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There are mounting signs of military planning for Venezuela
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President Donald Trump has been talking about ordering a military operation
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since 2017.

At first, that was widely dismissed as a rash threat, but the idea of a U.S. effort to force
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in the oil-rich South American country may be gaining momentum in Washington.

“It’s a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” Trump
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in September.

In January, National Security Adviser John Bolton flashed a notebook that read “5,000 troops to Colombia."

And on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered all U.S. diplomats to leave Venezuela, saying their presence there “has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” hinting at opening potential military options.

Speculation about a military assault on Venezuela was also fueled by Trump’s recent appointment of a former George W. Bush administration official who was an architect of the Iraq War,
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, to be the new “Special Representative for Venezuela.”

Heightened concerns prompted the Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs Committee to meet Wednesday to debate a bill that would prohibit Trump from taking military action in Venezuela without congressional approval.

White House officials say “
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,” including a military intervention or military support of allies in the region.

Supporters point to the short, successful 1989 invasion of Panama.

But critics say that’s a bad analogy and caution that such a move could result in something resembling the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which anti-U.S. factions faced protracted insurgencies.

An invasion of Venezuela would require between 100,000 and 150,000 U.S. troops, who would face as many as 356,000 Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq, said Rebecca Chavez, senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, during testimony at the House hearing.

“It would be prolonged, it would be ugly, there would be massive casualties,” Chavez said.

That nightmare scenario may be farfetched.

Many experts believe the White House’s hawkish statements are not a sign of an imminent military attack but instead a signal to the Venezuelan opposition that the U.S. would support an internal coup.

“They’re not trying to provoke a war," according to Fulton T. Armstrong, a former CIA analyst with significant Latin American experience.

“They’re trying to provoke the Venezuelan military to rise up and overthrow Maduro,” he said.

There appears to be very few advocates for military action outside the White House and many experts believe it is highly unlikely that the Trump administration would follow through on its seemingly threatening rhetoric.

“It would be completely counter-productive,” said Larry Korb, a former Pentagon official who is now at the Center for American Progress.

“This is a no-win situation if you go in. The damage would be much worse than any gains we might get.”

Nevertheless, the crisis is deteriorating rapidly. Refugees and defecting military troops are flowing into Colombia. Maduro recently blamed a massive electricity blackout across the capital city of Caracas on a U.S. cyber attack.

White House officials say the recent election of Maduro was a sham, fraught with corruption, and renders him an illegitimate leader.

Maduro and his allies in the government and military have plundered the nation’s cash from its vast oil reserves, watching its population starve and flee by the millions.

The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions against banks, canceled visas for Venezuelan government officials and taken other economic or political measures to pressure Maduro to exit.

Should Venezuela descend further into chaos, the White House could call upon traditional military operations, like targeted strikes, covert actions and fires, logistical and humanitarian support by U.S. troops in Colombia, Panama or in ships offshore.

“Desperate civilians always turn to the military, and say ‘solve my problems,’” Armstrong said. “And the military often doesn’t push back.”

While Maduro often talks about “a war of all the people," involving mass resistance, a protracted war would be unlikely, said Armstrong, who is now a senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.

Armstrong added that an American invasion would certainly face snipers and bomb-makers, and it would be costly. But local Venezuelan groups like the colectivos — various gangs, some of which support Maduro — are mainly thugs who wouldn’t stand in the streets against the U.S.

Maduro is likely not the “key symbol that would unify people to resist U.S. military action and lead to a sustained insurgency,” Armstrong said.

“But the U.S. has selected in Juan Guaidó and others, people who have sworn to reverse ‘Chavismo,’” Armstrong said, referencing the poorly defined ideology of the deceased Hugo Chavez, which has at least on paper given the poor a voice.

“[It] may be a perverted voice, but they do have a voice," Armstrong added. Some in Venezuela may fight to retain that.

So far, neither the White House nor the Pentagon has signaled what approach the U.S. might take to end the crisis.

“They keep saying ‘all the options are on the table,’ but they refuse to articulate them. That’s kind of weird, and we’re left to speculate,” Armstrong said.
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the rest of
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‘All options’

One such speculation is that the administration will try to create a “humanitarian corridor” that would let U.S. troops enter a small area of Venezuela, possibly along the border with Columbia.

“The publicly stated purpose of that would be to rescue people and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies. The real purpose of that, however, would be to intimidate and provoke [a coup]," Armstrong said.

Another option could be a surgical strike on the presidential palace.

“But still, to achieve that you would have to provoke Maduro into doing something that you could say threatened U.S. interests,” Armstrong said. “The problem with U.S. military intervention in all of this is that none of this matters at all to U.S. national security."

