Archive for October, 2022

FRIDAY FOTO (October 28, 2022)

OUT OF THE PAST.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bowles) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A World War II-era P-51D Mustang and an Air Force F-22 Raptor participate in a traditional “Heritage Flight” during the 2022 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show over San Diego, California on September 24, 2022.

Manufactured by North American Aviation, the Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighter aircraft flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter-bomber. Mustangs served in nearly every combat zone during WWII, and later fought in the Korean War.

In December 1943 the first P-51B/C Mustangs entered combat in Europe with the 354th Fighter Group. By the time of the first U.S. heavy bomber strike against Berlin in March 1944, the USAAF was fielding about 175 P-51B/C Mustangs, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The new P-51D incorporated several improvements, including a new “bubble-top” canopy to improved the pilot’s vision. It had a top speed of  437 miles per hour — thanks to a 1,95-horsepower, Packard Rolls Royce Merlin V-1650-7 engine, according to the National World War II Museum. Nearly 8,000 P-51Ds were built, making it the most numerous variant. The P-51D arrived in quantity in Europe in the spring of 1944, becoming the USAAF’s primary long range escort fighter. By the end of the war, Mustangs had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other USAAF fighter in Europe.

P-51Ds arrived in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters by the end of 1944.  Iwo Jima-based P-51Ds started flying long-range B-29 escort and low-level fighter-bomber missions against Japan in the spring of 1945. Mustangs also saw service in the Korean War until they were replaced by jet aircraft.  Production of the last variant, the P-51H, ended in 1946. More than 15,000 Mustangs of all types were built.

Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, a stealthy air supremacy aircraft, is considered the first 5th-generation fighter in the U.S. Air Force inventory, The F-22 Raptor possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected, according to the Military.com website.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines, the Raptor can reach speeds twice the speed of sound (Mach 2), says an Air Force fact sheet. Lockheed Martin built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, avionics integration and training systems. The Raptor formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A.

The Air Force originally planned to buy more than 700 of the Raptors, but with the cost per plane reaching $143 million, the program was cut to 187 operational aircraft in 2009. Another factor cited for the shift was a lack of air-to-air missions for the F-22 due to the focus on counterinsurgency operations. The last F-22 was delivered in 2012. Congress banned foreign sales to protect stealth and other classified technologies.

The newest U.S. 5th generation fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. There are now more than 400 flying in three variants with the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The total fleet will number more than 1,000. Fifteen U.S. allies and partners, including Australia, Britain, Finland, Israel, Japan Norway, Poland and South Korea, have purchased or plan to buy F-35s.

October 28, 2022 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 21, 2022)

ALL FALL DOWN.

  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Tyler W. Abbott) Click on photo to enlarge image.

No, they’re not practicing the gentle art of Tai Chi. These Marine Corps recruits of the 1st Recruit Training Battalion, are executing a left break fall during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) at the Marines’ Recruit Depot San Diego on October 3, 2022.

According to the Marines, MCMAP is “an integrated, weapons-based system that incorporates the full spectrum of the force continuum on the battlefield, and contributes to the mental, character and physical development of Marines.” We think that means Marines are trained to handle themselves from gun to thumb — and everything lethal in between.

“The mental, moral, and physical resiliency of the Marine Corps’ warfighters will be of utmost importance towinning battles in future conflicts,” according to the 54-page document from Marine Corps headquarters explaining MCMAP, which aims to strengthen the individual Marine’s resiliency “through realistic combative training, warrior ethos studies, and physical hardening.”

So, learning how to fall is important. When your 4GWAR editor visited an U.S. Army basic training base in the Midwest 10 years ago, we were shocked to see how many recruits were using crutches, or wearing casts or support boots as they limped behind the rest of their unit on the way to PT at 0-dark-30.

Notice the recruits in the photo above are all wearing mouth guards and knuckle protectors on their hands.  In these days of fewer recruits, military leaders don’t want to damage them before they begin their active service.

“While each of the services has been facing recruitment challenges ― which service leaders attribute among other things to the COVID-19 pandemic ― a low interest in military service and a declining eligible population, the Marine Corps managed to overcome its enlistment obstacles,” this year, according to Marine Corps Times.   The Corps met its recruitment goals for fiscal year 2022, making it one of the only branches to fully reach its target numbers this year, the paper added.

October 20, 2022 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 14, 2022)

GOING DEEP IN THE MOUNTAINS.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman (click on the photo to enlarge image)

Sailors assigned to various Naval Special Warfare (NSW) commands operate a battery-operated Diver Propulsion Device (DPD) during high-altitude dive training in northern California on September 5, 2022. The DPDs allow combat divers to travel faster and considerably farther under water, emerging less fatigued than when moving under their own power.

There are deepwater lakes in the mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico, and other places on earth, like South America’s Lake Titicaca. But at such high altitudes,  thousands of feet above sea level, decompression requirements for divers can change. The dive plan to maintain proper decompression limits must be adjusted for safety based on the dive’s altitude.

