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The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
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Meet Battleship USS Nevada: She Was Torpedoed, Shelled and Nuked

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 02:00

Peter Suciu

History,

It survived torpedoes, bombs, shells, and two atomic blasts.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Nevada is an unambiguous reminder of our Navy's heritage of resilience.

To say that the USS Nevada (BB-36) was "tough" would be a colossal understatement.

The warship was rushed into service during the First World War, survived Pearl Harbor, and during the Second World War supported the D-Day landings in Normandy and then the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the war, she served as a target during the July 1946 atomic bomb tests at Bikini in the Marshall Islands – but even that wasn't enough to sink her. Finally, off the Hawaiian Islands the U.S. Navy sunk the tough old warship with gunfire and torpedoes.

Now after more than 70 years researchers have discovered the wreck of the USS Nevada located 65 nautical miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. The ship is lying at a depth of 15,400 feet, and was found by underwater archeology specialists SEARCH and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity. The mission to find the famed U.S. Navy battleship was jointly coordinated between SEARCH's operations center and one of Ocean Infinity's vessels, Pacific Constructor.

The Ocean Infinity ship had set sail for a range of commercial tasks in the Pacific earlier this year before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. As a result of the global pandemic the ship has remained at sea, and apparently used its time wisely!

"We are greatly appreciative to Ocean Infinity and SEARCH Inc. in relocating and providing information on an extremely historic vestige of our nation's past," said Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, U.S. Navy (Retired), director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

"Nevada is an unambiguous reminder of our Navy's heritage of resilience," Cox added. "Nevada has a proud place in Navy's history – commissioned in 1916, she served in both World Wars, and was present at the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941; the only battleship to get underway after the attack. During the attack, the ship and crew sustained at least six, and possibly, as many as 10 bomb hits and one torpedo hit, but remained in the fight. With our sailors' quick thinking, the crew grounded the ship, preventing her from sinking. The ship was repaired and immediately returned to the fight, proving the resiliency and toughness of our sailors then, as are today."

The USS Nevada had a long and distinguished career. The ship provided escort duties to convoys heading "over there" during the First World, and was then among the escort ships that sailed with the ocean liner George Washington, which carried U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, she had been stationed next to the famous USS Arizona but was the only battleship to get underway. A total of 60 of its 1,500-member crew were killed in the attack, while more than 100 more were wounded, but the crew was able to ground the vessel, which prevented it from completely sinking. Nevada was repaired and was the only battleship to be present at both Pearl Harbor and at Normandy for the D-Day landings.

The Nevada then played a key role in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and survived a Japanese kamikaze attack on March 27, 1945, that left 11 of her crew dead and 41 wounded. A shell attack during the invasion also killed two of the crew and further damaged the ship.

As an aging warship, the Navy decided to use Nevada, along with about 100 other veteran vessels for target practice at the Bikini Atoll. On July 1, 1946, a 23-kiloton bomb dropped by a B-29 left the vessel seriously damaged and scorched by fire but still floating! A follow up underwater detonation sank other warships, but not Nevada. It was only on July 31, 1948, that the damaged vessel was finally sunk after being used in a Navy gunfire exercise.

"Nevada is an iconic ship that speaks to American resilience and stubbornness," said Dr. James Delgado, senior vice president, and lead maritime archeologist for SEARCH.

"Rising from its watery grave after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, it survived torpedoes, bombs, shells, and two atomic blasts," added Delgado. "The physical reality of the ship, resting in the darkness of the great museum of the sea, reminds us not only of past events but of those who took up the challenge of defending the United States in two global wars. This is why we do ocean exploration to seek out these powerful connections to the past."

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

This article first appeared on May 14, 2020 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia

We Have Video: Russia is Upgrading its Nuclear Drones and Hypersonic Missiles

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 01:30

Mark Episkopos

Security,

Russian Ministry of Defense released brief promotional footage to show off development of ambitious weapons projects.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Kremlin can be expected to ramp up their ongoing strategic weapons projects in a bid to diversify both their nuclear and conventional deterrent over the coming years. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February Address to the Federal Assembly made waves for its international political implications, and rightly so. But less covered, though arguably no less important, were Putin’s updates on several of Russia’s most ambitious weapons projects: Poseidon and Tsirkon.

As previously covered by The National Interest, Poseidon is a nuclear-powered underwater drone armed with a 2-megaton atomic payload. Its explosion is meant to generate a radioactive tsunami, capable of destroying coastal cities and other infrastructure several kilometers inland.

Poseidon is “successfully undergoing tests,” Putin announced last week. Later that day, the Russian Ministry of Defense released brief promotional footage to drive the point home. The video, entitled “proving grounds testing of the Poseidon system,” shows little of the Poseidon system in action. Instead, it depicts Russian sailors hustling about what appears to be the Sarov test submarine, before cutting to several green-tinted, above-surface shots of the submarine. Nonetheless, Defense Minister Shoigu declared the tests a success and the system is reportedly on track for its anticipated 2019 launch.

Putin added that Poseidon boasts an “unlimited range.” Presumably, this means that the underwater drone can traverse virtually infinite distances before reaching its target. With a maximum speed of 200 kilometers and effective depth of “thousands of feet” below the surface, the Kremlin believes that Poseidon travels too fast and too deep underwater to be reliably intercepted. While impressive on paper, it remains to be seen to what extent traveling at such breakneck speeds compromises Poseidon’s detectability as it enters within detonation range of its coastal target.

While others have expressed skepticism concerning Poseidon’s supposed invincibility and even its military value, what makes it such a potent addition to Russia’s nuclear arsenal is precisely that it can succeed strategically even if it fails tactically. Poseidon’s mere deployment off hostile coasts is almost guaranteed to cause mass political confusion, thereby serving as a cover for a different military or political operation even if it is ultimately intercepted.

Putin went on to highlight another “promising innovation”: “Tsirkon, a hypersonic missile that can reach speeds of approximately Mach 9 and strike a target more than 1,000 km away both underwater and on the ground. It can be launched from water, from surface vessels and from submarines, including those that were developed and built for carrying Kalibr high-precision missiles, which means it comes at no additional cost for us.”

This is more or less a condensed summary of what is already known about 3M22 Tsirkon, with one notable exception. Past reports have pegged Tsirkon’s speed at around Mach 6 with one CNBC source alleging Mach 8, but Putin is now publicly stating a speed of “approximately Mach 9” or around 6,900 miles per hour. There are a few factors that may account for this discrepancy: “approximately Mach 9” may be a generous way to describe the high end of Mach 8, Tsirkon’s speed may have increased from developmental progress made over the years, or there may be more than one version of Tsirkon. 

Meanwhile, Putin’s emphasis on cost-effectiveness reflects one of Tsirkon’s guiding design principles as a versatile, multi-purpose weapon that seamlessly integrates with a wide range of existing delivery systems including even certain bomber aircraft.

Unlike with Poseidon, Russian officials have not offered a concrete timetable on Tsirkon’s development. But as Cold-War era arms control regimes continue to disintegrate, the Kremlin can be expected to ramp up their ongoing strategic weapons projects in a bid to diversify both their nuclear and conventional deterrent over the coming years. 

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

This article first appeared in 2019 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

China Wants to Sink Your Navy with Hypersonic Missiles

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 01:00

Peter Suciu

Security,

These upgrades will ensure the ability to pack a heavy punch. 

Here's What You Need To Remember: A volley of the YJ-12s could pose a significant threat to even the most sophisticated air defense system. 

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has increased the potency of its Luhai-class Type 051B destroyer, Shenzhen (DD 167), with 16 container launchers for YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile. The warship, the only one of its class, first entered service in 1999 and was commissioned by the PLAN Navy South Sea Fleet as its flagship. It was originally armed with the YJ-83 subsonic sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), which have been described as being comparable to the U.S. Navy's Harpoon.

The YJ-83 boasted an impressive range, but it lacked the strategic impact of the YJ-12 – which has both speed and range. Forbes noted that a volley of the YJ-12s could pose a significant threat to even the most sophisticated air defense system. It also has a large warhead that could make it potentially quite devastating even to capital warships such as aircraft carriers.

