Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal - We Are The Mighty
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Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

In January the U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. and coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria destroyed some 184 Humvees, 58 tanks and nearly 700 other vehicles. The number of ISIS military vehicles destroyed may seem significant, but is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the militants’ overall firepower.


While specific numbers are difficult to come by, reports suggest that ISIS has a huge fleet of vehicles – including tanks – its possession. Last year, for example, the jihadists captured 2,300 Humvees from Iraqi forces when they captured the city of Mosul, some of which were then converted to armored vehicles.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Photo: Youtube.com

Unlike traditional nation states ISIS doesn’t produce tanks or other weapons in factories, and unlike past insurgent forces that were supported by a nation state ISIS isn’t being armed or equipped by a major power either. Yet the group’s fleet of vehicles continues to grow. In May ISIS captured U.S.-built equipment, including M1A1 tanks after the group took control of the town of Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. The militants’ haul reportedly included about 100 wheeled vehicles and dozens of tracked vehicles.

There should be concern that ISIS has become so well armed, experts warn. In addition to modern military hardware, militants have also captured Cold War-era weaponry from Syrian forces. The nation was supported throughout the Cold War by the Soviet Union and built up vast quantities of Warsaw Pact armaments. Today those weapons – everything from AK-47 assault rifles to T-72 main battle tanks – are being utilized by all sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

“Syrian rebel groups probably make the most extensive use of heavy equipment at the moment, thanks largely to battlefield successes,” Jeremy Binnie, Middle East/Africa Editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, told FoxNews.com. “But that is also a product of the Syrian military’s vast inventory of Soviet-era weapons and equipment, (as well as) its inability to destroy this materiel after it has been captured.”

Many of these Syrian rebels likely served in the military at some point and this may provide them with the knowledge to operate and, more importantly, maintain the equipment.

There is a growing concern that these weapons have allowed groups to operate more like an actual army than merely as insurgents. This has enabled them to take and actually hold ground. ISIS has not only tanks but towed field guns and artillery pieces, which allow the group to conduct shelling against Iraqi military targets from a great distance; as well as fixed anti-aircraft guns and even shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons. Each of these presents serious problems. While the fixed anti-aircraft guns threaten coalition aircraft, shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons could take down a commercial airliner.

“Rocket-fired grenades and shoulder-launched missiles have long been available in black markets in the Middle East and Africa, but this higher-end stuff is coming from other sources,” Seth Jones, director of international security and defense policy center at the RAND Corp. told FoxNews.com. “This really shows that conventional weapons are a reason for concern. In many ways we’re largely past the stage of nuclear proliferation unless it was provided by a state, and that isn’t likely to happen. However, these anti-aircraft weapon systems of all sizes are still a reason for concern.”

Armored vehicles are increasingly a problem as well, and one factor is that tanks – especially Soviet era ones – aren’t that difficult to maintain and are difficult to destroy.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Photo: Flickr

“Modest investment in an old tank can become a successful weapons platform,” David Willey, curator of The Tank Museum in the U.K., told FoxNews.com. “Today’s modern anti-tank weapons now cost as much as what an old tank costs on the black market, so it makes destroying a tank an expensive proposition.”

The cost factor is largely because western doctrine in destroying a tank is far different to the likely tactics of a rebel force. “There is the cost of flying a combat aircraft and its weapons system,” Robert Farley, assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, told FoxNews.com.

Rebel groups might just as easily use a gasoline bomb – much like the Finnish-devised “Molotov Cocktail” of World War II – or other IED (improvised explosive device) added Farley. It may be rare that such improvised weapons could truly take out a tank but it would certainly put the crew at risk, especially if they are not locked inside the tank.

ISIS and other rebel groups, have largely, not attempted their own aerial sorties, despite the fact that combat aircraft from Iraq and Syria have also been captured.

“There are number of reasons why ISIS hasn’t taken to the sky, even as there are reports that they do have people who could fly,” Farley told FoxNews.com. “In the case of Iraq there are Sunni pilots who are likely fighting with ISIS, and the group even likely has maintenance crews who could prepare the planes for flight.”

