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/

US hits hard at militias in Iraq and Syria, retaliating for fatal drone attack

“The strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft hit more than 85 targets, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities. U.S. Central Command said the strikes used more than 125 precision munitions, and they were delivered by numerous aircraft, inlcuding long-range bombers flown from the United States. One official said B-1 bombers were used.
Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, said the strikes hit areas in east Syria including the countryside of Mayadeen, Quriya and Rahba that is home to a telecommunications center for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and arms depot in Boukamal along the Iraq border.

The assault came came just hours after Biden and top defense leaders joined grieving families to watch as the remains of the three Army Reserve soldiers were returned to the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It was unclear what the next steps will be, or whether the days of U.S. warnings have sent militia members scattering into hiding, making it more difficult to detect and strike them. But it was evident that the recent statement released by Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-backed militias, saying it was suspending attacks on American troops had no impact on the administration’s plans.

The U.S. strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds force within its borders. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-bolsters-defenses-around-jordan-144526727.html

Let Foreign Airlines Serve Domestic Routes in the U.S.

“Argentina’s new, libertarian President Javier Milei announced a so-called “open skies” initiative that will scrap many of the regulations prohibiting foreign airlines from operating flights between Argentinian cities. Combined with the abolition of government price controls on airfares, the new rules will allow foreign airlines to directly compete with Aerolineas Argentinas, the national airline that has managed to lose an estimated $8 billion since 2008 despite having a monopoly on domestic flights.
America, thankfully, does not have a government-owned monopoly responsible for domestic air travel. However, the federal government does prohibit foreign airlines from operating flights between American cities. That means Americans have only a few choices when it comes to flying domestically—and on some less commonly traveled routes, maybe no choice at all.

Those restrictions on “cabotage” by foreign-owned and -operated airlines are naked protectionism for the shrinking number of American-based airlines. As always, consumers pay the price—and could reap the benefits of greater competition.

A 2020 paper by researchers at the Brookings Institution, Bayes Data Intelligence, and Washington State University, for example, found that American travelers would realize $1.6 billion in annual benefits from the entry of just one foreign airline into the U.S. market.

Some of those benefits would be rather straightforward: lower prices created by greater competition. But other benefits would likely materialize too. If given the chance to expand their operations into the United States, low-cost European airlines like Ryanair could bring their innovative business models to this side of the Atlantic.

Indeed, as the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome pointed out in a post for The Dispatch last year, the elimination of national monopolies and cabotage regulations in Europe during the 1990s has produced a flourishing market that includes legacy brands (like Air France and Lufthansa) along startups like Ryanair, WOW, and others.

The result: “These airlines have low prices, lots of fans, and (unsurprisingly) tons of capacity,” Lincicome wrote. In the United States, a similar arrangement could lead to “lower fares, more routes/capacity, more jobs—and no federal subsidies or brute force needed.””

https://reason.com/2023/12/26/argentina-will-deregulate-airlines-america-should-do-the-same/

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