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The US may suspend F-35 training for Turkish pilots over Ankara's missile deal with Russia
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is seriously considering suspending training for Turkish pilots on advanced F-35 fighter jets as Ankara moves ahead with plans to purchase a Russian missile defense system despite objections from Washington, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
The two NATO allies have argued for months over Turkey's order for the Russian S-400 defenses, which Washington says are incompatible with the Western alliance's defense network and would pose a threat to American F-35 stealth fighters which Turkey also plans to buy.
The two sources, who are familiar with Turkey's role in the F-35 program and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a final decision had not yet been made.
The deliberation follows signs that Turkey is moving ahead with the S-400 purchase. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and said Russian personnel may come to Turkey.
Turkish pilots have also been training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. It was unclear whether a decision to suspend their training would mean they would have to leave the country, or would be allowed to remain at the base until a final decision is made about Turkey's future in the F-35 program.
The United States has said plainly that Turkey cannot have the S-400 and be part of the F-35 program. The F-35 is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.
If Turkey was removed from the program, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two allies, experts say.
"Washington is signaling that while it would rather not break military ties with Turkey, it is ready to do so if Ankara does not change its mind regarding the S-400 purchase," said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute.
Strains in ties between Washington and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey.
A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018 (Reuters/Axel Schmidt)
The Pentagon and State Department declined to comment on any deliberations about the pilots. But Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews noted discussions are taking place with Ankara on potentially buying the Patriot missile defense system.
Andrews said the Patriot system, made by Raytheon Co., "remains a robust, NATO-interoperable alternative to the S-400 for (Turkey's) national defense requirements."
On Monday, Turkish broadcaster Haberturk quoted Akar as saying in an interview that the delivery of the S-400 may not happen in June, when Turkey previously said the missiles were due to arrive. He added the agreement was a done deal, however.
"They may not make it by June but they will come in the months ahead. The process has begun," he was quoted as saying.
Objecting to Ankara's planned Russian defense purchase, the United States in late March halted delivery of equipment related to the F-35 to Turkey, which is both a buyer and a production partner in the program. The move was the first concrete step of what could eventually be the full removal of Turkey from the F-35 program.
The United States has warned that if Turkey takes delivery of the Russian system, it will also trigger U.S. sanctions under CATSAA, a law calling for sanctions against countries procuring military equipment from Russia.
Turkey has said that as a NATO member it poses no threat to the United States and the sanctions should not apply. Ankara has also increasingly pinned its hopes on President Donald Trump to protect it from such penalties.
U.S. officials have called Turkey's planned purchase of the S-400 system "deeply problematic." Washington and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the system's radar will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons.
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A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.