Posts filed under ‘National Security and Defense’

FRIDAY FOTO (August 12, 2022)

SPLASHING ABOARD.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Danny Gonzalez) Please click on photo to see larger image.

Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2/5, of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, throw and receive lines from sailors assigned to the amphibious warship USS New Orleans in the Philippine Sea, August 1, 2022.

These Marines, from Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment were conducting welldeck operations training at night. The well deck is a hangar-like deck located at the waterline at the rear (stern) of some amphibious warfare ships. By taking on water the ship can lower its stern, flooding the well deck and allowing boats, amphibious vehicles and landing craft to dock within the ship

The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of the USS Tripoli Amphibious Ready Group in the 7th Fleet area of operations — the Indo-Pacific region.

The USS New Orleans is an amphibious transport dock ship (LPD 18).  An Amphibious Ready Group consists of a Navy element and several other parts, like the 31st MEU,  to provide the Geographic Combatant Commanders with forward-deployed sea-based expeditionary forces that can work across a range of military operations.

August 12, 2022 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 5, 2022)

DELIVERING CHAOS.

(U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sergeant Tara Fajardo Arteaga)

U.S. soldiers assigned to Chaos Company, 1st Battalion of the 68th Armor Regiment exit an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during a live-fire exercise at Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland on July 13, 2022.

That’s right — Poland. The U.S. Army now has a permanent post in the former Warsaw Pact country, which has been a member of NATO since 1999. In addition to its small 144-mile (232 kilometer) land border with the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad Oblast, Poland also has a 328-mile (528 kilometer) coast along the Baltic Sea, a region roiled by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, starting with the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The United States has been beefing up its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe since Vladimir Putin started massing troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine before launching a vicious invasion on February 24.

President Joe Biden announced in June, during NATO’s summit in Madrid, that the U.S. will establish a new garrison in Poznan, where the Army’s V Corps coordinates troop movements in Europe. The primary mission of the new forward headquarters will be to conduct operational planning, mission command and oversight of the rotational forces in Europe. It will also provide additional capability to support allies and partners in the region, according to the U.S. Army.

Biden said the V Corps, headquartered in Poland, will become permanent, and a new rotational brigade will operate out of Romania, giving the military a boost in the strategic Black Sea region, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

The new post will be named Camp Kosciuszko, after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland. Appointed a colonel of engineers in the continental army in 1776,  Kosciuszko was responsible for strategic fortifications at Saratoga, New York and reinforcing West Point as a defensive position along New York’s Hudson River. In the spring of 1781 in South Carolina, Kościuszko conducted the Battle of Ninety-Six and then a lengthy blockade of Charleston. At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship and was made a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. In 1784 Kościuszko returned to Poland,  where he commanded troops fighting a Russian invasion in 1792.

The 68th Armored is part of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, which is among other units assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, providing “combat-credible forces” to V Corps, America’s forward-deployed corps in Europe, according to the Army.

August 5, 2022 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: U.S. Coast Guard Turns 232; First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General Confirmed

Semper Paratus

Happy Birthday to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is berthed alongside USS Constitution (Old Iron Sides), the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, in Boston Harbor on July 29, 2022.  The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk)

The history of the Coast Guard goes back to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury, under then-Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers, were merged to form the Coast Guard on January 28, 1915. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service, created in 1910, was also merged into the Coast Guard.

Since then, the Coast Guard has been handed many assignments including: Intercepting intruder aircraft over the National Capital Region, preserving marine wildlife, maritime search and rescue, enforcing maritime law in U.S. waters and intercepting smugglers of drugs and people.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Caitlyn Mason, assigned to the medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk, rescues a sea turtle caught in a fishing net in the Atlantic Ocean, on July 14, 2022.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Fontenette)

In all the Coast Guard has eleven separate missions a lot of them are included in this brief video, which includes the Coast Guard’s marching tune, Semper Paratus, Always Prepared.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen seize a self-propelled, semi submersible craft (left) carrying narcotics off Central America’s Pacific Coast in 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the cadets, staff and family members marked the day with speeches, a proclamation from the governor of Connecticut, music and a birthday cake set up in front of Alexander Hamilton’s statue.

