The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke - We Are The Mighty
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The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


For the past seven years, New York Times journalist James Risen has been embroiled in a legal battle with two presidential administrations over his refusal to reveal an inside government source.

It turns out he will not be called to testify at a leak trial scheduled to begin this week.

The story that almost sent the two-time Pulitzer winner to jail for not identifying confidential sources is one of the most spectacular CIA screwups in the history of the agency.

A full excerpt from his book “State of War” was published by The Guardian in 2006. Here’s a rundown:

In February 2000, the CIA went forward with a covert operation called Operation Merlin to stunt the nuclear development of Iran by gifting them a flawed blueprint of an actual nuclear weapon.

It all started when the CIA persuaded a defected Russian nuclear engineer (who was granted citizenship and a $5,000-per-month income) to hand over technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block or “firing set” for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. The designs would allow the holder to build the mechanism that triggers a nuclear chain reaction, one of the most significant hurdles to successfully building a nuclear weapon.

The plan was for the Russian to pose as a greedy scientist trying to sell the designs to the highest bidder, which was to be Iran. The Russian was sent to Vienna to sell the designs to the Iranian representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (that is, the UN body created to regulate nuclear technology).

The key to the plan was that the designs supposedly carried a serious design flaw the Iranians would be unable to recognize until they had already tried building the design.

When the Iranians tested the design, the bomb would fizzle, and Iran would have been set back years in its nuclear quest. At the same time, the US would be able to watch what the Iranians did with the blueprints and learn more about what they knew of nuclear technology.

It all sounded like a fine plan, except that it was wildly reckless and included huge missteps. The first was that, within minutes of looking at the plans, the Russian identified the design flaw. Granted he was more versed in nuclear designs than the Iranians to whom he was giving the designs, but CIA officers were shocked — they didn’t expect him to be able to find it.

The CIA went forward with the plan anyway, handing the Russian a sealed envelope with the blueprints and instructing him to deliver them without opening the envelope. The Russian got cold feet and, of course, opened the envelope. Not wanting to be caught in the crossfire between the CIA and Iran, the Russian included a letter noting that the designs contained a flaw and that he could help them identify it.

The Russian dropped off the blueprints at the agreed location, without even meeting the officials from Iran, and fled back to the US. Within days, the Iranian official in Vienna headed home, most likely with the blueprint.

What makes the operation so reckless is that, according to former CIA officials to whom Risen spoke, the “Trojan horse” plan had been used before with America’s enemies but never with a nuclear weapon. Handing over any weapons designs is a delicate operation, and any additional information could result in the country’s accelerating its weapons program, not stunting it.

Between Iran’s stable of knowledgeable nuclear scientists, and the fact the country had already obtained nuclear blueprints from a Pakistani scientist, giving them even flawed designs was extremely reckless. According to Risen, nuclear experts say Iran could compare the two blueprints to identify the flaw and then glean dangerous information from the blueprints anyway.

Operation Merlin failed on all accounts. Add in the fact that four years later, the CIA screwed up again, revealing its entire Iran spy network to a double agent, and the US was flying blind on Iran during a period in which the country was most likely making serious inroads on its nuclear program.

Check out Risen’s more detailed account of this fascinating episode in the CIA’s history here.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

China’s construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, a new Pentagon report concludes, predicting that Pakistan may be another potential location.

The annual assessment of China’s military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. It has also increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.


The Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base in the Horn of Africa nation. But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with U.S. operations there.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. (Photo by: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

The military expansion ties into a broader Chinese initiative to build a “new Silk Road” of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across an arc of countries through Asia, Africa and Europe. Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.

But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military.

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. Construction began in February 2016. Beijing has said the facility will help the army and navy participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian assistance.

But the expanded presence around the world would align with China’s growing economic interests and would help it project military power further from its borders.

The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke

Unlike previous reports, the new assessment doesn’t document a lot of new island creation by China in the East and China Seas. Last year’s report said China had reclaimed 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea.

Instead, the new report focuses on the military build-up on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

It said that as of late last year, China was building 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities on each of the three largest outposts — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. Each has runways that are at least 8,800 feet long.

