The Ukraine Air-War in 2024 – Interviewing Professor Justin Bronk

“The Ukrainians are losing thousands of people because they don’t have enough ammunition…political game in Washington, it’s an election year…thousands of people are dying because of this.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R31hMWs25UI

Russia apparently got control of the skies before seizing victory in a front-line fight, and it could be ‘devastating’ for Ukraine if it continues, war experts say

“As Russia’s ground forces pushed to capture Avdiivka, its air force appeared to establish air superiority over the war-torn town, clearing the way for critical close-air-support missions, conflict analysts assessed.
Although only temporary and localized, it appears to be the first time Russia has taken control of the skies in a front-line area since their full-scale invasion began almost two years ago. And if it continues or expands, a real possibility as Ukrainian air defenses are under significant stress, it could be “devastating,” war experts said.

On Saturday, Russia claimed victory in Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town northeast of occupied Donetsk. Despite it being hailed as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest victory since the fall of Bakhmut in May 2023 — and a timely one given the upcoming Russian presidential elections next month — it came at a high cost. Moscow has suffered severe losses of both troops and equipment since focusing its forces on Avdiivka last fall.

Confirming its retreat from the area, Ukraine said it was saving troops from being fully surrounded by Russian troops. Over the past few months, geolocated footage of the area had shown Russia slowly and painstakingly advancing to encircle Ukrainian defenders fighting to hold the town.

Upon Russia’s capture of the town, reports said its air forces had been operating in the skies above Avdiivka, supporting ground troops in the last days of the offensive operations and eventually allowing them to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.

According to The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based think tank, this was likely the first time Russian forces had been able to do so in Ukraine. Air defenses, particularly ground-based surface-to-air missile systems, have prevented either side from achieving this key element of offensive operations, even locally.

Over the final days of fighting, the Ukrainians reported an increase in the number of Russian glide bombs dropped by fixed-wing aircraft, George Barros, the geospatial-intelligence team lead and a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. This activity appears to indicate the employment of a combined arms tactic involving having air forces support maneuver elements on the ground.”

“Ukraine’s air defenses have largely denied Russia air superiority, preventing its jets and aircraft from conducting significant air campaigns since the beginning of the war.

It is unclear if Ukraine can continue to do that, especially considering delays in further Western security aid. Ukraine has said its air defenses and missile stockpiles are running critically low, forcing them to ration and make tough choices on which front-line areas should be prioritized and protected.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/russias-air-force-took-control-195949807.html

The Killing of 3 American Troops Was an Avoidable Tragedy

“U.S. Special Forces had first set up shop in al-Tanf during the war against the Islamic State. Their plan was to support the Revolutionary Commando Army, a friendly Syrian rebel group. That project failed embarrassingly. The Revolutionary Commando Army suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Islamic State in 2016, and one of its leaders ran off with American-made guns after he was accused of drug trafficking in 2020. Kurdish-led forces elsewhere in Syria became a much more reliable partner for the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Russia—which is allied with the Iranian and Syrian governments—agreed to enforce a 55 kilometer “deconfliction zone” around al-Tanf. The zone also included Rukban, an unofficial refugee camp built by Syrians fleeing government persecution. (The Syrian government reportedly tortured two former Rukban residents to death in October 2022.) No country wanted to take responsibility for the camp, and it took almost a decade for the U.S. military to begin providing food aid to Rukban.

Washington, however, had a different purpose for al-Tanf in mind: countering Iran and its allies. The base’s location near the Iraqi-Syrian border made it valuable real estate, especially for anyone intent on breaking up the “land bridge” between Iranian allies. It also allowed the U.S. military and Israeli intelligence to listen in on Iranian communications, according to Al-Monitor, a Washington-based magazine focused on the Middle East. So the Americans stayed.

“Control of [al-Tanf] neutralized a key border crossing point on the road between Baghdad and Damascus, which forced Iran and others to cross from Iraq into Syria at a more distant border crossing to the north,” former Trump administration official John Bolton declared in his 2020 memoir, The Room Where It Happened. “Besides, why give away territory for nothing?”

More provocatively, Israeli forces began using al-Tanf’s airspace to bomb Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. (Since American aircraft often fly the same route, Syrian “air defenses can’t tell the difference until it’s too late,” a U.S. official told Al-Monitor.) The Israeli air campaign, known as “the war between the wars,” was designed to prevent Iran from moving weapons into the region in anticipation of a future war. Israel dropped more than 2,000 bombs on Syria in 2018, through “near-daily” air raids, with the direct involvement of U.S. leaders.

“The Israeli strike plans were submitted through the U.S. military chain and reviewed at CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command], usually days in advance of the strike; the strike plans outlined the purpose of the mission, the number of warplanes that would carry out the attack, and when it would occur,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Gordon in his 2022 book, Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State. “They also spelled out the routes the Israeli planes would take and the coordinates of the target that would be struck. CENTCOM would examine the request, which would also be shared with the U.S. defense secretary, who would have the final say.”

