Here's how to get real about the ISIS threat - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

ISIS has made alarming gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.


On May 17, ISIS fighters took Ramadi, a city just 70 west of Baghdad, after a battle in which the jihadist group advanced into the city behind a wave of suicide bombers. Capturing Palmyra, a former Assad regime bastion in Syria, proved easier, as a collapsing Syrian military essentially vacated the city in the face of the ISIS advance.

And an 11-month US-led bombing campaign hasn’t prevented ISIS from taking and holding additional territory. This week, ISIS has looked formidable, while the US’s strategy has seemed particularly ineffective and aimless. On May 21st, reports began circulating that ISIS controlled half of Syrian territory.

But such claims about ISIS’s degree of territorial control obscures how and why the group has been successful so far — and how it might eventually be defeated. ISIS doesn’t really “control” half of Syria.

As these maps from the Institute for the Study of War demonstrates, ISIS has a sliver-shaped core of direct administrative control, insulated by hundreds of square miles of desert where the jihadist group and other militant forces maintain a degree of operational capability.

There are gradients of ISIS control in Syria, and understanding them hints at how the group can be successfully countered.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

“ISIS’s fighters are likely clustered in key defensible terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria conflict analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. Cafarella explained that ISIS focuses its efforts and manpower around the populated and strategic areas along the Euphrates river.

“There’s little actual human terrain in close proximity to ISIS in eastern Syria that ISIS does not already control,” she said. “Beyond that is the vast Homs Desert, where ISIS has been able to operate with impunity.

“But it’s too inhospitable for any military to decisively hold and of low enough strategic value that is can’t be considered an exclusively ISIS-governed area.”

As Cafarella says, the desert in the east of the country is at least “maneuverable terrain by really all military forces.”

The issue is that ISIS currently has free reign there — the Assad regime, for instance, doesn’t have on the ground intelligence, the capacity, of perhaps the willingness to discover and then bomb ISIS convoys traveling across Syria’s desert east.

“We still don’t have the ground partner necessary to contest ISIS-held terrain inside of Syria in any meaningful sense,” says Cafarella.

In Syria, ISIS has a small core area of control, a wider area of operational freedom, and no real ground-level counter-force pressuring the group.

What it doesn’t have is an administrative entity that actually comprises half of the country’s territory.

In other areas, over-emphasis on ISIS’s territorial control can have an even more distorting impact on the group’s actual reach. In Libya, it’s been frequently reported that ISIS rules over territory, with The New York Times reporting in March that ISIS had a foothold in Sirte, along the Mediterranean coast. On May 21st, Reuters reported that ISIS had captured the city.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

In reality, ISIS doesn’t really control any territory in Libya, or at least not in the same sense as in Iraq and Syria.

“The places they’re said to be in control of are heavily contested,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “It hasn’t captured cities and imposed an administrative structure.”

The idea that ISIS has territorial control in Libya “directly feeds into ISIS propaganda,” says Gartenstein-Ross. It shows that the “caliphate” has spread beyond Iraq and Syria, and that he group can fight and hold territory far beyond its center of power. An exaggerated sense of ISIS’s Libya capabilities may have been part of what convinced the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to ISIS in March.

Understanding the nature and extent of ISIS’s territorial control is especially important amidst growing criticism of the US’s strategy against the group. Gartentstein-Ross explained that ISIS has adjusted its own battlefield approach, opting for small-scale attacks over vulnerable large-scale mobilizations. Furthermore, the group is only opening fronts against forces they are relatively certain they can defeat, like the Iraqi military.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

“They’re using smaller and more mobile units that are better at evading the air campaign,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

ISIS’s tactics are adjusting to the US’s now 11-month-old air campaign, but this doesn’t mean the group is invincible. ISIS took Palmyra because the Syrian regime fled, and it took Ramadi because the Iraqi Security Forces aren’t a viable or a competent fighting force.

On the other hand, ISIS has an apparent unwillingness to contest areas held by battle-hardened Iranian-supported Shi’ite militia groups in both Iraq and Syria, and has made little progress against Kurdish forces in either country.

