NATSECTACULAR 07 Feb 2020

The day's look at war from the cheap seats.

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Before we get into the news, how about a moment to realize how badass this guy is?

1

Ukraine Really Wants Those Guns And That Ammo It Tried To Buy From The United States, Though

At the heart of the impeachment saga that ended on Wednesday in Donald Trump’s acquittal was $391 million in US military assistance for Ukraine that the president ordered be withheld.

But that aid package, which was eventually released last September, wasn’t the only US arms transfer meant for the war-torn country that was held up. Several direct commercial sales of arms and ammunition to Ukraine faced significant delays at the same time — and they remain mysteriously frozen months later, BuzzFeed News has learned. Now, after a lengthy wait and down payments in the tens of millions of dollars for the equipment, Kyiv wants its money back.

Two of the Ukrainian officials who spoke to BuzzFeed News believe the sales delays could be related to a Chinese attempt to buy a strategic Ukrainian aerospace company that the US has tried to block, raising the possibility of Kyiv getting caught up in a power play between Beijing and Washington.

Isn't it fun when competing agendas merge? Because even though it looks like this holdup has nothing to with the machinations of an American president to manipulate an election as the United States continues to make sure the "ex" in "executive branch" stands for "extortion," this has nothing to do with Trump trying to get Kiev to bend a Biden over a barrel. Which Biden is doing just fine all on his own post-Iowa, it looks like.

No, what's happening this time is the US worried about Beijing buying a Ukrainian aerospace company.

Here's a fun little nugget out of this story: that most of this is just bullets, because the Ukrainians lost a lot of those to some blown up ammunition depots. So what we're talking about isn't some high-level aid that would only benefit the generals and the bureaucrats. Nope, this impacts the common soldier in the Ukrainian army.

Glad Trump's always looking out for the little guy.


2

Remember Lt. Col. Vindman? Want To Hire Him? He's About To Be Out Of A Job

The White House is weighing a plan to dismiss Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council after he testified in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, preparing to position the move as part of a broader effort to shrink the foreign policy bureaucracy, two people familiar with the matter said.

Any moves would come after the Senate on Wednesday acquitted Trump on a near party-line vote at the conclusion of the two-week impeachment trial. The White House intends to portray any house-cleaning as part of a downsizing of the NSC staff, not retaliation, according to the people.

Yet some of the officials being targeted for removal from the NSC would be reassigned because they are perceived as being disloyal to the president, three people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity owing to the sensitivity of personnel moves.

There's one thing Trump cherishes more than a daddy/daughter dance, and that's loyalty.

Which tenet of Trumperica Lt. Col. Vindman violate by testifying against the president during the impeachment inquiry.

Part of me wants to spin this as the vindictive response of a Toddler-in-Chief who just wants a head on a pike. But another part of me wonders what Vindman and anyone else would expect? At least there's a chance he won't "kill himself," since there isn't a Clinton involved.

That was a cheap shot.

Nope, not sorry. Just know that I know that it's a cheap shot.


3

Iraq Thinking Maybe It Likes Russian Military Shit

Iraq and Russia discussed prospects for deepening military coordination, Iraq's Defense Ministry said Thursday, amid a strain in Baghdad-Washington relations after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general inside Iraq.

Al-Ghanimi praised Moscow's role in the battle against the Islamic State group, saying they had provided "our armed forces with advanced and effective equipment and weapons that had a major role in resolving many battles," according to the ministry statement.

A senior Iraqi military intelligence official told The Associated Press that Russia, among other countries, has come forward to offer military support in the wake of fraught US.-Iraq relations following Soleimani's killing.

Remember like yesterday when I said that Moscow probably wasn't all that interested in Baghdad because it had issues of its own in the Middle East and how I've said before that I get shit wrong like all the time?

Here's the thing: b) is true as fuck, but a) is still just Russia being more than happy to pick up the pieces of a failed experiment in American imperialism. Because Putin's happy to cast himself as an ally with the United States as NATO continues to fracture. And if there's one thing the Russians like a whole lot? It's an empire.

