Monday, 18 February 2019

Weekly Ops Briefing: Drone Air-to-Air Combat, Medal of Honor, Syria, Poland, SEAL Investigation, Somalia Airstrike

We live in a busy world with a lot of information being thrown at you. Don’t feel overwhelmed. OpsLens will give you a weekly briefing on the major stories you need to know about and cut out all the extra information that isn’t important. Here’s your weekly briefing on what’s going on in national security and military news.

Air-to-air Combat Between Drones is Coming

The United States Air Force announced this week that an unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drone scored an air-to-air kill against another unmanned drone during a test.

“Something that’s unclassified but not well known, we recently, in November…launched an air-to-air missile against a maneuvering target that scored a direct hit,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, told “It was an MQ-9 versus a drone with a heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and it was direct hit…during a test.”

The MQ-9 Reaper is a bigger, more heavily armed version of the more well-known MQ-1 Predator drone.

Drones have played a larger role in combat since 9/11, conducting extensive intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. They have also proved effective in launching air-to-ground missiles and dropping GPS-guided bombs on ground targets. Drones have previously been involved in air-to-air combat but only in incidents in which they were shot down by manned aircraft.

Special Forces Medic to Receive Medal of Honor

A former United States Army Special Forces medic and current Secret Service special agent will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008.

Former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II will be honored with the nation’s highest award for valor by President Donald Trump during an October 1st ceremony at the White House.

Shurer was serving with 3rd Special Forces Group in Afghanistan in 2008 when he and his team conducted an operation to kill or capture a high-value target in the Shok Valley. The team was attacked by small-arms fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Shurer ran through enemy fire to treat a soldier who had been hit in the neck by shrapnel, then treated and stabilized four more wounded soldiers before evacuating them, carrying and lowering them down the mountainside, using his body to shield them from enemy fire and debris, according to the White House.

He currently works for the United States Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team and is assigned to its Special Operations Division.

Syria is a Testing Ground for the Russian Military

Since the Russian intervention in Syria began in 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military has used the opportunity to test new planes, tanks, cruise missiles, and air defense systems.

Though most munitions used in airstrikes in Syria have been unguided, strikes conducted by Russian aircraft in October 2015 marked the first time that Russia employed precision-guided weapons in combat.

The Kalibr cruise missile has also made its combat debut in Syria. In October 2015, a Gepard-class frigate and three Buyan-M-class Russian Navy corvettes, part of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla, launched 26 Kalibr-NK system cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea. Russian ships and submarines have continued to strike targets in Syria with the Kalibr.

Speaking Wednesday at a meeting focusing on military industries, Putin praised the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Su-57 fighter jet, the S-500 air defense system and the Armata battle tank, all of which are set to enter service in the coming years.

“The use of our armed forces in combat conditions is a unique experience and a unique tool to improve our armed forces,” Vladimir Putin said during a televised public question-and-answer session in June. “No exercises can compare with actually using the armed forces in combat conditions.”

U.S. Seeks a Permanent Military Base in Poland

On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda told President Donald Trump that Poland was willing to provide $2 billion for a permanent U.S. base in Poland, which he offered to call “Fort Trump.”

It would be the second permanent U.S. base in Poland. In March 2016, the U.S. began construction on its first permanent military facility in Poland: Naval Support Facility Redzikowo. It is scheduled to be fully operational in 2020 and will house a U.S. Aegis Ashore system to aid European missile defense.

“We’re looking at it. We’re looking at it from the standpoint of, No. 1, military protection for both countries, and also cost,” President Trump said. “That’s the way it has to be.”

Navy SEAL Being Investigated for Killing in Iraq

A Navy SEAL is being held in the brig while an investigation is conducted in the 2017 killing of a detainee in Iraq. The SEAL’s name has not been released and he has not yet been formally charged with a crime.

“A service member currently assigned to a Naval Special Warfare unit is under investigation by NCIS for professional misconduct while deployed to Iraq in 2017. We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and will cooperate fully with investigative authorities,” said Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence in a written statement emailed to Navy Times.

U.S. Airstrike in Somalia Kills 18 al-Shabaab Extremists

The United States carried out another airstrike in Somalia, this time killing at least 18 al-Shabaab extremists. The extremists were maneuvering to attack a combined patrol of U.S. and Somali partner forces. Two other al-Shabaab fighters were killed by small-arms fire by Somali forces.

The U.S. carried out an airstrike against al-Shabaab last week in a similiar incident after a joint U.S.-Somali patrol came under attack. The U.S. has now carried out more than 20 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab remains a very active and dangerous terrorist group in Africa, particularly in Somalia.

In March 2017, President Donald Trump ordered an increase in the U.S. military’s role in Somalia, authorizing U.S. commanders to move more quickly on drone strikes and raids carried out by special operations forces.


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