- The USS Enterprise Is Officially Dead
- French Historian Sentenced For Stealing American World War II Dog Tags To Sell On Ebay
- The Navy Just Called Bulls–t On Reports That A US Warship Is Lurking In Syrian Waters
- 5 Of The Most Dangerous Spy Plane Missions In US Military History
- US Troops Have Fought ISIS In Direct Ground Combat More Than You Think
- Navy SEALs Can Explain Everything To You
- The Top 5 Post-Apocalyptic Video Games, Ranked
- 5 Rules To Live By When You Leave The Military, According To A Former NCO
- How Russia And The United States Could Go To War In Syria
- Investigation Finds Disturbing Connection Between Defense Cuts And Deadly Military Aviation Accidents
- Jimi Hendrix Meets The Who In This Military Photo
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 01:12 PM PDT
The Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding have officially pulled the plug on the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, ending a painstaking, never-before-done process that began several years ago.
The completed inactivation of the former USS Enterprise was confirmed Monday by officials at the Sea-Air-Space 2018 exposition in National Harbor, Maryland.
However, the ship won't be leaving the area anytime soon.
It is expected to remain at Newport News until 2021, possibly longer, while the Navy assesses the environmental impact of disposal options, said Capt. John Markowicz of Naval Sea Systems Command.
Several scenarios remain on the table, Markowicz said. The ship could be towed to Puget Sound, where other nuclear vessels have been disposed. But it could also be handled commercially.
The shipyard completed its base contract work on Enterprise in December. The government recently finalized its review and certification of the paperwork.
The Newport News yard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the nation's sole designer, builder, and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
Enterprise is the only ship of its class and served the country for 51 years. It defended the nation's interests from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the forerunner of the Nimitz-class ships that now make up the bulk of the carrier fleet.
Enterprise completed its final combat deployment in 2012. It was towed from Naval Station Norfolk to the Newport News shipyard in June 2013.
The deactivation process required more than 1,000 shipbuilders who defueled Enterprise's eight nuclear reactors, inactivated its propulsion systems and prepared its hull for a final tow.
Shipbuilders are currently doing advance work on the newest Enterprise, which will be the third carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class.
©2018 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 12:52 PM PDT
A 33-year-old French historian has been sentenced to a year in prison for stealing hundreds of dog tags belonging to U.S. service members killed during World War II from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, with the intent of selling them on Ebay.
Antonin DeHays initially pled guilty in January to stealing more than 290 dog tags and 134 records that included "personal letters, photographs and small pieces of U.S. aircraft downed during the war" while visiting National Archives between December 2010 and June 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.
DeHays, a historian apparently known for his focus on the Allied landing at Normandy Beach in France on D-Day, was ostensibly visiting to review documents regarding American aviators shot down over Nazi-occupied Europe. But his thieving behavior doesn't capture the respectful and dignified character of a historian — or, you know, a decent human being. From the Department of Justice (emphasis ours):
DeHays visited the National Archives at College Park and stole two dog tags, one silver and one brass, issued to a downed Tuskegee Airman, who died when his fighter plane crashed in Germany on September 22, 1944. DeHays gave the brass dog tag to a military aviation museum in exchange for the opportunity to sit inside a Spitfire airplane. On a different occasion, DeHays stole two dog tags that were linked together with a wire loop. One of the dog tags was issued to a U.S. serviceman who served in World War II, and the other dog tag was issued to his father, who had served in World War I.
After his theft came to light in 2017, DeHays acknowledged that he'd pilfered the artifacts of American war heroes in order to turn a quick buck on Ebay. The stolen dog tags "bore evidence of damage, such as dents and charring due to fire sustained during crashes of Allied aircraft that were shot down," features that federal investigators say DeHays played up when communicating with potential buyers (emphasis ours, again):
Although DeHays kept some of the stolen U.S. dog tags and other stolen records for himself and gave others as gifts, he sold the majority of the stolen items on eBay and elsewhere. Before selling the dog tags, DeHays sometimes removed from the dog tags markings made in pencil which could have been used to identify the dog tags as having been stolen from the National Archives.