Rear Admiral William G. Kelly cuts the cake celebrating the Coast Guard’s 232nd birthday. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Auxiliarist David Lau.)

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First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael E. Langley be appointed to the rank of general and will be promoted in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.  on Saturday (August 6).

Langley will be the first Black Marine appointed to the rank of four-star general. While the Marine Corps and several news outlets have said he will be the first black full general in the 246-year history of the Marines, it’s worth noting the rank did not exist in the Marine Corps, which is a part of the Navy Department, until Alexander Vandergrift was appointed a four star general in 1945. There have been more than 70 four-star generals in the Marine Corps since then, but all have been white men.

Langley was promoted to serve as the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, and will command all U.S. military forces in Africa.  The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Lt. General Michael E. Langley. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Langley was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in June. The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment on Monday (August 1). “It is a great honor to be the president’s nominee to lead U.S. AFRICOM,” Langley said at his July 21 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence extended by him, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps,” SEAPOWER reported.

Langley currently serves as the commander, Marine Forces Command; Marine Forces Northern Command; and commander for Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, according to the Marine Corps.  His previous general officer posts included commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa; deputy commanding general for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) and commanding general for the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1985 as an artillery officer. Langley has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said.

Langley will replace the outgoing commander AFRICOM, Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend. In late July, Townsend said the threat of violent extremism and strategic competition from China and Russia remain the greatest challenges to the combatant command, according to a Defense Department news release, Marine Corps Times reported.

“Some of the most lethal terrorists on the planet are now in Africa,” said Townsend, according to the release.

*** *** ***

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 in the photo.

 

 

August 4, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Ukraine Getting U.S. Drones; Russia Wants More from Iran

UKRAINE, RUSSIA DRONE NEEDS

Never in the history of warfare have drones been used as intensively as in Ukraine, where they often play an outsized role in who lives and dies, according to the Associated Press.  Both the Russians and Ukrainians depend heavily on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

But after months of fighting, the drone fleets of both sides are depleted, and they are racing to build or buy the kind of jamming-resistant, advanced drones that could offer a decisive edge, the AP reported July 14.

Ukraine Getting More Kamikaze Drones

The U.S. Defense Department says hundreds of one-way drones will be included in the latest security assistance package for Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s brutal invasion.

The Pentagon announced Friday (July 22, 2022) that an additional $270 million in Security Assistance for Ukraine will include as many as 580 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). It is the sixteenth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine authorized by the Biden Administration since August 2021 — six months before Moscow’s unprovoked multi-front attack.

Back in April, the United States committed to sending 121 Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine. Pentagon officials have not fully disclosed the capabilities of those drones, which were developed by the U.S. Air Force and produced by Aevex Aerospace, according to the Associated Press. Aevex describes itself as a leader in “full-spectrum airborne intelligence solutions.” The drones have onboard cameras and can be used to attack targets, AP reported.

In April, then-Pentagon press spokesman John Kirby said the Phoenix Ghost had been in development before the February 24 Russian invasion. And in discussions with the Ukrainians about their requirements, “we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine.”

While primarily a UAS designed for tactical operations like attacking targets, Kirby said Phoenix Ghost ‘s cameras could be used for reconnaissance. But its principal focus is attack, said Kirby, adding “its purpose is akin to that of the Switchblade … which is basically a one-way drone and attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do.”

Artist’s rendering of AeroVironment Switchblade 600 loitering missile. (Image courtesy of AeroVironment)

Switchblade’s manufacturer, AeroVironmentc Inc.,, calls the little lethal UAV a loitering missile. Originally weighing less than six pounds, it could be carried in a soldier’s backpack and launched from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, Switchblade sends back color video imagery and GPS coordinates which the operator can view on a hand-held ground controller.

