was agreed between the government and Tigrayan forces.

War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020, pitting Ethiopia’s government and its allies against rebellious Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF is the political party that controls the Tigray region.

Last week, the federal government declared an immediate, unilateral truce to allow aid into Tigray. Tigrayan forces said they would respect the ceasefire as long as sufficient aid was delivered “within reasonable time”, Reuters reported.

It is unclear how much more aid might follow or how quickly. More than 90% of the 5.5 million people in the northern province of Tigray need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Around 100 trucks of aid per day need to enter to meet the population’s needs. No trucks have been able to enter since Dec. 15, due to a combination of bureaucratic problems and fighting.

WFP Ethiopia said another convoy with more than a thousand metric tons of food would be soon sent to the neighboring region of northern Afar “to communities in dire need”.

This week roads to Tigray from the Afar region had remained closed despite the ceasefire – with the warring parties trading accusations over who was to blame, according to the BBC.

Earlier a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front welcomed the truce as “a step in the right direction” but said there should be “a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy.” The government has said it is committed to helping the safe passage of aid.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are rampant in northern Ethiopia, where an estimated 9 million people across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions need critical food assistance due to conflict, WFP says.

*** *** ***

Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

More than 13 months after President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, the head of U.S. Africa Command says the strategy is not working.

Previously, about 700 U.S. troops rotated in and out of Somalia, to train the east African nation’s and help with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But now, says Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM troops based in Kenya and Djibouti are only making visits to Somalia, Military Times reported.

Townsend said he believes periodic engagement, “commuting to work,” as some have called it, has caused new challenges and risks for the troops. The AFRICOM chief told a March 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that by his assessment the change “is not effective, it’s not efficient, and it puts our troops at greater risk.”

The issue is that though the Trump administration pulled troops out of the country, there was no change to the mission in Somalia, where the U.S. supports that government’s efforts to fight al-Shabab. Though U.S.-led strikes have continued, it’s a harder mission to do when it’s mostly remote, according to Military Times.

***

WEST AFRICA

Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fourteen people, including seven children, were killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Red Cross, Al Jazeera reports.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on March 19, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Jean D’Zba Banju, a community leader in Ituri’s Djugu area, said the attacks belonged to the CODECO armed group, which has been blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

“CODECO militiamen entered Drakpa and started to cut people with machetes. They did not fire shots in order to operate calmly,” Banju told the news agency AFP March 20. “The victims are displaced people who had fled Ngotshi village to set up in Drakpa,” he said, adding that five others were wounded.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged into a cycle of violence since late 2017 with the rise of CODECO, which has since split into rival factions. The group is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

Ituri and neighboring North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May 6, in an effort to combat armed groups including CODECO and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ISIL (ISIS) armed group describes the ADF as its local affiliate.

Despite the crackdown, and support from the Ugandan military since late November, attacks have continued and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed from May 2021 to January this year, figures according to the Danish Refugee Council.

April 1, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment


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