However, there are logistics to overcome, including the lack of proper fuel, not to mention spare parts. There is also the fact that a single plane can only do so much.

“You drive a tank down the road, and if it breaks you still have a tank that you can repair and the crew, which can still fight,” Farley added. “If you put a vintage Soviet Mig21 in the air and it crashes it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The final equation for why ISIS aircraft remains grounded is likely a psychological, according to Farley, “ISIS knows that there are American fighter jocks who want nothing more than to put an ISIS flag on the cockpit and have a combat air kill. It is quick death for anyone who gets into an ISIS plane.”

In fact, ISIS is just one of several group that have built up powerful arsenals that include weapons that were typically only fielded by major powers.

“The extent to which non-government forces use heavy weapons typically depends on the level of external support they receive, the local availability of such equipment, and their ability to maintain it,” Binnie told FoxNews.com. “The Polisario Front [in Western Sahara] has numerous Soviet-era armored vehicles thanks to Algerian support rather than victories over the Moroccan military.”

Other nations such as Libya and Iran have been the alleged suppliers of weapons to groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi large quantities of weapons have flown out of Libya and across the region. This included not only Gaddafi’s vast caches of convention weapons but also small arms and other weapons intended to be used by the Libyan rebels. Now some of these weapons are reportedly in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked militants and other radicalized groups.

“It is certainly unhelpful to the west that a range of rebel groups in Africa, the Middle East and as far away as South East Asia have acquired everything from small arms to tanks,” added Rand Corp.’s Jones. “It has facilitated their ability to achieve their objectives and there isn’t enough emphasis that this access to weapons has given rise to rebel groups.”

Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabaab and other groups certainly could have gotten weapons on the black market, but the lack of stable governments in Libya and Syria have made it easier for these groups to get armed – and with weapons past insurgents might have only dreamt of possessing.

“The collapse of the Libyan military in 2011 has allowed many of the militias in that country to obtain heavy equipment,” added Binnie. “The same is true in Iraq after the military collapse in 2014, although the ISIS struggles to keep that equipment operational due to coalition airstrikes and probably a lack of spares and familiarity with U.S. equipment.”

While the ISIS arsenal remains an ongoing concern for the U.S. and its allies in Operation Inherent Resolve, other shadows of the Cold War remain visible in the Middle East. The Pentagon, for example, has been warily eyeing a Russian military buildup in Syria as Moscow protects its interests in the civil-war ravaged country.

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This article originally appeared at Fox News. Copyright 2015. Like Fox News on Facebook.

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These are the top military movies on Netflix in October

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
20th Century Fox


Netflix is on a roll this October, leading with “Patton,” which won 7 Oscars and made the case for military valor at the height of the anti-Vietnam protests. Plus a Coast Guard action picture that deserves your attention and an Oscar-winning drama about the man who cracked the Enigma code. Plus “Three Kings” is back.

1. Patton

This biopic about General George S. Patton won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for George C. Scott and Best Original Screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola. Opening with a less profane version of the general’s legendary speech to the Third Army in 1944, “Patton” was an unabashed celebration of the military spirit. Even though it was released at the height of protest against the Vietnam War, the movie was a box office smash and received almost unanimous critical acclaim. (1970)

2. The Finest Hours

Chris Pine and Casey Affleck star in Disney’s action movie about the Coast Guard’s legendary 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Pine is Bernie Webber, the young petty officer who led what everyone believed was a suicide mission. Affleck is Ray Sybert, the Pendleton senior officer who tries to keep the crew focused in the face of almost certain doom. “The Finest Hours” wasn’t a box office hit, but it’s most definitely worth watching. (2016)

3. The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch plays pioneering computer genius Alan Turing, who led the effort to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. Turing is socially awkward, difficult and brilliant and the film details his struggles to communicate with his colleagues. After the war, Turing was prosecuted under Britain’s anti-homosexuality statues and committed suicide in 1954. (2014)

