How is the military making space troops? Fire Watch looks at the military’s newest service, how the Space Force is building its own identity in the long-established shadows of the other military branches and how Guardians are trained, from cradle to star amid a renewed 21st century competition in space.
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CMSgt. Roger Towberman, Maria Pryde, Drew Lawrence, Thomas Novelly, Gen. John Raymond, Rebecca Kheel
For military.com. My name is Drew Lawrence. It is July 15. And this is Firewatch. The Space Force, the Defense Department’s newest military arm, is just two-and-a-half years old – a toddler in the shadow of services like the U.S. Army that have been around for centuries. In exact months, we’ve seen the Space Force, whose troops are called “Guardians,” form their identity into something new, different – an identity that is under intense scrutiny as the new kid on the block – from lawmakers in the U.S. and adversaries abroad as the world enters a renewed 21st-century space race.
Gen. John Raymond
At the heart of any service is its people. We are our growing Guardians to operate effectively in this domain called space.
That was Gen. John Raymond, Chief of Operations for the Space Force. My colleague, Thomas Novelly, spoke to him, and others, as he wrote a three-part series about his time reporting on the Space Force in San Antonio where Guardians who were part of the first ever all space force basic training are shielded from, but nonetheless affected by, the ongoing shaping of what the Space Force is going to be as they spend seven and a half weeks becoming the embodiment of the new branch.
That's the major question right there for the American public to understand what the Space Force is, what do they do?
So I think let's start with kind of what the Space Force isn't. It's not NASA, it's not some sci-fi enterprise story of like, digging trenches on the moon and bringing laser guns to Mars. And, it’s not like Independence Day fighting aliens, you know. The simplest way I can describe it is that the Space Force is a military service branch, just like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and ultimately, its mission is to protect America's satellite fleet in space. And in America, satellites are critical for I mean, everything that affects our everyday lives, whether that's, you know, GPS on your iPhone to or, you know, taking $20 out of an ATM machine, or even understanding the weather or being able to predict the weather.
So the Space Force is very new. It's only two and a half years old, and we're seeing near peer adversaries like China make progress in the space domain. Do you think that there is a new space race? And if so, how does the Space Force kind of fit in all of that?
The Space Force is ultimately focused on setting up all of those details, structures, traditions, to start an independent service branch. I mean, it's a daunting task when you think about it. You know, to quote Field of Dreams, right? It's kind of like if you build it, they will come. The whole idea is that if you separate a service branch that's focused on space, you can fast track the ability to acquire new technology from tech companies, right, with military contracting. And you can lead the way to help the US compete against people in Russia and China. So in short, yeah, there is there is a space race happening. Absolutely. It's one that's been looming for quite some time with China and Russia, both signaling that they are really trying to innovate when it comes to technology and space.
You mentioned Field of Dreams, right? And you have to have people to kind of man that field. You got an inside look into The Space Force you talk to Guardians for over the last three months, and you then went down to Texas for a few days to kind of see their basic training, you got to see how that mission gets drilled into its newest members. Set that scene for us. Where were you? What did it look like? Who do you talk to?
You're right, the Space Force, when you think about setting up a service branch, the first thing that should come to mind is the enlisted, the backbone, the identity of your service branch. But I think that's what's great about military.com, right as our newsroom is focused on reporting how policy affects people. So you know, I wanted to get in on the ground floor, I wanted to hang out with those new recruits, who ultimately made the choice to sign the dotted line for a service that's very new, and that doesn't have a huge public identity yet. I traveled San Antonio, Texas for a couple of days, I went to joint base San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base over there, and the Air Force has been conducting basic military training for airmen there for decades. And now, just recently, the Space Force has started their new basic training program there as well. So I got to be with them. For every classic moment that somebody who enlists in the military goes through during boot camp, right, I was able to see them on the PT track, I was able to see them, prep their foot lockers in the dormitory, watch them load up their plates to the chow hall when they were hungry, you know, and I got this full experience kind of for what their life was like for bootcamp.
Okay, so you got the full experience? Do you? I gotta ask, did you do PT with them?
Oh, man. No, I did not. So here's the thing. They got, they got the track out there. We got up really early at like four in the morning. They're all wearing, you know, the PT uniforms. And I thought about it for a minute. And I just didn't want to be a little embarrassed. So my push ups and sit ups are okay. The 1.5 mile run would have absolutely gassed me. So I was like, I can't do this man, if I tried to run a mile and a half, which I've definitely put off really during the pandemic, I would have been gassed, they would have had to bring up the medic. I didn't want that to happen. So while they were getting after it, I was watching from the sidelines.
I were joking around but I it's interesting. You mentioned the PT aspect of this because you had some interesting things to say about the Guardians and what their PT looks like, based on their mission set. What's the difference between the Space Force and the Air Force as a Space Force builds this new identity? You know, how does that look like when it comes to PT? How does it look like when it comes to the mission set? What's the difference?
