US hits 5 Iranians with sanctions for aiding Yemen rebels

The Treasury announced Tuesday that it was blacklisting the five for providing the Houthi rebels with technical expertise that has allowed them to launch missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia. All five are members of or are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic …

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South Korea, Japan defense chiefs divided over future of North’s shorter-range ballistic missiles

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Saturday that it is important not to reward North Korea for only agreeing to dialogue and it must take concrete action to dismantle all of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs – including shorter-range weapons that threaten Japan. His South Korean counterpart urged support for dialogue to help North Korea join the international community, saying its leader, Kim Jong Un, must be given the benefit of the doubt.

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Watch the US Navy fire a Tomahawk land attack missile

The U.S. military recently released video footage of the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) firing a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 14.

The USS Laboon is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations, to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

Watch the video footage:

Tomahawk missiles are “modern, mature, powerful” and can “can circle for hours, shift course instantly on command and beam a picture of its target to controllers halfway around the world before striking with pinpoint accuracy,” according to manufacturer Raytheon.

U.S. and allied militaries have deployed the missiles more than 2,000 times in combat “to conduct precise strikes on high-value targets with minimal collateral damage.”

Their use was confirmed in the April 14 strike by the Defense Department.

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Israel fires missiles at Gaza in largest firefight in 4 years

Israel’s military launched airstrikes into Gaza Tuesday to retaliate for a large mortar attack against Israeli settlements, officials said. The strikes came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond with great force” to the attacks, which officials said included 28 mortar shells.

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Russian Defense Ministry denies accusation regarding flight MH17

MOSCOW, May 25 (Xinhua) — The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that no new anti-aircraft missiles crossed the border to Ukraine since 1991, refuting the accusation that Russia was responsible for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in …

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Congress Directs Immediate Weaponization of Space to Counter Missile Strikes

according to new legislation viewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The space-based interceptor program—a plan for the United States to deploy satellites into space capable of destroying ballistic missiles before they even take flight—has been on ice …

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US Air Force commander fired after grenade launcher ammo, machine gun go missing

The commander of the 91st Security Forces Group at Minot Air Force Base was fired Wednesday after the loss of grenades and a machine gun in separate incidents, the U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday.

Col. Jason Beers was relieved by Col. Colin Connor, 91st Missile Wing commander, “due to a loss of trust and confidence after a series of events under the scope of his leadership, including a recent loss of ammunition and weapons,” according to the release.

On May 1, a container of ammunition for an automatic grenade launcher fell out of the back of a Humvee and could not be located after a two-week search for the ammunition in North Dakota. The Air Force also offered a $5,000 reward for information that would lead to the recovery of the ammunition.

On May 16, an M240 machine gun was discovered missing during a weapons inventory.

The ammunition and the machine gun have not been found.

Air Force Global Strike Command ordered a command-wide inventory check on all weapons due to the two incidents.

The 91st Missile Wing Security Forces team is responsible for protecting the intercontinental ballistic missile silos that are in use by Minot Air Force Base.

“Beers was responsible for ensuring the 91st SFG was trained, organized and equipped to secure 150 Minuteman III missiles and launch facilities, and 15 missile alert facilities geographically separated throughout 8,500 square miles of the missile complex,” the release said.

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Amphibious Vehicles Are the Military’s Latest Tax Dollar Sinkhole

One of the worst symptoms of the paralysis in Washington and at the Pentagon has been the inability to correctly match weapon systems with current enemy threat capabilities. Hence the United States Marine Corps is set to announce the final winner between defense contractors BAE Systems and SAIC to build and field their new Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV.

Or should we say the old Amphibious Combat Vehicle? Because after 46 years and tens of billions of dollars, the Marines are right back where they started with this technology, which leaves no one—except maybe the contractors feeding off this farcical routine—feeling very satisfied.

So how did we get here?

The naval campaigns in the Pacific theater of World War II were successful due to the capability of the Marine Corps to conduct amphibious assaults against Japanese-held islands. Following the war this capability was written into law via the National Security Act of 1947, which stipulated that the Marine Corps was responsible for the seizure of advanced naval bases.

In order to move from Navy ships to enemy-held territory, the Marines must be transported across a distance of water and rely on what is generally called a connector. Both the Navy and Marine Corps operate various connectors from ship to shore, while the job of the Marines is to fight their way into enemy territory. Marine connectors only carry one weapon: Marines. Step one is to take the beach.

During World War II, the Navy ships could move to within a few miles of the Japanese-held islands before loading Marines into connectors. But with the advent of ballistic missile technology during the Cold War, a new weapon made its debut: the anti-ship missile.

The idea is simple. If Navy ships are within range of an anti-ship missile, they risk being severely damaged or even sunk. The solution is standoff. The Navy ships must stay outside the effective range of the missiles or use defensive measures to shoot the missiles down. This forces the ships further out to sea and increases the distance the connectors must travel over the open ocean to transport the Marines.

