Meals, Ready to Eat make field life significantly more comfortable for today’s troops than grandpa had it, but they’re still not exactly good. And, since there are only 24 recipes per year, even the good ones can get old fast. Luckily, Pvt. Snuffy has enough ingenuity to take MRE components and turn them into good food. Here are 9 of the best recipes we’ve found. (We’ve limited the recipes to those which can be made with only current MRE components.)
1. Tex-Mex stew
Jalapeño pepper jack beef patty (can substitute beef stew)
Toasted corn kernels or crackers (optional)
Cut patty into small squares and add cheese. Add 3-4 oz. of water (reduce water if using beef stew) and mix. Works best if heated in metal container (canteen cup) over an open flame. Adding ingredients to hot beverage bag and heating with chemical pad will work in a pinch. Serve with toasted corn kernels or crackers.
2. Pot luck pie
Mix all ingredients but crackers. Crumble crackers over top. Mixes and tastes best if warmed before mixing.
3. Asian Beef Bowl
Asian beef strips
Garlic mashed potatoes
Mix well. Mixes and tastes best if warmed before mixing.
4. Loaded Baked Potato
Garlic mashed potatoes
Bacon cheese spread
Crackers (or vegetable crackers)
Mix everything but the crackers. Crumble crackers and sprinkle over the top. Mixes more easily and tastes better if heated.
Combine creamer, cocoa powder, and your additional flavoring in a pouch. Add a small amount of water and mix. Continue adding small amounts of water until the mix takes on desired consistency. For more sustenance, add throughly crumbled crackers.
7. Momma’s pudding
Vanilla dairyshake powder
Beverage powder of desired flavor (coffee, orange, etc.)
Mix dairyshake, sugar, and beverage powder. Add water until mix achieves desired consistency.
8. General Patton’s Parfait
Momma’s pudding/Ranger pudding
Crackers/Patriotic sugar cookies
Spiced apples (or pears)
Make either pudding as described above. Layer pudding with crumbled crackers/cookies, nuts, and spiced fruit. To make other diners jealous, do so in a hot beverage bag so they can see how awesome your dinner is.
Since the introduction of the Medal of Honor at the beginning of the Civil War, only 19 men have received it twice.
Five received both the Army and Navy version for the same action. Four Navy sailors received two for actions during peacetime. Before the 20th Century, a number of Medals of Honor were bestowed for any valorous action – because it was the only medal at the time.
However, there are still 3 men who earned the Medal of Honor as we’ve come to know it – by gallantry in the face of the enemy – twice.
Those three men were John McCloy, U.S. Navy, and Daniel Daly, and Smedley Butler, both U.S. Marines .
The three men’s paths would cross during the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Caribbean campaigns, and World War I.
The Boxer Rebellion
In early 1900, the United States and seven other nations dispatched forces to China to quell the Boxer Rebellion and to protect their national interests.
During the fighting, McCloy and Daly both earned their first Medals of Honor while Butler, an officer (who was ineligible for the Medal of Honor at the time), received a Brevet promotion – an award for officers who had displayed gallantry in action – in lieu of the Medal of Honor. Butler rushed out of a trench in the face of withering enemy fire to rescue a wounded Marine officer before being wounded himself.
John McCloy earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during four battles throughout the month of June 1900. At that time, Navy seamen called “Bluejackets” left the ship with Marines to fight as infantry. McCloy was one of those Bluejackets.
Dan Daly found himself alone on a wall outside the American Legation in Peking after his commanding officer left to get reinforcements. From his position, he single-handedly held off attacks by Chinese snipers. He also fought off an attempt to storm the wall holding his position, alone, through the night until reinforcements arrived. His actions earned him his first Medal of Honor.
The Occupation of Veracruz
Over a decade later, the three men found themselves fighting in the Caribbean during the Banana Wars and the Occupation of Veracruz.
During the tumultuous Mexican Revolution in 1914, the United States received word of a weapons shipment inbound to the port of Veracruz. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the port captured and the weapons seized. He dispatched several warships and Marine contingents for the mission.
During the initial battle, John McCloy, now a Chief Boatswain, commanded three picket boats unloading men and supplies in the port. When his force came under fire from a nearby building, he drove his force into harm’s way and fired a volley from the boats’ one-inch guns.