On one occasion, DeHays sent a text message to a potential buyer stating that certain dog tags for sale were "burnt and show some stains of fuel, blood . . . very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash." On a different occasion, DeHays sent a text message to a potential buyer stating that a dog tag for sale was "salty" (bearing the signs of war-related damage) and that an officer ID and American Red Cross ID for sale were "partially burned."
In addition to his prison time, DeHays will have to pay $43,000 in restitution to the National Archives and Records Administration, but given the callousness of his offense, it's hard to believe that the punishment fits the crime here.
"The theft of our history should anger any citizen," Archivist of the United States David Ferriero told the Washington Post after news of DeHays' alleged crimes came to light, "but as a veteran I am shocked at allegations that a historian would show such disregard for records and artifacts documenting those captured or killed in World War II."
The post French Historian Sentenced For Stealing American World War II Dog Tags To Sell On Ebay appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 12:19 PM PDT
As the world waits to see if President Donald Trump will launch military strikes against Syria, you can count on the media to provide you with nuanced, well-sourced stories that provide context…. Oh, who are we kidding: It's like watching pigs in shit.
One of the most egregious offenders so far has been CNN Turk, which reported that the destroyer USS Donald Cook is lurking off the Syrian coast, ready to retaliate against a Syrian chemical weapons attack with 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles. CNN Turk also reported that the ship had been buzzed at least four times by Russian aircraft. The story has been aggregated by other media outlets.
On the surface, the story looked like a blatant OPSEC violation. Citing "Pentagon offcials," CNN Turk did practically everything except tell the Syrians, Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah where best to hit the Donald Cook with their anti-ship missiles, or at least disrupt their mission.
But according to the Pentagon officials Task & Purpose spoke with, the CNN Turk story is full of more holes than Osama bin Laden's body.
"There are elements of that story that are just simply not true," said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks, who called the reporting that the ship had been buzzed by Russian aircraft "competely bogus."
The Donald Cook is also not in Syrian waters, Speaks told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.
While it is public knowledge that the destroyer recently made a port call to Cyprus, the Navy has been intentionally vague about where the ship is now, a policy that extends to all deployed ships to protect their crews and missions. Speaks declined to say whether the Donald Cook, or any other ship, would be part of possible missions against Syria.
The Navy can confirm when ships leave port on routine deployments, such as Wednesday's planned departure of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group from Norfolk, Virginia, but the sea service never says specifically where ships are headed, he said.
"We have been careful to not get too specific in talking about at sea locations to preserve some strategic ambiguity, and I think we've done that," Speaks said. "We'll always have reports that we have to deal with that are poorly sourced or just outright false, but I think we've been pretty careful to ensure both OPSEC and that we preserve strategic space for the [defense] secretary and the president, in any type of response."
Speaks also refused to say how many Tomahawk cruise missiles the Donald Cook might be carrying. He added that he has no idea where CNN Turk's information came from, because no one in the Navy has told media that the ship has 60 Tomahawks.
When asked if the CNN Turk story rises to the level of an OPSEC violation, Speaks said the onus is on the Navy – not the media – to avoid publicizing sensitive information.
"I would never characterize what you guys do as an OPSEC violation," Speaks said. "Only we can commit OPSEC violations. Reporters don't. You guys just report."
The post The Navy Just Called Bulls–t On Reports That A US Warship Is Lurking In Syrian Waters appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 11:50 AM PDT
Since the United States entered World War II, the Department of Defense has engaged in the systematic surveillance of other nations by air to glean valuable intelligence on weapons capabilities and military movements. These missions are quite dangerous and often ended in disaster, but the risks endured by these aircrews aboard the Pentagon’s beloved spy planes are often overlooked due to the sensitive nature of their assignments.
1. A tense shoot-down over the Baltic Sea
As the Iron Curtain descended across Europe, the United States was desperately trying to gather intelligence on Soviet activities across the continent. On April 8th, 1950, a PB4Y-2 Privateer — a modified B-24 Liberator fitted with electronic gear for signals intelligence — left West Germany for the Baltic Sea to gather intel on Soviet naval forces and possibly to monitor early naval missile tests.
