Posts filed under ‘Air and Missile Defense’

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Navy Unmanned/Autonomy Competition; France Wants Switchblade

DEFENSE.

Navy Readying Unmanned/Autonomy Competition

The U.S. Navy plans an industry competition for a key contract related to its autonomy software development efforts,the  Breaking Defense reports, adding that the anticipated contract will secure a vital iole for the winning company in many of the Navy’s upcoming unmanned vehicle programs.

The Navy is developing “a myriad of unmanned vessels and needs to streamline the process of making sure each drone will be capable of working in conjunction with one another. To do this, the unmanned systems office, known internally in the Navy as PMS 406, has been spearheading several projects that collectively aim to unify different software delivered by any given company,” according to Breaking Defense’s Justin Katz.

The Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessel launches from Naval Base Point Loma for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21) on April 20, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The contract has been dubbed the Autonomy Baseline Manager, and the service’s unmanned systems program office expects to publish a solicitation for the role in the coming months, according to Navy spokesman Alan Baribeau. A five year-contract for the selected company is scheduled to be awarded in summer 2023.

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Large U.S. Navy Drones.

The U.S. Navy’s last deployed RQ-4A Global Hawk Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D) unmanned aerial vehicle, has returned from the Middle East, culminating a 13-year span of operations that began as a six-month experiment.

BAMS-D, which has been operational since 2009, (NORTHROP GRUMMAN photo)

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the RQ-4A returned to its home base, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on June 17.

The Navy had deployed the RQ-4A to Southwest Asia since 2009 as a component of the BAMS-D program, SEAPOWER magazine reported. Five Block 10 RQ-4As were acquired from the U.S. Air Force and were based at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and operated in sequence over the years by detachments of Patrol Reconnaissance Wings 5, 2, and 11. The detachment kept at least one RQ-4A in the rotation to a base in the Persian Gulf region. One was lost in a mishap in Maryland in June 2012. Another was shot down June 19, 2019, in an unprovoked attack in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

BAMS-D provided more than 50% of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in theater accruing over 42,500 flight hours in 2,069 overseas missions, the Navy said.

Meanwhile, the Navy has ordered two more MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles from Northrop Grumman.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $248.2 million contract modification to procure two MQ-4Cs as an addition to Lot 5 low-rate initial production. The contract modification follows two other contracts awarded in June to Northrop Grumman for the Triton program, SEAPOWER reported.

The MQ-4C’s IFC-4 is designed to bring an enhanced multi-mission sensor capability as part of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting transition plan. The Triton in the IFC-4 configuration is designed to complement the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and eventually will enable the Navy to retire its EP-3E Orion electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The initial operational capability for the Triton will be declared in 2023 when IFC-4-configured Tritons are deployed in enough quantity to field one complete orbit.

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Tax-Free Pay for Drone Operators?

U.S. service members who fly remotely piloted aircraft or operate their surveillance and targeting sensors don’t qualify for untaxed income because they largely wage war from installations in the continental U.S. rather than in combat zones like Iraq or Somalia.

But Senators Jacky Rosen of Nevada,  Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative Steven Horsford, also of Nevada want to fix that, according to Military Times. Legislation proposed by the trio would give military drone crews the same tax-free combat pay as deployed troops.

Drone crews would be eligible for untaxed income if they fly missions anywhere within a combat zone approved by the Pentagon, from the Sinai Peninsula to Kosovo to the Arabian Peninsula, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Their annual salaries, and how much they are taxed, vary by state and federal tax brackets, grade and training.

On top of their monthly income and housing and subsistence allowances, these troops already receive an untaxed flight stipend that is separate from combat pay. That monthly combat stipend would become available, tax-free, to the RPA community if the legislation is signed into law.

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INDUSTRY.

General Atomics’ Maritime Drone Tests for RIMPAC

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. completed a series of flight tests of an MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aircraft system equipped with electronic intelligence, communications intelligence and Link 16 payloads in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise.

GA-ASI_MQ-9B_SeaGuardian, (General Atomics photo)

The sensors were integrated onto GA-ASI’s maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System, which will be featured at RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise involving more than 40 ships and 150 aircraft from 27 partner nations. The 2022 exercise will take place from late June to early August in Hawaii and Southern California.

The Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) payload on SeaGuardian is supplied by Sierra Nevada Corporation and the Communications Intelligence (COMINT) payload is made by L3Harris Technologies.