The Mexicans fired in response, revealing their positions which were then silenced by the USS Prairie. During the fighting, McCloy was shot in the thigh but remained at his post as beachmaster for 48 hours before being forced to evacuate by the brigade surgeon. McCloy’s was awarded his second Medal of Honor for this.
Meanwhile, then-Maj. Smedley Butler was leading his battalion of Marines through the streets of Veracruz. For conspicuous gallantry while leading his forces against the enemy on April 22, Butler received his first Medal of Honor. Butler attempted to return this Medal of Honor because he didn’t feel he adequately earned it. He was rebuffed and told to wear it well.
Daniel Daly was with the Marines at Veracruz but (in an uncharacteristic move for Daly) earned no medals for bravery during the action.
The U.S. Occupation of Haiti
While McCloy was employed elsewhere, Maj. Butler and Gunnery Sgt. Daly embarked with the 2nd Marine Regiment for duty in Haiti in 1915. While fighting the Caco rebels, both men received their second Medals of Honor.
On October 24, 1915, Maj. Butler was leading a reconnaissance patrol of the 15th Company of Marines, which included Gunnery Sgt. Daly. That evening, the patrol was ambushed by 400 Cacos. The Americans lost their machine gun and were forced to retreat to high ground.
That night, Daly ventured out to retrieve the machine gun. He killed three Cacos with his knife in the process. The next morning, Butler ordered the patrol to organize into three sections to attack and disperse the rebels. Daly led one section. They drove the Cacos into Fort Dipitie before the Marines assaulted and captured it. This action earned Daly his second Medal of Honor.
Less than a month later, Butler led a group of 100 Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in Fort Rivière. Under heavy cover fire, Butler and 26 of his men entered the fort through an opening in the wall. Once inside, they dispersed the rebels, killing 51 with only one Marine wounded. This is how Butler earned his second Medal of Honor.
World War I
Although by the time the U.S. entered World War I, the three gallant men already wore two Medals of Honor each. But their bravery was not finished. Brig. Gen. Butler would sit out the war in command of a depot, Dan Daly further cemented his place in Marine Corps lore at Belleau Wood – where he shouted his famous “do you want to live forever?” quote.
He earned the Navy Cross during the battle, reportedly because having a third Medal of Honor would have simply been ridiculous.
McCloy commanded the minesweeper USS Curlew during the Great War. He received a Navy Cross for his part in clearing the North Sea mine barrage after the war.
North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.
While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.
A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.
Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.
While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”
On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”
To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.
While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.
A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.
“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.
“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)
“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”
Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.
Still, here are five we wish would happen:
In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.
This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.
2. The EB-52C Megafortress
Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.
It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…
3. Blue Thunder
According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.
This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.
4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet
The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.
The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.
(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)
5. MiG-31 Firefox
No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).
According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.
The South China Sea is already a powderkeg, given the major tensions in the region over a six-way maritime Mexican Standoff involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. This past summer, China saw an international tribunal rule against its claims in that body and condemn Beijing’s construction of artificial islands.
The forward deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), left, leads the Russian Federation navy Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the Irkut tanker during Pacific Eagle, a bilateral exercise with the Russian Federation navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley)
That’s not to say China’s abiding by the ruling. Far from it, to be honest. The Chinese took a page from the playbook of Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister by not even showing up for any of the process leading up to the ruling. China doesn’t seem to care that the ruling went against them, as it is now inviting Russia for joint exercises in the maritime flashpoint for the fifth straight year.
According to a report from the Times of India, Chinese military spokesman Liang Yang said, “Chinese and Russian participants will undertake defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, in addition to joint-island seizing missions and other activities.”
The Times of India noted China has sent 10 naval vessels to take part in the exercise, along with 11 aircraft, eight helicopters, and other military assets. Russia is reportedly sending three surface combatants, two supply vessels, and other assets as well.
Two of the vessels Russia sent were an Udaloy-class “large anti-submarine ship” (often referred to as a destroyer in Western media) and a Ropucha-class landing ship.
The South China Sea has seen a number of incidents in the past few years involving Chinese forces. Shortly before the international tribunal issued its ruling on China’s claims, Chinese forces sank a Vietnamese fishing boat and then interfered with rescue operations. Chinese aircraft have also made a number of close passes to U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft, including some within ten feet.