Also known as the CM-302 in its export name, the YJ-12 employs a ramjet engine that allows it to cruise at supersonic speed Mach 2 to 3, or a maximum range of 280 to 400 kilometers per hour. The missile reportedly utilizes an inertial guidance system that is coupled with a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). The new missiles are also reportedly being refitted to the PLAN's Sovremenny-class destroyers, which are based on Russian designs from when China upgraded its defense capabilities with Russian technology.

At the time of its introduction of the Shenzhen, it was the largest surface combatant vessel ever commissioned by the PLAN, but despite its increased size and displacement, the destroyer did not feature any significant improvements in weapons systems and sensors and was largely seen to be deployed with rather "meager armament," which include a single HHQ-7 short-range anti-aircraft missile launch, just four twin 76mm guns, and the eight YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.

All this explains the efforts of the Chinese to refit and upgrade the warship. It had been spotted undergoing a modernization refit at the Zhanjiang Naval Base in 2015, which included some significant improvements in its weapons and sensors. In recent years the warship's Type 381A radar was upgraded to the Type 382 and additional Type 364 radar systems.

Last November the Shenzhen returned from its most recent major refit, which included the installation of an HHQ-16 vertical launch system consisting of four sets of eight units and allows it to host 32 ship-to-air missiles to shoot down incoming hostile aircraft and missiles. This replaced the single HHQ-7 SAM launch on the bow deck.

Forbes noted that China's first-generation of modern warships, including the Shenzhen, are unlikely to be as capable as newer and larger types, these upgrades will ensure the ability to pack a heavy punch. 

The Shenzhen has participated in numerous military operations, but it also worth noting that it has made port calls to numerous countries, making it a star in naval diplomacy. It now has even more to show off.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

This article first appeared last month and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia

F-35 Vs. A-10 Warthog: Which Plane Wins the Battle for Close Air Support King?

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 00:30

Kris Osborn

Security,

The US Army wants the F-35 to support its ground troops, but Congress loves the A-10.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Regardless of the conclusions arrived upon by the ongoing assessment, it is likely both the A-10 and F-35 will perform CAS missions in the immediate years ahead.

The US Army wants the F-35 to support its ground troops.

It’s that simple. We hear volumes of information about the Marine Corps vertical-take-off-and-landing F-35B, Navy carrier-launched F-35C and Air Force F-35A - but what does the Army think of the emerging Joint Strike Fighter?

Does the Army think the 5th-Gen stealth fighter would bring substantial value to targeting and attacking enemy ground forces in close proximity to advancing infantry? What kind of Close Air Support could it bring to high-risk, high-casualty ground war?

“When you are in a firefight, the first thing infantry wants to do it get on that radio to adjust fire for mortars and locate targets with close air support with planes or helicopters. You want fires. The F-35 has increased survivability and it will play a decisive role in the support of ground combat,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Gen. Milley’s comments are quite significant, given the historic value of close air support when it comes to ground war. His remarks also bear great relevance regarding the ongoing Pentagon evaluation assessing the F-35 and A-10 Warthog in close air support scenarios.

Over the years, close-air-support to Army ground war has of course often made the difference between life and death - victory or defeat. The Army, Milley said, wants next-generation close-air-support for potential future warfare.

“We fight with the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Our soldiers have never heard an Air Force pilot say ‘I can’t fly into that low-altitude area,’ These guys take incredible risk. If there are troops on the ground, they are rolling in hot,” Milley said.

While Milley of course did not specifically compare the A-10 to the F-35 or say the Army prefers one aircraft over another, he did say the F-35 would be of great value in a high-stakes, force-on-force ground war.

Long-revered by ground troops as a “flying-tank,” the combat proven A-10 has been indispensable to ground-war victory. Its titanium hull, 30mm cannon, durability, built-in redundancy and weapons range has enabled the aircraft to sustain large amounts of small arms fire and combat damage - and keep flying.

At the same time, as newer threats emerge and the high-tech F-35 matures into combat, many US military weapons developers and combatant commanders believe the JSF can bring an improved, new-generation of CAS support to ground troops. Thus - the ongoing Office of the Secretary of Defense comparison.

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Accordingly, the Pentagon-led F-35/A-10 assessment is nearing its next phase of evaluation, following an initial “first wave” of tests in July of this year, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, Program Executive Officer, F-35 program, recently told a group of reporters.

“Mission performance is under evaluation,” Winter said.

Pre- Initial Operational Test & Evaluation test phases, are currently underway at Edwards AFB and Naval Air Station China Lake, officials said.

“Mission performance is being evaluated in the presence of a robust set of ground threats and, to ensure a fair and comparable evaluation of each system’s performance, both aircraft are allowed to configure their best weapons loadouts and employ their best tactics for the mission scenario” a statement from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation said.

Upon initial examination, some might regard a stealthy, 5th-Gen F-35 as ill-equipped or at least not-suited for close air support. However, a closer look does seem to uncover a handful of advantages - speaking to the point Milley mentioned about survivability.

Long-range, computer-enabled F-35 sensors could enable the aircraft to see and destroy enemy ground targets with precision from much higher altitudes and much farther ranges than an A-10 could; the speed of an F-35, when compared to an A-10, would potentially make it better able to maneuver, elude enemy fire and get into position for attack; like the A-10s 30mm gun, the F-35 has its own 25mm cannon mounted on its left wing which could attack ground forces; given its sensor configuration, with things like a 360-degree Distributed Aperture System with cameras, the F-35 brings a drone-like ISR component to air-ground war. This could help targeting, terrain analysis and much-needed precision attacks as US soldiers fight up close with maneuvering enemy ground forces.

An F-35 might be better positioned to respond quickly to enemy force movement; in the event that enemy air threats emerge in a firefight, an F-35 could address them in a way an A-10 could not, obviously; an F-35 would be much better positioned to locate enemy long-range fires points of combat significance and destroy hostile artillery, mortar or long-range-fires launching points. Finally, while the A-10 has a surprising wide envelope of weapons, an F-35 could travel with a wider range of air-ground attack weapons - armed with advanced targeting technology.

Also, fighter-jet close air support is by no means unprecedented. F-22s were used against ISIS, F-15s were used against insurgents in Iraq - and the F-35 recently had its combat debut in Afghanistan.

There are, however, some unknowns likely to be informing the current analysis. How much small arms fire could an F-35 withstand? Could it draw upon its “hovering” technology to loiter near high-value target areas? To what extent could it keep flying in the event that major components, such as engines or fuselage components, were destroyed in war? How much could A-10 weapons and targeting technology be upgraded?

Regardless of the conclusions arrived upon by the ongoing assessment, it is likely both the A-10 and F-35 will perform CAS missions in the immediate years ahead.

When it comes to the Army and the F-35, one can clearly envision warfare scenarios wherein Army soldiers could be supported by the Marine Corps F-35B, Navy F-35C or Air Force F-35A.

“We don’t fight as an Army - we fight as a joint force. What makes us different is the synergistic effect we get from combining various forces in time and space,” Milley said.

Kris Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at CNN and CNN Headline News.

This first appeared in Warrior Maven here.

This article first appeared earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest. 

Image: Wikimedia

 

Russia's PKM Is Only Really Scary Machine Gun. Let Us Explain Why.

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 00:00

Charlie Gao

Security,

The PKM replaced the lighter RPK-74 as the standard squad automatic weapon of the Russian Army in the 2000s and has only received a few modifications to the design in almost fifty years.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The PKM is sometimes described as “an AK flipped upside down and made in a different caliber,” which is not totally incorrect. Both weapons use the long-stroke gas piston operation, where gas is tapped from the barrel to drive a piston that actuates the action. On the AK, the gas tube that houses this piston is above the barrel. On the PKM, it is below the barrel.

