Posts tagged ‘Afghanistan’

FRIDAY FOTO (July 28, 2017)

Desert Encounter.

FRIFO 7-28-2017 Stryker Apache

(U.S. Army photo by Private First Class Austin Anyzeski)

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, flies over a simulated enemy armored vehicle during an engagement at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California in the Mojave Desert. The “engagement” is part of an exercise to challenge the Brigade’s ability to defend against a near-peer opposing force. In other words, fighting another nation’s military rather than insurgents or terrorists. The photo was taken July 1, 2017.

To see the kind of training they do at this National Training Center, click here to see a short (3:23 minute) video with no narration. Or click here for a narrated 20:00 minute video.

July 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

AIRCRAFT: The Close Air Support Debate

Supersonic Swiss Army Knife Vs. Flying Tank.

Here is a photo of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America’s newest fighter/bomber and the most expensive military acquisition program in U.S. history.

f-35a-lightning-ii_008-ts600

A Fifth Generation Fighter with a host of targeting and surveillance sensors, the Lockheed Martin F-35 was develop[ed with the ability – depending on the variant – to fly off an aircraft carrier or take off and land vertically on an amphibious ship or tiny airstrip. Some have called this multi-role aircraft a flying Swiss Army knife because of its advanced integrated avionics and next generation radar-evading stealth technology. It is also a flying intelligence platform with enormous processing power and sophisticated sensors.

The F-35, officially known as the Lightning II, has a range of capabilities including: air-to-air combat; close air support; ground attack and intelligence gathering for joint and coalition irregular warfare operations, as well as major combat ops.

The next photo is the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Sporting the latest 1970s technology, it was built to blow up Soviet tanks in Cold War battles that never happened.  Better known as the “Warthog,” for its homely appearance, punishment-absorbing air frame and ferocious attack capabilities, the hog has won the respect of pilots and the love of ground troops in deployments from Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan and currently against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

A-10 Warthog

The single seat, twin engine jet’s sturdy airframe and fearsome armament, including a 30-milimeter, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Gatling gun, have led some to call it a flying tank. But those features made it ideal for delivering close air support to troops on the ground.

Because of congressionally-mandated budget constraints, the U.S. Air Force has been trying, since 2014, to retire the approximately 300 remaining A-10s. The cost of maintaining and upgrading the 40-year-old Warthogs threatened funding for the F-35 and two other top priority Air Force programs: the long range strike bomber and a new aerial refueling tanker. The Pentagon said the Air Force could save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the A-10 fleet rather than upgrading it. Instead, said then- Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh — himself a former A-10 pilot — the  F-35 could handle the A-10’s single mission of close air support.

But the A-10’s very vocal supporters in Congress, like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), disputed that claim. They maintained the F-35, flying at Mach 1.6 (approximately 1,200 mph), moved too fast to loiter over a battlefield, while its lighter 25-milimeter canon only carried 182 rounds in the Air Force variant ( 220 rounds in the Navy and Marine Corps versions), compared to the Warthog’s 1,100-round capacity.

General Electric GAU-8/A

A size comparison of the GE GAU-8 Gatling gun, used on A-10 Thunderbolt II, and a Volkswagen Beetle. (U.S. Air Force photo via wikipedia)

Other advocates argued the A-10 could also fly combat search and rescue and surveillance missions. McCain noted in a white paper that funding constraints led the Air Force to slow procurement to a maximum 48 aircraft a year between Fiscal years 2018 and 2022. He has called for buying 300 “low-cost, light-attack fighters” to bridge the gap. The Air Force plans to test light attack aircraft at the OA-X demonstration this summer at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The Air Force also says it will not begin retiring the A-10 fleet before 2021, but Congress put language in the latest defense authorization bill barring the Air Force from parking the A-10s until it proves the F-35 can take over the close air support role.

To learn more, visit the Close Air Support Summit 2017 page on the IDGA website.

April 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 8, 2016)

Danger Zone.Engine is go

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Zachary Wolf.

