In 1973, Israel and Syria Almost Started World War III

Here’s What You Need to Remember: After having just extricated itself from Vietnam, America was in no mood for another war. Yet, the White House felt it could not risk the loss of prestige and influence—especially in the oil-rich Middle East.

On the night of October 24, 1973, came the dreaded words: Assume Defcon 3.

On bases and ships around the world, U.S. forces went to Defense Condition 3. As paratroopers prepared to deploy, B-52 nuclear bombers on Guam returned to bases in the United States in preparation for launch. On another October day eleven years before, the United States had gone to the next highest alert, Defcon 2, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This time the catalyst of potential Armageddon wasn’t the Caribbean, but the Middle East.

In fact, the flashpoint was Syria. And as tensions rise today between America and Russia over the Syrian Civil War, and U.S. and Russian troops and aircraft operate in uncomfortable proximity in support of rival factions in the conflict, it is worth remembering what happened forty-five years ago.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Cold War is what didn’t happen: the United States and Soviet Union managed to avoid fighting each other directly, and instead waged their conflict through proxies.

But as usual, the Middle East upset the status quo. On October 6, 1973, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on the Sinai and the Golan Heights. The stunned Israeli defenders held on desperately, even as their leaders and senior commanders feared this might be the end for their nation. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, followed by the United States, airlifted in massive amounts of military equipment and supplies.

By October 11, Israel had halted the Syrian offensive: Israeli armor and infantry had crossed into Syria, and would eventually advance to within artillery range of Damascus. In the Sinai, an Israeli force, led by the flamboyant and aggressive Gen. Ariel Sharon, had stealthily crossed the Suez Canal on October 15 and seized a bridgehead on the Egyptian side of the waterway. This time it was the Egyptians who were surprised as their Third Army found itself trapped in its positions on the Israeli side of the canal, its supply lines cut.

With attempts at working out a ceasefire failing, and with their Arab clients facing military defeat, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent a message to Richard Nixon’s White House: “I will say it straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter, we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider taking appropriate steps unilaterally.”

A crisis atmosphere gripped the White House as reports arrived that that Soviet airborne divisions and amphibious troops had been placed on alert, while Moscow nearly doubled its Mediterranean fleet to a hundred ships. The Minister of Defense, Marshal Andrei Grechko, “recommended in particular that an order be given to recruit 50,000-70,000 men in the Ukraine and in the northern Caucasus,” recalled Soviet Foreign Ministry official Victor Israelian. “His view was that, in order to save Syria, Soviet troops should occupy the Golan Heights.”

After having just extricated itself from Vietnam, America was in no mood for another war. Yet, the White House felt it could not risk the loss of prestige and influence—especially in the oil-rich Middle East. “We were determined to resist by force if necessary the introduction of Soviet forces into the Middle East regardless of the pretext under which they arrived,” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recounted in his memoir Years of Upheaval.

It may or may not have been coincidental—and cynics wondered—that the U.S. alert came as Nixon’s presidency was beginning to crumble under the Watergate scandal. Nonetheless, Moscow appeared ready to cross a red line that Washington could not allow.

In the confined waters of the Mediterranean, the tension was palpable. “Nerves in both fleets frayed,” wrote Abraham Rabinovich, an historian of the 1973 October War. “The solitary Soviet destroyers that normally shadowed the carriers—’tattle tales’ the Americans called them—were reinforced by heavier warships armed with missiles. Although ranking officers had never before been noted on the tattle tales, the Americans now became aware of two admirals on the ships following them. The Americans, in turn, kept planes over the Soviet fleet prepared to attack missile launchers being readied for firing. Both sides were aware that their major vessels were being tracked by submarines.”

Soviet leaders were shocked by the American response. “Who could have imagined the Americans would be so easily frightened?” asked Soviet premier Nikolai Podgorny, according to Rabinovich in his book The Yom Kippur War. Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin said “it is not reasonable to become engaged in a war with the United States because of Egypt and Syria,” while KGB chief Yuri Andropov vowed “we shall not unleash the Third World War.”

Whatever the reason, the Soviet kept their forces on alert, but agreed not to dispatch troops to the Middle East. By the end of October, a tenuous ceasefire put an end to that chapter of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In the forty-five years since that troubled autumn of 1973, the world has changed. The Soviet Union is no more, Egypt is a U.S. ally, and Syria…well, is not Syria anymore. But it not hard to imagine a scenario where the superpowers—or rather one current and one former superpower—find themselves at odds again. For example, Israel may strike Syria in order to drive out Iranian and Hezbollah forces that are edging toward the Israeli-Syrian border. Russia could choose to intervene to save its Cold War client, perhaps by providing air or air defense cover, which leads to a real or threatened clash between Israeli and Russian forces.

As in 1973, it is hard to imagine that Washington would allow the Russians to get away with attacking its Israeli ally.

But what was really different about the 1973 crisis? Nixon and Brezhnev weren’t firing belligerent Tweets at each other (heck, tweets back then were something that birds did outside your window). There is little reason to be nostalgic for the cynical realpolitik game of the Cold War. But at least the game had rules, and the players were conscious that a false move could end in mutual annihilation. Cooler heads prevailed, and the crisis was resolved.

Imagine such a crisis now, with Trump’s prickly belligerence and Putin’s macho nationalism. This time, the world might not be so lucky.

For further reading:

– The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter that Transformed the Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich

– Years of Upheaval by Henry Kissinger

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

This article first appeared in 2018 and is reprinted here due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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World War II: Why Did General Eisenhower Censure General Patton?

Here’s What You Need to Know: Eisenhower wrote an extremely strong letter of censure to Patton.

On August 3, 1943, the day that General George S. Patton, Jr., learned that his superior, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was to award him the Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism” at Gela on July 11, he called at the 15th Evacuation Hospital near Nicosia in Sicily. One patient he encountered was Private Charles H. Kuhl of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division.

Seeing no visible wounds, Patton asked the soldier why he was in the hospital. The soldier responded that he was not wounded but, “I guess I can’t take it.” Patton called Kuhl a coward and ordered him out of the tent. When the terrified soldier remained motionless, Patton “slapped his face with a glove, raised him to his feet by the collar of his shirt and pushed him out of the tent with a final kick in the rear.”

