Posts tagged ‘China’

HOMELAND SECURITY: About That Big Ballooon …


By now, you’ve probably heard about the enormous Chinese high-altitude “weather” balloon that an Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down off the South Carolina coast February 4, after U.S. authorities determined: 1. It was a surveillance craft, 2. scoping out U.S. defense facilities in Montana and elsewhere across the heartland, 3. in violation of international law, 4. and shooting it down over land would endanger American lives and property.

F-22 Raptor over Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia on December 9, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergean. Marcus M. Bullock)

However, we noted in a February 6 briefing about the event — which roiled already difficult U.S-Chinese relations — Air Force General Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, disclosed that the flight of two F-22s sent to bring down the balloon, had the call sign Frank 01. And the second, backup flight of Raptors, used call sign Luke 01.

The call sign name choice wasn’t random. Lieutenant Frank Luke was a World War pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for his relentless attacks against observation balloons ringed by anti-aircraft guns and guarded by German aircraft.

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. with his SPAD S.XIII on September 19, 1918 near Rattentout Farm, France.


A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Luke was the Number 2 U.S. air ace in World War I (after the better known Captain Eddie Rickenbacker). In just a few short weeks in 1918, Luke shot down eight German planes and 14 enemy observation balloons. His head-on attacks on the hydrogen-filled, heavily guarded balloons earned him the nickname the “Arizona Balloon Buster,” as we noted in an October 4, 2018 posting on 4GWAR blog.

Luke was killed in his final attack on a line of balloons on September 29, 1918 — destroying three — before being mortally wounded by ground fire. He landed his plane but refused to surrender to surrounding German troops, firing his handgun at them until he succumbed to his wound.

“So how fitting is it that Frank 01 took down this balloon in sovereign air space of the United States of America within our territorial waters,” General VanHerck noted.

February 7, 2023 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 16, 2022)


(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Averi Rowton) Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Members of the U.S. 2d Marine Division light a Small Unit Expeditionary stove at their campsite during the NATO Cold Weather Instructor Course (NCWIC) in Setermoen, Norway on November 24, 2022.

Here at 4GWAR Blog we were struck by this photo,  which reminds us of the 17th Century Italian painter Caravaggio, one of the early masters of chiaroscuro, the art of using light and dark to create the illusion of three-dimensional volume on a flat surface. The term translates to “light-dark” — chiaro meaning bright or clear and scuro meaning dark or obscure, in Italian.

NCWIC is designed to develop Marines and other service members to be instructors of cold weather survival training in preparation for future deployments in the harsh environment of the High North regions. NATO is increasing its attention to the region, in response to the Russian war with Ukraine, Moscow’s military buildup in the Arctic and China’s expanding reach, declaring itself a “near Arctic state”  and planning a “Polar Silk Road” linking China to Europe via the Arctic, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

December 16, 2022 at 12:43 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 19, 2021)

Yellow Sky.

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

Marines with the Light Armored Reconnaissance Company of the 4th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, tend their Light Armored Vehicle (LAV-25) during Exercise Iron Sky 21.2 on Wake Island, November 6, 2021.

Iron Sky demonstrated joint integration and operational mobility with the U.S. Air Force 62nd Airlift Wing and other units. The exercise allowed the Marines to fine-tune expeditionary airfield security operations.

The Marines have been using the amphibious, eight-wheeled reconnaissance and assault vehicle since the 1980s, and now they’re in the market for a replacement – the  Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle.

In the shift from two decades of fighting in the deserts, mountains and towns of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines are returning to their amphibious roots as part of Navy’s plan to create a highly mobile, dispersed force to counter China’s area-denial, anti-access capabilities in the Western Pacific.

The Marine Corps has shed its Abrams battle tanks and most of its heavy artillery for mobile, long range rocket and missile systems that will create a persistent — but mobile — force of small units on key islands and choke points that could knock out enemy ships from a great distance, creating their own anti-access zone. The concept is known as expeditionary advanced base operations or EABO.

Wake Island has a long history in the defense of strategic points in the Pacific. A undermanned Marine Corps defense battalion and a handful of Marine aviators (aided by hundreds of civilian contractors) held off invading Japanese troops from December 8 to December 23, sinking two destroyers and a submarine, downing 21 Japanese planes and inflicting more than 1,000 casualties — including 900 dead — before being overwhelmed. The failed Japanese landing on December 11 marked one of the few times in World War II (on either side) that an amphibious assault was repulsed. That first victory was also the first U.S. tactical success in the war, boosting morale as seen in this movie trailer for Wake Island (1942).