2. A SIGINT mission goes off-course in Armenia
In September 1958, a modified C-130A was shot down over Armenia during signals gathering mission in support of the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor to the modern-day National Security Agency. The C-130 had taken off from Turkey, and the flight plan kept the aircraft on the Turkish side of the border with Armenia; however the C-130 strayed across the border and was promptly intercepted by several Soviet MiG-17 Frescos.
3. The cold arctic becomes a firestorm in Murmansk
One of the lesser-known Cold War incidents involved an Air Force RB-47 shootdown on a reconnaissance mission off of the northern coast of Russia. Shortly after reaching the Murmansk area, Soviet fighters were scrambled to intercept the aircraft with fatal results: Four of the six crewmen died, and the two surviving crewmen that survived were fished out of the frigid ocean and interrogated in Moscow before their eventual release in January 1961.
The Soviets maintained that the aircraft violated its airspace; however, Oleg Penkovskiy, a spy for the United States, claimed other otherwise., "The U.S. aircraft RB-47 shot down on Khrushchev's order was not flying over Soviet Territory; it was flying over neutral waters.” When the facts of the shootdown were reported to Khrushchev, he said: "Well done boys, keep them from even flying close."
Despite the tragic incident, U.S. SIGNIT missions kept flying closer and closer, flying hundreds of near border surveillance flights over the course of the cold war.
4. The final flight of DeepSea 129
After the Korean War, the North Korean government continued to harass and attack ROK and U.S. forces across the peninsula, including the infamous U.S.S. Pueblo incident, where the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured by North Korean forces while operating in international waters.
U.S. forces tracked the MiG-21's, however even with warning, there was nothing that could have been feasibly done to help the doomed Warning Star. Two Delta Dart interceptors were scrambled, but it was too late, as the EC-121 was destroyed by the North Korean MiGs.
5. A collision course with China; Hainan Island
One of the most well-known spy plane encounters happened in the perpetually-contentious South China Sea. A Chinese pilot in a J-8 Finback fighter aircraft, previously known by the U.S. Navy due to his overly aggressive flying style, lost control over his aircraft while intercepting an EP-3 Orion on a SIGINT mission near Hainan Island. The J-8 pilot was killed, and the crippled EP-3 was forced to land on Chinese territory.
After attempting to destroy as much of their equipment as possible, the crew surrendered to Chinese authorities and became pawns in a political chess match over the incident. After ten days of political wrangling between the Chinese and U.S. governments, the crew was released unharmed.
The post 5 Of The Most Dangerous Spy Plane Missions In US Military History appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 11:27 AM PDT
U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria sent in for the so-called “advise and assist” mission against the Islamic State have engaged in direct combat with the terror group more often than you’d think, according to individual award citations obtained by Code Red News.
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said in Sep. 2014. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
As Obama and Pentagon leaders often explained, the battle against ISIS was to be waged by and through regional partners, with U.S. troops staying in the background safely behind the lines, with the exception of occasional special operations raids. But, as the award citations show, the advisory role Americans were engaged in — at least during the spring of 2016 — was plenty dangerous.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Marine Special Operations Command provided me a number of somewhat-redacted citations for service-members who received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Award (with combat distinguishing device) for actions during Operation Inherent Resolve.
Three such award citations mentioned similar actions during the period of Jan. 2016 to July 2016. I assume the awards were all given to members of the same unit, but MARSOC declined to confirm this.
Although lower-tier awards such as these are hardly every reported on, they are quite interesting since they tell the story of what Americans were really doing in Iraq and Syria at a time of minimal Pentagon transparency and independent reporting.
So what were grunts on the ground in Iraq doing in the spring of 2016?
We already know they were hitting ISIS with thousands of rounds of artillery. But some Marines were finding themselves even closer to the fight, engaging in small arms battles and tit-for-tat engagements with 81 and 120mm mortars, which boast effective ranges between 3 and 5 miles.
