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Iran has begun naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz


An unnamed defense official said Iran began a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz on August 2, 2018. The US believes the exercise is a major one and that it fully started on that date. The US is watching. An unnamed US defense official said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has deployed dozens of small boats in the initial phase. Another official said Iran has deployed more than 100 boats and ships in the exercise, mostly smaller craft. Iran is also using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The US is concerned Iran might attempt to block the Strait. The official said the US believes closing the Strait is a scenario that will be practiced, though that does not necessarily mean they would Iran would actually try to close it.

A defense official told the press on August 1, 2018 that Iran may well use 100 boats in the Persian Gulf to practice "swarm" tactics that could shut the Strait.

The US feels Iran normally holds this kind of exercise later in the year, but is holding it now because of the rising tensions between the US and Iran. The official said the US has only one naval warship in the Gulf, a bit below what the US normally has there. The USS
Hary Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) left the region in July. The USSD Iwo Jima amphibious warfare ship was in the Persian Gulf last month but has left. The USN Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), a three ship formation with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Group Unit (MEU) embarked, is believed to be on its way to the Western Pacific and Middle East, but I do not have a good confirmation of its whereabouts. The photo shows an Iranian military vessel in the Strait of Hormuz in 2016. On the surface, it appears Iran timed this well, perhaps knowing when USN ships would be gone. (080318)
AFRICOM commander wants to withdraw some forces from Africa


Stars & Stripes' John Vandiver reported on August 2, 2018 that General Thomas Waldhauser, USMC, commander African Command (AFRICOM), wants to withdraw hundreds for troops from Africa. He says they are needed to bolster forces facing threats from Russia and China. Vandiver presented a summary of force dispositions: 6,000 troops in Africa, of which 4,000 are at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, 800 in Niger, and 1,200 special operations troops on missions throughout Africa. As an observation, US special operations forces have been dispersed in small numbers throughout Africa for some time. I believe they are mostly training African forces, but some are roaming about searching for ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorists as well. (080218)

Minuteman III ICBM destroyed during test


The US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) destroyed an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM after "an anomaly" showed up in flight. STRATCOM said the test was perfect out of the silo, but experienced an "anomaly" during flight. General John Hyten, USAF, STRATCOM commander, said the launch crew decided to destroy the missile before it reached its destination. Hyten said such failures were are, the last one occurring in 2011. Now it's to the drawing board to figure out what happened. Recall President Trump boasted to Kim jung un of North Korea that "our missiles work." This one did not. The photo shows a Minuteman III launch similar to the one addressed here, August 2, 2017 (080218)

USAF and Boeing talking about new F-15X


Boeing is pushing hard to convince the USAF to new F-15X aircraft, ground up. It would be a single seater with new weapons, new technology, and anti-ship missiles. Qatar ordered one that is similar in 2017, called the F-15S. Boeing maintains the new F-15X would be cheaper to build than the existing F-15s are to operate. The last F-15 variants bought by the USAF were the F-15E Strike Eagles, bought in 2002. Current F-15s date back to the early 1980s. The thinking is to replace F-15C/D fighters. The aircraft is being touted as complementary too the F-35, not competitive. That said, it will have some stealth technology, though it remains a fourth generation aircraft. (072618)

US "mad as hell" at NATO

According to Politico, President Trump and SecDef Mattis are "mad as hell" (my words) at NATO because of a failure by members to pay their dues inn defense spending. Politico said The New York Times wrote, "President Trump has written sharply worded letters to the leaders of several NATO allies — including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada — taking them to task for spending too little on their own defense and warning that the United States is losing patience with what he said was their failure to meet security obligations shared by the alliance.

"The letters, sent in June, are the latest sign of acrimony between Mr. Trump and American allies as he heads to a NATO summit meeting next week in Brussels that will be a closely watched test of the president's commitment to the alliance. Mr. Trump has repeatedly questioned its value and has claimed that its members are taking advantage of the United States."

Politico also reported the newspaper The Sun reported SecDef Mattis issued an ultimatum to Great Britain:

"America has given Britain an ultimatum to boost its defence spending, or risk the death of the Special Relationship. The bombshell warning was delivered to the US's Secretary of Defense to his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, two weeks ago. The letter - which is unprecedented in its bluntness - has been leaked to
The Sun.

"In it, former US Marine Corps general Jim Mattis says Washington DC is 'concerned' that Britain's military prowess is 'at risk of erosion'... In an ominous threat, the general also makes it very clear that while Britain may want to 'remain the US partner of choice', France is already boosting its defence spending - and is waiting in the wings to replace us."