So even as the group expands, it’s clear that it isn’t on an inevitable victory march across Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t think their capability should be overstated vis a vis the full range of their opponents,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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McCain’s latest Pentagon pitch puts Russia in the crosshairs

GOP Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he wants the U.S. to consider stationing troops permanently in Estonia, which borders Russia.


While on a tour of Baltic nations wary of the prospect of Russian aggression, McCain said stationing troops permanently in Estonia, in addition to fulfilling existing obligations to NATO, would increase military ties with the country, The Associated Press reports.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment speaks with an Estonian soldier in Sillamae, Estonia, June 11, 2016. During exercise Dragoon Ride, Soldiers conduct static displays to validate our partnering allies’ abilities to assemble forces rapidly, deploy them on short notice and improve the ability to shoot, move and communicate as a multinational alliance. Soldiers are also given the opportunity to play sports with the local citizens to build team cohesion. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen/Released)

Part of the reason for McCain’s visit to the region is to reassure Baltic countries like Lithuania and Latvia that even though GOP President-elect Donald Trump has somewhat soured on NATO, the U.S. will nevertheless maintain its security commitments. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he’d think about withdrawing from NATO because the “obsolete” institution costs the U.S. a lot of money

“I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength,” McCain said in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

“And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior is by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance,” McCain added.

Additionally, McCain has taken special interest in the area because he’s a trenchant critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has blasted Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine. McCain noted he doesn’t expect U.S. sanctions on Russia to lift anytime soon.

He’s also pushed for a congressional panel to examine Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, McCain downplayed the idea that the U.S. can say with any certainty that Russian interference changed the course of the election.

“There is no doubt that the Russians were hacking, but there is doubt whether it had any effect on the outcome of the election,” McCain said. “There is no evidence right now that indeed the Russian cyber attacks and the leaking of the information had any tangible effect on the outcome of the American election.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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The Philippine Marines teach an old submachine gun new tricks

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Philippine Naval Special Warfare Group members in 2009. The camouflaged commando at center left is carrying an M3. | U.S. Navy photo


War Is Boring and Historical Firearms recently posted a story about the use of suppressed M3 “Grease Gun” from World War II onward to Vietnam. U.S. forces stopped issuing the guns to troops in 1992, but at least one unit in The Philippine military believes that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … much.”

The M3 SpecOps Generation 2 , also known as the M3 Gen2 or PN/PMC M3, is a modified, modern incarnation of the M3 grease gun built from pre-existing caches of the 1940s-era weapon. Used primarily for ship seizures and boarding operations, the weapon is the Philippine navy’s method of teaching an old dog new tricks.

Equipped with an integral suppressor and a Picatinny rail, the weapon is able to mimic some of the capabilities of modern submachine guns on a very tight budget. The weapon is chambered with the .45-caliber ACP bullet, which was itself developed as a U.S. counter to tough, close quarters jungle battles with Philippine insurgents more than a century ago.

Modern optics ranging from reflex sights to thermal imagers can be added to the weapon via the Picatinny rail, and the suppressor means that the subsonic .45 caliber bullets fired by the weapon lack both the supersonic “crack,” which occurs when high velocity rounds such as the M-16’s 5.56 breaks the sound barrier, and the notorious “blam” of igniting gunpowder.

Taken together, the weapons system provides a viable alternative to modern, hard-hitting submachine guns at a fraction of the price seen in current generation weapons.

The comparatively low cost of the PMC/PN M3, about 1/40th the cost of a modern UMP submachine gun, can not be overstated. The Philippines, while growing in terms of its economy, is by no means a rich country.

The purchase of modern firearms is often too expensive a proposition to undertake in a comprehensive manner, which has led to entire tactical elements of Philippine marines carrying unmodified, Vietnam-era M14s into major urban battles as recently as 2013.

Additionally, the PMC/PN often face security threats that can range from transnational insurgent groups to burgeoning superpowers in the space of less than a month. Every Philippine peso spent on a weapon customized for close-quarters infantry fighting is one that can’t be used on an anti-submarine helicopter, and vice versa.

This means that cheap, effective shortcuts to modern capabilities are more than just useful in The Philippines, they could be vital, and should stand as a lesson to be heeded by other countries facing war on a budget.