Among the other options would be covert tools or special operations missions that have been used before, and in particular by the current special envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

The London Observer
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in 2002 that Abrams “gave a nod to” a failed Venezuelan coup attempt against Hugo Chávez that same year.

In August 2018, two drones allegedly carrying explosives detonated prematurely near a stage in Caracas where Maduro was giving a speech. Maduro’s regime alleged that it was the result of foreign meddling, while others have suggested it was a false flag operation.

“That sort of stuff, with the imagination of people like Elliot Abrams, who have engaged in and launched covert action, who misrepresented those covert actions to the U.S. Congress … in my humble opinion … would seem to be the more likely thing,” Armstrong said.

The Pentagon deferred questions beyond aid support to U.S. Southern Command. SOUTHCOM told Military Times that their assets devoted to Venezuela have been mostly moving
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to Colombia via Miami.

“Since Feb. 4, 2019, the United States has pre-positioned hundreds of metric tons of critical relief supplies in Colombia and Brazil — procured both locally and internationally — to help tens of thousands in Venezuela,” according to an official response.

The Pentagon also put Marines assets on stand-by in case the embassy staff needed assistance during evacuation.

SOUTHCOM officials did not comment on accusations by Russia that U.S. special operations forces were staging in Puerto Rico in February for a possible military option.

The Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and the Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, as well as a bevy of other Air Force Special Operations Command aircraft, are located in Florida.

Ana Quintana, senior policy analyst on Latin America for the Heritage Foundation, applauded Abrams’ appointment as envoy.

She told Military Times that having Abrams in that position puts pressure on Maduro, because Abrams signals a willingness to oust dictators.

The United States has had a checkered history in Latin America that dates back centuries, including a series of campaigns to control natural resources and covert actions that resulted in assassinations and coups or attempts across the region, the recent history has a different look.

Former SOUTHCOM commander from 2006 to 2009, retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, now operating executive for The Carlyle Group, has written multiple times and spoken out about the Venezuelan crisis while also writing in January in Time magazine that, “a full-blown invasion by the U.S. would foment rage in the region and internationally.”

“There may come a time for more dramatic military activities, perhaps an international peacekeeping force. But for the moment, our efforts are best served by supporting the brave Venezuelans fighting the Maduro regime through the overall efforts of the international community,” he wrote.

The Navy’s longest running multinational maritime exercise is hosted by allies in the area. The UNITAS — Spanish for unity — exercise has been running since 1960 and partners a dozen or more nations a year for military training, sharing technology and best practices.

Currently, the United States has dedicated training and advising partnerships through the Pentagon with Panama, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Mexico.

Last year saw the fourth consecutive Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force deploy during hurricane season while also assisting in military training and humanitarian missions in Honduras.

The task force is one piece of an early effort to create a Multinational Maritime Task Force for the region that would be on standby for missions ranging from disaster relief to security.

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey led U.S. Southern Command from 1994 to 1996 and oversaw operations in Panama handling more than 10,000 Cuban refugees. He continued a focus on the region non-militarily when he served as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1996 to 2001.

He remains engaged as a sometimes adviser on the region.

McCaffrey said the best options if military moves were going to be considered would be for a coalition of regional partners, such as the Organization of American States, to take the lead.

Though he doubted that OAS would get involved in any armed intervention within Venezuela, he said he could see their role in protecting neighboring borders and perhaps assisting in peacekeeping after Maduro is out.

And that is the best role, McCaffrey said: supporting Colombian and other regional allies through training, advising and logistical support within those borders, but not in Venezuela.
F-22 Fleet May Not Meet Mattis’s Readiness Goal
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surprise huh
The Air Force’s F-22 fleet may not reach its 80 percent mission-capability goal by the end of September due to “all of the permanent change-of-station moves” required after Tyndall AFB, Fla., was devastated last fall, Secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers this week.

The service “probably” will meet the objective for its F-16s, she continued, but because the F-22s face so much upheaval in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, that fleet “may not make it.” Raptors have relocated to Eglin AFB, Fla., JB Langley-Eustis, Va., JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a memo directing that the F-35, F-22, F-16, and F-18 inventories achieve mission-capable rates of at least 80 percent by the end of fiscal 2019.

To make progress, the service must reprogram $750 million for F-16 and F-22 readiness initiatives, Wilson said following a March 13 Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing. The funds would be used largely to bolster weapon system sustainment and to add a second maintenance shift in Air National Guard units.

An “airplane sitting in a hanger that's ready to fly is not necessarily ready to fight,” she told Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “It's about the readiness of our squadrons to fly and fight that matters.”