One such close pass in 2001 went wrong, and a Chinese J-8 “Finback” collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II. The Chinese plane crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24-person crew was held for ten days. Lieutenant Shane Osborn received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions after the incident.
Damascus and Moscow have denied they were behind the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, an account Britain dismissed at an emergency U.N. session called in response to the attack.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the U.K. had seen nothing that would suggest rebels “have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday.”
Russia said it would submit information from its Defense Ministry to the Security Council debate.
A resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the U.S. stresses the Syrian government’s obligation to provide information about its air operations, including the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on the day of the attack.
Diplomats were also meeting in Brussels for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region. Representatives from 70 countries were present.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on April 4, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies.
Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s six-year conflict.
The Turkish Health Ministry said three victims of the attack died while being treated in Turkey, and that 29 people wounded in the attack were still being cared for in hospitals in the country. Syrian opposition groups had previously reported 72 dead.
Turkey set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay following the attack, where the victims are initially treated before being moved to hospitals.
Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.
The World Health Organization and the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.
In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”
Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and that he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”
Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Councilresolution condemning the attack.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”
Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on April 4, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.
Renewed airstrikes on April 5 hit near the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following the April 4 attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among those killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun, said his group has recorded 70 deaths.
He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.
Israeli defense officials said on April 4 that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.
The officials said Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on April 5 as they are not allowed to brief media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.
A top Syrian rebel representative said he held U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura “personally responsible” for the attack.
Mohammad Alloush, the rebels’ chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said the U.N.’s silence “legitimizes” the strategy.
“The true solution for Syria is to put Bashar Assad, the chemical weapons user, in court, and not at the negotiations table,” said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army rebel faction.
Syria’s rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.
Associated Press writers Philip Issa in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.
Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.
However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.
A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Two HC-130J Combat King IIs sit on the flightline in preparation for cargo unload at Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, Sept. 28, 2015. The aircraft deployed to Diyarbakir AB in an effort to enhance coalition capabilities and support personnel recovery operations in Syria and Iraq.
Ellsworth Honor Guardsmen practice live-firing party movements at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 9, 2015. The firing party ceremonial tradition dates back to the Civil War, and consists of firing three rounds to symbolize the removal of fallen soldiers from the battlefield.
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct gunnery with an M1A2 Abrams battle tank during Exercise#CombinedResolve V at 7th Army JMTC in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 8, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, loads ammunition into a Stryker armored vehicle during a live-fire range at Bakony Combat Training Centre, Veszprem, Hungary, Oct. 5, 2015.
SAN DIEGO (Oct 3, 2015) U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a high-speed diamond break-away maneuver at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 35 locations across the U.S. in 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 6, 2015) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 prepares for take-off aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The F-35C Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force is conducting follow-on sea trials.
Two FA-18 Jets are displayed in front of the Wall of Fire during the Marine Corps Community Services sponsored 2015 Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, Oct. 3, 2015.
Security Force Marines conduct a live-fire table five range in Southwest Asia, September, 29, 2015. The range tested the Marines ability to move, shoot and communicate ensuring the units mission readiness. The SPMAGTF-CR-CC provides the Commander, U.S. Central Command with a wide array of crisis response and contingency options across the 20 countries in the Area of Operations.
Is this an indication of a great weekend? A double rainbow was captured over the United States Coast Guard Barque EAGLE at the USCG Yard in Baltimore this morning.
Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles crew conducts cliff rescue operation training near Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. This training is conducted in an effort to keep crews proficient in cliff-side rescue operations.
Today, militaries all over the world are still pushing technological boundaries. Since the turn of the millennium, weapons featuring a vast range of technical sophistication have proven to be game changers.
Everything from concealed roadside bombs — cheap, primitive, and deadly — to multibillion-dollar aerial lasers have transformed conventional methods of combat and altered the world’s technological and political landscape.
Here are 19 of the most important weapons of the last 15 years.
Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs
America’s largest conventional bomb is precision-guided, 20 feet long, weighs 30,000 pounds, and can blast through underground bunkers.
Boeing’s Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bomb is designed to pierce 60 feet of reinforced concrete and then detonate 200 feet underground — making no bunker safe.
After the MOP’s first successful test in 2007, the US Air Force ordered an arsenal of these mega-bombs.