The pressure a diver normally faces is a combination of the weight of the water and atmosphere. At high altitude, the weight of the ­water is the same as at sea level, but the ­atmospheric pressure is less and that can pose problems for divers returning to the surface — especially for technical divers who are going deep in the water. As divers reach the surface, they have to ascend more slowly and take a longer safety stop.

Naval Special Warfare Command is a component of U.S. Special Operations Command and includes Navy SEALS (Special Warfare Operators) and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (Special Warfare Boat Operators).

For another view of diver propulsion devices click here.

October 14, 2022 at 6:13 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!

Still Cruising for 247 Years.

Sailors heave mooring line on the fo’c’sle (forecastle) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge on September 9, 2022, upon returning to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia from a nine-month deployment with the U.S. 5th and U.S. 6th Fleets. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elexia Morelos)

On this day (October 13) in 1775, the Continental Congress voted for two vessels each to be fitted out and armed with 10 carriage guns, a proportional number of swivel guns, and a crew of 80. Lawmakers directed the pair of ships be sent out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America.

So, like the U.S. Army, which the Continental Congress created on June 14, 1775 — months before the Declaration of Independence — the U.S. Navy is older than the country it serves.

The Defense Department website has an online quiz, testing your knowledge of America’s second-oldest military service. Check out your salty savvy here.

Meanwhile, the Military.com website has an item on the hilarious mistake some individuals, organizations and even government agencies have made wishing the Navy a happy birthday this year.  “Some have elected to use pictures of warships that don’t belong to the American fleets. They’re Russian,” the article notes. It seems lots of well wishers haven’t been too careful picking the photos of naval vessels to congratulate the U.S. Navy.

And, as the song goes … here’s wishing you a happy voyage home!

*** *** ***

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR Blog posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako (Pronounced SHOCK-O) 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.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

October 13, 2022 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 7, 2022)

MEET “VENOM”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Christenson) Click on photo to enlarge image.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon — part of the Viper Demonstration Team from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — lines up with a KC-135 Stratotanker for aerial refueling 0n September 29, 2022.

Air Combat Command’s Viper Demonstration Team (VDT) performs precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 multi-role fighter at about 20 air shows annually.

One of the most versatile aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the Air Force aerial combat fleet. With over 1,000 F-16s in service, the platform has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack and electronic warfare, according to Military.com.

Introduced in 2020 with its unique snake scales livery across the body of the aircraft  the F-16 in this photo, named “Venom” carries the VDT’s signature black and yellow colors — including yellow snake eyes — from nose to tail.

October 7, 2022 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Lawlessness in Nigeria; Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Counter Terrorism in Somalia

UPDATE: Includes HEALTH/EPIDEMICS –U.S. requiring Ebola Screening for travelers coming from Uganda; ECONOMY/MARKETS — Big African oil conference attendees react to OPEC cuts.

CONFLICT/TERRORISM

WEST AFRICA

NIGERIA: Women, children drown fleeing gunmen.

At least 18 women and children have drowned in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state as a gang of kidnappers opened fire on them, according to the BBC.

The 18 were among dozens of people trying to escape a night-time attack October 5, on the village of Birnin Wajje in the Bukkuyum area. The attackers shot dead at least six people and kidnapped seven other villagers before opening fire on the those fleeing in two boats, a resident told the BBC.

The shooting caused a panic capsizing the boats, the resident explained. A police spokesman confirmed to the BBC that there had been attack on the village and drownings, but could not give casualty figures. The resident said that 18 bodies had been recovered, but several others were still missing. The attackers have also abducted at least 16 people in the nearby village of Dargaje.

According to the Associated Press, the attack was the latest in a cycle of violence of armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young herdsmen from the Fulani tribe who have been caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between farming communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities, while continuing to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremists in the northeastern part of the country.

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NIGERIA: Remaining hostages in March train attack freed.

Nigeria’s military says it has secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken during a train attack by gunmen in March, Reuters reported October 5. The attack in northern Kaduna state saw dozens of people kidnapped and six others killed.

Gunmen blew up the tracks and attacked the train traveling between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna. The government blamed the attack on the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train led to the suspension of a service that was popular with passengers who feared attacks and kidnappings by gunmen on Nigerian highways.

Usman Yusuf, secretary to the chief of defense staff, said in a statement that the military had “secured the release and taken custody of all the 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists.” He did not provide details.

Nigeria’s state railway company initially said it could not account for 168 people who had booked to travel on the train. Most were later traced to their homes, but 65 were confirmed missing. The kidnappers had been releasing hostages in batches.

Security is a major concern for Nigerians as the country prepares for February elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who is stepping down after two terms leading Africa’s most populous country, noted the French press agency AFP.