During an operation named Phoenix Storm, for example, as coalition and Peshmerga forces were under sustained “heavy indirect and machine-gun fire,” an unnamed MARSOC Element Member disregarded his own safety and exposed himself to enemy rounds that were impacting within 30 meters of his position, according to one citation. He fired back over 12 fire missions on the 120mm mortar, killing 10 enemy fighters, destroying one enemy mortar position, and neutralizing one tactical vehicle.
Another award for a MARSOC Canine Handler sheds light on the unit’s apparent operational tempo: He and his military working dog performed more than 350 counter-IED sweeps in the area over that six-month period — an average of twice a day. Since military working dog teams are most often attached to larger units, this suggests the MARSOC operators (or their Iraqi and Peshmerga partners) were patrolling outside the wire quite often.
The handler also employed indirect fire and unmanned aerial surveillance assets, according to his citation. As an 81mm mortar gunner during one operation, it says, he “fired 6 fire missions while rounds were impacting within 75 meters of his position,” killing three enemy fighters and destroying two mortar positions. Then later as a 120mm mortar gunner, his position received “effective, sustained enemy artillery fire within 30 meters,” but he unhesitatingly conducted multiple fire missions and killed 10 enemy fighters.
Meanwhile, the MARSOC team’s Element Leader (typically a staff sergeant), while serving as the subordinate ground force commander, and under “sustained and accurate enemy indirect fire impacting his position,” provided fires in support of the Peshmerga.
During one such operation as the Peshmerga took casualties and were pinned down by enemy fire, the citation says, “he expertly led his team’s fire direction center and gun line while employing 81mm and 120mm mortars to destroy enemy positions. These devastating fires reinvigorated the assault and enabled the main effort to seize their objectives.”
What can we learn from such awards? Although it’s pretty clear claims that American troops in 2016 were not operating on the “front line” were bunk, at least now we know a little more of what they really faced, and can shed light on their incredible bravery during the period.
View the award citations below:
The post US Troops Have Fought ISIS In Direct Ground Combat More Than You Think appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 09:37 AM PDT
Navy SEALs. They’re some of America’s toughest operators.
They can swim and run for miles; trained to never give up while taking the fight to the enemy. SEALs can do everything from raiding Osama bin Laden’s house to writing bestselling books about it afterwards. They are a wealth of knowledge on diving, reconnaissance, direct action, and telling you about being on “the teams” over drinks at your local watering hole.
But that’s not all they know. SEALs know much, much more.
Have you ever been or do you plan on being attacked by a rabid dog? Well don’t you worry, because a Navy SEAL has already explained what you’re supposed to do if that happens.
Need to secure your home? Check.
Have trouble handling mistakes? Got it.
Want to be successful? Covered.
For the sake of diversity, I hope some day we’ll see videos with titles like an Army Specialist Explains How To Avoid Your Supervisor, or A Marine Lance Corporal Explains How To Win The War In Afghanistan. But at least for now, we’ll have to settle for Navy SEAL lessons on:
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 07:11 AM PDT
It's fun to toy with the idea of the fighting for survival in the aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse that could happen if Airman Snuffy accidentally launches some missiles and starts World War 3. Here are my top five post-apocalyptic video games to take your mind off of guarding those sweet, sweet nukes.
1. Fallout 2
Fallout 2 is usually referenced by the community as the gold standard of the franchise. What is Fallout? The Fallout series started in the mid-1990s and was set in a resource-depleted retro-future, where the style of the 1950’s never went away. Fallout can best be described as what the Truman administration imagined the future to be like.
Fallout 2 is set a generation after Fallout 1, and your main aim is to save your village from dying, due to the horrible environmental damage brought about by nuclear weapons and weaponized viruses. The writing in the game is magnificent, with hundreds of characters to make the world feel truly real.
What distinguished Fallout 2 from other post-apocalyptic digital romps were the sheer number of quests you could do. You could become a karate master in the ruins of San Francisco, or become an evil Corleone-esque crime lord in the ruins of Reno.
Fallout 2 was powered by cultural references. Characters in the game would sling quotes from "Dune" and some easter eggs included nods to Monty Python and Star Trek. If you wandered the right part of the wasteland you would even find a wrecked Star Trek shuttle, where you could pick up a functioning phaser from a dead red-shirt. Fantastic.
