Prepared by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana
On May 24, Frank Kendall the undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, said that the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program is on track and demonstrating continuing progress in all aspects. Kendall spoke during a conference call with reporters after an F-35 chief executive officer roundtable meeting in Phoenix.
He also added that the aircraft’s cost continues to come down in production, consistent with earlier projections. The roundtable brought together a variety of stakeholders, including international partners, CEOs of the major industrial participants, U.S. military officials and Office of Secretary of Defence leadership.
Earlier this week, two F-35s arrived in the Netherlands. The planes will be in the Netherlands for three weeks for testing and to take part in an air show to introduce the fifth-generation fighter to the Dutch people.
The F-35 program, also known as the joint strike fighter program, is the Defence Department’s focal point for defining affordable next-generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines and allies. The F-35 is expected to be ready for its final test phase in 2018. The U.S. Air Force, he said, is on track to make initial operational capability later this year.
On May 25, the U.S. Defence Department announced plans of restructuring its headquarters as it looks to save $1.9 billion through a 25 percent reduction of staff costs.
Within the Office of the Secretary of Defence staff, 309 positions are being reduced including 243 that are filled. In defence agencies and field activities, 1,260 positions are slated for reduction. Positions are being modified or eliminated to accommodate the new business model.
The purpose of the restructuring is to reduce costs so DoD can redirect those resources into modernization of the force and improving readiness and training.
In August 2015, Deputy Defence Secretary Bob Work made a 25-percent reduction of all appropriations funding for major DoD headquarters activities of military departments, defence agencies and field activities and combatant commands. The initiative was started by then-Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, with a 20 percent reduction objective. The delayering initiative covers the period from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2020.
On May 22 in Zarqa, Jordan, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel stated that the most critical element of the Eager Lion, U.S. Central Command’s largest military exercise in its area of responsibility, is the great integration between the Jordanian and the U.S. forces.
The exercise took place on May 15-24 and included border security, command and control, cyber defence and battle-space management. About 6000 service members participated in the exercise, 3000 from each country. Military members from Centcom represented its air, land and maritime components.
On May 23, U.S Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, visited Incirlik Air Base in south eastern Turkey and was accompanied by 447th Air Expeditionary Group Commander Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy.
The U.S. Central Command commander’s visit to Incirlik May 23 was the final stop in a trip this week that took him to five countries in U.S Centcom’s area of responsibility.
Colonel McCarthy said he commands 550 military personnel involved with his 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft and 12 KC-135 Stratotankers — 350 to 375 of them associated with A-10 maintenance or operations. The colonel stated that right now, most A-10 missions are over Syria and include air support for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the north-eastern part of the country.
The A-10 “Warthogs,” arrived Oct. 18, 2015, just after the Turkish government opened Incirlik up to strike assets. The A-10 crews at that time were from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, and they redeployed in late April. Now crews from the Boise, Idaho, Air National Guard fly and maintain the A-10s.
U.S. Coalition partners are at Incirlik too. To coordinate a deliberate strike, the Combined Air Operations Centre works with a regional Combined Joint Task Force target engagement authority to set a target, determining which weapons are needed to strike the target, which assets have the right capabilities and availability.
A fully loaded A-10 can carry up to 2,000-pound and 500-pound joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs, bombs; laser-guided JDAMs; the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground tactical missile and the 30-millimeter GAU-8/A Avenger gun with 1,150 rounds. The gun is a hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type auto-cannon and is the only thing on the A-10 that’s not guided by a Global Positioning System signal or a laser beam.
On May 27, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren stated that Iraqi security forces operations backed by the U.S.-led coalition are progressing toward liberating the key Iraqi city of Fallujah from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant control and killed the city’s ISIL commander. Warren said Iraqi forces have cleared Karmah, 10 miles northeast of Fallujah, but have not yet entered the city of about 50,000 Iraqi residents.
The Iraqi army is working on evacuation routes for Fallujah residents, while the Anbar provincial government has set up camps for the displaced people. The combined operation includes thousands of forces, the Iraqi army and federal police, Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, in addition to the Iraq’s popular mobilization forces that are taking part outside the city.
Coalition airstrikes from Taqqadum with some artillery fire are also supporting the operation to retake Fallujah.
On May 22, the Mongolian Armed Forces and U.S. Pacific Command commenced the multinational peacekeeping exercise Khaan Quest 2016, at the Five Hills Training Area near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
This year’s Khaan Quest, held annually in Mongolia, is serving as the capstone exercise for the United Nations Global Peace Operations Initiative program, which provides pre-deployment training to GPOI partner countries preparing to support UN Peacekeeping Missions, will take place from May 22 to June 4.
The exercise will consist of four main events: Command Post Exercise (CPX), Field Training Event (FTE), Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) projects, Health Services Support Engagement (HSSE), as well as training on critical enabler capabilities such as unmanned aerial systems, explosive ordnance disposal and counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED). USPACOM is the Organization Coordinating Event (OCE) for the exercise and provides command and control for all KQ 16 activities.
The field training exercise aims to improve service members’ skills in peacekeeping operational procedures through training in weapons familiarization, small boat operations, survival training and a multinational platoon competition.
The command post exercise aims to support Mongolian modernization goals by establishing and globally deploying battalion assets during peacekeeping operations by utilizing scenario-based exercises.
On May 23, President Barack Obama stated in Hanoi that the United States has lifted the ban on arms sales to Vietnam, eliminating one more vestige of the Cold War. The move is part of Obama’s emphasis on U.S. relations with partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States and Vietnam will cooperate more closely on regional security issues, Obama said during a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. This cooperation includes providing patrol boats and training for Vietnam’s coast guard and exercises that will make it easier for Vietnamese and American service members to work more closely together in the event of a humanitarian disaster.
The U.S. president stressed the need for stability especially in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, have competing claims on reefs and islands.
U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter supported the president’s decision on lifting the arms embargo on Vietnam and he said that China is worrisome to the states of the region. He also emphasized that the move in Vietnam is not directed against China.
China have built islands on reefs and outcrops in the South China Sea and has built airstrips and ports on the islands and placed radar stations, support buildings, solar arrays and lighthouses on them. The South China Sea is a crucial international waterway through which trillions of dollars of commerce passes each year.
On May 23-27, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Thai Navy conducted Exercise Guardian Sea in the Andaman Sea. The bilateral naval training aims to enhance cooperation between the two navies in anti-submarine warfare and maritime domain awareness.
This year’s Guardian Sea exercise featured the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol craft and a Los Angeles-class submarine operating alongside ships and aircraft from the Royal Thai Navy. Navy personnel from the U.S. 7th Fleet’s Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 also participated in the exercise.
Along with operations at sea, the Guardian Sea exercise featured a small shore phase that includes symposia and subject matter expert exchanges between the two navies.
Task Force 73 is the U.S. 7th Fleet’s Theatre Security Cooperation agent for South and Southeast Asia and supports exercises across the region to include the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multilateral naval exercise KOMODO.