Posts filed under ‘News Developments’

WORLD WAR CV: Congress Makes Pentagon Drop Mandatory COVID Vaccination Order


(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jackson Adkins)

Sixteen months after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a mandate, with White House approval, that all members of the armed forces had to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Congress has passed legislation forcing the Pentagon to end the requirement.

The $857.9 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2023 fiscal year (from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023) was passed by Congress in late 2022 and signed into law by President Joe Biden December 23, 2022. The act includes language that requires the defense secretary to rescind the mandate, which had sparked complaints from lawmakers and lawsuits from service members.

Austin and the heads of all the services said the vaccination mandate was necessary to protect the force and maintain readiness to defend the American people. While the vast majority armed service members — more  than 2 million — have gotten fully vaccinated, thousands more either refused to get the jab or sought administrative or religious exemption to the vaccination requirement. Just a few received religious accommodation, and thousands were separated from the services when their appeals ran out.

That led to several lawsuits. A federal judge in Texas certified a class action by Sailors, mostly Navy SEALS, seeking a religious exemption and issued a preliminary injunction March 30, 2022 halting separation for members of the class. A similar injunction was issued against the Marine Corps on August 18, 2022 by a federal judge in Florida.  A coalition of more than 20 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief before the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals, supporting the religious liberty claims of Navy SEALs seeking exemptions from the mandatory vaccination requirement in the Texas case. Lower courts also blocked the services from separating vaccine refusers.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing April 7, 2022. (Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

A protracted legal fight was derailed under pressure to get the annual defense bill passed, and an amendment pushed by a group of Senate Republicans requiring  a halt to the mandate was approved.

“The department will fully comply with the law,” Defense department officials said, adding the Pentagon “remains committed to the health and safety of the force and to ensuring we are ready to execute our mission at all times.”

The legislation stopped short of requiring the Pentagon to reinstate troops who were dismissed for refusing the shot. It also did not mention giving them back pay, POLITICO noted, but “Austin’s memo opened the door to reinstating troops who believe they were wrongfully let go, stipulating that service members and veterans may apply to correct their records.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday (January 17, 2023) “right now, we are not currently pursuing back-pay to service members who were dismissed for refusing to take the COVID vaccination.”

The Navy’s Take

Following a speech last week (January 11) at the Surface Navy Association annual symposium in Virginia, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro was asked about the impact the end of mandatory vaccination, the Navy League’s SEAPOWER website reported.

Before the 2023 legislation passed, Del Toro expressed concerns that a repeal of the vaccine mandate might lead to potential movement restrictions. “It will create almost two classes of citizens in our services – those that can’t deploy and those that can deploy,” he said on December 6.

Del Toro told reporters the Navy Department had followed Austin’s directive, but he expected additional guidance from the Pentagon.

Asked if he anticipated any short-term problems absent specific guidance, Del Toro said, “No, I think the majority of service members, across all services, quite frankly, get the COVID vaccination whether they’re told to, or not.”

“I suspect that a lot of people who wanted to leave the military, perhaps, did not go down that path [vaccination], so they could leave the military, perhaps before their contract expired,” Del Toro said.

January 17, 2023 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!

Still Cruising for 247 Years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR Blog posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako (Pronounced SHOCK-O) is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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

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

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).


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 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.


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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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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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 (January 22, 2021)

…Until the Paperwork’s Done.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Sergeant Chazz Kibler)

Soldiers in the Maryland Army National Guard use the backs of the soldiers in front of them to fill out medical paperwork to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the U.S. Capitol Complex in Washington, D.C., on January 14, 2021.

National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from all 50 states states traveled to the District to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20 of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th president.

More than 26,000 members of the National Guard were on the ground in Washington to assist D.C. and federal authorities through the inauguration festivities. In addition, 6,565 Guard members provided security at state capitals across the nation.

Maryland was among the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia to deploy Guardsmen and women in Washington, according to the National Guard Bureau. A platoon-sized element of approximately 30 Soldiers from Guam flew  7,900 miles to Washington to assist in the operation.