I have long advocated the US leave NATO. For one thing, it's too large. I prefer
ad hoc alliances: assess a threat, put together a team suited to take it on, oppose the threat, disestablish the team and go on with the same process against the next threat. (070318)

US - NK diplomats have met


Kim Gamel reported for Stars & Stripes on July 2, 2018 that US and North Korean (NK) diplomats have met at Panmunjom to discuss the next steps for implementation of Kim-Trump "deal." Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines has led the US delegation. The meeting apparently was held on July 1, 2018. Gamel quoted an unnamed US official saying, "Our goal remains the final, fully-verified denuclearization of the DPRK, as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore.” However, Gamel added, "The wording dropped the usual reference to the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.'” (070218)

US special forces more active in Africa than thought


Wesley Morgan, reporting for Politico reported on July 2, 2018 said Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, USA (Ret.) who "commanded most US special operations in Africa a until June 2017" said, "Our special operators not only advise and assist and accompany their partner force, but also direct it under these programs.” Politico added, "Former special operations officers have identified eight countries as current or recent sites of the surrogate programs. They include well-known combat zones like Somalia and Libya as well as more surprising sites for American-directed commando raids like Kenya, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mali and Mauritania — and Niger." Lt. General Kenneth McKenzie, USMC, Director of the Joint Staff, told a news conference, "No, we’re not involved in direct-action missions with partner forces." However, the Africa Command (AFRICOM) has acknowledged that at least one mission was a "multi-team raid," implying it was direct action. Bolduc has said, "I’ve got guys in Kenya, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Tunisia who are doing the same kind of things as the guys in Somalia, exposing themselves to the same kind of danger, and not just on 127 echoes. We’ve had guys wounded in all the types of missions that we do.” Alice Friend, a former Obama administration Pentagon official who oversaw counterterrorism policy in northwest Africa, has said, "You have these gray lines between what are African operations with U.S. assistance, and what are U.S. operations with African assistance, and what risk profile we’re comfortable with. At what point is it actually a U.S. operation? It’s ambiguous.” (070218)

US Forces Korea Command moves south of Seoul


After multiple delays, the command headquarters for US Forces Korea (USFK) opened at Camp Humphreys (Pyongtaek), 40 miles south of Seoul on June 29, 2018. It was to have moved in 2008. It sits next to the headquarters of the US Eighth Army. The US 2nd Division, the most forward US combat division in the ROK, will also move to Camp Humphreys, though no date has been announced. These moves will open the land north of Seoul to private investment. The Combined Forces Command (CFC), consisting of US and ROK commanders, will remain in Seoul. Currently a US general is the CFC commander, but the expectation is a ROK general will assume command in the future, probably the near future. (062918)

Russian S-400 missile a game changer?


Questions have arisen as to whether the advanced Russian S-400 air defense missile is going to adversely impact advanced US aircraft such as the F-35. The S-400 in one of its variants has a 400 km (240 mi) range. This means the F-35 will find it more difficult to fire at its targets, and find it hard to refuel if the tankers have to stand back more than the S-400's range. reported the USAF is talking to the Army, seeking ways to employ its long range precision fires missiles. Or perhaps a new hypersonic missile will be needed. The S-400 is thought to be effective against stealth aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The S-400 has been seen in Syria. (062918)

US falling behind in space?


Lt. General Robert Ashley, USA, DIRDIA, told a technology audience in Washington on June 26, 2018 that Russia and China will be developing new space-based weapons "in the near future." He said "(both countries are developing) the ability to interdict satellites both from a ground standpoint and from a space standpoint. The technology is being developed right now. It is coming in the near future." The Office of the Director of Intelligence issued a report in February 2018 that said, in part, "Russia and China continue to launch ‘experimental’ satellites that conduct sophisticated on-orbit activities, at least some of which are intended to advance counterspace capabilities. Some technologies with peaceful applications—such as satellite inspection, refueling, and repair—can also be used against adversary spacecraft.” Alarms about Russian satellites coming close to US satellites or maneuvering in irregular ways have been around for a few years. (062818)

Army training to fight underground

FightUnderground reported on June 24, 2018 that the US Army is training 26 of its 31 combat brigades to fight underground, largely under urban centers. The report said, "For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment." Sewers and subways are included. Estimates are there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that can be used to harbor enemy forces, More than 4,800 of these are in North Korea. Russia too has vast underground facilities. In Iraq and Syria US forces already have had to contend with large tunnel systems. Five BCTs based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Camp Casey, Korea; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington have already been trained. The Army has set January as the deadline for completing the 21 others. (062618)

Premature to terminate Combined US-ROK military exercises


Hold your horses: there is no formal agreement to terminate Combined US-ROK military exercises. That would be very premature.

First some vocabulary. The word "joint" is used when two or more military services of the same country engage in an activity together. The word "combined" is used when militaries of two or more different countries engage in an activity together. Finally, these exercises are not "war games." They are military exercises designed to teach the military forces of both nations how to work together, familiarize all hands with the environment, assure interoperability, and test and stress combined command and control.

For example, the US and ROK militaries operate a Combined Forces Command (CFC). "The CFC has operational control over more than 600,000 active-duty military personnel of all services, of both countries." The photo shows the ROK Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Jeong, Kyeong Doo (right), ROK Army (ROKA), General Vincent K. Brooks, USA, Commander Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Command and United Nations Command, and General Kim Byeong Joo (left), ROKA, CFC deputy commander.