November 19, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: B-2 Bombers in Iceland: Chinese Warships Near Alaska; MQ-9 tested Over Canadian Arctic

Stealth Bombers.

U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have ended a two-and-a-half-weeks deployment in Iceland, operating from Keflavik Air Base, where they trained with U.S., British and Norwegian fighter jets. The first-of-its-kind deployment reflects the U.S. military’s increased focus on the High North, according to Business Insider.

Three B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived at Keflavik on August 23 for a Bomber Task Force deployment. For the bombers that has meant more short-term deployments overseas or non-stop flights to and from distant regions for training.

Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, arrive at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, August 23, 2021. The stealth bombers took part in their first ever forward operation out of Iceland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel)

The B-2s trained with U.S. and British fighter jets over the North Sea in late August and early September. On September 8 they trained with Norwegian F-35s over the North Sea in an “advanced mission designed to test escort procedures, stand-off weapon employment and the suppression and destruction of air defenses,” according to the Air Force.

The bombers returned to Missouri on September 11, after conducting more than a dozen multinational missions.

In a September 20 statement, the Air Force said Keflavik Air Base had served as a new launch point for short-notice bomber task force missions to Europe.

In 2019, the B-2 completed a stop-and-go “hot pit” refueling at Keflavik, but “this is the first time the B-2 has operated continuously from Iceland,” Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Howard, the commander of the 110th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said in a statement.

The U.S. military has invested millions of dollars to improve infrastructure at Keflavik, which was prominent in allied operations during the Cold War but faded in importance in subsequent years, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

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USCG Encounters Chinese Warships Near Alaska.

The People’s Republic of China is located more than a thousand miles from the Arctic but Beijing like to style itself a “Near Arctic Nation.”

Just how seriously China takes its interests at the top of the world came into focus in August w hen two U.S. Coast Guard cutters observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast.

While the PLAN ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters, according to SEAPOWER. The PLAN task force included a guided-missile cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

The encounter came during a deployment of the national security cutters, Bertholf and Kimball, to the Bering Sea and the Arctic region.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”


Big Drone Over Canada.

In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said September 10.

Long endurance drones like the MQ-9 have been unable to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, because many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north, SEAPOWER reported.

At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” Unmanned Aerial System flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. (General Atomics photo)

The flight over Haig-Thomas Island, in the Canadian Arctic, demonstrated the UAS’s flexibility by operating at very high latitudes. The flight, which took off on Sept. 7 and returned to the FTTC on Sept. 8, was conducted with cooperation from the Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Canada and Nav Canada.

Covering 4,550 miles in 25.5 hours, it was one of the longest-range flights ever flown by a company MQ-9. The flight was performed under an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate and a Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate.

As global warming melts Arctic Ocean ice pack, leaving more open water for transit by Chinese and Russian ships, Washington is looking for new ways to keep an eye on the frigid region. One possibility: unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that keep watch from above, the Flight Global website observed.

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Nuclear submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

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

September 23, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 25, 2021)

Peaceful Scene on a Sea of Troubles.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rawad Madanat)

The U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the South China Sea on June 15, 2021 with the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).

Reagan, part of Task Force 70/Carrier Strike Group 5, conducting maritime security operations, flight operations, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units while in the South China Sea, according to the Navy.

The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the United States, according to al Jazeera, with Washington rejecting what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

In a show of force against the Chinese claims, U.S. warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years, invoking freedom of navigation rights.

June 25, 2021 at 12:36 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Guadalcanal Redux?; Congress Honors Merrill’s Marauders; RIP Ed Bearrs

The Next Pacific War.

The challenge a peer competitor like China poses for the U.S. military in a future conflict across the Indo-Pacific region bears striking similarities to the war between the United States and the Empire of Japan in the same battlespace more than 75 years ago. And two top Marine Corps planners say American forces today have to prepare for a fight unlike anything they’ve seen since the Gulf War, your 4GWAR editor writes in Seapower magazine.

The United States pursued a two-pronged offensive across the central and southwest Pacific to roll back the Japanese advance. (Image: The National WWII Museum.)