Mikhail Kalashnikov is known for creating the AK rifle, but his contributions to Soviet firearms design didn’t end there. In 1961 he designed the PK machine gun, which was modernized into the PKM in 1969. Like the AK, this machine gun serves on to the current day. However, in many ways, it can be considered a better design than his rifle, despite it serving a different role.

The PKM is sometimes described as “an AK flipped upside down and made in a different caliber,” which is not totally incorrect. Both weapons use the long-stroke gas piston operation, where gas is tapped from the barrel to drive a piston that actuates the action. On the AK, the gas tube that houses this piston is above the barrel. On the PKM, it is below the barrel.

However, the PKM features a gas regulator to adjust the amount of gas being tapped off from the barrel to drive the action. Normally the regulator is placed on the “1” setting, with “2” and “3” providing more gas to cycle the action when conditions are rough. This allows it to have a gentler recoil impulse, unlike the AK which is slightly overgassed to be reliable in all conditions without adjustment.

While the reason for this design choice may be simplicity, presumably a machine gunner would have more time to train on their weapon than a rifleman, western rifles contemporary to the AK such as the FN FAL featured a gas regulator as well. We also see the move from a standard single overgassed setting to a gas regulator within the HK416 series, from the original HK416 to the HK416A5 and A7. This all suggests that a quickly adjustable gas regulator is the way to go to lower recoil on a firearm.

The safety design of the PKM is also far more ergonomic than the AK. The AK safety is often considered to be an inferior design as it requires the shooter to take their firing hand off the grip of the weapon to activate and deactivate it (though this can be partially remedied with extended surfaces). The PKM safety, on the other hand, is a well-positioned thumb safety, similar to those found on the M16 that can be easily flicked by the firing hand without shifting the grip much.

The PKM also shines in how lightweight it is. While the AK was lighter than the FN FAL and G3 rifles that came out around the same time it did, the American M16 was far lighter than the AK. On the other hand, the PKM is one of the lightest full-caliber machine guns in the world. It weighs 7.5 kg to the FN MAGs 11 kg. It’s even lighter than the recent FN Minimi 7.62 Mk3 and M60E6, which weight 8.8 kg and 9.3 kg respectively. Despite it being lightweight, the PKM is practically as effective as the heavier guns.

The PKM replaced the lighter RPK-74 as the standard squad automatic weapon of the Russian Army in the 2000s and has only received a few modifications to the design in almost fifty years. One of them is the evolution to the slightly heavier PKP which ditches the quick change barrels of the PKM for a heavier, forced-air-cooled fixed barrel. The tank version of the PKM, the PKT has armed every Russian tank from the T-62 to the latest T-14 Armata as well as countless IFVs and APCs.

PKMs still arm many western-aligned nations as well. Finland issues PKMs as the standard squad machine gun. Poland has created a 7.62x51mm NATO version of the PKM in the UKM-2000, which arms their infantry alongside the standard PKM.

While the AK is Kalashnikov’s most famous design, the PKM is definitely his best.

Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues. This first appeared last year.

Image: Wikipedia.

Coming Soon: Russian Bombers (Now Armed with Hypersonic Missiles?)

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 23:30

Peter Suciu

Security, Europe

Hypersonic missiles have been seen as a potential game changer, with some in the U.S. military warning that there is really no defense against the missiles due to their speed.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Russian Air Force has recently conducted testing of a new hypersonic aircraft missile for a modified version of the Tu-22M3M aircraft.

The Russian Air Force has recently conducted testing of a new hypersonic aircraft missile for a modified version of the Tu-22M3M aircraft. According to Russian state media, the work on the new missile began several years ago and its testing was completed simultaneously with the work on the upgraded bomber.

"Recently, a new hypersonic missile was tested on the Tu-22M3," a source in Russia's military-industrial complex told TASS. "The missile will be part of the armament range of the upgraded Tu-22M3M along with a number of other latest aviation weapons."

The source added that the missile is not part of the line of X-32 missiles, but did not provide the characteristics of it, except to confirm that it is "completely different."

The X-32 (Kh-32) is a supersonic air-launched cruise missile that has a range of 600 to 1000km, and it has been the primary missile on the Tu-22M3M bombers since 2016. The Tu-22M3M supersonic bomber is the latest upgrade of the Tu-22M3 with expanded combat potential. The upgrade provided new electronic equipment including navigation, communication, sights, engine controls, fuel mechanisms and electronic warfare. These upgrades increased the navigation precision, simplified maintenance and preflight preparation.

According to past reporting in The National Interest, the Tu-22M3M boasts 80 percent new avionics over the original Tu-22M. An important part of the upgrade package was the inclusion of up to three of the Kh-32 missiles, which are classified as anti-ship missiles, but were also developed to be effective against critical infrastructure targets including bridges and power plants. That missile allowed the Tu-22M3M to occupy a unique position between strategic and operational-tactical roles.

Hypersonic missiles have been seen as a potential game changer, with some in the U.S. military warning that there is really no defense against the missiles due to their speed.

Given that fact and the potential the missiles could possess weapons as offensive, it is easy to see why Russia has moved forward with multiple platforms. The Russian defense industry has developed two types of aircraft hypersonic missiles TASS reported. This includes the Kinzhal, the latest Russian airborne system that consists of a MiG-31K aircraft as a delivery vehicle and hypersonic missile. The Kinzhal is the airborne version of the Iskander tactical missile system.

The hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile was also designed to be compatible with the Tu-22M3. It is one of several flagship weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimar Putin during this state-of-nation address at the beginning of 2018. Putin and subsequent Russian commentary has stressed the missile's speed and capacity to maneuver in mid-flight, which render it non-interceptable by any existing missile defense system. It has an alleged range of 2,000 to 3,000km, which makes it a threat to critical land infrastructure and large surface targets such as aircraft carrier strike groups.

Another hypersonic missile that is currently in the Russian arsenal was created for the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter, but the missile name and characteristics are unknown.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

This article first appeared last month and is being republished due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters

Watch the Video: Get Ready for the F-35A Demo Team's Epic New Style in 2020

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 23:00

Mark Episkopos

Security, Americas

It remains to be seen to what extent the F-35 can maneuver.

Key point: The F-35A demo team has gotten better and better, playing a key role in selling the much-maligned platform to the public.

Fresh off a major personnel shakeup, the new F-35A demonstration team has an ambitious performance lineup in store for the 2020 season.

In a potential preview of the team’s fresh routines for its upcoming shows, a highly-circulated 2019 video depicts Capt. Andrew "Dojo" Olson performing an impressive series of maneuvers never-before-seen by a F-35 demo pilot.

The videos, first posted to Instagram, show snippets from one of Olson’s training session at Luke Airforce Base (AFB) in Arizona. The first video shows Olson approaching from the left, flying straight up in what is vaguely reminiscent of the first half of a stall turn; but then, Olson pulls back and executes a remarkably tight loop before descending in a slow, flat spin. The remaining clips show Olson flying at a high angle of attack (AOA), performing tighter oops, and demonstrating what appears to be part of a falling leaf maneuver.

It was revealed late last year that Capt. Olson left the F-35A demo team, having given his last performance at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, in November 2019. These videos, and others like it that are regularly covered by The National Interest, show just how far the F-35A demo team has come in refining their routines since their initial debut at the Paris Airshow in 2017.

Olson played a central role in the PR campaign to restore public faith in the F-35 project on the heels of reported engine problems, onboard systems malfunctions, and widespread cost concerns, going out of his way to convince a skeptical defense commentary sphere that the F-35A demo team has barely begun to scrape the surface of the fighter’s performance potential: “This year we’re going to fully unleash the full maneuvering envelope of the F-35. This airplane just takes the flight controls, and puts it on a whole different level. We’ll be able to do some similar maneuvers that [F-22] Raptor does, and without thrust vectoring, just with the advanced flight controls that put the aircraft into a post-stall flight regime and keep it fully controllable,” he said in an interview given last year to the The Aviationist, while also stressing the F-35’s under-the-hood features that are otherwise overlooked in the airshow format: “The stuff you see at the airshow is really awesome, but it doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg of what this airplane is...you’re talking stealth, you’re talking sensor fusion, and then ‘information fusion… we can paint the battlespace for everybody and share that situational awareness with our fourth gen brothers and sisters and be a more effective fighting force.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Olson has also become the face of a surprisingly successful social media and branding campaign to marshall grassroots enthusiasm for the F-35 program.

