US service member involved in Ukrainian Su-27 crash


A Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft flying in Ukraine’s Clear Sky exercise crashed during an Oct. 16 training flight, but the fate of a U.S. servicemember involved in the crash is still unclear, the U.S. Air Force said Tuesday.

Shortly after the crash occurred in the Khmelnytskyi region of western Ikraine, news media released reports, citing the Ukrainian general staff, that claimed two pilots — one Ukrainian and one U.S. Air National Guardsman — had died during the accident. However, the post has since been removed.

In its own statement, the U.S. Air Force was not immediately able to confirm any casualties.

“We have seen reports claiming a U.S. casualty and can confirm a U.S. service member was involved in this incident,” U.S. Air Forces Europe said in a Tuesday statement. “It is currently under investigation and we will continue to provide more information as it becomes available.”

The Su-27 crash casts a pall on the first-ever Clear Sky, which kicked off this month and aims to increase the interoperability of NATO countries and partner nations’ air forces through training that includes air sovereignty, cyber defense, air-to-ground integration and aeromedical evacuation, among other missions.

About 950 servicemembers from nine militaries are taking part in the exercise, including the United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.

California Air National Guard F-15s were deployed to Starokostiantyniv Air Base in Ukraine to train alongside Ukrainian fighters, reported Air Force Times earlier this month.

Other U.S. aircraft participating in the exercise include California ANG C-130s sent to Vinnytsia Air Base; Illinois ANG KC-135s from Powidz Air Base, Poland, and active duty KC-135s from from RAF Mildenhall, England; as well as MQ-9 Reapers based at Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland.

U.S. military and JSDF prepares for exercise Keen Sword


The U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs has announced that units from the U.S. military and Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) will conduct exercise Keen Sword beginning Oct. 29.

The biennial exercise is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF. Two Royal Canadian Navy ships will participate in the maritime portion of the exercise for the first time.

This year’s iteration will feature the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s (JGSDF) Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB), which will conduct amphibious landings in the vicinity of Guam and Tinian. U.S. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force will work side-by-side with the ARDB and serve as mentors and evaluators.

Approximately 10,000 U.S. service members from the following units are scheduled to participate in KS19: U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The forces will conduct training with their JSDF counterparts from military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa, Guam, Tinian, and their surrounding waters.

Exercises like Keen Sword provide the JSDF and U.S. military opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas in realistic scenarios, enhancing readiness and interoperability.

The U.S.- Japan alliance, strengthened by updated guidelines and the two countries’ respective security and defense policies, continues to serve as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific as well as a platform for promoting a more peaceful and stable international security environment.

Is this the world’s toughest military exercise?


Wales, United Kingdom—Exercise Cambrian Patrol: Is this the world’s toughest military exercise?

Forty-eight hours. Over 40 miles across the arduous Brecon Beacons. Weather conditions: awful. Personal loads in the excess of 80 pounds. Who will win?

Did I mention that Cambrian Patrol is an unofficial race?

The annual exercise is organised by the 160th Infantry Brigade of the British army. Every year, the Welsh-based brigade is responsible for creating an event that contains the most difficult tasks that an infantry patrol might encounter. Patrols from units across the British military are welcomed, as well as units from foreign countries.

Last year, patrols from over 23 nations competed for the challenge and the glory. Points are awarded and deducted over a patrol’s performance. A unit from the Pakistani Army managed to win the gold.

This year, more than 139 units from 28 countries are competing.

The Brecon Beacons, where the SAS also hold their selection process, are famous for their strenuous terrain and unpredictable weather. And like all realistic exercises should be, Cambrian Patrol won’t be easily cancelled due to bad weather conditions. This year, for example, the exercise is taking place amid a storm.

But what tasks does the exercise actually contain, and why is it considered the hardest in the world?

First of all, the patrol commander is issued a set of coordinates. The patrol, then, maps out the route that it will have to navigate during the next two days. The training staff, however, have planned numerous scenarios in between. For example, patrols are faced with surveillance and intelligence tasks, improvised explosive device (IED) ambushes, casualty evacuations, close-target reconnaissance (a highly dangerous affair, often conducted before an assault to determine the disposition and strength of an enemy force), traversing water obstacles, and performing basic soldiering tasks in a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) environment.

Performing well on Cambrian Patrol is more than just about bragging rights. Participants who score high scores gain promotion points and, more crucially, they earn a reputation—an often unmentioned (but very important) thing to have, especially in the special operations community, which is small by design.

First launched in 1959, the exercise was meant to test the readiness and combat aptitude of Britain’s territorial soldiers. Since then, it has expanded to include the U.K.’s regular military and foreign militaries.

It was Major General Lewis Pugh, who was a Welshman, who first advocated for and designed the exercise.

So, what do you think, is Cambrian Patrol the world’s toughest exercise?

NATO Sends 6,000 Marines to Reykjavík This Week


Eight hundred soldiers will head to Þjórsárdalur valley in the southern highlands of Iceland to participate in NATO exercises this weekend, RÚV reports. According to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the exercises are not military in nature, rather involve a hike along pathways through the valley, and should not cause environmental damage.