What made Switchblade unique, 4GWAR noted back in 2011, is the ability to transition from a low-flying reconnaissance drone to small bomb with the flick of a switch by the soldier operating the ground controller. It can then be aimed at a nearby — but out of sight — target such as an un-armored vehicle.

Several improvements have been made to Switchblade since then. The larger (50-pounds) Switchblade 600, has greater capabilities for engaging larger, hardened targets with multi-purpose anti-armor ammunition at longer distances than the original Switchblade 300, your 4GWAR editor reported in SEAPOWER.

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Short on Drones, Russia Turns to Iran

Both sides in the war have made ample use of unmanned aircraft, both for missile attacks by armed drones and reconnaissance of enemy troop movements and potential artillery targets. However, many military analysts believe the Russians — who surprised  Western observers with their coordinated use of drones as artillery spotters to target Ukrainian tank and artillery formations in 2014  — may now be running low on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

On July 12, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Russia was seeking hundreds of UAVs, including weapons capable drones from Iran.

“Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July,” Sullivan told a White House briefing, adding “”It’s unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already.”

On July 16, the White House said Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice to view weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire. The White House released the intelligence the same day President Joe Biden met  with leaders of six Arab Gulf countries, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The White House also released satellite imagery indicating Russian officials have twice visited Iran in recent weeks for a showcase of weapons-capable drones.

The satellite imagery showed Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones on display at Karshan Airfield on June 8 and July 5, while a Russian delegation transport plane was on the ground, the Associated Press reported.

Shahed 129 UAV seen during the Eqtedar 40 defense exhibition in Tehran. (Photo Fars Media Corporation via wikipedia)

Sullivan said in a statement that the administration has “information that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs.

“We assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs. We are releasing these images captured in June showing Iranian UAVs that the Russian government delegation saw that day,” Sullivan added. “This suggests ongoing Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable UAVs.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected reports on exporting Iranian drones to Russia, calling them “baseless.”

The U.S. intelligence assessment was first reported by CNN.

Russia had previously turned to China for help in supporting its war in Ukraine, U.S. officials disclosed in March, according to the CNN report. As of late May, the US had seen no evidence that China had provided any military or economic support to Russia for the invasion, Sullivan told reporters at the time.

*** *** ***

China’s DJI Halts Drone Business in Russia and Ukraine.

China’s DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, announced in late April that is was suspending all business activities in both Russia and Ukraine.

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has urged the company to take steps to stop its drones being used by Russia.

The Chinese firm said the decision was not a statement about any country, and its drones are not for military use, the BBC reported.

DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine. We are engaging with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations in the affected territories. — DJI Statement

China has sought to remain neutral on the conflict, calling for a peaceful solution, but it has yet to condemn the Russian invasion.

*** *** ***

IN OTHER DRONE NEWS …

Valkyrie Drones Complete Tests for Skyborg Program.

A pair of XQ-58 Valkyrie drones have completed a series of tests for the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program, to team unmanned and manned aircraft through an artificial intelligence-enabled autonomous system allowing fighter pilots and bomber crews to control unmanned wingmen.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

Defense contractor Kratos, which manufactures the Valkyrie, announced the successful tests at the Farnborough International Air Show in Britain July 19, but offered no details on what those tests demonstrated or when they occurred, Air Force Magazine reports.

The XQ-58, meanwhile, has conducted a limited number of flight tests showcasing some of its capabilities including releasing another drone in flight and carrying technology allowing an F-35 Lightening II and an F-22 Raptor to share data in-flight.

It was the first public announcement of the Valkyrie flying for the Skyborg program. The drone was first developed as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio and flew its first several tests before Kratos was selected in late 2020 as one of three companies to conduct Skyborg flights, according to the magazine.