It remains to be seen to what extent the maneuvers depicted in these clips, as well as the rest of Olson’s 2019 lineup, will be absorbed into the F-35 demo team’s 2020 routine, beginning with their first airshow at the Marine Corps Air Station at Yuma, Arizona, in March 13-14, and subsequent March 21-22 performance at Luke AFB.

Olson will go on to become an F-35 instructor at Luke AFB, but not before helping the incoming F-35 demo team ease into their new jobs. It’s clear that Olson’s successor, who was yet to be named by the 388th Fighter Wing, has quite the shoes to fill-- not just in a highly demanding technical capacity, but as a brand ambassador for the F-35 program.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

This article first appeared in February 2020.

Image: Two F-35 Lightning II’s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwest Sept. 19, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)

It’s Time to Stop Defending the Status Quo of Foreign Policy Failure

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 22:05

Daniel L. Davis

Security, Americas

Here is a better way forward.

In February 1991 I fought as a green 2nd Lieutenant under then-Captain H.R. McMaster, who would go on to win combat fame in 2005 Iraq and as Trump’s National Security Advisor. I watched McMaster provide exceptional leadership of our unit prior to war and watched him perform brilliantly under fire during combat. It gives me no pleasure, therefore, to note that his most recent work in Foreign Affairs has to be one of the most flawed analyses I’ve ever seen.

McMaster’s essay, “The Retrenchment Syndrome,” is an attempted take-down of a growing number of experts who argue American foreign policy has become addicted to the employment of military power. I, and other likeminded advocates, argue this military-first foreign policy does not increase America’s security, but perversely undercuts it.

We advocate a foreign policy that elevates diplomacy, promotes the maintenance of a powerful military that can defend America globally, and seeks to expand U.S. economic opportunity abroad. This perspective takes the world as it is, soberly assesses America’s policy successes and failures of the past decades, and recommends sane policies going forward that have the best chance to achieve outcomes beneficial to our country.

Adopting this new foreign policy mentality, however, requires an honest recognition that our existing approach—especially since 9/11—has at times been catastrophically bad for America. The status quo has to be jettisoned for us to turn failure into success.

These failures have not been merely “policy mistakes” but have had profound consequences for our country, both in terms of blood unnecessarily wasted and trillions of dollars irretrievably lost. The very last thing we should do is defend a failed status quo and subvert new thinking. McMaster does both in his essay.

McMaster grievously mischaracterizes the positions of those who advocate for a sane, rational foreign policy. He tries to pin a pejorative moniker on restraint-oriented viewpoints via the term “retrenchment syndrome.”

Advocates for a restrained foreign policy, he says, “subscribe to the romantic view that restraint abroad is almost always an unmitigated good.” McMaster claims Obama’s 2011 intervention in Libya failed not because it destabilized the country but because Washington didn’t “shape Libya’s political environment in the wake of Qaddafi’s demise.” And he claims Trump’s desire to withdraw from Afghanistan “will allow the Taliban, al Qaeda, and various other jihadi terrorists to claim victory.”

In other words, the only policy option is to keep doing what has manifestly failed for the past two decades. Just do it harder, faster, and deeper.

But the reality of the situation is rather different.

We had won all that was militarily winnable on the ground in Afghanistan by the summer of 2002 and we should have withdrawn. Instead, we have refused to accept reality for eighteen additional years and we have lost thousands of American service members and trillions of American tax dollars to finance permanent failure.

We should never have invaded Iraq in 2003. But once we realized the justification for the war had been wrong, we should have rapidly withdrawn our combat troops and diplomatically helped facilitate the establishment of an Iraqi-led state. Instead, we refused to acknowledge our mistake, fought a pointless eight-year insurgency, and then instead of allowing Iraq to solve its own problems when ISIS arose in 2014, unnecessarily went back to help Baghdad fight its battles.

Likewise, the U.S. continues to fight or support never-ending combat actions in Syria, Libya, Somalia, Niger, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and other lesser-known locations. There is no risk to American national security in any of these locations that engaging in routine and perpetual combat operations will solve.

Lastly, large portions of the American public—and even greater percentages of service members who have served in forever-wars—are against the continuation of these wars and do not believe they keep us safer. What would make the country more secure, however, is adopting a realistic foreign policy that recognizes the world as it truly is, acknowledges that the reason we maintain a world-class military is to deter our enemies without having to fight, and recognizing that our interests are far better served by being an exemplar to the world rather than trying to force it to behave a certain way.

The time has come to admit our foreign policy theories of the past two decades have utterly failed in their objective. We have not been made safer because of them and the price continually imposed on our service members is unnecessary and unacceptably high. It is time to abandon the status quo and adopt a new policy that is based on a realistic view of the world, an honest recognition of our genuinely powerful military, and realize that there are better ways to assure our security and prosperity.

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after 21 years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

Image: Reuters

This Smart Face Mask Can Connect to Your Phone and Translate Languages

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 21:50

Ethen Kim Lieser

Technology, World

Creepy or cool?

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made face masks and coverings become the norm in many regions of the world, tech companies are now seeking ways to keep ourselves better connected to our devices.

One such company doing just that is Japanese start-up Donut Robotics, which has developed a way to transform the coronavirus face mask into the latest tech gadget.

Made of white plastic, the “c-mask” fits over standard face masks and is able to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone or a tablet application that can translate Japanese into eight other languages, transcribe speech into text messages, make phone calls and amplify the voice of the user.

One particular complaint that is ubiquitous among those talking to mask-wearers is that it can be, at times, difficult to hear them speak. So, this advancement could indeed help during work meetings and in classroom settings.

“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,” Taisuke Ono, the CEO of Donut Robotics, told Reuters.

Ono said Donut Robotics’ first 5,000 c-masks will be shipped to purchasers in Japan starting in September. The company is seeking to sell its product in China, the United States and Europe as well, which have shown strong interest, the CEO noted.

Donut Robotics is currently retailing the mask for about $40, but additional revenue could come from subscriber services provided via an app that the users will download.

Engineers at Donut Robotics came up with the innovative mask idea when they were searching for a particular product that could help ease the devastating financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. When the coronavirus began spreading across the country quickly, the company had just secured a contract to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport—products that are now confronting an uncertain future amid the economic viability of global air travel.

Ono said the company was able to build a prototype mask in about a month by adapting translation software developed for its other robotics projects. The bones of the next-gen masks were created four years ago by an engineer to interpret speech by mapping face muscles.

Ono was able to raise 28 million yen ($260,000) for development by selling Donut Robotics shares via the Japanese crowdfunding site Fundinno.

“We raised our initial target of 7 million yen within three minutes and stopped after 37 minutes when we had reached 28 million yen,” he said.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Donut Robotics.

The King: Samsung Keeps Lead in Smartphone Display Panels

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 21:50

Stephen Silver

Economics, World

A good day for the company.

Samsung’s smartphones regularly lead worldwide market share rankings, both for 5G and overall. But Samsung is also very much in the business of the display panels that go in smartphones, and according to a new report, Samsung panels are in more than half the smartphones that were sold in the first quarter.

According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, called Smartphone Display Panel Market Share Q1 2020: Revenues Climb by 3%, Samsung Display Maintains Lead, Samsung accounted for 52 percent revenue share for smartphones in the first quarter of 2020, with BOE Technology and Tianma Microelectronics taking the second and third spots.

Those three, Strategy Analytics said, take up more than 74 percent of the revenue in the sector, which recorded revenue of $9 billion in the quarter, which represented a 3 percent year-over-year increase.

