Posts filed under ‘Air and Missile Defense’

FRIDAY FOTO (NOVEMBER 18, 2022)

BEGINNING THE NIGHT SHIFT.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Dhruv Gopinath) 

A U.S. Air Force pilot  performs preflight checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle prior to night flying exercises at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England on November 9, 2022.

An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the  F-15E has the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night and in all weather.

The pilot is assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, nicknamed “the Bolars” and “the Madhatters”, is part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath.

November 17, 2022 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 11, 2022)

INTO THE STORM.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nolan Pennington) Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Sailors assigned to the newest U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, prepare for flight operations while transiting through a storm on October 18, 2022.

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) joined six NATO allies for exercise Silent Wolverine in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean on November 8, 2022. Exercise participants include Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, as well as the United States.

“Silent Wolverine demonstrates our commitment to deepening interoperability with our allies and partners, while testing the advanced, cutting-edge warfighting capabilities of the Ford-class aircraft carrier in a highly relevant operational environment,” says Admiral Stuart Munsch, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Munsch also heads Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of the eponymous Ford-class, is an advanced carrier incorporating 23 new technologies demonstrating significant advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch systems. The Ford-class aircraft carrier generates an increased aircraft launch and recovery capability with a 20 percent smaller crew than the 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The Silent Wolverine deployment will test Ford’s operational readiness and future ability to support the requirements of combatant commands, like European Command (EUCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The Ford strike group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS McFaul (DDG 74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). The Ford strike group is conducting its first deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.

The U.S. Navy increased its presence in European waters late last year when Russia began massing troops on Ukraine’s border, even before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

November 11, 2022 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: U.S. Marine Corps Turns 247

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USMC

On this day, November 10, 247 years ago the Congress of Britain’s 13 American colonies decided it was time to start looking for a “a few good men” who could fight on land and sea.

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.  (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz) Click on photo to enlarge image

The Marine Corps was created by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 and since 1921, Marines around the world have celebrated the Corps’ founding under Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, issued by then-Commandant Major General John LeJeune. His order summarized the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directed that the order be read to every command on every subsequent November 10, the Marine Corps Birthday.

Since the 1950s, the Marines have marked the occasion with a birthday celebration and a cake cutting ceremony, where a senior Marine Corps officer slices the cake — usually with the traditional Mameluke officer’s sword, commemorating the Marines’ first overseas action near the shores of Tripoli in 1805. The first slice of cake is handed to the oldest Marine present. That senior Leatherneck then hands the slice to the youngest Marine on site.

In the photo below, retired Marine Colonel  Frank Harris III, representing the oldest Marine during the ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ), receives a piece of cake from the base commander, Colonel Michael Brooks, at at MCBQ’s Butler Stadium on November 9, 2022.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Eric Huynh) Click on photo to enlarge.

After Congress ordered the establishment of two battalions of Marines in late 1775, Captain (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern in that city. Those early Marines first saw action in the Bahamas in a March 3, 1776 raid on New Providence in the Bahama Islands, to capture naval supplies from the British.

Three days before this year’s birthday celebration, General David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, advised his troops to “prepare for uncertainty.”

“When called, we will fight and we will win — today, tomorrow, and in the future,” Berger said in a video message released on YouTube and elsewhere. “These victories are not won by our technology or our equipment, but because of all of you, because of everything you do every day to remain the best trained, the most professional, most ready force in the world. That has not changed.”

The Marine Corps has made drastic changes in force size, composition and weapons to meet emerging threats in the coming decade, primarily from China. With his Force Design 2030 plan, Berger seeks to reshape the Corps so it can operate and survive inside the area of operations of a peer competitor equipped with advanced manned and unmanned aerial systems and cruise missiles.

Critics have questioned Berger’s decision to eliminate all of the Marines’ battle tanks and most of their towed artillery in favor of highly mobile rocket and missile launchers to control maritime choke points. He and other Marine Corps leaders have noted Ukraine’s success against Russian tanks, armored vehicles and distant command and supply centers, using kamikaze drones and the truck-mounted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HiMARS) shows the vulnerability of tanks and the importance of logistics and reconnaissance, which are a key focus of Marine Corps planning.

Marines with 2nd battalion, 14th Marines regiment, 4th Marine division load rockets into a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in California in 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal AaronJames B. Vinculado)

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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.

November 10, 2022 at 8:32 pm 1 comment

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 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matt Porter)

Senior Airman Natasha Mundt, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and other airmen assigned to the 305th Aerial Port squadron, load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions to a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on  August 13, 2022.

The munitions cargo is part of an additional security assistance package for Ukraine. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force.

On Thursday, September 8, the Pentagon announced another authorization of security assistance valued at up to $675 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

Weaponry and other equipment includes more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been playing havoc with Russian facilities — including ammo dumps and command centers — behind the front lines, as this CBS News piece illustrates.

Also going to Ukraine will be: Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds; additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARM) that destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems; 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition; more than 5,000 anti-armor systems; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; plus additional grenade launchers, small arms, night vision devices and other field equipment.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it intends to make $2 billion available in long-term investments in Foreign Military Financing. One billion to bolster Ukraine’s security and the other $1 billion for 18 of Ukraine’s regional neighbors.

To date, the United States has committed approximately $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the United States has committed more than $17.2 billion in security assistance — and more than $14.5 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: More Drones and Equipment for Ukraine; Air Force Drone Crash in Libya

DEFENSE.

Drones in Latest U.S. Ukraine Aid Package.

On the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, the United States announced its latest military aide package — almost $3 billion to train and equip the Ukrainian armed forces, including a more small, land-based unmanned aircraft and support equipment for a land and maritime drone.