The MQ-9B line of unmanned air systems has advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability, featuring a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities, and a High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras.

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France Wants U.S. Kamikaze Drone.

The French Army has started the process of quickly procuring American-made loitering munitions as part of a longer-term effort to field remotely operated weapon systems, Defense News reported from Paris.

The service is looking to add AeroVironment’s Switchblade to its inventory within the next six months, Colonel Arnaud Goujon, the Army’s chief of plans, told reporters at the Eurosatory defense expo, which was held last week outside Paris.

Launching a Switchblade UAV. (Photo courtesy of AeroVironment )

In a Tuesday email to Defense News, the French Armed Forces Ministry confirmed the country is in the process of launching a Foreign Military Sales request “for the acquisition of Switchblade remote-operated ammunition.”

The Pentagon in April announced plans to supply the Switchblade munition to Ukraine as part of military aid provided to the European country since Russian invaded it in late February.

June 23, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: SOCOM Seeks Small Counter-Drone Tool; Russia Says it Killed Drone with Laser; Marines Want More Reapers

DEFENSE: Updates with Russian Drone-Killer Laser Claim.

Special Ops Counter Drone Needs.

U.S. special operations forces are looking for a small device that can neutralize drone threats by land, air and sea.

Special Operations Command’s program office for counterproliferation has been focusing on finding a smaller technology package that can jam radio frequencies, to thwart roadside bombs — and counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) attacks, Defense News, reports from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida earlier this week (May 16-19).

Early counter-drone technology experimentation 2018. Marines test Drone Killer Technology during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Rhita Daniel)

While the current focus is on aerial threats, the counter-UAS program office is looking for ground and maritime counter-drone options as well.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders among other elite units, including the acquisition and development of specialized platforms and technologies.

The counter-UAS office is looking for next-generation, multimission electronic countermeasure gear that is both portable and operable from fixed expeditionary sites. The Marine Corps and SOCOM have an existing system called Modi, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and used by the Army and Marines. The current dismounted system weighs 40 pounds.

The next-gen version needs to hit unmanned threat across the land, sea and air domains — and be more portable. The office may select a system by fiscal 2024 and begin production in fiscal 2025.

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Russia Claims It’s Using Counter-Drone Laser 

Russia says it is using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms.

Little is known about the new laser. Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned one in 2018 called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow May 18 that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) above Earth, Reuters reported.

He said there were already more powerful systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on May 17 which he said had burned up a drone 5 km (31 miles) away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television, according to Reuters.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira.”

U.S. defense authorities and military experts say Moscow’s claim about the new laser has not been substantiated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has mocked the claim, according to the Washington Post.

A retired Australian army major general, Mick Ryan, who has been studying the Russian invasion, told the Post that weapons like Zadira could take down reconnaissance drones or Ukrainian artillery. It could also be used to blind Ukrainian soldiers, a tactic that is banned under international convention, he added.

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Marines Want More Reapers.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps’ commandant says the service will expand its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones to meet growing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs, your 4GWAR editor wrote for the SEAPOWER magazine website.

“We’re going to move from three squadrons right now to perhaps double that,” General David Berger told an audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition. “And the reason why is the need for organic ISR.”

The Marine Corps’ first MQ-9A completed 10,000 flight hours in support of Marine Corps Forces, Central Command operations on March 31, 2021. (Photo U.S. Marine Corps).

The MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft can stay aloft for more than 26 hours, attain air speeds of 220 knots and can operate to an altitude of 45,000 feet. Manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., the Reaper has a 3,850-pound payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar.

Berger said that ISR needs were increasingly critical for Marine Corps units, large and small. “So absolutely, we’re going to expand in Group 5, large-scale, big-wing, medium-altitude, long-endurance, uncrewed aircraft. That’s so we can have, for the naval force, persistent organic ISR access from the MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] level on down to the squad level,” he said.

May 19, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 6, 2022)

STINGER STUDY.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson)

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan Pennington, right, explains the functions of the FIM-92 Stinger missile system to Norwegian Army Sergeant Silje Skarsbakk during a bilateral training event in Setermoen, Norway on April 25, 2022.