And if the Americans do all the hard work like getting all blowed the fuck up? Well. See, that's just gravy, right?


4

Syrian Missile Defenses Shoot At Airliner, And Miss

An Airbus A320 jet carrying 172 passengers was nearly shot down on its approach to the Syrian capital, Damascus, shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday after Syria fired antiaircraft missiles in response to an attack, according to a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Russian news agencies reported Friday.

Russia accused the Israeli air force of using the passenger plane as a shield from Syrian air defenses, mirroring an incident in 2018 in which Syrian air defenses accidentally shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane, killing 15 Russian servicemen.

On Thursday, Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes at targets in southern Syria, according to Syrian state media. Konashenkov said the incident followed airstrikes launched by four Israeli F-16 fighter jets.

Us: Holy SHIT they almost shot down an airplane!

Syrian General: Um. Did we just...miss...an Airbus A320? With our missiles?

Syrian Missile Battery Commander: I'll just shoot myself...that sound about right?

I'm probably simplifying the SHIT out of this one, but that's how this reads, that they launched things that make airplanes go boom at some IAF F-16s, which were using the Airbus as a screen in the hopes that the Syrians wouldn't shoot down an airliner. The F-16s and the UNARMED AIRLINER WITH NO COUNTERMEASURES WHATSOEVER SURVIVED.


5

Wait, The Russians Might Have Lied About A Chemical Attack In Syria?

A Russia-led campaign that claimed the UN weapons watchdog had manipulated evidence of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack has been dealt a blow by an official inquiry showing that two former employees hailed as whistleblowers had little direct access to the evidence and inflated their role.

The independent inquiry commissioned by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) shows that one of the two had never been on the team investigating the April 2018 attack in Douma and the other was only on the team for a brief period.

More than 40 people were killed on 7 April 2018 in the town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus. The town was at the time held by rebels but besieged by pro-government forces. Civilians claimed they were the victims of a chemical weapon attack.

The assault prompted reprisal missile strikes on Syrian government targets by the US, Britain and France a week later, one of the few direct strikes on Syrian government assets in the nine-year civil war.

I went back and forth on putting this one in here, but it's an interesting little nugget that yes, the Russian government, like all good governments, will lie their asses off, particularly to protect their interests and those of their allies. Trust. No. One.


6

The F-35 Has A New Software Process...Guess How That's Going?

The Pentagon is banking on agile software development to keep the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter capable of evolving to beat looming threats, but a new report questions the department’s ability to keep on top of continual software updates.

In 2018, the F-35 program shifted to an agile software development model, known as DevOps among coders and as Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) within the program. The goal, according to program leaders, was to push out incremental software improvements and corrections to past deficiencies on a quicker pace rather than implementing a large update once a year or so.

However, Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s independent weapons tester, characterizes the current schedule for C2D2 as “high risk” and said the program office is struggling to stay on schedule, he said in an annual report published Jan. 30 by the Operational Test and Evaluation Office.

“The current Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) process has not been able to keep pace with adding new increments of capability as planned,” the office’s director wrote. “Software changes, intended to introduce new capabilities or fix deficiencies, often introduced stability problems and adversely affected other functionality.”

Looks like the DevOps model that is now part of the F-35 program is having trouble keeping up with stable releases. For history's most expensive defense project ever. At this point it's like BBs on a tin roof talking about the F-35, because the program's too damn big to fail, or at least that seems to be how the governments that have a vested interest in the damn thing see it, so what we're all left with is the hope that someday these things won't fail miserably during an update that drops in the middle of combat.


7

Tanks Better At Preventing War Than Airborne Units

Ground troops based overseas with tanks and artillery are better at preventing conflict than their light infantry counterparts, a study said after examining more than 70 years of military deployments to determine what best deters adversaries.

“Despite these risks, the historical record suggests that very few crises escalate when the United States deploys forces to the crisis region … These effects are particularly strong for ground forces, where no crises have escalated to major confrontation or war, and for air forces, where only one crisis has escalated,” the report said.