2. Metro 2033
Have you ever wondered what would happen to Russia after we nuked it back into the Stone Age? Well, I sure have, and if Metro 2033 is any indication, the post-apocalypse is just as weird in Russia as you would expect.
The Metro system in Moscow was designed to become a fallout shelter in the event of a nuclear war. After the bombs drop the denizens of Metro 2033 start to break off into various factions, fighting to control the resources of the shelters that survived. At one point you find yourself stuck between hard-line Communists and murderous Fascists fighting an underground war in the Russian subway system, ala World War 2. And then the mutants show up. Not only is this game a gem to look at, it is genuinely scary. Also, a cool feature is the option to use bullets as currency. Screw that bottlecap nonsense from Fallout, in the apocalypse, ammo is king.
3. Fallout: New Vegas
A relatively recent edition compared to Fallout 2, New Vegas featured high-end graphics and a first-person shooter mentality that built off of the success of its predecessor, Fallout 3. The game suffered from software bugs when it was released, impacting reviews and sales, but once it was playable, the story hooked everyone that looked at it sideways. The game starts with you, playing the silent protagonist, The Courier, getting bushwhacked and left for dead for reasons unknown.
Eventually, the game unfolds three major factions and a pile of smaller ones. One faction consists of Caesar's Legions, an army made up of slaves and tribal warriors. The New California Republic, who seemed to be trying to rebuild the old world out of the ashes of the new one, and a shadowy figure that started your quest in the first place.
4. S.T.A.L.K.E.R series
Stalker was one of those games you heard about from your friend who wore black all the time, and you were like, yeah sure I'll check it out when it is on sale. Then one day you downloaded it and three days later you are late for work. Metro 2033 borrowed a ton from Stalker, notably the mutants who were weird and terrifying as you navigated the open world of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine. The game was a blend of Fallout: New Vegas and Metro 2033, except it was less funny and more terrifying. Even if the monsters didn't get you, the other humans sure would.
5. Mad Max
And for the final one, Mad Max, also known as that game where I punch people in the desert then hit them with my car.
Mad Max the video game had every right to be terrible, but it wasn't. You start the game beating the snot out of someone, and from there you just drive like a madman and punch like an Aussie until the world sort of sorts itself out.
If I hadn't seen the films I suppose I would have just assumed that this was how most of Australia was on a Wednesday, simply from the Aussie officers I went on TDY with in California back in the day.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 07:00 AM PDT
So the time has come where your disillusionment for continued military service trumps your misguided teenage visions of honor, conquest, and becoming the next Maverick. The idea of standing watch on the U.S -Mexican border or engaging in Byzantine nation building offers no appeal. You've made up your mind. It's time to get out.
Rest assured you're not the only one to make this leap of faith into the massive grey space that is civilian society. Here are five steps to get you through military transition boot camp.
First, nobody cares that you're a veteran. Sure, Applebee's offers free meals on Veterans Day and Corporate America has highly marketed veterans hiring initiatives. But the reality is that veterans are nothing more than a metric for corporate social responsibility campaigns and good PR. Once you do get through the door, it's incumbent upon you to check your ego and your war stories at the door. Again, most people don't care and many are intimidated or resentful of your presence.
Second, don't waste your Post-9/11 GI Bill. One of the great public policies ever enacted in Congress is the educational benefits package for veterans, spouses, and their dependents. I get it, school isn't for everyone, but it's a big world and easy to drown in it if you don't diversify your academic pedigree. Unless you possess a marketable vocational trade skill like welding, plumbing, or coding, a bachelors degree is the baseline standard for employment. Keep in mind you're competing with younger millennials and Generation Z people who've grown up with iPhones and Mocha Lattes. As we transition to a world dominated by the Internet of Things, AI, and Quantum Computing, your future requires an education just to avoid falling victim to automation. Pursue your degree and choose your education wisely. I recommend STEM.