I think the other thing that you want to point out here is that the Space Force is underneath the Department of the Air Force, right? So they're the sister service to the Air Force. And the Space Force, therefore is relying very heavily on the Air Force's very expansive resources. But ultimately, I mean, the physical training is the same that that an enlisted airman would go through and what the Space Force would go through. There are some subtle differences though, there's more of this notion in the Space Force of acceptance and a little bit of leniency. In the Air Force, for example, you aren't called an airman until graduation day, but in the Space Force, you're called a Guardian from the moment that you hop off the bus. So it's kind of like that, that title that feels like you're accepted immediately versus that tradition that exists with the other service branches. But
we've seen with other branches, there's a lot of criticism in terms of readiness, physical fitness, you know, the Army has had this years long saga with the Army combat fitness test, how's the Space Force toting that line? How are they matching their mission set to the readiness, or the physical fitness or the classroom time of their subset.
They care about physical fitness in the element that they care about wellness, right, they want people to be healthy. And I don't think there will ever be a scenario where like the Space Force waives certain physical requirements completely. But I think the ultimate focus is making sure that somebody is well, that they have a razor sharp mind, because their mission as it is, is often in front of a computer screen, one that's monitoring a lot of data, one that's monitoring a lot of action in space – tracking satellites, but I think when it relates to physical fitness, I mean, we think about the reputation the Marines have, or the Army has, or even the elite forces in the Navy have. And I think that reputation is a little bit different. I think there were moments where there's people who heard about the Space Force, and maybe they felt the task of joining that culture of the Marines or the army, especially with that heavy emphasis on physical excellence was a little bit you know, intimidating to them.
So you talked to several members, several Guardians, as it were going through this process, you talked to one guardian, Maria Pryde, who's 32 years old. She's from Belarus, she has an incredibly interesting path to San Antonio. What can you tell us about her and some of the other recruits that you met during this basic training?
That was the one element of the story that I cared a lot about. And that was being able to lock down the human element of the story, if you will, meaning that, you know, I want to know some people and their personal backgrounds and how they're affected by this new branch, what encourage them to join the Space Force. Maria Pryde had an excellent story. She she lives in Brooklyn, New York, but like you mentioned, she's originally from Belarus. And she had this lifelong desire to join the military. But of course, you know, she had to be a US citizen. So she waited patiently for her citizenship paperwork to clear but while she's waiting, and she had first thought about maybe joining the Air Force, Space Force is created.
First time I heard about it was when they were announcing it a couple of years ago, I don't remember exactly. When I went to a recruiter, she told me that actually, the Space Force is hiring women and this new elite force is taking the best of the best of the best, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? I couldn't say no to that. But it was a great decision.
And it's something that really interests her, she has a deep fascination with space. And, you know, she also wanted to join something, a service that may have been more accepting,
I only told a very small group of people, just my wife, basically, my mom is very, very proud of me that I'm that fortunately, sometimes it comes to some jokes, because some people think that it's almost like not real. And I have to explain to them that it very much is actually, a very interesting field and very interesting profession.
So the Space Force ultimately checked those boxes for her. And, you know, I think that was a common thread for a lot of the recruits and Guardians that we spoke with,
You ask other branches about the Space Force, and you hear a lot, you know, they're thought of as nerds or desk jockeys. I know, within our own newsroom between me and Konstantine and Steve Bannon, about some of the inter-branch rivalry and ribbing that we do on our own – is that, you know, kind of symptomatic of this inter-branch rivalry, or, you know, are recruits really like that, or is it more? What's closer to the truth?
I think there's a grain of truth to it, for sure. These Guardians are very smart. Like I mentioned earlier, they had to score very high on their aptitude test to get into these career fields. But a lot of that intelligence, and a lot of that interest in the Space Force also comes from this deep fascination they have with space. And I think also they partner that deep interest in the unknown and space also with a deep respect for their country, and an even stronger desire. Many of them are also unapologetic nerds. I mean, I think there is a little bit of truth to that, right, that there are some stereotypes about the Space Force. I mean, during basic training, we talked about how, during the free time some of these Guardians like to play Dungeons and Dragons, for example, but I think this recruiting for Space Force appeals to a demographic that may have never been reached by the military before. General Raymond, for example, he told me in an interview that people that have been interested in enlisting, have come up to him before and said, hey, you know, I was never interested in joining the military before, but I'm interested in the Space Force.
So we had 71 graduate out of the 72 in the class that you observed. What did that graduation look like?
Gen. John Raymond
Reflecting just I think it's over a year ago, we were here with the first seven.
This is General Raymond, again, head of the Space Force.
Gen. John Raymond
We have 7227 active-duty Guardians today, now that these 71 have come in. So it's a pretty significant percentage of our force. And it was really cool to see the excitement
It’s worth noting that it's not every day you get to see the leaders of your branch at an enlisted bootcamp graduation. So that was a big deal. And I think it was a historic moment because this was the first time that Space Force had a boot camp that was separate and independent of Air Force boot camp Guardians were just basically attached to Air Force basic training units, and they were going through basically the same process. So now they started creating a separate thing that was a little bit more independent. So you had Space Force Guardians who, you know, we're being taught by space for was bootcamp instructors by, you know, drill sergeants, and then that were in the Space Force. And they were having their own classroom time, they were all staying together in the same dormitory. So there was those moments of independence, right? That we are a part of something that is unique and a little bit different than the Air Force. So General Raymond and Chief Towberman wanting to be there, to kind of celebrate that that milestone.