“In Q1 2020, the display panel market for smartphones continued to see demand for OLED panels that drove the overall display market revenues while smartphone LCD panels got impacted due to the oversupply and drop in demand, leading to a fall in revenues and shipments for LCDs,” Jeffrey Mathews, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, said as part of the announcement. “Samsung Display grabbed major design wins for its flexible OLED panels with major smartphone OEMs that aided in its first quarter revenues.”

A report last month stated that in the OLED market specifically, Samsung controls 81.2 percent of the worldwide market, as of the first quarter.

“We expect the display panel market to continue to observe a slowdown in smartphone panel demand due to disruptions in supply chains of customers along with a strong decline in demand for end-market products owing to COVID-19 pandemic,” Stuart Robinson, Executive Director of Handset Component Technologies Service for Strategy Analytics, said in the announcement. “We believe that the display panel vendors will continue to differentiate their portfolio with innovative display technologies among customers.”

While Apple and Samsung are rivals, and have gone at each other both in the smartphone markets and in the courts, Samsung has long provided most of the panels for iPhones. Supply chain reports have indicated that Samsung will provide most of the panels for the 2020 iPhones, although one of the models will reportedly use panels from LG Display and BOE. Another recent report, however, stated BOE’s panels had failed tests.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

Mike Pompeo’s Fight to Punish Iran at the UN Heats Up

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 21:49

Matthew Petti

Security, Middle East

And Iran is going on the diplomatic offensive.

Iranian authorities asked INTERPOL to issue an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump, a few days after the Trump administration asked the United Nations Security Council to extend its sanctions on Iran.

The diplomatic spat turns international institutions into a political battleground, pitting Russia and China as well as Iran against the United States. And it puts European nations in an awkward position as they try to preserve international agreements, including the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“We foresee another failure for the U.S. in this arena,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi told reporters on Monday. “We advise them not to test what they have tested before and not to pave a way which leads to a deadend.”

U.S. Amb. Kelly Craft and Special Representative Brian Hook had presented a resolution to the Security Council last Wednesday asking the body to extend its arms embargo on Iran. Hook is currently in the Middle East to discuss the embargo, and met with senior officials in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

The embargo was set to expire in October 2020 under the nuclear deal with Iran, which puts restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for economic relief.

The Trump administration left the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to resume its sensitive nuclear activities. The United States is now reserving the right to activate the “snapback” mechanism, which would restore UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo.

Russia and China have rejected any U.S. right to activate snapback. European members of the Security Council were more cautious, warning that it would be a bad idea without saying whether the United States has the right to do it.

“We firmly believe that any unilateral attempt to trigger U.N. sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences in the U.N. Security Council,” Britain, France, and Germany declared in a June 19 joint statement. “We would not support such a decision, which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the [nuclear deal].”

Hook countered in a conference call that “nobody can argue that Iran’s behaviour since 2015 merits a lifting of the arms embargo.”

Iran has also gone on the diplomatic offensive, asking INTERPOL on Monday to issue a “Red Notice” for several U.S. officials, including Trump. The international law enforcement agency rejected Iran’s request for an arrest warrant, stating that it cannot “undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

Iranian authorities accuse Trump of orchestrating the assassination of Maj. Gen Qassim Suleimani, an Iranian special forces commander who was killed by a U.S. drone in January.

U.S. officials originally claimed that the killing was necessary to stop Suleimani from carrying out an “imminent” attack, but later told Congress that it was a move to deal with Iran’s broader “strategic escalation” in Iraq.

The Trump administration had designated Suleimani’s branch of the Iranian military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a terrorist group in April 2019.

Hook mocked the Iranian request for an arrest warrant at a joint press conference with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir.

“This has nothing to do with national security, international peace, or promoting stability, so we see it for what it is,” Hook said. “It's a propaganda stunt that no one takes seriously, and makes the Iranians look foolish.”

Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.

Image: Reuters.

Amazon Set to Give Front-Line Workers COVID-19 Bonus Payments

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 21:43

Ethen Kim Lieser

Technology,

The bonus applies to both full- and part-time workers who were on Amazon’s payroll throughout the month of June, as well as teams in the U.S. and Canada.

Amazon on Monday announced that it has decided to pay out $500 million in one-time bonuses to front-line employees, those who are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“Our front-line operations teams have been on an incredible journey over the last few months, and we want to show our appreciation with a special one-time Thank You bonus,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of retail operations, wrote in a note to workers.

The e-commerce giant will pay full-time warehouse, Whole Foods and delivery workers a $500 bonus. Part-time employees will receive a $250 bonus, while Flex drivers who deliver packages for Amazon will receive $150 if they logged more than 10 working hours in June.

Store managers at Whole Foods are expected to receive a $1,000 bonus, and owners of Amazon’s third-party delivery services will get $3,000.

“My thanks and gratitude for the truly remarkable commitment to customers you have shown throughout this journey,” Clark wrote. “I have never been more proud of our teams.”

The bonus applies to both full- and part-time workers who were on Amazon’s payroll throughout the month of June, as well as teams in the U.S. and Canada.

In recent weeks, tensions have been rising between Amazon and warehouse workers, as many employees have voiced their concerns that the company hasn’t done nearly enough to protect them from COVID-19. Workers and 13 state attorneys general have called on the company to release more detailed information regarding coronavirus cases and related deaths among its employees.

Amazon has previously stated that it’s gone to “great lengths” to keep its facilities sanitized and make sure employees are following all of the necessary safety precautions, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

In March, Amazon announced that it would give a pay raise of $2 per hour to warehouse, delivery and Whole Foods employees. In addition, warehouse workers would be entitled to double overtime pay. However, the wage increases and double overtime pay came to an abrupt end in June.

Despite mounting criticism from its employees, Amazon defended its decision, saying that such salary boosts were warranted to “help meet increased demand” from online orders, which has since returned to more normal levels.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Russia, Be Afraid: Poland Might Get a Powerful New Anti-Tank Missile

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:52

Caleb Larson

Security, Europe

Israel’s NLOS missile could breath new life into Poland’s defenses against Russia.

The Israeli defense and technology company Rafael is participating in Poland’s newest anti-tank program. The program, called the Ottokar-Brzoza tank destroyer program, aims to outfit Polish forces with a powerful new anti-tank capability.

The NLOS is the longest-range variant in Rafael’s SPIKE missile family. According to company data, the NLOS has a standoff range of thirty-two kilometers, or nearly twenty miles, giving the missile a large coverage area. The NLOS’ guidance unit identifies targets visually, without laser guidance, tracking radar, or GPS. As a result, the missile is less likely to be detected and intercepted before reaching its target and is considered “stealthier.” The missile uses forward observers on the ground or UAVs in the air to relay optical target information to the missile, which can differentiate between high- and low-level targets while in flight.

If the SPIKE NLOS is accepted, the Israeli company would license missile production to Mesko, a Polish munitions manufacturer, and the NLOS would be manufactured in Poland—an attractive offer for Poland’s domestic defense industry.

Rafael’s design features a hull-mounted missile launcher that holds eight SPIKE NLOS missiles and may be mounted to Poland’s KTO Rosomak 8x8 vehicle, or alternatively to Poland’s Soviet-era BWP-1. Mating the NLOS system to the latter platform could potentially give an otherwise obsolete vehicle new abilities.

Importantly for both Poland and Rafael, the newer NLOS launcher is compatible with the thousands of SPIKE missile variants that Poland already has in service, including the SPIKE LR and SPIKE LR2, and would give Polish forces a greater amount of logistical flexibility. The NLOS is also slated to participate in Poland’s Kruk attack helicopter program, a competition that aims to replace the aged Mi-24 helicopter fleet still flown by the country.

If Rafael wins the tender, the deal could potentially be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on how many NLOS units Poland buys and how widely the anti-tank missiles are distributed. Despite being manufactured by a non-NATO country, the SPIKE NLOS and other SPIKE variants are interoperable with NATO, another beneficial feature for the Alliance partner.

NATO Compatible, But Uncertainties Remain

Poland’s tank destroyer program is intended to bolster the country’s defenses against major armored movements from the East, namely Russia. Still, uncertainties linger.