The service argues that prioritizing “the operational squadrons where we measure mission-capability rates most directly” helps it work toward Mattis’s mandate. More than 90 percent of those 204 “pacing” squadrons are ready to deploy if conflict erupts, according to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s written testimony, although it’s unclear which aircraft make up pacing units.

“When we include their follow-on forces, these pacing squadrons are on track to reach 80 percent readiness before the end of fiscal year 2020, six years faster than originally projected,” according to the prepared testimony. “As our front-line squadrons meet their readiness goals, we will also ensure the remainder of our operational squadrons reach the 80 percent readiness mark by 2022, as we continue to build toward the 386 operational squadrons we require.”

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, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s military deputy for acquisition, said he expected the Air Force will reach 80 percent mission capability for the “combat-coded aircraft” in the F-35, F-16, and F-22 fleets.

Wilson did not mention where the F-35A fleet stands as of this week, saying only that the F-35 Joint Program Office is responsible for those jets’ sustainment funding.
The job of leadership in any organisation is to lead and direct policies and changes if required. What policies prevailed previously is irrelevant. Once a decision is taken in terms of direction, their job is to sell the new policy.
Strategic Planner: F-15EX Could Be Hypersonics Platform
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Buying F-15EXs could preserve years of readiness that might otherwise be lost if units transitioned to an all-new airplane, and the fighter could have application to new missions such as a hypersonic missile launch platform, Air Force Director of Strategic Plans and Requirements Maj. Gen. David Krumm told Air Force Magazine Thursday. These factors weighed against the fact that the F-15EX won’t be able to penetrate enemy air defenses, he said.

In a sidebar following a speech at an AFA Mitchell Institute event, Krumm said “cost of ownership” is one of the pluses in favor of buying new F-15s.

“There’s 80-90 percent commonality” between the F-15C and the F-15EX, Krumm said, adding the new aircraft can use all the aerospace ground equipment now used for the C-model of the Eagle.

“That’s all already in the inventory,” he said, but the similarity of aircraft also means “we’re looking at a transition time of months—less than six months”—to transition units now flying the C-model to EX. “Typically, [with] an Active unit, that takes 18 months; with the Guard, it takes three years…If you average that out, Active and Guard, each time we do that we save about two years of readiness,” meaning aircraft available for combat use that would otherwise be sidelined, “And that’s important for us.”

He insisted, though, that USAF is “committed to the F-35, and I think we’ve outlined that in the budget.” In Q&A after his speech, Krumm said the F-35 “is a game-changer” and “we won’t take one dime” out of 5th-gen capability, but the F-15C “won’t make it to 2030” due to its age and structural fatigue. He also said the lead time for buying any new fighter is “about two years.” Krumm denied the F-15EX will “take anything away from NGAD,” or Next-Generation Air Dominance, the family of systems that will complement and/or replace the F-22 and F-35.

Brand-new F-15EXs will have strong bones and could last a long time—Krumm said 20,000 hours—meaning it could potentially serve well into the 2040s or 50s. The Air Force has said the F-15 won’t be survivable against modern air defenses after 2028, so is it worth it to the service to spend the money to keep a non-stealthy, 1970s design into the 2040s?

“I think what we know is that we’re going to be fighting with 4th-gen [aircraft] in 2028, and in 2035, we’re still going to have those,” including the A-10 and F-16, he told Air Force Magazine. “The way to use these things is to collaborate on a network, and it’s going to be, what can those things bring to the fight faster?”

The new Eagle could be a launch platform for “standoff weapons, hypersonics … They can go a long ways to assist the penetrating forces,” Krumm noted.

Air Force leaders have said they are seeking an early, interim hypersonics capability, and having F-15s that are not speed-limited due to their age could be helpful in that pursuit. The F-15 design is technically capable of exceeding Mach 3, and so could accelerate a hypersonic missile close to its Mach 5-plus operating regime. That in turn would permit smaller booster rockets for the rest of the acceleration to Mach 5 for weapons such as the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic concept. The F-35, which was not designed to be USAF’s high-end dogfighter, has a top speed of Mach 1.6, and the first generation of hypersonic missiles is unlikely to fit inside its weapons bay.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes about $1 billion for eight F-15EX “advanced Eagles,” a decision that stemmed from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, the “framework” for that decision came from a study of the future needs of the military’s tactical aircraft fleet, which showed the Air Force had a shortage in its number of aircraft and the amount of ordnance those aircraft could carry. When combined with the fact the F-15C will age out in the 2027-2028 timeframe, Dunford said “the best solution” was to go with the F-15EX to “backfill” the F-15 fleet.

The EX-variant initially would only be “slightly” cheaper to buy than a new F-35, but it will be more than 50 percent cheaper than the Joint Strike Fighter to operate over its life. Additionally, it has “twice as many hours” in terms of how long it lasts, he added.

