Here's how China's heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.


China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.

The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.

China has landed airliners on those islands – and if you can land airliners, you can land other sorts of heavy aircraft, like tankers, airborne radars, and H-6 Badger bombers like the one used to assert China’s “nine-dash line.”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.

When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).

That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.

The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.

“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.

The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.

The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.

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4 rare things you learn about yourself serving as a Corpsman

Everyone has a different reason why they decided to join the military. Some are looking to prove themselves, while others were looking for a way out of an unsatisfying home life — or both.


After speaking with a local recruiter who probably made every job in the book sound awesome, you chose the rate of a Hospital Corpsman because it was the right move for you.

Related: 5 things you learned about America while being deployed overseas

After five long contracted years of service, you learned a thing or two about yourself. Here are a few things that may have made your list.

1. Mental strength

Most people rarely tap into their full potential and allow their minds to convince their bodies that they can’t succeed. The truth is when sh*t hits the fan and bullets are flying, you’ll quickly learn if you have what it takes to break free from your mental limitations.

Mind over matter. (Images via Giphy)

2. Gut check

Many sailors who graduate Corps school are highly motivated to put their newly learned knowledge to use and pursue a medical career after the military. Fast forward to the middle of a combat deployment, and many wonder if practicing medicine was the right choice for them. Many young minds grow fatigued and change career paths after taking care of several of their dying brothers.

It’s not for everyone.

You get the point. (Image via Giphy)

3. You matured quickly

The vast majority of the lower enlisted are barely old enough to drink when they shipped out to the front lines. Witnessing the dramatic action that takes place on deployment can make the most immature 20-year-old feel weathered, and it changes the way they see the world.

Heading off to war will make you grow up real fast. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

 4. Am I tough enough?

We’d all like to think we’re the bravest and strongest of the bunch, but being tough isn’t about how much you can bench. Instead, being tough is simply about not ever giving up or tossing in the towel.

If Mary-Kate and Ashley can be tough, then so can you. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A failed North Korean missile crashed in its own city this year

North Korea reportedly launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in April of last year that failed a few seconds into flight and came crashing down on a North Korean city.


The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda and David Schmerler, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, cited a U.S. government source as saying the missile failed a minute into flight and never went higher than 70 kilometers.

That initial minute of boosted flight propelled the missile 39 kilometers away to Tokchon, a city of about 200,000 people in North Korea’s interior, according to Panda and Schmerler’s investigation.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Tokchon, in North Korea, was hit by a North Korean missile earlier this year during a failed test. (Image via Google Earth)

Satellite imagery scanned by the authors shows damage to industrial or agricultural buildings near a residential area. The Hwasong-12, with unburned liquid fuel, could still cause a massive explosion even without a warhead, though the authors concluded there were most likely few casualties.

The wider threat of failed missile tests

But the fiery crash of a North Korean missile into a populated town demonstrates yet another threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has twice fired a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan. A similar failure in the launch process could see a large liquid-fueled missile crashing down on a populated Japanese town.

If such an accident were interpreted as a deliberate attack, it could spark a wider conflict.

Also Read: North Korea launches another missile over Japan

Another danger pointed out by The Diplomat comes from North Korea’s newly demonstrated ability to carry out surprise tests.

Using mobile missile launchers, which sometimes even have treads like a tank, North Korea showed in 2017 it could launch from virtually anywhere within its borders.

The unpredictability and mobility of North Korea’s launches mean the US or its allies would have a hard time preempting such a launch or even knowing where to look for one.

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That time two countries went to war over soccer

Honduras won the first game (in Honduras). Then El Salvador won the second game (in El Salvador). When El Salvador won the third game in Mexico, all hell broke loose. Literally.


El Salvador was and is one of the most densely populated countries in the Americas. Honduras, in comparison, was and is sparsely populated. By the end of the 1960s, over 300,000 Salvadorians were living and working (often illegally) in Honduras.

The dilemma posed by these immigrants, many of whom cultivated previously unproductive land, was addressed through a series of bilateral agreements between the two Central American nations. The last of these agreements, conveniently, expired in 1969.