The connector vehicle the Marines adopted in 1972 was the Amphibious Assault Vehicle or AAV. AAVs are stored in hollow lower sections of naval ships known as well decks, which can be flooded so the AAV can exit the aft end of the ship into the ocean. The vehicle moves through the water using two traditional water propellers and also has tracks similar to a tank in order to drive on land. The AAV can carry around 20 Marines, swim through the water at seven knots (nautical miles per hour; seven knots is eight mph for comparison), and has an advertised water range of approximately 20 nautical miles, which in reality is closer to five nautical miles.

But anti-ship missile technology advanced in the 1980s, and proved deadly in the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina as the British lost two ships* to French-built Exocet missiles. So the Marine Corps and Navy rewrote their doctrine to move their ships over the horizon to approximately 12 nautical miles.

This strategy necessitated a new connector vehicle. Marine amphibious doctrine requires a “swift introduction of sufficient combat power ashore.” If the AAV can only swim at seven knots and the ships are 12 nautical miles away, you are looking at close to a two-hour ride to the beach. Time equals distance divided by speed. For the Marines stacked like sardines in full combat gear in the sweltering troop compartment of the AAV, this bumpy two hours becomes a rather nauseating and incapacitating experience.

So work began in earnest on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV, in the 1980s. It was designed with a powerful jet propulsion system that allowed it to plane above the water like a speedboat and achieve 25 knots, three times as fast as the AAV with a water range of approximately 65 nautical miles. Over the course of 20 years, more than $3 billion was invested in the program. Operational EFVs were due to be in service by 2015, completely replacing the aging AAVs.

But potential adversaries didn’t stagnate. They developed a defensive Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. Waters around potential landing sites would be mined, and the range, speed, and lethality of anti-ship missiles enhanced significantly.

The increasing complexity of the operating environment did not go unnoticed. During the Obama administration’s first term, Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work envisioned an either/or type of scenario for the future of amphibious conflict. Either Marines would land essentially unopposed as in Grenada in 1983 or the A2/AD posture of our enemies would be so preventative as to require a massive bombardment using long-range stand-off weapons like Tomahawk missiles and bombers to clear out anti-ship missiles and other defenses. Neither situation necessitated the use of a high-speed, heavily armored connector like the EFV.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates canceled the EFV program in 2011. Immediately afterwards, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, decided to pursue the next iteration of troop connector named the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV. High speed on water remained a top priority as late as 2013.

After some research proposals were explored, General Amos decided in January 2014 that the ACV would be developed in a phased approach with a decreased need for speed on water. The ACV 1.1 was to be an off-the-shelf, armored, wheeled vehicle that met requirements for armor protection on land but would rely on connectors like the Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC, aka Hovercraft) to move it swiftly from over the horizon at 40 knots to a few miles from its objectives, where it would then swim the last few miles. The LCAC has a large deck area that can accommodate several ACVs. Traditionally the LCAC would bring in heavy equipment like tanks or trucks after Marines secured a beach since the LCAC lacks armor protection.

The phased acquisitions approach was a tacit admission that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Marine Corps asked industry for a vehicle that offered protection first and then speed on the water at some point in the future.

The ACV 1.1 would not be able to self-deploy and swim from a ship like the AAV or EFV. The Marine Corps would buy a smaller number of the ACV 1.1, upgrade older AAVs and keep them in service until 2030, and research and develop ACV 1.2, a high-speed, fully amphibious vehicle.

But this solution appears to have been smoke and mirrors. In March 2015, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the program. He said industry might merge the ACV 1.1 and ACV 1.2 requirements together.

BAE Systems and SAIC were awarded $100 million each in December of 2015 to develop 16 test vehicles for ACV 1.1. And lo and behold, abracadabra, both company’s test vehicles could self-deploy and swim from a ship at, wait for it, seven knots—as fast as, you guessed it, the 1972 version.

Since the introduction of the AAV, almost 50 years have passed and many billions have been spent in research and development. And now the taxpayer will be footing the bill for a connector that holds fewer Marines than in 1972 (13 versus 20), swims at the same speed, and is more expensive.

The Marine Corps and industry are touting the fact that the ACV is under cost and ahead of schedule. The program is projected to cost $1.2 billion with 204 vehicles operational by 2020.

In October 2017, deputy Marine commandant Lieutenant General Beaudreault stated that “we have to find a solution to getting Marines to shore, from over the horizon, at something greater than seven knots. We’ve got to have high-speed connectors.”

It appears the deputy commandant didn’t get the memo. As the F-35 and USS Gerald Ford programs have shown, whenever the system wins, the warfighter and taxpayer lose.

*Story has been changed to reflect the British loss of one destroyer and one container ship during the Falklands War in 1982.

Jeff Groom is a former Marine officer. He is the author of American Cobra Pilot: A Marine Remembers a Dog and Pony Show (2018).

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Airmen used LSD at nuclear missile base, Air Force records show

U.S. troops in charge of guarding some of the world’s most powerful nuclear missiles distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other illegal drugs at a highly secured Air Force base, according to records obtained by the Associated Press. The drug ring went on for months in 2015 and 2016 on the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, according to the report.

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