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Iran denies it swarmed US carrier in international waters

The Iranian military has denied that its vessels acted unprofessionally after a US aircraft carrier was approached by armed Revolutionary Guard boats in the Strait of Hormuz.


The US navy said up to 20 Iranian vessels approached the USS George HW Bush on Tuesday, in an incident witnessed by The National’s reporter on board the ship.

According to the carrier’s captain, Will Pennington, some of the small Iranian vessels were loading weapons as they approached the ship at high speeds.

At one point an Iranian boat was less than 900 meters away, the US navy said.

Also Read: Is the new Iranian ‘stealth’ fighter a paper tiger?

Speaking shortly after the encounter, Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, the commander of the USS George HW Bush carrier strike group, described Iran’s behaviour as “unprofessional” and “harassment”.

On Saturday, the spokesman of the Iranian armed forces, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, responded, saying: “News disseminated by the US sources concerning unprofessional behaviour of Iranian vessels is not true”.

“We warn again that the US armed forces should change their behaviour,” Brig Gen Jazayeri was quoted as saying by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

He blamed the United States for any kind of unrest in the Arabian Gulf.

Following Tuesday’s incident – in which one of the carrier’s helicopters was also threatened by an Iranian vessel, according to the US navy – Captain Pennington said he saw the main security threat in the Gulf as the “instability and a lack of predictability we currently see from Iran”.

He said this lack of predictability had been growing over the last three or four months.

Last year, there were 527 interactions between US and Iranian naval forces, 35 of which included Iranian activity deemed to be unsafe or unprofessional by US Naval Forces Central Command (Navcent).

Navcent has deemed Iran’s behaviour to be unsafe or unprofessional on six occasions so far this year, including on March 4 when a group of Revolutionary Guard vessels came within 550 metres of a US navy surveillance ship, the USNS Invincible. One of the vessels came to a standstill in the path of the ship and the USNS Invincible was forced to change course to avoid collision, Navcent said.

Revolutionary Guard navy commander Admiral Mehdi Hashemi claimed the US ship had acted unprofessionally, IRNA reported on Saturday.

It “exited from international route and changed its way toward [Revolutionary Guard] navy vessels present in the region and got as close as 550 metres to Iranian vessels”, Admiral Hashemi said.

Tuesday’s incident involving the USS George HW Bush took place as the carrier was on its way to the northern Gulf to launch air strikes on ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Navcent said on Friday that strikes on the group had begun. The carrier also launched strikes on ISIL while in the eastern Mediterranean last month.

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This Marine lieutenant rescued a civilian in distress

Emergency medical technicians arrived on scene and stated that the man behind the wheel had suffered a stroke. In the moments before the incident, what seemed like a simple decision turned into something much greater; the difference between life and death.


For 1st Lt. Morgan White, the communications officer for Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, this situation tested her will to act as she became the deciding factor in saving a stranger’s life.

“I was on my way to work, and as I approached a stop sign, I saw a truck coming at a weird angle toward me,” said White. “It sort of dipped and bounced into a ditch off the side of the road. I drove forward to look back and see if the driver was okay.”

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
1st Lt. Morgan White, right, instructs her Marines during a squadron-wide gear inspection. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

As White pulled-in closer to the stalled vehicle, she observed the driver, an elderly gentleman, who appeared to be shaking in the driver’s seat.

“I pulled over, ran to his truck, opened the door and found he was seizing,” said White.

It only took a moment for White to register the situation. She knew that the first thing to do was clear the airway and allow for proper breathing. After the combat lifesaver training she received at Marine Corps Officer Candidate’s School, she said that it all came rushing back to her.

Also read: That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

“I tried to hold his head upright and make sure he remained still,” said White. “When he stopped [shaking], he was drooling and I could tell it was difficult for him to breathe. I ran to my truck for my phone and called 911, and at this point someone else had also stopped to assist.

“We both got through at the same time, and once help was on the way we started to see if we could make it easier for him to breathe. We kept talking to him to keep him responsive, but initially he wasn’t at all. At one point, in fact, he stopped breathing.”