4. Three Kings

Hollywood loves director David O. Russell these days because of”The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but this satire about the first Gulf War is his best movie to date. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze (!) and Jamie Kennedy (!!) star as US. Army and Army reservist troops who hatch a plan to steal gold and other goods that Iraqis plundered from Kuwait. Watch it. (1999)

5. Saving Private Ryan

What can you say about this one? The D-Day invasion at the beginning is greatest military action sequence in movie history. Everything good about the entire “Band of Brothers” TV series (which is still awesome) gets distilled down into less than 3 hours. Tom Hanks has never been better and an entire generation learned to appreciate the sacrifices and heroism during WWII for the first time. (1998)

6. Defiance

Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star as Tuva and Zus Bielski, Jewish brothers who led a guerrilla resistance against Nazi troops in Belarus during WWII. Based on real events, it got a limited release and deserves a much bigger audience than it found in theaters. (2008)

7. Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)

8. U-571

Sailors from the British destroyer HMS Bulldog really did capture an Enigma machine from Germany’s U-110 U-boat in 1941. Hollywood must’ve though that was boring, so they made up a story involving the U.S. submarine S-33 and the German U-571. Brits were mad about the movie, but if you can get past the made-up story, it’s a fine submarine thriller. (2000)

9. Top Gun

Is Tony Scott’s movie about Naval aviators technically accurate? No way. Is it even dramatically effective? Absolutely not. But Tom Cruise’s Maverick, Val Kilmer’s Iceman and Anthony Edwards’ Goose managed to inspire a generation of young men to pursue their flyboy dreams. It’s hard to imagine that the upcoming sequel will mean as much to people, especially if they ruin the original vibe by shifting to properly staged dogfights. (1986)

10. The Heavy Water War

This 6-episode TV series tells the story of Operation Grouse, the action by Norwegian commandos who blew up a power plant and prevented the Nazis from getting access to the deuterium oxide (a/k/a heavy water) they wanted to use in the nuclear reactors that Germany wanted to build. If you can handle the subtitles, this is yet another example of the amazing untold stories of WWII. (2015)

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That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

By April 1862, the American Civil War was a year old and neither side had the upper hand. The fighting was particularly brutal in Tennessee, a border state heavily divided between Union and Confederate sympathizers. Grant won a pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Shiloh in western Tennessee while Union operations in the eastern part of the state stalled.


Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

One enterprising Union supporter — a civilian merchant, scout, and part-time spy, James J. Andrews — proposed a plan to Union Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel that would cut off the supply lines to Chattanooga and allow Union forces to take the city. This would help Mitchel in his ultimate goal of cutting off Memphis from the Confederates.

The plan called for Andrews to lead a group of volunteers to Atlanta where they would steal a train and then race towards Chattanooga while laying waste to the railway, telegraph wires, and bridges.

Mitchel agreed to the audacious plan.

So Andrews gathered 22 volunteers from the 2nd, 21st, and 33rd Ohio regiments stationed in Nashville with Mitchel. He also recruited another civilian, William Hunter Campbell.

Andrews ordered his raiding party to arrive in Marietta, Georgia, by midnight on April 10th, 1862. They were to travel in small groups and wear civilian clothes. Bad weather caused a 24-hour delay and two members of the party were caught in transit. On the morning of April 12th, the rest of the raiders – minus two who overslept and missed the mission – boarded a train in Marietta.

It was one year to the day since the war had started.

The train stopped just outside of Marietta at Big Shanty (modern day Kennesaw) for fuel and to allow the passengers to eat breakfast. The town had no communication lines and couldn’t alert stations further down the track. While the others ate, Andrews and his team sprang into action. They uncoupled most of the cars leaving only three empty boxcars, the tender, and a locomotive called the General to make their escape.

As the train pulled away, The General‘s engineer and two other men ran after the train for two miles before commandeering a handcart and following the train on the rails.

As they went, the raiders cut telegraph lines and tore up tracks to slow down their pursuers and disrupt future travel.