Gen. John Raymond
And I think the thing that I like best was being able to talk to our new Guardians, hear their excitement and hear why they came into the Space Force. We've got some great, great American men and women that have entered our ranks. And so it's a big day for us.
In some ways, I think that's emblematic of what the Space Force is also marketing and pitching itself as they can have a more smaller and more personal experience for some of their service members as compared to say, the army. You know, I mean, this class Guardians can be able to say, I shook General Raymond’s hand, I shook Chief Towberman’s hand, and there might be a chance where you know, in other services, you may never see the head of your service. So I think that was also a moment where the Space Force took a lot of pride to be able to offer that opportunity to those Guardians.
Thomas Novelly, thank you so much for joining the show.
Thanks so much, Drew anytime.
Up next, we're talking to the senior enlisted leader of the Space Force, Roger A. Towberman. And we're asking what's next for the DoD’s newest branch.
If you like Tom's report on the Space Force, go ahead and check out his full series at military.com. There, you can check out some other stories that our talented cast of reporters have told over the last couple of weeks. And if you like this podcast, you also might like the PCS podcast, which is hosted by our executive editor, Amy Bushatz. She gives you the tips and tricks for your next military move. Wherever you get your podcasts.
You're about to hear Chief Master Sergeant Roger A Towberman. He's the senior enlisted leader of the Space Force. And as the top enlisted leader, he's going to tell us about the making of Guardians and why they're important. Take a listen.
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
Hey, Drew, can you hear me?
Hey, Chief, I can, how are you?
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
I’m good. How are you? I don't know. My holding a phone. But hopefully it works.
That's alright, you sound good. I can hear you great. How are you doing? It's great to meet you.
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
Good. Yeah, it's good. Thanks for wanting to talk to me, I appreciate it.
So I'll get right into it. military.com just spent some time at the all the first all Space Force basic training. And I wanted to ask upfront what type of person you are trying to attract to the Space Force,
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
I want to look for people that maybe aren't necessarily think they're going to be looked for. Right. And I think that when folks tell our story, and we get a little bit out of the echo chamber, we speak to new ears, and, and hopefully new hearts and new minds. And so we really are interested in anyone that that wants to serve that has a passion for space that wants to use their intellect, you know, for the good of the nation for the good of the world. And really looking for people that are that are curious, and, and, and excited about the future, you know, maybe maybe more than anything. And so I do think it's really important that we're talking to everyone, because you never know when you're going to where you're going to find those people.
We got to look at a couple of pipelines for some of these recruits that were coming in. And they seem unique and a little bit different. What makes a Space Force recruit different from those joining any of the other services?
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
I'm not really sure I'm not paying a lot of attention to to the other services, I hope that will make some difference that they truly want to be a Guardian. In other words, I don't want somebody wanting to join the Space Force. You know, for benefits, for instance, I'm certainly happy that we have those benefits, we're going to keep ... I want them to be passionate about what we believe in, I want them to have read the Guardian Ideal. And I want them to feel like hey, serving as a Guardian. Sounds like my jam, you know, like this is what I'm interested in. I'm interested in, in a growth mindset. I'm interested in being connected to other people I'm interested in and being committed to growing and improving. And so to me, I think what's unique is just that they picked us and that there's a relationship there between that individual and between the institution. I don't know that that makes them any different, really from any other service because I would hope that that that's true of every Marine has a relationship with the Marine Corps and every soldier has a relationship with the Army. What makes them unique is that they want to be Guardians, they want to be in the Space Force.
So adding a new branch of services is expensive. And, you know, we've seen some members of Congress, you know, caution about the growing Space Force budget, one, you know, even going as far last September is to create a standalone bill to abolish it. The question comes up is, you know, why is developing and creating this branch important to the taxpayer? What is important for them to know about the Space Force?
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
Yes, so I think what's important to know is that the average American using space, you know, multiple times before their first cup of coffee in the morning that, you know, imagine, grab your phone and look at the locational services, and how many of your apps require precision navigation and timing that we get from a GPS constellation, or how many times you use GPS to navigate or how many times you check the weather from space-enabled weather satellites, or, you know, on and on, like, it really is kind of space is, is intertwined and interconnected to literally everything that we do in, in modern life. And so, so it really is that important and from a Department of Defense perspective, a very, very small sliver of the defense budget, I think, I think less than 3% last time I checked. So certainly, we need to be minding the budget like everyone else, when you think about what America and the world gets for such a relatively small percentage of the of the pie. I really believe that, that the Space Force is kind of a bargain. And I think we're, we're really churning out a lot for the world. For for a fairly small amount of money.
Going to the DoD side, there's been a lot of talk about, you know, the great power competition in the past few years. In December, General David Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations, said China was of particular concern when it came to military space developments. How does space play a role in that competition between China versus Russia versus the U.S.? And how does the Space Force fit into that competition?
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
Yes, I mean, I mean, this is what we're here to do. Right? We are the experts, we are the specific skill set that the Department of Defense uses for space, for counterspace. And so, you know, unlike those other nations, we've got now a branch of service that is doing nothing but focusing on space. So the PRC has come a long, long way over the last 30 years. And in this maintains our advantage, it puts a very specific mission on a very specifically trained, skilled and experienced group of human beings with a task to defeat China if it comes to it, to deter China. Because we're ready because we're the best Space Force, Space Forces in the world.