The exercise will take place over two days and is a typical winter exercise for NATO forces. Each day, 400 soldiers will hike through the valley with equipment in order to experience cold climate conditions.

NATO exercises will also take place in Sandvík, Southwest Iceland this Wednesday and at Keflavík airport’s security area, where 400 US soldiers will practice landing and around 120 will practice responding to an attack on the Icelandic Coast Guard’s headquarters.

The Sandvík exercises are part of a larger NATO exercise called Trident Juncture 2018 which will take place mostly in Norway. The exercise is NATO’s biggest in recent years, involving 50,000 participants from 31 NATO countries and others. Around ten ships from NATO’s maritime forces carrying some 6,000 marines will arrive in Reykjavík next weekend from the US, Britain, Denmark, and Canada for an organisational conference on the exercise. The ships will continue on to Norway on Sunday.

Belgian F-16 burns out on the ground at Florennes Air Base


On October, 11 around 14.10h, a violent explosion sounded at Florennes airbase in the South of Belgium when an F-16 caught fire and completely burned out.

An F-16 (#FA-128) was completely destroyed while a second F-16 received collateral damage from the explosions. Two personnel were wounded and treated at the scene. Injuries sustained were mainly hearing related from the explosion.

The F-16 was parked near a hangar when it was accidentally fired upon from another F-16 undergoing routine ground maintenance. Several detonations were heard and thick black smoke was seen for miles around.

Civilian firefighters have even been called in to help firefighters at the airbase to contain the incident. About thirty men were deployed on site and several ambulances were dispatched.

The Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD) is currently investigating the exact cause.

The incident happened at the military airport in Florennes, a Walloon municipality in the south of Belgium. The base houses the 2nd Tactical Wing which comprises the 1st ‘Stingers’ Squadron and the 350th ‘Ambiorix’ Squadron.

NATO Secretary General visits USS Harry S. Truman, en route to Exercise Trident Juncture

NATO Secretary General visits USS Harry S. Truman, en route to Exercise Trident Juncture

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the North Sea on Friday (12 October 2018), together with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti. The USS Truman is en route to participate in NATO’s biggest exercise in years, Trident Juncture 2018, joining around sixty other ships from across the Alliance.

The Secretary General thanked the crew of the USS Truman for their service, emphasizing that the carrier delivers deterrence every day, and helps keep sea lines of communication open. He further noted that the carrier has been crucial in helping defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  Mr. Stoltenberg welcomed that the USS Truman is taking part in exercise Trident Juncture, marking the first visit by a US carrier group to Norwegian waters since 1987. He said that Exercise Trident Juncture will send a clear message of Allied solidarity – that NATO is ready to respond to any threat from any direction.

Highlighting the key role of maritime power in NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defence, Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that the Atlantic Ocean is a bridge between North America and Europe which needs to be protected. He welcomed that the Alliance is stepping up its efforts to this end, including with a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

On Friday, the Secretary General and General Scaparrotti also visited the HDMS Esbern Snare of the Royal Danish Navy – the flagship of one of NATO’s multinational naval groups.

UK and German forces test military mobility en route to NATO’s biggest exercise in decades

Hundreds of UK troops deploy on Exercise Trident Juncture

UK troops landed at Rotterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday (10 October 2018) as German tanks boarded a cargo ship on their way to Norway for Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 – NATO’s largest since the Cold War.

Over the next few days, 70 Foxhound, Husky and Landrover vehicles will make the 2,000km journey from the Hook of Holland harbour through northern Europe to Norway. The UK convoy’s move through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden will test how efficiently soldiers and equipment can move between European countries. It will also test customs, border regulations and infrastructure’s ability to cope with rapid and heavy troop movements.

As UK troops make their way through northern Europe, the German army is shipping Leopard tanks and other military vehicles onboard a civilian cargo ferry from the northern German town of Emden to Fredrikstad, Norway where they are scheduled to arrive on Thursday (11 October).

Military mobility is vital, especially to reinforce in a crisis. That’s exactly why we exercise it,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “Over the past few years, NATO has made real progress in improving our ability to deploy troops quickly across Europe. We are overcoming legal hurdles and cutting red tape, including by working closely with the European Union. Looking ahead, we aim to further reduce border-crossing times (clearances within five days by the end of 2019), identify alternative supply routes, and exercise even more to practice military mobility,” she added.

Around 50,000 troops and 10,000 vehicles from all 29 NATO countries, as well as Sweden and Finland, will come together for the Trident Juncture exercise, which starts in Norway on 25 October.


Ukraine Joins NATO Air Exercises


Ukraine, the United States, and seven North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries began the Clear Sky 2018 war games, a twelve-day series of air exercises involving seven hundred troops in western Ukraine.

On Tuesday, ammunition at an arms depot in northern Ukraine began exploding, resulting in widespread fires and the evacuation of more than twelve thousand people from the area. The Ukrainian government deployed aircraft on Wednesday to fight the still raging fires and said it is investigating “possible sabotage.”