Like the Marines who landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942, today’s Marines will face the same sweeping distances of the world’s largest ocean, on scattered, remote islands of steaming jungle or barren volcanic rock. As in the early days of World War II, U.S. naval and Marine forces will have to deal with vulnerable supply lines, and sea, air and cyberspace contested by one of the largest and best armed militaries in the world. That’s the framework for the next conflict,” Major General Gregg Olson, director of the Marine Corps Staff, told the virtual Modern Day Marine Exposition on Sept. 23.

Japan in 1941 was a near-peer adversary of the United States, with advanced technology, expansionist policies and a bullying attitude toward neighboring countries, Olson, notes.  While the foes and times have changed “the concepts and realities of war in the vast distances that occur in the Pacific remain the same,” he added.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F4F Wildcat fighters lined up on Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, January 1943. (National Archives)

Victory on Guadalcanal and the rest of the Pacific came “at the cost of capital ships and thousands of lives,” Olson pointed out. Another speaker at Modern Day Marine, Major General Paul Rock, director of Marine Corps  Strategies and Plans, said high casualties could be likely again. “Attrition is going to be a factor in a future fight,” Rock said.

While that may prove true, the Marines are not resigned to taking the same heavy casualties they suffered in the Pacific island-hopping campaign of World War II, General David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, insisted a day later at a State of the Marine Corps event livestreamed by the Defense One website.

For a closer look into Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign click here and for an even deeper dive (if you like historical records)  click here. It’s all your tax dollars at work.

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Remembering Merrill’s Marauders.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill September 22 that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the famed World War II special operations Army unit, the 5307th Composite Unit, better known as Merrill’s Marauders.

The Senate passed a version of the bill late last year, and supporters say they expect President Donald Trump will sign the legislation, the newspaper Stars and Stripes reports. Created as a long range, light infantry unit trained in jungle warfare, the 5307th, code-named Galahad, was tasked with penetrating deep into Japanese-held territory to disrupt communications, cut supply lines and capture an airfield.

Merrill’s Marauders crossing Tanai River, Burma, on March 18, 1944  with pack animals. (U.S. Army photo)

The volunteer unit was formed in 1943, with more than 900 jungle-trained officers and men from Caribbean Defense Command, 600 Army veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign, a few hundred more from Southwest Pacific Command, veterans of the New Guinea and Bougainville campaigns, and another 900 jungle-trained troops from Army Ground Forces stateside. Fourteen Japanese-American (Nisei) Military Intelligence Service translators were also assigned to the unit. In just five months in 1944, the Marauders fought often larger Japanese forces in 32 engagements including five major battles across some of the toughest conditions of the war: the disease-infested jungles of Burma and the rugged foothills of the Himalayas. “I fought in World War II, in Korea in the Pork Chop Hill sector and did two combat tours in Vietnam. But the worse fighting I experienced was in Burma with Merrill’s Marauders,” said Gilbert Howland, 96, one of eight still living members of the nearly 3,000-man outfit.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, then-Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China. In their final mission, the Marauders were ordered to push enemy forces out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma, according to Military Times.

Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, commander of “Merrill’s Marauders,” poses between Japanese-American interpreters, Tech/Sergeant Herbert Miyasaki and Tech/Sergeant Akiji Yoshimura in Burma, May 1, 1944. (National Archives and Records Administration.)

Weakened by disease, malnourishment and enemy attacks during the march, the Marauders, effective force dwindled to 1,500. However, the reduced numbers of the 5307th were still able to take the airfield on May 17, 1944, but the nearby town of Myitkyina proved to have a larger Japanese garrison than intelligence reports indicated. It was only with Chinese reinforcements that the town fell to Allied troops on August 3. After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat.

Distinctive Unit Insignia of the 75th Ranger Regiment

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia. Considered a forerunner of today’s Special Operations troops, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s distinctive unit insignia honors the legacy of the Marauders by replicating the design of their shoulder shoulder sleeve insignia.





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Ed Bearrs: Leatherneck, Civil War Historian.

We recently learned that respected Civil War historian Ed Bearrs passed away on September 15 at the age of 97. Among historians, military students and Civil War buffs Bearrs was highly regarded, especially for his guided tours of historic battlefields. But he is probably best known as one of the historians explaining the War Between the States on the landmark 1990 PBS documentary, “The Civil War,” by Ken Burns.

Ed Bearrs in Ken Burns’ landmark documentary “The Civil War” on PBS.

One thing we didn’t know here at 4GWAR until we started reading the obituaries and recollections of Bearrs’ long career was that he was a World War II veteran, a Marine severely wounded by machine gun fire in early 1944 on the island of New Britain.