Chief Towberman, thank you so much for joining us.
CMSgt. Roger Towberman
Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate it. Sorry, we had a little connectivity issues.
That's all right. for taking the time.
We just finished a great interview with the senior enlisted leader of the Space Force. And now I want to introduce my co-host, Rebecca Kheel, who is also Military.com’s congressional reporter. She's going to help us parse through some of Tom's reporting, and the many other stories that have happened over the last couple weeks. Rebecca, over to you.
Well, thank you for the introduction, Drew. And Tom, I really enjoyed your series on Space Force basic training, I thought it really painted a picture of what this new service is all about. I especially love the detail about some of them playing Dungeons and Dragons. But you've also recently wrote a story on this new Space Force Intelligence Unit. And as somebody who covers Congress regularly, I know that they have been very interested in keeping the Space Force lean. So what is the significance of this new intelligence unit? And how does it fit into these concerns that Congress has been having about the size of the Space Force?
Yeah, well, first of all, thanks so much for practicing the Space Force series. That was a lot of words that I wrote to get it all together. But that little detail about Dungeons and Dragons was probably my favorite part of the entire series. It was just that one detail that made me smile, and I was like, Okay, this has to go in the story immediately. So thanks for picking up on that. I appreciate it.
And then with this story about the intelligence unit, it's a relatively small development. Basically, the short version of it is Space Force is expanding its mission to get into the intelligence community, meaning that it's using its satellites. Its resources. is to help gather intelligence on foreign adversaries, threats and space. And what this really means, though, in the larger context of the Space Force is that the Space Force wants to expand its mission. But Congress is constantly warning the Space Force about getting too big and being able to stay within its constraints overall. So that was one of the worries is that you know, how, if they keep taking on intelligence, they keep on taking different missions? Are they going to be able to maintain this growth over a long period of time when the whole purpose is to keep it small as a whole? So it right I think that the interesting part of that story is less about the intelligence unit itself. But that in the long run, Space Force is, you know, going to run into these headwinds in Congress. And as well with its own leaders, I mean, the Air Force Secretary has said numerous times that he kind of wants the Space Force to stay in a supporting role. And we see them often taking on larger missions, like intelligence and stuff, which signifies their interest in wanting to expand.
And you're you've also been doing some really good reporting with our coworker Konstantine, about these two US veterans who went missing and are believed to have been captured in Ukraine. What can you tell us about what happened to these these people?
Yeah, so that's the that's kind of the rub of it, right, is that there's so much information, there's an there's an influx of information coming from different sources with different motives. What we can tell you is that last month, Alexander Drueke a 12-year Army veteran, and Andy Huyhn, who was in the Marine Corps for four years, they went missing, the State Department hasn't come out and informally said that they were captured, they say reportedly captured, but we do know that they were captured by Russians or Russian backed forces. Alex, whose mother is Bunny, has been in contact with him many times, he's made phone calls through State Department contact to Bunny while he's being held captive in the DPR. And we really haven't seen a lot from Andy -- Alex in one of his latest calls to his mother talks about Andy how he see videos of him and they're looking to make sure that he's able to get in contact with his own family. But what we do know is that these two veterans traveled to Ukraine sometime in mid-April. And through there, they their intention was to join Ukrainian units to train and fight. They spent some time in the UIL, they bounced around some other units. And then they ended up in this unit called Task Force Baguette. Which Konstantine and I, that's where a lot of the information and the influx of information comes in. We've talked to some members of that unit, we've talked to people who have supported that unit. And it's a lot of information, there was a there's a lot that has gone into this reporting. But what we do have is a pretty solid timeline of these two veterans, and hopefully, you know, with the families, talking to the State Department, they're getting kind of a way forward to a resolution on this.
Drew, I have to ask from a reporting standpoint, how hard was it to track down their families? What kind of role are their families taking in this? And you know, ultimately, just, you know, what, what are they? How are they feeling? How are the families feeling at this moment, because you know, when I read that story, that's kind of the first thing that I think about is just what that would be like to experience if a family member of mine were in that situation.
So finding the families actually wasn't very hard and because for the most part they've been they've been vocal about wanting to get their sons or husbands or fiancé back from capture. So the families have been very open with Konstantine and I, they've Drueke family has led, really an initiative to be open with the press, doing their own press releases, as we've seen many times with hostage or capture situations there's a member of the family that steps up. Where we did have trouble was once they got to Ukraine, and finding people to talk to you there because there is a concern about operational security, people not using their real names, people not being forthright about their backgrounds, which to them from an operational security standpoint, makes sense because, you know, they're, they're in a war zone, they need to care about those things. From a reporting standpoint, it means that there's a lot more work for Konstantine and I have to do to get to the bottom of what happened when they eventually got to Ukraine and were captured. In terms of how the families are feeling. I'm not going to I won't speak for them, but from what we've seen, they've, they've been strong they've been, you know, going on television, talking to the media, of course they're worried, but through their press releases that we definitely get an air of, of strength from them, and action that they want to take to get their family members home.