“This is a program about autonomy,” Jeffrey Herro, a senior vice president in Kratos’ unmanned systems division, told Air Force Magazine in an interview at Farnborough. “Our aircraft was chosen to be the testbed for these autonomy tests. And so we’ve been flying various payloads in support of the government’s activities on Skyborg.”

July 26, 2022 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Lion 22 Exercise in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; New AFRICOM Commander Tapped; Troubles in Mali

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

AFRICAN LION 22: Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.

U.S. Africa Command’s premier annual exercise, African Lion 22, ended nearly a month of training operations across four nations in north and west Africa on June 30.

Sergeant Anthony Ruiz, an infantry squad leader assigned to Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Tunisian troops participate in an integrated training event during African Lion 2022, near Camp Ben Ghilouf, Tunisia on June 21, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Marcela Diazdeleon)

African Lion 22 is a multinational, combined arms joint exercise focused on increasing training and interoperability between U.S. forces and  partners and allies on the African continent to increase security and stability within the region.

Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force for Africa, the exercise saw operations ranging from maritime training exercises in the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia and Morocco’s Atlantic Coast to field training and combined arms exercises in Ghana and Senegal.

Military units from Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the African nation of Chad, joined U.S. and host nations’ troops in the exercises. A total of 7,500 troops, nearly 4,000 of them from the United States, participated in African Lion, which began on June 6.

African Lion also included a Special Operations cyber exercise, a medical readiness exercise, a humanitarian civil assistance program,  a joint forcible entry with paratroopers, an air exercise with U.S. heavy heavy lift transport, aerial refueling and bomber aircraft.

Approximately 80 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, along other Guard units from from California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are training with the Royal Moroccan Army in the northern Sahara Desert as part of African Lion ’22.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)

Historically, African Lion has taken place only in Morocco and Tunisia, but this year Ghana and Senegal were added.  While Ghana has participated in the past as observers, “This is the first time that we’re actually doing the exercise in Ghana,” Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, told a June 28 U.S. State Department digital press briefing with African journalists. Speaking from Morocco, Rohling noted that Ghana “has chosen to partner with its African neighbors and the United States to help provide peace and security across the continent.  Ghana has a growing leadership role in regional security.”

*** *** ***

U.S. Africa Command.

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley to be the next commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision June 9. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command. He is also the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

AFRICOM, based in Stutgart, Germany, oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including conflict zones such as Somalia, where Biden has decided to return up to 500 troops — withdrawn by the Trump administration — to expedite airstrikes for counter terrorism operations, according to Military Times.

If the Senate confirms Langley, he would succeed Army General Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. As head of one of the geographical combatant commands, Langley would also be promoted to the rank of full general, making him the first four-star Marine Corps general.

Langley would be in charge of of all U.S. military operations in Africa. The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic, according to The Hill newspaper site.

Speaking from Morocco to a digital State Department press briefing June 28 about African Lion 22, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, brought up Wagner Group when asked about the rising number of foreign military operations and bases in Africa. The United States and China each have a base in the East African nation of Djibouti and French and U.S. troops have been assisting several West African nations resist terrorist groups like al Queda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

“I think it’s clear that we’ve seen the impact and the destabilizing effect that Wagner brings to Africa and elsewhere. And I think countries that have experienced Wagner Group deployments within their borders found themselves to be a little bit poorer, a little bit weaker, and a little bit less secure,” Rohling said. “So an exercise such as African Lion aims to build capacity as well as the trusted, long-term relationships to address future challenges.  And I think that’s the difference between United States and others that are operating here on the continent.”

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

Concerns have grown that the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region and strongholds of both al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates – is worsening violence, destabilizing neighbors and spurring migration.

Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of desert and scrub, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.

All the logisticians of France’s Barkhane force are involved in the transfer of military equipment out of Mali after nearly eight years fighting armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and supporting the armed forces of partner countries against the threat. (French Ministry of the Armed Forces photo)

With the withdrawal from Mali expected to be completed by the end of the summer French officials were negotiating in neighboring Niger  to redefine France’s strategy to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel as concerns mount over the growing threat to coastal West African states, Reuters reports.

