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Rockets hit near Iraq base housing US trainers, no one hurt​

The Associated Press
21 hours ago

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An Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft takes off June 17, 2019, at Balad Air Base, Iraq. (Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman/Air Force)

BAGHDAD — Two rockets landed Sunday near an Iraqi air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, causing no casualties or damage, an Iraqi official said.

Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji said the rockets landed outside Balad air base after midday.

The attack was the first on an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops since an assault last month on a base in western Iraq that houses U.S. contractors and coalition troops. One contractor died after at least 10 rockets slammed into the base, raising concerns over a new round of escalating violence.

It followed U.S. strikes on Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border in late February in retaliation for another deadly attack on a base in Iraq.

The Sunday attack comes days ahead of a new round of so-called strategic Iraq-U.S. talks on April 7.

The Iraqi government has requested the fourth round of talks, partly in response to pressure from Shiite political factions and militias loyal to Iran that have lobbied for the remaining U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

According to three government officials, Iraq recently sent an official memo to the U.S. requesting a date for a new round of discussions on bilateral relations and specifically, the withdrawal of remaining combat forces.
Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press

The talks, which began in June under the Trump administration, would be the first under President Joe Biden. On the agenda are an array of issues, including the presence of U.S. combat forces in the country and the issue of Iraqi militias acting outside of state authority.

American forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of Iraq to help battle the Islamic State group after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country. In late 2020, U.S. troop levels in Iraq was reduced to 2,500 after withdrawals based on orders from the Trump administration.

Calls grew for more U.S. troop withdrawal since a U.S.-directed drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad in January 2020.
 

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US Marines carried out an exercise on 31st March in Kuwait, which comes under the US Central Command, Area of Responsibility.
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Taliban Targets Kandahar Airfield in ‘Disruptive’ Attack

April 7, 2021 | By Brian W. Everstine

The Taliban targeted Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, with rockets on April 7, and though no casualties were reported, the Pentagon said the attack is a threat to fragile peace discussions in the country.

Preliminary reports showed the rockets landed outside the perimeter of the airfield, with no casualties and no damage, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said. Kandahar has served as a key airfield for U.S. forces and has been the headquarters of Train, Advise, Assist Command-South, with American and NATO forces based on the installation.

“We always have the right of self-defense for our troops, but our focus right now is on supporting a diplomatic process here to try to bring this war to a negotiated end with an enduring peace,” Kirby said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes less than a month before the deadline for U.S. forces to completely withdraw from Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said it would be difficult to meet the May 1 deadline, and that the U.S. is in discussions with allies about the timeline. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said April 6 that Biden’s view has “consistently” been to end the war in Afghanistan.

“That should hopefully give people confidence about his commitments,” she said. “But it’s also an important decision—one he needs to make in close consultation with our allies and also with our national security team here in this administration. And we want to give him the time to do that.”

Kirby said the U.S. military needs to do a fuller assessment of “what happened and why, before any potential operational decision is made” to respond.

“I can’t deliver a comprehensive analysis of what we believe they were trying to achieve or what message they were trying to send,” Kirby said. “We condemn the attack and we believe this decision to provoke even more violence remains disruptive.”

Kandahar has hosted scores of USAF aircraft, including A-10s, E-11s, F-16s, KC-135s, C-130s, and MQ-9s, among others. However, since the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020, Air Forces Central Command and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan have not provided details on the presence at the airfield. Airfield operations are controlled by Afghanistan.
 

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U.S. Navy, Malaysia's air force hold South China Sea bilateral exercises
April 7, 2021

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Aircraft of the U.S. Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force fly over the USS Theodore Roosevelt during bilateral exercises on Tuesday and Wednesday. Photo courtesy of USS Theodore Roosevelt/Twitter


April 7 (UPI) -- The USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group completed exercises in the South China Sea with Malaysia's air force, the U.S. Navy said on Wednesday.