Once complete, the report said China will be able to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands.

China has also built up infrastructure on the four smaller outposts, including land-based guns and communications facilities.

The report added that, “China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

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Here’s the latest on North Korea’s saber rattling

North Korea has reportedly miniaturized a nuclear warhead, giving their intercontinental ballistic missiles the ability to deliver a nuclear payload for the first time. The rogue regime has also been moving anti-ship cruise missiles to at least one patrol boat.


The moves come amidst heightened tensions in the region and despite a unanimous UN Security Council vote imposing further sanctions.

According to a FoxNews.com report, the development of the warhead and further threats from the regime of Kim Jong Un prompted President Trump to state that the North Korean leader “best not make anymore threats to the United States.” The President went on to state that threats would “be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, and has conducted a string of tests despite sanctions being imposed. One recent test involved an ICBM that could hit targets in half the United States. The regime also has a history of holding Americans hostage.

The war of words between Trump and Kim comes as another report by FoxNews.com indicated that two “Stormpetal” missiles were being loaded on to a “Wonsan-class patrol boat.”

Oddly, the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World does not list any “Wonsan-class” vessel in North Korean service, nor does GlobalSecurity.org. The only Wonsan-class vessel listed in service is a South Korean minelayer.

North Korea is credited by GlobalSecurity.org with a surface-effect ship about the size of most missile boats called the Nongo class, as well as a variant of the Osa-class missile boats called the Soju class.

The Nongo-class can hold from as many as eight anti-ship missiles. Osas generally held four SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles, according to Combat Fleets of the World.

The Stormpetal is also not a known missile system to either source. GlobalSecurity.org, does note that many indigenous North Korean missile designs are ballistic missiles or artillery rockets. The North Koreans have also designed an indigenous version of the SS-N-2 Styx known as the KN-01, and a version of the SA-10 Grumble known as the KN-06.

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4 subtle details about Nazi Germany you missed in Jojo Rabbit

Movies are an art medium where every frame can answer a question before it’s even asked. The clever use of symbols, juxtaposition or a turn of phrase can lead the audience down a rabbit hole of their own interpretation. In some movies, the symbols are more obvious, such as the little girl wearing a red coat in Schindler’s List who symbolizes innocence.

These hidden clues are easier to spot in dramas because we’re subconsciously expecting them. We’ve accepted they should be there. In a comedy, however, they’re easy to miss because we aren’t ready for depth. Jo Jo Rabbit is a comedy about a little boy who joins the Hitler youth in Berlin with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler. At face value, the movie pokes fun of Nazi Germany, but there are a few subtle details that offer a deeper look into life on the other side.

(Warning: spoilers ahead)

Mother’s cross

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Screen capture- TSG Entertainment

When Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) says, “It’s a great year to be a girl,” after saying she’s had 18 kids and would rate an award called The Mother’s Cross. At face value, it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke that there is a lot of cardiovascular value to a woman’s place aiding the Reich. Hitler really did approve and encourage the procreation of more soldiers for the party. Although she isn’t wearing it in the scene, she would have rated the highest tier of the award after her seventh child.

Hitler doesn’t smoke

The real-life Hitler loathed smoking and wouldn’t allow it in his presence. Yet, in the movie, he offers Jojo cigarettes. During the 1940s, if you were old enough to work, you were old enough to smoke. Since Jojo never met Hitler in real life, he would never have known this. The offer highlights how little the main character knows about the real dictator.

Captain K may have been a spy

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Screen capture- TSG Entertainment

At the start of the movie, Captain Klenzendorf says he lost an easily winnable battle due to the incompetence of the Nazi High Command. In reality, the micromanagement by general officers and Hitler himself did play a decisive role in losing the war. Yet, when you hear Captain K state how much he loathed their meddling, and now he has to train the next generation of soldiers, he says he’s using actual grenades.

It is suspicious that when one does blow up it fails to kill Jojo at point blank range. Are they practice grenades and he’s just saying they’re real? Was Jojo just lucky? Could Captain K have sabotaged his own mission? Is he attempting to sabotage training? It’s a stretch if that were the only piece of evidence.

