Here's what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

In a bold-faced power move, Russia just moved additional missile defense batteries to Syria and issued a thinly veiled threat that it would shoot down any US or coalition aircraft that tried to bomb Syrian regime targets without warning.


This step, just days after US and Russian bilateral negotiations for a ceasefire fell through, shows the depth of Russia’s commitment to Syrian President Assad, who has shown a ferocious willingness to use chemical and banned weapons against his own people since the war started in 2011.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

But the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries pose a serious question about US and coalition military capabilities versus the Russians.

Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, went as far as to say that “all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,” referring to the US’s fifth generation stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Russia’s S-400 missile defense battery and the US’s F-22 Raptor. | Dragan Radovanovic

While the US fields the greatest Air Force in the world, the capabilities of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria represent a very real challenge to the US’s ability to operate in those zones without being shot down.

Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute, an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that in this case at least, Russia is correct.

“Konashenkov is absolutely right – ‘stealth’ as ‘invisibility’ is just amateurs’ invention, not a technical term.”

However, according to Sutyagin, some of the Russian capabilities also fall in the category of speculation rather than hard capability.

For instance, as advanced as Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are, and they are really quite advanced, they still face very real limitations.

Russian “air defense systems are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of  about 250 miles,” said Sutyagin. While this does pose a threat to US and coalition aircraft operating normally in the region, the missile defense can be outfoxed, as they less optimal against low flying planes or missiles.

Even though the Russian systems have great radar range and capabilities, in the real world obstacles abound, and that makes it very hard to get a clear picture of real world air spaces.

The Russian missile defense systems sit on trucks, ready to be positioned wherever needed in a specific region. Some reports indicate that Russian crews can get the missile battery up and running within 5 minutes of parking the truck. Additionally, the mobile missile batteries present an ever changing target, and a puzzle that incoming aircraft must solve anew each time they enter the air space.

But they battery is still just a truck on the ground. Parking it on a hilltop makes it visible. Parking it in a valley severely limits the range due to natural obstacles. So just as the US fantasy of “invisible jets” doesn’t completely pan out when the rubber hits the road, neither does the Russian fantasy of a 250 mile air defense zone.

Indeed to flesh out this idea of the Russians, they’d need to operate Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs), or planes that carry large radars and can survey battle spaces free from obstructions on the ground, which Sutyagin says Moscow does not currently have in Syria.

But who would come out on top?

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

According to Sutyagin, stealth US planes like the B-2, F-22, and F-35 could knock out Russian SAM sites in Syria, but not without a fight.

“Yeah they can do it. In theory they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” said Sutyagin, referring to long range missiles as “standoff weapons.”

“The tactics of these low visibility planes as they were designed originally was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through gap and launch standoff weapons,” said Sutyagin.

At this point, Russia’s “defenses will inevitably detect it, but maybe too late,” said Sutyagin, who emphasized that firing a missile doesn’t always mean a hit, and detecting a missile doesn’t always mean an intercept.

“There is no 100% reliability, but still it will be much more difficult” for Russian SAM sites to intercept missiles fired from US stealth aircraft that can get up close and personal and locate the site first.  “If the standoff weapon is also low visibility,” the chances only improve, according to Sutyagin.

Additionally, Russian SAM sites in Syria have a limited magazine capacity.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading you always launch two… but what if there are 50 targets?”

This limitation explains why Russia deployed the S-300 battery to Syria when they already have the more advanced S-400 stationed there.

According to Sutyagin, it takes “40-50 minutes to reload launchers.” The SAM sites are then unarmed, with their positions exposed and they’re “not well prepared to meet another threat.”

What it comes down to

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
US Air Force photo

So the US could overwhelm Russian defenses. Or Russia could shoot down US fifth-generation aircraft over Syria. What it comes down to, according to Sutyagin, is training.

Sutyagin says that overall, the situation is “very complicated” and that there is “no easy solution to suppress air defense, but there are opportunities.”

Each combat scenario brings unique challenges and opportunities that may benefit one side or another. Generally, there is reason to believe that the pilots of US fifth-generation aircraft are among the best in the world, and that they would have the edge in almost every situation.

Indeed, Sutyagin says that the US’s airborne capabilities put them in a better situation than the US was in during Vietnam, when Russian SAM sites shot down many US planes.

Though the details of the how US F-22 Raptor pilots would engage an enemy SAM site are classified, a pilot with the program recently told National Interest’s Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail.

But jets and SAM sites fight battles on air, over seas, and on land — not on paper.

“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” concluded Sutyagin.

Intel

This Marine pilot bought a Harrier jet to keep flying after retirement

Some senior citizens retire to Florida. Marine Lt. Col. Art Nalls retired to the cockpit of his privately-owned AV-8B Harrier “jump jet.”


Once a naval aviator and test pilot experienced in roughly 65 different types of aircraft, Nalls made a fortune in the real estate development business after he left the service. But he never forgot his love of flying or the first aircraft he flew in the Marine Corps — the Harrier.