The FIM-92 Stinger missile is a shoulder-fired MANPAD (man-portable air-defense system) that specializes in taking out helicopters. Stingers have been around since the 1980s. They were originally developed by General Dynamics and are now made by Raytheon Missile Systems. The Stinger can also target low-flying airplanes and drones.

Pennington is assigned to the the Aviation Combat Element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). MEUs are expeditionary quick reaction forces, deployed and ready for  immediate response to a crisis.

The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group,  participated in a bilateral training event with the Norway’s Armed Forces in April.

The United States has sent more than 1,400 Stingers to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. . The Ukrainian military says it has shot down nearly 160 Russian aircraft, including 90 helicopters in that time. Unfortunately, the Defense Department, which is developing an updated anti-aircraft missile, hasn’t purchased a Stinger in about 18 years, say Raytheon officials. Some of components are no longer commercially available, and the company will have to redesign some of the missile’s electronics, Breaking Defense reported April 26.

May 5, 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: 100 Years of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

Milestone for Flatops.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.

On March 20, 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (a coal transport ship) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1).

The ship was named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer and engineer, CV 1 started as an experimental platform but quickly was shown to be an invaluable weapons system that changed how the US Navy fought at sea.

Langley (CV-1) at anchor with an Aeromarine 39-B airplane landing on her flight deck, circa 1922. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. Catalog #: NH 63545.)

By the end of its first year as an aircraft carrier, USS Langley had been the site for numerous historic events: the first piloted plane launch from an aircraft carrier, the first landing in an Aeromarine, airplane and the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier’s deck.

“For 100 years aircraft carriers have been the most survivable and versatile airfields in the world,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said during a Navy League centennial celebration Monday (March 21) in Norfolk, Navy Times reported. “Perhaps no single military platform distinguishes what our nation is … and what it stands for … more than the aircraft carrier.”

In the 100 years since — from CV 1 to the newest nuclear-power carrier CVN 78 — aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace.

“The advent of the aircraft carrier and the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier 100 years ago really started our Navy and our nation on a path of having the most formidable, mobile, survivable sea bases and aviation platforms in the world,” said Rear Admiral John Meier,  commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, which provides operationally ready air squadrons and aircraft carriers to the fleet.

Today, the Navy currently has eleven commissioned aircraft carriers in its arsenal.

Meier noted the carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is in the Mediterranean, “demonstrating our resolve and our partnership with our NATO allies, as we watch the horror unfolding of Russian aggression into Ukraine.”

Newport News Shipbuilding, a unit of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the world’s only maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The most recently completed carrier — USS Gerald R. Ford — is scheduled to make its first overseas deployment sometime later this year.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck, March 22, 2022. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting flight deck certification and air wing carrier qualifications as part of the ship’s preparation for operational deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Melvin)

Ford-class carriers are twice as long and weigh eight times as much as their 1922 counterpart, yet they are twice as fast and carry nearly three times as many aircraft. The nation’s newest most advanced aircraft carrier, CVN 78, will be in service until at least 2070. All U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers operating in the Navy fleet today were built at Newport News Shipbuilding. USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was first in 1961, serving the nation more than 50 years, before being decommissioned in 2017, according to SEAPOWER.

Three other Ford-class aircraft carriers are currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. They include John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80) and Doris Miller (CVN 81). In addition, Newport News Shipbuilding is conducting mid-life refueling complex overhauls on two Nimitz-class aircraft carriers: USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). These overhauls will extend the service life for each platform by another 25 years.

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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.

March 25, 2022 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Russia Targets Black Sea Ports; Allies Send Arms to Ukraine; Sweden and Finland Worried

Since 2015, 4GWAR Blog has reported that Russia’s belligerent behavior has been making its neighbors nervous from the Barents Sea in the Arctic to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea farther south. And now open warfare has broken out with Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

UPDATES first Ukraine item with new details on situation at Black Sea cities (in italics).

BLACK SEA

Ukraine Invasion.

Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday (March 3) in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, the Associated Press reported.

While Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, its military has made significant gains in the south, as part of an effort to sever Ukraine’s connection to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Black Sea region (Map by Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

The Russian military said it had taken control of Kherson, a ship-building center on the Dnieper River (see map below), and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began.

Capturing Kherson could clear the way for Russian forces to push westward toward Odessa — a much bigger prize — as they try to seize Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast, cutting it off from world shipping, the New York Times reported.

At the Pentagon on Friday (March 4) Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said detailed knowledge of how things are going on the ground in Ukraine “has limits.”