The isolated incident could’ve just been a coincidence, but when the Gestapo raid Jojo’s home, the Captain was on his way to warn him. That scene confirms he is part of the resistance. How long was he part of the resistance? It’s plausible that he was a member from the start.

Real-life espionage has inspired other Hollywood films like Valkyrie and Inglorious Bastards where there is an active resistance against the Reich. So, although many people followed Hitler, there was also a handful who went against the grain.

The Rosa-Winkel

Also known as the inverted pink triangle, the Rosa-Winkel found on gay concentration camp uniforms. When throwing “undesirables” into the camps, the Nazis also had a system of identifying which undesirable group they belonged to. When Captain K makes his last stand and reveals his true colors (literally), he and his partner both have them on their uniforms. The film hints at their sexual orientation and then confirms it without distracting the audience during his last stand. He no longer has to hide that important part of his life. To put it simply: pride.

Feature image: screen capture- TSG Entertainment

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Despite having a 5th-generation jet ‘in name only,’ Russia is pushing ahead for a 6th-generation plane

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons


In spite of criticisms and concerns that Russia’s fifth-generation is actually fifth-generation “in name only,” the Kremlin is pushing ahead with plans for its sixth-generation jet.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that Sukhoi has delivered plans for its new sixth-generation fighter, TASS Newsreports.

“I’m referring also to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments,” Rogozin told reporters, accordingto TASS.

“They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.”

And, as TASS reports, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev told reporters on Wednesday that the potential sixth-generation jet will be produced in both manned and unmanned versions. Meaning, essentially, that the new jet will be planned to be able to function in some conditions as a drone aircraft.

However, beyond that hint, the Kremlin delivered few other details about its new potential jet. The plans for the new jet comes as Russia is continuing to test its fifth-generation PAK FA fighter. Although, as the National Interest notes, it is not uncommon for militaries to begin testing and designing the next generation of aircraft decades in advance.

Currently, Russia’s PAK FA is expected to enter into service sometime in the next six years. However, the aircraft has been called fifth-generation “in name only” due to a host of complaints affecting the aircraft’s radar cross signature, its avionics, and its engines.

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Russian warplanes buzz an American destroyer in the Baltic Sea

Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.


The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.

The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.

The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.

 

The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) while the ship was operating in international waters April 12, 2016. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting routine patrols in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.

“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
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Today in military history: First American killed in Korean Wart

On July 5, 1950, the first American was killed in the Korean War.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when 75,000 North Korean soldiers pushed south across the 38th parallel to attack the pro-Western South. Within days, the United States and the United Nations approved the use of force in the conflict to prevent the spread of Communism. 

By July, American troops arrived on the peninsula, and on July 5, Private Kenneth Shadrick, a 19 year-old soldier, was killed in action by machine-gun fire while engaging an enemy Soviet-made tank with a bazooka. 

Shadrick was the first of 36,574 Americans to die in theatre, with another hundred thousand wounded. Nearly one million, six hundred thousand civilians from the Korean peninsula were killed, with another million combatants from South Korea, North Korea, and China.

Nearly five million soldiers and civilians lost their lives in a war that many remember as “the Forgotten War” for the lack of attention it received compared to the “great” World Wars or even the Vietnam War. The most famous representation of the war came from the iconic television series M*A*S*H, which was set in a field hospital in South Korea during the war. The series ran from 1972 to 1983 and still today remains one of the most accurate military satires created.

For all the violence and brutality, the Korean peninsula remains divided at the 38th parallel still today and only an uneasy armistice keeps the peace while North Koreans endure a brutal dictatorship under the feckless Kim dynasty.