It seemed like a win-win arrangement. Israel had a safe route for its bombing runs, and the United States could weaken a foreign rival without getting directly involved. But there was a problem: Iran was not stupid, and it could see that the American troops were facilitating the raids on its own troops. In retaliation for a series of Israeli attacks in October 2021, the Iranian military bombed al-Tanf the following month. No Americans were harmed at the time, but it was an ominous sign of the dangers involved.”

“Other officials and experts continued to worry that al-Tanf could become a liability. Former U.S. Air Force colonel Daniel L. Magruder Jr. called al-Tanf “strategic baggage” in an article published by the Brookings Institute a few weeks after Biden was elected. He recommended withdrawing U.S. forces in exchange for a deal to allow the refugee safe passage. The colonel warned that Russia and Iran had “acted provocatively” against al-Tanf in the past. “Would the U.S. be able to control escalation if an American were killed?” he wondered.

Three years later, Magruder’s question is sadly relevant. It remains to be seen how Biden will react to the killing of the three American troops, and whether that reaction deters further violence or escalates the situation even more. But Washington can’t say it wasn’t warned.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/29/the-killing-of-3-american-troops-was-an-avoidable-tragedy/

Pakistani retaliatory strikes in Iran kill at least 9, raising tensions along border

“Pakistan launched airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts inside Iran on Thursday, killing at least nine people as it retaliated for a similar attack by Iran two days earlier and raising tensions between the neighbors at a time of escalating conflict in the region.
The unprecedented attacks by both Pakistan and Iran on either side of their border appeared to target Baluch militant groups with similar separatist goals. The countries accuse each other of providing a haven to the groups in their respective territories.”

“Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks, but analysts say this week’s tit-for-tat strikes were at least partially in response to internal political pressures.

Iran is dealing with unrest against its theocracy and has faced pressure for action ever since the Islamic State suicide bombing. It is also seeking to flex military power at a time when militant groups it supports in the region — Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen — are engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Pakistan, meanwhile, could not leave Tuesday’s airstrikes by Iran unchallenged, and it faces a crucial February general election in which its military is a powerful political force.”

“The Baluch Liberation Army, an ethnic separatist group that has operated in the region since 2000, said in a statement the strikes targeted and killed its people. “Pakistan has martyred innocent Baluch people,” it said.

Pakistan’s military also said the strikes hit targets associated with the Baluchistan Liberation Front, though that group did not acknowledge the claim.

HalVash, an advocacy group for the Baluch people, shared images online that appeared to show the remains of the munitions used in the attack. It said a number of homes had been struck in Saravan. It shared videos showing a mud-walled building destroyed and smoke rising from the strike.”

“Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, as well as Iran’s neighboring Sistan and Baluchestan province, have already faced a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades.

However, the groups targeted this week are different. Jaish al-Adl, the Sunni separatist group that Iran targeted Tuesday, grew out of another Islamic extremist group known as Jundallah that was once alleged to have ties to al-Qaida. Jaish al-Adl has long been suspected of operating out of Pakistan and launching attacks on Iranian security forces.

The Baluch Liberation Army, which has no religious component and has launched attacks against Pakistani security forces and Chinese interests, is suspected of hiding out in Iran. The Baluchistan Liberation Front is similarly nationalistic.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/pakistan-air-force-carries-retaliatory-044100312.html

To fight and survive in hostile airspace, US Air Force special operators may take the big gun off their ‘Ghostrider’ gunships

“The AC-130’s ability to fly low and slow over targets for long periods makes it perfect for close-air-support missions, but that’s also a weakness, as it makes the gunship more vulnerable to antiaircraft fire.
Discussion about removing the 105 mm gun is part of a broader effort to make US aircraft better suited for conflicts where opponents can contest or deny control of the air. In addition to removing the gun, Air Force officials are considering arming the AC-130 with cruise missiles for long-range strikes. The service has also explored equipping the gunship with laser weapons.

However, BA, a former AC-130 gunner, told Business Insider that removing the 105 mm gun “would have a big effect on the capability” of the aircraft.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/fight-survive-hostile-airspace-us-113701467.html

Iran inks deal with Russia for supply of Su-35 fighters, Mi-28 attack helicopters

“Iran has finalized an agreement with Russia to buy Su-35 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers, Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister Mahdi Farahi said on Nov. 28, the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim has reported.
In a conversation with the outlet, Farahi said that these three advanced military aircraft will be at Iran’s disposal, and the relevant processes are “currently underway.””

https://www.yahoo.com/news/iran-inks-deal-russia-supply-115300246.html

Air Force Colonel Now Says Drone That Turned On Its Operator Was A “Thought Experiment”

” A U.S. Air Force officer helping to spearhead the service’s work on artificial intelligence and machine learning says that a simulated test saw a drone attack its human controllers after deciding on its own that they were getting in the way of its mission. The anecdote, which sounds like it was pulled straight from the Terminator franchise, was shared as an example of the critical need to build trust when it comes to advanced autonomous weapon systems, something the Air Force has highlighted in the past. This also comes amid a broader surge in concerns about the potentially dangerous impacts of artificial intelligence and related technologies.”