Bearrs spent 26 months in military hospitals recovering from his wounds at a place fellow Marines dubbed Suicide Creek. Numerous surgeries saved his shattered arms but he was left with permanent nerve damage that affected his dexterity. Following his discharge from the Marines in 1946, Bearrs went to college on the GI Bill, earning a bachelors degree at Georgetown University and and a master’s degree in history from Indiana University.

He  began working for the National Park Service in 1955 at Vicksburg National Military Park, where he served as the park historian. While there he was instrumental in locating the resting place of the Union gunboat Cairo. He was also a tour guide of historic battlefields for The Smithsonian Associates and served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994. In 1995, after his retirement, he was named Chief Historian Emeritus, a position he held until his death. But he was best known for his dramatic commentary on Civil War battles in the 1990 PBS documentary, that sparked renewed interest in the Civil War.

Corporal Ed Bearrs, USMC with Purple Heart medal.

Bearss wrote numerous books and articles about the Civil War, including a three-volume history of the Vicksburg campaign. Bearss started interpretative tours as part of his official duties in Vicksburg. Even after he was promoted and became heavily involved in battlefield preservation efforts across the country, Bearrs kept giving tours as an avocation on weekends. He attracted ROTC classes, active-duty military officers and VIPs — and other historians.

The Civil War Preservation Trust created the Ed Bearss Award for achievements in historic preservation and made him the first recipient in 2001. Other awards and honors include: the 1962 Harry S Truman Award for Meritorious Service in the field of Civil War History; Distinguished Service Award from the Department of the Interior in 1983 and the American Battlefield Trust’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.


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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.

September 26, 2020 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Annual SOFIC Conference Goes Virtual

Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.


Multi-national commandos participate in a special operations demonstration at 2014 the NDIA Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The massive, annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida — like many large scale conferences and expos this year — turned virtual because of the restrictions placed on travel and large gatherings by the coronavirus pandemic.

Your 4GWAR editor has gone to several of them in recent years (see photo above) but, like every other visitor, speaker, exhibitor this year took to the internet to see live-streamed presentations by top leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

SOCOM commander, Army General Richard Clarke explained, in one session streamed from Tampa — home to SOCOM headquarters —  how special operators who have been battling violent extremist organizations (VEOs) groups for decades now have a role to play in the Great Power Competition with Russia and China, according to Seapower  magazine’s website.

“Going after the VEOs is not mutually exclusive to competing with great powers,” Clarke said, he added that the capabilities required of Special Ops forces fighting terrorists in places like Asia and the Pacific serve a dual purpose. “By being there, we are also countering great nation states,” he added.

This dual role has implications for the defense industry, Clarke said. “No longer can we just build counter-VEO capabilities that serve a single purpose. As we look at the precision, lethality and mobility requirements as examples, we absolutely have to develop them so they can compete and win with Russia and China, but they could also work in a counter VEO fight,” he added.

But Clarke also said countering violent extremist groups was a generational issue and would remain the number one priority for U.S. special operators. He explained that allies, partners and maintaining alliances will be an integral part of addressing near-peer rivals in the future.

“Great power competition is about influence” and American special operators have a “unique role” to play in this through presence, partnerships and training, Clarke explained, according to Military Times.

May 14, 2020 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 25, 2019)

America’s Team.

2019 CISM Military World Games Opening Ceremonies

(U.S. Defense Department photo by EJ Hersom)

The U.S. Armed Forces team marches during opening ceremonies on October 18, 2019 for the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China. Teams from more than 100 countries are competing in dozens of sporting events through October 28.

Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, paratroopers (red berets) and one lone Coast Guardsman march behind Old Glory as they enter the opening ceremonies at this global competition. Can you spot the Coastie? Hint: He’s wearing a white hat (or cover, as they call it).

For more photos and videos on the U.S. team, click here and here.

October 25, 2019 at 3:08 am Leave a comment

DROIDS & DRONES: Medical Supply Test; Euro Drone Swarms; More Pumas for DHS

Testing Medical Supply Drones.

The U.S. Marine Corps, in conjunction with California drone maker Zipline, has been testing unmanned aircraft as combat zone delivery systems for medical supplies.

Zipline partnered with the Defense Department and Naval Medical Research Center to deploy its drones during four multinational military exercises in Australia this past summer (July 30 to September 5). Zipline made more than 400 deliveries, including mock blood resupplies to shock trauma platoons, MSNBC reported.