But of course, you know, there's so many things going on in the military the last couple of weeks. Obviously, we talked face force, we're talking about these veterans caption in Ukraine. Two weeks ago, there was a incredibly important decision about Roe v. Wade, that has an effect on service members. Rebecca, you and Patricia did a really great job of kind of parsing this down for us and giving us an inside look into what the reversal of Roe v Wade looks like to your average service member. One thing that stuck out to me is the concept of readiness, right, and retention and recruiting. It's something that the military talks about constantly, those kind of those three are words that are the commonplace there, what what can you tell us about the effects that Roe v Wade, and it's, it's it being overturned have on readiness, recruiting and retention?
Well, we'll see how this goes going forward. But the big issue is that by federal law, the Defense Department is not allowed to perform or pay for abortions, except in very limited circumstances, specifically, in cases where rape or incest was involved, or the life of the mother is at risk. So what that means in practice is that most service members who need an abortion have to go off base to get it and have to pay out of their pocket to get it. And it was already pretty difficult to do that. But now on the service members that are stationed in states that are banning or severely restricting abortion will have to take leave to go out of state and that's going to take longer, that's going to cost more money. So if you're a woman thinking about joining the military, or if you're currently in the military, and you want, you know, or you're of childbearing age, and maybe it could have an unintended pregnancy, you have to think about whether you want to stay or you want to join up if you're not going to have these abortion rights that people in other states will have, especially you know, you as women in the military, you can't necessarily choose where you're based. So there are some efforts, abortion rights advocates are pushing DOD to make it easier for troops to get leave if they are seeking an abortion. There's also an effort in Congress right now through the annual defense spending bill to try to ensure that commanders don't deny leave for troops seeking an abortion or spouses or significant others that want to support their significant other who is seeking an abortion?
I mean, can you give us an idea of the scope of this? Because, you know, the military is having an issue with recruiting as is. And that goes along with retention? How, you know, how many people realistically does this effect? And what are the after effects to recruiting and retention in terms of this reversal?
So what we know is that there have been 91 abortions performed in US military hospitals since 2016. But again, that only account for abortions that DOD was legally able to provide, which again, is rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is at risk. We don't know how many women have sought abortions outside of the military confines. But what we do know is that 20% of the active duty force is women. So potentially overturning Roe v. Wade could have a large effect on that population. So that's obviously huge news that is affecting not just the military, the country, you know, is dealing with it as a whole as well. But we'll keep an eye on what the effect going for it is. Tom, I want to turn it back over to you because you recently wrote about how the Air Force has reduced promotion opportunities for noncommissioned officers. What's the significance of that and how is that going to affect the force going forward?
It affects morale almost immediately. I mean, this affects the lower enlisted ranks more than anybody in the Air Force. If you're someone who just joined and wanted to become a tech sergeant or a master sergeant. This really is kind of a crushing blow because they're reducing those opportunities that are available. Basically, the Air Force went through between 2015 and 2021. A restructuring process Earlier, they were promoting lower enlisted ranks to NCOs at a very high rate. And so now what we're left with is a lot of NCOs, a lot of NCOs with very little experience, meaning they just haven't been in the service for that long. And now this means that there will have to be a hiatus because they want to see a force that's a little bit more evened out between having noncommissioned officers and enlisted ranks. But you know, what that means is if you've joined, and you wanted to make a career out of being in the military, this is going to make it harder.
In Tom, I just want to ask a follow up on that, because we, you know, as Rebecca and I just talked about the military as a whole is, is going through, you know, recruitment issues. What, you know, what effect does this have, in terms of the military's recruitment and retention issues as a whole?
Yeah, that's a really good point that this really, ultimately, you can almost say that everything kind of goes back to retention and recruiting. But this in particular, where there's a very clear statement from the Air Force, where they're telling the force, hey, we're going to be promoting fewer of you over a large period of time. And we want to see that there's more junior enlisted service members than NCOs. In the future, that is going to be really difficult to make that sales pitch to somebody who's coming out of high school and maybe wants to stay in for a while or wants to dedicate their lives to being in the military, you want to think when you sign the dotted line to join the Air Force? What does this mean for my professional development and being able to rise through the ranks. And so having a very clear statement from the Air Force saying, Hey, we're sorry, we're changing our thinking or changing our kind of belief system on this. And we want to pump the brakes. That's really scary for retention. There's people that were posting online quite a bit about this saying that they feel hopeless people who feel like they've been, you know, burning the candle at both ends and their military career, and hopes of being promoted to tech sergeant or master sergeant. And now that's not going to be possible, or at least it's going to be very difficult to to prove that you're worthy of that next promotion.
Tom, great work. And thanks for being a part of our first ever roundtable as we continue to build out Fire Watch, you'll hear more from our reporters and experts on military news. And of course, me and Rebecca keel is your hosts
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In “What if They Gave a War and Everybody Was Woke?” (op-ed, July 30), Jimmy Byrn argues that woke military policies are turning away people who are traditionally more likely to join the armed forces. I am one of those people.
My family has served the country in the military for generations. I would hate to let this tradition end, but the military has neglected serving the country by serving its intellectual fantasies instead. The focus of the military should be on setting people apart, making a community of warriors more effective at defending the country than others are at attacking it. Instead, the military wants to appear compassionate and inclusive. The blast of a missile is inclusive; it kills everyone in range. The military should be exclusive, producing the best planners, leaders and fighters.