But as the raiders crossed the Etowah River, Andrews made a potentially fatal decision. He and his men spotted another engine, the Yonah, on a spur track. One raider suggested they destroy the engine and burn the bridge over the river. Unwilling to start a fight, Andrews chose instead to continue on.

Although slowed by a missing rail, the General‘s engineer, William Fuller, was still in hot pursuit on a handcart when he came upon the Yonah. He commandeered it and continued the chase.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

Andrews and his men continued cutting telegraph lines and disrupting train traffic. When they reached Kingston, Georgia, they ran into a large traffic jam. General Mitchel did not halt his advance to wait for the raiders, so trainloads of supplies and civilians were pouring out of Chattanooga, clogging the lines. This traffic jam cost the raiders an hour — with the still intact bridge across the Etowah River allowing their pursuers to catch up.

The General departed the station just as the Yonah arrived. Andrews’ raiders stopped to cut the telegraph lines and remove another section of track. During that time, Fuller and his party abandoned their train and took one that was ahead of the traffic jam at Kingston. They took off after the Union men but were stopped by the damaged track.

Abandoning their train again they continued to pursue the raiders on foot. They commandeered a southbound train called Texas but since the Southerners didn’t have a turntable to change directions, Fuller ran the train in reverse. He also picked up a small group of Confederate soldiers to help retake the train.

In an effort to slow down their pursuers, the raiders uncoupled two of their three boxcars. When this didn’t work, they tried to use the last boxcar to burn a bridge. The car ignited but the bridge itself failed to catch. The increasingly desperate raiders watched as Fuller’s train pushed the burning boxcar off the bridge and continued the chase.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

By this time the General was running out of wood and water to power its boiler. Unable to proceed with the planned destruction of Tunnel Hill – which would have completely shut down the line – Andrews ordered the train stopped and the raiders to scatter just 18 miles short of their goal at Chattanooga.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

All the raiders, including the two men who overslept and missed the train, were captured within two weeks. Andrews, Campbell, and six Union soldiers were tried as spies and executed. The rest were interred in POW camps in the South.

Six of the raiders received the first Medals of Honor ever. Their exploits would come to be known as “the Great Locomotive Chase.”

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This WWII battle had ships firing point blank with 16-inch guns

In the Pacific Theater of World War II, many of the battles were either curb-stomp affairs by one side or the other — either because Japan was “running wild” in the early parts of the war, or because America brought its industrial might to bear.


Many historians view Midway as an exception to that one-sided rule since America’s victory is often viewed as a pure luck.

But one engagement where the two sides stood toe-to-toe occurred during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Henderson Field in August, 1942. (US Navy photo)

On the night of Nov. 14, 1942 — less than 48 hours after Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan had defied the odds to turn back an attempt to bombard Henderson Field — the Japanese made another run for the airfield that was the big prize of the Guadalcanal campaign. They went with the battleship Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers to do the job.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Japanese ships sailing towards Guadalcanal on Nov. 14, 1942. (Japanese photo)

Against this force, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey was scraping the bottom of the barrel. He stripped the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6) of most of her escorts, sending in four destroyers and the fast battleships USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), under the command of Rear Adm. Willis A. Lee.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
USS Washington (BB 56), shortly after being commissioned. (US Navy photo)

Admiral Lee was an expert on naval gunnery, and according to The Struggle for Guadalcanal, written by naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, “knew more about radar than the radar operators.”

That knowledge would soon be put to the ultimate test.

The Japanese force cut through the American destroyers, sinking two outright, fatally damaging a third, and crippling the fourth. The battleship USS South Dakota then turned and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers. The South Dakota took 26 hits from the Japanese guns, but the Japanese lost track of the Washington, which closed to within 8,500 yards of the Japanese battleship Kirishima.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
USS Washington (BB 56) fires at the Kirishima, Nov. 14, 1942. (US Navy photo)

USS Washington was about to slug it out with a Japanese battleship in a one-on-one fight. Using radar control, the Washington opened fire on Kirishima, and scored as many as 20 hits with her 16-inch guns. The Kirishima was rendered a sinking wreck.