France’s plan calls for Niger will become the hub for French troops, with some 1,000 soldiers based in the capital Niamey along with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Some 300-400 French troops would be dispatched for special operations with Nigerien troops in the border regions with Burkina Faso and Mali, French officials told reporters.

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Another 700-to-1,000 would be based in Chad with an undisclosed number of special forces operating elsewhere in the region. French troops will no longer carry out missions or pursue militants into Mali once the exit is complete, the officials said.

A key area of concern is how and whether French and European troops will used to support countries in the coastal Gulf of Guinea nations such Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, where there has been a rise in attacks. Al Qaeda’s regional arm has said it would turn its attention to the region.

*** *** ***

Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, the military-led government in Mali says it is suspending all new rotations of United Nations peacekeeping troops due to national security reasons, the BBC reports. The action comes days after soldiers from the Ivory Coast were arrested on arrival in Mali on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Officials in Ivory Coast said they were there to support the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, under an agreed contract between the two countries. The junta in Mali, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency, says its foreign ministry was not informed of the deployment via the official channels.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions,” the VoA website reported. The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.

Peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Photo: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko)

The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the peacekeeper suspension.

Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.

The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the United Nations to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.

The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country, according to VoA.

*** *** ***

Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, Reuters reported July 15.

The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year. Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

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

FRIDAY FOTO (July 15, 2022)

BIG NEW DRONE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.) Click on the photo to enlarge image.

Team members secure batteries to the LIFT Hexa aircraft’s motors before its first flight at Duke auxiliary airfield near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the U.S. Air Force announced July 14, 2022.

The LIFT Hexa, an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL, completed its flight test via remote control. The aircraft, which used 18 motors and propellers, flew for approximately 10 minutes and reached a height of about 50 feet.

The test was an important first step toward the incorporating the Hexa into operations at a controlled military airfield.  Duke Field is located North of Eglin’s main base. This flight was completed by Hexa 09, one of two aircraft stationed at Duke Field. Hexa 05 was used for the first test flight at Eglin in April.

The 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s rotary wing developmental test experts, has partnered with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Air Force and its Agility Prime program, to advance eVTOL test and experimentation.

July 14, 2022 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO, July 8, 2022

UNDERWATER FLAG DELIVERY?

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Perez)

As a general rule here at 4GWAR blog, we don’t run photos of activities when we’re not sure of what’s going on.

But this photo is so striking we just couldn’t pass it up. We also encourage visitors to click on the photo to view a larger and more spectacular image.

The caption accompanying this photo simply says it shows members of Naval Special Warfare Group Eight displaying the national ensign as they perform dive operations while underway on the Virginia Class fast-attack submarine USS New Mexico on June 19, 2022 somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

A little bit of enlightenment comes from an Independence Day posting on the Commander, Submarine Forces Facebook page, accompanied by the photo above:

#NavalSpecialWarfare is wishing you a happy #4thofJuly celebrating America’s liberty. As our Nation’s naval commandos, we’re always ready to defend freedom and democracy around the world—on, under and over the sea and into the littorals. Happy Birthday, #America!

Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces; carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare, according to Military.com. The Virginia Class fast-attack submarines were conceived as a less expensive alternative to the Seawolf-class attack submarines, designed during the Cold War era, and are replacing older Los Angeles-class submarines, 29 of which have already been decommissioned.

Naval Special Warfare Command organizes, trains, equips, deploys, sustains, and provides command and control of forces — like, but not limited to, Navy SEAL teams — that conduct full spectrum undersea special operations and activities worldwide in support of geographic Combatant Commands, like U.S. Africa Command or U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Naval Special Warfare Group Eight is headquartered at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia with a detachment in Coronado, California and another at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

July 7, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 24, 2022)

21st CENTURY GUNSLINGER.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal David Intriago) Click on photo to enlarge image.