The aircraft carrier and Carrier Wing 11, escorted by the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn, conducted the bilateral exercise with the Royal Malaysian Air Force on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Su-30MKM [Russian-made fighter planes] and F/A-18D aircraft represent the RMAF, while USN is represented by F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft from the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group," a statement on the website of the RMAF, known as the Tudm Rasmi, said on Wednesday.

The strike group and RMAF planes conducted Dissimilar Air Combat Training exercises, in which superior planes maneuver against less nimble planes, joint-air operations and unit integration, the U.S. Navy said.

"We are thankful for the opportunity to train alongside the Royal Malaysian Air Force," Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, said in the Navy release.

"While we would have loved to meet face to face, I am excited that we can meet in the air to help deepen security cooperation between our two nations," Verissimo said.

The United States' military alliance with Australia and New Zealand makes Malaysia, a member of the Five Power Defense Arrangements treaty with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Britain, a U.S. military ally. Malaysia has also been involved in territorial disputes with China.

The bilateral exercises in the South China Sea concluded as the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed through the nearby Taiwan Strait, drawing the criticism of China's military.
 

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China criticizes passage of USS John S. McCain through Taiwan Strait
April 7, 2021
By Ed Adamczyk
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The destroyer USS John S. McCain transited the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy announced. Photo by MCS1 Jeremy Graham/U.S. Navy

April 7 (UPI) -- The transit of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday drew swift condemnation from the Chinese military.

The ship sailed through the strait separating Tainan and China, in a "routine exercise" demonstrating the "U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific [Ocean]," a Navy statement on Wednesday said.

In a statement, Col. Zhang Chunhui, spokesman for China's People's Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, said the action sent an erroneous signal to forces supporting Taiwan's independence from China.

He added that the appearance of the ship undermined the regional status and jeopardized stability in the 110-mile strait, regarded as an international waterway.

"China is firmly opposed to it," he said, noting that the PLA remains on high alert and ready to respond to threats.

While the independence of the island nation has been globally recognized since 1949, China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to eventually be reunited with the mainland country.

The United States has affirmed its interest in protecting Taiwan's independence, and Taiwan has been a regular purchaser of U.S. military equipment since 2015.

The U.S. Navy routinely sends ships through the strait in a show of force, as well as solidarity with Taiwan, and China was critical of the March 30 visit to the island by U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland.

The visit suggests an era of greater coordination in the areas of security and defense between Taiwan and the United States, Lin Ting-hui of the Taiwan Society of International Law told the Taipei Times.

This week, China's navy conducted exercises, involving one of its two aircraft carriers, in waters near the strait.

A U.S. Navy carrier strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, is also in the vicinity, in the South China Sea.

Earlier in March, Congressional testimony by the United States' two most senior admirals in Asia cited the growing threat of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Adm. Philip Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command and Adm. John Aquilino of the Pacific Fleet both mentioned its effect on Taiwan, and Aquilino contended that a Chinese "military takeover" of Taiwan was one of his greatest concerns.
 

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United States, Iraq reach agreement on plans to withdraw U.S. combat troops
April 7, 2021
By Daniel Uria

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The United States and Iraq said in a joint statement Wednesday that they plan to shift the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq to a mission "focused on training and advisory tasks." File Photo by Capt. Ryan E. Alvis/USMC/UPI

April 7 (UPI) -- The United States and Iraq on Wednesday reached an agreement on the eventual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the nation.

In a joint statement following the conclusion of the third round of talks between the United States and Iraq known as the Strategic Dialogue -- the first two of which were conducted under the Trump administration -- the two sides agreed the U.S. military presence would begin to shift to a non-combat role.

"Based on the increasing capacity of the [Iraq Security Forces], the parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks," the statement said.

The statement went on to say that the transition of U.S. and other international forces away from combat operations "reflects the success of their strategic partnership" to combat the presence of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq.

Iraq's national security adviser, Qasem al-Araji, said in a news conference the discussions resulted in "important progress" toward the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.

About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq helping the ISF combat the IS, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters there was "no specific agreement of a date certain or a certain number of troops by a certain date," but assured the United States has never intended to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely.