To make matters worse, the government in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, initiated land reform that effectively kicked Salvadorians off the land. Thousands fled back to El Salvador.

Then, El Salvador started claiming the land that had previously been held by its citizens in Honduras as El Salvador’s. It was in this climate that the two countries met on the soccer field to determine who would qualify for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The first game was played in Tegucigalpa. Hondurans made sure their rival team did not have a good night’s rest by creating as much noise as possible outside their hotel rooms. El Salvador lost. Then the media in San Salvador started reporting that a young woman, so distraught after the loss, had shot herself in the heart. 

El Nacional wrote, “The young girl could not bear to see her fatherland brought to its knees.” She was given a televised funeral and the President himself walked behind her casket. By the time the Honduran team got to San Salvador to play the second game, tensions were at an all-time high.

At the game, which El Salvador won, the Honduran flag was not flown during the opening ceremony. In its place, Salvadorian officials placed a rag.With the threat of all violence at the last game (it was to the best of three) a very real possibility, FIFA officials decided to hold the third game in Mexico City.

5,000 Mexican police officers kept both sides fairly under control. El Salvador went on to win the Mexico City game. Hours later, El Salvador severed all diplomatic ties with its northern neighbor. A mere two weeks later, the Salvadorian air force dropped bombs on Tegucigalpa.

La guerra del fútbol was obviously not fought over simply over soccer. But the games were used as incredible and very effective propaganda tools. The war lasted one hundred hours. Blocked by a U.S. arms embargo from directly purchasing weapons, both sides had to buy outdated military equipment from World War II. This war was the last time the world saw fighters armed with pistols dueling one another.

After the Organization of American States brokered a cease-fire, between 1,000 to 2,000 people were dead. 100,000 more were displaced. A formal peace treaty was not signed until 1980.

Although the war only lasted four days, the consequences for El Salvador were immense. Thousands of Salvadorians could no longer return to Honduras, straining an already fragile economy. Discontent spread, and just ten years later the country plunged into a twelve-year civil war that left 75,000 dead.

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9 steps to getting a soldier into (and out of) a war zone

The Army has a few ways it breaks down deployments, chief among them is the “Army Force Generation Cycle.” But that looks at how Big Army assigns different units to different missions. Here’s how deployment cycles actually work for soldiers.


1. It starts by getting sweet new uniforms.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Sgt. Cooper T. Cash

For soldiers, pre-deployment is a special time when one can shed the Universal Camouflage Pattern and put on a camouflage that actually works. Also that switch and the IR flags lets everyone know that a soldier is about to go to combat, allowing them to feel really special at the PX and commissaries.

2. Packing, repacking, then packing other stuff

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
The Army is just one long series of packing lists.

Those new uniforms will get sweaty quickly as the unit packs, repacks, and stows gear for the deployment. Connexes and vehicles traveling by ship go first, then everything moving by plane, and then personal gear has to get packed away. All of it will have to be unpacked for inspection at least once during the process, and probably twenty times.

3. Being jammed like sardines into a flying can

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Capt. Henry Chan

Finally, the soldiers get to actually deploy. To do this, they get on a plane with limited access to hygiene facilities and then jam themselves in so tight that they can barely breath without inhaling each other’s sweat. Ladies, tell us again how you like a man in uniform, but go ahead and cover your nose while you do it.

4. “OMG, this place is so hot/cold/wet/dry!”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Cpl. Trisha Betz

Coming off the plane is always punctuated with a lot of curses for the local weather. This is kind of dumb since complaining won’t help and the weather isn’t going to change. But in troops’ defense, it really is stupid hot, cold, wet, and/or dry, and sometimes all four at once somehow.

5. No sleep till fully mission capable

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Nolte

Arrival in country kicks off a long series of briefings, gear checks, travel, acclimation, orientation, set-up, and more. Sleep is hard to come by until all of this is done. Sometimes, troops get lucky and are replacing a unit that streamlined the process. More often, the sergeant major decides the previous unit built the base wrong and orders it redone from scratch.