The Defense Department’s innovation unit came to the drone company because of its success transporting medical supplies by drone in the African countries of Rwanda and Ghana.

Zipline drone parachute

A Zipline drone-delivered package carrying three units of blood drifts to the ground. (Photo: courtesy Zipline).

The autonomous, fixed wing, catapult-launched drones made hundreds of deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in small parachute bundles dropped at their destinations. All told, they flew 461 day and night sorties and made 381 drops. It was the first time a U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force had incorporated autonomous drone delivery into their high availability, disaster recovery planning, according to the Defense One website.

It was not the first time the Marines have used drones for cargo delivery. Two unmanned K-MAX helicopters flew nearly 1,000 cargo missions in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2015. The Marines are still using the K-MAXes, which are currently being fitted with more autonomous capabilities. However, the Zipline drones offer a new realm of delivery options compared to a 3-ton K-MAX helicopter. The relatively small, fixed-wing Zipline drones, with a wingspan of around seven feet and a payload of just 4.5 pounds, can’t fly as fast or carry as much as the K-Max. But they are easier to load and operate, allowing them to make a lot more drops than the K-MAX, according to Defense One.

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Navy’s China Lake is expanding for future weapons, drones.

Despite two major earthquakes that struck California’s China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in early July, the Navy is moving ahead with expansion plans at the massive facility to accommodate new and future weaponry, including unmanned aerial vehicles,

The Navy has acquired more than 33,00 acres of public lands abutting China Lake’s  South Range, which houses the Weapons Division’s electronic warfare range complex.  The expansion would boost operations at China Lake’s vast land range complex by 25 percent, reports  U.S. Naval Institute News.

China Lake, 150 miles north of Los Angeles, is the Navy’s largest single landholding. Its vast weapons ranges and laboratories support a significant amount of military weapons research, development, testing and operations, according to USNI News.

However, it’s also in a seismically active region. The major earthquakes that struck on July 5 caused more than $4 billion in damages to facilities and infrastructure that affect some operations and will take years to restore.

Gremlins DARPA concept art

DARPA Gremlins program concept art. (Courtesy DARPA)

Among the operations affected was an initial demonstration flight for an air-launch-and-recovered swarming drone concept that had been planned for September. Dynetics, Inc., a science and technology firm based in Alabama, expected its initial flight test of the Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) to occur last month. The test of the small, reusable unmanned vehicles operating with a C-130 transport aircraft is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program under a $38.6 million contract for the demonstration phase, USNI NEWS reported.

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Europeans to study self learning drone swarms.

A European consortium is pitching the idea of training intelligent drone swarms to confuse, disable and destroy an enemy’s air defenses.

The proposal is part of the Prepartory Action on Defence Research effort by the European Union to improve collaboration on drones among member states. Participating countries are Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Austria.

The idea behind “SEAD Swarm” — which stands for “suppresion of enemy air defenses” — is to create necessary algorithms that would enable a mass of aerial drones to inspect the characteristics of air defense systems, distribute the information within the swarm and derive a plan of attack against weak points, according to Defense News. Actions taken could include blinding radar sensors, overwhelming anti-aircraft fire with kamikaze-type tactics, or attacking sites with explosive or electronic-warfare payloads.

If adopted by the EU, Defense News said, participating countries of would detail military officials to an advisory board to help ensure the planned simulations reflect real-world combat situations.

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Pentagon: Chinese drones for target practice only

The Pentagon says Chinese-manufactured drones it purchased months after their use was prohibited because of cybersecurity concerns are being used only as “targets” and are not being deployed with elite U.S. forces on missions.

Last month an investigation by the VOA website revealed the U.S. Air Force and the Navy had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on drones made by market-leader Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) for some of the military’s most sensitive and secretive operators — including the Air Force’s only special tactics wing and Navy SEAL teams.

In each case, the Pentagon said, the services used special exemptions granted by the the Defense Department’s acquisition and sustainment office “on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs.”

Many in Congress the Pentagon’s continued use of Chinese-manufactured drones as a possible security leak risk. Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee also included a provision in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act banning the use of Chinese-made drones.

Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters October 18 that her office wrote the waivers in order to use the drones “on ranges in highly controlled conditions,” to test the U.S. military’s counterdrone capabilities.