That night, Patton wrote in his diary, “Companies should deal with such men, and if they shirk their duty, they should be tried for cowardice and shot.”

A Second Incident

A week later, in the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, Patton encountered a regular army artilleryman, Private Paul G. Bennett, shivering on his bed. When Bennett said, “I can’t stand the shelling anymore,” Patton lost his temper, called him “a goddamned coward,” and ordered the receiving officer not to admit this “yellow bastard.” He then shouted at Bennett, “You ought to be lined up against a wall and shot. In fact, I ought to shoot you myself right now, God damn you!”

Patton then pulled out his pistol and waved it in the terrified soldier’s face, after which he ordered the hospital commander to “get that man out of here right away.” He then slapped Bennett across the face. Not content with this, when Patton saw Bennett break down in tears he returned to his bed and hit him a second time. By then, a number of doctors and nurses had arrived on the scene and were witnessing the confrontation. It was only brought to an end when the hospital commander interposed himself between Bennett and Patton.

There was clearly no way such actions could be kept quiet for long. One of the 93rd Hospital nurses told her boyfriend, a captain in Public Affairs, and he passed the story on to American press and radio correspondents attached to the Seventh Army. On August 19, a written summary of the incident was presented to Ike’s chief of staff, confirming a similar report sent three days earlier to Eisenhower’s chief surgeon, Brig. Gen. Frederick Blessé, by the II Corps chief surgeon.

Patton Ordered to Apologize

Following Blessé’s report, Eisenhower wrote an extremely strong letter of censure to Patton. He stated that there could be no excuse for “the abuse of the sick, nor exhibition of uncontrollable temper in front of subordinates.” He concluded “that [such] conduct…will not be tolerated in this theater no matter who the offender may be,” and ordered Patton to “make in the form of apology or otherwise such personal amends to the individuals concerned as may be within your power.”

Three days later, Patton was ordered to apologize, not only to the individual soldiers concerned, but to every division in the Seventh Army.

On August 21, Patton shook hands with Bennett and apologized, but that night he wrote in his diary: “It is rather a commentary on justice when an Army commander has to soft-soap a skulker to placate the timidity of those above.” The following day, he apologized to Private Kuhl.

Patton’s apologies to his divisions were charged with emotion. He used earthy language, and the general reaction of the troops is said to have been one of quiet indifference. In the case of the 2nd Armored, a division he had once commanded, there was general disbelief about the incidents and he was received enthusiastically. While he addressed the 1st Infantry, he was heard in stony silence and there were even said to have been a few boos. The reaction in the 9th Infantry varied. In the case of one regiment, he was cheered after his opening word and he left in tears without saying another. In a second regiment, the men released blown up condoms that floated over his head, again causing him to leave with a different type of embarrassment.

Ike Tries to Keep Patton in Service

Despite Patton’s indiscretions, Eisenhower was determined to save him “for service in the great battles still facing us in Europe,” and he hid the full details of the slapping incidents from Washington.

In a letter to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall dated August 24, he attributed the success of the Sicily campaign to Patton’s “energy, determination, and unflagging aggressiveness.”

Ike went on to explain to the media his need to keep the services of his brilliant if unorthodox subordinate and asked for their cooperation. Surprisingly, an unofficial gentleman’s agreement was reached. For the time being, at least Patton was safe from media and Congressional attention. Eventually, however, the story became public and Patton’s career was nearly wrecked prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Hitler’s Secret World War II Weapon: Horses

Here’s What You Need to Know: Horsemanship was taught at SS academies.

By 1939 the German Reich possessed 3,800,000 horses to be used in WWII German cavalry while 885,000 were initially called to the Wehrmacht as saddle, draft, and pack animals. Of these, 435,000 horses were captured from the USSR, France, and Poland. Additional horses were purchased from Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Ireland.

Klaus Christian Richter, himself a member of the 1935 German cavalry class, commented in his book Cavalry of the Wehrmacht 1941-1945 on the physical and psychological stress of the war: “The old soldierly virtues proved themselves once more: courage, sense of duty, feeling of responsibility, comradeship, and as well love of the horse.” German riding schools, horses, and riders were of the highest quality, and from 1930 to 1940 competed in every important international event. Their crowning achievement came at the 1936 Olympics when the German team won six equestrian gold medals and one silver, dominating all three disciplines—dressage, jumping, and military—a feat never repeated.

Prior to 1935, thanks to a staggering 12 years of military service required for enlisted men and NCOs, a great amount of time, up to 3,000 hours, was spent on basic rider training in the German cavalry. This laid an excellent groundwork for the horse-mounted troops, although as Germany moved toward war the rider training was reduced to an average of one hour per day, with the riders now focusing on weapons and combat strategies. While much of their duties were aimed at reconnaissance and scouting, the horse troopers trained as much as the infantry. Training was rigorous, often days of 30-60 miles in the saddle, each horse carrying upward of 250 pounds of man and equipment.

Many German soldiers were accustomed in civilian life to tilling the rich farmlands of Germany, in which animals, particularly horses, were an integral part of their lives. They had a special bond with the animals, a bond of blood and soil. While the popular conception of the German military machine was just that, a massive array of tanks, armored vehicles, troop transports, and trucks, much of the heavy hauling was actually done by horses. In addition, thousands of troops went to war on horseback in the German cavalry. Their mounts were chosen by special committees that purchased horses at the age of three with training beginning at four and continuing for two more years in a program unsurpassed by any other nation. Heavy draft-sized horses also entered service as the wagonloads grew heavier, while a number of Berber horses entered Wehrmacht service after the fall of France. Unloaded wagons themselves could weigh from 610 to 1040 kilograms and could require four to six horses to pull them, especially across the difficult terrain and unimproved roads of the Eastern Front.

Horsemanship was also taught at the SS academies, as it was considered part of the legacy of the Teutonic Knights to which the Nazis ascribed. Unlike American cowboy movies in which, miraculously, no horse is ever injured during blazing gun battles, horses littered the roads and fields of Europe, killed by machine guns, mortars, artillery fire, and air attack. During the killing Russian winters, pampered German farm and riding horses, lashed to heavy wagons, dropped in their tracks. Often they became food for the starving soldiers.