Research and innovation in machine learning in the military equipment and technologies sector has declined in the last year.
The most exact figures show that the number of related patent applications in the industry stood at 92 in the three months ending June – down from 116 over the same period in 2021.
Figures for patent grants related to followed a different pattern to filings – stagnating from 37 in the three months ending June 2021 to 37 in the same period in 2022.
The figures are compiled by GlobalData, who track patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas, and linked to key companies across various industries.
Machine learning is one of the key areas tracked by GlobalData. It has been identified as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years, and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.
The figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the sector.
Boeing was the top innovator in the military equipment and technologies sector in the latest quarter. The company, which has its headquarters in the United States, filed 26 related patents in the three months ending June. That was up from 24 over the same period in 2021.
It was followed by the United States-based Raytheon Technologies with 15 patent applications, the Netherlands-based Airbus (14 applications), and France-based Thales (13 applications).
Airbus SE has recently ramped up R&D in machine learning, witnessing saw growth of 78.6% in related patent applications in the three months ending June compared to the same period in 2021 - the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than ten quarterly patents in the military equipment and technologies sector.
Russian forces have been regularly jamming signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System as part of its war on Ukraine. These signals underlie many aspects of modern warfare, from navigating surveillance drones and targeting missiles to enabling mobile radios.
The importance of GPS as a military tool was underscored by Kremlin media in November as troops were massing along the Ukraine border. After Russia demonstrated it could destroy a satellite in space, a television commentator known to be an unofficial mouthpiece of President Vladimir Putin said the nation could “blind NATO” by shooting down all GPS satellites.
Despite this, Russian interference with GPS in Ukraine has not been nearly as aggressive as many observers had expected.
Experts within the GPS/positioning, navigation, and timing communities have proposed a number of possible reasons for this. Here are the most prevalent, all of which are based entirely on publicly available information:
Russia’s electronic warfare capability isn’t as good as it was thought to be. Russian forces have a fearsome reputation when it comes to electronic warfare. And they go out of their way to reinforce this. At one point, the state-owned news agency Sputnik proclaimed Russian EW capabilities “render aircraft carriers useless.”
The popular wisdom is that they have developed and maintained this capability as a response to superior technology used by Western forces. Electronic warfare can be an inexpensive way to level the playing field.
Since Russian forces have been surprisingly less capable than expected in other aspects of the Ukraine conflict, some think this may be true with their ability to interfere with GPS.
Most observers discount this suggestion, though.
They point out that Russian forces regularly jam GPS signals in northern Norway from locations far across the border. And that in some cases this jamming has been so precise, signals in a nearby frequency band from Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system have been unaffected.
Russia has clearly demonstrated impressive abilities to spoof GPS over wide areas. Users in downtown Moscow often find their equipment falsely reporting they are at an airport. The same is true in many coastal areas, the Black Sea and other locations where senior government officials are to be found.
A 2016 Moscow Times headline read “The Kremlin eats GPS for Breakfast.” The general consensus in the community is that there has been a lot of evidence to support that claim.
The question is then, why is the Kremlin only nibbling at GPS in Ukraine?
Russian forces use and need GPS. Proponents of this idea point to downed Russian fighter jets found to have GPS receivers taped to their dashboards.
Signals from Russia’s GLONASS system and terrestrial Chayka electronic navigation system are both available for use in Ukraine. Yet it seems likely there not enough compatible receivers for these systems to equip all Russian forces. As the world’s first global navigation satellite system, GPS receivers have become both plentiful and inexpensive. Cheap GPS receivers and some duct tape seems like an interim solution for some poorly equipped Russians.
Also, GPS signals support a wide variety of infrastructure. Telecommunications, the internet, electrical grids and machine-control systems all rely on GPS for timing. Russian forces may wish to protect Ukraine’s infrastructure for their own benefit and use. Prolonged and widespread attacks on GPS signals could cause serious infrastructure problems with long-term strategic downsides greater than any temporary tactical gains.
High-power, persistent GPS jammers are easily targeted. Any strong and consistent radio frequency transmission can be easily located and attacked. Many militaries have missiles specially designed to home in on and destroy jamming transmitters. Even without such weapons, direction-finding technology can pinpoint a transmitter enabling an artillery attack or an air or ground assault. Russian commanders may be limiting transmission power and time on air to avoid attracting hostile fire.
Ukraine is less impacted. While Ukraine is increasingly receiving and using more Western weapons, many of which use GPS, it also has huge stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons. These don’t rely on GPS and are likely unaffected by most, if not all, forms of electronic warfare. Also, Ukrainian regular and irregular forces are likely less reliant upon sophisticated command, control and communications systems used by larger militaries. Thus, GPS jamming that could hamper normal operations for the U.S. and NATO may have less impact in Ukraine.
Saving the best to use against the U.S. and NATO. Despite the location of the conflict, Ukraine is not the enemy Vladimir Putin is really thinking about. His concerns focus on the U.S. and NATO. Deploying Russia’s most sophisticated and powerful electronic weapons in Ukraine would enable adversaries to study technologies and tactics. This would lead to the development of countermeasures and make the weapons less effective in future conflicts.
Better for Russia to keep its best tools and tricks for interfering with GPS in reserve, for use later against larger forces and more important targets.