The Japanese tried to even the score with Long Lance torpedoes, but missed.

The Japanese made a very hasty retreat, leaving Kirishima and a destroyer to sink. Their last chance at shutting down Henderson Field for the Allies was gone.

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Watch how Marines get these savaging rocket launchers ready to destroy faster

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System can fire 6 rockets at targets as far as 298 miles away. A group of HIMARS trucks firing together can wipe out entire enemy bases, a mission the Army actually conducted in Desert Storm.


Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Screenshot: US Marine Corps

But the rocket system is heavy and can only move as quickly as the operators can drive them. Lately, the Marines have been experimenting with how to get HIMARS to the battle more quickly, establishing operational capabilities that they refer to as “air raids” by driving them off of C-17s or C-130s or using amphibious craft to deliver them in “sea raids.”

As part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual exercise between the Philippines and the U.S., the Marines took their HIMARS to that country and fired practice rockets. Watch the video and see how they quickly got the artillery systems to the country and into the fight:


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Think tank wargame shows Russia would win opening battles against NATO

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston | U.S. Air Force


The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
NATO

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.  Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.

Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The Russian Military

Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Wikipedia

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Wikipedia

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

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The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”


They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.

Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.

As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”

Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbocCi_OZ_U
“My mother was 14-years-old when they took her to the camps of Nazi Germany,” Simmons explained. “If it wasn’t for America, for those who served during World War Two like James Thayer, I wouldn’t be here.”

As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.

“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”

“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”

Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.

While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.

Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.

“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”

To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.

“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

(Most of our memes this week came straight from Facebook, so thanks to everyone who shares on social media.)


1. E4 mafia? They can disappear faster than a Predator.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
E4 mafia runs the Army – except when there is a detail. Then they run from the Army.

2. You know there’s at least one sergeant warning everyone about sunburn. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

SEE ALSO: The top 7 videos of ISIS getting blown away

3. Inspections are done every 6 months, typically unannounced. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
I like to think Goose is in the back, taking pictures of everyone they fly close to.

 4. I’m a sniper, but I’m cross-trained in other sorts of bad*ssery. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

5. The Air Force is shocked to see that many planes in such a small place. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
The soldiers are jealous because they could only pack two duffel bags and the sailors got to bring their floating fortress.

6. Pilots are jocks. They don’t have much time for that book learnin’. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Surprisingly, the mechanics are the nerds.

7. This airman is here to get sh*t done.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Mostly folding towels, but GETS. IT. DONE.

8. Study hard, be prepared, then Christmas tree it. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

9. There are a lot of ways to assess your branch of service. (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Air Force rarely uses how tough their basic is.

10. Gunner’s mate chief is about to fire his button. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
At that tension, release velocity is about 450 meters per second.

11. Best way to compare civilian and military experiences.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Of course, when the DI walks in, your heart doesn’t drop so much as stop. Which is good, because he can find you when it’s beating.

 12. “I just want it to frame my face.” (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

13. “Here, a school of sharks sight easy prey.” (via Military Memes)

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

NOW: 11 things your recruiter told you (and what they really mean)

OR: Watch the top 10 military comedy shows.

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Commandant: Dropping ratings would create ‘chaos’ in Coast Guard

With the Navy‘s decision to phase out ratings in favor of an alphanumeric job code system to create more career flexibility, the Coast Guard is the only service to continue using traditional ratings.


Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said.

Also read: These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Speaking to reporters following an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Zukunft said the Navy’s change had prompted a brief internal evaluation for the Coast Guard — and one with a definite conclusion.

“With the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [Steven Cantrell], we said, ‘What would the workforce think about this,’ and it would cause chaos,” Zukunft said. “I cannot afford chaos when every person in the Coast Guard has a 24-by-7 job to do.”

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The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

The Coast Guard, the smallest of the branches, has an active-duty force of about 40,000, compared to the Navy’s nearly 324,000. It also has a smaller ratings system, with fewer than two dozen separate ratings compared with 89 for the Navy.