Third, learn Microsoft Excel. Sounds kind of strange, but trust me, learn it. As a military public affairs officer, I was trained with communicating my military service's story to the American people on live television and radio. I was trained to articulate and translate military jargon in easy to digest nuggets in press releases or magazine articles. I never learned Excel. I'm currently a Management Consulting Analyst where Excel is the Lingua Franca of Corporate America. Learn Excel. I repeat, learn Excel.
Fourth, use the VA Loan to buy a house. Jerome Powell, the new chair of the Federal Reserve, has announced incremental increases in interest rates. This means buying a home is more expensive than it was a year ago. The VA Loan enables veterans to buy a home, with no money down. This is a significant advantage over our civilian peers who are often required to put down up to 20% as a down payment. It's easier to succeed in this transition if you have a comfortable place to call home.
Lastly, stay informed and stay involved. Read the newspaper, read books, but whatever you do, don't disappear from society. The voices and perspectives of military veterans are needed more than ever. Few people who haven't served really know what words like honor, respect, devotion to duty, commitment, courage, or fortitude mean. We've lived it. Your active involvement in society is critical. As the saying goes, if not me, then who?
Christopher Evanson holds the U.S. Coast Guard chair on Long March's Council of Former Enlisted. He holds a Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the American University.
The post 5 Rules To Live By When You Leave The Military, According To A Former NCO appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 06:00 AM PDT
The Trump administration will be making a decision on how to respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma, Syria, within the next forty-eight hours.
President Donald Trump said that the United States is currently examining the evidence and that military force remains an option. Trump promised a response even if his administration decides that Russia is responsible.
Asked if Russia bears responsibility for the alleged chemical attack, Trump said that the Kremlin might be culpable. "He [Russian President Vladimir Putin] may. Yeah, he may. And if he does, it's going to be very tough. Very tough," Trump said during a meeting of his cabinet on April 9. "Everybody is going to pay a price. He will. Everybody will."
Trump said it will take roughly twenty-four hours for the United States to determine which party was responsible for the alleged chemical attack. "If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out and we'll know the answers quite soon," Trump said. "So we're looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously."
Trump noted that both the Russians and Syrians deny that there was such an attack. "They're saying they're not," Trump said. "But to me, there's not much of a doubt, but the generals will figure it out probably over the next 24 hours."
Further, asked directly if military force is on the table as an option, Trump said that all options are on the table. "Nothing is off the table," Trump said.
Who is to blame?
Trump's comments slightly softened his earlier tweets on April 8 where he directly blamed Russia, Syria, and Iran for the alleged chemical attack. "Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world," Trump had tweeted. "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price… ….to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!"
Trump further asserted that had President Barack Obama launched a campaign against the Syrian regime in August 2012—when Damascus launched an earlier chemical attack against Syrian rebels—the current situation in Syria would have been averted. "If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!" Trump tweeted.
Right now it is unclear exactly who was responsible for the chemical attack in Douma, if, indeed, there was one. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) claimed that Douma came under what appears to have to been a chemical weapons attack on Saturday, April 7, at 19:45 local time. "More than 500 cases -the majority of whom are women and children- were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent," SAMS said. "Patients have shown signs of respiratory distress, central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor."
SAMS does not suggest which party was responsible for the attack. Instead, the organization has called for an investigation—and for an international intervention. "SAMS and the Syrian Civil Defense demand an immediate cease-fire in the city of Douma and the entry of international investigation teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate this heinous chemical attack," SAMS said. "SAMS, along with the Syrian Civil Defense call for the immediate intervention of the international community to enforce international law prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, and to ensure the protection of medical and humanitarian facilities to enable them to continue their lifesaving work."
However, there has been no independent verification of the SAMS report—though the U.S. State Department believes the report is credible. The Kremlin, for one, rejects the very notion that there was a chemical attack on Douma. Moscow's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that Russian forces, together with the Red Crescent organization, had found no evidence of a chemical attack. "Our military specialists have visited this place, along with representatives of the Syrian Red Crescent… and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians,” Lavrov said.