The Guard has supported presidential inaugurations since 1789 when local militia units took part in George Washington’s inaugural events in New York City. But this year’s inaugural assistance was the “most extensive ever,” the Bureau said.

January 21, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 18, 2020)

Changing Times.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Grace J. Kindred)

One of three female sergeants graduating from the Marine Drill Instructor School dons her felt DI campaign hat during a ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, on December 16, 2020.

At that ceremony, Sergeant Stephanie Fahl, Sergeant Ikea Kaufman and Sergeant. Stephanie Jordi, made Marine Corps history by becoming the first females to graduate from a gender-integrated drill instructor course at the 100-year-old recruit depot at San Diego.

Marching to the center of the stage, they received the signature felt drill instructor hat and recited the drill instructor’s creed penned in 1956, according to the Orange County Register.

“These recruits are entrusted to my care. I will train them to the best of my ability. I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, thoroughly indoctrinated in love of the Corps and country. I will demand of them and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality, and professional skill.”

In February, the three will again make history, the paper noted, by joining their male counterparts to train the first gender-integrated company of Marine recruits in the West Coast depot’s history. Traditionally, the San Diego recruit depot has trained only enlisted men from west of the Mississippi River. Male recruits from east of the Mississippi trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. But all women enlisting in the Corps have been shipped to Parris Island, no matter where they were from.

Beginning in 2019 the Corps started experimenting with gender-integrating boot camp companies at Parris Island, according to Marine Corps Times, In February the Corps will recreate those integrated companies in San Diego with roughly 60 women forming a platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, that will train alongside the male recruits, first reported.

Congress has pressed the Marines to train men and women together after all combat arms jobs opened to women and a high-profile scandal highlighted the troubling way some male Marines treated their female colleagues, noted. The requirement to end the practice of separate training by gender was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last December.

During drill instructor school, selected Marine non-commissioned officers develop leadership skills, master drill, meet physical fitness requirements and learn how to make Marines.

December 17, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 4, 2020)

A Different Mask for Work.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Drace Wilson)

Sailors fight a simulated fire during a general quarters drill aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Sterett. The Sterett is part of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and is conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

In the Navy, they take fires very seriously. At Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois — the Navy’s only enlisted boot camp –recruits are trained in firefighting as one of five basic competencies, which also include damage control, watch standing, seamanship and small-arms handling and marksmanship.

Just how serious was driven home in July when the amphibious assault ship, USS Bonhomme Richard, caught fire beside the pier at Naval Base San Diego, California and burned for four days. No lives were lost but the 22-year-old Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) was. It had been in San Diego since 2018 undergoing more than $250 million in modernization improvements.

On November 30, the Navy announced it had decided to decommission and scrap the Bonhomme Richard, according to SEAPOWER.

Navy Secretary Kenneth  Braithwaite and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday made the decision after the Navy completed a comprehensive material assessment and considered three possible outcomes.

Rear Admiral Eric H. Ver Hage, director of Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization at Naval Sea Systems Command, said rebuilding and repairing the Wasp-class amphibious assault vessel would have taken five to seven years and cost an estimated $2.5 billion to $3.2 billion.

Alternatively, rebuilding the ship as another type of ship — such as a hospital ship — would have taken five to seven years and cost more than $1 billion, more than a new alternative ship is estimated to cost, Ver Hage said.

Replacing the Bonhomme Richard with a new America-class (LHA 6) amphibious assault ship would take five to six years and cost an estimated $4.1 billion, he said.

December 3, 2020 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

VETERANS DAY, November 11, 2020

Remember the Veterans and their Families.

A soldier assigned to the Oklahoma National Guard walks with loved ones at an Army aviation facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after returning on October 19, from a yearlong deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

This Soldier is from Bravo Company, 834th Aviation Support Battalion, of the 90th Troop Command, Oklahoma Army National Guard. They returned from a 12-month deployment, where they provided support to another National Guard unit — the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade — from Minnesota.