NATO recently completed Defender-Europe 20, which was the “largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years with 20,000 soldiers deployed directly from the U.S. to Europe,” according to official reports. Another exercise within the Defender-Europe framework, Allied Spirit, focused on interoperability at the tactical level and saw 6,000 Polish and American troops training together in Poland.

Both exercises come on the heels of President Trump’s threat to remove Germany-based American troops, though where exactly the troops would be moved to remains uncertain. Locations as far away as Guam and Hawaii have been suggested as part of America’s reorientation toward the Pacific, though moving formerly Germany-based troops to Poland isn’t out of the question.

An American presence in Poland is seen as essential to deterring Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. In 2019, Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda reportedly agreed to move up to 1,000 American troops to Poland, and more American troops in Poland would not only be welcome—but necessary for preventing or resisting a Russian invasion. With or without the Americans, Polish capabilities appear poised to grow.

Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Image: Reuters

Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar Made Some Serious Space History (Yes, This Plane)

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:24

Peter Suciu

History, Space

An exciting watershed.

The United States Air Force has relied on the massive C-130 cargo aircraft since the 1950s, and many of the aircraft in service could even be flying well into the 2030s. These cargo aircraft have been used in some fascinating ways—including being transformed into bombers and gunships—but there is another transport aircraft that truly took part in some unbelievable exploits.

That would be the C-119 Flying Boxcar, which was developed from the Fairchild C-82 Packet, a twin-engine, twin-boom, twin-tail transport that was designed to carry cargo, personnel, litter patients and even mechanized equipment. It lived up to the “Flying Boxcar” name as it featured clamshell cargo doors at the rear of the cabin, which could be used to drop cargo and even troops by parachute! As a transport, the C-119 could carry up to sixty-two fully equipped soldiers or 30,000 pounds of cargo.

From the time of its introduction in the 1940s it was modified and upgraded as new technologies were developed. It made its maiden flight in November 1947 and by the time production ended in 1955 more than 1,150 of the Flying Boxcars had been produced. The C-119 was used in the Korean War as a transport, where it carried troops and supplies.

Among its most important airlift mission of the war was in the bitterly cold winter of 1950 when C-119Bs were used to air-drop bridge sections to U.S. troops trapped by the Communist forces at the Chosin Reservoir. Those components and sections were used to repair a bridge over a deep chasm, and the resulting effort allowed thousands of U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. marines to escape.

Throughout the Cold War the Flying Boxcar continued to make deliveries around the world. During the Vietnam War the aircraft in the AC-119G “Shadow” and AC-119K “Stinger” configurations were also used as gunships to support ground forces. With side-firing weapons, those aircraft could fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute as they flew low and slow over enemy positions.

However, the most notable action involving a C-119J Flying Boxcar occurred on August 19, 1960 when the aircraft was used in the world’s first mid-air recovery of an object returning from space. The aircraft utilized a special recovery gear that was lowered from the open rear door, and it snagged the parachute of a Discoverer XIV satellite, which had been ejected from an orbiting space vehicle. The Discoverer XIV had been launched into a polar (north-south) orbit by an Agena A vehicle atop a Thor booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

After seventeen passes around the earth, the Agena A vehicle ejected the satellite from its nose. After the Discoverer XIV reentered the atmosphere it released the parachute and floated back. It took three passes, but the C-119 was able to successfully snag the canopy at an altitude of 8,000, after which a winch operator aboard the aircraft then reeled in the satellite.

Satellite catching then became an important and regular U.S. Air Force operation to recover secret reconnaissance satellite film.

The C-119 was also used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a fire bomber—and it is the type of aircraft flown by Richard Dreyfuss in the movie Always.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikimedia

 

Meet the Little Boat that Won World War II and Crushed Hitler for Good

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:23

Caleb Larson

History, World

The Higgins boat might have been the most useful weapons at the Allies’ disposal.

It just might be the most recognized boat of the Second World War. The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, called the LCVP, or the Higgins Boat as it is more commonly known, is familiar from photographs and film shot during the war, particularly the Normandy Beach landings.

Most famously, a brave Coast Guard photographer took the iconic photograph Into the Jaws of Death from the back of a Higgins Boat. The haunting image depicts U.S. Army soldiers jumping off the boat into the water and towards the Omaha Beach. The story of the Higgins boat begins earlier though, before the war.

Rumor has it that the early Higgins boat was designed for bootleggers and smugglers who small sturdy boats capable of beaching quickly from shallow water. With the end of Prohibition in the early 1930s, the boat’s designer and namesake Andrew Higgins needed a new market for his nimble boat.

Dissatisfied with the landing boats designed by the Navy, The United States Marine Corps tested several commercial designs in the late 1930s, eventually settling on the former bootlegger boat designed by the Higgins boatbuilding company.

Although the design was indeed capable of beach landings, offloading men and supplies was rather slow as the design lacked a ramp. To disembark, Sailors and Marines had to jump off the sides or bow, badly exposed to fire from the shore. Still, the boat could perform better than other landing boats the Navy designed and it was rushed into service as a stop-gap measure.

Higgins Boat

Though Higgins’ early design was accepted, he was tasked with building a better landing craft, specifically a boat that would allow troops to more quickly disembark—via a bow mounted ramp.

The Higgins boat itself was rather small and simple. Its cargo space, located at the forward three quarters of the boat, could carry 8,000 pounds, or a little over 3,600 kilograms. This translated to thirty-six fully-armed soldiers, or an Army Jeep and a smaller, twelve-man squad.

Although the front ramp was made of steel, the Higgins’ sides were made of laminated plywood to save that precious wartime commodity. A mostly-wood construction also lowered the boat’s weight and allowed it to have a relatively shallow draft, the distance from the bottom of the hull to the waterline. A low draft allowed the boat to unload men and supplies quite close to the shoreline—of crucial importance for ship-to-shore operations.

Two gunners fired .30 caliber Browning machine guns over the heads of the troops onboard from firing cockpits in the rear. The driver sat on the port side next to the engine in the boat’s center. An extremely accurate recreation of what riding to shore in a Higgins was like can be seen in the opening sequence of the 1998 hit Saving Private Ryan.

Postscript

During the war, the Higgins boat ferried troops onto the beaches of North Africa, in France for the Normandy landings, and throughout the Pacific. Without Higgins, the Marine Corps’ island hopping campaign would not have been possible.

The boat’s usefulness could not be overstated. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander sang Higgins’ praises, stating that “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us.” He went on to explain, “If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.” A resounding endorsement from the one of the greatest generals of one of the greatest wars.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Wikimedia

Douglas B-26K Bomber Was the Vietnam War’s "Counter Invader"

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:22

Peter Suciu

History, Asia

A useful bomber.

Developed during World War II era, the Douglas A-26 Invader would see action in the Vietnam War nearly twenty years later. This twin-engine attack aircraft was in essence an upgraded version of the A-20 Havoc. However, the A-26 featured more powerful engines, had a longer range and heavier armament than the A-20—one version even had 18 forward firing .50 caliber machine guns!

In 1948, the aircraft was re-designated B-26 and subsequently saw service during the Korean War (1950-53), where it was mainly used as a night intruder against North Korean supply lines. The plane was removed from service in 1958, and that could have been the end of the story.

Yet it returned to duty twice more—and in a different role for the war in Vietnam.

In 1961, the United States Air Force recalled many Invaders back into service for use in clandestine operations in South Vietnam, where they were used as tactical bombers. While the B-26K aircraft were “officially” in service with the South Vietnamese Air Force, the Invaders were actually flown by American aircrews.

Two decades of use in combat took its toll and in 1964 the aircraft were retired again, yet those that remained in use were provided with a strengthening wing strap along the bottom of the wing spars as a way to prolong service life. This proved so successful that the USAF had forty Douglas Invaders upgraded and extensively modified by On Mark Engineering in Van Nuys, California. This included a rebuilt fuselage and tail, strengthened wings, improved engines, reversible propellers and wing-tip fuel tanks among other refinements.