Regardless of what the media says, President Trump, and the Governments of the US and ROK have not agreed to terminate all military exercises.

President Trump simply “expressed his intention to halt the U.S.-South Korea joint (comnined) military exercises, which the DPRK side regards as provocation, over a period of good-will dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. So we are a long way from stopping.

That the US and ROK operate the CFC to defend against DPRK aggression demands combined military exercises to prepare for such an eventuality. Once both the US and ROK agree there is no military threat from the DPRK, they then could consider disestablishing the CFC and terminating combined military exercises.

Furthermore, there has been no commitment from the US to withdraw its military forces from the Korean peninsula. Talk is cheap. Recall that when the DPRK invaded the ROK in 1950, the US had no combat forces in the ROK. The US is unlikely to fall victim to that again. (061318)

Mattis pushing for large NATO buildup in Eastern Europe

Brian Everstine reported for Air Force Magazine on June 6, 2018 that SecDef Mattis wants NATO to build up its force structure in Eastern Europe. His planning reportedly calls for "30 fighter squadrons, 30 land battalions, and 30 navy ships ready to deploy within 30 days." The US has been building up its forces there and now wants NATO to do the same. This is not so much a build up in Eastern Europe as it is a notice to all hands to have forces on alert ready to go to Eastern Europe. (060618)

US has moved away from timelines — Syria an example


Journalists spoke on June 5, 2018 with Colonel Thomas Veale, spokesman for the "counter-ISIS command" in Baghdad. The "counter-ISIS command" is apparently "Operation Inherent Resolve." Operation Inherent Resolve is the U.S. military's operational name for the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, including both the campaign in Iraq and the campaign in Syria. A part of that operation is something known as "Operation Roundup." "Operation Roundup" is to secure the Iraq-Syria border — with an emphasis on northeastern Syria. Veale said this operation was in its 37th day and has moved to "Phase 2." Operation Roundup is moving further into Syria to force ISIS to move. A reporter asked Veale when US forces would leave Syria. His response was:

"Yeah, — we're going to have to — we're not — we're not going to talk timelines. You know, these — this is a conditions-based campaign right here, and the condition is, as very clearly stated, the annihilation of ISIS … Right now, there's still a lot of work to be done to defeat ISIS. They have a fielded conventional threat in Syria, and that's — that's what we're doing." (060618)

US establishes Indo-Pacific Command


SecDef Mattis announced on May 30, 2018 that the US Pacific Command (PACOM) would be re-branded the US Indo-Pacific Command, probably INDO-PACOM. Admiral Phil Davidson, USN is now inn command after relieving Admiral Harry Harris, USN who is retiring and is slated to be the US Ambassador to the ROK. PACOM has always included India but this re-branding acknowledges connectivity between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This is one of many reasons the US will not recognize Chinese restrictions in the South China Sea. The South China Sea is the route to and from the Indian-Pacific Oceans. The US will not tolerate any obstruction to that free passage. During the change of command ceremony, Admiral Harris repeated his position on East Asia, saying, ""North Korea remains our most imminent threat and a nuclear-capable North Korea with missiles that can reach the United States is unacceptable … China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia." (053118)

USAF MQ-9 Reapers in Poland


The USAF quietly announced on May 21, 2018 it had deployed MQ-9 Reaper UAV intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to Miroslawiec Air Base, northwestern Poland. The base is being converted to operate mainly a UAV base. The dominant question is why? Initial analyses say they will conduct operational Polish airspace in the near term would be Kaliningrad and Belarus. If they were to collect such intelligence, the raw information would go to the US. Poland would only receive finished intelligence reports. The USAF announcement said, in part, "It is designed to promote stability and security within the region and to strengthen relationships with NATO allies and other European partners." Poland has employed smaller systems, and had given some thought to programming for larger ones, but apparently has chosen to spend the money on something else and relay on the USAF. Keep in mind the MQ-9 carries Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and can be used as an offensive weapon. (053018)

US - Aussies plan major based improvements in northern Australia


Rob Taylor, reporting for The Wall Street Journal on May 24,2018, "The U.S. and Australia have begun a multibillion-dollar improvement of air bases in northern Australia to accommodate stealth warplanes and long-range maritime patrol drones, and are building wharves and refueling points for visiting warships in Darwin—part of a $150 billion upgrade of Australia’s military." The French recently sent an amphibious task force with British and French troops embarked to drill with Australian and US forces. India too is getting in on the action. It will send warplanes to Darwin for a large-scale exercise in July 2018. This year the US sent 1,600 Marines to the base; that number will grow to 2,500 in the next few years. The base remains an Australian, not a US base. (052418)

