As the US still attempts to formulate a response to China’s massive hack of the US government’s Office of Personnel Management — a breach that affected some 22 million people, including federal employees with security clearances — the massive size and scope of Beijing’s intelligence gathering operations continues to come into focus.
Unlike other nations, China uses a broad array of both professional and citizen spies to gather data, Peter Mattis explains for War On The Rocks.
As Mattis describes it, the first level of Chinese intelligence-gathering resembles that of just about any other government. A Ministry of State Security carries out surveillance of targets within China and monitors potential threats, while the Ministry of Public Security has control over China’s national databases and surveillance networks.
China also has various levels of military intelligence organizations within the People’s Liberation Army. Most of the operatives for these organizations are also based in China, although Mattis notes that “defense attachés and clandestine collectors do operate abroad.”
This also isn’t all that different from how countries normally operate. The US has some 17 intelligence agencies, several of which are organized under branches of the military. They weren’t under the oversight of a single Director of National Intelligence until 2005.
Where China begins to differ from other nations is its use of operatives who aren’t intelligence professionals and who may technically be outside Beijing’s already sprawling security sector. According to Mattis, Chinese media agencies and their foreign-based journalists have likely collected non-classified data on such sensitive topics as foreign governments’ stances towards Tibet or the South China Sea. These journalists then file reports directly to the Central Committee in Beijing.
“Although most Chinese journalists are not intelligence officers and do not recruit clandestine sources, good journalists can provide information that is not publicly available, but also not classified,” Mattis writes.
Mattis also describes “market incentives for economic espionage:” The process by which Beijing facilitates the theft of intellectual property from other countries by providing state support for their cover activities.
In July of 2014, Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese entrepreneur at the request of the FBI. The entrepreneur, Su Bin, and two China-based accomplices hacked into the networks of Boeing and other US defense contractors from 2009 to 2013.
Bin allegedly stole data for 32 different US projects, including data related the F-22 and the F-35 fighter jets, as well as Boeing’s C-17 cargo plane. US authorities believe Bin and his colleagues tried to sell the stolen intelligence to state-owned companies within China.
China’s People’s Liberation Army also carries out cyber attacks and cyber espionage against US companies in order to help boost the Chinese economy. In particular, Chinese hackers have been proven to have stolen US trade secrets related to nuclear power, metal, solar production, and the defense industries.
In addition to using civilians to gather non-classified but sensitive material, Beijing has also facilitated a process for Chinese academics to gather potentially sensitive technological information, and built up institutions capable of rapidly building upon technological espionage gains.
For instance, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC) catalogues foreign scientific publications, facilitates graduate programs for research around the world, and supports the professional development of academics throughout the country. This centralization of technological information has played an important role in China’s rapid modernization, and sources tell Mattis that ISTIC likely reduced the cost of scientific research by 40-50%, while cutting research time by upwards of 70%.
With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:
1. Stealth fighters
While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.
Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.
Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.
Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.
Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.
Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.
3. Surface ships
With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.
Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.
Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.
Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.
For decades, Hollywood has been making military-based films that have touched Americans with great characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a high budget, but it’s the attention to detail that veterans respect when their branch is accurately represented on the big screen.
But still, some filmmakers get it wrong. So here’s a simple list of flaws that can be easily avoided when making your next epic war movie.
1. Screwing Up Rank
In 2005’s “Jarhead” based on the book by former Marine Sniper Anthony Swofford, Dave Fowler is labeled as a private first class, or Pfc., who’s wearing the rank insignia of a lance corporal. The majority of the population overlooks details like this, but those who are familiar with Marine Corps rank probably did a double take.
2. Empty Weapons That Will Shoot
If 1997’s G.I. Jane wasn’t a stretch in reality then neither was seeing this gunship with empty rocket pods heading into battle. Next time, just film the inbound attack helicopters from the side. The note behind the note: we notice when movie weapons are handled incorrectly.
3. Uncover… 2!
Sure, Hollywood is familiar with military uniforms and how to wear them. The unwritten rule once was to not advertise how to properly decorate and wear service and dress uniforms in case the knowledge falls into the wrong hands.
But that’s not the case today. And with uniform regs fully available online, filmmakers have no excuse when they get it wrong.
According to Marine Corps dress regulation, the dress blue uniform hardcover should be snug fitting and be worn parallel to the deck. Lastly, don’t forget to shave. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world, but not on your face.