The Air Force’s five-year Future Years Defense Plan calls for buying 80 of the F-15EXs, though the ultimate buy could be as many as 144.

“This is all about making the best use of the resources we’ve been given and building the best Air Force that we can,” Krumm said. The F-15EX is “what we came up with … We will find a way to make this the best we can. We have to, anyway, and this is a capacity we think we need.”
The F-15EX should be a Go! once those F-22's and F-35's take out the "trash", those F-15s will "haul it off"!

the truth the bad boys are NOT going to have a credible 5 Gen threat in the foreseeable future, the threat is going to be 90% SAM!
hope you're not saying this just because the USAF has now put 4 Gen in its budget proposal LOL

not sure if you noticed
Yesterday at 10:23 AM
hey hey are you perhaps trying to sound as if the USAF had wanted those new Eagles all the time?
Air Force not considering new F-15 or hybrid F-22/F-35, top civilian says
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September 12, 2018

see? new F-15s "not on the cards" just like half a year ago


Tyrant King
hope you're not saying this just because the USAF has now put 4 Gen in its budget proposal LOL
4th gen was always in the Budget Jura. F15 was in the Budget. But instead of a SLEP package recapitalization like what F16 has been getting lately. It is a replacement recapitalization more like the Burke class replacing Burke class. The F15X comes at the cost of any upgrades to the Legacy Eagle fleet because it is the F15 replacement.
4th gen was always in the Budget Jura. F15 was in the Budget. But instead of a SLEP package recapitalization like what F16 has been getting lately. It is a replacement recapitalization more like the Burke class replacing Burke class. The F15X comes at the cost of any upgrades to the Legacy Eagle fleet because it is the F15 replacement.
LOL! 30 minutes ago I referred to the so-called F-15X, and you know I referred to the so-called F-15X 30 minutes ago
Feb 2, 2018
the acronym "RKV" should've been introduced in the article, but wasn't; I figured it's "redesigned kill vehicle"
Boeing wins $6.6 billion deal to support missile defense system, build more interceptors
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now (dated March 13, 2019)
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What happens when the Pentagon's new ballistic missile defeat program doesn't work? They keep using the old one, which has a spotty track record.
The Pentagon’s next-generation interceptor warhead to kill ballistic missiles, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (KV), is at least two years away from working out its issues, despite years of development. That pushes back the fielding of the last pieces of a $40 billion dollar missile defense system that has struggled since the late 1990s.

The RKV delay won’t effect the overall expansion of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system from 44 to 64 interceptors based in California and Alaska — meant to protect the United States from North Korean missiles — but it does ensure that the existing interceptor, the Exoastmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), s will stay in service even longer, despite a spotty track record.

Both the fledgling RKV and the current EKV are
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. Both go on the same booster rocket, the Ground-Based Interceptor. The GBI soars above the atmosphere into space, where the kill vehicle detaches and collides with the incoming ICBM, destroying it (hence the name “kill vehicle”).

The delay, which was outlined in the Missile Defense Agency’s 2020 budget request released Tuesday, pushes back the new system’s first potential test intercept until fiscal year 2023 (which begins Oct. 1 2022). The Redesigned Kill Vehicle will not be placed on missiles until around 2025 at the soonest.

“We’ve got to take a look at the whole design,” Rear Adm. Jon Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency told reporters. “We’re reassessing the whole program.” Neither Hill nor the budget documents

The current EVK has logged only 10 successful tests out of 18 tries since 1999. The new RKV has not performed up to expectation in initial tests, Missile Defense Agency officials said Tuesday, leading them to push back its fielding while they take a harder look at its shortcomings.

The Missile Defense Agency said in 2016 that the first flight test of the RKV was expected in 2019, with fielding in 2020.

Hill added that the RKV is still in the Pentagon’s plans, but “we’re going back to assess that design, do the proper testing, do the analysis, then we’ll go to the critical design review when we’re ready.”

The US is building 20 more missile interceptors to install at Fort Greeley, Alaska, adding to the 44 already in place there and in California. All these interceptors will have their current Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) replaced with the RKV when it’s ready.

Overall, the MDA saw its 2020 budget cut by $1 billion to $9.4 billion, after several years of funding increases as North Korea continued to conduct missile tests. Both Pentagon comptroller Elaine McCusker and MDA acting comptroller Michelle Atkinson told reporters (in two separate briefings) that the decline was really just a return to more normal but still robust funding levels as the agency wraps up programs boosted over the past few years.

But the recently concluded
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. The current Pentagon budget includes about $1.3 billion in MDR-related technologies, but these are outside the Missile Defense Agency. When the initial studies lead to actual weapons programs, however, MDA will probably pay a large part of the bill — somehow.
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