Corporal Monica Pomales, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773’s Detachment A, conducts live fire shooting drills in a UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter during exercise Gunslinger 22 at Smoky Hill Range, Kansas on June 17, 2022.

Gunslinger 22 is a joint Marine Corps exercise with the Kansas Air National Guard designed to increase aircraft control and training for potential real world contingencies. Pomales’ Venom was accompanied by an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and both provided close air support and deep air support to the Ground Combat Element at Smoky Hill Range.

HMLA 773 Detachment A, based in New Orleans, is part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey — a 2009 amalgamation of three military facilities in the Garden State: McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, once the home of the Navy’s rigid airships and non-rigid blimps.

To see more photos of this helicopter live fire drill, click here.

June 24, 2022 at 8:25 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

SHAKO: Juneteenth 2022; Happy Birthday U.S. Army; Flag Day

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865 did not end the Civil War. There were still two armies, one in North Carolina commanded by Joseph Johnston and another in the West commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. Johnston surrendered on April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26, 1865.

But that still did not end slavery in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — more than two months after Lee’s surrender — when U.S. Major General Gordon sailed across Galveston Bay with 1,800 Union troops and announced his General Order No. 3.

General Order No. 3 informed the people of Texas that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States (President Lincoln), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Until then, the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas did not know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them — and all the other slaves in states in open rebellion against Washington, as of January 1863. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t be enforced until Union troops gained control of each state that had left the Union.

June 19th, or Juneteenth, slowly grew to be seen as a second independence day — marking the end of legal slavery — by African Americans, first in Texas, where it became a legal holiday in 1980 and elsewhere culminating in 2021 when legislation making June 19 a federal holiday was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

As we wrote at this time last year, we hope that Juneteenth will grow to be appreciated by all Americans, and that whites and other people of color will see it as something more than a black holiday marking the beginning — just the very beginning — of the United States of America doing the right thing about racial inequality.

And we hope people of color will realize than in addition to the 180,000 black soldiers who fought for freedom, thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of white men and boys fought and died, not just to preserve the union, but to set other people free.

We all have a stake in the meaning of Juneteenth.

 

Statue in St. Louis, Missouri of Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, who unsuccessfully sued in 1846 for freedom for themselves and their two daughters, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott Decision. The newspaper coverage of the ruling and the 10-year legal battle fueled outrage in non-slave states, increasing political tensions that sparked the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright Sonoma Road Strategies. 2022.)

Your 4GWAR editor, on travel gathering information for future articles and blog posts, missed two other June commemorations this week: the U.S. Army’s 247th birthday and Flag Day — both on June 14.

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U.S. ARMY, 247 YEARS YOUNG.

On June 14, 1775 — at the urging of John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. president) — the Continental Congress, in effect, created the U.S. Army by voting $2 million in funding for the colonial militias around Boston and New York City.

Congress also ordered the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Together with the ragtag militias in New England and New York they would form the first Continental Army. George Washington of Virginia, one of the few colonials with military command experience would take command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, perform at a military tattoo marking the Army’s 237th birthday. (U.S. Army photo)

When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Congress ordered the last Continental Army to disband. Its remaining soldiers were discharged on June 2, 1784. Congress retained two companies to safeguard military arms and stores. The next day, Congress voted to form, from this nucleus, the 1st American Regiment for national service. By the fall of 1784, the whole U.S. Army was this one regiment, consisting of eight infantry and two artillery companies.

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FLAG DAY

June 14 is also Flag Day in the United States, to commemorate the day in 1777 when Congress adopted the 13-star, 13-red-and-white-striped flag as the year-old republic’s national flag. Flag day was celebrated on various days in various ways around the United States until the 20th century.

As war wracked Europe and the Middle East in 1916, it looked more and more like the United States would be drawn into the Great War. To inspire unity and patriotism, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress — but it’s not an official federal holiday.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze (via wikipedia)

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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.

June 19, 2022 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

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