The Russians are asserting that evidence is being manufactured to essentially frame the Syrian government for the chemical attack. "False information is being planted about the alleged use of chlorine and other toxic agents by the Syrian government forces," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The latest fake news about a chemical attack on Douma was reported yesterday. These reports are again referenced to the notorious White Helmets, which have been proved more than once to be working hand in glove with the terrorists, as well as to other pseudo-humanitarian organizations headquartered in the UK and the U.S."
Indeed, the Russians are asserting that the alleged use of chemical weapons is a provocation by "those who are not interested in the early elimination of one of the last seats of terrorism in Syria and in a genuine political settlement" to undermine the Assad regime. "We recently warned of the possibility of such dangerous provocations," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "The goal of these absolutely unsubstantiated lies is to protect the terrorists and the irreconcilable radical opposition that has rejected a political settlement, as well as to justify the possible use of force by external actors."
What is to be done?
Hawkish voices in the United States—including Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins—are already calling for a military intervention in Syria. Those are just a few among the voices calling on Trump to set aside his stated desire for American forces to leave that war-torn nation once the ISIS terrorist group has been eliminated. Indeed, Trump said that he is reconsidering his position and will make a decision shortly. "We're going to make a decision on all of that, in particular Syria," Trump said. "We'll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today. But we cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it."
But what military options exist for Washington in Syria? "I don’t rule out anything right now,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the Pentagon. “The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all chemical weapons, and so working with our allies and partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere we are going to address this issue.”
The basic problem for the United States is that there are multiple nations' forces operating in close proximity to each other in the chaos and confusion of Syria—including Russian forces. That means that unless Washington is willing to risk a major war with Moscow—one that could escalate out of control—American military personnel will have to be very careful not to hit uniformed Russian forces.
Moscow has reiterated that Russia will retaliate if their forces are struck. "We have to say once again that military interference in Syria, where Russian forces have been deployed at the request of the legitimate government, under contrived and false pretexts is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to very grave consequences," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Foreign Ministry statement reinforces a recent declaration by the Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov. "If lives of the Russian officers are threatened, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will retaliate against missile and launch systems," Gerasimov said on March 13.
Gerasimov, as both American and Russian-based experts have noted, is not prone to bluffing and strictly follows directives from Putin. "When the Russian chief of the general staff says something, you have to listen because someone told him to say it," Center for Naval Analyses senior research scientist Michael Kofman said recently at the Center for the National Interest.
America's military options
Mattis did not directly answer reporters' questions on how the United States could hit Syrian chemical weapons depots, but the bottom line for Washington is that it would have to be exceedingly careful to avoid hitting Russian forces. However, in order to prevent the Russians from tipping off their Syrian allies, the United States might have to refrain from using the deconfliction line that is used to ensure the two great powers do not come into unintentional military conflict.
"I'm very sure that great care would be taken to strike appropriate targets. There are a number of capabilities that could be used to strike with precision, including cruise missiles that can be air-launched and sea-launched, and possibly penetrating combat aircraft," Mark Gunzinger, a former U.S. Air Force B-52 pilot and airpower analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, told the National Interest. "In addition to target proximity to sensitive areas, the exact platform and weapons mix used for a strike (or strikes) would depend on factors such as the nature of the targets, their 'hardness,' mobility, etc."
That could mean that the United States uses long-range precision-guided strike assets, such as the U.S. Navy's Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles or the U.S. Air Force's B-52-launched AGM-86C Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM), to hit such targets deep inside Syria—reducing risk to aircrews from surface-to-air missiles. Moreover, because cruise missiles fly at extremely low altitude using the terrain to mask their approach from ground radars, Russia's extremely capable air defenses, such as the S-400 and S-300V4 systems deployed in Syria, would not be able to engage incoming cruise missile unless they were under direct attack. Essentially, while Russian air defense systems provide area air defense coverage against medium or high altitude threats, they are effectively point defense weapons when defending against cruise missiles.
The United States could also use stealth aircraft, such as the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, to hit targets in Syria. While the Russians may well have the capability to detect those aircraft, Moscow does not likely have the means to develop a "weapons quality" track to engage those jets with either the S-300V4 or the S-400. The advantage of using a manned stealth aircraft is that those aircraft carry high-resolution sensors and carry a variety of weapons—which means a targeteer can match an appropriate weapon to an appropriate target using real-time data coming from the jet's sensors.