4. Poppin’ An Epic Hand Salute
Steven Seagal plays Chief Casey Ryback, a decorated Navy SEAL who specializes in explosives, weapons, and counter-terrorism turned culinary specialist but finds it challenging to render a proper salute. Takes notes:
Stand up straight.
Snap your salute up and stop once your fingertips touch the outside edge of your eyebrow, keeping your fingers straight.
Position your forearm at a 45-degree angle and upper arm parallel to the deck.
Angle your hand inward towards your body.
Refrain from looking constipated.
5. Questionable Tactics
Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 war epic “Full Metal Jacket” is one of our all-time faves, but not for its accuracy in combat maneuvering. You don’t have to be a veteran to notice how dangerous running out in front of a barrage of cyclic gunfire can be and unrealistic.
Known for his attention to detail, Kubrick dropped the ball on getting the detail right in this shot as Doc Jay (played by Jon Stafford) crosses from left to right in front of a potentially bad friendly fire situation to save his comrade.
The 1965 movie “The Battle of the Bulge” is generally considered by war movie buffs to be the most inaccurate war movie ever made. It stars Henry Fonda leading a large cast of fictional characters (though Fonda’s Lt. Col. Kiley was based on a real U.S. soldier). The film was made to be viewed on a curved Cinerama screen using three projectors. Watching it on DVD doesn’t give the viewer the intended look, which especially hurts the tank battle scenes, according to the film rating website Rotten Tomatoes.
There are so many inaccuracies in the film that it comes off as interpretive instead of dramatic. In the film’s opening, a precursor to the errors to come, the narrator describes how Montgomery’s 8th Army was in the north of Europe; they were actually in Italy. The inaccuracies don’t stop there.
The weather was so bad at the launch of the German offensive that it completely negated Allied air superiority and allowed the Nazi armies to move much further, much fast than they would have had the weather been clear. In the 1965 film, the weather is always clear. When the film does use aircraft, the first one they show is a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog, a 1950s-era plane.
Despite the time frame of the real battle, December 1944- January 1945, and the well-documented struggles with ice and snow in the Ardennes at the time, there is no snow in the movie’s tank battle scenes. Also, there are few trees in the movie’s Ardennes Forest.
In an affront to the men who fought and won the battle, the film uses the M47 Patton tank as the German King Tiger tanks. The filmmakers show U.S. tanks being sacrificed to make the Tiger tank use their fuel so the Germans will run out. The U.S. didn’t need to use this tactic in the actual battle, as the Germans didn’t have the fuel to reach their objectives anyway.
Speaking of tactics, a German general in the film orders infantry to protect tanks by walking ahead of them after a Tiger hits a mine, which ignores the fact that a man’s weight is not enough to trigger an anti-tank mine and therefore none of them would have exploded until tanks hit them anyway.
Other inaccuracies include:
The uniforms are all wrong.
Jeeps in the film are models that were not yet developed in WWII.
Salutes are fast, terrible and often indoors.
The bazookas used in the films are 1950s Spanish rocket launchers (the film was shot in Spain)
American engineers use C-4, which wasn’t invented until 11 years after the war’s end.
Soldiers read Playboy Magazine from 1964.
The technical advisor on the film was Col. Meinrad von Lauchert, who commanded tanks at the Bulge… for the Nazis. He commanded the 2nd Panzer Division, penetrating deeper into the American lines than any other German commander. Like the rest of the Nazis, he too ran out of fuel and drove his unit back to the Rhine. He swam over then went home, giving up on a hopeless situation.
The reaction to the movie was swift: That same year, President Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference just to denounce the movie for its historical inaccuracies.
The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.
The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.
“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”
Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.
The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.
“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”
IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.
“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water. The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”
The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) had what one report described as a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel on April 24.
According to a report by Fox News, the Iranian vessel was a “fast attack craft” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. USS Mahan was forced to change course, the crew manned weapons, fired flares, and sounded a danger signal. The Iranian vessel stayed over 1,000 yards from the Mahan, but its weapons were manned.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran has over 100 “fast attack craft” of varying types. The most notorious of these are roughly 30 Boghammers, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, and are armed with .50-caliber machine guns or twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns and either a 12-round 107mm rocket launcher, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a RPG-7. American forces destroyed at least five of these vessels during naval clashes with Iran in 1987 and 1988.
This is not the first time USS Mahan has had a close call with Iranian vessels. In January, 2017, the Mahan had to fire warning shots at similar craft that came within 900 yards. The Iranian vessels backed off.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel, citing Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
Isolated and sealed off from the rest of the world, North Korea doesn’t exactly shine as a beacon of hope and light. But for a half dozen American soldiers serving after the Korean War ended, it apparently seemed that way.