"I think we all realized when we were invited in by the government of Iraq, that this mission was aligned against ISIS and that there was no expectation that it was going to be a permanent, enduring mission or footprint," said Kirby, using an alternate abbreviation for the terror group.
 

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US Navy commissions littoral combat ship USS Oakland

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The U.S. Navy's newest littoral combat ship, the USS Oakland, was commissioned in ceremonies on Saturday. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

The USS Oakland, the Navy's newest littoral combat ship, was formally commissioned in a weekend ceremony, as the first LCS ships face retirement.

The Oakland, an Independence-class trimaran 418 feet long and designed to carry a crew of 40 in shallow water and ocean-going situations, officially joined the Navy fleet in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday.

The ceremony included military veterans, U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker.

A socially-distanced audience watched from parked cars and through a live streamed broadcast.

"We now have a finished warship behind us that is ready to be placed into commission," said Harker at the ceremony. "This ship is a marvel of engineering, which will extend our capabilities for any mission across the blue water, from shoreline to shoreline."

The USS Oakland, the third ship in the Navy's history to carry the city's name, was constructed by Austral USA in Alabama and will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego.

With a top speed of 46 knots, or 40 mph, the class of ships offers adaptability to various circumstances with lower cost and a smaller crew than other vessels.

A Mk 110 57 mm gun, a Raytheon SeaRAM anti-missile defense system and Naval Strike and Hellfire vertical launch missiles are standard armaments of Independence-class LCS ships, and up to 30 additional sailors can be accommodated for specific missions.

The commissioning of the USS Oakland comes after the Navy's first LCS, the USS Freedom, completed its final deployment last week.

In July 2020, the Navy announced it would retire the ship, along with the USS Independence, USS Fort Worth and USS Coronado, in 2021 to save on modernization efforts.

The vessels were the service's first four littoral combat ships, beginning in 2014.

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V-22 Osprey conducts first landing on deck of a ship

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The Osprey's vertical propeller orientation allows it the functionality of a helicopter.
Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo


(UPI) -- The U.S. Navy announced Friday it landed an Osprey V-22 aircraft for the first time on a flight deck aboard a hospital ship.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet announced the news from the USNS Mercy. The flight testing is result of a seven-month mission to expand the ship's capabilities for landing aircraft such as the V-22 Osprey and MH-60 Seahawk.

The Osprey, first developed in 1989, features turbo propellers for the aircraft to take off like a helicopter before assisting in forward flight.

Prior to the testing, the deck of Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy was upgraded to allow for the flights to take off.

Upgrading the ship to support new aircraft platforms will increase the efficiency of medical teams, commander Capt. Kendall Bridgewater said in a statement.

"This is a historic event in the storied life of the USNS Mercy, and for MSC," Bridgewater said. "Improving the capability of the ship to support newer aircraft platforms such as the MV-22, allows greater flexibility and enhances the embarked medical treatment team's ability to continue providing the outstanding care they are known for. This investment in new capability is a great example of MSC's continued support to the fleet and plays an important role in keeping the U.S. Navy competitive well into the future."

Takeoffs and landings will be practiced for a few days with the V-22 from Mercy's flight deck, followed by operations with the MH-60s.

The tactical training will focus on critical patients and shortening the route to the ship for their treatment.
 

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B-52H bombers deploy to Guam for bomber task force mission

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B-52H bombers of the U.S. Air Force left Barksdale Air Force Base, La., for deployment to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, last week.
Photo by Senior Airman Jovante Johnson/U.S. Air Force

April 19 (UPI) -- Four B-52H Stratofortress bombers were deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for bomber task missions, the Air Force announced.

The planes of the 2nd Bomb Wing left Barksdale Air Force Base, La., for operations in the Indo-Pacific region to "demonstrate the strategic credibility and tactical flexibility of U.S. forces in today's security environment across the globe," an Air Force statement on Saturday said.

