Posts tagged ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine’

SHAKO: U.S. Marine Corps Turns 247

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USMC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2022 at 8:32 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Lawlessness in Nigeria; Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Counter Terrorism in Somalia

UPDATE: Includes HEALTH/EPIDEMICS –U.S. requiring Ebola Screening for travelers coming from Uganda; ECONOMY/MARKETS — Big African oil conference attendees react to OPEC cuts.

CONFLICT/TERRORISM

WEST AFRICA

NIGERIA: Women, children drown fleeing gunmen.

At least 18 women and children have drowned in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state as a gang of kidnappers opened fire on them, according to the BBC.

The 18 were among dozens of people trying to escape a night-time attack October 5, on the village of Birnin Wajje in the Bukkuyum area. The attackers shot dead at least six people and kidnapped seven other villagers before opening fire on the those fleeing in two boats, a resident told the BBC.

The shooting caused a panic capsizing the boats, the resident explained. A police spokesman confirmed to the BBC that there had been attack on the village and drownings, but could not give casualty figures. The resident said that 18 bodies had been recovered, but several others were still missing. The attackers have also abducted at least 16 people in the nearby village of Dargaje.

According to the Associated Press, the attack was the latest in a cycle of violence of armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young herdsmen from the Fulani tribe who have been caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between farming communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities, while continuing to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremists in the northeastern part of the country.

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NIGERIA: Remaining hostages in March train attack freed.

Nigeria’s military says it has secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken during a train attack by gunmen in March, Reuters reported October 5. The attack in northern Kaduna state saw dozens of people kidnapped and six others killed.

Gunmen blew up the tracks and attacked the train traveling between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna. The government blamed the attack on the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train led to the suspension of a service that was popular with passengers who feared attacks and kidnappings by gunmen on Nigerian highways.

Usman Yusuf, secretary to the chief of defense staff, said in a statement that the military had “secured the release and taken custody of all the 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists.” He did not provide details.

Nigeria’s state railway company initially said it could not account for 168 people who had booked to travel on the train. Most were later traced to their homes, but 65 were confirmed missing. The kidnappers had been releasing hostages in batches.

Security is a major concern for Nigerians as the country prepares for February elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who is stepping down after two terms leading Africa’s most populous country, noted the French press agency AFP.

No group took credit for the March 28 train attack, though officials have blamed jihadis cooperating with heavily armed criminal gangs who terrorize parts of northwest and central Nigeria with looting raids and mass abductions.

Analysts said the sophisticated attack involving explosives indicate Islamist militants could have participated. Nigerian government officials often use the term Boko Haram loosely to refer generally to armed groups.

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BURKINA FASO: Al Qaeda branch claims attack on Army convoy.

The Sahel-based branch of al-Qaeda  — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) — has claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a convoy in Burkina Faso that killed more than a dozen soldiers, the SITE Intelligence Group said October 4.

Islamist militants attacked a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on September 26, days before the West African country was hit by its second military takeover this year, Reuters reported.

JNIM claimed credit for the ambush and said it “caused significant economic losses to the enemy and ‘led to a shakeup’ in the army ranks, culminating in the military coup,” the SITE statement said.

Eleven soldiers were found dead and about 50 civilians were reported missing after the attack, the previous government said. But an internal security document seen by Reuters on October 4 gave a death toll of 27 soldiers.

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EAST AFRICA

SOMALIA: AFRICOM says airstrike targeted al-Shabaab leader.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network in Somalia on October 1 in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike occurred near Jilib, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In an initial assessment, AFRICOM  said the strike killed an al-Shabaab leader and that no civilians were injured or killed.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security,” the statement added.

Somalia has been in civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Until then-President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, about 700 U.S. service members rotated in and out of Somalia, training the east African nation’s military and helping with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But President Joe Biden decided to return up to 500 troops to the Horn of Africa, expediting airstrikes for counter terrorism operations.

“Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa,” AFRICOM said, adding the “Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.”

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HEALTH/EPIDEMICS

UGANDA: Ebola screening for Uganda travelers at 5 U.S. airports.