"The particular strike package depends on a variety of factors that involve the desired effects to be accomplished," Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence chief who has also designed several air campaigns, told the National Interest. "Threats en route and in the target area; timing, i.e. how rapidly does the President want to respond as that will determine appropriate forces available to respond inside that timeline; target proximity to non-combatants and considerations of collateral damage; specific weapons effects desired that will drive weapon options, are among many of the factors that go into force package and attack design."
If Russia's forces are hit by an American or allied air strike, Moscow will respond with force. The Kremlin is not bluffing, analysts say. "If Russian forces are attacked then we will have a war," Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told the National Interest.
Russian forces have the ability to strike back at U.S. and allied bases—not only in the Middle East but also in Europe. As Gerasimov had noted, the Russians would not necessarily confine their response to an attack on their forces to just Syria, they would strike at the launch platforms and their bases of origin. Long range precision-guided weapons such as the ship and submarine-based Kalibr cruise missile and the X-101 air-launched cruise missile—which can be carried onboard the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers—afford Moscow the ability to strike U.S. bases around the region. That could be cause for concern for American allies, which might host U.S. strike aircraft that might engage Russian targets.
The problem with starting a war with another nuclear-armed great power is that such conflicts inevitably escalate—and escalate out of control. Indeed, a conflict between Russia and the United States is likely to do so. "It will most likely escalate out of control," Kashin said.
Israel adds to the confusion
Another wild card is Israel and other regional powers involved in Syria. The Russians recently accused Israel of launching an airstrike on the Syrian regime's T-4 airbase. "On April 9, in the period between 3.25 a.m. and 3.53 a.m. Moscow Time two F-15 aircraft of Israel's Air Force delivered a strike with eight guided missiles on the T-4 airfield without entering Syria's airspace from Lebanon's territory,” the Russian defense ministry said according to TASS.
The Russians claim that Syrian air defenses destroyed five of the Israeli missiles while the remaining three weapons hit their target—which is dubious given the state of Syria's air defenses. TASS reported that there were no Russian advisers among the casualties, however, it is reported that at least fourteen pro-regime forces, including some number of Iranian personnel, were killed. Thus, the potential for an unintentional clash—between multiple powers—is high.
Indeed, the Pentagon was forced earlier to deny that American forces were involved. "At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting airstrikes in Syria. However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable,” the Defense Department said.
A great power confrontation
Depending on Trump's decisions over the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, the world may be faced with the most dangerous great-power confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The outcome could either be an unmitigated disaster, where there is an open war between Russia and the United States, or it might turn out to be a learning experience that averts future crises.
The Washington national security community has largely forgotten the Cold War concepts of nuclear deterrence and managing confrontations with a nuclear-armed rival. Over the past twenty-five years or so, Washington has become accustomed to a world where there are no great-power challengers and the only real threat comes from terrorism.
"People have sophomoric views on great power confrontation here," Kofman said. "In fact a lot of people don't even understand nuclear strategy and deterrence all that well anymore and the escalatory dynamics. And you can tell by the conversations—we have been in the terrorism/counterinsurgency game for way too long and people don't understand what they are playing with at senior levels. I hear it all the time. That's all a recipe for a 1950-1960s type interaction with another great power."
Indeed, it might take a new version of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis for the American foreign policy establishment to grasp how dangerous a confrontation with a rival nuclear-armed great power can be. "I hate to say it, but it might be a good thing," Kofman said. "I actually think it might be a good thing to have that crisis for everyone to grow up."
This article originally appeared on The National Interest
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The post How Russia And The United States Could Go To War In Syria appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 05:00 AM PDT
A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the U.S. military rose 40% between the 2013 to 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 servicemembers.
The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.
The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.
Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class C as “some damage.”
Class C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.
In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class C at $50,000 or more.
For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.
The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”
“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”
President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill last month, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.
The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class C accidents. They also stressed that Class A incidents have been on the decline.
“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with.
“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.
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Posted: 10 Apr 2018 04:00 AM PDT
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