Highway to the danger zone? Non-pilot given command of Air Force in Pacific

The White House has picked the first female general to head the Air Force in the Pacific, which will make her the first non-pilot to command air power in such a large theater of operation.

The Pentagon announced this week that Air Force Lt. Gen. Lori J. Robinson has been nominated for promotion to four-star general and as commander of Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force component of U.S. Pacific Command. It is a major combatant command whose air, ground and naval forces have broad responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region. Her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Gen. Robinson is not a career pilot. Her military profession is air battle manager. She has served aboard the Air Force’s surveillance aircraft, the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, and she was nominated for a promotion amid a drive for more diversity in the Pentagon.

A retired pilot said there is a reason the Air Force historically has put a pilot in charge of large combatant command Air Forces.

It is because you make operational decisions that require the understanding of what you are going to ask pilots to execute in combat where the wrong decisions mean the difference between life and death,” the retired pilot said. “Now her vice commander and director of operations will be rated fighter pilots, but still she makes the decisions.” Continue reading

US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons

US C130 transports stand ready at Middle East air bases to fly into Syria US elite units especially trained in combat against chemical and biological weapons and tactics for securing their arsenals. Western intelligence sources reported Thursday, Aug. 23 that those units are on standby at bases in Israel and Jordan. Their assignments are to engage Syrian troops attempting to move those unconventional weapons systems to battle fronts or Hizballah and to prevent them falling into the hands of radical Islamic rebel fighters, especially Al Qaeda.

Those elite units have been issued with special equipment for chemical and biological warfare including anti-contamination suits. The transports are also fitted with purification equipment for operating in polluted terrain.

Also on standby for stealthy raids into Syria are British special operations forces in Cyprus and French units trained in unconventional warfare in Jordan. Thursday morning, President Obama talked by phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande to wrap up the details of their combined operation in Syria, effectively the onset of direct Western intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Some – though not all – of the targeted stockpiles of shells and missile warheads are located around centers of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s civil war such as Aleppo in the north.  They may be inadequately guarded since the Syrian ruler may have been forced to throw the units securing them into battle against rebel forces.

Important stress was laid by Obama in his comments Monday on the fact that he had not ordered US military engagement in Syria “at this point.”  In other words, beyond that point, he was free to change that order. debkafile’s military sources report that direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict has to all intents and purposes begun and looks like expanding in the coming days.

This is a sharp reversal of the military situation in the Middle East. It could lead to all-out warfare exploding in Syria possibly involving Hizballah ahead of a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons, although this strike could unfold from the Syrian campaign – during its course or at its conclusion.

Washington is hoping that its direct action in Syria, aside from grappling with the unconventional warfare menace looming over the region, may persuade Tehran to cave into American demands for halting uranium enrichment and turn it aside from its race for a nuclear weapon in order to save itself from attack.

Full article: US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons (DEBKAfile)