The video is currently hosted on the West Point U.S. Military Academy Facebook page and depicts an operation that centers around the Army 1st Spirit Forces Group but also incorporates the 82nd Airborne Division, the U.S. Army Pacific Command, and other major units.
It appears that the mission objective may be the Navy’s mascot, Bill.
After the close of the Great War, the former race-car driver got into business. At first, it was automobiles and racing but he returned to aviation and ran Eastern Air Lines. In Feb. 1941, he was riding on one of the company’s planes when it crashed on a hill near Atlanta.
Rickenbacker was severely injured in the crash. His pelvic bone, a leg, and multiple ribs were broken and an eyelid was torn.
In spite of his injuries and the fact he was pinned down by a dead body and the wreckage, he took control of the situation and sent a group to call for help. He kept everyone safe and calm for the nine hours it took for rescue workers to arrive and get him out of the wreckage.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t done with plane crashes. In 1942 Rickenbacker had mostly recovered from his earlier crash, though he continued to limp. The Army Air Force asked the aviation pioneer, then 52 years old, to consult on operations in the Pacific theater.
With a $1 a day salary, he set out for a tour of the Pacific. He first visited Hawaii en route to bases from Australia to Guadalcanal. On a B-17 with 7 other men, Rickenbacker departed Hawaii for Canton Island, but the B-17 got lost en route.
Rickenbacker again took command, even though he was technically outranked by a colonel who was accompanying him as an aide. Floating in the ocean on three smalls rafts, the Army airmen were subjected to extreme cold at night and blistering heat in the day.
Despite these small successes, Sgt. Alexander Kaczmarczyk died on the 13th day. He had been returning to Australia after recovering from illness and had drank a large quantity of seawater on the escape from the plane. The added toll being soaked with sea water and exposed to extreme temperatures for nearly two weeks overcame him.
A few days later, on the 17th day, the group spotted a scout plane flying about 5 miles away. Efforts to flag it down failed, as did attempt to flag down the next six planes that appeared over the the two days after that.
Luckily, the plan worked. One raft found land where the natives and an English missionary nursed them while waiting on doctors to arrive. The other dispatched raft was spotted by a Navy patrol plane who picked them up. The survivors told the Navy where to look for Rickenbacker’s raft.
Rickenbacker had lost 40 pounds, developed a number of sores from the salt water, and was severely dehydrated, but he spent only two weeks recovering in a Navy hospital before insisting on completing his mission.
Marie Curie may be one of the world’s best-known scientists, but some of her most important work took place not in the laboratory, but on the front lines of battle during World War One.
Marie Sklodowska Curie started life in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, but in 1891, she left home to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris and it was in France that her reputation was built. In 1903, she and her husband, Pierre, having discovered the elements radium and polonium, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with another researcher.
She would win another in 1911, this time for chemistry, but by that time, she was a widow; Pierre was killed in 1906 when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage while crossing a busy Parisian street.
Curie’s pursuit of science had not been aided by the resentment and distrust of her male peers, who didn’t believe that a woman could possibly be their intellectual equal. The French Academy of Sciences had been unwilling to welcome her as a member for her scientific achievements.
Several year’s after Pierre’s death, she entered into an affair with a fellow scientist who was married. The spurned wife, who had letters that Curie had written to her lover, sent the letters to French newspapers, where they were published, and the public turned against Curie. In 1914, her Radium Institute was completed, but the year also brought the outbreak of World War I, which took her male laboratory workers off to fight.
She had one gram of radium to use for her research, not enough for her to experiment with during the war. She wanted to do something for the war effort. She was willing to have her Nobel Prize medals melted down to provide the gold that the French government needed, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So she donated the prize money she’d received and bought war bonds.
She couldn’t do the research that had made her reputation, so she opted to try something else: X-rays.
Knowing that war inevitably meant injuries that would require medical attention, Curie thought that X-rays could offer a new technology for the soldiers who were destined to be in harm’s way. X-rays on the battlefield could save lives.
She was named the head of the radiological services of the International Red Cross. She studied anatomy books. She learned to drive and how to fix automobiles. She taught herself how to use X-ray machines and trained medical professionals in the usage of the X-rays. She went on a fundraising campaign to raise money and by October, 1914, she had a traveling X-ray unit in a Renault van, the first of 20 that she would outfit.