EMT’s arrived and were able to rush the man to the hospital. Without the rapid decision-making demonstrated that day, the outcome of the situation may have been much worse.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
White states that the training she has received in the Marine Corps helped develop her leadership and decision-making skills. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“The Marine Corps teaches you to make hard decisions,” said White. “When life throws us questions that we don’t know the answer to, we’ve learned to quickly think on our feet. When I pulled over and saw the man that appeared to be in duress, all that training kicked in. I jumped out of my car and immediately started doing what I thought was the best thing.

“When I saw him start to come back, a wave of relief flooded me. I don’t know what would have happened if no one had stopped. I was very thankful that I made that decision and was able to help him.”

Originally a criminal justice major in college, White said she has always had a hunger for challenges and helping people in need.

“I don’t like injustices for people who can’t help it, so if I can be in any position where I can make things better for those around me, it’s a good use for what I was learning in college,” said White.

Rather than staying in one place her whole life, White grew up in a fast-paced military lifestyle. With a father in the Navy for over 20 years, White’s family moved around to many areas of the country including Florida, California, Alabama and Mississippi.

“I really enjoyed the military environment.” Said White. “Growing up, I saw the family that’s created within the military. I knew whether I did it for four years or 20, it was a good way to develop myself as a leader.”

More heroics: The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attack

In her day-to-day tasks, White states she always tries to lead her Marines with fairness.

“One of my pet peeves in life is when leaders make rules and regulations, and then don’t follow it themselves,” said White. “If I say that we are going to do something, I mean we are all doing it together. I love my Marines and they are what makes my job worth it. The challenges that they present on a daily basis are never easy, but I enjoy it.”

White states that in her job, every day brings something new to the table. Whether she is cleaning weapons with her Marines or pulling over to the side of the road to provide lifesaving assistance, she will always be willing to lend a helping hand.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Another week down, another 13 memes to get you to Libo brief.


1. Salute what now?

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Since they’re facing four different directions, there’s still something wrong.

2. And people say Marines aren’t romantic (via Military Memes).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
It’s really just that they’re in love with different things.

SEE ALSO: 17 photos that show why troops absolutely love the .50 caliber machine gun

3. Nothing like a little stroll before flight ops . . . (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Straight lines go faster.

4. When civilians stage military photos (via Coast Guard Memes).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

5. When you realize enlisting is not like being a character in a video game (via Air Force Nation).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

6. When Coast Guard wants to dance but the party is in international waters (via Coast Guard Memes).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

7. Nothing like a corrosion control shop with a sense of humor (via Air Force Nation).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Warning: Right after the pilot freaks, the maintenance chief might lose his sh-t.

8. Why 0331s and 11Bs have to be supervised (via Pop Smoke).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Luckily, grunts are also very accomplished cleaners.

9. The CO doesn’t get lost during field exercises …

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
… he led you to that diner on purpose.

10. The Navy has been building an corps of elite sailors capable of the most challenging missions (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
That little ribbon is a mark of excellence.

11. Don’t worry Active duty, the reserves are ready to back you up (via Military Memes).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
They’ve got your uniforms mostly right and they’ll start studying tactics once deer season is over.

12. The guys with the missiles need to be properly supervised (via Air Force Nation).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
One bender could really mess everything up.

13. Your new lieutenant is an expert (via Pop Smoke).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
We’re just not sure in what.

NOW: Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

OR: Here’s what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire

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US troops cleared after civilian deaths overseas

American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.


“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.

“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.

“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)

A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.

“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.

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This is how special operators respond so quickly when sh-t hits the fan

Special operators are often America’s 911 call, flying to the scene of emergencies and safeguarding American interests while outnumbered and sometimes outgunned. Years of training and military exercises hone them into deadly weapons.


