Defense Secretary memo nixing vaccination for all troops

Pentagon

Luke 21:11 “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”

Important Takeaways:

  • COVID Vax Mandate Finally Nixed for All Troops, Including National Guard, Reservists
  • As CBN News reported on Dec. 30, the Department of Defense was forced to rescind the COVID-19 shot mandate for all military service members after Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation gave Austin 30 days to rescind the mandate.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a memo Tuesday rescinding his August 2021 mandate requiring all members of the U.S. military to be vaccinated. The memo also canceled his November 2021 mandate requiring the same vaccinations for members of the National Guard and for reservists. But it also gives commanders some discretion in how or whether to deploy troops who are not vaccinated.
  • In his memo dated Jan. 10, Austin made it clear his department will continue to advocate for all service members to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Austin also noted that those who sought an accommodation after refusing to get the shot would not be punished.

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Pentagon released details of Beijing’s quickly growing Space Defense Program

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Space race 2.0: China is building weapons to attack U.S. ‘ground, sea, or air targets from orbit’
  • The Pentagon released details of Beijing’s growing space arms arsenal last week in its annual report to Congress on the Chinese military.
  • The Chinese military is also working on missiles that can attack strategic satellites in geosynchronous orbit
    • The report noted China’s destructive missile test against a Chinese weather satellite in 2007. That test generated more than 3,000 pieces of dangerous debris. A total of 2,700 pieces remain and will continue orbiting for decades, the report said.
  • China’s military also is building sophisticated space-based robots for satellite inspection and repair that also can attack satellites.
    • Last year, the PLA launched multiple satellites for space maintenance and debris cleanup. The Shijian-21 was sent into geosynchronous orbit in January and moved a defunct BeiDou navigation satellite “to a high graveyard orbit above GEO,” the report said.
  • China also has established a system of sensors that can search, track and target satellites.
  • More sophisticated lasers are being developed.
    • “By the mid- to late-2020s, China may field higher power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites,” the report said.
    • “The PLA expects space to play an important role in future conflicts by enabling long-range precision strikes and in denying other militaries the use of overhead command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems,” the report said.

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Pentagon announces sale of Equipment and Training to Taiwan

Revelations 6:3-4 “ when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • US Approves $95 Million Sale of Defense Support to Taiwan
  • The US government has approved a sale of up to $95 million worth of training and equipment to support Taiwan’s Patriot Air Defense System, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
  • The move follows a similar approval in February of training and support for Taiwan’s missile defense systems, and is the third military sale approved under US President Joe Biden.
  • The first major arms sale to Taipei under Biden was last August, which saw the approval of 40 155mm M109A6 medium self-propelled howitzer artillery systems.
  • China has massively ramped up its saber-rattling in recent years, sending 969 Chinese warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone in 2021

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U.S. Troops now on heightened alert amid tension

U.S. soldiers attend welcoming ceremony for U.S.-led NATO troops at polygon near Orzysz, Poland, April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • US puts 8,500 troops on heightened alert amid Russia tension
  • Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no final decisions have been made on deployments. He said the order is about ensuring that the U.S. is ready to respond if NATO decides to deploy its response force.

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U.S. and Israel ramp up pressure on Iran as diplomacy stalls

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and Israel increased pressure on Iran on Thursday as nuclear talks stalled, with Israel’s visiting defense chief calling for discussions on joint military readiness to be able to halt Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Reuters exclusively reported that Thursday’s U.S.-Israeli agenda was expected to include discussions about possible military exercises that would prepare for a worst-case scenario to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail and if their nations’ leaders request it.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of the meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, that Iran had failed to offer constructive diplomatic engagement in talks that President Joe Biden had hoped would revive a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Austin said Biden was “prepared to turn to other options” if the current American policy on Iran fails.

“We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world,” Austin said.

Gantz described Iran, Israel’s arch foe, as “the biggest threat to the global and regional peace and stability.”

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government in talks have heightening suspicions in the West that Iran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear program.

With the 2015 deal’s nuclear benefits now badly compromised, some Western officials say there is little time left before the foundation of the deal is damaged beyond repair. Under the accord, Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

DETERRENCE

The Pentagon declined comment on the Reuters report, which also disclosed an Oct. 25 briefing by Defense Department officials to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the full range of military options to ensure that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

“I know there’s interest in a certain Reuters report,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing.