The “Petites Curies” came with a generator, a hospital bed, and an X-ray machine. But once again, she had to sell the idea to the medical establishment, just as she had had to sell the science establishment on her qualifications as a researcher. Doctors were skeptical that radiology had a place on the battlefield.
So Curie headed to the Marne where a battle was raging to prove the value of the X-ray machines.
She was able to detect the presence of bullets and shrapnel in soldiers who came to the van to be X-rayed, making the work of the surgeons on the front lines easier because they knew where to operate.
Curie was galvanized by the need for more X-ray units. In addition to the mobile vans, she wanted to add 200 stationary x-ray units. But the army was as dubious about her idea as they were about the new military technology like the tank and the machine gun.
Once again, Curie wouldn’t take no for an answer. She gave X-ray training to 150 women so that they could provide radiological diagnoses for the soldiers. Over a million French soldiers benefited from the Petites Curies and the accessibility of X-ray machines on the front.
When the war ended in 1918, Curie, like other celebrating Parisians, took to this streets, but with a difference. She was driving a Petite Curie.
For Curie, service in the war was necessary.
“What seemed difficult became easy,” recalled the ground-breaking scientist and French patriot. “All those who did not understand gave in or accepted; those who did not know learned; those who had been indifferent became devoted.”
But ultimately, Curie’s sacrifice for science and for the war proved lethal. She didn’t know that the radiation was deadly and the years of exposure — she had the habit of carrying test tubes in her pockets and although she noticed the way they emitted light in the dark, she didn’t understand that the glow was an indicator of danger — led to health problems and ultimately leukemia, which killed her in 1934.
Even now, her notebooks are so radioactive that anyone wishing to view them where they are stored at the National Library in Paris has to put on protective garments and sign a waiver.
The passing of Nancy Reagan gives occasion to think back on the Reagan years and their impact on the warfighting capability of the American military. Here are five things that the Reagan administration gave to the troops that endure today:
1. Reagan’s defense spending was the hallmark of his presidency
Reagan believed the Cold War policies of Containment and Détente were both outmoded. He opted for a new way forward with a strategy determined by his National Security Council. This theory was one of a long-term strategic offense and was neither reactive or proactive. The strategy was designed to pressure the Soviets through a massive military buildup, which raised defense spending from $214 billion in 1982 to $258 billion in 1983. The Soviet Union was compelled to raise its defense spending from 22 percent to 27 percent of GDP. The total number of uniformed personnel didn’t change much, but the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, F-117 Stealth Fighters, Apache Helicopters, and M-1 Tanks that rolled over Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991 did so because Ronald Reagan helped put them there.
2. Reagan began the tradition of presidents saluting U.S. troops
President Obama caught some flak from the U.S. right wing a while back when he saluted U.S. Marines with a Starbucks cup in his hand. Obviously, while rendering a salute holding something in the right hand is a no-go (which is why you’d be hard pressed to find military members in uniform holding briefcases in their right hand on base), the tradition of the President saluting military personnel is just that: tradition.
The fact is, military members do not salute while in civilian clothes. The tradition started with President Reagan in 1981 and even then, it was a curious thing. Reagan had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and likely knew salutes weren’t rendered out of uniform, it also means he knew it was a courtesy, and allowed the airmen and Marines who transported him to drop their salute after he returned it. Plus, the Commander-In-Chief can do what he wants. RHIP.
3. He raised the military’s pay and gave them better gear for the fight
General Edward Meyer, Army chief of staff under President Reagan, warned him that the Army was a “hollow force,” beaten around by the Vietnam War. When Reagan took over, Meyer’s assessment of the Army for the new President found one full of racial conflict, drug and alcohol problems, and full of recruits who were barely qualified to join. He also opened large training centers for the military, such as the Army’s National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert. Meyer to the President the military needed to be told by the top person that they were honored and appreciated, and President Reagan took the time do just that.