Rapid deployment of bomber task forces replaced a 15-year continuous presence of bombers at Guam to align with the concept of strategic unpredictability, an element of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

Bomber missions involving B-52 and B-1 Lancers have been increasingly common since 2014, as the Air Force seeks to show tactical flexibility and evaluates the readiness of its presence around the world.

A task force of four B-52s arrived in Guam from Louisiana in February 2021 for "strategic deterrence missions."

In December 2020, two B-52s arrived at an unidentified location in the Middle East, the third such deployment in 45 days, for what U.S. Central Command called a "deliberate appearance" meant to "underscore the U.S. military's commitment to regional security and demonstrate a unique ability to rapidly deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice."

Before that, an August 2020 mission of six B-52s from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., deployed to Britain for NATO flight training exercises.

The arrival of B-52s in Guam is meant to project U.S. airpower in the Indo-Pacific region, where China is demonstrating its own power through territorial claims in the South China Sea.
 

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USS The Sullivans deploys to join HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group

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The destroyer USS The Sullivans deployed for the North Atlantic Ocean on Monday to participate in the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group.
Photo by MCS Seaman Chelsy Amalina/U.S. Navy

April 19 (UPI) -- The USS The Sullivans was deployed to participate in the strike group led by the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the U.S. Navy said on Monday.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer departed Mayport, Fla., on Monday and will join a multinational force led by the aircraft carrier.

Beginning in May, the strike group will travel from the North Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean before arriving in the Indo-Pacific region.

It will be the first major tour of duty for the aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 2017.

In March, the British Defense Ministry announced that the frigate HNLMS Evertsen of the Royal Netherlands Navy will join the strike group for the duration of the deployment, which will include operations and training with NATO allies and partner nations.

"It is an honor to sail in this elite multi-national strike group on the frontline demonstrating a fully integrated force that showcases the special relationship that our countries have," said Cmdr. David Burkett, commanding officer of the USS The Sullivans, in Monday's Navy statement.

In March, the U.S. destroyer participated in a successful Composite Unit Training Exercise, or COMPTUEX, with the U.S. Marine Corps' Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The drill employed NATO procedures and communications formats and involved about 3,700 Marine and Navy personnel.

In 2020, the USS The Sullivans also participated with the HMS Queen Elizabeth's carrier strike group in a pre-deployment exercise.

The USS The Sullivans is the second U.S. Navy ship to carry the name of the five Sullivan brothers, enlisted Navy sailors who died together when their ship was sunk by a torpedo in World War II.
 

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White House outlines 100-day plan to upgrade U.S. cyberdefenses

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President Joe Biden meets on Monday with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss investments in his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo by Doug Mills/UPI/Pool | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden's administration is beginning a 100-day plan to guard critical U.S. electric infrastructure against sophisticated cyber threats.

The plan aims to upgrade and improve defenses for electrical infrastructure and increase the government's ability to detect and analyze cyber threats.

The plan includes what the White House called "aggressive but achievable milestones" in helping owners and operators modernize cybersecurity and enhance detection, mitigation and forensic capabilities.

"This is a coordinated effort between the Department of Energy, the electricity industry and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency," National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.

"Protecting our nation's critical infrastructure is a shared responsibility of government and the owners and operators of that infrastructure."

Horne said the private sector owns much of the U.S. cyberinfrastructure and is critical in its protection.

"These efforts underscore the president's commitment to building back better and tackling cyber threats from adversaries who seek to compromise critical systems that are essential to U.S. national and economic security," she added.

Tuesday afternoon, Biden will speak about his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which aims to dedicate billions to improving physical infrastructure in the United States and create millions of new jobs for the economy.

Biden said the plan will be split into two parts -- the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, which he's expected to unveil in a couple weeks.

Biden is scheduled to make remarks about his plan at the White House at 3:25 p.m. EDT.
 

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Navy exercise tests unmanned vessels, aircraft

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Acting Navy Secretary Thomas W. Harker attended the Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 exercises at Naval Base San Diego. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

April 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy announced the start of its first manned and unmanned capabilities exercise on Monday at Naval Base San Diego.