“I will tell you this: We routinely conduct exercises and training with our Israeli counterparts and I have nothing to announce to or speak to or point to or speculate about today.”

Drills by the United States and Israel could address calls by Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. official and Middle East expert, and others to signal openly to Tehran that the United States and Israel remain serious about preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Biden needs to disabuse Iran of the notion that Washington will not act militarily and will stop Israel from doing so,” Ross wrote last month.

Ross also suggested the United States could signal a willingness to give the Israelis the U.S. military’s bunker-busting Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound (13,600-kg)bomb.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said on Monday that the CIA does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to weaponize a nuclear device but noted advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.

Burns cautioned that, even if Iran decided to go ahead, it would still require a lot of work to weaponize that fissile material before attaching a nuclear weapon to a missile or other delivery system.

“But they’re further along in their mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle and that’s the kind of knowledge that is very difficult to sanction away or make disappear,” he said.

U.S. officials have also long worried about America’s ability to detect and destroy dispersed components of Iran’s nuclear weaponization program once enough fissile material for a bomb were produced.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis)

U.S. successfully tests hypersonic booster motor in Utah

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon successfully tested a booster rocket motor on Thursday designed to power a launch vehicle carrying a hypersonic weapon aloft, the Navy said.

The United States and its global rivals have intensified their drive to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms. Defense contractors hope to capitalize as they make the weapons and develop new detection and defeat mechanisms.

This week, the top U.S. military officer confirmed a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe Jr, Director, Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, lead designer on the program. That flight test, of the combined boost rocket and hypersonic weapon, is slated to happen before Autumn 2022.

Last week in Kodiak, Alaska, the U.S. failed a hypersonic weapon test when the booster failed.

U.S. military services will use the common hypersonic missile as a base to develop individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.

The common hypersonic missile will consist of the first stage solid rocket motor as part of a new missile booster combined with the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB).

This static fire test marked the first time the first stage solid rocket motor included a thrust vector control system, the Navy said. Thrust vector control systems allow the rocket motors to be maneuverable in flight.

The U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs conducted two prior tests of the solid rocket motor used in the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) offensive hypersonic strike capability and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW).

Arms makers Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp all touted their hypersonic weapons programs at the top of their quarterly earnings calls this week as world focus shifted to the new arms race for an emerging class of weapon.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)

Top U.S. general confirms ‘very concerning’ Chinese hypersonic weapons test

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, has provided the first official U.S. confirmation of a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.

The Pentagon has been at pains to avoid direct confirmation of the Chinese test this summer, first reported by the Financial Times, even as President Joe Biden and other officials have expressed general concerns about Chinese hypersonic weapons development.

But Milley explicitly confirmed a test and said that it was “very close” to a Sputnik moment — referring Russia’s 1957 launch of the first man-made satellite, which put Moscow ahead in the Cold War-era space race.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg television, in an interview aired on Wednesday.

Nuclear arms experts say China’s weapons test appeared to be designed to evade U.S. defenses in two ways. First, hypersonics move at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,853 mph), making them harder to detect and intercept.

Second, sources tell Reuters that the United States believes China’s test involved a weapon that first orbited the Earth. That’s something military experts say is a Cold War concept known as “fractional orbital bombardment.”

Last month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall alluded to his concerns about such a system, telling reporters about a weapon that would go into an orbit and then descend on a target.

“If you use that kind of an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory — which is directly from the point of launch to the point of impact,” he said.

“It’s a way to avoid defenses and missile warning systems.”

Fractional Orbital Bombardment would also be a way for China to avoid U.S. missile defenses in Alaska, which are designed to combat a limited number of weapons from a country like North Korea.

Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies summed up fractional orbital bombardment this way: “The simplest way to think about China’s orbital bombardment system is to imagine a space shuttle, put a nuclear weapon into the cargo bay, and forget about the landing gear.”

Lewis said the difference is that the Chinese re-entry system is a glider.

China’s foreign ministry denied a weapons test. It said it had carried out a routine test in July, but added: “It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle.”

U.S. defenses are not capable of combating a large-scale attack from China or Russia, which could overwhelm the system. But the open U.S. pursuit of more and more advanced missile defenses has led Moscow and Beijing to examine ways to defeat them, experts say, including hypersonics and, apparently, fractional orbital bombardment.