The improved B-26K was henceforth known as the “Counter Invader” when it returned to Southeast Asia where it was used in ground-attack missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The aircraft’s forward, fixed armament consisted of eight .50 caliber machine guns in the nose and three more on each wing, while up to 8,000lbs of mixed ordnance—rocket pods, conventional drop bombs, gun pods and cannon pods—could be carried externally at multiple underwing hardpoints.

The modified aircraft could reach speeds of 323 miles per hour and had a range of 2,700 miles, as well as a ceiling of 30,000 feet.

The aircraft were deployed to Southeast Asia and attached to the 606th Air Commando Squadron and were based in Phanom Air Base in Thailand. As Thailand didn’t permit the basing of bombers on its territory, in May 1966 the aircraft were reassigned the old attack designation of A26A, which brought the Invader full circle.

In addition to be being deployed against the Ho Chi Minh trail, the B-26K/A-26A Counter Invaders were flown over the panhandle of Laos—an area along the North Vietnamese border known as the Steel Tiger—in operations that were highly “black” and as result the national insignia were painted over to maintain “plausible deniability” should the aircraft be forced down.

Because North Vietnamese anti-aircraft defenses were installed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, most of the combat missions over Laos were flown at night as it would have been too dangerous to fly the slow-moving piston-engine B-26K during the day. When possible, the aircraft were equipped with AN/PVS2 Starlight scopes for enhanced nighttime visibility.

By the summer of 1968 the night interdiction missions had been gradually taken over by the AC-130A and AC-130E gunships and the Counter Invaders were phased out of active service. Losses were heavy, with no less than twelve out of thirty that had served in Thailand lost to enemy action.

The A-26 was the last propeller-driven twin-engine bomber produced for the United States Army Air Forces, and it was one of the few wartime aircraft still in service with the post-war U.S. Air Force, but it was also the only American bomber to fly in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikimedia

Meet the Russian Nagant Gun—the First Silenced Revolver

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:21

Peter Suciu

History, Europe

Prepare to say "Dasvidaniya."

When it was introduced in 1895, the Russian Nagant revolver was quite unique in a number of ways. It was a seven-shot handgun, produced in both double- and single-action versions, it was developed for Imperial Russia by Belgian industrialist and “friend” of the Imperial court Léon Nagant and it used a proprietary 7.62x38mmR cartridge that featured a distinct “gas-seal” system. That latter aspect of the weapon allowed it to be suppressed—which made the Nagant M1895 the first revolver that could be equipped with a “silencer” type device.

Nagant, who had achieved success with solid frame double action revolvers, previously worked with Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin of the Imperial Russian Army to develop the Model 1891 Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle—which would go on to be used in countless wars for well over a century. Moreover, the 7.62x54mmR, which was developed for use in the M91 Mosin-Nagant, has remained one of the few standard-issue rimmed cartridges still in military use, while it has the longest service life of all military-issued cartridges in the world and shows no signs of going away.

How much actual input Nagant had on the Mosin-Nagant remains a point of debate, but he was an established firearms designer—one who has even been compared to American gun designer John Browning—and his work gave him an “in” with the Czar’s ordnance office. Reportedly even Czar Nicholas II took a liking to Nagant’s revolutionary design. The Czar, along with many of the European nobility, had a fascination with firearms but more importantly he tended to favor modern and forward-thinking designs, which he believed could give Russia an advantage on the battlefield.

The fact that the Nagant revolver held seven shots, at a time when most service revolvers held five or six rounds, may have sounded like a great idea to the Czar and his sycophant military advisors. The court may have found the notion that the Nagant revolver was produced in a double action model for officers and a single action model for the ranks (called the “private’s model”) appealing as well. It was a weapon that showed proper class distinction.

Yet, the most distinguishing feature of the M1895 Nagant was its gas-seal system, which moved the cylinder forward when the gun was cocked, closing the gap between the cylinder and barrel. The revolver was chambered for that aforementioned proprietary cartridge, which itself was unique in that the cartridge featured a projectile that was deeply seated entirely within the cartridge case. By sealing the gap in this way, the velocity of the bullet was increased by as much as fifty to one-hundred-and-fifty feet per second.

While the concept of sound suppressors—often referred to today as “silencers”—were in their infancy in the 1890s, it isn’t likely that Nagant’s goal was to actually suppress the sound, but rather his gas-seal design was a clever effort to increase the weapon’s velocity. This may seem needlessly complicated, but it actually worked well even if it did require a special cartridge. Moreover, the Nagant was still built with Russian soldiers in mind, meaning that a hammer was often the only tool available to repair anything!

Despite the fact that it may have sounded like a forward-thinking weapon to the court, it was largely obsolete by the time it was adopted. By the outbreak of the First World War, automatic pistols such as Germany’s Luger and the American Colt M1911 .45 pistol had been introduced—yet the Imperial Russian military stuck with the Nagant.

Ironically, the weapon that found favor with Czar Nicholas II was also used to execute him along with his wife, son and daughters in July 1918. The M1895 Nagant was carried by both the Reds and Whites in the Russian Civil War, and even remained in production after the Communists came to power—but interestingly after 1918 it was only produced in the double action version. Whether that was a result of “class warfare” or just as a way to simplify the production is a matter of debate.

Perhaps because it was the gun that was used to kill the Czar, it was a favored weapon of the Cheka, NKVD and later the KGB—all of which used silenced Nagant revolvers in various clandestine operations. Suppressed versions were later used by the Viet Cong to carry out assassinations during the Vietnam War. The latter fact highlights that while it was a largely antiquated design when it was introduced, its distinct attributions still made it a favored weapon in covert operations decades later.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikimedia

Why the Reising Submachine Gun Is Best Left Forgotten

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:20

Peter Suciu

History, Americas

Another one for the dust bin of history.

Before America’s entry into the Second World War, the U.S. military developed the M1 Garand, the weapon General George S. Patton called, “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” However, there were “other” attempts to produce a main battle rifle.

As The National Interest previously reported, these included designs from Brigadier General John T. Thompson and Melvin Johnson, but also forgotten was the effort to develop a new submachine gun for the U.S. military.

While the Johnson rifle and light machine gun both had merits, the Reising submachine gun is one best left forgotten!

Designed by Eugene Reising, who had been an assistant to firearm designer John M. Browning, and patented in 1940, his submachine gun was innovative for its time. Unlike most submachine guns of that era, the M50 Reising fired from a closed bolt—a feature not widely seen until the 1970s and 1980s. At 6 pounds, 12 ounces it was lighter than the Thompson submachine gun, cheaper to produce and still capable of firing 550 rounds per minute.

The M50 Reising featured a full stock, which was not common with submachine guns at that time either. It featured a delayed blowback operation and offered selective fire. Feed was from a twenty-round box magazine, but twelve-round single stack magazines were also produced for training.

Its manufacturer, Harrington & Richardson Arms Company (H&R) of Worcester, Massachusetts produced the M50 as well as the M55, which was identical except that it had a folding wire buttstock, and a barrel that lacked a compensator and was half an inch shorter. The company also introduced the M60, which had a full stock and was a semi-automatic version with a longer barrel. Initially the M50 and M55 were marketed to police and military, while the M60 for private security guards.

Even before the U.S. entry into World War II, the military was short on weapons—with most of the M1 Garands going to the U.S. Army. As there was also a shortage of Thompson submachine guns, to fill the void for weapons, the USMC adopted the Reising in 1941 with 4,200 authorized per division with approximately 500 authorized per each infantry regiment. The first batches of the the M50 and M55 versions were issued to Marine Raiders and paratroopers and went off to the Pacific Island of Guadalcanal.

However, instead of becoming a legendary firearm that proved it was as tough as the marines who carried it, the Reising was a dismal failure.

The weapon proved utterly unreliable in the sand and mud, and according to some accounts, Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson, commander of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, went so far as to order the submachine guns to be tossed in the rivers on Guadalcanal, and he suggested that instead the marines use the proven bolt-action Springfield 1903.