Reagan gave the military a much-needed pay raise. He modernized attack aircraft, like the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Strike Eagle. The Navy grew from 479 combat ships to 525. The military soon rolled out the B-1 Bomber, Trident Attack Submarines, and Peacekeeper Missiles. M-1 Tanks replaced aging M-60 tanks used in Vietnam. Jeeps gave way to Humvees, and money flooded into training centers. He also made sure the right men were in them. It was a military an American would be proud to join.
“Regardless of the political consequences, Reagan bought us what we needed,” Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to The Baltimore Sun. “You can see it today.”
4. Reagan improved the morale of the force by shaking off the spectre of Vietnam
The 40th President believed the United States needed a win. Like a college football team in week one, he scheduled an easy start to what could have been a tough season. With the Cold War in full swing, the Gipper gave the troops the warmup they would have needed to fight the Russians, consequences be damned.
5. Reagan’s ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ routine kept the peace with the Soviets
During his first term, he famously called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire,” a phrase which worried critics of the U.S. military buildup at the time and earned him the dreaded “warmonger” label. Worried that his hard stance hurt his image, Nancy encouraged the president to have a direct relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet General Secretary. President Reagan reconsidered his strategy.
In his 2004 book Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, senior presidential adviser Michael Deaver wrote that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko once asked her, “Does your husband believe in peace or war?” Nancy told the Russian minister Reagan wanted peace and that she would remind him of that every night.
She also said that she would whisper it in Gromyko’s ear as well.
According to the Hartford Courant, a Russian naval vessel is operating off the coast of Connecticut. The vessel, described as a “spy ship,” has been operating up and down the East Coast.
A FoxNews.com report identified the Russian ship as the Viktor Leonov, noting that it was also been loitering around Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world.
“The presence of this spy ship has to be regarded very seriously because Russia is an increasingly aggressive adversary. It reflects a clear need to harden our defenses against electronic surveillance and cyber espionage,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press release.
The Viktor Leonov is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship. According to GlobalSecurity.org, Vishnya-class vessels are very lightly armed with two SA-N-8 missile launchers and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The ship has a top speed of 16 knots, and is loaded with gear for carrying out signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT).
The Soviet Union built seven of these vessels in the 1980s, and all remain in service with the Russian Navy until 2020, when they will be replaced by a new class of vessels. The Leonov carried out a similar operation in early 2015 with much less fanfare.
On Sept. 7, the two leading American presidential candidates will square off in a town hall-style forum before a live audience aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan.
Sponsored by the non-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and broadcast live by NBC and MSNBC, the first-ever Commander-in-Chief Forum will be an opportunity for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to speak about veterans issues, national security and military policy. The candidates will address the audience separately and will have the opportunity to answer questions from moderator Matt Lauer.
We Are The Mighty will live blog the event, providing commentary and insight from our team of editors, writers, contributors and friends throughout the primetime event. So stay tuned here for up-to-the-minute coverage as the groundbreaking forum unfolds.
In the late 1960s the United States Marine Corps fell in love with the idea of an attack airplane that could take-off and land vertically. In theory, that airplane could be based very close to the action on the battlefield because it wouldn’t need a long runway to operate, and that short range would allow for quick close air support response times.
A couple of senior-ranking Marine pilots went to England to take a test flight in the British Harrier, and they were impressed enough to convince the Pentagon budgeteers to buy the service 110 of them. Since DoD had a thing about foreign-built hardware, they came up with a special arrangement where the airplanes were manufactured in England and assembled in America.
Starting in 1971, Marine Corps AV-8A Harrier squadrons were stood up at Yuma and Cherry Point. Because of the unique flight characteristics, only the best pilots were accepted for Harrier training. Unfortunately, in too many cases no amount of stick-and-rudder talent was enough to make up for an airplane that was poorly designed and overly ambitious, performance-wise, for the technology of the day.
Marine Air lost 55 AV-8As between 1971 and 1982. The Harrier had a Class A mishap (over $1 million in damage or aircraft destroyed) rate of 39 per 100,000 flight hours — the worst in modern military aviation history by far. Some of the mishaps were due to the inherently dangerous aspects of the attack mission — like dropping bombs in a steep dive and flying close to the ground in mountainous terrain — but about half of them happened in the vertical flight regime, the thing that made the Harrier unique.