Featured Image: M24 Chaffee light tanks of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division wait for an assault of North Korean T-34-85 tanks at Masan. (U.S. Army image)

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Here are some other name suggestions for future US Navy ships

In light of the controversy over the announced names of new fleet replenishment oilers, including one after Korean War veteran and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, here some other suggestions for future U.S. Navy ships:


Suggested America-class Amphibious Assault Ships

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill)

USS The Battle of Fallujah

During the Global War on Terror, the Marines have been fighting far from the ocean. However. those battles have featured just as much valor as was seen during Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, or Tarawa. Notable among these was the Battle of Fallujah in November of 2004. Perhaps the most iconic picture of Operation Iraqi Freedom was the one of First Sergeant Bradley Kasal gripping his M9 Beretta as he was assisted out of the house where he heroically protected a wounded Marine. No matter what you think of the Iraq War, the valor American forces showed during the battle should be honored.

USS Battle of Khe Sanh

During the Vietnam War, the Marine outpost at Khe Sanh was besieged for nearly three months as part of a six-month battle. Unlike the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Marines at Khe Sanh held out – with the aid of massive air power. This is one proud moment of Marine Corps history that deserves to be remembered – and it should not have taken nearly five decades to honor.

USS Battle of Khafji

One of the biggest fights the Marines had during Operation Desert Storm, the Battle of Khafji lasted three days. The Marines worked with Saudi and Qatari forces to free the city from its brief occupation by Saddam Hussein’s forces, knocking out at least 80 armored vehicles. That heroism is well worth remembering.

Suggested John Lewis-class replenishment ship

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Joe Foss

He’s a Medal of Honor recipient, and either a Zumwalt or a Burke would seem more fitting, but Joe Foss was more than a Marine Corps ace. He was governor of South Dakota for four years, the first commissioner of the American Football League (now the AFC), and he was President of the National Rifle Association for two terms – leading America’s foremost defender of the Second Amendment.

Suggested Zumwalt-class destroyer

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Robert A. Heinlein

While best known as the best American science-fiction author of all time, Robert Anson Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy. While his career ended due to tuberculosis, Heinlein worked with Isaac Asimov at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. This is a cultural giant of American literature and deserves to be recognized with the Navy’s most advanced surface combatant.

Suggested Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly)

USS Tom Clancy

The inventor of the techno-thriller genre made the United States Navy the big star in his first two novels. His iconic character, Jack Ryan, was a former Marine. Clancy was one of the few civilians to receive the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement from the Navy League.

USS Joe Rochefort

Rochefort is the unsung hero of the Battle of Midway. His code-breaking efforts gave Admiral Chester W. Nimitz the advance warning needed to send Raymond Spruance and Frank Jack Fletcher to ambush the Japanese fleet. Rochefort waited over 30 years to see his story told, and a decade afterward to be officially recognized.

USS Edwin T. Layton

There was one officer that Nimitz kept by his side throughout World War II. Edwin T. Layton was retained when Nimitz took over for Husband E. Kimmel and stayed until Japan signed the  surrender documents in Tokyo Bay. If Rochefort was the unsung hero of Midway, Layton is the man who ensured Rochefort got some of the official recognition he deserved.

USS Brian Chontosh

Brian Chontosh received the Navy Cross for heroism during the initial invasion of Iraq. During a firefight on March 25, 2003, he personally cleared over 200 meters of trench and killed over 20 enemy troops. Sheer awesomeness (that arguably should have resulted in him receiving the Medal of Honor).

USS Justin Lehew

Then-Gunnery Sergeant Justin Lehew received the Navy Cross for his actions during March 23 and 24. On the 23rd, he led a team that rescued some of the members of the 507th Maintenance Company. The next day, he continuously exposed himself to enemy fire during an attack on a bridge, then while recovering Marines from an Amphibious Assault Vehicle that was hit.

USS Bradley Kasal

During the Battle of Fallujah, a photograph featuring then-First Sergeant Bradley Kasal being helped out of a building, clutching his M9 Beretta became an iconic image of Operation Iraqi Freedom. What happened before the photo, though, was the real awesome story: Kasal had shielded a fellow Marine from an insurgent’s grenades with his own body after both had been wounded. Kasal then refused evacuation until the other Marines in the house were safe. He got the Navy Cross. It should have been the Medal of Honor.

USS Justin A. Wilson

Corpsmen have long had a tradition of valor when it comes to treating wounded Marines on the battlefield. Justin Wilson is just one of the latest. He earned the Navy Cross by leaving his position, despite the threat of IEDs, to treat a wounded Marine explosive ordnance disposal tech, then did so again to find other wounded.