The Navy and Coast Guard use the same naval rank system, which is different from that used by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Coast Guardsmen are “very proud of the rating badge that they wear on their sleeve,” Zukunft said, “so I’ve listened to my master chief and he’s provided me the best advice. So that was a very easy question for me to say ‘no’ to.”

The Navy has also had to contend with pushback from sailors and Navy veterans who have strong attachments to the 241-year-old ratings system, with culture and community built around certain titles.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Adm. Paul F. Zukunft | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

A WhiteHouse.gov petition to reverse the decision reached 100,000 signatures within a month, prompting a member of the White House staff to issue a response backing the overhaul and promoting the Navy’s goals of creating additional opportunities and career paths for sailors and a more straightforward transition to jobs matching their skills as they enter the civilian sector.

The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, has engaged in a number of efforts to sell the concept to sailors, writing opinion pieces and essays addressing the fleet and traveling to the Middle East to participate in town hall meetings with some 9,000 sailors at the end of October and beginning of November.

Navy officials say the full transition to the new system will take time and be done in stages. Key decisions have yet to be detailed, including the future of Navy ratings badges.

Burke published a timeline in October indicating plans to update uniform insignia in keeping with the new job title system, but it remains possible that the badges will be redesigned rather than eliminated.

“Did we choose an easy path forward? Absolutely not,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published by Military.com on Nov. 20. “But I believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so.”

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This U.S. Marine went to Somalia and became a warlord

Hussein Farrah Aidid left the United States Marine Corps and attempted to be a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who is a central figure in the story of Black Hawk Down.


Mohamed Aidid was the leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who vied for power in the wake of the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s Somali regime. Aidid not only diverted food aid and relief supplies, his fighters ambushed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. The United Nations offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and he was targeted by Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger’s hunt for Aidid led to the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu that resulted in the death of 18 American troops.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

Aidid had four wives. His first wife, Asli Dhubad, gave birth to five children. Hussein Farrah Aidid was the first of those five. He was born in a remote area of Somalia in 1962. At the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States at a time when Somalia was ruled by the dictator Barre whose authoritarian government was enjoying a brief thaw in relations with the U.S. Hussein graduated from high school in Covina, California two years later before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Aidid was an artilleryman, assigned to Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, California. He deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope, the U.S.-led task force in Somalia whose aim was to disrupt the personal army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The elder Aidid controlled the strongest faction in the ongoing power struggle in the country.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Three US Marines, from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, examine a Somali tank, a US made M47, that was captured in the raid of Somali Warlord General Aideed’s weapons cantonment area. This mission is in direct support of Operation Restore Hope. (U.S. Navy photo by PHCM Terry Mitchell)

The UN mandate was to “establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.” Essentially, Restore Hope aimed to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, keeping it from falling into the hands of Aidid’s personal army. The Marines deployed the younger Aidid because he was the only one in the ranks who could speak Somali.

He returned to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, Aidid told his command he would miss drill for a while because he was traveling outside the U.S. He returned to Somalia and began preparing for his role in the Habr Gidr militia.

The elder Mohamed Farrah Aidid continued his struggle for power, even declaring himself President of Somalia in 1995, a declaration no country recognized. He was shot in a battle against former allied warlords in July 1996 and died of a heart attack during surgery.

Hussein was declared his father’s successor at age 33. The man who left the Marines as a corporal was suddenly a general.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

The younger Aidid vacillated between being more conciliatory than his father to being as warlike as his father. Initially he vowed to crush and kill his enemies at home and overseas. He continued his father’s policies, especially the pacification of the countryside, which most saw as an authoritarian power grab. Forces loyal to Aidid were known to rob and kill civilians in their controlled territories. Other allied factions left the young leader’s camp because they did not see dedication to the peace process.