Executed by the Navy's 3rd Fleet, "Unmanned Battle Problem 21" will "generate warfighting advantages in integrating multi-domain manned and unmanned capabilities into the most challenging operational scenarios," a Navy statement said.

Unmanned systems, including the MQ-9 Sea Guardian and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles, Sea Hunter and Sea Hawk unmanned surface vessels and small and medium unmanned undersea vehicles with modular payloads will be involved in exercises.

The goal is further incorporation of drone-style aircraft and vessels in day-to-day operations and battle plans across land, sea and air domains, according to Navy officials.

"Our unmanned systems are a great force multiplier for our Navy," said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, at a distinguished visitors' day for developers, contractors and Navy leaders on Friday. "They bring a lot of capability to the Fleet."

The unmanned systems are designed to work alongside the traditional, manned naval force.

"The overall goal is to integrate our unmanned capabilities across all domains to demonstrate how they solve CNO [Chief of Naval Operations] and Fleet Commander Key Operational Problems," said Rear Adm. Robert M. Gaucher, U.S. Pacific Fleet director of maritime headquarters.

"To get after these problems, UxS IBP21 [Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problems 21] will include maneuvering in contested space across all domains; targeting and fires; and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance," Guacher said.
 

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The Army Has Started Fielding Its First New Short Range Air Defense System In Decades​

The arrival of new Stryker-based air defense vehicles in Germany comes as aerial threats, especially small drones, continue to grow.​

BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK APRIL 24, 2021
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The U.S. Army has begun fielding its first new short-range air defense system in decades as the range of potential aerial threats, from traditional fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to missiles, and especially small drones, has grown. The service announced today that a unit forward deployed in Germany recently received the initial batch of operational Mobile Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD, systems, which are based on the 8x8 Stryker wheeled armored vehicle.

The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, based at Shipton Kaserne in Ansbach, Germany, now has a contingent of M-SHORADs alongside its existing Humvee-based Avenger short-range air defense systems. This battalion, which is assigned to the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), also based in Germany, has already been actively involved in the development and test of this new air defense vehicle, which is the culmination of an Army effort that began in 2018.
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Two of the Mobile Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) systems now assigned to the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in Germany.

5-4th Air Defense Artillery is actually using some of the prototype vehicles to begin establishing its operational capability. The unit expects to receive a total of 32 M-SHORAD systems by September, according to Defense News.

"This is truly a testament to our Army's commitment to increase air and missile defense capability and capacity to the joint force, and especially here in Europe," Brigadier General Gregory Brady, head of the 10th AAMDC, said in a statement. "The 10th AAMDC is proud to be a part of this Team effort and remains engaged, postured and ready to assure, deter, and defend the maneuver force in an increasingly complex Integrated Air and Missile Defense environment, shoulder to shoulder with our NATO Allies."

The Army initiated what was originally referred to as the Initial Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program in 2018 and subsequently conducted a shoot-off involving a number of contenders. A proposal from Leonardo DRS, the U.S.-based subsidiary of Italian defense contractor Leonardo, based on the Stryker vehicle, was selected as the winner.

In October 2020, General Dynamics Land Systems, which builds the Stryker series, received a contract valued at up to approximately $1.2 billion to integrate Leonardo DRS's M-SHORAD system onto an unspecified number of the 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles. An initial award of $230 million would go toward the delivery of 28 systems, which, together with four prototype vehicles, will make up the entire fleet that 5-4th Air Defense Artillery is scheduled to get this year.

The M-SHORAD system consists primarily of a new turret, as well as associated fire control, power generation, and other components, installed on a Stryker. The turret features a four-round FIM-92 Stinger heat-seeking surface-to-air missile launcher, similar to the ones found on the Avenger system, which you can read more about here, on one side. On the other side, there are two launch rails for millimeter-wave radar-guided AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles. The AGM-114L is in U.S. military service today primarily as an air-to-surface and surface-to-surface weapon, but it has a demonstrated secondary surface-to-air capability against slower-flying threats.
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An M-SHORAD system undergoes a test in the United States.