One issue was that the weapon was overly complicated in design and difficult to maintain. Moreover, the biggest problem was that many of the parts were hand-fitted in the factory. When it functioned, the Reising was more accurate than comparable submachine guns of the era such as the Thompson and German MP40, but in harsh conditions it was highly prone to jamming.

Given these issues it is easy to see how it has ended up on many a “worst gun“ list.

Yet in the post-war years, the Reising did see service with some police departments across the country, suggesting that if it was cared for it would be fine even in an urban jungle—but when used in an actual jungle, it proved little better than a club.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikimedia

The Coronavirus Casts Doubt on the U.S.-Mexico Trade Deal

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 18:52

Jeffrey Kucik

economy, Americas

The July 1 implementation date “couldn’t come at a worse time.”

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is set to enter into force on July 1—three years after President Donald Trump first demanded revisions to NAFTA.

Reaching a new deal was not easy. Back in 2018, both Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threatened to abandon talks because of significant disagreements over market access and dispute resolution. Those disagreements were eventually resolved in a deal signed in December of 2019 and the stage was set for a new round of economic cooperation.

Unfortunately, USMCA now faces new challenges. Implementation comes at a time when coronavirus has undermined faith in free trade and increased calls for protection.

The problems start with growing skepticism over globalization. The pandemic lays bare the vulnerabilities of an interdependent world economy. For decades, production spread across the world so widely that very little of what we buy is produced in one country. Under normal circumstances, this allows for lower-cost production and cheaper prices for consumers. However, when market shocks can snap the delicate links in global supply chains.

That is exactly what we’ve seen during the coronavirus outbreak. Governments took dramatic steps to curb the spread of disease, including factory closures, transportation restrictions, and public lockdowns. These measures slowed production within countries and reduced the flow of goods between them. The effects are severe enough that the World Trade Organization estimated that total global trade could fall by as much as one-third in 2020.

The most prominent example of supply shortages is personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical workers. Nearly half of facemasks are produced in China. China’s restrictions on PPE exports, implemented during their own battle with the coronavirus, meant less supply for other countries.

Frustrations with a lack of vital goods have led to increased calls for trade protection, rather than liberalization. This includes recent comments by United States Trade Representative (USTR) head Robert Lighthizer, who testified that tariffs were an appropriate response to the pandemic, arguing that “the things we need to fight the pandemic should be made in America.”

Given these circumstances, it is no wonder that there are questions over the timing of USMCA implementation.

Before the pandemic, USMCA members accounted for almost 30 percent of global GDP and over $1 trillion in total imports. Now, slowdowns across the region have amplified calls for delay. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which generally supports trade liberalization, cautioned that American firms need “flexibility” during the “unprecedented economic disruption” caused by the coronavirus. 

Skepticism over the viability of the USMCA has been echoed by key industries in the region—most notably, the automotive industry.

Automobile trade has long been a source of contention in the United States. It was a sticking point in several of America’s trade deals. Once Trump took office, he cited the outsourcing of American car production to Mexico as one of the main reasons to implement a border tax early in his administration. 

That is why the White House originally touted the USMCA’s new automotive rules as a major victory. The deal includes local content requirements, meaning that 75 percent of automotive content must be made in member countries. At the same time, almost half of production must be done by workers earning $16 an hour or more. Both of these provisions are widely seen as measured designed to protect car manufacturing in North America—and in the United States, specifically.

Implementing new content and wage requirements cannot happen overnight—especially under the current conditions imposed by the pandemic when firms have seen significant revenue drops. That’s why Mexican producers requested a delay in USMCA implementation back in March. Industry organizations cited ambiguity in the rules and difficulties establishing new supply chains needed to comply with USMCA rules.

American car companies shared these concerns. A sharp decline in new car purchases and slowdowns in production—both direct results of the coronavirus—mean car companies are struggling to stay afloat. As a result, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, along with key members of Congress, lobbied for the delay.

Partly at the behest of carmakers, USTR—the wing of the executive branch responsible for negotiating America’s trade rules—clarified the auto industries’ obligations in June. However, complying with these rules requires time and resources. Those are two things in short supply. Hence, even with new guidelines, industry insiders still insist that the July 1  implementation date “couldn’t come at a worse time.”

The car industry is just one example. Similar sentiments have been expressed by other industries and America’s Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee, which recommended delaying USMCA last April.

Wavering support for USMCA comes amid other signs of escalating trade tensions. Trump has threatened new tariffs against China, whom he blames for the severity of the pandemic. At the same time, the White House recently had to walk back comments from economic advisor Peter Navarro that the U.S.-China trade truce was ending.

That rhetoric isn’t limited to China. The United States reportedly plans to reimplement tariffs on Canadian aluminum. The move comes on the back of murmurings that neither Mexico nor Canada are yet in compliance with USMCA.

Taken together, it looks like trade tensions are deepening at precisely the time USMCA members are supposed to work toward a more cooperative arrangement.

Ultimately, there are legitimate reasons to rethink our growing dependence on highly vulnerable supply chains. It may be perfectly sensible to increase the capacity in vital goods necessary to maintain public health and national security. At the same, the economic consequences of the coronavirus have to be taken seriously. It can’t be overlooked that the United States saw unemployment rise to levels unseen since the Great Depression. Many people, including the original NAFTA’s opponents, think trade deals will make these problems worse, not better.

Either way, the controversies over USMCA, which the White House claimed a major foreign policy victory, appear to be far from over.

Jeffrey Kucik is an Associate Professor in the School of Government and Public Policy and James E. Rogers College of law (by courtesy) at the University of Arizona.

Reuters

Meet the Boeing X-40A—The Strange Looking Proto-Space Plane

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 18:50

Peter Suciu

History, Space

Here's what we know about Boeing and NASA's achievement.

Last year a Chinese company announced it was working on a reusable space plane that could be launched from the wing of a larger “mothership” aircraft. After being jettisoned from the larger vehicle, a single rocket engine would boost the space plane into low orbit. While not much more is known about the project, the idea of a reusable “space plane” is far from new.

It was a concept first envisioned by the United States Air Force in the 1950s, and this included the Boeing X-20 Dyna Soar (Dynamic Soarer) program, which was the first to develop a craft that could be used for a variety of military and reconnaissance missions.

That program was canceled before it had gotten very far, but subsequent efforts have taken the concept much further. This includes the highly secretive X-37B, which as The National Interest previously reported is now under the direction of the United States Space Force, the sixth and newest branch of the U.S. military.

However, the reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) still remains essentially a giant mystery, even as a “mini Space Shuttle” like craft continues to be used in a variety of missions, including the latest, which could last up to two years! Despite high profile launches, the Air Force and Space Force has actually said very little about the craft—but some details can be gleaned from the X-40A, the prototype that led to the X-37B’s development.

The unmanned and unpowered Boeing X-40A was actually the first-phase flight test vehicle for the U.S. Air Force’s Space Maneuver Vehicle program to develop a small, reusable but highly maneuverable spacecraft and for deploying satellites and conducting surveillance and logistic missions.

The program began in the late 1990s and the unpiloted X-40A was built by Boeing’s Phantom Works facility to around 80 percent scale of the future X-37. It was meant to test the aerodynamics and navigation of the Reusable Launch Vehicle program and the first drop test was conducted in August 1998 when a helicopter lifted it to about 10,000 feet above Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and released. The aircraft made an unpowered flight that demonstrated its guidance, navigation and control capabilities.

After that flight the Air Force loaned the aircraft to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which conducted seven additional approach and landing tests at NASA Dryden in 2001 to further assess its systems. An Army CH-47D Chinook released the aircraft from an altitude of 15,000 feet and the craft flew in an autonomously controlled descent for 75 seconds and then landed on the main runway at Edwards Air Force Base.

The program successfully demonstrated the glide capabilities of the later X-37’s fat-bodied, short wing design, while it also validated the proposed guidance system for the OTV.

The one and only X-40A test vehicle is now on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikimedia

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