No group took credit for the March 28 train attack, though officials have blamed jihadis cooperating with heavily armed criminal gangs who terrorize parts of northwest and central Nigeria with looting raids and mass abductions.

Analysts said the sophisticated attack involving explosives indicate Islamist militants could have participated. Nigerian government officials often use the term Boko Haram loosely to refer generally to armed groups.

*** *** ***

BURKINA FASO: Al Qaeda branch claims attack on Army convoy.

The Sahel-based branch of al-Qaeda  — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) — has claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a convoy in Burkina Faso that killed more than a dozen soldiers, the SITE Intelligence Group said October 4.

Islamist militants attacked a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on September 26, days before the West African country was hit by its second military takeover this year, Reuters reported.

JNIM claimed credit for the ambush and said it “caused significant economic losses to the enemy and ‘led to a shakeup’ in the army ranks, culminating in the military coup,” the SITE statement said.

Eleven soldiers were found dead and about 50 civilians were reported missing after the attack, the previous government said. But an internal security document seen by Reuters on October 4 gave a death toll of 27 soldiers.

***

EAST AFRICA

SOMALIA: AFRICOM says airstrike targeted al-Shabaab leader.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network in Somalia on October 1 in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike occurred near Jilib, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In an initial assessment, AFRICOM  said the strike killed an al-Shabaab leader and that no civilians were injured or killed.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security,” the statement added.

Somalia has been in civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Until then-President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, about 700 U.S. service members rotated in and out of Somalia, training the east African nation’s military and helping with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But President Joe Biden decided to return up to 500 troops to the Horn of Africa, expediting airstrikes for counter terrorism operations.

“Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa,” AFRICOM said, adding the “Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.”

***

HEALTH/EPIDEMICS

UGANDA: Ebola screening for Uganda travelers at 5 U.S. airports.

Federal officials will begin redirecting U.S.-bound travelers who had been to Uganda within the previous 21 days to five major American airports to be screened for Ebola, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued an alert to health care workers to raise awareness about the outbreak but said there were currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the Sudan strain, which is behind the latest Uganda infections.

On September 20, 2022 Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, the deadly hemorrhagic fever, caused by Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda, the World Health Organization announced on September 26. This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012.

According to Uganda’s Health Ministry at least nine people have died of the disease in Uganda by October 3. Authorities in the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20. There are 43 total cases.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2015. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The screenings in the United States will begin rolling out immediately, the Associated Press reported. Travelers who have been in Uganda at any point during the past 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus, will be redirected to one of five U.S. airports for Ebola screening: Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The screening applies to any passenger who was in Uganda, including U.S. citizens. It involves a temperature and symptom check conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC will also collect contact information that will be shared with local health departments at the travelers’ destination.

The administration says about 145 people per day enter the U.S. from Uganda, with most already arriving at the five large airline hubs. Anyone scheduled to fly into a different airport will be rebooked by their airline, the government said.

Also on October 6, the CDC sent a health alert to doctors, urging them to get a travel history from patients who have Ebola-like symptoms.

***

ECONOMY/MARKETS

   SOUTH AFRICA: Attendees at big African oil conference react to OPEC production cuts.

Delegates at Africa’s biggest oil conference have expressed concern about rising prices after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus nonmembers who also export oil, decided this week to cut production targets.

The OPEC nations, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced October 5 they will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

The move prompted a blistering reaction from White House officials and reverberated almost immediately through domestic and global financial markets, threatening higher energy costs for the United States and European countries already grappling with inflation and economic instability, the Washington Post reported.

Russia will benefit from the cut, because lower production will increase the price of oil — helping Moscow finance its war effort in Ukraine. And it could further test Europe’s resolve to support Ukraine ahead of what economists project will be a sharp slowdown in economic growth throughout the continent. American consumers could also be strained by higher gas prices, potentially imperiling the Biden administration’s determination to lower gas costs ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

In Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Oil Week conference, delegates expressed concern about rising prices, the VOA website reported.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary-general of the African Petroleum Producers Organization, said the move was aimed at ensuring stability in the global market and ensuring that prices don’t fall too low. “I believe it’s the right thing they did in order to save the industry,” he said, “and I totally think that every country has the responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens. And if by reducing production they see that as in their best interest, so be it.”

Rashid Ali Abdallah, executive director of the African Energy Commission, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the planned cuts would be. “I hope that the price is not shooting up, because in Africa we depend on oil products in power generation,” he said.

Gates Port Harcourt Refining Ltd in Alesa-Eleme, Nigeria. (photo by sixoone via wikipedia)

Natacha Massano, vice president of Angola’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, said she wasn’t sure how the announcement would affect her country. Angola is one of the two biggest oil producers in Africa; Nigeria is the other, and both are OPEC members.

“Some countries will be affected more than the others,” Massano said. “Some are benefiting — of course, the producers may benefit from the high prices, but at the same time they are paying also for all other commodities.”

October 6, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


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