“As of this morning, we haven’t seen any significant naval activity in the Black Sea that would lead us to believe that an assault on Odessa is imminent. That doesn’t mean that won’t change over coming hours. It very well could.”

He noted that Russian forces out of Crimea and heading off to the west through Kherson “are now beginning an assault on a town called Mykoliav (above Crimea and to the left on map below). “That town is not far from Odessa, just up the coast, a little bit northeast of Odessa.”   

(Map of Ukraine. Courtesy of https://www.nationsonline.org) Click on the map to enlarge image.

Russian troops have gained ground near the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov (above Crimea and to the right in map above), while naval forces gathered offshore, raising fears of an amphibious assault on a city where local officials said there was no power or heat, according to the Times.

The beaches of Odessa, once popular with tourists and locals, are now covered with mines, the sand is being used to fill sandbags and Russian warships can been seen out on the Black Sea, the Washinton Post reported Friday (March 4).

People in Odessa, a critical port and Ukraine’s third-largest city with about 1 million people, are not wondering if Russia plans to launch an assault here. They are sure it will, the Post noted.

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Allies and Partners

The United States believes that Russian forces will increasingly rely on artillery fire as they draw nearer to population centers and begin siege tactics in earnest.

The flow of weaponry to Ukraine increased this week when Germany opened its stockpiles and Australia said it would provide Kyiv with about $70 million in “lethal military assistance,” including missiles and unspecified weapons, the Washington Post reported.

On Wednesday (March 2), Ukraine announced that it had received a shipment of Turkish drones and used them in recent days to damage advancing Russian armored columns. Turkey, which is trying to maintain stable relations with both Russia and Ukraine, did not comment on the shipment.

Ankara has called Russia’s assault on Ukraine unacceptable, but it has also opposed sanctions on Moscow. In response to Russia’s invasion, Turkey last month closed its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits linking the Mediterranean and Black Seas to warships under a 1936 pact, limiting passage of some Russian vessels, according to Reuters. 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Ukrainians were sent military aid within the past day, but he did not describe what was included and how it was delivered, according to the Post.

On Monday (February 28), Italy joined a long list of countries promising weaponry to Ukraine as the East European country defends itself against the Russian invasion.

The pledge by Rome took the number of nations in line to deliver military hardware and funding to Kyiv to over a dozen, including the United States and Canada, according to Defense News. The Italian cabinet approved a measure authorizing the dispatch of Stinger surface-to-air missiles, mortars and Milan, or Panzerfaust, anti-tank weapons.

Germany has promised to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 Stinger missiles, nine howitzers and 14 armored vehicles to Ukraine. Like Germany, Norway is reversing a policy of not supplying combatant countries by delivering up to 2,000 2,000 M72 anti-tank weapons.

Sweden has pledged to send 5,000 anti-tank weapons, while Finland is dispatching 1,500 rocket launchers and 2,500 assault rifles. The Netherlands will also send 200 Stinger missiles following a specific request to the European Union for the surface-to-air weapon. For Sweden, it’s the first time it’s offered military aid since 1939, when it assisted Finland against the Soviet Union, according to The Associated Press.

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BALTIC SEA

Sweden and Finland Worried

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

Support for joining NATO has surged to record levels in Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden. A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE showed — for the first time — that more than 50 percent of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against, the AP reported from Helsinki, Finland’s capital.

Moscow has warned it would be forced to take retaliatory measures if Finland and Sweden joined the alliance. A similar stance that prompted Russian forces to invade Ukraine eight days ago.

Neither country is going to join the alliance overnight. Support for NATO membership rises and falls, and there’s no clear majority for joining in their parliaments.

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U.S. Lawmakers Seek Baltic Aid

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is prompting some in Congress to reconsider the U.S. security structure in the Baltics, where leaders have long sought the placement of permanent American military bases in their countries.

“Having a U.S. flag there – a permanent one – is a deterrence,” Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday (March 1). “Russia will know they’re not just going into the Baltics… but they are attacking U.S. forces when they do so. I think it will have a reassuring effect for the Baltics, who are very small,” added Bacon, the co-chairman of the congressional Baltic Caucus.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the only former Soviet republics to join NATO and the European Union, are considered by military experts to be the alliance’s most vulnerable flank, Stars and Stripes reported.