USS Arthur D. Struble

It is rare that a Vice Admiral is awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, but Stuble is one of two who got that honor. Struble received the Army’s second-highest decoration for valor for helping oversee the mine-clearance operation at Wonsan during the Korean War. Not too many people know about Admiral Struble’s service, and naming a ship after him would be a suitable way to change this.

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The complete hater’s guide to the F-16 Fighting Falcon

We all know the services love to hate on each other. But believe it or not, the pilots within the services tend to hate on any plane they don’t fly.


Don’t believe me? Have you heard that band Dos Gringos? They rock, but those two Viper drivers also touch upon the intra-service hating in “I Wish I had a Gun Just Like the A-10.” You can listen to it as we hate on their mount – the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Don’t take all the hating as license to go after them. They may enjoy razzing each other — saying mean things about the other mounts. But they will all come after you if you try to pick on one of them.

Why making fun of the F-16 is easy

Where do we start? It’s a single-engine plane. Not much range. Offensive payload? Probably the lowest among air force combat jets. In fact, really, if you ask any A-10, F-15, F-15E, F-22, or F-35 jock, the fact older F-16s are becoming target drones is appropriate somehow.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
The first QF-16 target aircraft seen at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2012. | US Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing

The A-10, of course, laughs at the notion the F-16 can do close-air support. With that 20mm popgun, how do they expect to blow up a tank?

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
A U.S. Air Force A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II from the 355th Fighter Squadron is surrounded by a cloud of gun smoke as it fires a 30mm GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Alaska on May 29, 2007. The seven-barrel Gatling gun can be fired at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. DoD photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Why you should actually hate it

Because it got to play parts in “Iron Eagle” and three sequels. Because that Doug Masters kid made flying it look easy – and even rigged a sound system.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
(Youtube Screenshot)

Because being single-engine means that if something goes bad, the pilot goes sky-diving. Like that poor Jordanian guy who got captured by ISIS. Oh, and that short range, means it has some kind of drinking problem. It’s always hogging the tankers.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Once again, the F-16s are hogging the tanker. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman)

Not to mention, they’re everywhere. It seems like every country gets its hands on these planes.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Turkish F-16 taxis for takeoff at Incirlik Air Base. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Why you ought to love the F-16

This is one versatile fighter. You need to scramble up to say hello to a prowling Russian? F-16s can do that. Want to blast the hell out of enemy forces in close contact with friendlies? The “Viper” variant can do that. Dogfight with MiGs? The F-16 can do that, too. Hit an enemy installation? Can do.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. The squadron will be upgrading to F-16 Block 40 aircraft under the common configuration implementation program, which increases mission capability and combat readiness by utilizing newer airframes and avionics. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

There’s a lot of them. Many NATO allies have them. So do American allies in the Far East and Middle East. It’s even had growth potential. Japan’s F-2, the Israeli F-16I, and the F-16E/F for the UAE all have proven themselves. When China wanted a new multi-role fighter for the PLAAF, they had to knock off the Israeli knock-off of the F-16.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s also around a lot. You see, the U.S. didn’t buy that many F-22s. The F-35 is just coming on line. The A-10 needs new wings, or a lot will retire. They just chopped up a bunch of perfectly good B-52s. But the F-16s are around and there are a lot of them – over 1,000 of them on inventory. And that doesn’t count what is in the boneyard.

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke

And with what we saw with the F-4 Phantom, the F-16 will be around for a long time. In fact, the last Viper driver has probably not even been born yet.

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This Soviet colonel managed a crazy escape from the KGB after he was exposed as a spy

Oleg Gordievsky, British spy and former Russian Soviet Colonel, is congratulated by Baroness Thatcher following his investiture by the Queen on 18th October 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Sergei66


The KGB colonel knew his cover was almost blown.

He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.

After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.

Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.

The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.

If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.

Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.

‘Toward Death’s Embrace’

Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.

“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.