The United States and Russia have both tested hypersonic weapons.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell)

U.S. needs more mines to boost rare earths supply chain, Pentagon says

By Ernest Scheyder

(Reuters) – The United States and ally nations should mine and process more rare earths to ensure adequate global supply of the strategic minerals for military and commercial uses, a U.S. Department of Defense official said on Tuesday.

The remarks underscore the Pentagon’s rising interest in public-private mining partnerships to counter China’s status as the top global producer of rare earths, the 17 minerals used to make specialized magnets for weaponry and electric vehicles (EVs).

“We know we cannot resolve our shared exposure to supply chain risk without a close partnership with industry,” Danielle Miller of the Pentagon’s Office of Industrial Policy told the Adamas Intelligence North American Critical Minerals Days conference.

“New primary production of strategic and critical minerals – in a word, mining – is a necessity to increase resilience in global supply chains.”

Miller cited recent investments in U.S. rare earth projects under development by MP Materials Corp, Urban Mining Co, and a joint venture of Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths Ltd and Blue Line Corp as evidence of the Pentagon’s desire to be a “patient, strategic investor” in private industry.

“Domestic production of strategic and critical materials is the ultimate hedge against the risk of deliberate non-market interference in extended overseas supply chains,” Miller said, a likely reference to China’s hints it could curtail rare earth exports to the United States.

“We are under no illusions about the competing pressures facing” the U.S. mining industry.

Miller also said the Pentagon wants to help mining companies in ally nations “create a common understanding of sustainability.” U.S. environmental standards for mining are among the tightest in the world.

“We want to work with (miners) to accelerate the transition from the lowest cost, technically acceptable sourcing, to one that reflects our values,” Miller said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Richard Chang)

Afghan army collapse ‘took us all by surprise,’ U.S. defense secretary

By Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Tuesday that the Afghan army’s sudden collapse caught the Pentagon off-guard as he acknowledged miscalculations in America’s longest war including corruption and damaged morale in Afghan ranks.

“The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away – in many cases without firing a shot – took us all by surprise,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”

Austin was speaking at the start of two days of what are expected to be some of the most contentious hearings in memory over the chaotic end to the war in Afghanistan, which cost the lives of U.S. troops and civilians and left the Taliban back in power.

The Senate and House committees overseeing the U.S. military are holding hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, where Republicans are hoping to zero in on what they see as mistakes that President Joe Biden’s administration made toward the end of the two-decade-old war.

It follows similar questioning two weeks ago that saw U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken staunchly defending the administration, even as he faced calls for his resignation.

Austin praised American personnel who helped airlift 124,000 Afghans out of the country, an operation that also cost the lives of 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghans in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport.

“Was it perfect? Of course not,” Austin said, noting the desperate Afghans who killed trying to climb the side of a U.S. military aircraft or the civilians killed in the last U.S. drone strike of the war.

Senator James Inhofe, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, squarely blamed the Biden administration for what critics say was a shameful end to a 20-year endeavor. Inhofe said Biden ignored the recommendations of his military leaders and left many Americans behind after the U.S. withdrawal.

“We all witnessed the horror of the president’s own making,” Inhofe said of Afghanistan.

Many of the hardest questions may fall to the two senior U.S. military commanders testifying: Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Giles Elgood)

U.S. successfully flight tests Raytheon hypersonic weapon – Pentagon

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, marking the first successful test of the class of weapon since 2013, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The test took place as the United States and its global rivals quicken their pace to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.

In July, Russia said it had successfully tested a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.

The free flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) occurred last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said in a statement.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) per hour.

“The missile, built by Raytheon Technologies, was released from an aircraft seconds before its Northrop Grumman scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine kicked on,” DARPA said.

“The DoD (Department of Defense) has identified hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities as the highest technical priorities for our nation’s security,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon’s Missiles & Defense business unit.

“The United States, and our allies, must have the ability to deter the use of these weapons and the capabilities to defeat them,” he said.

In 2019, Raytheon teamed up with Northrop Grumman to develop and produce engines for hypersonic weapons. Northrop’s scramjet engine technology uses the vehicle’s high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.

“The HAWC vehicle operates best in oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and maneuverability make it difficult to detect in a timely way. It could strike targets much more quickly than subsonic missiles and has significant kinetic energy even without high explosives,” DARPA said in the release.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler and Mark Potter)