The WWII German cavalry corps, which in wartime consisted of horse, bicycle, and motorcycle troops, contained 18 horse regiments. Disbanded at the outbreak of the war in 1939, they were reformed into divisional reconnaissance battalions, followed in 1943 by what is considered the rebirth of the German cavalry. Three regiments were reconstituted.

The size and equipment of the German military were restricted by the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. Motor vehicles for the military, for example, came under strict control. The treaty did allow for seven infantry divisions and three cavalry divisions consisting of 18 regiments. In effect, the cavalry made up a large part of the German Army, with 16,400 of the full complement of 100,000 soldiers allowed in the German Army by the treaty riding on horseback. Germany’s World War I foes considered the horses antiquated by the standards of modern warfare, and they believed the expenses associated with maintaining them would siphon funds away from other military activities. At first, the German cavalrymen even carried lances, which eventually gave way to carbines. In late 1934, motorcycles entered the picture, with the 11th, 12th, and 16th Horse Regiments now serving as motorized rifle troops. In effect, these cavalrymen were now riding “iron horses,” principally German-made BMWs and Zundapps. Other cavalry regiments were re-equipped as tank regiments, including panzer, antitank, and reconnaissance units, while the Waffen SS also had cavalry units.

Nearly 3 Million Horses and Mules Were Used by the Germans During the War. Of These an Estimated 750,000 Were Killed…

Horses were also employed by other elements of the Army, including the infantry, artillery, pioneers (engineers), medical units, and supply units. As of 1935, a cavalry platoon was assigned to each active infantry regiment and comprised 32 men and 33 horses. In addition to 13 other regional riding schools, a special cavalry school operated in Hanover for replacement officers and for both vehicle driving and riding instructors. In many cases, particularly later in the war, women assumed the instruction duties. As an adjunct, horse racing was encouraged in the Wehrmacht, and the “jockeys” wore a variety of 38 different racing colors representing the various battalions and regiments. In addition, some horse-mounted and horse-drawn units augmented their training by keeping and hunting foxes.

Horse-mounted soldiers wore gray uniforms with leather trim, as well as riding boots of soft leather, taller and without the hobnails of the foot soldiers’ marching boots. After completion of rider training, the riding boots were fitted with buckled spurs, a telltale identifier on photos from the era. The trooper’s backpack held a tent square or shelter half, basically a section of material used as camouflage, raincoat, or shelter. In many cases, this was the only protection against the Russian winter, for which the Army had not prepared. This mistake proved fatal for thousands of landsers, as the German soldiers were called.

As for weapons, every horse-mounted soldier carried a saber in a leather pouch when riding. After 1939, every officer carried the MP-38 and later the MP-40 submachine gun. All others carried the standard infantry issue Karabiner 98K carbine, a modified version of the long standard 98a, its shorter length making it more suitable for mounted troops. The carbine was based on an 1898 design, and while five rounds could be pressed into the magazine, it required a manual opening and closing of the bolt action to eject a spent round and cycle a new round into the chamber. In contrast, the standard U.S. issue Garand, a gas-operated semiautomatic design, required no bolt action and thus increased its firepower. Many veterans on both sides said this was often the difference between life and death on the battlefield. Officers, sergeants, and medical personnel also carried the Pistole 08, a 9mm semiautomatic, better known as the famous Luger. Some horse troops were issued the new 7.92 MPi 43/44 assault rifles, predecessors of the modern infantry weapons of today.

Each squad of horse soldiers consisted of nine troopers, and an MG 34 light machine gun provided additional firepower. Horses were also integral to the mobile field kitchens and the blacksmith, ammunition, and weapons wagons. While each troop had a motorcycle dispatch rider for maintaining long-distance communication with command, most communication on horseback consisted of 25 standard hand signals.

A cavalry brigade consisted of 6,684 men and 4,552 horses plus 409 horse-drawn vehicles and 318 motorcycles (153 with sidecars), as well as 427 cars and trucks and six armored scout cars. After the success of these troops during the 1939 Polish campaign, the 1st Cavalry Division was formed in October 25, 1939. The cavalry division would go on to fight in Holland, Belgium, and France during 1940. When it was time to attack Russia, the division came under the command of Panzer Group II, commanded by General Heinz Guderian. At this stage, because some 17,000 horses were employed, the sheer number caused supply problems. As a result, during the winter of 1941-1942 in Russia the Army’s cavalry operations ceased. The specially trained horses were relocated to noncavalry units, where they were basically squandered.

After the ravages of the 1941-1942 Russian campaign, the 1st Cavalry Division became the 24th Panzer Division, functioning as 85 divisional reconnaissance battalions. These were the last of the German cavalry. Because they were often sent into the fiercest battle situations, they earned the honorary, but somewhat ironic, title of “division fire-brigade” as if they put out the raging conflagrations of battle. However, the horse-mounted cavalry itself was soon consumed, leaving the bicycle troops to carry on their reconnaissance and scouting duties. As the war progressed, each cavalry platoon decreased in size from three squadrons to two, but they continued to perform in an exemplary manner. At higher levels, the cavalry force was reorganized as three regiments and as two cavalry brigades in 1944 during the German retreat and final battles of the war.

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How Australian SMEs in tech can survive the war on talent

Australia’s tech industry has been able to weather the storm of COVID-19 better than other industries. As an early adopter of remote working long before COVID, tech has been a driving force for enabling new ways of working in response to the pandemic. As a result, job seekers view the sector as resilient to economic challenges and fertile ground for new opportunities.

Yet our research has shown that, whilst attractive, the tech sector in Australia is battling a war for talent. In March 2020, we surveyed 1014 male and female decision-makers in the tech sector to reveal the challenges they face when it comes to sourcing talent. We matched this survey to our 2020 Randstad Employer Brand Research that looks at the needs of Australian tech workers.

The top challenges for candidates and employers in tech

Over half (56 per cent) of the respondents making hiring decisions frequently interviewed candidates who didn’t possess the correct skills for the role they were recruiting for. COVID-19 has accelerated the importance of technology and digital transformation which highlights the increasing significance of education and upskilling.

Our survey results clearly show that tech leaders feel there are gaps in how the sector attracts talent. They believe that by focusing on what tech workers want and collaborating with government and education providers, organisations can win the war on talent today and build a pipeline for the future.