US forces building up base at Tanf, Syria: Block Iran from Med


US forces are building up what was a small base in At Tanf, southern Syria. The Washington Post and other sources have reported the base is occupied mainly by US Special Forces. At Tanf resides in a massive wide-open desert. However, it is in a strategic position, inside Syria, on the border with Jordan and Iraq. Its main purpose seems to be to prevent Iranian forces and/or Iranian-supported forces from taking a free ride through the desert up to Syria above Lebanon and to the Mediterranean Sea. Hostile forces loyal to Assad and including Iranian-backed militia were headed toward the base in May 2017 but were beaten back by US air attacks, at least twice. US forces also shot down two Iranian drones near At Tanf. There are a substantial number of buildings there now, a runway, and a road. US Army attack helicopters, among other helicopters, are based here. There has been speculation these helicopters may have attacked Syrian military forces recently at Homs, Syria, north-northwest of At Tanf. (051318)

US forces in Saudi Arabia near Yemen border


The New York Times reported on May 3, 2018 that a small team, perhaps a dozen, American Special Forces were deployed to southern Saudi Arabia close to the border with Yemen in December 2017. Their mission is said to be "to help locate and destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that Huthi rebels in Yemen are using to attack Riyadh and other Saudi cities." Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to have asked yet again for such support. The Trump administration says they forces are there to train and equip Saudis to secure the border. US surveillance aircraft are flying along the border area to collect signals intelligence to help locate the sites. General Votel, USA, commander Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2018, "We are authorized to help the Saudis defend their border. We are doing that through intelligence sharing, through logistics support and through military advice that we provide to them.” That said there are indications the US forces are actively trying to locate and destroy these missile sites. US intelligence experts are said to be in the southern Saudi city of Najarn. It is not clear how the sites would be destroyed once US forces locate them. One assumes Saudi Air Force assets would be used. (051118)

Navy re-establishes the Second Fleet


Admiral John Richardson, USN, the CNO, told reporters on May 4, 2016 that the Navy is re-establishing the US Second Fleet. It will be responsible for the northern Atlantic Ocean. Richardson said, "Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex … Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean." The Second Fleet was shut down in 2011. Observers feel this is a reaction to growing Russian challenges, increasing its naval patrols in the Baltic, northern Atlantic ad the Arctic. The Navy has also offered Norfolk, Virginia naval facilities as host for a proposed NATO Joint Force Command. (050418)

US Cybercom becomes 10th combatant command


The US Cyber Command became the 10th US combatant command on May 4, 2018. Lt. General Paul Nakasone, USA, will receive his fourth star and be the commander. He was thee commander of the Army Cyber Command. The Cyber Command had been commanded by Admiral Michael Rogers, USN, who also serves as the Director NSA. The elevation of the command means cyber warfare is a new warfighting domain. That is a significant acknowledgement. (050418)

USAF announces B-21 "Raider" bomber bases


The USAF expects the B-21 "Raider" bomber to come on-line in the mid-2020s. It has already announced where they will be based: Dyess AFB, Texas; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; and Whiteman AFB, Mo. Barksdale AFB, La., and Minot AFB, N.D., will continue to fly the B-52, which will remain in service through 2050. The final decision on B-21 basing will be made in 2019. The b-21 is being produced by Northrop-Grumman. The B-21 is a fifth generation, long range global precision attack aircraft platform. The USAF plans to retire the B-2 and B-1B and retain only the B-21 and B-52. (050418)

Navy to retire F/A-18C Hornet


Caitlin Doornbois, reporting for Stars & Stripes on April 20, 2018, wrote the Navy plans to retire the F/AS-18C Hornet (aircraft shown here). It apparently will no longer be used in combat or for regular deployments. It recently completed its final deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson which ended on March 12, 2018. It will serve on other duties, mainly training the Blue Angels and in demonstrations. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will continue operations and will be the only operational strike fighter to serve in the Navy. The C model entered active service in 1987 and has fought in many wars. Maintenance costs and introduction of the F-35 played a role in deciding to retire the C model. Navy pilots are now transitioning from the E and F models to the F-35C. One fighter squadron, VFA-125, is considered operationally ready and VFA-147 is up next, probably in the fall. (042018)

Navy set to release new Arctic strategy


Megan Eckstein, reporting for US Naval Institute (USNI) News, reported on April 19, 2018, "The Navy will release a new Arctic strategy this summer to reflect the potential for 'blue-water Arctic' operations."The Russians are building up their military presence in the region. U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on April 19, 2018, "The Arctic ice caps are as small as they've been in my lifetime. And that gives rise to strategic changes. Waterways that are open. The secretary mentioned the blue-water Arctic. Continental shelves that are exposed, and the resources on those shelves. So there are strategic issues that arise from that shrinking of the icecap. And then there's this National Defense Strategy that's changed our focus as well. So it's really, from a number of perspectives, about time to do that again." (042018)

B-1Bs launch AGM-158B Surface Standoff Missile Range in Syria attack: first time


Correction, April 20, 2018: The USAF has corrected early misleading stories on the AGM-158 JASSM. The USAF said it did not employ the extended range version, but rather the standard version. Nonetheless it was the first time the JASSM was employed in combat. Furthermore the USAF has said F-22s were flying combat air patrols escorting the strike force and also were prepared to support ground forces.