Federal officials will begin redirecting U.S.-bound travelers who had been to Uganda within the previous 21 days to five major American airports to be screened for Ebola, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued an alert to health care workers to raise awareness about the outbreak but said there were currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the Sudan strain, which is behind the latest Uganda infections.

On September 20, 2022 Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, the deadly hemorrhagic fever, caused by Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda, the World Health Organization announced on September 26. This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012.

According to Uganda’s Health Ministry at least nine people have died of the disease in Uganda by October 3. Authorities in the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20. There are 43 total cases.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2015. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The screenings in the United States will begin rolling out immediately, the Associated Press reported. Travelers who have been in Uganda at any point during the past 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus, will be redirected to one of five U.S. airports for Ebola screening: Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The screening applies to any passenger who was in Uganda, including U.S. citizens. It involves a temperature and symptom check conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC will also collect contact information that will be shared with local health departments at the travelers’ destination.

The administration says about 145 people per day enter the U.S. from Uganda, with most already arriving at the five large airline hubs. Anyone scheduled to fly into a different airport will be rebooked by their airline, the government said.

Also on October 6, the CDC sent a health alert to doctors, urging them to get a travel history from patients who have Ebola-like symptoms.

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ECONOMY/MARKETS

   SOUTH AFRICA: Attendees at big African oil conference react to OPEC production cuts.

Delegates at Africa’s biggest oil conference have expressed concern about rising prices after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus nonmembers who also export oil, decided this week to cut production targets.

The OPEC nations, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced October 5 they will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

The move prompted a blistering reaction from White House officials and reverberated almost immediately through domestic and global financial markets, threatening higher energy costs for the United States and European countries already grappling with inflation and economic instability, the Washington Post reported.

Russia will benefit from the cut, because lower production will increase the price of oil — helping Moscow finance its war effort in Ukraine. And it could further test Europe’s resolve to support Ukraine ahead of what economists project will be a sharp slowdown in economic growth throughout the continent. American consumers could also be strained by higher gas prices, potentially imperiling the Biden administration’s determination to lower gas costs ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

In Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Oil Week conference, delegates expressed concern about rising prices, the VOA website reported.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary-general of the African Petroleum Producers Organization, said the move was aimed at ensuring stability in the global market and ensuring that prices don’t fall too low. “I believe it’s the right thing they did in order to save the industry,” he said, “and I totally think that every country has the responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens. And if by reducing production they see that as in their best interest, so be it.”

Rashid Ali Abdallah, executive director of the African Energy Commission, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the planned cuts would be. “I hope that the price is not shooting up, because in Africa we depend on oil products in power generation,” he said.

Gates Port Harcourt Refining Ltd in Alesa-Eleme, Nigeria. (photo by sixoone via wikipedia)

Natacha Massano, vice president of Angola’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, said she wasn’t sure how the announcement would affect her country. Angola is one of the two biggest oil producers in Africa; Nigeria is the other, and both are OPEC members.

“Some countries will be affected more than the others,” Massano said. “Some are benefiting — of course, the producers may benefit from the high prices, but at the same time they are paying also for all other commodities.”

October 6, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

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

UKRAINE, RUSSIA DRONE NEEDS

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

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

Ukraine Getting More Kamikaze Drones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Short on Drones, Russia Turns to Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IN OTHER DRONE NEWS …

Valkyrie Drones Complete Tests for Skyborg Program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY FOTO (June 3, 2022)

SWEETHEART OF THE AIRBORNE.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Catessa Palone) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A little Polish girl enchants U.S. Army paratroopers during a festival celebrating Poland’s Constitution Day in Rzezsow, Poland, May 3, 2022.

May 3 is a national holiday commemorating the adoption of the Polish-Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791. The May 3 Constitution was the first written democratic national constitution in Europe, and the world’s second, after the United States Constitution, adopted on June 21, 1788. 

The paratroopers, from Task Force Dragon and Task Force 82, were invited to join in the festivities of “Swieto Paniagi,” festival including a parade, concerts, performances and outdoor attractions.