What’s more, for job seekers looking to get into the tech sector the onus seems to be on them to do the leg work. More than half (52 per cent) of tech leaders acknowledged that they expect good talent to come to the industry rather than actively seeking out skilled candidates. 

Long and short term solutions

Leaders in the sector report they are keen to focus on both short and long-term solutions that ensure the sector remains and increases its appeal. In the longer term, a combination of undertaking diversity & inclusion initiatives, further investment in education, have all been shown through our research as key drivers to attracting and retaining high calibre talent. Combined, these strategies take a more holistic view to build Australia’s tech skills, which will be fundamental in supporting the long term success of small businesses.  

Tech leaders believe that diversity also plays a role in attracting candidates within the tech industry, with 63 per cent believing a stronger gender balance would make the sector more appealing, and 58 per cent feeling the tech industry is dominated by men. And 60 per cent also noted that diversity in general would benefit Australia’s tech sector and is an area small businesses are uniquely positioned to embrace. 

Many feel not enough is being done to promote the tech industry, with 67 per cent of tech leaders believing the government has a role to play but is instead prioritising other sectors and not doing enough for the tech industry (61 per cent) 

Of those surveyed, 56 per cent feel that educational offerings in Australia aren’t right for the skills they recruit for, while 59 per cent noted that too much emphasis is put on traditional vocational routes over tech. 

The sector itself identified five key areas that employees most value when choosing a company to work for:

  1. Using the latest tech available.
  2. Being financially healthy.
  3. Providing attractive salaries.
  4. Maintaining a good reputation.
  5. Offering interesting work. 

To attract talent in the short term, SMEs in the tech sector should address and promote a company culture that embodies these values.

Alex Jones, National Director of Technologies, Randstad Australia

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Will Biden Continue Trump’s Trade War on China?

The Biden administration will probably maintain many of the existing U.S. tariffs on China, ushering in a lengthy period of restrictions that will likely prompt businesses to consider shifting their supply chains and operations outside China. While President-elect Joe Biden says he intends to review the tariffs U.S. President Donald Trump placed on China, he has said he will not make any “immediate moves” regarding them. Nevertheless, as the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China winds down and concludes in 2021 and China continues to remain far behind committed levels of purchases, the Biden administration is not likely to add significantly more tariffs on China to those already existing.

The United States is likely to shore up its China trade policy by seeking some alignment in trade policy via World Trade Organization reform, partnering with countries including Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Australia. But such reforms will take time, and require consensus that China can effectively block. The Biden administration could use existing tariffs as collective leverage against China while encouraging like-minded allies to join a multilateral effort for WTO reforms. A strategy in which both the European Union and the United States advocate changes to both WTO rules for developing countries, as well as some of the rules related to industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), could blunt Chinese efforts to skirt existing WTO rules. Such a strategy, however, would take time, as WTO reform has become increasingly difficult. The Doha Round of trade negotiations, for example, lasted some 14 years before effectively ending in failure. 

  • WTO reform must be sanctioned through member consensus, effectively giving China veto power. Other mixed economies and developing countries would also oppose many U.S. and European proposals against China.
  • In 2020, the United States significantly expanded its actions against Chinese tech companies by widening export controls on Huawei and SMIC, China’s largest semiconductor manufacturer. 
  • Leaks on China’s next Five-Year Plan, which was approved in October, indicate that financial support for chip manufacturers and the tech sector are an integral component of its economic strategy document. 

The Biden administration will probably consider direct negotiations with China as the phase one trade deal ends in 2021. Any significant pullback of sanctions is unlikely, as Washington will also be under pressure to address Beijing’s failure to honor its phase one commitments relating to increased imports from the United States. The Biden administration will focus on structural reform, such as stripping direct support for Chinese SOEs, which China is likely to continue to reject. If the Biden administration maintains such demands for an extended period, negotiations will stall until the United States focuses on China’s commitments to purchase more U.S. goods. Additionally, any trade deal that results in a lower value of committed purchases than the deal that Trump negotiated will be politically unpalatable in the United States. China, however, will be willing to sign a trade deal that includes expanded commitments on purchases as a way to string along negotiations and reduce diplomatic tensions ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. In a best-case scenario, the United States and China could roll over the trade deal and the United States could perhaps slightly relax some of the tariffs on China. But it is unlikely to secure the kinds of reforms necessary to fully lift tariffs. 

  • Under the phase one trade deal, China promised to increase imports of U.S. goods by a combined $200 billion over 2017 levels in 2020 and 2021. 
  • Through October 2020, China imported $75.5 billion worth of U.S. goods this year, less than half of the $173 billion worth of U.S. goods China was expected to import in 2020.
  • Under the deal, China agreed to specific commitments in agricultural, energy and manufactured goods purchases — and it is behind schedule on purchases of all of them. 

Because China tariffs are likely to remain politically difficult to remove, businesses in many sectors are beginning to look at long-term strategies to manage their impact, investing outside China while also exploring options to shift production operations outside China. Industries that have relatively low costs of final assembly and packaging and low upfront investment costs in building new manufacturing plants, such as in textiles, would probably be prime candidates to move operations out of China and into neighboring countries like Vietnam. The more apparent it becomes that the tariffs will be long-lasting, the more likely that industries with larger costs of moving production will start to shift business operations.

  • Southeast Asia continues to be the primary beneficiary of any manufacturers looking to leave or diversify away from China; they do not have to face tariffs that can reach 25 percent on most goods from China.
  • The textile, automotive, chemicals and machinery industries were the most impacted as the Trump administration’s tariffs focused the most heavily on intermediate goods, not consumer goods. 
  • Consumer goods including electronics are likely to be less affected by the trade war itself, as the Trump administration did not include consumer goods as frequently and electronics were largely spared from tariffs. That said, the electronics industry will be more significantly affected by the tech policy the Biden administration will likely maintain that restricts foreign companies’ ability to sell goods to certain Chinese companies. 

The Fate of Trump’s China Tariffs Under Biden is republished with the permission of Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical forecasting and intelligence publication from RANE, the Risk Assistance Network + Exchange. As the world’s leading geopolitical intelligence platform, Stratfor Worldview brings global events into valuable perspective, empowering businesses, governments and individuals to more confidently navigate their way through an increasingly complex international environment. Stratfor is a RANE (Risk Assistance Network + Exchange) company.