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Border Patrol Drone Contract to AeroVironment

The U.S. Border Patrol has awarded a $5.25 million firm fixed-price contract award for AeroVironment Puma 3  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and support equipment.

Delivery is anticipated by January, 2020 for the man-portable, fixed wing UAS, which is designed for land and maritime operations.

PUMA Border Patrol

The U.S. Border Patrol, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, will use the man-launched Puma 3 AE small unmanned aircraft system to extend its reach to remote border areas. (Photo courtesy AeroVironment)

Easy to transport, deploy and operate, the Puma system can be launched from anywhere, at any time, and requires no additional infrastructure, such as runways or launch devices.  The AeroVironment Puma flies for hours in the most extreme environments while producing high-resolution, continuous or on-demand spot surveillance of critical land and sea border areas at any time of the day or night.

October 24, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Homeland Security Priorities in the Arctic UPDATE

Falling Behind.

UPDATE: Adds 6 new paragraphs at the end, to detail testimony on how the United States is falling behind other Arctic nations in asserting its role and status as an Arctic power. 

The American people and their leaders need to wake up to the fact that the United States is an Arctic Nation before it loses control of its commercial, environmental and strategic  interests in the rapidly warming — and developing — region, a panel of experts told a congressional subcommittee Thursday (September 19)

USS Comstock Arrives in Seward, Alaska to continue AECE

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock transits the Gulf of Alaska headed for Seward, Alaska during Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

Changing climate reduces polar sea ice and opens up access to untapped natural resources as well as maritime trade routes across the top of the globe — including Alaskan waters. And many nations, including Russia and China, which have both identified increased presence in the Arctic as a strategic priority, are moving faster than the United States to take advantage of the changing situation.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic  holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas. Russia, one of five nations that border the Arctic Ocean, has seen a five-fold increase in commercial activity along its Northern Sea Route. It has invested heavily in building ice breaker ships, and at more than 50, has the largest ice breaker fleet in the world

Meanwhile, China — which recently declared itself a “near Arctic state,” even though it is located nearly 1,000 miles from the region — is moving to take advantage of the commercial opportunities in the Arctic’s warming waters. It, too has an ice breaker construction plan, and is investing strategically in economic activity like liquid natural gas drilling in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Beijing is planning a virtual “Polar Silk Road,” of deepwater ports in friendly nations to help cut shipping time from China to Europe by two weeks.


Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

No longer an “emerging issue,”  Mike Sfraga, director of the Polar Institute, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee “the Arctic has emerged.”  The Arctic “is no longer an isolated or remote region: rather it is a critical component of our global political, economic, social, physical and security landscape,” added Sfraga, who is also director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He was one of four panelists from Washington area think tanks that research Arctic issues — the RAND Corporation; the Arctic Institute and the Heritage Foundation — called to testify about Homeland Security priorities in the Arctic.

Russia has invested heavily in militarizing its Arctic territory — which contains half of the world’s Arctic region and half of the Arctic’s population, said Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Over the past decade Russia has built or re-activated 14 operational airfields in the Arctic along with 16 deep-water ports, he added.

Arctic Region

Arctic Region (Source: CIA World Fact Book via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the United States does not have a major deepwater port along 1,500 nautical miles of its Arctic coastline — from Dutch Harbor to Alaska’s North Slope. Without a viable string of ports in the U.S. Arctic commerce, search-and-rescue capabilities and national security interests will not be met, said Sfraga.

The U.S. Coast Guard has only two ice breakers, only one of which — the Polar Star — is a heavy ice breaker capable of dealing with Arctic ice. Congress has voted funding for an additional U.S. icebreaker, the Polar Security Cutter, but it won’t be available for years.

“How did this happen?” asked a stunned subcommittee member, Representative John Katko, a New York Republican. “How did we let our guard down to this extent?”

“It goes back to our lack of awareness of our role and our status as an Arctic power” in terms of the policy makers at the Defense Department, Homeland Security and NATO, said Coffey. He noted five of the eight Arctic nations are members of NATO but the latest NATO Strategic Concept, “which highlights all the challenges to the alliance, doesn’t even mention the Arctic.”

“The U.S. is often called the reluctant Arctic nation,” said Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the Arctic Institute. She noted the post of special representative to the Arctic region has been vacant for two years. “We do not promote ourselves as an Arctic nation. We are thousands of miles away from Alaska, and those voices just aren’t heard in these halls [of Congress],” she said.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 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.”


September 19, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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