The spinning propeller of this U.S. Air Force Super Tucano forms a perfect pair of circles but the sign painted on the tarmac in front of its shelter indicates the risk of getting to close.

The A-29 Super Tucano , manufactured by Brazil’s Embraer, is a single engine turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter insurgency, close air support and aerial reconnaissance missions.The aircraft is also used for training pilots.

This A-29 is with the 81st Fighter Squadron based at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The squadron conducts combat training for Afghan air force pilots and maintainers in the aircraft.

Under a U.S.-funded $427 million contract, a total of 20 A-29s are going to the Afghan Air Force with the last to be delivered to Afghanistan by 2018, according to the Military.com website.

The Pentagon said A-29s manned by Afghan pilots trained in the U.S. conducted the first close air support missions by  the fledgling Afghan Air Force on April 14 , according to Military.com.

To see a video of the Super Tucano in action, click here.

July 8, 2016 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.

160330-F-YT673-465

Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.

At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First Afghan Drone; U.S. Navy Foreign Sales Plan; China Drones in Africa

Afghan Scan Eagle.

ScanEagle

The Afghan military could be flying its first unarmed surveillance drone as early as March, according to a U.S. commander in Kabul, Reuters reports.

The NATO-led military alliance will provide the remotely piloted Insitu ScanEagle aircraft, and will train Afghan soldiers to operate the system, said Major General Gordon Davis, commander of the unit that procures new equipment for the Afghans, Reuters said.

*** *** ***

Navy Plans Foreign Sales.

Insitu’s RQ-21 Blackjack drone, now being flown by the Marine Corps, is among the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) the U.S. Navy says it will offer for foreign sales.

Reporting from the Singapore Air Show, Defense News, says the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, a small unmanned helicopter, and Northrop Grumman’s high flying MQ-4C Triton, a large-scale maritime surveillance aircraft, will be among the UAS available to foreign military customers.

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Nigerian Drones from China?

For African governments facing tight defense budgets and chronic security threats, Chinese military equipment has great appeal, particularly as it often comes as part of a broader package of trade and investment, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Ten African nations have started buying equipment from China within the last 10 years, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Angola and Nigeria.

And armed drones may be among the military equipment Nigeria is buying. In January 2015, photos of an armed drone that had crashed in a field in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno found their way onto the Internet. A second crash was reported in June. The drone was identified as a CH-3, an armed version of earlier drones built by China Aerospace Science and Technology, a vast state-owned enterprise employing more than 170,000 people.

February 18, 2016 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 5, 2016)

Black Widow Falcon.

421st EFS 'Black Widows' provide combat airpower

Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Robert Cloys

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brad Hunt taxis to the runway in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, February 1, 2016.

From this angle one can see how far out ahead of the wings the pilot sits. One can also see the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the background.

Hunt is a pilot assigned to the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. Known as the “Black Widows,” the 421st EFS began a six-month deployment in Afghanistan October 28, 2015.

 

February 5, 2016 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

AIR FORCE: Report Says Pentagon Rethinking Attack Plane’s Retirement

Warthog Reprieve.

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint bArmy-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint Army-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

According to a published report, the U.S. Air Force is halting immediate plans to retire the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet — which is playing a major role in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The website, Defense One, reports Pentagon officials are saying plans to retire the heavily armored Cold War era jet known as the Warthog, have been put on hold. This policy shift will be laid out next month when the Pentagon submits its 2017 budget request to Congress, Pentagon officials told Defense One, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the spending plan before its official release.

The Air Force has been trying to eliminate the 40-year-old aircraft since 2014, because of budget constraints which threaten funding for newer aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the planned long range strike bomber. Officials say the A-10 — called the Warthog because of its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament — is obsolete and vulnerable to modern air defense missile systems and fifth generation fighter jets.