Image: Reuters.

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Rock engraving throws spotlight on Australia’s top-secret World War II mustard gas program

In 1943, a young man carved his name, the date, and his place of birth, into a rock outside the old Glenbrook Railway Tunnel, at the eastern side of the Blue Mountains.

Almost 80 years later, that small act has highlighted his remarkable involvement in the top-secret Australian storage of deadly mustard gas during World War II — despite a ban on its use after World War I.

The path to the discovery started last year after the Glenbrook District Historical Society sent a photo of the engraving to the Manning Wallamba Family History Society on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

This engraved rock is at the entrance to the old Glenbrook Railway Tunnel with the inscription, 8/43, LAC R A Bryan, Taree, NSW.(Supplied: Neil McGlashan)

It sparked the interest of local researcher Janine Roberts.

Ms Roberts started investigating who “R A Bryan” was and why he had engraved his name at that location.

“It’s these tiny little clues that give hints to what happened in the past,” she said.

She applied to the National Archives of Australia for the service record of R A Bryan.

“It confirmed to me he was in the RAAF, but the story that unfolded under that, I was just fascinated and shocked by,” Ms Roberts said.

‘Mustard gas men’

Ms Roberts discovered that Ross Ashley Bryan was born in Taree in 1924 and enlisted with the RAAF in 1943.

“I think he maybe had dreams of becoming a pilot, but he actually underwent training as an armourer at the Glenbrook RAAF base and was posted to Glenbrook Tunnel,” she said.

Ms Roberts discovered the disused Glenbrook railway tunnel was one of 14 bulk storage facilities in Australia used to secretly store poisonous phosgene and mustard gas during World War II.

She said mustard gas was used in World War I with devastating effects and many countries, including Australia, became signatories to the Geneva Protocol 1925 prohibiting the use of chemical warfare.

“As I researched the story, I read that there was a growing threat from the Japanese [in World War II], especially after the fall of Singapore … and it was suspected that chemical warfare had been used against the Chinese,” Ms Roberts said.

“They were stored in 14 different locations around the country, and this is where Ross Ashley Bryan’s story comes in.”

The entrance to a large underground tunnel, surrounded by rock walls, with storage drums in the foreground.
The eastern entrance of Glenbrook Tunnel in 1943 with bulk storage drums filled with mustard gas.(Supplied: Geoff Plunkett)

Ms Roberts said Mr Bryan was part of a specialist RAAF chemical warfare armourer unit set up to handle the chemical weapon stockpile.

“In later years those men have become referred to as the mustard gas men, and they handled, transported and eventually destroyed the chemical weapons,” she said.

She said the men did the highly dangerous work without suitable protective equipment, which led to gas burns and exposure to the carcinogen.

Ms Roberts said part of Mr Ross’s job at Glenbrook tunnel would have been to release the mustard gas that would build up under pressure in the drums, stored in this old railway tunnel.

“It would discharge the lethal gas into the air, and then they would repaint the drums and make sure all the seals were properly sealed so they could see if there were any gas leaks,” she said.

Naked male side view from hips up with burns on torso.
A male volunteer shows mustard gas burns sustained during Australian Chemical Warfare Field and Experimental Section experiments.(Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

“He also went up to northern Queensland where they conducted human trials using mustard gas, and he was up there, at Innisfail, where they were doing trials nearby.

“It really is quite horrific what these men went through.”

Ms Roberts said the men suffered health complications in later years through their exposure, including respiratory problems such as emphysema, rashes that never healed, nervous conditions and cancers.

“These men were exposed to the phosgene and mustard gas on a daily basis,” she said.

“While these immediate injuries appeared to heal, the men didn’t know how badly they were being affected, and there was no one there to tell them.”

‘Almost like these men didn’t exist’

Ms Roberts said the men weren’t allowed to talk about their role.

“Because a lot of them had signed documents which under the Crimes Act bound them to secrecy for 50 years, they didn’t talk about it with their families, friends or anyone,” she said.

“So, it was this terrible secret they held on to for over 50 years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that knowledge of the operation started to come to public notice.

Black and white photo of dozens of barrels against dilapidated wooden structures next to a beach.
Japanese island, Okunoshima, had a poison gas factory during World War II.(Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

Ms Roberts said Mr Bryan married at Coopernook after the war and died in 2005, without receiving any acknowledgement for his role.

“In 2009 there was a plaque-laying ceremony to acknowledge the dangerous work these men undertook [at Glenbrook] and the sacrifices they made for our country,” she said.

‘We need to understand our own history’

Historian and researcher, Geoff Plunkett, has written many books about chemical warfare in Australia and interviewed some of the mustard gas men.

He said some of the men interviewed said they had signed secrecy acts.

“Most of them were about 18 in 1943, they were the old school gentlemen, so a lot of them hadn’t talked about it until I came along as an official historian,” Mr Plunkett said.

Mr Plunkett said it was important Australians were aware of their country’s involvement with chemical weapons.

Page of handwritten diary notes.
A World War II sergeant’s diary refers to unloading gas at Berry Springs, in Northern Territory.(Supplied: Geoff Clarke)

“These men got criticised because they never left Australia, but most of them wanted to be air gunners in the air force — they were forced into doing this.

“In fact the first they knew about it was when they turned up at the units.”

He said they couldn’t get out if it because they became a really specialist important unit.

“But that became a consequence after the war because they weren’t eligible for various pensions because they didn’t serve overseas,” Mr Plunkett said.

“We had at least one million chemical weapons in Australia, which is by no means a small amount, but still a lot pf people don’t realise that … we certainly need to understand our own history.”

A surprise discovery for family

Ms Roberts wrote about Ross Bryan’s story for a local heritage website, MidCoast Stories, which she has co-founded.

A woman with dark hair sits at a desk on a computer smiling, in a home office.
Janine Roberts says the men held on to their “terrible secret” for 50 years.(ABC Mid North Coast: Wiriya Sati)

It was through that story that Mr Bryan’s nephew, David Kedwell from Old Bar, NSW, first learnt of his uncle’s wartime role.