In a single widely condemned move, China had militarized outer space. It was a move that might have been inevitable, but whose long-term consequences are startling. If satellites were considered legitimate military targets, attacks could create debris fields that would knock out entire orbits or create chain reactions that might destroy vital communications and global-positioning satellites. Similarly, countries could deploy weapons to outer space capable of destroying terrestrial targets once the global taboo against space warfare is obliterated.
If that alarming worst-case scenario ever comes to pass, future generations could identify the successful 2007 test as the moment that space became a military frontier. The test also displayed China’s eagerness to develop weapons that its rivals would never use — showing how a state can use asymmetrical means to close the gap with it more powerful rivals.
The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-sized unmanned aircraft with the potential to completely change aerial warfare.
Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapon deployment. It’s carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history, and has taken off and landed from an aircraft carrier.
It cruises at half the speed of sound, and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, which is more than twice that of the Reaper drone.
The M19 Reaper drone has radically changed the way that the US carries out military operations. First released in 2001, the Reaper drone has been used in surveillance operations and strikes against militants in places ranging from Iraq to Somalia to Pakistan.
Reaper drones are built to be effective at both surveillance and air support. The drones are capable of reading a license plate from over two miles away while at an altitude of 52,000 feet.
The drones can also carry 500-pound bombs and both air-to-ground missiles and air-to-air missiles. Capable of staying airborne for 36 hours, the drone has given the US a remarkable ability to strike targets quickly and quietly around the world — and without risking personnel in the process.
The V-22 Osprey
The V-22 Osprey is a multitask tilt rotor aircraft that has become a staple of the Marine Corps since its introduction into service. The Osprey can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but it can also travel at speeds approaching that of a fixed-wing plane.
The Osprey originally suffered from several worrisome accidents, including a series of fatal crashes, before it was officially introduced into service in 2007. The plane’s later models have now become absolutely indispensable for the Marines. It has seen use in combat and rescue operations as far afield as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marines have used the Osprey for almost every conceivable mission. It has been used for troop transport, MEDEVAC missions, supply transport, and aerial delivery; it is also being tested for use as an aerial refueling platform. As it can land vertically, the Osprey is also able to take part in operations normally out of bounds for traditional aircraft, which typically need hundreds of feet of runway space.
Boost-glide hypersonic weapons
Boost-glide hypersonic weapons are the latest arena in which the US and China are competing militarily. Neither country has quite developed a working advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW) prototype, but the two countries both tested their own versions in August 2014.
Boost-glide weapons can hit their targets with unprecedented speed and effectiveness. If they ever become operable, these weapons would be able to deliver weapons payloads while traveling at a velocity five times faster than the speed of sound over a range of several thousand miles.
Boost-glide weapons are capable of traveling on a trajectory that makes them difficult for missile-defense systems to intercept, since those systems are designed to work against the high arc of traditional ballistic missiles. Boost-glide projectiles travel quickly and at a flat angle, working at speeds and trajectories that flummox existing missile defense technologies.
On January 27, the Navy carried out a successful test of a steerable marine-launched Tomahawk missile. Guided by an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the modified missile was able to change directions in flight and hit a moving maritime target.
“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said at the WEST 2015 conference. “It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
The new converted Tomahawks would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. On the other side of the Pacific, one of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. While potentially threatening to US ships, these missiles would have just half the range of the converted Tomahawk.
The most advanced missile system on the planet can hunt and blast incoming missiles right out of the sky with a 100% success rate — from a truck, no less.
With its unmatched precision, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system can equalize conflicts around the world. With its mobility and strategic battery-unit placement, the THAAD can close the gap between mismatched military forces and take away an enemy’s aerial advantage.
Impressively, the THAAD missile does not carry a warhead, instead using pure kinetic energy to deliver “hit-to-kill” lethality to ballistic missiles inside or outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Each launcher carries up to eight missiles and can send multiple kill vehicles, depending on the severity of the threat.
The YAL Airborne Laser Testbed
Weaponized lasers will likely be a feature on the battlefield of the future. Even though only one of the weapons was ever built and the program has been discontinued, the YAL Airborne Laser Testbed was an important proof of concept.