Dana Goward is president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation and serves on the U.S. National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board.
This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the authors. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email C4ISRNET Senior Managing Editor Cary O’Reilly.
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The Russian government has tricked conscripts into joining the war in Ukraine by bringing them to the frontlines despite promising to send them home, a new recording revealed.
In one unit of the Russian military, conscripts were loaded onto KAMAZ trucks and promised that they would be driven to the airport where they could book a flight home. However, the KAMAZ trucks brought the conscripts to the frontline in Ukraine, according to a recording of an intercepted phone call released by the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
“Many, many people wrote reports. They were loaded onto KAMAZ trucks, and it was like, we’ll drive you to the airport to send you home. And they were heading for Ukraine in these closed KAMAZ trucks,” the wife of a Russian soldier told him in the phone call. “They realized on the way and started jumping right out of the vehicle, because there was a tank at the head of the convoy. Then the firing into the air started.”
The woman, whose identity was not revealed, added that some of the conscripts returned on foot. Conscripts who approached law enforcement agencies to report the incident were also allegedly held for several days.
The Chief Intelligence Directorate did not specify when or where the phone call was intercepted. The International Business Times could not independently verify the claims.
The audio recording comes after Vadym Skibitskyi, a spokesman for the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Defense Ministry, said the Russian army is recruiting prisoners with combat experience to join the war in Ukraine amid suffering massive military losses.
Since the war began in February, the Russian army has lost 38,550 soldiers, according to estimates from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
Mamuka Mamulashvii, the commander of the Georgian Legion fighting alongside Ukrainian troops in the war, attributed the high number of deaths in the Russian army to a lack of professionalism and preparation. Mamulashvii also said corruption in the Russian army is helping Ukrainians fight back in the war.
In contrast, Russian lawmakers Konstantin Kosachev and Irina Yarovaya blamed Moscow’s military losses on Ukraine’s “drugged up” superhuman troops.
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PHNOM PENH, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a press conference for Chinese and foreign media here on Friday afternoon after attending the meetings of foreign ministers on East Asia cooperation.
"I would like to expound on China's position on the Taiwan question. Considering that the U.S. side has just spread a lot of false information and untrue words in this regard, it is even more necessary for us to clarify the facts and set the record straight," said Wang.
He said that in disregard of China's resolute opposition and repeated representations, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made a blatant visit to China's Taiwan region, with the genuine connivance and facilitation of the U.S. government.
This retrogressive act seriously infringed on China's sovereignty, acutely interfered in China's internal affairs, severely violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, he noted.
"It is only natural that China should respond resolutely," he said.
"Our position is legitimate, reasonable and lawful. Our measures are resolute, strong and proportionate. Our military drills are open, transparent and professional, which are in line with our domestic law, international law and common international practice, with an aim of warning those perpetrators and disciplining the 'Taiwan independence' forces," Wang said.
"We will firmly safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, resolutely deter the U.S. from 'using Taiwan to contain China', and resolutely shatter the Taiwan authorities' illusion of seeking independence by relying on U.S. support," he said.
"Meanwhile, we are also upholding international law and the basic norms governing international relations, especially the norm of non-interference, the most important international norm as stipulated in the United Nations Charter," Wang said.
He stressed that if the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states is ignored or abandoned, the world will be dragged back to the law of the jungle, and the United States will become even more unscrupulous in bullying other countries, particularly small and medium-sized countries, from its so-called "position of strength."
"We must not allow such things to happen, and all other countries should stand in unity to stop such things from happening and not allow the human civilization to regress," Wang said.
He said that is why more than 100 countries have publicly stood up and reaffirmed their firm adherence to the one-China policy, and their understanding of and support for China's legitimate position.
Noting that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has clearly stressed that the United Nations will continue to uphold the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, Wang said that the core of the resolution is the one-China principle, which states that there is only one China in the world, and the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is part of China.
These are the voice of justice from the international community, he added.
Calling the U.S. attempt of "using Taiwan to contain China" just a fantasy, Wang said that it cannot stop the historical trend of Taiwan's return to the motherland, and cannot stop the historical process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The ploy of the "Taiwan independence" forces to "seek independence by relying on U.S. support" is no more than a fantasy and is destined to hit a dead end, he said, adding that the noose around their necks will only get tighter.
In response to the U.S. excuse of a previous visit to Taiwan by a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Wang said former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich's visit to Taiwan was a serious mistake, which the Chinese government strongly opposed at the time.
The United States has no right and is not in any position to make the same mistake again, and it cannot use the past mistakes as excuses and justifications for repeating them today, Wang said, questioning is the United States preparing to redo all its wrongdoings and dirty tricks in its history.
Responding to the U.S. claim that China has changed the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, Wang said it is nothing but a rumour and slander. Taiwan has never been a country. There is only one China, and both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one country. This has been the status quo of Taiwan since ancient times.
The China-U.S. Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations issued in 1978 clearly emphasizes that the government of the PRC is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and Taiwan is part of China, which has been the status quo across the Taiwan Strait for decades, Wang noted.
But such status quo has indeed been broken. The destroyer is not China, but the United States and Taiwan separatist forces, Wang said.