But it takes a lot of logistics to get the premier warfighters from their home bases or staging areas and into the fight, ready to kill or be killed on America’s behalf. Here’s a glimpse of the process:

1. Step one of deploying special operators is preparing gear and recalling personnel.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

2. Operators and support personnel rush vehicles and other gear to loading areas. The exact makeup depends on the planned mission.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
This photo is from an exercise. Rumor is there are less smiles and jokes for actual combat missions. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

3. The vehicles are secured for transport. Often, this means the gear is going into planes. Gear that will roll off is secured to the plane itself while gear that will be airdropped is typically secured to a pallet.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

4. Operators sometimes take part in securing their gear since it guarantees that it will come out as expected on the objective.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

5. Once the gear is ready to go, the personnel have to get strapped in. While these guys are strapping on parachutes, some missions require they run off the ramp on the ground instead.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

6. Attention to detail is critical since any mistake on the objective can cost lives.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

7. While MC-130Js are one of the more famous planes for special operators, there are plenty of other aircraft that will do the job, such as this MC-12.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks)

8. Or Black Hawks… Black Hawks are good.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

9. Of course, operators on the ground like to have fire support, and they can’t be guaranteed artillery on the ground. So they’ll often fly in with extra firepower as well.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

10. The AC-130s can bring everything from 20mm miniguns to 105mm howitzers. The typical modern armament is 25-105mm cannons. Jets and helicopters can bring the boom when necessary.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

11. And then the operators get to work, grabbing bad guys, ending threats, and chewing bubble gum.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

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Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Despite North Korea’s claim its intercontinental ballistic missile launch shows it can attack targets anywhere it wants, experts say it will probably be years before it could use such a weapon in a real-world scenario.


The July 4 test demonstrated the North is closer than ever before to reaching its final goal of developing a credible nuclear deterrent to what it sees as the hostile policy of its archenemies in Washington.

But even for an experienced superpower, getting an ICBM to work reliably can take a decade.

Launching a missile under test conditions is relatively easy. It can be planned and prepared for and carried out whenever everything is ready, which makes success more likely. The real game-changer would come when the missile is considered operational under any conditions — in other words, when it is credible for use as a weapon.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Image from Wikimedia Commons

For sure, the North’s Fourth of July fireworks were a major success.

Initial analyses indicate its new “Hwasong 14” could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was instead shot at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

Hwasong means “Mars.”

“If a vague threat is enough for them, they could wait for another successful launch and declare operational deployment after that, and half the world will believe them,” said Markus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korea’s missile capabilities who is based in Germany. “But if they take it seriously, as the US or Russia do, it would take at least a dozen more launches and perhaps 10 years. Mind you, this is their first ICBM.”

Schiller noted the example of Russia’s latest submarine-launched missile, the Bulava.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
One of Russia’s SLBM-capable submarines, K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich.

“They really have a lot experience in that field, but from first launch to service it took them almost 10 years (2004 to 2013),” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “They still have troubles — one of their test launches just failed.”

The bar for having an operational ICBM is also higher for the North if the United States is its target.

An ICBM is usually defined as a land-based ballistic missile with a range in excess of 5,500 kilometers (3,420 miles). That comes from US-Soviet disarmament talks and in that context makes good sense. The distance between Moscow and New York is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles).

But Narushige Michishita, a defense expert and professor at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that although the range required for North Korea to hit Alaska would be 5,700 kilometers (3,550 miles) and Hawaii 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles), reaching the other 48 states requires ranges of 8,000-12,000 kilometers (5,000-7,500 miles).

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Screenshot from Google Maps

“In the US-DPRK context, the 5,500 kilometer-range ICBM means nothing,” he said. “We must take a look at the range, not the title or name.”

Pyongyang made a point of trying to dispel two big questions about its missiles with the test: re-entry and accuracy.

It claims to have successfully addressed the problem of keeping a nuclear warhead intact during the descent to a target with a viable heatshield, which would mark a major step forward. The Hwasong 14 isn’t believed to be accurate enough to attack small targets despite Pyongyang’s claims otherwise, but that isn’t a major concern if it is intended to be a threat to large population areas, such as cities on the US West Coast.

The reliability problem, however, remains.

“These missiles are very complex machines, and if they’re launched again tomorrow it might blow up on the pad,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t want to do that with a nuclear warhead on top.”

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

Wright said he believes Kim Jong Un decided to start a number of different development programs for different missile systems a couple of years ago and that the frequency of launches over the past 18 months suggests those programs have moved forward enough to reach the testing stages.

“I have been surprised by how quickly they have been advancing,” he said.

Wright said the North is believed by most analysts to have a nuclear device small and rugged enough to be put on a long-range missile, or to be very close to having one.

