US Hits Iraq Militia Sites and Anti-Ship Missiles in Yemen as Fight with Iranian Proxies Intensifies
The U.S. military struck three facilities in Iraq and two anti-ship missiles in Yemen operated by Iranian-backed militias that have continued to instigate attacks on U.S. personnel and ships in the region as the U.S. continues to try to keep the Israel-Hamas war from spilling over into a wider conflict. Both the strikes in Iraq and Yemen targeted sites that the U.S. has said are involved in the attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and were threatening U.S. military and commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the case for continued international support for Ukraine on Jan. 23 in his first public remarks since his release from a two-week hospitalization for complications from surgery to treat prostate cancer. Austin praised Kyiv’s resolve in its defense against Russia’s invasion and touted military aid provided by European allies in his opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the coalition of nations providing weapons and equipment to Ukraine.
The Airmen were trying to ensure their Pave Hawks could reach a refueling plane that was waiting across the mountains. Bagram Air Base, abandoned by the U.S. weeks earlier, lay dark as they passed overhead. But U.S. intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan had dwindled as American forces departed. Ross didn’t know that the valley—neutral territory just days earlier—had become a staging area for Taliban fighters. A firefight ensued between the Taliban and the aviators, killing three enemy combatants, according to the citation for an Air Force Commendation Medal Ross received in April 2022.
Russia launched a combination of cruise and ballistic missiles at Ukrainian cities on Jan. 23 in a large volley that killed at least 19 people and injured another 120, according to local authorities. The assault added to concerns about the state of Ukraine’s air defenses as Russian barrages continue on its largest cities.
“The U.S. Air Force’s announcement regarding revised cost estimates for the Sentinel ground-based strategic deterrent program must not change the ultimate vector for modernizing the nation’s aging force of 1970s-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles,” writes Douglas Birkey, executive director for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
The United States was unable to offer up a new package of military equipment following the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting but detailed two new coalitions—one focused on drones and another on armor. “We have already formed capability coalitions focused on Ukraine’s Air Force, artillery, maritime security, ground-based air defense, demining and information technology, and today, Germany announced that it would lead the armor capability coalition and Latvia has announced that it will lead a drone coalition,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander told reporters after the virtual meeting.
A senior defense official Jan. 23 said the directed-energy supply chain must be bolstered if the United States is to compete with peer adversaries like China and Russia. Frank Peterkin, the principal director for directed energy at the Pentagon, said directed-energy weapons offer the Defense Department a unique opportunity to transform integrated air and missile defense and counter asymmetric threats and sensors.
The Defense Department, thanks to the fiscal year 2024 defense policy bill, has the authority to increase family separation allowance sharply. But it hasn’t happened, yet. In its current form, family separation allowance provides an additional tax-free $250 per month to service members who are involuntarily separated from their families for 30 days or more. Eligible circumstances include dependent-restricted permanent duty tours (unless the member volunteered), sea duty, and temporary duty away from the member’s permanent station. The defense policy bill, which President Joe Biden signed on Dec. 22, authorized DOD to boost the allowance to $400 per month.
The race for connectivity in space is heating up, with private companies launching thousands of satellites to provide global internet access. The United States military aims to harness these new networks in the skies to bolster communications for troops on the ground, ships at sea, and drone aircraft patrolling far-flung regions. One of the most visible signs of this shift is the growing use of SpaceX’s Starlink low-Earth orbit internet services. About 50 different military commands and Defense Department offices are now using Starlink, said Clare Hopper, director of the Commercial Satellite Communications Office.
President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the first-ever assistant secretary of defense for science and technology told lawmakers that development of hypersonic weapons and quantum computing will be top priorities if she’s confirmed. She also pledged to improve the department’s partnerships with small businesses in order to better integrate new capabilities into the services.
Turkey's Parliament Approves Sweden's NATO Membership, Lifting Key Hurdle to Entry into Military Alliance
Turkish legislators on Jan. 23 endorsed Sweden's membership in NATO, lifting a major hurdle on the previously nonaligned country's entry into the military alliance. The legislators ratified Sweden's accession protocol by 287 votes to 55, with four abstentions. The ratification will come into effect after its publication in the Official Gazette, which is expected to be swift. Hungary then becomes the only NATO ally not to have ratified Sweden's accession.
Air National Guard MQ-9 Reaper drones were armed and ready, if they had been required, to sink a rocket booster off the coast of California as part of a missile defense test last month. The Reapers were ostensibly on station to help ensure the booster, which was from a Ground-Based Interceptor, slipped beneath the waves and did not become a hazard to maritime traffic.
The U.S. Air Force's flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service's entire history were ever able to earn the title "Bandit"—the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the Top Secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet. During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.