The military decided the YAL was impractical — in order to intercept a missile, the aircraft would have to already be in the air, while the weapon itself was expensive to fabricate, operate, and maintain. Still, it demonstrated that enormous, high-powered lasers could destroy large and fast-moving objects, and do so in midair.
If lasers ever become a feature of aerial combat, it will be because of the precedent of the YAL.
The Laser Weapon System
The Navy’s Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is a ship-mounted weaponized laser that can burn through enemy targets in less than 30 seconds.
The energy used to deploy a single LaWS laser shot costs approximately $1 compared to the traditional SM-2, a similar surface-to-air system that runs $400,000 per missile.
Earlier this year, Boeing signed a contract with the US Navy to upgrade the current software used on the laser system.
In 2010, a malicious computer program swept through Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Stuxnet caused uranium enrichment centrifuges to inexplicably fail and knocked out as much as 20% of Iran’s enrichment capacity. The computer worm essentially slowed Iran’s nuclear efforts, raising the pressure on Tehran and buying the US and its allies some valuable time to build up international opposition to the country’s program.
Stuxnet was a turning point in the modern history of warfare. It was a state-sponsored hack, a computer program likely built by the US and Israel in order to influence the behavior of a rival government. It arguably worked, to a degree — Iran’s program was slowed; the international community tightened its sanctions regime; the Iranian economy teetered on the brink of collapse, and the conditions for the current negotiations slid into place.
But it also set a precedent for governments hacking one another and hashing out their disagreements in the cyber realm. The North Korean hack of Sony is arguably the next step in the process and shows how cyber weapons may be so hard to control now that they’ve been introduced into international affairs.
Ever since Hezbollah rained hundreds of rockets over northern Israel during a July 2006 escalation in hostilities, projectile attacks have been the country’s most pressing security challenge. There have been some 15,000 rocket attacks on the country since 2001, including attacks from Iranian and Russian-made missiles capable of hitting Israel’s major population centers.
The Iron Dome antimissile battery is capable of tracking the trajectory of an incoming projectile and then launching an interceptor that detonates the missile at a safe altitude. Iron Dome saves lives on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Hamas rocket attacks during flare-ups in 2012 and 2014 killed few people inside of Israel even including days in which more than 100 rockets were fired. Without Iron Dome, the death toll would have been far higher in both conflicts and Israel’s response might have been even more protracted.
Iron Dome was developed by a state-owned Israeli defense company to face a specific threat and therefore has little battlefield applicability beyond the country’s borders. But it’s one of the primary modern examples of a country mustering all of its technological resources to solve a highly specialized and difficult security problem. In an era where large, set-piece battles between armies and traditional battlefield tactics may be a thing of the past, this may be the kind of the military edge that ends up counting the most.
Both China and the US have developed nonlethal “heat rays” that cause extreme pain and can aid in crowd control. The general idea behind the weapons is to heat the water just below the surface of a person’s skin so as to induce pain, causing the target to flee without inflicting death or incapacitation.
The Chinese heat ray can target individuals at up to 262 feet away. When hooked up to an extra power source, the beam can hit targets at distances of 0.6 miles.
The US version of the heat ray, known as the Active Denial System (ADS), had a range of 1,000 meters and could raise the temperature of a target’s skin by 130 degrees. However, the ADS was recalled by the US military without ever having been used over questions of its ethical application.
Bullets that can change direction in flight
Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) are bullets that can change their path during flight to correct for the movement of a target or any other factors that might have driven the projectile off-course.
The bullets feature optical tips that can detect guidance lasers focused on a target. Tiny fins on the bullets then guide the bullet towards that laser. The Pentagon just successfully conducted a live-fire test utilizing these rounds.
If fully implemented, these rounds could drastically improve the accuracy of US soldiers. The weapons would also help reduce the risks of friendly-fire incidents or of stray bullets harming civilians.
The Golden Hour blood container
This isn’t a weapon — but it’s still a game changer.
The Golden Hour, developed by US Army scientists in 2003, helped keep US soldiers alive after suffering a major battlefield injury. The box-like thermal container preserved red blood cells at a temperature that would prevent donor blood from dying under harsh environmental conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan — all without having to use electricity, batteries, or ice to moderate the blood’s temperature.
If soldiers were injured on the battlefield, there would be life-saving donor blood immediately on hand in small and easily portable containers that require no actual energy input. This allows medics to perform transfusions quickly and efficiently when soldiers’ lives are most at risk.