But he said it remains to be seen if its latest missile can be further modified to get the range it needs to threaten the contiguous US, or whether that would require a new system with a scaled-up missile and more powerful engine.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

“I suspect the latter, but don’t know yet,” he said.

The answer to that question matters because it has implications for how long it will take North Korea to really have an ICBM that could attack the US West Coast — and how long Washington has to take action to stop it.

What is Wright’s estimate?

“I would expect a couple years,” he said.

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This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.

Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.


But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…

Yeah, he became an actor.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
On the set of Banshee (2016) (Photo from IMDB)

And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.

Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.

“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”

To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.

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Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

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From 1860-1916 the uniform regulations for the British Army required every soldier to have a mustache

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Photo: Wikipedia


Today I found out that uniform regulation in the British Army between the years 1860 and 1916 stipulated that every soldier should have a moustache.

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:

The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…

Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.

Interestingly, it is during the imperial history of Britain that this seemingly odd uniform requirement emerged.  Initially adopted at the tail end of the 1700s from the French, who also required their soldiers to have facial hair which varied depending on the type of soldier (sappers, infantry, etc.),  this follicular fashion statement was all about virility and aggression. Beard and moustache growth was rampant, especially in India where bare faces were scorned as being juvenile and un-manly, as well as in Arab countries where moustaches and beards were likewise associated with power. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the moustache though; back home British citizens were looking on it as a sign of their boys ‘going native’ and it was nearly stamped out completely.

However, in 1854, after significant campaigning, moustaches became compulsory for the troops of the East India Company’s Bombay Army.  While not in the rules for everyone else yet, they were still widely taken up across the Armed Forces and during the Crimean War there were a wide variety of permissible (and over the top) styles. By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the Army uniform.

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Lt. Gen Frederick Browning sported this epic moustache in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia

In 1916, the regulation was dropped and troops were allowed to be clean-shaven again. This was largely because such a superficial requirement was getting ignored in the trenches of WWI, especially as they could sometimes get in the way of a good gas mask seal.  The order to abolish the moustache requirement was signed on October 6, 1916 by General Sir Nevil Macready, who himself hated moustaches and was glad to finally get to shave his off. While no longer in force today, there are still regulations governing moustaches and, if worn, they can grow no further than the upper lip.  It is also still extremely common for British soldiers in Afghanistan to wear beards, as facial hair is still associated with power and authority in many Islamic regions.

Bonus Moustache Facts:

  • As alluded to, during the Napoleonic era, French soldiers were required to wear facial hair of various sorts.  Sappers were required to have full beards.  Grenadiers and other elite level troops had to maintain large busy moustaches.  Infantry Chasseurs were required to wear goatees with their moustache.  This requirement has long since died out excepting the case of sappers in the Foreign Legion, who still are strongly encouraged to maintain a full, robust beard.
  • Russian non-officer soldiers were required to wear moustaches under Peter the Great’s reign.  On the flipside, while previously it was extremely common for Russian soldiers to wear beards, Peter the Great didn’t find beards so great and not only banned them from the military, but also for civilians, with the lone exception being that members of the clergy could wear them.
  •  Moustache, mustache, and mustachio are all technically correct spellings to describe hair on the upper lip.  Mustachio has relatively recently fallen out of favor for generically describing all moustaches, now more typically referring to particularly elaborate moustaches.  Moustache is the most common spelling today in the English speaking world, though North Americans usually prefer mustache.
  • The English word “moustache” comes from the French word of the same spelling, “moustache”, and popped up in English around the 16th century.  The French word in turn comes from the Italian word “mostaccio”, from the Medieval Latin “mustacium” and in turn the Medieval Greek “moustakion”.  We now finally get to the earliest known origin which was from the Hellenistic Greek “mustax”, meaning “upper lip”, which may or may not have come from the Hellenistic Greek “mullon”, meaning “lip”.  It is theorized that this in turn came from the Proto-Indo-European root “*mendh-“, meaning “to chew” (which is also where we get the word “mandible”).
  • Western Women tend to wax or shave their moustaches, those that can grow them anyways, but Mexican artist Frida Kahlo actually celebrated not only her ‘stache, but also her unibrow, including putting them in her very famous self portrait seen to your right.
  • The oldest known depiction of a man with a moustache goes all the way back to 300 BC.  The depiction was of an Ancient Iranian horseman.
  • “De befborstel” is the Dutch slang for a moustache grown for the specific purpose of stimulating a woman’s clitoris.
  • The longest moustache ever recorded was in Italy on March 4, 2010, and measured in at 14 ft. long (4.29 m).  The proud owner of that magnificent ‘stache was Indian Ram Singh Chauhan.
  • Names of the Various Styles of Moustache:
    • Hungarian: Extremely bushy, with the hairs pulled to the side and with the hairs extending past the upper lip by as much as 1.5 cm.
    • Dali: Named after artist Salvador Dali (who incidentally once published a book, with Philippe Halsman, dedicated to Dali’s moustache, titled: Dali’s Mustache), styled such that the hair past the corner of the mouth is shaved, but the non-shaved hair is allowed to grow such that it can be shaped to point upward dramatically.
    • English Moustache: Thin moustache with the hair on a line in the middle of the upper lip sideways, with the hair at the corner of the mouth slightly shaped upwards.
    • Imperial: Includes not only hair from above the upper lip, but also extends beyond into cheek hair, all of which is curled upward.
    • Fu Manchu: moustache where the ends are styled downwards, sometimes even beyond the bottom of the chin.
    • Handlebar Moustache: a somewhat bushy version of the Dali, but without the strict regulation of having the hair shaved past the side of the lips.
    • Horseshoe: Similar to the Handlebar, but with vertical extensions coming off the sides that extend downwards sharply to the jaw, looking something like an upside down horseshoe (think Hulk Hogan)
    • Chevron: thick moustache covering the whole of the upper lip (think Jeff Foxworthy)
    • Toothbrush: The moustache made popular by Charlie Chaplin, but  whose popularity hit a sharp decline thanks to one Adolph Hitler.
    • Walrus: very similar to the Hungarian, except without the strict length limit on the hair overhanging the upper lip.

Contrary to a myth you may hear sometimes, there is no evidence whatsoever that Adolph Hitler decided to grow a toothbrush moustache to mimic Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin did parody Hitler in The Great Dictator and sported the now infamous moustache in that film.  The toothbrush moustache was popularized in Germany by Americans and began to become extremely popular by the end of WWI.  Hitler originally went with the previous most popular ‘stache in Germany, the Kaiser Moustache, which was turned up at the ends, often with scented oil.  He continued to wear this ‘stache at least up to and during WWI.  A soldier who served with Hitler during WWI, Alexander Moritz Frey, stated that Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache during WWI while in the trenches to facilitate wearing a gas mask; so shaved the sides off and went with the toothbrush moustache instead.

Chaplin stated that he used the toothbrush moustache as it looked funny and also allowed him to show his expressions more fully than an alternatively comical moustache that covered more of his face would have.

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This hard-working pup won the Coast Guard’s annual photo contest

A photo of Piper, the famous bird-chasing dog who keeps the runways clear at Michigan’s Cherry Capital Airport, won the 2016 Shutter Shootout and claimed the top prize as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Photo of the Year.


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Drumroll please! After thousands of votes, we’re pleased to announce the 2016 #USCG #ShutterShootout photo of the year: U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes’s Wildlife Control from Air Station Traverse City!

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

 

Piper and his handler, Airport Operations Supervisor Brian Edwards, work as a K9 Wildlife Control team at Traverse County’s Airport. The pup works in all conditions and recently returned to the job after a foot injury.

The Coast Guard’s Shutter Shootout is a social media-driven online competition to showcase Coast Guard men and women from around the world who captured remarkable photographs of rescues, patrols, operations and training days. The contest is a March Madness-type bracket competition. You can see other entries and previous winners on the Coast Guard’s Shutter Shootout blog.

Piper and Edwards’ work keeping the runways clear is documented on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.Piper even has his own website: http://www.airportk9.org/

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These US aircraft carriers will be the first to launch unmanned tankers

The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.


According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.

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X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D, a previous name for the MQ-25a) launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2013. | US Navy Photo

The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.

The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.

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A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. Field carrier landing practice helps prepare pilots to land aboard the USS Ronald Regan while out at sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory/Released)

Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.

The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.

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