Original story, April 16, 2018: Two B-1B Lancer bombers staged out of Al Udeid AB, Qatar and fired 19 AGM-158M Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range missiles at three targets in Syria associated with chemical warfare on April 14, 2018. They belonged to the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. This is the first time this missile was employed in combat. Known as the JASSM, it is a low observable long-range weapon of the 1,000 lb. net explosive quantity class. It is a cruise missile. It can be launched more than 600 miles from the target. It can be carried by a variety of US bombers and fighter aircraft. Th photo shows a B-1B deployed to Qatar preparing to take off on the April 14 attack. (041818, corrected on April 20.)

Finally a Carrier Strike Group in the Med


The USS Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) entered the US 6th Fleet (Mediterranean region) area of responsibility (AOR) on April 18, 2018. The Navy has reported the following units in the CSG:

  • USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)
  • Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60)
  • Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)
  • Embarked staffs of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 8, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28.
  • Embarked aviation squadrons include Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11; VFA-81; VFA-136; VFA-211; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137; Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 126; Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11; and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40.
  • The Sachsen-class German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221) is also operating as part of the strike group during the initial portion of the deployment.
  • The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) are slated to deploy and rejoin the strike group at a later date.

The US had no CSGs in the Mediterranean Sea when it launched attacks against Syria's chemical warfare facilities on April 13-14, 2018. (041918)

Estimated 5,500 contractors helping US forces in Syria

The Pentagon has just revealed that the US is employing some 5,500 contractors in Syria, focused on maintenance and logistics, support and construction. About half are US citizens, the rest local or third-country people. The Pentagon said they are not being used in combat, though many face combat conditions. (041718)

Will the Turks challenge the US at Manbij, Syria?


The Turkish Army has captured the city of Afrin (Efrin) in northern Syria. US forces are reportedly digging in at Manbij, about 58 miles due east. Turkish leader President Erdogan has said he intends to take Manbij, and there is even talk that Turkey may have its sights on re-establishing the Ottoman Empire of old in one form or another. Defense One has reported that US forces have built two outposts near Manbij, one of which is shown in the photo. Furthermore, additional forces from the US, Britain and France have arrived in the city. The New York Times reports the US forces appear to be prepared to stay there for some time to come. Rick Francona, reporting "What are Erdo─čan's intentions after the fall of 'Afrin?" for his website, Middle East Perspectives, has suggested Turkey is no longer interested in defeating ISIS, which is supposed to be the the US and NATO goal, but instead is focused on re-establishing the old Ottoman Empire in some form. The US has allied with Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, and Turkey has been backing Syrian rebel forces. For his part, Erdogan has threatened to move eastward even into Iraq, including into the Kurdish area of Iraq. At some point in time the US and Turkey are going to have to deal with a confrontation, one between NATO allies, and then NATO will have to decide what to do. (040718)

Military border security starting to take shape, long way yet to go

Addendum, April 7, 2018: The White House press secretary told reporters on April 6, 2018 the sending about 4,000 National Guard troops to secure the southern border is "a good start. It’s going to be as many as it takes." Arizona and Texas will send 400 troops this week.

Not much is yet known about what the US military contribution to border security will be. On April 5, 2018, chief Pentagon spokesman Dana White told reporters, "The National Guard’s efforts will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistical support." She also said the time frame and troop levels have not yet been determined. The DoD is establishing a new border security support cell that will operate 24/7. White commented, "This is a 24/7 cell comprised of several DoD representatives who will serve as the single conduit for information and coordination between DoD and DHS.” Governors of the border states, except for California, have said they will support the effort. The president might attempt to nationalize the national guards of those states refusing to cooperate. There has also been talk about whether the soldiers will be armed. President Trump has indicated the border is a national security and defense issue. While it is true the military is not authorized to arrest people in the US, it would have a role if the president proclaimed border crossings to be a foreign invasion. We will watch as more details come available. (040618)

Turkey's President Erdogan waving "big stick" at US


Turkey's President Erdogan is getting nasty with the US regarding his plans against the Kurds in northern Iraq. His forces now occupy the town of Afrin, and he continues to threaten moving his forces to take the town of Manbij. American troops are deployed there along with Kurdish fighters. Erdogan intends to wipe out Kurdish forces in the region. The D Brief reported he told Parliament, "You [that is, the U.S.] have tried to deceive us … If we are strategic partners, you will have to respect us and move along with us. You [U.S.] tried to deceive us. You sent 5,000 trucks of weapons there. You sent more than 2,000 trucks of ammunition there. We wanted weapons from you to buy with our money, but you did not give any to us. What kind of a strategic partnership or solidarity is this?" As an aside, Russia support Turkey's capture of Afrin. There is some risk of confrontation with Turkey and Russia over Manbij. (032018)