Thousands of U.S. troops were sent to Eastern Europe in early February to reassure Allies and reaffirm the United States’ NATO commitment as Moscow massed 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.

Soldiers from the XVIII Airborne Corps established Task Force Dragon in Europe to help deter further Russian aggression amid its invasion of Ukraine February 24. They included units from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

June 3, 2022 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 20, 2022)

ALREADY THERE.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Elizabeth MacPherson) Click to enlarge

Another U.S. Army armored convoy of Stryker armored vehicles transiting a Pennsylvania highway? Nope. Germany? Guess again. If you have trouble reading the blue road sign on the right side of the photo, one reason could be because it’s in Finnish.

This is Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron of the 2d Cavalry Regiment, leading a convoy from Niinisalo Training Area, Finland as part of Exercise Arrow on May 8, 2022.

Finland is not a member of NATO, yet, but the Finns, and their neighbors the Swedes, have been participating as partner nations in joint exercises with NATO forces for years. Nevertheless, both Finland and Sweden — while not neutral — have been firmly nonaligned with NATO, the Soviet Union or Russia until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 “upended their thinking about security,” according to The Washington Post. Both Nordic countries are already members of the European Union.

Moscow has objected to widening NATO’s membership, especially to include countries like Finland that have long borders with Russia. But as this week’s FRIFO shows, troops from the United States and other NATO states are already training on Finnish soil.

Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO on May 18. “You are our closest partners. And your membership in NATO would increase our shared security,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors to NATO when they handed in the applications.

Exercise Arrow is an annual, multinational exercise taking place in Finland, where visiting NATO forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Latvia, and Estonia, train together with Finnish Defense Forces.

Training operations include high intensity force-on-force engagements and a live fire exercise. The purpose of the exercise to enhance mechanized units operational and procedural performance, develop interoperability with participating forces and demonstrate the ability to cooperate with partners.

May 20, 2022 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: SOCOM Seeks Small Counter-Drone Tool; Russia Says it Killed Drone with Laser; Marines Want More Reapers

DEFENSE: Updates with Russian Drone-Killer Laser Claim.

Special Ops Counter Drone Needs.

U.S. special operations forces are looking for a small device that can neutralize drone threats by land, air and sea.

Special Operations Command’s program office for counterproliferation has been focusing on finding a smaller technology package that can jam radio frequencies, to thwart roadside bombs — and counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) attacks, Defense News, reports from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida earlier this week (May 16-19).

Early counter-drone technology experimentation 2018. Marines test Drone Killer Technology during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Rhita Daniel)

While the current focus is on aerial threats, the counter-UAS program office is looking for ground and maritime counter-drone options as well.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders among other elite units, including the acquisition and development of specialized platforms and technologies.

The counter-UAS office is looking for next-generation, multimission electronic countermeasure gear that is both portable and operable from fixed expeditionary sites. The Marine Corps and SOCOM have an existing system called Modi, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and used by the Army and Marines. The current dismounted system weighs 40 pounds.

The next-gen version needs to hit unmanned threat across the land, sea and air domains — and be more portable. The office may select a system by fiscal 2024 and begin production in fiscal 2025.

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Russia Claims It’s Using Counter-Drone Laser 

Russia says it is using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms.

Little is known about the new laser. Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned one in 2018 called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow May 18 that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) above Earth, Reuters reported.

He said there were already more powerful systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on May 17 which he said had burned up a drone 5 km (31 miles) away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television, according to Reuters.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira.”

U.S. defense authorities and military experts say Moscow’s claim about the new laser has not been substantiated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has mocked the claim, according to the Washington Post.

A retired Australian army major general, Mick Ryan, who has been studying the Russian invasion, told the Post that weapons like Zadira could take down reconnaissance drones or Ukrainian artillery. It could also be used to blind Ukrainian soldiers, a tactic that is banned under international convention, he added.

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Marines Want More Reapers.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps’ commandant says the service will expand its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones to meet growing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs, your 4GWAR editor wrote for the SEAPOWER magazine website.