6. “Groundhog’s Day”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: Sgt Harold Flynn

Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a school in the morning instead of the district center, but that’s about it.

6. “Groundhog’s Day”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a battalion base in the morning instead of the shura, but that’s about it.

7. Short-timer

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn

Oddly, getting down to the last 100 days of a deployment is generally considered a bad thing. This is because troops can get cocky or lazy as they dream of heading home. First sergeants have to walk around saying, “Complacency kills,” and “It’s just as easy to die on the last day as it was on the first.”

8. Social media offensive

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

As the time dwindles down, troops will start spending more time on Facebook, Tinder, and anywhere else they can find people who might want to party once they land. They have to create a long list of potential “Welcome Home!” partygoers, since only about 10 percent will show up and at least half of those will leave once the first staff duty runner is tossed over a barracks railing.

9. Packing, flying, and partying

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Photo: US Army Capt. William Carraway

Getting to that “Welcome Home!” banner is basically repeating steps two and three. Pack, pack, pack, get onto a crammed plane, build up a thick layer of funk, and then march into a hangar to hug family members and friends. Then, party.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Tickets available for military event featuring Daymond John, WWE star Lacey Evans

After 21 years in an Army, mostly as a recruiter, Curtez Riggs promised himself one thing. Once he left the military, he would not accept a job that felt too much like work, left him uninspired or unfulfilled.

Riggs founded the Military Influencer Conference, which links veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and other creative minds. Now Riggs’ company is taking the next step with Honor2Lead, an inaugural event that will originate in Atlanta and be livestreamed on leaderpass.com from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.


“I want [the military] to learn how to lead, thrive and grow in these crazy times that we’re all experiencing,” Riggs said. “We understand how our country currently is politically. You see the impact that COVID is having on nonprofits and also businesses. This should be an event that people come to, and they’re rejuvenated. They’re understanding how to pivot what they’re doing in order to grow and thrive.”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

WWE star Lacey Evans served in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo.

The speakers lined up for Honor2Lead, which will occur one day before Veterans Day and on the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, all have military ties. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and WWE wrestler Lacey Evans are scheduled to participate, as are actor Alexander Ludwig, Fox News host Harris Faulkner and VFW Commander-in-Chief Hal Roesch II. The list of 24 speakers also includes Phyllis Newhouse, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year; Elena Cardona, an investor and author; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.

Riggs expects Honor2Lead to attract at least 10,000 registrants. Early-bird pricing is available for tickets now, at . To register, go to Honor2Lead’s website.

“What excites me most is the number of people that we have the potential to reach,” said Riggs, who retired as a first sergeant. “Our desire [is] to reach as many people as we possibly can to educate them and to help them change what they currently see in front of them.”

After the livestream, Riggs said Honor2Lead will be available through On Demand. This event continues his company’s vision of creating content to empower the military community. It began with the Military Influencer Conference, and debuting in 2021, Riggs’ company plans to announce a venture with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to help military women access financial resources to start their own businesses.

Military Influencer Magazine, which was inspired by the Military Influencer Conference, made its debut in September.

“Create your own results,” Riggs said. “We have a ton of skill sets that we’ve been taught that we can rely on to do some great things. A lot of us, we just don’t have faith in ourselves. The people that come to the event, they’re seeing people just like themselves. They’re seeing retirees. They’re seeing young service members that have separated, and they’ve started something and put them on a new trajectory to success.”

The Military Influencer Conference was postponed this year and rescheduled for May of 2021. In the meantime, Riggs is eager to see how Honor2Lead impacts the military community.

“When you leave the military, you don’t necessarily have to leave the military and get a job doing something that you’re not happy with,” Riggs said.

For more information, go to https://leaderpass.com/pass/honor2lead/.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

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4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force)


The F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed to be a daytime air superiority fighter, but over the decades of its service life it has evolved into a all-weather multi-role attack platform.  The first F-16 rolled off the manufacturing line in 1976, and ultimately over 4,500 aircraft followed it.

The Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. the “Viper” in aggressor squadron circles) remains technologically advanced and lethal throughout its full range of mission areas, which is remarkable considering the legendary Col. John Boyd and his “fighter mafia” first conceived of the airplane in the late ’60s.