USAF to send more Airmen to Romania


General Tod Wolter's, commander USAF Europe, has told reporters the USAF is planning to send more Airmen to Romania. The USA intends to build up and improve Mihail Kogainiceanu military base. The Romanians have asked the US to base forces in Romania permanently. The base is part of the Mihail Kogainiceanu Airport and was once home to the Romanian AF 57th Air Base operating the MiG-29 fighter, the only Romanian unit to do so. It was closed in 2004. The US now operates Sustainment Force 16 which includes combat and support troops, the Black Sea Area Support team, the 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, the Black Sea Rotation Force of Marines. USAF fighter aircraft have rotated in and out. The Romanian Air Force is the host. It does have MiG-29s in open storage. The USAF once operated a major logistics hub at Manas AB in Kyrgykstan to support operation in Afghanistan but the country told the US to leave. This base in Romania is now supporting that mission along with others. (032018)

US fighting wars in seven countries


Defense One reported on March 15, 2018 that the US is fighting wars officially in seven countries. The White House issued a report entitled, “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Military Force and Related National Security Operations." It says the US is fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger under an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2002. The enemies are listed as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Houtis, Taliban, Haqqani Network, Assad, al-Shabab and "elements in Niger assessed to be part of ISIS."Defense One said, "The 2002 AUMF “contains no geographic limitation on where authorized force may be employed… to defend the national security of the United States.” (031518)

US pulling aircraft and families out of Incirlik, Turkey


The WSJ reported on March 11, 2018 that the USAF has been reducing combat air operations from Turkey's Incirlik AB in response to worsening relations with Turkey. The USAF earlier moved a squadron of A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft from Incirlik to Afghanistan. The USAF has also been reducing the population of US families at the base. Turkey has not made the USAF do this, but has been using the base as leverage against the US, so the US is removing that from Turkey's hand. The USAF had not assigned aircraft permanently to the base, but tankers, transports, and fighters have been using it. Germany announced a similar decision in June and has moved its people, and surveillance and refueling aircraft to Jordan. Readers will recall that Kyrgyzstan told the US is must leave Manas AB in 2014. The US was using it as a transit center to support forces in Afghanistan. The moral of the story is there are always options. (031118)

A combatant command for space?


Officials in the Pentagon remain unhappy with the way the US is currently organized for space operations. The US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has the con for the Air Force Space Command and Army Space and Missile Command, but not the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which reports directly to the Chief of Naval Operations, as the Navy is always wont to do. One thing is certain. US space policy is to dominate space. To do that many feel it needs a combatant command ready to fight in space. There was an effort to create a new military service, the Space Corps, patterned after the Marine Corps. That failed, but is not yet dead. Command and control is a big driver in the debate. But so is acquisition funding where there are many shortfalls. Each entity now does its own acquisition without benefit of having to compete against the other services. The idea would be to coordinate all acquisition under a single combatant command. (030818)

CSAF predicts space warfare in a matter of years


US Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein predicted it’ll only be a “matter of years” before American forces find themselves “fighting from space.” He made these comments on February 2, 2018 at the Air Force Association's 34th Air War Symposium and Technology Exposition. Goldfein said: “[It’s] time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today ... I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years ... And we are the service that must lead joint war fighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands.” He is urging rapid development of new technologies. (022718)

Two USN destroyers enter Black Sea


The USN guided missile destroyers USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Carney (DDG-64) entered the Black Sea over this past weekend, February 17-18, 2018, the first time more than one USN ship has been in the Black Sea other than during exercises. Jim Holmes, Naval War College professor of strategy commented, "We’re putting Russia on notice in the Black Sea and China on notice in the South China Sea that we will not be deterred from going into those waters, and doing so in force." The photo shows the Carney transiting the Bosphorus Strait on February 17, 2018. (022918)

Pacific Commander says "we should prepare for war with China"


Admiral Harry Harris, USN, the US Pacific Commander (PACOM), told Congress the US should prepare for the possibility of war with China. He will retire in 2019 and has been nominated to be the US ambassador to Australia. Harris said, "China's intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril. I'm concerned China will now work to undermine the international rules-based order … Key advancements include fielding significant improvements in missile systems, developing fifth-generation fighter aircraft capabilities, and growing the size and capability of the Chinese Navy to include their first overseas base in the port of Djibouti … China's impressive military build-up could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain … If the United States does not keep pace, Pacific Command (PACOM) will struggle to compete with the People's Liberation Army on future battlefields." (021918)

Tillerson warns of nuclear war with North Korea


SecState Tillerson has warned that North Korea's leader's threats against the Krean peninsula and the US "does make us nervous" and said "That kind of a threat to the American people by a regime like this is not acceptable … I’m gonna use all the time available to me our diplomatic efforts will continue until that first bomb drops … My job is to never have a reason for the first bomb to drop … And we don't know precisely how much time is left on the clock.” (021918)