The war came to a halt with an armistice in 1953, though the North has often threatened to back out, while it’s not blustering about destroying its neighbor or lobbing artillery shells over the de-militarized zone. Since that time, both sides have occasionally come close to war once again. But with U.S. soldiers still stationed in and supporting the South, that probably wouldn’t work too well for the Hermit Kingdom.
So what happens when an American soldier decides to switch teams? In 1962 we got an answer, along with five others who defected to North Korea (There are many others who defected during the war listed here).
1. Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier
On May 28, 1962, Pvt. Abshier walked off his post and meandered through the minefields of the Korean DMZ and fled to North Korea, becoming the first post-war defector. According to a defector who came across later, Abshier was a bit of a troublemaker and was caught smoking marijuana on a number of occasions. So rather than face Army discipline, he chose the most repressive regime on earth, according to NK News.
Once he got there, he was used for his obvious propaganda value. The North broadcasted on June 13 that Abshier could no longer stand his “humiliating life” in the American military, and then later, as other defectors showed up, he became a big-time star of propaganda films, usually playing as Evil American #1. Seriously, he even has his own IMDB page.
Abshier did end up getting married — twice. His first wife was taken away from him when his captors found out she was pregnant. His second wife was a Thai woman who was kidnapped by Pyongyang agents. But despite plenty of hype about American defectors being treated to lavish rewards, Abshier was forced to read propaganda about Kim Il Sung for 11 hours a day and lived in a crappy house. He died of a heart attack on July 11, 1983.
2. Pfc. James Joseph Dresnok
Just like Abshier, Pfc. James Dresnok wasn’t the recruiting poster soldier (yes, we know you’re shocked). After serving two years in West Germany, he found himself on the South Korean DMZ, facing a court-martial. According to “60 Minutes,” his wife had left him and he had left his base without permission, and the Man was about to drop the hammer.
So he just walked through a minefield instead, joining Abshier (although they didn’t know each other). Like him, Dresnok was later plastered on magazines, books, and made appearances in movies. After four years of that, he (and others) finally figured out their new life sucked, and sought asylum in the Soviet embassy. And the Soviets told them to pound sand.
Luckily, the North Koreans didn’t shoot him, and he decided to just conform. “Oh, I gotta think like this, I gotta act like this. I’ve studied their revolutionary history, their lofty virtues about the Great Leader. Little by little, I came to understand the Korean people,” Dresnok told “60 Minutes.”
He’s still there, alive and kicking. Dresnok, who goes by Joe, taught English for some time and now lives in a small apartment in Pyongyang, living off his government check. He’s been married twice, and even has three kids. His oldest son James considers himself Korean, and wants to be a diplomat, according to CBS.
3. Cpl. Jerry Wayne Parrish
In Dec. 1963, Cpl. Jerry Parrish walked across the DMZ, according to NK News. The why for Parrish wasn’t as clear cut as the others, though Charles Jenkins (who defected next) wrote in his book that he cited personal reasons, but “didn’t elaborate about them much except to say that if he ever went home, his father-in-law would kill him.”
There’s much less known about Parrish’s time in North Korea until Jenkins showed up in 1965. At that point, the North now had four American mouths to feed, and it stuck them into a crappy house and pitted them against each other so they would become indoctrinated.
“At first the four of us lived in one house, one room, very small, no beds — we had to sleep on the floor,” Jenkins told Far Eastern Economic Review. “There was no running water. We had to carry water approximately 200 metres up the hill. And the water was river water.”
He added: “If I didn’t listen to the North Korean government, they would tie me up, call Dresnok in to beat me. Dresnok really enjoyed it.”
Like the others, he was used mostly for propaganda. He starred as “Lewis” in the 1978 cult classic (only in North Korean minds) film “Unsung Heroes.” He married a Lebanese woman — who swears she wasn’t kidnapped or anything — and had three sons, all of whom remain in North Korea. Parrish died of “massive internal infection” in 1997, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review.
4. Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins
Jenkins is perhaps the most well-known of the American defectors, since he’s still around, unrepentant, and still giving interviews. But his story of defection was basically your Army buddy’s version of “I got drunk and went to get a tattoo and I don’t know what happened.” According to The Atlantic, on Jan. 4, 1965 Jenkins pounded 10 beers then decided to desert his infantry squad while leading them on patrol, in an effort to avoid going to Vietnam. Well, mission accomplished, bro.