Here are four design features that were years ahead of their time when they first hit the fleet and remain so today:

1. Fly-by-wire flight controls and side-stick controller

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

Unlike every airplane built before it, the F-16 was designed to be aerodynamically unstable until it reaches supersonic airspeeds. As a result there is no mechanical linkage between the stick and the moving parts of the airplane. A computer interface is required to interpret pilot inputs and move the flight controls accordingly, technology known as “fly-by-wire.” Because the F-16 is designed for high-G loading, the stick is mounted on the side of the cockpit instead of in the center to make it easier on the pilot’s right arm.  It barely moves; full throw is only one-eighth of an inch.

2. Bubble canopy

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

The pilot sits up very high relative to the canopy rail in the F-16, giving him superior visibility in all quadrants, including at six o’clock. The bubble canopy is designed to enhance this feature, and new pilots talk about feeling like they’re going to fall out of the airplane at first. Unlike other fighters there is no canopy bow forward of the pilot, so the forward view is completely unobstructed. The net result is a fighter that gives pilots an advantage in the dogfighting arena where “lost sight means lost fight.”

3. Reclined ejection seat

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

Because the F-16 is designed to pull 9 Gs or more (compared to 6.5 for most other American fighters) the ejection seat is tilted 30 degrees back (compared to around 12 degrees other ejection seat aircraft) for superior G tolerance by the pilot. Pilots sit almost like their riding a reclining bicycle, with knees up high, which makes for a very comfortable ride while killing MiGs and other bad guys.

4. Multi-function displays

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

The F-16 was one of the first military aircraft with a “glass” cockpit instead of the legacy “steam gauges,” which allows a pilot to tailor his displays for a particular mission as well as personal preference. MFDs also allow software upgrades with very little trouble, which has helped to keep the Fighting Falcon relevant and in the fight for decades.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
The F-16 isn’t just used by the Air Force. The Navy uses F-16Ns as aggressor aircraft at Top Gun.

Now: 6 superheroes who were also Air Force officers

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The Air Force wants to roll out a cheaper attack aircraft to fly alongside the A-10

The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.


Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.

Also read: This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.

Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents during the 2011 Aviation Nation Open House on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 2011. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.

In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.

“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”

However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.

Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.

Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.

It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A longtime Pacific ally that’s key to confronting China is tearing up a major military agreement with the US

The Philippines, a Pacific ally that has been on the front lines of US efforts to confront and deter China, especially in the contested South China Sea, notified the US on Tuesday that it was officially terminating a bilateral agreement on the status of US troops rotating in and out of the country for military exercises.


Finally following through on a threat he has made many times, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a critic of the alliance and a proponent of a foreign policy independent of the US, said he would end the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

“It’s about time we rely on ourselves,” the president’s spokesman said, according to Reuters. “We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

Teodoro Locsin Jr., Duterte’s foreign secretary, tweeted late Monday that the Philippines was unilaterally terminating the agreement. The pact will end 180 days after the country notifies the US.

The US Embassy in the Philippines confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it received notice of the Philippines’ intent to end the agreement from its Department of Foreign Affairs, CNN reported.

“This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance,” the statement read. “We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”

The US and the Philippines continue to be bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but hundreds of US military exercises with the Philippines, such as the large-scale Balikatan exercises, could be in jeopardy.

Terminating the VFA also puts US counterterrorism support, deterrence in the South China Sea, and other forms of security assistance at risk.

The Philippines has been central to the US’s efforts to counter China’s growing power. Subic Bay gives the US Navy a port to repair and resupply ships that patrol the contested South China Sea, and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts and Marine F/A-18 Hornets have used the nearby Clark Air Base for training. US special operations troops have also assisted the government’s campaign against terror networks in the country’s south for roughly two decades.

The move to end the VFA followed the US’s decision to cancel the visa of Philippines Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a key player in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the extrajudicial killings of which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspects and civilian bystanders.

“I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate” the agreement, Duterte said in a televised address in late January, according to The Associated Press. “I’ll end that son of a b—-.”