(Oklahoma Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. C.T. Michael)

In May, on Memorial Day, America remembers the honored dead, those who gave their lives in this country’s wars since 1775.

U.S. Soldiers celebrate the Armistice near Remoiville, France in November 1918. (archival photo via the Fort Hood Sentinel)


But on Veterans Day every November, Americans honor the living who served or continue to serve in uniform. November 11 is the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I – the “War to End All Wars” — in 1918. Unfortunately, history has proven that was an overly optimistic term for what turned out to be the First World War.

After years of bloodshed in the 20th and early 21st centuries, we’d like to pause here to remember the sacrifice of all those who serve their country in both war and peace. Even far from a combat zone, many of them have risky jobs on aircraft carrier decks, in fast moving armored vehicles and high flying aircraft. There is hard work, as well as danger, in airplane hangars and  ships at sea. Depots and warehouses are stuffed with equipment and supplies that can blow up, burn, sicken or maim the humans working nearby.

We also don’t want to forget veterans from the Greatest Generation who are still with us, like 102-year-old Vivian Corbett, or Arthur Rinetti.

November 11, 2020 at 6:48 pm 3 comments

ARCTIC NATION: Russian Migs vs. U.S. Drone; A Dedicated U.S. Arctic Fleet? Marines End Year-Round Norway Presence; Canadian Ice Shelf Goes

Defense & Homeland Security.

Russia Says it Intercepted U.S. Arctic Drone.

Russia’s military claims three MiG-31s fighter jets intercepted a large U.S. drone over the Chukchi Sea — part of the Arctic Ocean — on August 11, according to Air Force magazine.

Air Force, Navy join in RPV training

An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data.  (Courtesy photo)

The remotely piloted aircraft — a Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk — remained in international territory and the MiGs, from the air defense forces of the Eastern Military District, returned to their bases when the U.S. drone changed directions without crossing into Russian airspace, according to state-run media, which also stated “the operation was performed in accordance with international law.”

The move comes just three weeks after the U.S. Air Force released its first-ever Arctic strategy, which acknowledges Russia’s efforts to militarize the region. Interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft are also on the increase, raising the potential for dangerous miscalculations, Air Force magazine noted. North American Aerospace Defense Command aircraft have intercepted Russian aircraft at least 10 times this year just off the coast of Alaska, with six of those intercepts taking place in June.

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Does U.S. Need a Dedicated Arctic Fleet?

U.S. interests in the Arctic Ocean might be better served by creating a dedicated fleet for the region, rather that dividing it up between the U.S. 2nd, 3rd and 6th Fleets, according to a Navy Arctic expert.

The Navy is “facing a time/space/force problem in the Arctic,” with too many other challenges around the world, says Dr. Walter Berbrick — associate professor at the Naval War College and director of its Arctic Studies Group. He says the shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean is drawing nations looking to reduce maritime transit time from one continent to another. Maritime commerce is expected to double over the next 20 years, Seapower magazine reported.


In the meantime, Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic — modernizing old air bases, installing air-defense missile batteries, increasing submarine activity and building polar icebreakers armed with cruise missiles.

China wants to use Arctic sea routes to gain access to ports in northern Europe for commercial reasons. But China is also increasing naval deployments away from home waters, says Berbrick, and it could extend them, eventually, to the Arctic — including by Chinese subs making transits to the North Pole.

By comparison. the U.S. Navy would need days or weeks to respond to a crisis in the Arctic, Berbrick says. With  responsibilities in the region divided among three different numbered fleets, he noted, with

“Perhaps we should think outside the box and create a new fleet, an Arctic fleet,” Berbrick told a July 16 webinar, sponsored by CNA, a think tank in Arlington. He added that a total Navy battle fleet sized more toward 400 ships rather than 355 would be needed, which would allow for a fleet “permanently” spread out across the region.

The commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet — whose ships have operated four times in the Arctic since the fleet was re-established two years ago — says there is no need for a new numbered fleet in the region. But Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis says an Arctic naval component command might be worth consideration,

“It an interesting viewpoint,” Lewis said August 4 when asked about Berbrick’s proposal. But “I don’t know that I would consider creating a numbered fleet for an Arctic fleet,” he added. “In the U.S. system, it’s another maneuver arm for the naval component,” he explained. “I don’t really own battlespace per se, as I own mission. If I’m given a mission, in the Arctic, or the North Atlantic or Western Atlantic or Southern Atlantic, I address that mission.”

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Marines Ending Year-Round Norway Rotation.

The U.S. Marine Corps is ending its year-round presence in Norway. Instead, the Marines will conduct more spread out and potentially larger deployments, Marine Corps Times reports.

Since 2017, Marines have deployed to Norway to participate in cold-weather exercises with Norwegian counterparts, to strengthen their skills for Arctic warfare, and provide a sizable U.S. presence near Russia.

Hope you don't mind if I turn up the heat

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 20.2  fire a TOW anti-tank missile in Setermoen, Norway, on June 29, 2020. MRF-E conducts various exercises, including arctic cold-weather and mountain-warfare training, as well as military-to-military engagements throughout Europe. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chase W. Drayer)

The new deployment cycle will be shorter and spaced out, attempting to line up deployments with Norwegian exercises and provide more flexibility within the Corps,  a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.

“Marines will deploy from the United States to Norway for shorter deployments in order to better synchronize their training with Norwegian forces and to allow for increased opportunities for large-scale exercises of Marine Corps tactical units,” the spokesman, Major AdrianRankine-Galloway said in the statement. “We are not drawing down and, at times, will have a greater number of Marines here than before, within the terms of the agreement between the United States and Norway.”

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Envoronment & Climate News.

Canada’s Last Full Ice Shelf Collapses.

The last fully complete ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the edge of Ellesmere Island, in the far northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. The ice shelf, researchers say, lost more than more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July.

Milne Ice shelf

Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic is seen in a NASA Operation IceBridge survey picture taken March 25, 2014. (NASA photo via Twitter)

“Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter when it announced the loss in earlier this month.

The only comparable formation, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, is larger but has already split into two separate sections. Over all, the ice shelf appears to have lost about 43 per cent of its total surface area. The largest piece to have broken away measures 55 square kilometer – nearly equal in area to the island of Manhattan.

The break up marks a turning point for the Arctic. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, it shows what lies in store for similar formations around the globe as a result of climate change.

The Arctic has been warming at two times the worldwide rate for the last 30 years. This year, temperatures in the polar area have been especially intense. The polar sea ice hit its lowest total amount for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have burned Siberian Russia, the VOA website noted.

Ellesmere Island was once bounded by extensive shelves that had melded into a single structure. At the beginning of the 20th Century, this covered 8,600 square kilometers (sq km). But by the turn of the millennium, a rapidly warming climate had reduced and segmented the floating ice cover to just 1,050 sq km, the BBC reported. Further break-up events in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2012, and now in 2020, mean the shelf area is currently under 500 sq km.

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USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 2013 U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

August 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 31, 2020)

Tanks for the Memory.

The Last Ride

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Patrick King)

With their turrets reversed, it’s hard to tell if this line of Marine Corps Abrams main battle tanks are coming or going. But make no mistake, these behemoths are definitely going — away, forever.

The official caption of this photo reads:

U.S. Marines with 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division, track through tank trails on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 27, 2020. For nearly 80 years, 2d Tank Battalion left the tank lot and would return after combat or training operations. This time, the tanks will not return. After serving 2d MARDIV for more than three quarters of a century, 2nd Tank Battalion will deactivate in accordance with the future redesign of the Marine Corps.

It isn’t just the 2nd MARDIV’s tanks that are going away. The Marine Corps is unloading all of its M1A1 Abrams tanks, M-88 Recovery Vehicles and Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges as part of the United States Marine Corps Force Design 2030 guidance published in March by General David  Berger, the Marine Corps commandant.