“It’s never been mentioned to me by any of my immediate family … it’s something that totally took me by surprise,” he said.

“Isn’t it an amazing thing, [it can come] from such a small act of carving your name into a rock,” Mr Kedwell said.

“And the fact he carved Taree, NSW into the rock — he might never have been found [without that].”

Ms Roberts said it was highly satisfying a small clue from the past had allowed a man’s life and his sacrifice to be remembered.

“It gives me such satisfaction to look at a photo — and to me I didn’t think it was going to be much — and then it ends up to be this amazing story,” she said.

Chemical storage drums lined up outside an underground tunnel.
Drums being cleaned under a tarpaulin in mid-1943 in the Glenbrook Tunnel by a chemical warfare armourer.(Supplied: Geoff Plunkett)

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Secret Allied Cloaking Devices: Would They Have Changed World War II?

Here’s What You Need to Remember: However, though radar, infrared sensors and long-range missiles continue to limit the usefulness of visual cloaking systems, the concept has always retained appeal. Due to concerns that hefty F-4 Phantom jets over Vietnam were being spotted too easily, a “Compass Ghost” model was tested in 1973 with nine belly-mounted Yehudi lamps and a special blue and white camouflage scheme which reduced spotting distance by 30 percent.

Cloaking devices are a staple of science fiction. But while a Klingon Bird-of-Prey materializing out of thin air makes for fun special effects, real-world stealth technology has mostly focused on lowering observability to radar and infrared sensors that can see further than the human eye.

However, camouflage is the original cloaking technology. During and after World War I, navies experimented with elaborate camouflage schemes intended to conceal ships on a distant horizon. Artists called “camofleurs,” including French impressionist and cubist painters, developed wildly striped dazzle camouflage. Such passive camouflage schemes delivered only mixed results, however—but during World War II a new approach suggested itself.

On a winter evening in December 1940, Professor Edmund Burr of McGill University in Montreal, Canada was observing an aircraft making a night landing through binoculars when it abruptly seemed to disappear. Burr had been assigned to study how to spot airplanes and had noted that even a black-painted plane with its running lights off could be distinguished due to its darker silhouette than the surrounding night sky. White aircraft against a white, daylight sky proved equally perceptible.

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Burr realized what was happening: moonlight had reflected off fresh white snow on the ground and equalized the aircraft’s coloration with the night sky, causing it to “vanish.” To Burr, it followed that specially calibrated lights could be used to equalize the surfaces on a vehicle to blend in with the surrounding sky. Such light-adaptive “active camouflage” can be found in nature in creatures like the firefly squid.

Burr passed the concept on to the Royal Canadian Navy, which promptly fitted two corvettes with light projectors in January and May 1941. Despite teething issues, these apparently reduced detection range up to 50 percent. Churchill heard of the idea in April of that year and saw to it that it was tested on the Royal Navy light cruiser Penelope and the cargo ship HMS Lags.

However, the riggings offered mixed results and were not very seaworthy, and the Royal Navy grew disinterested. Moreover, it was assumed U-Boat operators would fall back on hydrophones and radio direction finding to track vessels from afar.

Cloaked Corvette versus Nazi Getaway Submarine

General Electric also developed and tested a light-diffusing system for the U.S. Navy on the tender USS Hamul before the project was abandoned. However, the system was transferred to Canada, which deployed two diffuse-lighting cloaked corvettes in 1943, the HMCS Rimourski and Edmundston.

These 1,036-ton Flower-class anti-submarine escorts had a single four-inch naval gun, a few machineguns, and four depth charge launchers. In a six-month refit, sixty bright projectors were fixed over the sixty-three-meter long vessels on both fixed and flexible mounts. A control system calibrated the lights to the ambient lighting, reducing spotting distance up to 70 percent in tests. However, the system was still slow to adapt, and the projectors proved vulnerable to seawater and pounding waves.

Nonetheless, both corvettes saw action. On August 25, 1943 Edmunston was part of convoy in the Bay of Biscay that came under attack by Do 217 bombers equipped with radio-guided missiles. Though the Edmundston escaped being hit, it’s unknown whether its camouflage proved of any benefit.

The Rimouski, meanwhile, participated in a bizarre scheme to capture a Type IXC U-Boat. The Kriegsmarine had attempted to coordinate the escape of several U-Boat commanders held in Canadian Camp 30 through coded messages in letters sent via the Red Cross. However, Canadian intelligence intercepted the letters and eventually detained the tunneling prisoners, though one managed to escape by zip-wiring down an electric cable and made it to the rendezvous point before being captured.

Meanwhile, the Rimouski spearheaded a Canadian taskforce seeking to bushwhack submarine U-536 as it sought to extract the escapees at Pointe Maisonette at night on September 26, 1943. A mobile ground-based radar was deployed to pick up U-536’s position, and the Canadians flashed the lights intended to signal the prisoner’s presence.

At first, the Rimouski’s lighting system apparently kept her invisible as she crept towards the U-Boat. But then either an error in the signals or a sound contact on hydrophones tipped U-536’s Captain Rolf Schauenberg that he was being lured into a trap. He did not surface his submarine and eluded the Canadian ships, though the ill-fated U-Boat was sunk several weeks later.

America’s First Stealth Aircraft

The British also tried outfitting Hudson bombers with diffuse lighting, but found the electrical demands of illuminating an airplane in broad daylight excessive. However in 1943, the United States’ National Defense Research Committee took a crack at the same idea using a different system known as Yehudi lights—named after an old catchphrase “Who’s Yehudi?” with the rejoinder “The man who wasn’t there.”

Instead of attempting to illuminate the entire airplane, Yehudi lights projected towards a specific target. This was achieved by ringing the nose or engine nacelles and lining the leading edges of the wings and elevators with forward-facing lamps. Photo-cells on the top of the wings would register the natural illumination and automatically adjust the intensity of the lamps to match it. However, the scheme only worked if the aircraft’s nose was pointed within three degrees of the target.

The lights were first tested on a full-scale plywood model of a chunky B-24 Liberator strategic bomber suspended by cables. Observers reported being able to see the cables, but not the plane. Two aircraft were eventually tested: the four-engine B-24 Liberator (project AC-45) and tubby single-engine TBF Avenger torpedo bomber (project NA-188, photographed here). Both types could carry search radars to detect surfaced submarines, and were normally used to escort convoys and hunt U-Boats using rockets, torpedoes and depth charges.