"In 2000, the U.S. side placed its unilaterally-concocted 'Taiwan Relations Act' ahead of the three China-U.S. joint communiques. Isn't that changing the status quo? A few years ago, the U.S. side brazenly put the so-called 'Six Assurances,' which was kept in secrecy, into its one-China policy statement. Isn't that changing the status quo? Isn't it hollowing out the one-China policy?" Wang asked.
He suggested the U.S. politicians in power have a good look at the three joint communiques, saying that then they will know what the real status quo across the Taiwan Strait is, and who have changed it.
The same is true of those in Taiwan, Wang said. Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power in Taiwan, it has been continuously pushing forward "incremental independence," going all out to promote "de-sinicization," and trying to create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" on various occasions.
"Isn't it blatantly changing the status quo? If Dr. Sun Yat-sen knew it, he would have pointed at the nose of Tsai Ing-wen, and called her an unworthy descendant," Wang said.
On reports saying the United States is increasing its military deployment in the region, Wang called on all sides to stay highly vigilant.
It is an old trick of the U.S. side to stir up troubles first and then take advantage of them to achieve its own goals, Wang said, adding that such practices will not work in front of China, and the Chinese side seriously warns the United States not to act recklessly and create a bigger crisis.
In response to the remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the meeting that the U.S. side hopes that international law is abided by and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries are maintained, Wang said it has been long since the U.S. side last made such remarks, and the U.S. has done the opposite in multiple cases over the years.
If the U.S. side can really mend its ways, China will encourage it, but the key is for the United States to walk the talk, Wang said, noting that it should first of all fulfill its commitment on the Taiwan question and respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and stop conniving at or supporting the "Taiwan independence" forces.
Taiwan has advised ships to avoid areas where China is conducting military exercises.
The drills are taking place after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit to Taiwan.
Areas affected by the drills include the Taiwan Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
Taiwan has advised ships to avoid areas where China is conducting military exercises — including live drills — after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit to the island.
Port authorities have asked ships to use alternative routes to enter and exit Taiwan's ports in response to China's exercises, according to various notices from the island's Maritime and Port Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
"We call on relevant ships to avoid the areas during the period of the military exercise," said the Taiwanese authority. China said it would hold the exercises around the island from Thursday to Sunday.
Areas affected by the military exercises include zones in the Taiwan Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Ships from North Asian factories in China, Japan, and South Korea pass through the strait to get to Western markets. About half of the world's container fleet has already sailed through the Taiwan Strait this year, according to a Bloomberg data compilation.
"The Taiwan Strait is one of the most busy straits in the world. So, obviously, if it were to close, it would have a dramatic impact on shipping capacity in the sense that everybody would have to divert around Taiwan and add to the length of voyages and that would absorb a significant capacity," Maersk CEO Soren Skou said in a Wednesday earnings call.
"But I also have to say that there seems to be no suggestion that that's where we are going," said Skou, adding the container shipping giant has "no particular insights" on the military exercises.
It's not just shipping routes that have been affected by China's military exercises. Aviation, too, has been impacted.
China has warned airlines to avoid flying in the airspace around Taiwan, highlighting six "danger zones" to the airlines, according to Bloomberg. Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific told Insider its planes are avoiding the designated airspace zones around Taiwan, adding to longer flying time for some flights.
Read the original article on Business Insider
US probe of Huawei gears near missile silos ‘old tricks to curb China devt’
The Biden administration is investigating Huawei over concerns that US cell towers fitted with its gear could capture sensitive information from military bases and missile silos that the company could then transmit to China, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.
"Authorities are concerned that Huawei could obtain sensitive data on military drills and the readiness status of bases and personnel via the equipment, one of the people said, requesting anonymity because the investigation is confidential and involves national security," the report said.
Industry observers described the reported investigation as the beginning of another round of baseless crackdowns and smears targeting the Chinese tech giant, abusing the concept of national security and the use of state power.
"The US has to provide evidence to prove its so-called 'national security' concerns, and how the data can be transferred to China," Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Friday.
Reuters said that it could not determine if Huawei's equipment is capable of collecting that sort of sensitive information and providing it to China.
"Moreover, the deployment of such equipment near a military place should have already gone through a very strict examination," an industry player who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Friday.
"National security seems like an 'easy' excuse for the US to launch another round of investigations into the firm," the person said.
The US Commerce Department said that it could not "confirm or deny ongoing investigations," adding that "protecting US persons' safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security."
Huawei has long been accused by the US government of being able to spy on US customers, but authorities in Washington have failed to offer any solid evidence. Huawei has strongly denied the US government's allegations that it could spy on US customers and pose a national security threat.
Xiang cautioned that even if the investigation persisted, the impact on the company may be limited as Huawei has already had to deal with multiple rounds of sanctions.
Insiders also told the Global Times that Huawei's operations in the US are "more than limited" due to previous crackdowns.
"Smearing Chinese firms, including Huawei, and creating barriers for their development, is the true intention behind the investigation, and it is set to backfire," Xiang said.
On July 15, the US telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), told Congress that the country still needs an extra $3 billion to effectively remove and replace equipment belonging to Huawei and ZTE from its networks, since an initial budget of $1.9 million is now deemed insufficient.
The FCC has said that it will freeze government funding for any organization that fails to comply with the removal order, according to a previous Reuters report.