The turret is also equipped with a 30mm M230 automatic cannon and a 7.62mm M240 machine gun, which can be used against aerial targets or threats on the ground. Lastly, it features a turreted sensor system with electro-optical and infrared cameras for target acquisition and general situational awareness. In addition, four small fixed-position RADA active electronically-scanned array(AESA) radars are position on the vehicle's rear detect to help spot and track targets.

When the Army selected Leonardo DRS as the winner of the IM-SHORAD competition, there were reports that its proposal also included some type of so-called soft-kill system, such as an electronic warfare jammer. RADA's radars arenotably a component of various soft-kill counter-drone systems, including the U.S. Marine Corps' Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS), which is mounted the Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle.

Whether the soft-kill capability has been integrated or not, the M-SHORAD system already represents a significant boost in capability over the Avenger, which has no radar system of its own and is armed only with Stingers and a single .50 caliber M3P machine gun. The Stryker platform offered greatly improved mobility and survivability over the Humvee that Avenger systems are mounted on, as well.
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A Humvee-mounted Avenger short-range air defense system fires a Stinger missile during a training exercise.

“There’s really no comparison to anything I’ve operated in my career,” Army Sergeant Andrew Veres, a member of 5-4th Air Defense Artillery said in an official interview. "Everything in these systems is an improvement – the survivability, mobility, dependability, off road ability – it gives us the ability to stay in the fight longer."

The Army is also already looking to complement the M-SHORAD system with a Stryker-mounted laser directed energy weapon for added defense, especially against small drones, as well as incoming missiles, artillery shells and rockets, and mortar projectiles. Protection against these latter threats is typically referred to collectively as Counter-Rockets, Artillery, and Mortars, or C-RAM. The service is also looking to link together its short and longer-range air and missile defenses into a comprehensive network that also includes various sensors and leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can learn more about that effort, known as the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS), which promises to revolutionize how the service defends against various aerial threats, in detail here.
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A Stryker wheeled armored vehicle fitted with an experimental laser weapon, painted tan, among other additional systems.

Beyond the M-SHORAD's exact specifications, and the Army's other future air and missile defense plans, these new vehicles that have arrived in Germany a direct reflection of the Army's commitment to reestablish its SHORAD capabilities, which were allowed to wither away after the end of the Cold War as the threat of enemy air and missile attacks appeared to largely evaporate. This turned out to be a very short-sighted decision, as The War Zone explored in this past in-depth feature. The prospect of a new major confrontation with Russia after its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 prompted a resurgence of interest in various traditional conventional capabilities with a particular eye toward future conflicts with potential near-peer adversaries. China has since subsumed Russia as the so-called "pacing threat" in this regard.

In fact, 5-4th Air Defense Artillery, which was officially activated in its present form in October 2018, was the first dedicated short-range air defense battalion to be stood up in the active component of the Army in nearly 13 years at that point. More than a decade earlier, the service decided that the Army National Guard would become to sole operator of the Avenger system, which had first entered service in 1989. M6 Linebackers, Stinger-armed SHORAD systems based on the tracked Bradley fighting vehicle that had the Army had fielded first in 1998, had all been converted into standard M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) by 2006. The number of issued shoulder-fired Stingers, a type of weapon also known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), was also sharply curtailed

The service also has a smaller number of land-based versions of the ship-mounted Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), known as Centurions, which it developed together with the U.S. Navy. However, these are niche, low-density assets primarily used to provide C-RAM defense at fixed facilities overseas rather than more general SHORAD.




At the same time, smaller hostile countries, such as Iran and North Korea, and even non-state actors, have increasingly begun to field more capable missile systems. This includes land-based cruise missiles, against which shorter-range point air defenses could be very useful.
The use of various kinds of armed drones, including loitering munitions, also known as suicide drones, is surging, too. Swarming technology, which presents additional challenges for air defenders, is proliferating, as well. Even small modified commercial quad and hexcopter-type unmanned systems, loaded with small explosive payloads, represent a very real threat now and is one that is only likely to grow as time goes on.