In a news conference last month with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis reiterated his country’s request for long-term American forces to boost security there. Lithuania and Latvia border Belarus, where Russian President Vladimir Putin stationed 30,000 troops before launching a full-scale attack on Ukraine last week from Russian and Belarusian territory.

The U.S. has maintained a 500-troop battalion on rotation in Lithuania since 2019 but Congress appears ready to deepen engagement in the region.

Along with Bacon, Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said establishing permanent American basing in the Baltics, as well as Romania and Poland, would show serious U.S. commitment to safeguarding NATO’s eastern flank.

At the same hearing, Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, told the committee that the Pentagon’s Global Posture Review, signed off by President Joe Biden in November, needs an overhaul in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Air Force magazine reported.

The review, conducted by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last summer, “looked closely at our posture in Europe and saw largely that it was about right” at the time, Karlin said. But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a potential threat to NATO partners in the Baltics and Black Sea region, the situation has become “dynamic,” she said.

That will require another look to ensure Russia is deterred from attacking NATO, Karlin said. The goal is to “absolutely, 150 percent, say that NATO is safe and secure.” Options being examined include increased numbers of troops and other capabilities, where they would be placed, and whether additional forces would be deployed on “a rotational or permanent” basis, she said.

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BARENTS SEA

Tensions between Russia and its Arctic neighbors have also spread in recent years.

While most of the world focused on the conflict in Ukraine, Russian nuclear submarines sailed off for drills in the Barents Sea Tuesday (March 1) after President Vladimir Putin ordered his nation’s nuclear forces put on high alert.

Russia’s Northern Fleet said in a statement that several of its nuclear submarines were involved in exercises designed to “train maneuvering in stormy conditions.” It said several warships tasked with protecting northwest Russia’s Kola Peninsula, where several naval bases are located, would join the maneuvers, the Associated Press reported in a story carried by numerous outlets including ABC News, Britain’s The Independent and the Times of Israel.

Barents Sea region. Map by NormanEinstein via wikipedia

And in the Irkutsk region of eastern Siberia, units of the Strategic Missile Forces dispersed Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers in forests to practice secret deployment, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Russian military didn’t say whether the drills were linked to Putin’s order on Sunday (February 27) to put the country’s nuclear forces on high alert amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. It also was unclear whether the exercises represented a change in the country’s normal nuclear training activities or posture.

The U.S. said Putin’s move unnecessarily escalated an already dangerous conflict, but so far has announced no changes in its nuclear weapons alert level.

March 3, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 18, 2022)

Muscling a Missile.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Despite the latest in high tech aircraft parked behind them, these airmen from the 43rd Fighter Generation Squadron have to lift an AIM-9 Sidewinder air intercept missile during a weapons load competition at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on February 11, 2022.

Two teams competed to see who could load an AIM-120, an AIM-9 and chaff and flares onto their F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighter the fastest and with the fewest errors. The winner will be announced at the unit’s annual awards ceremony.

To learn a little more about the Raptor, and its troubled history, click here.

 

February 17, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Tensions Grow on Ukraine-Russia Border; Moscow Eyes Svalbard Presence in Hybrid-Strategy

UKRAINE:

Biden Reassures Ukrainian President.

President Joe Biden has reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, as the country steels itself for a potential Russian invasion on its eastern frontier.

According to a White House readout of the December 9 call, “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention.”

Biden also told Zelenskyy that the United States and its allies were “committed to the principle of ‘no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,’” reiterating his calls for Russia to de-escalate tensions and choose diplomacy, POLITICO reported.

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(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Seeking Help from Parners, Allies.

Biden also held a separate call December 9 with the Bucharest Nine,” a group of NATO members on Europe’s eastern edge close to Russia — including the Baltics and Poland — that are particularly sensitive to aggressive moves by Moscow, the Washington Post reported.

Thursday’s conversations took place roughly 48 hours after Biden spoke on a two-hour video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he warned the Kremlin leader that severe economic consequences would follow if he once again decides to invade neighboring Ukraine.
During their call, Biden and Putin agreed that their teams would arrange talks on what the Kremlin calls sensitive European security issues, including Putin’s complaints about NATO activities in and around Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. The Kremlin has denied any plans to invade, accusing Washington of fueling a war scare.
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U.S. Not Sending Troops
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. support for Ukraine against a worrisome buildup of Russian forces will not include additional U.S. troops, at least for now.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters December 8 at the White House. “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now,” Defense One repored. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not enjoy the collective protection of Article 5, which calls every alliance member to arms when one is attacked. Ukraine seeks to join NATO but Russia opposes its entry into the alliance.