It wasn’t long before the beer wore off. “I made a lot of mistakes in my life, maybe, but that was the worst mistake anybody ever make,” he told CBS News. “That’s for sure.”
Once he got there, he was put into a small home with the others and slept on the floor, forced to memorize propaganda all day. This was a far cry from his real plan, hoping the North Koreans would send him to Russia and the Russians would swap him back to the U.S. (on what planet does this make sense?).
Among one of the worst things to happen to Jenkins involved his choice of ink: On his forearm he had the letters “U.S.” underneath infantry crossed rifles. The North Koreans held him down and cut off those letters, according to Far Eastern Economic Review.
He lived in North Korea for nearly 40 years, teaching English, translating, and of course, starring in propaganda. He married a Japanese woman who had been kidnapped and had two daughters. In 2002, she was freed in a rare act of diplomacy on Kim Jong Il’s part, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered Jenkins the same courtesy. He took it in 2004.
Though the Army did throw him in the stockade for a whopping total of 24 days and gave him a dishonorable discharge, a hilarious twist from his time of desertion before he was tried qualified him for all the service medals during the period. So he actually showed up to his court-martial wearing a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Thanks for your service, Chuck.
Jenkins now lives with his wife in Japan, where he works at a historical museum, The Atlantic reported.
5. Pfc. Roy Chung
There’s some controversy over what actually happened to Chung. Born in South Korea as Chung Ryeu, he moved to the U.S. with his parents in 1973 and joined the Army for the college money, later serving in West Germany. But here’s where it gets weird: He was nowhere near Korea when he disappeared.
In June 1979, he vanished from his unit in Germany, and three months later, North Korean state radio announced he had defected. The Pentagon and State Department maintain that’s probably true. But his parents are convinced he was kidnapped, The Washington Post reported.
None of the others reported ever coming into contact with him, and there’s not much else known about his time in North Korea. He may still be alive, but is rumored to have died of natural causes.
6. Pvt. Joseph T. White
The last person to join the defection dream team came on Aug. 28, 1982, when Pvt. Joseph White shot a lock off a gate at the Korean DMZ and started walking through the minefields. Carrying his M-16 rifle and ammo, he walked north and called out “I am coming” to his soon-to-be new best friends, according to Asia Times.
”My son did not cross that line,” Kathleen White, his mother, told The New York Times. ”He loved this country and he loved that uniform and everything about it. Joey was nothing but gung-ho Army and gung-ho Reagan.”
But back at his barracks, investigators found plenty of pro-North leaflets and other propaganda. And his fellow soldiers were dumbfounded. The last time they saw him, his arms were being held behind his back and North Korean soldiers were pushing him into a bunker, The New York Times reported.
What happened next is up for debate. In his autobiography, Jenkins said his government minders told him White had suffered an epileptic seizure and was paralyzed, but he never heard anything more. But in 1986, White’s parents received a letter from a North Korean friend “who had been on good terms” with the soldier, explaining that he drowned in a river while enjoying a “leisure time” outing, the AP reported.
Since the propaganda bulls–t coming from North Korea is so thick, what really happened is impossible to verify.
For thousands of years, mankind has been telling stories using various forms of communication. Some passed verbal stories down from generation to generation, as others carved visual symbols deep into solid rock surfaces — cave art.
Fast forward to the battlegrounds of France during WWI where nine members of an Indian tribe from Point Pleasant, Maine, called the Passamaquoddy proudly served and carved images in the cave’s wall to represent their heritage during their trench warfare days.
Even though these carvings exist, the question remains:what stories were the Passamaquoddy Indians trying to tell us?
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to explore the caves and learn the stories behind stories.
(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)Fun Fact: Nearly 99 years later, the families of 6 men from the Passamaquoddy tribe who volunteered to fight during the WWI conflict finally received official recognition and honored for their heroic contributions.
After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.
Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.
However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.
To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.
To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.
This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.
In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.
To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 — that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.
Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.
As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.
In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.
A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.
It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.
Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.
Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.
Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:
“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”
The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.
“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.
In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.
Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.
The first American service member to die while fighting ISIS “fearlessly exposed himself” to heavy small arms fire during a raid on a militant prison complex in October 2015, according to the citation for his Silver Star award.
The award for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a team leader with the Army’s elite Delta Force, was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Business Insider.
The Army released few details of the circumstances of Wheeler’s death in 2015, and the Pentagon’s website listing valor awards was quietly updated to reflect a Silver Star award, which he received posthumously the following month.