This reality has already has prompted the deployment of Army Avengers to places like Syria and Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the Army has also been developing and fielding new versions of the Stinger with improved proximity fuzes that are better suited to engaging these kinds of small threats.


“These small- and medium-sized UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] proliferating across the [area of operations] present a new and complex threat to our forces and those of our partners and allies," U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), declared to the House Armed Services Committee just this week. “For the first time since the Korean War, we are operating without complete air superiority.”

McKenzie, who took command of CENTCOM in 2019, has been sounding this alarm for more than a year now, as have others for far longer, including The War Zone.

All told, the arrival of M-SHORAD systems in Germany is the start of the fielding of valuable additional air defense capabilities for U.S. forces in Europe, as well as an important step forward in the establishment of new, more capable short-range air defense capabilities across the service after decades of neglect.

Contact the author: [email protected]
 

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The US Navy has an upgraded Tomahawk: Here’s 5 things you should know​

By: David B. Larter   December 14, 2020
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The destroyer Chafee launches a Block V Tomahawk, the weapon’s newest variant, during a missile exercise. (Ens. Sean Ianno/U.S. Navy)​


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy test-fired its new Block V Tomahawk from the destroyer Chafee in December, introducing the newest generation of the venerable Tomahawk cruise missile to its arsenal.

The modifications are designed to bring the sub-sonic cruise missile into the era of great power competition. Why is this Tomahawk different from all other Tomahawks, and can this old Cold Warrior keep up in the era of hypersonic missiles?
Here’s five things to know about the Block V:

1. Increased capabilities. Raytheon’s Tomahawk Block V, when fully realized in its Block Va and Block Vb varieties, will be expected to hit surface ships at Tomahawk ranges – in excess of 1,000 miles – with the integration of a new seeker. It also will integrate a new warhead that will have a broader range of capabilities, including greater penetrating power.

Tomahawk’s range is especially important in the Asia-Pacific, where China’s rocket force has extraordinary reach with its DF-26 and DF-21 missiles, with ranges of 2,490 and 1,335 miles respectively, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The missiles are destined not just for the VLS launchers of surface ships but also on attack submarines. Read more here:

2. More survivable. The first iteration of the Block V upgrades the missile’s communication and navigation systems. This is about making it tougher to counter and detect electronically, said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and senior fellow at The Hudson Institute.

“It has greater electronic hardening to be able to work through jamming more effectively,” Clark said. “The hardening and the electronic countermeasures they’ve put into it make it harder to find and target with radar, and that improves its survivability.

“They’ve incorporated a lot of survivability into Tomahawk over the years, this takes it a step further to make it less susceptible to jamming of its seeker or its communications. But it could, perhaps, also counter enemy radar that might be used to target it and shoot it down.”

In 2017, Raytheon’s Tomahawk program manager told reporters at an event at the missile plant in Tucson, Ariz., that the navigation system upgrades will ensure the missile can strike targets even if GPS is taken down.

3. Subsonic is a feature, not a bug. With all the emphasis on supersonic and hypersonic missiles and with the improvements in air defenses, that might make Tomahawk seem like a fuddy-duddy by comparison.

But there are good reasons to keep producing the Tomahawk, even with its slower speeds.

“The benefit of the sub-sonic missile is range,” Clark said. “Being sub-sonic means its also able to travel at a more fuel-efficient speed. So, the fact that the Tomahawk can travel more than 1,000 miles is a function of the sub-sonic speed. To get that kind of range out of a super-sonic missile you’d need something much larger.”
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Sailors on the destroyer Barry train on planning a Tomahawk mission. (U.S. Navy)

4. It’s cheap. Well, relatively so. The missile has been able to stay at the $1 million price range, which is on the low end for missiles. Raytheon’s supersonic SM-6 can reach speeds of Mach 3.5 – with future iterations believed to be capable of reaching hypersonic speeds – but cost more than four times as much per shot and have less range. That’s the Tomahawk’s key differentiator, said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with Telemus Group.