The Harrier’s vectored thrust is what gives it the ability to take-off and land vertically and hover like a helicopter. Unlike the Harrier II that has a computer interface that prevents the pilot from accidently commanding the nozzles in a way that would throw the airplane out of balance, the first version of the jump jet required that the pilot manually adjust each throttle precisely to maintain a hover or to launch or land vertically. The result was an airplane that pilots described as “unforgiving” and that other tactical jet communities labeled as a “widow maker.”
Now watch this awesome documentary about the Harrier:
We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.
The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:
1. Adultery (by the masses)
The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.
After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.
The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.
3. Dodging the draft
On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.
Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.
4. Seceding from the Union
In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.
The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.
5. Illegal Immigration
This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.
The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.
The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Taliban forces have taken over bases, captured stockpiles of weapons and vehicles, and have entered the nation’s capitol, Kabul. Civilians flock to the airport in hopes of boarding an airplane and fleeing the country.
A major component in the air bridge out of Afghanistan is the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. One Air Force C-17A and its crew appears to have done the impossible and flew an estimated 800 people out of Kabul.
C-17A reg. 01-0186, designated flight RCH (Reach) 871, is based out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. According to reported air traffic, the flight took off from Kabul on August 15. Following its departure, RCH 871 made radio contact to report their status. A one-minute sound recording posted online contains what sounds like an air traffic controller communicating with the flight.
“Ok, how many people do you think are on your jet?” the controller inquires. The audio only reveals one side of the conversation. “800 people on your jet?!” he asks in disbelief. “Holy…holy cow,” he says after taking a second to process that number. He goes on to commend the Air Force crew on their accomplishment and asks details about the passengers. Because the audio is one-sided, whether or not the majority of the passengers are Afghan nationals fleeing the country cannot be confirmed. However, given the situation, it is a good assumption to make. The audio concludes with the controller asking for their ETA at OTBH, the airport code for Al Udeid Air Base Qatar.
The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III is a heavy-lifter in Air Mobility Command. It’s powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines which produce 40,900 pounds of thrust each. According to Boeing, however, the aircraft’s official passenger capacity is 134 paratroopers with 80 sitting on 8 pallets, plus 54 passengers sitting on sidewall seats. For RCH 871 to cram 800 people onto their aircraft is an incredible feat.
This isn’t the first time that an Air Force crew has overloaded their aircraft to save lives. In 2016, C-17s of the 535th Airlift Squadron based out of Hawaii flew mercy missions in the Philippines. The islands were hit hard by Super Typhoon Haiyan, resulting in the displacement of thousands of locals. The airmen flew in thousands of tons of food, water, and machinery to aid in relief efforts. Moreover, one C-17 evacuated over 670 Filipino civilians in a monumental humanitarian effort.
While RCH 871’s reported evacuation of 800 people is incredible, other aircraft and their crews continue to fly people out of Kabul. A fleet of KC-135R Stratotankers is performing mid-air refuelings for the relief flights, some shortly after takeoff from Kabul. Britain and the United Arab Emirates also have military aircraft involved in the ongoing evacuation efforts.
Unfortunately, the demand for relief flights outweighs the airlift capabilities at Kabul. As flights load and take off, people can be seen swarming the aircraft. Some cling to the landing gear in a desperate attempt to escape. Tragically, videos have been posted online of people falling to their deaths as a result.
For the 800 people aboard RCH 871, and others that have managed to flee Afghanistan aboard military transports, the herculean efforts of the aircrews who got them out is literally lifesaving.
The idea of “revolting” against your Nazi leadership as an airman in the Luftwaffe seems like a great way to get a bullet in the head, but that’s what happened to the German air force toward the end of World War II.
At the beginning of the war, German pilots were among the best in the world, flying some of the best planes available at the time. The Luftwaffe was a critical component of the German blitzkrieg and the strategy owed much of its success to the men in the air. Poland, France, the Netherlands and Belgium all quickly fell due to Luftwaffe dominance.
Its failure to achieve victory over the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain wasn’t exactly a death knell for the Germans’ air component, but it wasn’t a good sign. By the end of the war, the German air force was completely overwhelmed by Allied air power. They began to lose good pilots and experience shortages of ammo, fuel, oil and lubricants. The Allies’ bombing campaign crippled their supplies, manufacturing and transportation ability.