US forces' counterattack in Syria probably kills Russian mercenaries


The inevitable appears to have happened, US vs Russia in Syria. On February 7, 2018 fighters aligned with Syrian president Assad attacked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions in Der al-Zour Province, east central Syria. They reportedly crossed the Euphrates River and shelled the SDF base. American forces were on that base. In retaliation, US air and artillery counterattacked and forced the pro-Assad fighters to retreat. In a more cloudy episode, it appears the US counterattacks killed at least two if not many Russian mercenaries supporting the pro-SDF forces. SecDef Mattis said he was waiting for more information and the Russians have not confirmed the deaths. The Russian company Wagner who hires such mercenaries has not commented either. Thus far only media reports say Russians died. Over the weekend, a USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone did fire on a Russian-made T-72 tank threatening SDF and US forces and destroyed it. (021418)

US anti-ISIS Coalition vs Iranian-Russian Coalition, eastern Syria, Turkey in northwest


The US is now having to face an Iranian-Russian coalition hell bent on keeping Assad in power in northeastern Syria. The Russian-Iranian military coalition conducted a major coordinated attack against the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in eastern Syria on February 7, 2018. US forces were at the base under attack, and that forced US force protective retaliatory air strikes, good enough to stop the opposing force advance. The Iranians want to get east of the Euphrates River to the lucrative oil and gas fields. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said, "Russian private military contractors and Lebanese Hezbollah participated in the attack. Russian officers maintained continuous communication with U.S. military officials through the deconfliction hotline during the attack in order to obfuscate Russia's direct role in the incident. Russia both supported the attack and simultaneously gave the impression of genuine efforts to prevent the attack in order to confuse senior U.S. decision makers." Rick Francona, writing in "Middle East Perspectives," said "The Russians and US are going to face off on northeastern Syria, Turkey and the US will face off in northwestern Syria, Israel and Iran/Hizballah in south and central Syria." And now we have the Israel-Iranian confrontation building. Iran wants to set up many missile bases in Syria, like it has done in Lebanon, to threaten Israel. So it does not look good at this point. (021218)

General Votel says "not our intention to pul back from Manjib," but …


General Joseph Votel, USA, commander Central Command, said on January 29, 2018, "It is not our intention right now" to pull back from Manjib as Turkish forces have insisted the US do. He said further, "There’s two key objectives we have to keep in mind. One is we have to address Turkey’s very real concerns about security along their border … That is a legitimate concern. We acknowledge that; we have always acknowledged that. The other objective we have to do is we have to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS. And the partner that we have chosen on the ground is the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), that includes Kurds and Arabs. There’s obviously a rub here — the Kurds that we operate with, the Turks view them as, part and parcel, as PKK. We do not view them that way." Votel has emphasized the importance of focusing on defeating ISIS, he has said the Kurds in the SDF are central to that, and he has even asked the world for help. (012918)

Turkey threatens sweep across Syria, threat to US


Addendum, January 27, 2018: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on January 27, 2018 that US military forces need to leave the Manjib area of northern Syria. It appears that Turkish forces intend to move to the town. The photo shows US forces in Manjib in March 2017. I do not know how many are still there. The New York Times has reported there is a contingent of US special forces there. The US has not yet indicated whether it will move its forces away from Manjib. (012718)


Turkey's President Erdogan threatened on January 26, 2018 to push his forces across the breadth of northern Syria, attacking Kurdish forces there. The next target could be Manjib, abut 100 km east of their current positions in Afrin. This could threaten US forces operating with the Kurds in that area The US ahs about 2,000 troops there now. Turkey reportedly knows where US forces are and will not threaten them, but ... The US has asked Turkey to curtail its offensive against the Kurds in Syria, and focus instead n ISIS. In turn Turkey has called on the US to withdraw and clear the way. As an aside, Turkey continues to allow the US to operate out of Incirlik AB in Turkey. (012618)

New Navy Ship, USS Little Rock, stuck in ice in Montreal


The UK's Daily Mail reported on January 21, 2018, "The US Navy's newest littoral combat ship, the USS Little Rock, is stuck in ice in Montreal and will not be able to move until the spring thaw. "The USS Little Rock was commissioned on December 16 in Buffalo, New York, and scheduled to depart the following day for its home port at Mayport Naval Station. A sustained blast of Arctic air that extended from late December into January caused ice to form faster than normal within in the Seaway, according to the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. The Seaway closed for the season on January 11 and will open again in March. CBC News reported the ship has been stuck there since Christmas Eve. The photo shows her moored in Montreal's Old Port Sunday, January 21, 2018.She was on her way to Florida.

This is incredible. The Navy really has some very serious leadership problems. It is crashing its ships, only half its F/A-18 fleet is flyable, officers and commanders are being fired left and right at all levels, and some are involved in criminal activities. (012218)

Trouble in Syria: Turkey-Russia vs US-Turkey attacks


Addendum, January 21, 2018: Turkish ground forces have crossed the border into a Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin according to Turkish , Turkish President Erdogan on January 21, 2018.


Addendum, January 20, 2018: Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft have attacked Kurdish fighters on the Syrian side of the border, some or many of whom are and have been allied with the US. The Russian have moved forces out of the way and say they will not interfere.