The container shows that not every major battlefield development is weapons related, and it demonstrates just how far technology has come in saving soldiers’ lives.
Improvised explosive devices
Every era of modern warfare has had weapons that closed the gap between powerful state militaries and nonstate militant groups. During the Cold War, rebel groups around the world used the cheap and plentiful AK-47 to defeat far larger armies around the world.
The roadside bomb is how insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan bogged down a far larger and more powerful US military. Camouflaged “improvised explosive devices,” often hidden in cars or potholes, could be detonated using cell phones. They could also be built quickly and covertly, and without a huge amount of engineering expertise.
IEDs killed as many as 3,100 US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, representing around two-thirds of total US combat deaths. The bombs prevented the US from winning in both countries through conventional means, leading to technological developments like the MRAP and a shift to counterinsurgency strategy in both wars. IEDs have arguably transformed the US military and its mission like no other modern weapon.
Roadside bombs showed how in the 21st century, it’s still possible for a small and technologically primitive military force to wreak havoc on a larger and infinitely better-equipped one.
Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles
The US was in huge trouble in Iraq in 2005. The American-led mission was losing ground to a growing insurgency led by Al Qaeda elements. And the US was suffering huge losses from improvised explosive devices that would rip through even heavily armored vehicles. Insurgents were setting bombs that would detonate under American personnel carriers, which weren’t built to withstand the insurgents’ weaponry.
The heavily armored MRAP was designed, developed, and built in a matter of months to counter the US’ biggest operational challenge in Iraq; by 2009 over 21,000 of them were in service.
Each member of Navy SEAL Team Six is issued $65,000 four-tube night-vision goggles, according to Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette in his book, “No Easy Day.”
Compared to the standard two-tube goggles, which Bissonnette says are similar to binoculars, the four-tube model gives soldiers a greatly expanded field of view.
The Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggles are made in Londonderry, New Hampshire, by L-3 Warrior Systems’ Insight division, Defense One reports.
Since 2010, the Pentagon has spent at least $12.5 million on this elite military eyewear, according to Defense One.
The Ghost hovercraft
Developed by Juliet Marine Systems, the Ghost could become one of the military’s ships of the future.
Propped on two blade-like pontoons, the Ghost cuts through the water while maintaining enhanced balance. The design allows the ship to reduce friction and increase its stability.
The ship has also been designed for maximum stealth. It is nonmagnetic and hard to detect via sonar, making it ideal for infiltration and surveillance of enemy waters.
The Ghost can also deploy a range of offensive weapons that are similar to what an attack helicopter would carry. The vessel can be equipped with Gatling guns, Griffin missiles, and rockets launched either from its hull or from the craft’s skin.
Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.
Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.
The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.
The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.
The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.
The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”
In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.
“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.
“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.
He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”
Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.
Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.
The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”
The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.
Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.
“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.
An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.
Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.
But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.
The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.
Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)
As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.
The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.
A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.
“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.
The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”
The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.
The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.
Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.
In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.
“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.
Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.
During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.
UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.
Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)
During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.
The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.
RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.
The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.
Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.
Two Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew near the Korean Peninsula Monday, days after North Korea conducted another ballistic missile launch, Pacific Air Forces officials tell Military.com.
The bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to conduct “bilateral training missions with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japanese air forces,” said Lt Col Lori Hodge, PACAF public affairs deputy director.
Hodge did not specify how close the bombers flew to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ, but said they were escorted by South Korean fighter jets.
When asked if the bombers were carrying weapons, the command wouldn’t disclose, citing standard operating policy.
In September, the service put on a similar show of force over South Korea, deploying B-1B bombers alongside South Korean fighter jets after another nuclear test from North Korea.
The U.S. military has maintained a deployed strategic bomber presence in the Pacific since 2004.
While Hodge said the training was routine, the recent flyover marks another in a series of events the U.S. has taken to deter North Korea’s Kim Jong Un from additional ballistic missile tests — the latest which occurred April 28.
U.S. Pacific Command on Friday detected the missile launch near the Pukchang airfield, the command said at the time. “The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” PACOM said.
The isolated regime claims to have fired off at least seven missile tests, one space rocket and two nuclear weapons tests since 2016.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group finally arrived in the Sea of Japan on Saturday, weeks after the U.S. announced its plans to send the Vinson to deter North Korean aggression.