If the bombing campaign seems like something that might have been stopped by the Luftwaffe itself, that’s because it could have, but there was a cancer growing inside the German air force, almost from the birth of the Luftwaffe: Hermann Goering.
Much of the trouble the Luftwaffe began to experience as time went on could be blamed on Goering. Goering began to fill the upper echelons of the air force with yes-men who were loyal to him personally, rather than promoting based on ability. When the fighting actually started, the Luftwaffe was more than capable, notching some 70,000 aerial victories over the course of the war. As time went on, the needs of the air force became more and more short-sighted.
The Luftwaffe’s plan for the defense of the Reich began to take its toll on the number of fighters in its arsenal. Replacing those losses didn’t become a priority for the Germans until 1944 — far too late to make a difference. The German air force’s last gasp of breath came with an effort to re-establish its superiority during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, but it was put down as fast as the bulge itself.
That’s when the “Fighter Pilots Revolt” happened. That same month after the failure in Western Europe, the best fighter pilots (still living) in the Luftwaffe wanted Goering removed and replaced by fighter pilot Adolf Galland.
Galland was known among the German pilots for his opposition to Goering orders from Messerschmitt Bf-109 pilots during the Battle of Britain. Goering wanted the fighters to fly close support missions for German bombers, while pilots like Galland wanted to support them from a higher altitude.
This higher altitude tactic made for the Bf-109 fighter. Above a certain altitude, it was just a more capable plane than the Spitfires the British were flying. Goering refused. Since then, Galland had risen to become General of Fighters and the rift between Marshal Goering and Gen. Galland only grew and intensified. Operation Bodenplatte, the operation flown during the Battle of the Bulge to destroy Allied air forces on the ground, led to an explosion in the resentment of Goering.
Galland called a meeting of the Luftwaffe leadership, where Goering was presented a list of demands from his airmen. They believed Goering had needlessly wasted lives and aircraft on bad missions and operations. They wanted him replaced. Goering, of course, protested, and did everything he could to squash the revolt. Goering won in the end.
Gen. Galland was relieved of his command and other so-called mutineers were sent to the skies over the front lines in Italy and elsewhere, where many died. Hitler intervened and allowed Galland to take command of a new squadron of Me-262 jet fighters. But the war was only months from ending and the Me-262 didn’t make much of a difference in that outcome.
Russia has a “tattletale” (spy ship) operating off the East Coast of the United States, but they’re not the only ones collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Here’s how the U.S. does spying of its own.
The Viktor Leonov’s snooping has drawn headlines this year – although a similar 2015 operation didn’t draw as much hoopla. It is one of a class of seven vessels in service with the Russian Navy, and is armed with a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 close-in weapon systems.
Still, the Navy needs to carry out collection missions and it does have options.
One is the use of aircraft like the EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft. Based on the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a Navy fact file notes that a dozen were purchased in the 1990s.
The plane was involved in a 2001 mid-air collision with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback. The EP-3E made an emergency landing at Hainan Island and the Chinese pilot was killed.
The Navy also uses its ships and submarines to gather signals intelligence.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, many of its top-of-the-line surface combatants, like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the AN/SLQ-32 electronic support measures system for SIGINT collection.
According to the Raytheon web site, this system also has the capability to jam enemy systems in addition to detecting and classifying enemy radars.
U.S. Navy submarines also have a sophisticated SIGINT suite, the AN/BLQ-10.
According to the Federation of American Scientists website, this system is capable of detecting, processing, and analyzing radar signals and other electronic transmissions. It is standard on all Virginia-class submarines and is being backfitted onto Seawolf and Los Angeles-class ships.
In other words, every American sub and surface combatant is able to carry out signals intelligence missions.
The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.
It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House.
In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch.
The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes.
But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012.
Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.
It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true.
One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud.
There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union.
After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed.
Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed.
These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.
President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition, and other surplus military equipment.
Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a August 28 speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.
The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.
National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.
Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.
Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets, and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.
Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.
“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement August 27 that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.
“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.
“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.
The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.
Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.
Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.
Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.