The younger Aidid eventually softened, renouncing his claim to the presidency and agreeing to UN-brokered peace agreements in 1997. An ardent anti-Islamist, he assisted the Bush Administration in tracking down the flow of arms and money through Mogadishu, gave up the sale and use of landmines, and helped Somali government forces capture the capital from the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He was hired and fired as deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Public Works. He defected to Eritrea in 2007.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Hussein Farrah Aidid as Deputy Prime Minister of the Somali Transitional Government

”I always wanted to be a Marine,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’m proud of my background and military discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

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Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

US defense secretary Jim Mattis said August 14 “all options — from withdrawal, to using private contractors, to adding thousands of US forces to the fight — remain on the table for Afghanistan.”


Mattis repeated the White House and Pentagon were ‘very close’ to finalizing a new strategy to present to President Trump.

Mattis, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have worked for months to craft strategy options for President Donald Trump.

Mattis said both withdrawal and a private contracted force were still under consideration. “The strategic decisions have not been made,” Mattis said. “It’s part of the options being considered.”

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Military Times previously reported on Trump supporter and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s efforts to outsource the now 16-year Afghan war to private contractors, including offering a privatized air force for Afghanistan.

Military Times also reported that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince. It is not clear whether that refusal has frustrated Trump.

According to NBC News, Trump has asked both Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Nicholson as the top US general in Afghanistan. due to the president’s frustration with how that campaign is going.

On August 14, Mattis defended Nicholson, saying he “of course” supports him. But Mattis could not say whether the White House similarly supported him.

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
Gen. John Nicholson. (Dept. of Defense photo)

“Ask the president,” Mattis said. “[Nicholson] has the confidence of NATO. He has the confidence of the United States.”

The new strategy for Afghanistan was expected about a month ago. Mattis said he was still confident a decision was close.

“We are sharpening each of the options so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one so that there’s no longer any new data you are going to get, now just make the decision.”

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Common weaknesses you must improve in military fitness performance

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright


You do not have to be a world-class athlete to join the military. Even within the ranks of Special Ops, you will not be required to be a master of any element of fitness — above average maybe, but not world class.

My observations from training many military members over the past two decades has shown me that we all come from different foundations of fitness. We all excel in different events, and suffer weaknesses in others. It takes a mature and ego-free team player to realize that your preparation to be 100 percent ready for your job may be lacking. When you make the decision to go Special Ops, you must be prepared to research your future profession and acknowledge there are elements of fitness you will have to attempt that you may have never been exposed to.

Your best bet is to be competent in as many of the following elements of fitness as possible.

Strength: Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean that you have to bench press a truck. It means that having strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues will assist in your ability to make power when you need it. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. Don’t skip leg day!

Power: You cannot have power without strength and speed. The faster you move an object or yourself through space is power. Power usually requires a full body movement generated from your feet and legs and transferred across the body to its end point. For instance, a powerful knockout punch starts from the feet as the fighter steps into a punch, shifts the hips, torques the torso, and extends the arm until the moment of impact with her or his fist. That is power. In physics, power is defined as power equals force times velocity or work divided by time. It is a combination of technique, speed, and strength.

Endurance: Cardiovascular endurance is necessary for nearly any activity, including running, rucking, and swimming. Technique helps with the amount of energy you use, but being able to move and move fast is one element that has to be continually practiced. If you do not lift for a week, you will typically come back stronger. If you do not run for a week, it feels like you are starting over when you run again. Whether you like fast interval cardio or long, slow distance cardio — just get it done. You need both depending upon your job. How fast you can run, ruck or swim longer distances will be the typical measure for your endurance ability.

Muscle Stamina: Combine high repetition muscle stamina with endurance and you are building a PT test-taking machine. A two minute calisthenics fitness test is one way to test your muscle stamina, but another marker is putting in a full day of hard physical work. Having the ability to continuously move your body weight and more over longer periods of time is required in the typical selection programs. Strength is handy. You need it. But being able to work all day is a physical skill and mindset that needs to be fostered daily.

Speed: Testing speed with short runs can save your life when having to quickly run for cover. Speed can be enhanced by adding in faster and shorter runs to your running days.