PACOM announced April 8 that the Vinson was canceling a planned port visit in Australia in order to return to the Western Pacific amid rising tensions with North Korea. But confusion soon followed when the carrier was spotted sailing the other direction — nearly 3,500 miles away.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill last week, PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris took the blame for the unclear message about the Vinson’s stalled deployment. Harris also said that while all options remain on the table for dealing with the rogue regime, the goal is “to bring [dictator] Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not his knees.”
The Air Force also plans to carry out another long-range missile test launch this week, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The launch, set for Wednesday, comes after the service conducted a similar launch with an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on April 26 which traveled 4,000 miles from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and landed in the South Pacific, according to Fox News.
The next launch is scheduled between 12:01 a.m. and 6:01 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg.
Chinese troops are reportedly operating in Afghanistan, but it is unclear what they’re doing there.
There is evidence that China has security forces operating inside eastern Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is reportedly very aware of their presence. “We know that they are there, that they are present,” a Pentagon spokesman revealed to Military Times, without going into specifics.
Late last year, India’s Wion News Agency released photos of suspected Chinese military vehicles in Little Pamir. Franz J. Marty at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute claimed in February that “overwhelming evidence,” including “photographs, an eyewitness account and several confirming statements of diplomats and observers, among them a Chinese official familiar with the matter,” indicated the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting joint drills in Afghanistan.
The governments of Afghanistan and China have both denied reports of joint patrols. Towards the end of last month, China conceded that security forces have been conducting counter-terrorism operations along the shared border. Ren Guoqiang, a PLA spokesman, intimated that “the law enforcement authorities of the two sides have conducted joint law enforcement operations in border areas to fight against terrorism,” adding that, “Reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts.”
Ren also denied that there were non-military patrols being carried out in Afghanistan, further adding to the mystery of exactly what China is doing in the region.
Although Beijing denies engaging in military operations in Afghanistan, there was a strange, albeit unconfirmed, Chinese media report claiming Chinese soldiers in Afghanistan rescued U.S. special forces. While the story is likely untrue, it suggests that there may be more to Chinese activities in Afghanistan than meets the eye.
China has made its counter-terrorism concerns, particularly in Afghanistan, known numerous times. The Asian powerhouse is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. Beijing fears that Afghanistan will become a base of operations for militant Uighur separatists, specifically the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
China has been working with Afghanistan on countering this threat for several years now.
Afghanistan assured China in 2014 that “it would never allow the ETIM to take advantage of the Afghan territory to engage in activities endangering China, and will continuously deepen security cooperation with the Chinese side.” China agreed to “continue to offer training and material assistance to Afghan military and police” to “strengthen cooperation in aspects such as anti-terrorism, the fight against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and transnational crimes.” The following year, Afghanistan turned several captured Uighur militants over to Beijing. China provided tens of millions of dollars to support Afghanistan’s security forces.
In recent weeks, Beijing has been putting increased pressure on Uighur militants at home. Last Monday, around 10,000 Chinese troops marched on Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in a massive show of force against terrorism. That same day, Uighur militants fighting with the Islamic State threatened to return to China and “shed blood like rivers,” giving China a reason to step up its involvement regional counter-terrorism activities.
Furthermore, the withdrawal of coalition forces has created an eroding security situation in Afghanistan which could facilitate the rise of dangerous militant groups along China’s western border.
Beyond security concerns, China also has significant commercial interests in the war-torn region. China’s massive Silk Road Economic Belt will span parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, possibly including Afghanistan.
China has motive for increased involvement, but it is unclear what China is doing in Afghanistan. China may have soldiers, armed police, security personnel, or some combination of the three in the area. Beijing has, so far, not been particularly forthcoming about its activities and intentions in Afghanistan.
Some observers suggest that Chinese involvement in Afghanistan might actually be beneficial for both the U.S. and China, arguing that China might be considering taking on a greater security role in the region after the U.S. and its allies withdraw; however, Chinese troops are unlikely to push far beyond the shared border as long as the U.S. coalition forces maintain a presence in Afghanistan.
There is also the possibility that China is training its military under the guise of counter-terrorism operations, just as it has used peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions to enhance the capabilities of its armed forces in the past.
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