Light ground forces, which include airborne and special operations units stationed inside the borders of the ally or partner to be defended, could be counterproductive to deterrence, Rand said.

Those units were “associated with an increased likelihood of militarized disputes, including those of both lower and higher intensity, though not including war,” the report said.

There's a difference between deterrence and countering active aggression. Because while it's true that near peer opponents are going to be less inclined to start a shooting war with heavy units like armor formations, the ability to insert troops quickly via airborne operations? Definitely gives the invaders pause.

Doesn't mean this isn't going to piss off the airborne, though.

Which is still using technology developed nearly 100 years ago to break people as they leave perfectly good airplanes.


8

Army's New Officer Assignment Process Appears To Not Suck

Senior Army personnel officials on Thursday unveiled the initial results of the service's new officer assignment strategy, which for the first time brings both units and officers into the selection process.

From October to December, about 14,500 officers participated in the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP), a regulated, online market designed to better match an officer's talents to a unit's requirements.

"The system allows officers to view and preference all open positions, while also factoring in their knowledge, skills, behaviors and their preferences," Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, head of Army Human Resources Command, told defense reporters Thursday at the Pentagon.

"We had more than half of the officers and more than half of the units receive their first choice for every job in the market. Then we had about two-thirds on both sides of the equation receive one of their top three choices and about 80% of units and officers receive a choice that was in their top 10%. So, as the former director of Officer Personnel Management Directorate, I can say that that is truly unprecedented in terms of the level of satisfaction on both sides of that equation."

If this is working as well as they claim it is, it's the most innovative thing the Army's come up with since it decided to let the brown people serve, too. Notable? How hard it can be to match up things like medical officers where they are actually needed. And that's not downplaying the integration of the services: right-sizing needs with actual capabilities is something the military needs to grasp more effectively in order to keep talent in the ranks and not leaving at the earliest opportunity to get out into the private sector.


9

Alpha Company Tank Flies Anarchist Flag, Journalist Gets Flustered

The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team's public affairs office posted the pictures online on Feb. 4, 2020. The headquarters of the Brigade is part of the North Carolina Army National Guard, but it also includes the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, an element of the South Carolina Army National Guard. The M1 tank in question, which has the bumper code A-112, is assigned to 4-118th Infantry's Company A.

In the context of the circled A, "No Masters" seems to be a reference to "No Gods, No Masters." This is a slogan that also emerged in Europe in the late 1800s associated with anarchist and labor movements.

Naming a tank in reference to a television show, or even displaying art or a flag directly referencing that kind of media, is one thing. Flying a huge anarchist flag with no other immediate context is another and it is certainly a unique display based on the other images we've seen.

As I'm reading this story, the fact that this is an A, or "Alpha" Company vehicle makes me think that the reason they're flying an Anarchist flag is because Anarchist starts with the letter "A". So no, there doesn't appear to be a rogue tank unit ready to take on the government. Just idiots who didn't think through the optics of A company being the "Anarchists."

Turns out, that's exactly what happened, according to the unit's PAO.

"They are A company - so it is tradition they nickname their lead tank and company after something that starts with A. There was nothing intended to be disrespectful nor political."

"They do not want to appear disrespectful or making any type of statement other than they are A company and this nickname sounds tough. To ensure there is no further misunderstanding or appearance of making any statement- these photos are deleted and the unit is notified that this appears to represent something that it is unintended to. They will proudly continue to fly their state flag and US flag and think of something else that begins with A. We apologize if this sent any type of negative message or appeared disrespectful or offensive. They did not want it to come across as any type of political statement - as it is not. Thank you for allowing us the chance to clarify this."

What else should they go by, then? Please, drop me a line with your suggestions.


10

CIA's Haspel Likes Her Job, Claps At SOTU, Fellow Spies Lose Their Shit

When CIA Director Gina Haspel walked into the House chamber Tuesday night to attend President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, some former agency officers took note. When she began standing and clapping during what some considered a highly partisan speech, a few were surprised.