The $2.98 billion aid package President Joe Biden announced Thursday (August 24, 2022) to provide weapons and equipment through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, (ASAI) “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” he said.

Unlike a Presidential Drawdown, which the Pentagon has used to deliver equipment urgently needed by Ukraine from Defense Department stockpiles, USAI permits the U.S. government to procures needed capabilities from industry.

A U.S. Marine an RQ-20B Puma unmanned aerial vehicle during Exercise Snow Panzer in Setermoen, Norway, February 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Nghia Tran)

AeroVironment’s Puma, a small, hand-launched unmanned aerial system (UAS), and support equipment for the larger Boeing-Insitu Scan Eagle UAS are included in the package, according to the Defense Department. An earlier assistance package promised 15 catapult-launched Scan Eagles, which originally were developed for the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and can be launched from land or ship.  Both unmanned systems are unarmed and designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Defense Department gave no details on the number of Pumas or type of supplies for Scan Eagle being sent to Ukraine.

Since Russia is also using unmanned aircraft, the aid package will provide VAMPIRE Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems to the Ukrainians.

In addition to marking the date Ukraine declared its independence for the old Soviet Union, August 24 is exactly six months from the start of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

The United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. In total, the United States has committed more than $15.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

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AFRICOM Investigating Air Force Drone crash in Libya.

U.S. Africa Command is investigating the cause of an Air Force surveillance drone to crash near Benghazi, Libya, the military said Wednesday (August 23, 2022).

The drone was surveilling the area Monday ahead of planned diplomatic meetings, AFRICOM said. It did not specify what type of drone was involved or whether the crash was the result of enemy fire, Stars and Stripes reported here.

August 24, 2022 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Closer to Joining NATO; Did Russian MiGs Violate Finnish Airspace — Again?

BALTIC SEA REGION UPDATE

Updates with new link to 1949 NATO Treaty and photo of U.S. Marines training with Finnish forces recently.

Sweden, Finland and NATO

The chances of Sweden and Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have grown stronger with the United States becoming the 23rd member of the 30-nation defense alliance to approve the admission of the two historically non-aligned Nordic states.

In an unusual bi-partisan 95-to-1 vote on August 3, the U.S. Senate approved accession protocols to the 1949 treaty that created NATO, to admit Sweden and Finland as full members of the defense pact. Approval by all 30 current members of NATO is required for any new states to be admitted to the western defensive bloc created to counter the Soviet Union’s expansion, replacing democratic governments with totalitarian puppet regimes after World War II.

President Joe Biden signed the instruments of ratification bringing Finland and Sweden one step closer to joining the NATO alliance.

The Baltic Region. (Map: CIA World Factbook)

During the signing ceremony at the White House, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought he could break us apart,” but “Our alliance is closer than ever, it is more united than ever, and after Finland and Sweden join we will be stronger than ever.”

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It’s a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine’s West-looking government, according to The Associated Press (via NPR).

Finland and Sweden — increasingly disturbed by their Baltic Sea neighbor’s aggressive behavior in the region — simultaneously handed their official letters of application to join NATO on May 2022. NATO heads of state and government extended an invitation to both countries to join the Alliance at the Madrid Summit on June 29. The accession protocols for both countries were signed on July 5. The protocols must now be ratified by all Allies, according to their national procedures, according to NATO.

Seven member countries have to sign the treaty change: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. For some of them, like Slovakia and Greece, ratification is only a mater of when the legislature returns to work after the summer, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council think tank. One of the last holdouts is expected to be Turkey, which accuses the two countries of being too lenient toward Kurdish rebel groups it considers to be national security threats. Turkey’s justice minister said in July month that the government had renewed requests for the extradition of terror suspects wanted by his country.

On June 28, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to address security concerns raised by Turkey and lift Turkey’s veto on Finland’s and Sweden’s membership of NATO. However, in mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey can still “freeze” Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid unless the two countries take steps that meet Ankara’s security demands. While lifting its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, Turkey warned that it would block the process if they fail to extradite suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, according to The Associated Press (via the PBS News Hour).

Based on those considerations, plus how long it took recent new members like North Macedonia (21 months); Greece (8 months); and Spain (also 21 months), “we can expect something like a yearlong process (somewhere between eight and twenty months),” said Rich Outzen, a former State Department official and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey. He added it could be delayed until “shortly after Turkish national elections in June 2023.”

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Did Russian fighter jets violate Finnish airspace?

While Finland waits to join NATO it reported that two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace near the coastal city of Porvoo on the Gulf of Finland.

The jets were westbound, the defence ministry’s communications chief Kristian Vakkuri said, adding the aircraft were in Finnish airspace for two minutes.

A MiG-31 in flight over Russia, 2012 (Photo copyright by Dmitriy Pichugin via wikipedia) Please click on the photo to enlarge image.

The Finnish air force sent up “an operational flight mission” and identified the MiG-31 jets and the Border Guard launched an investigation into the violation, Aljazeera reported.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia, reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the North Atlantic alliance in May, after being rattled by Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, according to Aljazeera, which has a very good map of NATO countries, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine at this link.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has for years considered Finland to be — if not an ally, a partner nation — and conducted joint and multilateral training exercises with Finnish military units. Recently an element of the U.S. 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted bilateral training with the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit on Finland’s Russaro Island.

A member of the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit directs his fire team during a patrol with U.S. Marines in bilateral training on Russaro Island, August 11, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Yvonna Guyette) Click on photo to enlarge.

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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 — now members of NATO — border 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 Nordic countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

August 18, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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

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