World War II-era submarines needed to surface frequently to suck in air for their diesel generators. Surfaced submarines, however, could be detected on radar and swiftly attacked by Allied patrol planes. But watchful U-Boat commanders could spot sub-hunting planes from miles away and crash dive in less than a minute to evade them.

The lights on the Yehudi-equipped Avenger proved so effective in one test, however, that it was not spotted until it was just 1.6 miles away—giving it enough time to execute an attack on a surprised submarine before it could dive. An uncamouflaged plane was spotted twelves miles distant during the same test.

Though aircraft-mounted Yehudi lights proved effective, the device was never deployed operationally. This was because of the introduction of centimeter-wave radars gave anti-submarine aircraft such efficiency that U-Boats rarely surfaced during the day; air-search radars were assumed to make visual cloaking obsolete; and scaring submarines into crash diving and slinking away was considered desirable for convoy escort.

However, though radar, infrared sensors and long-range missiles continue to limit the usefulness of visual cloaking systems, the concept has always retained appeal. Due to concerns that hefty F-4 Phantom jets over Vietnam were being spotted too easily, a “Compass Ghost” model was tested in 1973 with nine belly-mounted Yehudi lamps and a special blue and white camouflage scheme which reduced spotting distance by 30 percent. The Air Force ditched the lights but kept the paint scheme.

Today, research into active-camouflage and visual or infrared-cloaking technology continues apace, periodically resulting in press releases on infrared-cloaked tanks and invisible drones.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This article first appeared three years ago and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr.

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History Time: Here Is Exactly What Happened During the First Gulf War

Key point: UN forces had the benefit of superior technology and a widely-backed mandate. They also had clear-cut, limited objectives.

On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait with the aim of annexing the country. Within a week, U.S. forces began arriving in Saudi Arabia. Having received the support of the United Nations, the United States formed a coalition of 34 nations to liberate Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm began on January 16, 1991, and achieved its goal in less than two months.

I. Invasion & Troop Deployment

July 15, 1990 – Having drained his country’s finances in a protracted eight-year war against Iran, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein decided to conquer the rich neighboring country of Kuwait. Saddam claims Kuwait is stealing oil from Iraq’s Rumaylah oil field on the two countries’ border. His first overt move is to order his elite Republican Guard units to the border of Kuwait to intimidate the Kuwaitis.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest. 

August 2 – After misleading Arab and western nations into believing he has no real intention to invade Kuwait, Saddam invades Kuwait with an army of 100,000 men and 200 tanks. The Kuwaiti royal family takes refuge in Saudi Arabia. The United Nations condemns the invasion through U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 660.

August 7 – The United States sends advance elements of what will become a large U.S. military force to Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, the U.S.-led coalition will field 670,000 troops, of which 425,000 are from the United States.

II. Operation Desert Storm

November 29 – UNSCR 678 sets January 15, 1991, as the date that Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait or face armed expulsion by the U.S.-led coalition, which has the support of the United Nations.

January 16, 1991 – Operation Desert Storm begins with a massive air campaign against Iraqi infrastructure and military forces. Over a 38-day period, the coalition flies more than 110,000 sorties against Iraq. The air campaign, which includes B-52 bombing runs, is designed to disrupt Iraqi communications, degrade its military forces, and break the morale of its soldiers.

January 18 – Saddam sends SCUD missiles to strike Israeli targets in a vain attempt to widen the war and dissuade Muslim nations from supporting the coalition.

III. Entering Iraq

January 29 – February 1. Saddam sends two mechanized divisions and one armored division to capture the northeastern Saudi Arabian town of Khafji on the Persian Gulf. With coalition air support, Saudi Arabian and Qatarian ground units repulse the Iraqis in the Battle of Khafji.

February 24 – The coalition’s ground campaign begins. The coalition feints at coastal Kuwait threatening a Marine amphibious landing, but the main attack is inland against Saddam’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq. British SAS troops are the first to enter Iraq. U.S. M270 multiple rocket launchers shower Iraqi positions while bulldozers tear gaps in the sand walls along the border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for coalition tanks to advance.

February 25 – An Iraqi SCUD missile hits the U.S. barracks at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. troops and wounding nearly 100.

IV. Withdrawal & the Cease-Fire

February 26 – Saddam orders his troops to begin withdrawing from Kuwait. Before they withdraw, the Iraqis set fire to 700 Kuwaiti oil wells. Panic sets in when the Iraqis realize they are going to be attacked as they try to leave Kuwait.

February 27 – The U.S. 1st Armored Division attacks the Medina Division of the Republican Guard in a place known as the Medina Ridge in northern Kuwait where the Iraqi T-72 tanks laid an ambush. The 1st Armored Division detected the ambush and its M-1 Abrams engaged the T-72s at a distance destroying them with the assistance of artillery and air strikes. Coalition air strikes pummel columns of Iraqi soldiers attempting to flee Kuwait. Meanwhile, U.S. Marines and Joint Forces Command East (a pan-Arab unit) liberate Kuwait.

February 28 – The U.S.-led coalition negotiates a cease-fire. Western leaders decide not to overthrow Saddam on the grounds it would destabilize the region. However, this leaves Shia Muslims and Kurds that rose up against Saddam open to persecution once the coalition withdraws.

Originally Published April 10, 2019.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters.

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The brink of war

America on the brink of war – A Warning

In several articles discussing the rise of fascism in America, I listed the four components that, thanks to the inherent evil in human nature, makes this doctrine particularly appealing:  Scapegoating; Great Lies; Exploiting emotion over logic, evidence, and reason; and Inflaming racial, religious, and/or ethnic hatreds.

But there is a fifth that I touched upon in my article Six Reasons Why Donald J. Trump is the Antichrist (Pravda.Report, January 8, 2020):  The use of war for self-serving political gain.  As I stated in this article, “[S]tarting a war would certainly be within the realm of Trump’s desire to retain, and enhance, his increasingly autocratic grip on the reins of power.”

