The Cold War Rut Returns

Spike, my former KC-135 Aircraft Commander, had a good friend who was an instructor pilot in the RC-135W Rivet Joint intelligence, Surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. The Rivet Joint is commonly seen throughout the world off the borders of countries, Gathering intelligence information on our potential adversaries. It was a very common during the Cold War for the Rivet Joint, and it’s sisters the Cobra Ball and the Combat Sent, to be intercepted by adversary fighters. This Rivet Joint pilot commonly took his 8mm video camera with him and recorded all of these intercepts. He shared with me one day a VHS tape from the late 1980s which had numerous Russian aircraft intercepting his Rivet Joint during their missions. The video showed all kinds of Russian aircraft… Mig-23 Floggers, Mig 25 Foxbats, even the brand new Mig-31 Foxhounds and the Su-27 Flankers. In every case, the Russian planes carry live air-to-air weapons.
These intercepts were so frequent the Rivet Joint aircrews expected to have visitors every mission. Spike’s buddy, we will call him Rob, even said so on videotape. He began a new 8mm tape by saying “We’re up here at 28,000 feet, waiting for our first visitor.” They did not have long to wait. There was a never-ending flow of Russian fighter jets that would appear outside their cockpit windows. During one intercept a Mig-31 Foxhound got real close. Rob’s Copilot zoomed in on the aircraft, and you could see the pilot looking down from his wingtip perch position at the Rivet Joint crew. You could hear the Mig-31 engines spool up as it passed close to the window, the engine nozzles open up, and giant tongues of flame protrude from the big two-man ski engines. The Foxhound flew directly in front of the Rivet Joint, disrupting the flow of air over the wings and through the engines, and causing the airplane to roll. Although these types of incidences were uncommon, they did happen. It was like two big Whitetail bucks in the forest, defending their harem and territory during the rut. They both bump heads and lock horns in the rut to see who is the Alpha Male.
These intercept events have become more common in recent years. An RC-135 Combat Sent flying in the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a very spunky Su-27 Flankers pilot. His wingman must have stayed out of eyesight but following the intercept on radar. As the Flankers pilot pulled up on the wing, he decided to do a barrel roll over the Combat Sent. This and probably a host of other things the Combat Sent crew was listening to caused them to turn back into Swedish airspace. In a recent show of force, Russian Bear bombers escorted by Foxhounds passed along the western Alaska border and the Bering Sea. F-22s on alert at Elmendorf Air Force Base launch and intercepted the Russian package as they flew along the border.

But there have been two recent intercepts over Syria causing concern. One was denied by the US government, only to have the real thing happened a couple days later. The demarcation line between the Russian area of responsibility and US Coalition is the Euphrates River. Near the town of Abu Kamal Syria, two f-22s intercepted two Su-25 Frogfoot attack airplanes, performing the same mission our A-10 Warthogs do. The F-22 intercepted the Frogfoot aircraft, keeping them from accomplishing their task. One Su-25 flew so close to a Raptor it had to take evasive action. This event got a little dicier when to Su-30 Flankers showed up to protect the Su-25s. In a maneuver we call a “headbutt,” the F-22 Raptor dispensed chaff and flare decoys, hopefully causing the Su- 30s to take there Frogfoot comrades home back to Latakia Airfield near Syria’s Mediterranean border.

Latakia Airfield is the Russian Air Force’s primary operating base in their fight against ISIS. It went from a bear base to a full up working airfield in the space of 10 months in 2015. Here is a picture of the airport taken from Google Earth on the 21 January 2015. You can see the lily pads where Russian helicopters land on the west side of the runway. There are no significant buildings for maintenance support, command and control facilities, or even housing aircrews.

1 January 2015 photo of Latakia Air Base illustrating the bareness of the base just two years ago.
Fast forward to November of 2015, and the base looks completely different. There are modern facilities for housing maintenance and air Crews, hangers for doing any Support, and a considerable ramp space for parking Su-22 fitters, and you can see in the picture below Su-30 Flankers and Su-35 Fullback attack aircraft. The difference between the two images is stark. This base went from what we would call barebones to a fully functional military airfield in the space of 10 months.

Latakia Air Base just ten months later, November 18 2015, showing the fighter ramp with Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft and Su-30 fighter planes on the ramp. The S-400 SAM site is directly north of the main fighter ramp area.