Jennifer Cafarella and Elizabeth Teonman with Bradley Hanlon described the "Key Takeaway" about this for the Institute for the Study of War:

"Turkey launched an air-ground operation against the American partner force in Syria, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in Afrin district northwest of Aleppo City on January 20th, 2018. Turkey's goal is to extend its buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey may subsequently attack the town of Manbij, east of Afrin on the banks of the Euphrates River. Turkey's operations threaten to provoke a widening Turkish-Kurdish war that could unravel the U.S. stabilization effort in eastern Syria, place U.S. service members in Manbij at risk, and force the U.S. to reconsider support for the YPG."

TurkeyArmy Syria

Original story, January 18, 2018: Rick Francona, a Middle East expert, CNN military analyst, retired intelligence officer publishes "Middle East Perspectives." His ost recent article, "Syria - The coming showdown between the United States and Turkey," highlights just that. I commend it to your attention as his level of detail is excellent and easy to understand.
What appears to be happening is that with the defeat of ISIS, various groups are now going off in their own directions.

The US has been and continues to support the "Syrian Opposition," which Francona describes as including "the Free Syrian Army, independent rebels, and several jihadist groups including al-Qa'idah affiliates."


Russia is supporting the Syrian regime and allies and is working to destroy the Syrian opposition, which is now concentrated in the Idib Governorate in northern Syria. Turkish forces are also located in the Idib region.

Francona opined, "I don’t see a good end here for the opposition forces. They are not united ... they do not have the wherewithal to withstand the force that is being applied against them. With Russian airpower and rocket artillery, and Iranian-Hizballah-various militias providing the ground forces to supplement what is left of the Syrian army, it is only a matter of time before they will be defeated."

Turkish forces are also in this same area and are threatening to attack Kurds who are residents of Syria who have supported Kurds living in and rebelling against Turkey. These Kurds are the ones who have been providing the bulk of effective ground forces supported by the US against ISIS.

Francona also says the "U.S. has announced that it is training a force of 30,000 troops to control the Kurdish area of northeastern Syria, including controlling the Turkish border." The Turks do not want any Kurds on their border. For the US to do this training, its forces must access the area through Iraq, and given the defeat of ISIS, a US presence in Iraq is not guaranteed.

In sum, Francona says he "can envision a scenario in which the Iranians pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-‘Abadi to thank the Americans for their assistance in the fight against ISIS, and ask them to leave." If he does that, the US will find it very hard to support its Syrian Coalition. (011818)

USS Wasp ARG arrives to Japan - Will have F-35Bs aboard


The USS Wasp arrived to Sasebo, Japan on January 14, 2018. It will relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard. Other amphibious ships assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group 7, the Navy's only forward-deployed expeditionary strike group can deploy with her when she patrols. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) out of Okinawa will serve as an on-call crisis response force for the region and will be embarked on the Wasp when she patrols. Arguably the most important capability aboard the Wasp will be the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The Wasp has been upgraded to employ the F-35B and the aircraft has been training with the Wasp for the past few years. F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 relocated to Iwakuni, Japan, in early 2017. The squadron is the first operational Marine Corps F-35B unit and currently has 16 aircraft at Iwakuni. The F-35s will be aboard the Wasp when she patrols. This will be the first time for the F-35B to fly operationally at sea on patrol. It has replaced the AV-8 Harrier. (011718)

Turkey may be preparing to attack US partner forces in Syria


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on January 16, 2018 that Turkish President "Erdogan his intent to attack the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) … He stated Turkish forces will attack two SDF-held areas along the Turkish border within one week unless Syrian Kurdish People's Defense Forces (YPG), which dominate the SDF, withdraw." Turkey has begun moving forces and the president has said operations can commence at any time. Turkey and Russia, perhaps along with Iran, have been working together on a number of issues regarding Syria, often contrary to US interests. (011618)

US and Allied Foreign Minister considering blockade of North Korea


US and Allied foreign minsters from 20 countries are meeting on January 16, 2018 in Vancouver to consider whether to blockade North Korean ports. Canada and the US are co-hosting the sessions. A blockade would result in intercepting foreign ships heading for North Korea and inspecting their cargo. The blockade would be on both coasts, the Yellow Sea being the more provocative because it is adjacent to China. This is reportedly the only topic for discussion. North Korea's response has been that a blockade would be an act of war. China has warned the US against such a blockade. Based on my study of the Cuban Naval Blockade years ago, the US likely will be aware of the movements of every merchant ship toward Korea, and, given sufficient naval resources at sea, will be able to intercept as many as desired. Patrols, whether seaborne or airborne, over the Sea of Japan would be easy; not so in the Yellow Sea. The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) has been patrolling in the Yellow Sea since late last year to monitor who is going in and out of North Korean ports there. The MSDF has issued warnings but has not gone beyond that point. ROKN forces have done the same. The USN has gone in there, but not frequently. Russia and China have conducted naval exercises there as have the US and ROK. The photo shows a USN-ROKN formation during an exercise in the Yellow Sea in 2016. (011618)