While the VFA is only one part of a collection of security agreements, Philippine officials have expressed concerns that terminating it could have a domino effect.

“If the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot stand alone, because the basis of the EDCA is the VFA, and if the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot be effective,” Philippine Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters before Tuesday’s announcement, according to CNN.

Drilon added that if the visiting forces agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “are no longer effective,” the Mutual Defense Treaty “would be inutile and would serve no purpose.”

Duterte has previously threatened to end the other bilateral agreements and called for the removal of US troops from the Philippines, often in response to American criticisms of his drug war or concerns about US efforts to push the Philippines to confront China.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This is the World War II history of the Foo Fighters

The rock band Foo Fighters didn’t just put some gibberish out there and call it a band name. Frontman Dave Grohl was actually reading a book about UFOs and he picked a name that, at the time, seemed to fit.


“Around the time that I recorded the first FF tape (that became the first record), I was reading a lot of books on UFOs, he told Clash. “Since I had recorded the first record by myself, playing all the instruments…I wanted people to think that it was a group, I figured that Foo Fighters might lead people to believe that it was more than just one guy. Silly, huh?”

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Not even close.

Grohl is referring to the World War II slang term among fighter and bomber crews who believed they saw UFOs: “foo fighters.”

According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space magazine, an Allied aircrew of World War II consisting of pilot Edward Schlueter, radar observer Donald J. Meiers, and intelligence officer Fred Ringwald reported a series of bright orange lights in the air off their left wing.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Artist’s conception of World War II Foo Fighters. (Section 51 via YouTube)

The lights disappeared and reappeared a number of times. Meiers dubbed them “foo fighters,” from a nonsense word in a popular cartoon of the time.

Also read: This music legend stole a helicopter and landed it at Johnny Cash’s house

They never showed up on radar and appeared to multiple aircrews of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron. They outmaneuvered all the aircraft and flew as fast or faster than 200 miles per hour.

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea
Every Foo Fighters fan saw this gif coming.

Reports from the era say the pilots reported feeling “scared shitless” though the lights never caused damage to the airframes.

The Air Corps sent investigators to the 415th after journalist Robert Wilson published a front-page story in newspapers across America, but the investigation never saw the light of day. Even a CIA-funded panel of physicists failed to offer an explanation.

As for the band name, Grohl believes the name hasn’t really stood the test of time.

“Had I actually considered this to be a career, I probably would have called it something else, because it’s the stupidest f*cking band name in the world,” Grohl said.

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Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Everyone who has attended a military function or visited a base has heard the “Taps” melody fill the air.


Traditionally performed live on a bugle or trumpet, “Taps” is one of the more popular songs, and one that tends to quiet spectators as they solemnly bow their heads.

But few people know the history behind the song or the patriotic meaning behind the lyrics.

Related: This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

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Chief Musician Guy L. Gregg, plays taps during a Memorial Day service at Brookwood American Cemetery.
(Photo by MC2 Jennifer L. Jaqua/Released)



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According to the VA, present-day “Taps” is believed to be a rendition of the French bugle signal, “Tap Toe” which stems from a Dutch word that means to shut or “tap” a keg. The most noted revision we know today was created by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the American Civil War to alert soldiers to discontinue their drinking and remind them to return to garrison.

In July of 1862, Butterfield thought the original French version “L’Extinction des feux” was too formal and began to hum an adaption to his aide, who then transcribed the music to paper and assigned Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, to play the notes written.

It wasn’t until 12 years later when Butterfield’s musical creation was made the Army’s officially bugle call. By 1891, the Army infantry regulated that “Taps” be played at all military funeral ceremonies moving forward.

Today, the historic song is played during flag ceremonies, military funerals, and at dusk as the sun lowers into the horizon during “lights out.”

Lyrics

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A brief history of US Army snipers

Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.

Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.


Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.

Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.

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Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)

Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.

The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.

It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.

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Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.

(U.S. Army photo)

Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.

“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”

The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.

In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”

Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”

The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.

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Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

(U.S. Army photo)

Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.

The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”

With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

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Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

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Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

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Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”