In an exclusive interview for Defense One’s Outlook 2022, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden emphasized in his phone call with Putin that if Russia moves against Ukraine, the United States would levy economic consequences; provide more military gear to Kiev; and deploy an “increased U.S. troop presence and increased capabilities in countries like Poland, the Baltics, [and] Romania.”

But Sullivan reiterated that the U.S. does not intend to send more troops to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the final elements of a $60 million security systems package to Ukraine — initially announced in August — will ship this week, a Pentagon spokesman said December 9.

U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, cut through barbed wire during the Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. The multinational maritime exercise cohosted by U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea since 1997, is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security and peace in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the last portions of the existing security package, which includes small arms and ammunition, is shipping now. Other parts of that security assistance package, meant to help Ukrainians defend their sovereignty against Russian aggression, included the Javelin missile system, which is already in the hands of Ukrainian servicemembers.

The $60 million package previously included 30 Javelin Command Launch Units and 180 missiles. The Javelins were delivered to Ukraine on October 23. “The United States has committed more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine in 2021, and this is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth, a Defense Department  spokesman said in an email to reporters.

*** *** ***

Putin’s No-Ukraine-in-NATO Demand.

On December 1, Vladimir Putin demanded ‘‘legal guarantees’’ that NATO would never expand eastward, ratcheting up the stakes as the West scrambled to respond to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Putin, who sees Ukraine’s deepening military partnership with the United States and other NATO countries as an existential threat, wants to start talks with the West to reach an agreement that would block the alliance’s expansion. He spoke in the midst of what Western officials describe as a growing threat of military action by tens of thousands of Russian troops massing close to the border with Ukraine — a former Soviet nation that seeks to join NATO.

‘‘The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,’’ Putin said at a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin December, according to the Times. ‘‘In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.’’

Putin’s demand is a nonstarter for NATO. ‘‘It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO,’’ Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general told reporters in Riga, Latvia. ‘‘Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.’’

*** *** ***

ARCTIC:

From the Barents Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea

An expert on Polar geopolitics warns that Russia to enhance its presence in Svalbard, a Norwegian-controlled archipelago in the Arctic, the Independent Barents Observer reports.

In an interview with the Norwegian-based Arctic news site, Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, says “a hybrid-strategy is underway in which Russia bolsters its legitimate presence in Svalbard on one hand while raising tensions in the maritime space on the other hand.” A lecturer in strategic studies at Australia’s Deakin University, says Moscow “isn’t about to annex Svalbard, Russia doesn’t want such a fight.”

Instead, she says Russia will try to assert its rights under a 1920 Treaty that gave Norway sovereignty over the islands, but Russia coal limited mining and other economic and scientific rights.

In recent years, the islands have risen in strategic importance as they reside just north of the intersection of the Barents, Greenland and Norwegian seas (see map above) . Whomever controls Svalbard is also likely to control the important gateway from the shallow Barents Sea to the deeper North Atlantic. For Russia’s Northern Fleet, the so-called Bear Island Gap between mainland Norway and the archipelago’s southernmost island is key to conducting sea denial operations in and over the maritime areas further south, potentially threatening NATO’s transatlantic sea lines of communication, according to the Observer.

*** *** ***

BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations like Poland and Romania border against Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Scandinavian countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Date of Infamy, Date of Remembrance

Dec. 7, 80 Years On

On December 7, 1941, 80 years ago, aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawaii.

In the wake of the attack, three stricken U.S. battleships struggle to survive. From left to right: USS West Virginia (severely damaged), USS Tennessee (damaged), and the USS Arizona (sunk). (Photo from National Archives)

 

Also hit during the 75-minute air raid was Hickham Army Air Forces Field and what was then Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. More than 2,400 military personnel and civilians were killed that day, 1,178 more were wounded. The attack by Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes also sank or damaged 20 Navy vessels and destroyed more than 180 Army, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

Fortunately, three planned targets — the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga — were away from Pearl Harbor that day. They played a key role at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, as well as other operations in the Pacific Theater. Japanese airmen also failed to attack key infrastructure at Pearl Harbor, including the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building — which also housed the intelligence section.