Agility: Accompanied with speed and balance, agility is how quickly you can move from side to side and change direction quickly. Both speed and agility can be practiced with cone drills arranged in less than 10 second drills, where full speed and changes of direction are measured.

Mobility / Flexibility: Do not forget to warmup and stretch for flexibility, but also to move your joints through a full range of motion for mobility. Like many elements of fitness, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So make stretching and moving in a full range of motion part of your day.

Hand / Eye Coordination: Whether it is shooting, driving, flying, throwing, or lifting objects to be placed a certain way, having a background with hand eye coordination is helpful to any tactical athlete. Sports can be a great for building this skill, but obtaining good hand / eye coordination requires practice.

Running / Rucking: Being prepared to run and ruck takes time. Time spent logically progressing your weekly mileage in running and building time under the weight with rucking has to be a foundation of your training if attempting most military and any Special Ops training program. Lack of preparation will mean injury and possibly failing to meet the standard within a few months of training. If you don’t practice several days a week to build your endurance, you will lose it.

Swimming / Water Confidence Skills: Not having a pool to train in or not being comfortable in the water is not only a physical fitness issue, but a huge mental block for many. Technique is critical to your success in the water. Watch videos and practice, practice, practice if you need to get better in the water for your swimming, drown-proofing, and treading tests. Several days a week of technique training is required, along with building your cardiovascular endurance to maintain any speed.

Specializing in too few of these elements above can lead to neglecting others. World class athletes specialize in only a few of the above for their athletic events. For instance, take the competitive Olympic swimmer or power lifter. Both are incredible to watch, but both would fail miserably at each other’s events on an Olympic stage.

The reason I am focusing on comparing world class athletes to those in the military is that far too many regular Joe’s attempt workouts and training programs designed for world class athletes. There is no need to try an Olympic swim or running plan used by your favorite Gold Medalist to help you pass a fitness test of a 500m swim or a 1.5 mile timed run — even if you are trying to be a Special Ops team member. Trying to deadlift 600+ pounds, which is a massive amount but still nowhere near world class, may cause injury or interfere with your ability to run, ruck, or swim with fins for long distances. You need to ask yourself what you have to give up to compete in an Ironman Triathlon, do a body building competition, or power lifting meet. If your answer involves too many other elements of fitness, you may want to reconsider whether this is a necessary step toward a tactical profession.

There is a quote often used in Tactical Fitness Training: A world-class athlete needs to be an A+ in his/her activity, which may only focus on 1-2 elements of fitness. A tactical athlete needs to be a B in ALL the elements of fitness to best do his/her job. Make your annual training plan so that you can arrange the elements of fitness into your year accordingly. Learn about periodization and do it logically, with smart progressions so that you do not start off with too much, too soon, too far, or too fast, and end up hurting yourself with challenging programs designed for something not related to the Tactical profession.

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Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

The death of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega brings back memories of the dictator’s last hours of freedom. U.S. special operators tried to force his surrender using loud rock music — music now gathered together on two handy Spotify playlists.


Noriega was ousted by Operation Just Cause, the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. But before he was captured by American troops, he took asylum in the Panamanian location of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See — a diplomatic mission of the Vatican.

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Gen. Manuel Noriega is escorted onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The former Panamanian leader will be flown to the United States, where he will be held for trial on drug charges. (DoD Photo)

Instead of storming a building owned by a neutral, noncombatant foreign power, the Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators developed Operation Nifty Package. It was a psyops mission, designed to force Noriega to rescind his right of asylum in the Vatican-owned Embassy.

When Pope John Paul II refused to comment on the incident and the Papal Nuncio wouldn’t force the dictator to leave, the U.S. Army Psychological Operations Command began to blare a “Rock n’ Roll Assault on Noriega…for three full days.

Noriega was captured and sent to Miami where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug and money laundering charges. He was extradited to France in 2010 to stand trial for money laundering there. Noriega was then extradited to Panama the next year to finish his sentences for the disappearances of political prisoners in the 1980s.

He died of a brain tumor in May 2017.

You can read the entire list of music from a FOIA request made by The George Washington University.