“The key capability of Tomahawk is the cost.” Hendrix said. “It can be purchased in larger quantities and you can afford to lose some to defensive capabilities even as you penetrate. That’s one of the reasons why Tomahawk is going to be in the inventory for a while to come, even as it brings back that longer-range anti-ship capability that we’ve been missing for some time.”

Tom Karako, an expert in missile technology with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that cost is a big advantage of Tomahawk, especially for low-end missions.

“As long as they can keep them to about a million dollars per shot, the Navy is going to want those all day long,” Karako said. “The next time the President says to the Navy, ‘Hey, go schwack this terrorist training camp,’ they’re going to want Tomahawks.”

5. It’s all in the mix. The key to thinking about a sub-sonic cruise missile is understanding how it fits into a mix of weapons, Karako said. Not everything is going to be hypersonic or even supersonic, nor does it have to be, he argued, but the cost per salvo make it attractive as part of a varied and complex threat to present an adversary.

“The question is, ‘What’s the going to be the mix between hypersonic things and things that are supersonic and subsonic?’,” he said. “That, I think, is the right question. As long as you have standoff, subsonic and supersonic are going to be part of the equation.”

“Even for the high-end fight, I don’t think the hypersonic stuff will fully replace sub-sonic stuff. It might just mean you shoot your sub-sonic stuff earlier, let them fly for a while and everything arrives at the same time as part of how you structure an attack.”
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The destroyer Dewey conducts a tomahawk missile flight test while underway in the western Pacific. (MC2 Devin Langer/U.S. Navy)

Clark, the Hudson analyst, agreed that the mix was important, saying that even with the arrival of faster missiles, the Tomahawk has a place.

The combination of the SM-6, which has a surface strike mode, the new 100-plus-mile ranged anti-ship Naval Strike Missile bound for the littoral combat ships and next-generation frigate, and the Block V upgrades on Tomahawk, will give the Navy’s venerable birds a place in the service’s vertical launch system cells for some time to come, Clark said.

“Between Tomahawk Block V, the SM-6 and the NSM, the Navy has a collection of attack weapons that they are happy with,” he said, adding that a long-running effort to develop a next-generation land-attack weapon has lost some of its urgency.

The development of hypersonic missiles could, however, push out the Tomahawk down the road as the technology gets more advanced and of a size compatible with the Navy’s ubiquitous Mark 41 VLS launcher.

“What’s happening in parallel is in the development of hypersonic missile that are a smaller form factor than the boost-glide weapons that are coming to maturity now,” Clark said. “And if they can get it down to being able to fit in [the Mark 41], then that could provide the Navy a next-generation capability that is more survivable and has a shorter time of flight.

“So I think this combination of missiles the Navy has now, combined with the fact that the hypersonic weapons are coming along a little further out, means the Navy is going to stick with what it has potentially even longer than it had originally anticipated.”
 

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Navy Orders LRASM Integration into P-8 Aircraft​

Posted on April 21, 2021 by Richard R. Burgess, Senior Editor
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An LRASM being dropped from a B-1B Lancer bomber. LOCKHEED MARTIN

ARLINGGTON, Va. — The Navy has awarded a contract to Boeing to integrate the AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) into the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a $74 million cost-plus-fixed-fee order for “the design, development, and test of software and ancillary hardware necessary for the integration of the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile onto the P-8A aircraft for the Navy,” an April 21 Defense Department contract announcement said.

The LRASM, a derivative of the Air Force’s AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Strike Missile-Extended Range cruise missile, fills an air-launch capability gap and provides flexible, long-range, advanced anti-surface capability against high-threat maritime targets. The weapon reduces dependency on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. Semi-autonomous guidance algorithms will allow it to use less-precise target cueing data to pinpoint specific targets in the contested domain.

The P-8A currently can be armed with AGM-84 Harpoon cruise missiles and Mk54 antisubmarine torpedoes. The addition of the LRASM will expand its anti-surface capability in terms of range and ability to operate in a GPS-denied environment.

Work on the order is expected to be completed in October 2024.
 
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