The 15-page document outlines a plan to modernize the Marine Corps in accordance with the National Defense Strategy, which pivots away from two decades of counter insurgency and special operations combat with terrorist groups around the world to Great Power competition with Russia and China. The Force re-design calls for a shift from big guns, tanks and infantry units to  rocket artillery batteries, light armored reconnaissance companies and unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons.

The Marine Corps will eventually divest of all three of its active tank battalions as it moves from a “second land army” back to its maritime roots of defending ships at sea, island-hopping and battling for contested coastlines, in preparation for potential conflict with near-peer adversaries such as China, according to Stars and Stripes in a July 30 article under the headline: A  farewell to armor.

July 31, 2020 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Robots, Droids & Drones: July 2020


Air Force/Skyborg

The U.S. Air Force is planning operational experiments in 2021 with new unmanned aerial system prototypes for the Skyborg program, National Defense Magazine report.

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that the Air Force says will enable it to operate and sustain low-cost, manned/unmanned teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries in contested environments.

skyborg concept design

A Skyborg conceptual design for a low cost Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. (Artwork courtesy of AFRL)

During this effort, the Air Force Research Lab will create prototypes of a suite of autonomy and unmanned system technologies, equipped with capabilities to support a range of Air Force missions.

The aim, according to National Defense, is to integrate attritable drone technologies with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming.

The autonomous platforms are expected to operate as robotic wingmen for manned aircraft, perform dangerous tasks and serve as low-cost force multipliers on the battlefield.

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Boeing’s carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

Later this year, Boeing’s unmanned aerial refueling test vehicle — the MQ-25 T1 — will  return to flight test later, with a U.S. Navy aerial refueling store, Seapower magazine reports.

The store was recently integrated under the wing of T1 during a planned modification. It is the same store currently carried by F/A-18 fighter jets that perform aerial refueling off aircraft carriers. MQ-25 will relieve F/A-18s of carrier-based aerial refueling, freeing up those assets to perform other missions.

The MQ-25 will be the U.S. Navy’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft. Boeing is under contract to manufacture seven aircraft that will subsequently go into Navy flight test.

When T1 returns to flight with the aerial refueling store, it will be under the control of Boeing air vehicle operators and monitored by a team of flight test engineers, including those from the Navy.

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How to Hide from Enemy Drones.

A new manual independently compiled by 11 seasoned U.S. Marines and veterans aims to provide guidance to ground troops seeking to avoid detection against a growing enemy threat: drones.

Published at the end of June, the 96-page guide proposes a standard operating procedure, or SOP, for Marines training for and operating in an environment where enemy drones, more formally known as unmanned aerial systems, are part of the terrain, according to the website.

The guide proposes code words Marines can use to signal that a UAS has been spotted; to tell the unit to camouflage itself; and to order an attack on the drone. It also offers detailed guidance on effective camouflage, building on existing practices such as covering a helmet with foliage and a vehicle with netting and adding in newer precautions such as heat signature masking.

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Schiebel Pacific and Raytheon Australia have teamed up for the Australian Army’s LAND 129 Phase 3 project to replace its Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).


CAMCOPTER_S-100_195 Land129 Phase 3 Australia (Photo courtesy Schiebel)

The teaming pairs the Austrian unmanned aircraft maker’s Camcopter S-100 with Raytheon Australia, a prime systems integrator across multiple domains. Together, the companies will deliver a solution that provides a highly capable, low risk offering that is intended to establish an enduring sovereign TUAS capability, according to a Schiebel press release.

Project Land 129 Phase 3 (L129-3) will replace and enhance the existing Shadow 200 v1 TUAS capability operated by 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment (20 STA Regt), according to the Australian Department of Defense. The project will grow the capability to provide a third sub-unit and provide an enduring capability effect that enables 24/7 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage in two separate focal areas. The TUAS capability should integrate with existing and future in-service systems in order to disseminate information and intelligence to the supported Land Commander


July 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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