December 28, 2017 Google Earth photo of Latakia Air Base Syria. Su-24 Fencer and Su-30 Flankers can be seen on the fighter ramp. The S-400 facility remains north of the fighter ramp, the missle launchers now covered in camouflage netting in two revetments.
The S-400 system was delivered to Syria after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su-24 Fencer violating their airspace. S-400 missiles have a range of 250 km or about 160 nautical miles. Its footprint covers almost all of Syria and Incirlik Air Base outside Adana Turkey to the north, home of the 447th Fighter Group flying missions against ISIS.

By looking at the second picture, you can see the Russians have sent their most sophisticated Fighters and air defense equipment to Syria protecting their interests. Their primary interest is keeping the Bashar al-Assad regime in place. But these head-butting events are going to continue as long as the Russians and the American coalition remain in the area. Isis is almost without form, but no one seems willing to leave the area just yet. Latakia and the unclear roles and responsibilities are why you will More intercept reports in the news because the Cold War rut has returned as the Russians and Americans fly in the same airspace over Syria and Iraq.

Nation’s DIME 1802

Welcome to the fourth edition of “On the Nation’s DIME.” There’s been a lot of news coverage recently about our political maneuvers in the United Nations. Ambassador Nikki Haley, with President Trump Administration approval, cut $285 million in aid to the UN, representing 22% of their budget. The Trump Administration did not stop there. After the resolution vote in the General Assembly on declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, an overwhelming number of our allies voted against us. President Trump told the world we were taking names via Ambassador Nikki Haley speech. It looks like the first nation on the chopping block is Pakistan, totaling $1.3 billion. To tell you the truth, my feelings are mixed on Pakistan. Those feelings wax both good and bad.
While deployed the Chief of the Air Refueling Control Team at the Prince Sultan combined air operations center, there were a couple of things I observed while trying it to make plans supporting the fighters, bombers, and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance or ISR aircraft over the Shaihkot Valley during Operation Anaconda. Everything we did hinged on Pakistan.
In the Diplomatic realm,
On one occasion, Pakistani diplomatic approval for us to use one of their airfields literally came in a day. Two A-10 Warthogs callsign MISTY flight departed Al Jabbar Airfield Kuwait and flew to the Shaihkot Valley not knowing where they were going to land. During MISTY flight’s nine hour mission, diplomatic requests went back and forth between the US and Pakistani governments through our Embassy in Islamabad. Even in war it is not what you know, but who you know. Lieutenant General Mike Moseley had gone to school with a Pakistani Air Force General, who helped obtain clearance for the Warthogs to land at Jalalabad Airfield. Over the next two nights, four more Hawgs arrived at Jalalabad, performing their combat missions from Pakistan.
Obtaining diplomatic clearances for our aircraft to fly through certain areas of Pakistan remained a huge hurdle because of long lead times for airspace approval over Pakistan. In many cases we needed airspace quickly, taking a minimum of five days for Pakistan’s approval. We didn’t have time because of how badly the situation was in the opening days of Anaconda. Fortunately for my refueling team, we found an area in the disputed tribal region of Pakistan the Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 and AC-130 Gunships used. My team worked out a timeshare with the Special Operations folks to refuel A-10 Warthogs in BIGFOOT. My plans team would have liked an area closer to Shaihkot because of the A-10’s slow speed, but we couldn’t wait five to seven days for Pakistani approval.
In the Informational realm,
I do not remember how many intelligence reports I read stating Top Tier Al-Qaeda and Taliban high value targets we’re going back and forth across the Afghan – Pakistan border. We had clear actionable intelligence Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters used the border area as their “safe space.” We knew the Musharraf government where allies in fighting these terror groups, but it was frustrating watching groups of enemy fighters crossing into Pakistan and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. We were not allowed to attack them while their feet were on Pakistani soil.
The cable news report all stated Pakistan were our allies in finding and capturing Al-Qaeda terrorists, but their Internal Security Service was not only hiding Osama Bin Laden in his top lieutenants, they were supporting them. Watching these news reports and hearing how the Musharraf’s ISS was helping us when we knew they were helping them was frustrating. I was not surprised when SEAL Team Six operatives found bin Laden in Pakistan. The Pakistani government had to know he and his family was there. Who signed the building permit for his million dollar compound, under two miles from the Pakistani Military Academy?
Now for the Military area,
The majority of US air power supporting coalition ground troops in the Shaihkot Valley flew through Pakistani airspace. Early in the war Pakistan approved two air refueling areas were located side by side over the Balochistan region. MERCURY was designed to refuel airplanes going into Afghanistan, and APOLLO was designed for warplanes leaving Afghanistan returning to their bases in Kuwait, Qatar, and three aircraft carriers operating off the coast of Pakistan. These two refueling areas were critical to our operations during Operation Anaconda. Fighter, bomber, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft could not perform their missions without getting gas in MERCURY and APOLLO. My team opened a third refueling area strictly for C-17 Globemaster III airlifter support for troops throughout Afghanistan. The Pakistanis could have cut these air routes off to us at any time they disliked what we were doing.
In the Economic area,
I learned something very interesting during Operation Anaconda. I was told one afternoon my team had to move the HANNITY refueling area north of the Shaihkot Valley. We placed HANNITY in the right location, but was told I had to move it. The airspace folks couldn’t tell me why. Always follow the money. I learned the International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO was paying the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan millions of dollars to open and sustain commercial air traffic through their borders. In the case of Afghanistan, opening the single airway bordering HANNITY ICAO would pay the Afghan government $2 million a day. Opening up the airways over the Balochistan area of Pakistan where MERCURY and APOLLO were situated afforded the Pakistan government a similar sum. The airway leaving Afghanistan to the southeast below APOLLO and MERCURY opened up because commercial airliners needed a way to reach the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. My team was shocked learning these airways afforded Afghanistan and Pakistan several million dollars a day to keep commercial airliners moving through their airspace. Moving the refueling areas was just a big headache but the economic aid from the International Civil Aviation Organization to the poor countries was a good bargaining chip for the Americans also.
There is one last lesson I learned stretching across both the Diplomatic and Military realms of our air operations during Anaconda. India and Pakistan have been enemies for a long time, constantly disputed their east and west border. One afternoon I was asked to participate in a group developing a plan to evacuate all US and Coalition aircraft out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The scary part about this evacuation plan was both India and Pakistan getting into a nuclear exchange with ballistic missiles. We always had good intelligence on when India or Pakistan was going to test their ballistic missiles. But we constantly looked over our shoulder on a number of occasions when the border dispute intensified. The plan called for the AWACS to move everyone toward MERCURY and APOLLO quickly and return to their bases.
I wanted you to know about Pakistan and our involvement with them in the global war on terrorism. Yes, they have been an ally, but there’s been a couple times where I wasn’t so sure. And it was truly scary developing a evacuation plan based on a potential nuclear war between two countries and US aircraft being caught in the middle.

Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this weeks DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.

Have a great weekend!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here. I read them all.

Nation’s DIME 1752

Welcome to another addition of the Nation’s DIME. With Christmas cheer throughout the house, I have watched the Trump Administration’s efforts on the part of Jerusalem very closely the past two weeks. Looks like the United Nations will not be shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue with US dollars after the General Assembly resolution vote of 21 December, condemning our statement Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I will be honest with you right up front, the Trump Administration’s stance on Israel is one of many reasons I voted for him. The UN has become an enemy of US and Israeli interests. Cutting UN funding is something I have wanted for years. Twenty-two percent of the UN budget comes from the US taxpayers. I just didn’t think the cuts would be this deep!
In the Diplomatic arena,
Ambassador Nikki Haley’s announcement Sunday the United States had negotiated a $285 million cut in the United Nations’ “bloated” budget for next year shocked most of the world. She said on the floor of the UN,
“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known…” She went on to say, “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked.” Her speech to the UN can be seen here:
https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-nikki-haleys-speech-at-un-security-council-debate-on-jerusalem/
In the Informational arena,
The United Nations General Assembly voted resoundingly to reject President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. How many of you have looked to see who those “resounding” nations are? Several countries voting against us have been our closest allies with soldiers liberating their country and many buried in their soil, France as an example. The link below shows who voted for us, against us, and abstained. I caution you, it may bring your blood pressure up a few notches.
http://www.valuewalk.com/2017/12/u-n-vote-u-s-jerusalem-israel-capital/
In the Military realm,
The Preamble of the UN Charter states their purpose is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankin,” It was the main motivation for creating the UN by those who had lived through two World Wars. But the UN has never stopped a war from happening. A good example is the Korean War in the 1950s. They have helped end conflicts, such as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, but the UN Security Council has never stopped a war from occurring. The link below to the UN website will give you a good indication of how they view peace and security.
http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/peace-and-security/
In the Economic area,
Here is a good article outlining how much money the UN requires to accomplish their mission. Look closely at the headline. After seventy years and half a trillion dollars, what has the Un given the world? I admit it has saved millions of lives, but has also cost millions because of war and genocide.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/07/what-has-the-un-achieved-united-nations
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal about how the US can defund the UN.
https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/11622/defund-united-nations
I have long since lost my luster for the United Nations. I got to see the UN bureaucracy up close and in a few instances quite personal while deployed to Italy during Operation Allied Force in 1999. As long as there are homeless vets in my neighborhood, I will say save US taxpayer dollars and use it here in the US, where it’s needed most.

Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this weeks DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.

Have a great weekend!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here. I read them all.

Nation’s DIME 1751

Welcome to the second edition of On the Nation’s DIME. DIME is an acronym the government uses describing all resources available to a nation in the pursuit of national objectives, such as diplomatic, informational, military and economic power.

Here’s the Nation’s DIME I’m thinking about from the recent declaration by President Trump’s Administration on Jerusalem…

In the Diplomatic realm-
UN Envoy Nikki Haley delivered the following speech at a Special Session of the United Nations Security Council. Three points I found most interesting: 1. Former US administrations have recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as all their government agencies are located there; 2. The Trump Administration supports a two state solution if agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians; 3. Most importantly, President Trump’s announcement has not changed any arrangements at the Temple Mount.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZbUEK6QXa4

In the Information realm-
The response from the Arab world was understandably harsh toward President Trump’s announcement. UN Palestine Ambassador Riyad Mansour called President Trump’s announcement as “illegal” and “crimes” during his speech at the UN Security Council Special Session. The leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah called for uprisings and intifada, nothing new there. The Hamas Charter states “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I urge all of you to read the Hamas Charter.
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

In the Military realm-
Militarily, if Israel and the US are to maintain their safety in the region, it must attack those supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS, and those supporting the Assad Regime in Syria. That remains Iran. There is one man, Major General Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces, who may be one of the most influential men in the Middle East right now.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/30/the-shadow-commander

In the Economic realm-
After the announcement on 6 December, President Trump signed Presidential Determination No. 2018-02, suspending the 50% funding cap normally in place when a new Embassy opens. He ordered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to immediately begin the relocation process. Funding for the move is now unrestricted, allowing contractors to begin identifying a location and design of the Embassy building.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/30/how-to-move-the-u-s-embassy-to-jerusalem/


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_Embassy_Act#Presidential_Waiver

Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this week’s DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.

Have a great weekend!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here. I read them all.

Nation’s DIME 1750

Welcome to the first edition of On the Nation’s DIME. DIME is an acronym the government uses for describing national power, the sum of all resources available to a nation in the pursuit of national objectives.

DIME stands for the elements of diplomatic, informational, military and economic power.

Here are the DIME things I’m thinking about from recent events in North Korea…

In the Diplomatic realm-
I’ve asked myself what is the diplomatic and political end state from a war with North Korea: Regime change to remove Kim Jong Un and his henchmen, or removing all capability of threatening his neighbors. Here is a good article from 38 North, written by Richard Sokolsky and Aaron David Miller of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

In the Informational arena-
Evan Osnos took a trip to North Korea for The New Yorker magazine. In his article The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea, he speaks about the ongoing war of words between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. Evan relates some interesting details about what he saw and how the North Koreans view the war of words between the two leaders.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-risk-of-nuclear-war-with-north-korea

There is a lot in the Military realm-
On the morning of 30 November 2017, at 2:47 am local time, North Korea’s Missile Guidance Bureau which oversees their missile forces launched another ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. I have continued to ask when will the US Navy or Japan shoot down one of Rocket Man’s ballistic missiles? I know it can be done because I’ve toured several AEGIS Cruisers and Destroyers and talked to them about ballistic missile defense.
http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-us-and-japan-could-shoot-down-north-korean-missiles-headed-for-guam-2017-8
I listened to the crew of the USS Lake Erie tasked with taking down an NRO satellite. If you want to see how we blew an errant satellite out of the sky, go search Operation Burnt Frost. Here is the video of that intercept…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDqNjnUNUl8

In the Economic area-
Reconstructing Iraq after the invasion was a huge task. Entire provinces of North Korea are without common infrastructure we rely on here in the US and South Korea. The recent defecting soldier has numerous health issues. What would be the cost of war with North Korea?
http://www.valuewalk.com/2017/08/us-vs-north-korea-war-consequences/

Next week we’ll take a look at the islands China is building in the South China Sea.

Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this weeks DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.

Have a great weekend!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here. I read them all.