“It was all arranged ahead of time,” Gordiyevsky said 30 years later in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service at his two-floor house in a town near London.

All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.

A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.

But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.

Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.

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Courtesy photo

At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.

Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.

Hours Of Waiting

The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.

Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.

“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”

“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”

Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.

“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”

“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”

From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.

“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”

In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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This VA doctor pioneered modern heart surgery

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Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was one of the most influential and innovative heart doctors in the United States. The man whom the Journal of the American Medical Association once called “the greatest surgeon ever” lived to be 99 years old. In that time, he served his country, saved tens of thousands of lives (including his own), and completely revolutionized the way surgeons work on the human heart.

While a surgeon in World War II, he urged that doctors be moved from hospitals to the front, where medics were usually the only aid available. He created what would become known in the Korean War as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or “MASH”) unit. The Army awarded him the Legion of Merit for this innovation.

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DeBakey developed medical programs to care for returning veterans. President Truman asked him to transfer the Houston Navy Hospital to the VA. That hospital, still named after DeBakey, was Baylor University’s first affiliate and first surgical residency program.

The doctor invented many heart-related surgical devices, including the roller pump, which he invented while still in medical school. That pump became the centerpiece of the heart-lung machine, which takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. Dr. DeBakey’s other surgical innovations, like grafting, bypasses, and the use of mechanical assistance devices are now common practice.

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The Original Operator.

He also was the first to make the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. The idea that inhaling smoke may hurt one’s lungs may seem like an obvious one to us today, when DeBakey and Dr. Alton Ochsner made the connection in 1939, their work was ridiculed by the medical community. The Surgeon General officially documented it in 1964.

Conventional practitioners also ridiculed DeBakey’s idea about using Dacron (polyester) grafts to repair damaged arteries, a procedure that was used to save his life in 2006 when he had a torn aorta.

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In 1969, President Johnson awarded Dr. DeBakey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given a United States citizen. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science. In 2008, he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony attended by President Bush. He died in 2008 and was granted ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery by the Secretary of the Army.

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was the heart surgeon for the last Shah of Iran, of King Edward VIII of England, Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, and Presidents Johnson and Nixon. More than that, he was the surgeon who cared about saving the lives of regular troops. In combat he reformed the way the Army manages casualty care, and as a civilian he reformed the way America takes care of its veterans.

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This fund helps the wounded and caregivers in ways the VA can’t

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(Photo: azcaregiver.org)


Years of war have rendered Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) service members with severe physical, mental and emotional scars that will likely impact them throughout their lives. The financial implications and consequences of these scars are well documented and can affect all aspects of their lives and lives of their family members to include housing, employment, and their financial well-being.

The PenFed Foundation’s Military Heroes Fund provides wounded veterans, military families, and caregivers with financial assistance and support that the Veterans Administration cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions. These unmet needs are identified by VA advocates, National Guard case workers, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and non-profit referral partners.

The Military Heroes Fund has two components:

  • Emergency financial assistance for OIF/OEF wounded warriors and their families facing short-term financial difficulties.
  • Family and Caregiver Transition Support
    • Child Care support provided for families of the wounded OIF/OEF families while receiving outpatient care at a VA medical facility, family visits, doctor visits, job-related.
    • Short term training or education expenses for job certification, licensure requirements and/or course materials such as course books technology fees, etc.
    • In-home health care for injured veteran to support caregiver respite needs.

The Military Heroes Fund gives grants to wounded veterans who:

  • Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
  • Have been wounded, ill or injured during your OIF/OEF service
  • Have received an Honorable discharge
  • Are facing a financial emergency which is short-term
  • Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification or have one in progress
  • Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization

The Military Heroes Fund also gives grants to caregivers who:

  • Are a Family member and/or caregiver of an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran
  • Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification for veteran, or have one in progress
  • Send copy of invoice or estimate for requested services from a licensed/certified individual, institution, or facility on official letterhead
  • Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization

The PenFed Foundation continuously examine potential grantees who meet all the above criteria. If you qualify, fill out and return the application form along with copies of your DD214, VA Disability Statement and the bill from the institution or creditor which you need assistance with. (From receipt of all documentation, it can take up to 10 days to process the grant. Grants are paid directly to the creditor.)