“We’re going to move from three squadrons right now to perhaps double that,” General David Berger told an audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition. “And the reason why is the need for organic ISR.”

The Marine Corps’ first MQ-9A completed 10,000 flight hours in support of Marine Corps Forces, Central Command operations on March 31, 2021. (Photo U.S. Marine Corps).

The MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft can stay aloft for more than 26 hours, attain air speeds of 220 knots and can operate to an altitude of 45,000 feet. Manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., the Reaper has a 3,850-pound payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar.

Berger said that ISR needs were increasingly critical for Marine Corps units, large and small. “So absolutely, we’re going to expand in Group 5, large-scale, big-wing, medium-altitude, long-endurance, uncrewed aircraft. That’s so we can have, for the naval force, persistent organic ISR access from the MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] level on down to the squad level,” he said.

May 19, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Finland’s Leaders Favor Joining NATO; Sweden Could be Next; Moscow Has a Melt Down

Finland Closer to Joining NATO.

For years, 4GWAR has been reporting that Russia’s boorish, then belligerent and now inhumane behavior has been worrying its European neighbors, from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South, since it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

In recent weeks, we’ve noted that two of those neighbors in the Baltic region — long-standing neutrals Sweden and Finland — are on the brink of joining NATO in response to the continuing brutal assault on Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

Finland’s leaders Thursday came out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment on the continent 2 1/2 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors, the Associated Press reported.

Finland’s president and prime minister have called for the country to apply for NATO membership “without delay,” the BBC reported, noting “Russia and Finland share a 1,300km (810-mile) border. Finland has been non-aligned since World War Two and has always sought not to antagonise its eastern neighbour.”

The declaration by Finland’s leaders that they will join NATO — with expectations that neighboring Sweden would soon do the same — could now reshape a strategic balance in Europe that has prevailed for decades, The New York Times observed, noting “It is the latest example of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 11 weeks ago has backfired on Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

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AP: Why It’s a Big Deal.

Support in Finland for NATO membership has hovered around 20 to 30 percent for years. It now stands at over 70%. The two are NATO’s closest partners but maintaining good ties with Russia has been an important part of their foreign policy, particularly for Finland., the AP explained in an analysis piece.

Now they hope for security support from NATO states — primarily the United States — in case Moscow retaliates. Britain pledged on May 11 to come to their aid.

Joining regional neighbors Denmark, Norway and Iceland in NATO, would formalize their joint security and defense work in ways that their Nordic Defense Cooperation pact hasn’t. Finland and Sweden in NATO would tighten the strategic Nordic grip on the Baltic Sea — Russia’s maritime point of access to the city of St. Petersburg and its Kaliningrad exclave.

If Finland and Sweden join NATO, the Baltic Sea would become a NATO lake, with Russia the only non-NATO member on its coastal waters.

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Moscow Meltdown

Russia warned that Finland’s potential membership in NATO was a threat and said that it was prepared to “balance the situation,” characterizing any steps it takes in response as a necessary reaction forced on it by the alliance’s continued expansion, The New Tork Times reported.

President Vladimir V. Putin has cited NATO’s spread eastward to countries on its borders as the primary national threat to Russia and has used Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance to justify his invasion of that country. Mr. Putin has accused the United States and its allies of fighting a “proxy war” by arming Kyiv’s forces, according to The Times.

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Closer Than You Think.

In late April naval vessels from NATO members Latvia, Estonia and the Netherlands practiced counter mine measures with their Finnish counterparts off Finland’s coast, while German, French, Dutch and Canadian navy vessels conducted an ant-submarine exercise with the Swedish navy in the Baltic Sea.

“Since Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, NATO has further reinforced its deterrence and defence, on land, in the air, and at sea. Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners, with years of experience training and operating alongside NATO Allies,” according to a NATO press release.

U.S. and Finnish soldiers exchange information during Exercise Arrow 22 in Niinisalo Training Area, Finland in early May. Exercise Arrow is an annual, multinational exercise where visiting forces included U.S., U.K., Latvian and Estonian troops. (Photo Finnish Defence Forces via Facebook)

 

May 12, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


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