Nightmare years

Now, with the nightmare years wrought by this sociopathic, mendacious, megalomaniac seemingly reaching their end, and with both Trump and the traitorous Congressional enablers of his coup attempt becoming more deranged, contemptuous of the democratic process, and willing to destroy the country for their self-serving ambitions, it is clear the danger of war looms larger than ever.

Think about it for a second.  Trump has been increasingly stirring up tensions with Iran; he has replaced impartial minds in the Pentagon with his enablers and shut the president-elect Joseph Biden out of defense briefings; he has seen how starting a war, even for dishonest reasons, can be a key to political success (as evidenced by the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004); he has repeatedly demonstrated a disdain for human lives other than his own, as shown by his dismissive attitude towards the number of deaths related to COVID-19 in America; he has engaged in criminal behavior to hold onto power, the most recent being trying to extort Georgia’s Secretary of State into “finding” enough votes to declare him the winner in a state that Biden won; and he and some of his traitorous enablers have both implicitly and explicitly instigated his neo-fascist and racist followers to employ violence to ensure he maintains his grip on power.

Will he start a war with Iran?

So is it really so far-fetched to argue that, as each avenue to his coup attempt is increasingly shutdown, he will ultimately start a war (most likely with Iran), then declare martial law in America and use that as an excuse to remain in power, by claiming that in order to successfully prosecute this war there can be no change of leadership. 

As of the date of this writing (January 4, 2021), Congress has not yet met to certify Joseph Biden as the next president, but already Trump’s loyal lackey and phony Christian Mike Pence, whose job it is to certify Biden’s victory, is already hinting that he is planning to use the Congressional proceedings to “explore” Trump’s bogus claims of voter fraud.

America facilitates

But, whether or not Pence undermines everything America has stood for and facilitates Trump’s coup, the prospect of war will not be lessened.  Trump will need to distract the more than 80,000,000 Biden voters he disenfranchises.  And what better way to do this, as he also learned from George W. Bush (who, by invading Iraq, made Americans forget the corrupt way he was appointed to office by a highly politicized Supreme Court), than to start a war.

Make no mistake about it.  Trump is delusional, unhinged, corrupt, kleptocratic, autocratic, and traitorous enough to instigate a war for self-serving gain, and, as stated above, he has absolutely no compunction about sacrificing countless lives to accomplish this, and his enablers are equally delusional, unhinged, corrupt, kleptocratic, autocratic, and/or traitorous enough to fiddle while he does so.

Of course, if I am wrong, I know I will be mocked for authoring this article.  That is fine.  I would take no satisfaction knowing that the result of being right would mean death and destruction.  But I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t at least write this warning, because Trump is still in office until January 20th, and his madness and lust for power is only getting more dangerous.

David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Report



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The Army’s Next War Will Be Fought With Fewer Men, More Robots

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Kobra and Centaur aren’t the only robots the U.S. military will soon be operating. In addition to robots that can work with EOD teams, the Army has been deploying robots that are able to destroy enemy armored vehicles with anti-tank missiles, survey warzones under heavy enemy fire and beam back identified targeting details.

The U.S. Army’s robots will soon be advancing – but these aren’t the ominous “killer robots” that groups such as Human Rights Watch have warned about in recent weeks. Rather this is the FLIR Centaur, a medium-sized unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that can provide a standoff capability to detect, confirm, identify and dispose of hazards. It can be used by explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams to help disarm improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance and to perform similar hazardous tasks and allow human soldiers to stay out of harm’s way.

Operators can attach different sensors and payloads to the robot, which makes it adaptable for use in a variety of missions including addressing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.

This week, FLIR Systems Inc. announced that the United States Army, Air Force and Navy have collectivity ordered more than 250 additional Centaur UGVs in a contract worth a combined $32 million. The award was being sourced through the Army’s Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II (MTRS Inc II) program. The Army had selected the Centaur for its MTRS Inc II solution in 2017, and the government contractor has been delivering systems to the Army under a multi-year program of record, which upon award was valued at more than $150 million including options.

The Centaur has now entered full-rate production and deliveries are expected to begin next year.

“We’re tremendously honored that EOD teams across America’s military are relying on our Centaur robot to help them perform dangerous missions with greater stand-off capability,” said Tom Frost, vice president and general manager for Unmanned Ground Systems in the Unmanned and Integrated Solutions business at FLIR. “From enabling easy software updates to enhanced electro-optical infrared cameras, controllers, and communication systems, the Centaur can be a game-changer for troops on the battlefield. Sharing common technology across EOD units also creates efficiencies for joint service operations, training and sustainment.”

Heavy Duty

In addition to its Centaur, FLIR has also been contracted to produce the Army’s Common Robotic System-Heavy (CRS-H) platform. Last year the company was awarded a $109 million contract to build upwards of 350 UGVs over a five-year period.

The CRS-H program would provide the Army a program of record; to build and sustain a fleet of large UGVs for years to come. This platform called for a robot weighing up to 700 pounds, which could be employed by EOD unit in a range of missions, including as disarming vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), unexploded ordnance, or related heavy-duty tasks. A variety of sensors and payloads also can be added to the UGV to support other missions.

Over several months and two rounds of testing, the U.S. Army compared the FLIR Kobra with other vendor systems, and all were evaluated on robot reliability, maneuverability, and usability, among other factors. The FLIR Kobra was selected as the winner, and this week it was announced that the company progressed with the U.S. Army through all the key milestones in the program and will now enter full-rate production.

FLIR said that the systems are being sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where the robots are being used in training with the U.S. Army. The program is advancing quickly, because Kobra was developed as a commercial product that has been adapted for the military’s needs. Its strength-to-weight ratio has been a key selling point, while it is still nimble enough to climb up stairs and even climb into the back of an SUV for transport.

Kobra can operate in all weather, terrain and environments and can run for three hours. It can also fit in a Base Response Vehicle or a Bomb Squad Emergency Response Vehicle. The Air Force has also expressed interest in the platform. 

Kobra and Centaur aren’t the only robots the U.S. military will soon be operating. In addition to robots that can work with EOD teams, the Army has been deploying robots that are able to destroy enemy armored vehicles with anti-tank missiles, survey warzones under heavy enemy fire and beam back identified targeting details. Additionally, the British Army has sought to utilize robots to help complement human soldiers.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on This article first appeared in November 2020.

Image: Flickr.

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