For more on the PenFed Foundation go here.

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Navy personnel chief to sailors: you have a voice in ratings overhaul

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Chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on Sept. 16, 2016, in the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Christopher Gaines


Vice Adm. Robert Burke is the chief of naval personnel. He assumed the role in May and is responsible for the planning and programming of all manpower, personnel, training and education resources for the U.S. Navy. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

There has been a lot of discussion since we announced the Navy’s rating modernization plan on Sept. 29. I’ve been following the conversation closely, and it’s clear that many were surprised by this announcement.

While there is rarely a right or perfect time to roll out a plan as significant and ambitious as this rating modernization effort, I firmly believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so. Throughout our rich, 241-year history, the U.S. Navy’s consistent advantage has come from its Sailors. You are our asymmetric advantage in an increasingly complex world — you are our prized possession, our secret weapon. In recognition of that, we continuously work to ensure that we develop and deploy our Sailors in the most modern and effective system possible. This is just our latest effort to modernize our personnel system — one of hundreds we’ve made in the past.

The objectives of this effort are simple: flexibility, flexibility and flexibility. First, we will provide flexibility in what a Sailor can do in our Navy, by enabling career moves between occupations to ensure continued advancement opportunity and upward mobility as the needs of a rapidly adapting Navy change. Second, we will provide flexibility in assignment choice — a Sailor with the right mix of plug-and-play skills will have more choices for ship type, home port, timing, sea/shore rotation, even special and incentive pays! Finally, we will provide you more flexibility after you leave the Navy, by providing civilian credentialing opportunities — in other words, giving you credit in the civilian job market for your Navy education and experience.

This effort will take us several years to complete, and we will include you in the process as we work through it — we’re just getting started and you will be involved as we go. Many questions remain unanswered, and we’ll get to them — together. There will be fleet involvement throughout.

Here’s the rough breakdown of the project, as we see it today:

— Phase 1 (now through September 2017) — redefine career fields and map out cross-occupation opportunities. Identify career groupings to define those rating moves that can be done, and that also translate to civilian occupational certifications.

— Phase 2 (now through September 2018, will run parallel with Phase 1) — examine the best way forward for how we best align our processes for:

  • Recruiting and initial job classification;
  • Planning for accessions — the numbers and mix of skills for folks we recruit;
  • Advancements — how do we define what is required for advancement if you are capable of several skill sets? Do we eliminate advancement exams altogether?
  • Detailing processes;
  • Pay processes — to include things like SRB, Assignment Incentive Pay, etc.; and
  • Reenlistment rules.

— Phase 3 (now through September 2018) — updating underlying policy documents, instructions, things like applicable BUPERSINST, OPNAVINST, and the Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards Manual. This will include changes to how we handle things like Evaluations and Awards.

— Phase 4 (began last year, expect to go through September 2019) — identify and put in place the underlying IT systems. This is probably the most complex and game changing aspect of the project.

— Phase 5 (September 2017 through September 2018) — redesign the Navy rating badges. The idea is to hold off on this until we settle on the right definition of career fields, to better inform the conversation on the way ahead in this area.

— Phase 6 (September 2019 and beyond) — continuous improvement, further integration with all Sailor 2025 initiatives.

I am committed to ensuring you have a voice in the way ahead. Toward that end, I am aggressively expanding the membership and avenues of communication into the Navy-wide working group that has been assembled to tackle this project. As we go forward, your feedback matters and we want to hear from you during each phase of the transformation. You can expect lots of discussion on this as we learn and adapt the plan to make it deliver on the objectives. Have conversations with your Senior Enlisted Leaders, who are armed with how to move those conversations forward. You also have a direct line to me in order to make sure your ideas are heard — send them to NavyRatingMod@gmail.com.

We are proud members of numerous different tribes within the Navy — our occupations, warfare specialties, ships and squadrons — we must always remember that there is one Sailor’s Creed and we are one NAVY TEAM supporting and defending our Nation. This modernization will make us more capable as individuals and a Navy.

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