For a detailed account of events during the attack, and developments leading up to war in the Pacific, click here.

After defeating Japan in late summer 1945, United States forces occupied the island nation and began rebuilding its shattered economy and creating a democratic form of government. The United States still maintains air and naval bases in Japanese territory and Japan is considered a staunch partner and ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

Each December, a dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors visit Oahu for commemorative ceremonies and remembering their lost comrades and shipmates.

In the photo below, one of those grizzled veterans, Gil Nadeau, pays his respect to fallen service members at the USS Arizona Memorial during a harbor tour as part of the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Remembrance. To the left of the Arizona Memorial, one can see the battleship USS Missouri, on which the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay took place on September 2, 1945,

The U.S. military, State of Hawaii and National Park Service hosted a series of remembrance events throughout the week to honor the courage and sacrifices of those who served throughout the Pacific Theater. Today, the U.S.-Japan Alliance is a cornerstone of peace and security in a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean La Marr)

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.

December 7, 2021 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Rethinking the MQ-9 Reaper; Drone Attack on Iraqi PM

DEFENSE.

Reaper Madness

 

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at sunset at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, November 20, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

An aerospace analyst at a Washington area think tank has come up with a list of missions to keep the MQ-9 Reaper, a surveillance and attack drone, flying — even though the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the venerable unmanned aircraft.

The Air Force is feeling pressure from two directions. On the one hand, it needs to fund a lot of new aircraft like the B-21 long range strike bomber and the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker, to deal with the rising threat of great power competitors Russia and China.

On the other hand, the Air Force budget is already tight and expected to get tighter. So, to come up with some money to fund expensive modernization programs, Air Force planners consider retiring legacy aircraft they believe cannot survive in a high-end fight, like the General Atomics intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting drone.

But retired Air Force Major General Lawrence Stutzriem, of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, says the Reaper — sought for numerous assignments by U.S. combatant commands like AFRICOM and NORTHCOM, still has a lot it can do. Rather than send its entire 280-Reaper fleet to the boneyard by 2035, the Air Force should upgrade it for a list of new missions like air and missile defense, and communications relays, Stutzriem writes in a paper “Reimagining the MQ-9 Reaper.”

Some of those like maintaining maritime domain awareness in the Arctic, already pose a challenge for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, your 4GWAQR editor writes in an article for the SEAPOWER website.

*** *** ***

Drone Attack on Iraq Leader.

The committee investigating the November 7 attempt to kill Iraq’s prime minister, has released video footage of the incident, but has yet to identify the attackers.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped the attack on his Baghdad home unhurt.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Three people believed to be associated with the attack were reportedly arrested, although details of the arrests and the suspects’ identities have not been disclosed, according to al Jazeera.

National security adviser Qasim al-Araji told a November 29 news conference that the committee has not accused any specific person or entity but called for collaboration among different parties to further the investigation.

The drone attack targeted al-Kadhimi’s house inside the fortified Green Zone and came at a politically sensitive time. A government is in the process of being formed following the parliamentary elections.

*** *** ***

INDUSTRY.

Egyptian Drones.

Two locally produced drones made their debut at the Egypt Defence Expo last week.

The Nut drone — named for the ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky, was co-produced by the Arab Organization for Industrialization and the Military Technical College. It can perform tactical reconnaissance missions during the day and night using electro-optical technology, according to Defense News.

The Nut has a maximum mission payload of 50 kilograms and an endurance of 10 hours.

Also on display was the EJune-30 SW drone. Made by Industrial Complex Engineering Robots in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Military Production, it is 8.9 meters long with a wingspan of 12 meters. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,400 kilograms, a maximum speed of 260 kph, an endurance of 24 hours, and a maximum operating altitude of 7,000 meters.

EDEX 2021 ran from November 29 to December 2 with pavilions from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, the United States and South Korea.

***

AeroVironment DoD Contract.

The Puma 3 AE and Wasp AE systems combine hand-launch capabilities with a deep-stall landing for operations in confined areas on land or water. (Image: AeroVironment, Inc.)

Multi-domain robotic systems-maker AeroVironment announced December 1 it received a $4,151,320 firm-fixed-price U.S. Defense Department Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract award to provide Puma 3 AE and Wasp AE small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to an unidentified allied nation. The contract includes initial spares packages, training and support. Delivery is anticipated by September 2022.

December 2, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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