Referring to Trump's election slogan, "Make America Great Again," the former officer asked, "What if she really is full-on MAGA now?"

Another former CIA official who knows Haspel said that is doubtful. What's more likely, he said, is that Haspel was cognizant of the fact that if she sat on her hands while others were cheering, Trump might have noticed. "This is a guy who pays close attention to these things," the former official said.

TIL that Gina Haspel is just as political and savvy as every other motherfucker in that room. Because when your boss makes your job a Cabinet position (which Trump did in 2017), you're not on the side of the Joint Chiefs anymore, who can afford to sit there in stoic silence and only clap for the patriotic bits. And if she's actually good at her job, and wants the president to see her as being on board so he leaves her the fuck alone to do that job? Damn straight she's going to clap like a trained seal on command if that's what it takes.


Collateral Linkage

1. Iranian Minister Tweets A $20 Halloween Costume As Real Spacesuit

Earlier this week, Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology Tweeted out a picture purportedly of a spacesuit for future Iranian astronauts. Observers quickly determined that it was actually an altered Halloween costume that is readily available for purchase online.

Turns out, you can get the same spacesuit for about 20 bucks. And it's a costume. So please do not try to wear it as you blast yourself into low earth orbit on your ACME rocket, yes?

2. Want A Job In Yemen? AQ Gig's Open...Last Guy Quit Unexpectedly

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the U.S. at his direction has conducted a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen that killed Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaida leader who claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors.

The upside of being al-Qaida is you never have to look too far to find your turnover problem.

3. I Took Part in the Army’s New Battalion Commander Assessment Program: Here’s What I Learned

After taking part in the program and reflecting on the experience since its completion, I have reached two conclusions. First, I believe the BCAP will make the process of selecting battalion commanders more fair. And second, the Army needs to take steps like this to stay relevant.

Worth a read from someone who had to take the new assessment, that this seems like a solid effort by the Army to keep people in command who actually should be there.

4. US Troops/Russian Contractors Keep Running Into Each Other In Syria

James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy to Syria, said Russians have on a “limited” number of occasions violated deconfliction agreements with U.S. forces by moving deep into Syrian Democratic Force’s territory.

Not like it's gonna go all Cold War or anything, but US troops and Russian military contractors keep showing up at the same parties in Syria.

5. Is CIA Doing What They Do Everywhere Else But This Time In Afghanistan?

According to some people, the NDS is not just the official successor of KhAD—it is also imitating its brutal tactics to turn Afghanistan into a new police state with the help of U.S. intelligence, which is supporting the regime.

So the answer is "yes," has been "yes" ever since the US invaded, and at what point do we just get tired of copy/paste journalism?

6. 70 China Evacuees Headed For Nebraska Because Their Lives Don't Suck Enough Already

Officials said Thursday that 70 Americans being evacuated from China over a viral outbreak will be flown into Omaha and quarantined at a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base.

Because getting the deadly virus isn't enough, now you're in rural Nebraska. Feels like a Geneva Convention problem, really.

7. Man Gets Really Innovative With Illegal Immigrant Uber Program

The charge against Francisco Saul Rojas-Hernandez is connected with a scheme that entangled some two dozen Camp Pendleton Marines, at least 13 of whom left the Corps in the wake of human trafficking and drug accusations. Military prosecutors dropped most of the charges in the high-profile case late last year after a judge ruled the mass arrest of 16 Marines in front of their 800-person battalion last summer was unlawful.

All he wanted to do was make sure people who have no business in the country legally could get around San Diego and elsewhere OK. Sounds like he's just being disruptive.

8. Did You Know The Pentagon Has A 4th Estate, Too? Yeah, Me Either

These organizations include the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, DOD field activities, and the combatant commands. The list also includes more than two dozen defense agencies, including the: Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Defense Contract Management Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, and more.

And in looking at the operations in these organizations, SecDef found $5.7 billion on savings by removing legacy and redundant programs. So the "b" in "bureaucracy" stands for "bloat," basically.


NATSECTACULAR, Elsewhere

In case you need more shenangians.