They also said multi-role fighters like the F-35 could handle the Warthog’s main mission: close air support of ground troops. That claim is strongly denied by Warthog advocates, who include former A-10 pilots, members of Congress and Army and Marine veterans who say they were saved from being overrun in Afghanistan by the A-10’s fearsome Gatling Gun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

Supporters say high speed fighter jets cannot linger over a battle zone and provide covering fire for an extended period of time like the low and slow-flying Warthog has. The photo above shows the A-10’s big gun (like a fat cigar clenched in its tiger shark teeth) the seven-barrel, rotating 30 milimeter GAU cannon. The gun, with a firing rate of over 4,000-rounds per minute, enables “hogs” to support ground troops by taking out enemy tanks and armored vehicles with its armor-piercing shells.

January 13, 2016 at 11:35 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 25, 2015)

The Force Is Still Strong.

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergean. Robert Cloys

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergean. Robert Cloys

In a war zone far, far away, U.S. service members cheer and clap before they get to see the first showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on December 22.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service partnered with Walt Disney Studios to give troops a chance to see the movie at a deployed location.

Lately, the news from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Paris, San Bernardino and elsewhere around the world has been just awful during what is supposed to be a season of joy and peace. We thought this light moment in a dangerous place –notice the M-16s– might bring you some Christmas cheer.

Here at 4GWAR, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season … and may the force be with you.

December 25, 2015 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Troops Staying in Afghanistan; Going to Cameroon

It Ain’t Over Yet.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday (October 15) that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will not be going down anytime soon.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp

Obama said the  policy shift is necessary because Afghan security forces aren’t ready to defend their country by themselves while the Taliban insurgency is on the rise again, especially in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is sending 300 U.S. service members to the west African nation of Cameroon to conduct drone surveillance of the violent extremist group Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in the region.

Flanked by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vice President Joe Biden at a short White House briefing, Obama announced the current force strength level of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will continue through 2016. In 2017, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will shrink to 5,500 — still far more than the embassy protection force previously envisioned by administration planners.

Those 5,500 troops, to be based in a few locations around the country — including Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south. They

Afghanistan (Map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War)

Afghanistan
(Map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War)

will continue their current two-part mission of training Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations, Obama said. The advising and training will have a special emphasis on Afghanistan’s elite counterterrorism forces, according to the Washington Post. “The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States,” the Post said.

“Afghanistan is a key piece in the network of counter terrorism partnerships we need from South Asia to Africa to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland,” Obama said. The so called Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) has emerged as a threat in Afghanistan and Boko Haram leaders have pledged allegiance to the extremely violent group, which wants to establish a Islamic caliphate through out the Middle East and Africa. It already controls large areas of Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. troops going to Cameroon were invited by that country’s government as part of a larger international effort to stop the spread of violent extremists in West Africa, a U.S. defense official told the Voice of America news site.

The need for international action has become “more urgent as Boko Haram and other organizations ramped up their violent activities,” the official added.

The violent extremist group has been active in northern Cameroon, which is across the border from its home base of northeastern Nigeria.

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(Map: CIA World Factbook)

In a letter to Congress Wednesday (October 14), Obama said 90 military personnel had already deployed to Cameroon ahead of the arrival of additional troops “to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region”.

“The total number of U.S. military personnel to be deployed to Cameroon is anticipated to be up to approximately 300,” Obama said, according to the Al Jazeera website. “These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” Obama said.

October 15, 2015 at 10:46 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 2, 2015)

Blue Water Raiders.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Tyler C. Gregory

Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Tyler C. Gregory

Marines and sailors slice through the waters off southern California in rigid hull inflatable boats (RIB) from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans to conduct an exercise known as visit, board, search and seizure. They were heading for a simulated enemy vessel on September 23 near San Clemente Island.

The Marines and sailors are with the Maritime Raid Force of  the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.  This was the first at-sea exercise for these troops  preparing for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility in early 2016.

To see more photos of this exercise, click here.

Editor’s Note: 

We inadvertently failed to post this week’s Friday Foto on Friday and did not notice the error until just after midnight Friday/Saturday.

Our apologies to loyal readers who’ve been kept waiting.

 

October 3, 2015 at 12:06 am Leave a comment

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