Wheeler, 39, was part of a raid at a prison in Hawijah, Iraq on Oct. 22, 2015 that was carried out by US-backed Kurdish forces. The mission saved roughly 70 prisoners the US feared would be executed the next day, according to The Washington Post.
Though the citation gives a broad overview of Wheeler’s heroism, it does not delve into specifics. Still, it said, “Wheeler fearlessly exposed himself to heavy small arms fire from barricaded enemy positions. His selfless actions were critical in achieving the initiative during the most dangerous portion of the raid.”
It also said that Wheeler’s actions saved the lives of the partner force, better known as the Kurdish Peshmerga. He was killed at some point during the raid by small arms fire. Three Kurdish soldiers were wounded.
“This is someone who saw the team that he was advising and assisting coming under attack,” then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters the day after his death. “And he rushed to … to help them and made it possible for them to be effective. And in doing that, lost his own life. That’s why I’m proud of him.”
Wheeler was the first US service member killed in action against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, challenging the narrative put forth by the Obama administration that American troops would not be put on the ground in Iraq or Syria.
The 20-year Army veteran had deployed a whopping 14 times over his career, first as a Ranger, then later as a Special Forces soldier assigned to US Special Operations Command. In addition to receiving the Silver Star and Purple Heart after his death, Wheeler was the recipient of 11 Bronze Star medals — four for valor in combat — the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (also for valor), and many others.
So far, there have been 10 US deaths attributed to hostile fire in the campaign against ISIS, known as Operation Inherent Resolve. Another 48 troops have been wounded in action.
But seriously, when did the 3 worse jobs (newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and logger) ever have to stir their buddies’ MRE dumps into a diesel mixture and then mix it while it burns?
Here are 7 things CareerCast failed to mention about why being an enlisted service member is actually the worst:
1. The aforementioned MRE dumps
Look, CareerCast looked at a lot of factors, but they don’t once mention diet and food choices in their methodology. Pretty sure newspaper reporters and broadcasters aren’t stuck eating 5-yr-old brisket and then trying to crap it out after it turns into a brick in their intestines.
2. Multi-year contracts guaranteed by prison time
They did look at “degree of confinement” as one of the “physical factors” of their measurements, but not as an emotional factor. Remember the last time a logger got tired of their job, walked off, and spent the next few years in prison?
No, you don’t. Because the only way that happens is if they set some machinery on fire or crap into someone else’s boots on their way out. But troops can’t quit, and there ain’t no discharge on the ground.
3. Long ruck marches, range days, and multi-day field operations
The list’s method discounts physical factors compared to emotional factors (“stamina” and “necessary energy” both top out at 5 points while facing strong competition for job placement and promotion is worth 15 points on its own).
Ummmm, anyone actually think waiting an extra year or two for promotion is harder than brigade runs every payday, 12.4-mile ruck marches every few months, and having to unload and re-load connexes whenever a lieutenant loses their radio? All so you can go face a nine-man board when you want to get promoted?
4. The barracks
Drunken parties spill into the hallways just an hour before sergeant major drags everyone out to pick up cigarette butts whether they smoke or not. Idiots knock on your door because they don’t know where their buddy lives, which sucks for you since you have duty in the morning.
But hey, at least your boss’s boss’s boss is going to walk through the building this Friday and critique every detail of how you live. That sounds like something that happens to reporters. Sure.
Look, loggers are famous for their beards. And most people in the news and broadcast businesses can grow beards as long as they aren’t on camera.
Enlisted folks, meanwhile, have their faces checked for stubble at 6:30 most mornings.
6. PT Formation
Speaking of which, that 6:30 formation where they’ll get destroyed for having a beard is the physical training formation, the one where they have to spread out and do a lot of pushups and situps in the cold and dark while wearing t-shirts and shorts because first sergeants have some perverse hatred of winter PTs.
All of that without a beard. It’s tragic.
7. All those extra laws
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a major part of maintaining unit discipline, but man is it annoying to have your own set of laws on top of everyone else’s. And, some of those UCMJ articles basically just say that you have to follow all rules and regulations, which are a couple hundred extra ways to do something illegal.
A sailor who smokes or eats while walking is in violation of NAVPERS 15665I, which is backed up by articles of the UCMJ and federal law Title, U.S. Code 10. Think chowing down on a donut while walking into the office is illegal for loggers, broadcasters, or reporters?
The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.
Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.
Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.
Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.
Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.
As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.
Ignore the Hype
What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.
For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.
One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.