BroBible writes:

After attending an air show and rediscovering his passion for flight, Art purchased a Russian Yak 3 (Yakovlev Yak-3), only to soon realize that the enormous Soviet Star on the plane wasn’t exactly attracting the eyeballs at airshows. What the people wanted to see were our nation’s greatest planes. He noticed that the biggest star at any airshow was the Harrier Jump Jet, so beginning in 2010 Art Nalls began his quest to own one himself. Everything finally came together after discussing the possibility of owning one with the FAA (and receiving approval), and then finding a British Harrier Jump Jet for sale after Great Britain took them out of commission.

Although the video doesn’t mention the price he paid, the going rate for a Harrier is around $1.5 million. Then of course there’s the insane price of gas, which Nalls makes up by performing at air shows.

Check out this awesome video from AARP:

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why 20 percent of Army generals couldn’t deploy in 2016

It’s no secret that that U.S. military has a troubling problem, one that prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to create the Pentagon’s “Deploy or Get Out” Policy. It turns out there are many American troops who just aren’t fit to fight — and that includes the military’s top brass.


Information obtained by USA Today found that one in five generals in the U.S. Army could not deploy in 2016 due to medical reasons. The generals were put off by the overdue medical and dental exams necessary to ensure their deployability.

Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Omar Jones ensured USA Today that the proportion of generals who are able to deploy has since risen to around 85 percent. That number gets higher if the top brass takes care of their necessary blood work and dental examinations.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

U.S. Army Generals go through an executive health program to improve their deployability.

(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McClung)

“The Army’s top priority is readiness and soldiers are expected to be world-wide deployable to ensure our Army is ready to fight today and in the future,” Jones told the paper. “The data from 2016 does not reflect recent improvements in medical readiness for the Army as a whole and for the general officer corps specifically.”

USA Today picked up the information using a Freedom of Information Act request. A panel created by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was assigned to investigate the ethical misdeeds of high ranking officers in 2014. The panel was incredibly effective, finding more than 500 instances of failures in leadership. Part of that report included deployability information for general officers.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

First Lt. Dowayne Anderson, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, cranks out fifteen push-ups during a “Battle PT” workout Sept. 4 at Forward Operating Base Ramrod. The unique physical training was designed for team building, cohesion, endurance and to develop Soldier skills.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver)

As of 2016, only 83 percent of the Army’s soldiers were deployable, the lowest of the four branches. Marines led deployability at 90.2 percent, followed by the Navy at 90.1 and the Air Force at 88.8 percent. Since the bulk of the officers needed only simple medical and dental exams, the problem was easily addressed. Since then, Army general readiness is much higher.

As of October 2018, over 93 percent of the total Army ― soldiers of all ranks ― are deployable, while over 97 percent of Army general officers are deployable,” Col. Kathleen Turner, an Army spokeswoman, told Army Times.
MIGHTY TRENDING

3 powerful upgrades Bradley Fighting Vehicles could get in 2018

The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights, and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.


Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway — as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.

As the Army pursues a more advanced A5, engineered to succeed the current upgraded A4, it is integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections, and a new ammunition storage configuration, Col. James, Schirmer Project Manager Armored Fighting Vehicles, said earlier this Fall at AUSA.

Read More: The Army’s ‘Hard Kill’ tank defenses are a high-tech upgrade

BAE Systems, maker of the Bradley, told Warrior the platform’s modernization effort is designed in three specific stages. The first stage in the modernization process was the Bradley Track Suspension to address suspension upgrades, BAE statements said. The subsequent Bradley A4 Engineering Change Proposal, soon to enter production, improves mobility and increases electrical power generation. More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks, and even electronic warfare technologies.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, described the upgrades in terms of A3 and A4 focusing upon the Bradley from the turret ring down — leading the A5 effort to more heavily modernize Bradley systems from the turret up. This includes weapons sights, guns, optics, next-generation signals intelligence, and even early iterations of artificial intelligence, and increased computer automation.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Bradley Fighting Vehicles from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, get loaded on 805th Transportation Detachment, Logistics Support Vessel 8, U.S. Army Vessel, Maj Gen. Robert Smalls at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, March 25, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, 38th Sustainment Brigade)

During several previous interviews with Warrior, Bassett has explained that computer-enabled autonomous drones will likely be operated by nearby armored combat vehicles, using fast emerging iterations of artificial intelligence. These unmanned systems, operated by human crews performing command and control from nearby vehicles, could carry ammunition, conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy defenses or even fire weapons – all while allowing manned crews to remain at a safer stand-off distance. At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.

Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development. This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just put on a show, and the photos are dazzling

Malmstrom Air Force Base opened its gates to the public in mid-July 2019, welcoming approximately 13,000 members of Great Falls and surrounding communities to the 2019 “Mission Over Malmstrom” Open House held on July 13 and 14, 2019.

The two-day event featured aerial acts, exhibits and guided tours which offered experiences highlighting the mission of Malmstrom AFB and the capabilities of the US armed forces.


Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

A US Army parachutist with the Golden Knights parachute team approaches his landing at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

A B-2 Spirit performs a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

A child tours an armored vehicle during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

A family participates in a cockpit experience during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

The Shetterly Squadron aerial group performs stunts during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

A UH-1N helicopter performs flight maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

MiG Fury Fighters perform a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesde)

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

Articles

This is the official history of the Coast Guard’s ‘Hell Roarin” legend

Captain Michael “Hell Roarin'” Healy, known for bringing the reindeer to Alaska, had another claim to fame in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, forerunner to the modern-day Coast Guard.


Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Healy had a no-nonsense, often violent, style of command. Rumors spread that he had unruly people hung by their hands or feet in the hull of the ship. (And he weathered a couple of failed mutinies as a result.) When dealing with those who tried to block what he felt was the protection of the native people of Alaska, he could turn violent and belligerent until he got what he wanted. He stood for law and order along the 30,000 mile long Alaskan coast.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Healy in Alaska (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After multiple courts martial for drunk and disorderly conduct in the late 1890s, Healy was sent to a trial board for abusive conduct towards junior officers while intoxicated. While the trial board recommended him for discharge, Secretary of the Treasury John Carlisle instead removed him from command and placed him on shore duty for four years.  Healy was also publicly humiliated by having his punishment read to every commissioned officer on every cutter in the service.

Healy was back on dry land for the first time after nearly 42 years at sea.

This punishment furthered Healy’s paranoia that “they” had been working to drive him out of the service, which he first expressed as early as 1893. While some officers thought this was the beginning of the end of Healy, they were wrong. The Healy family believed their lives could not be ruined any further. They did not know the true tragedy that would come.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, once commanded by Healy (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At the end of his four year punishment, Healy’s life would take an ironic and drastic turn. Capt. W.C. Coulson, who had sat on the trial board and recommended his discharge, asked for Healy by name to replace him as the commanding officer of the Revenue Steamer McCulloch when his wife fell ill. While he served aboard the McCulloch, Healy received orders to serve upon the Cutter Seminole out of Boston. After more than twenty years on the west coast and nearly a decade in Alaska, he saw the transfer as another punishment because his wife had made her home in the west and his son, now grown, had started his own family there.

When he received these orders, his mental health took a turn for the worst. He was found sitting outside of the stateroom of a passenger on the McCulloch, yelling and threatening to kill himself. The following day, Healy attempted to throw himself overboard, stopped only after being violently wrestled to the deck by Second Assistant Engineer J.J. Bryan. At that point, executive officer 1st Lt. P.W. Thompson brought Healy to the ward room and informed him that he was longer in command of the McCulloch.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
The Revenue Cutter McCulloch (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Healy was to be guarded in his cabin until Thompson was able to contact the Treasury. On the morning of July 10, 1900, Healy again attempted to throw himself overboard. While he was out of his bunk, he grabbed a piece of glass, and two days later almost succeeded in using it to kill himself. One onlooker offered an explanation for the suicide attempts as a cry for help as Healy was just returned to the ship after a drunken night out and would again be court-marshaled and kicked out of the service.

In 1903, Healy quietly exited the service at the mandatory retirement age and died a year later of a heart attack. He was buried in Colma, California, where he and his family finally settled.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Healy carried secrets with him that could never be uttered in early-twentieth century America. His wife, Mary Jane Roach, was a second generation Irish immigrant but despite eighteen pregnancies, they only had one child.  He was constantly criticized for being Catholic, something that was still looked down upon at the turn of the century. In addition, Healy was the child of Michael Morris Healy, an Irish immigrant and slave owner and his slave, Mary Eliza Smith. This was kept a secret even from parts of his family. After his death, Healy’s daughter-in-law destroyed his four-volume diary. She was contacted by a film studio on the possibility of a movie based on his life and they wanted to see his diary in the writing of the film. As she read the diary for the first time, she discovered her husband’s grandmother was a slave.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s crew poses in front of the cutter after reaching the North Pole Sept. 6. The Healy became only the second U.S. surface ship to reach the North Pole. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, Healy is known as one of the great giants of Coast Guard history. He singlehandedly saved large groups of natives from starvation, and his courage was unmatched by anyone else at the time. History was kind to him and glossed over his negative personal record in favor of his accomplishments. In honor of his legacy of arctic service, the Coast Guard’s newest ice breaker was named in his honor in 1997.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s latest war game practiced closing the Strait of Hormuz

Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.

“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”


“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.

The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency Photo)

President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.

In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani , and even a powerful Iranian general, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani , have also been bickering back and forth over the past couple of weeks.

CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.

The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.

Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.

Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.

“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.

And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.

James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.

“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.

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

Articles

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.


And he would know.

Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.

“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.

Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.

While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.

“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”

Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.

“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”

Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.

In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.

The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.

“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.

Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”

Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.

As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.

Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.

“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.

“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”

Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.

“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”

Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said

“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”

Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.

“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”

He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.

“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”

Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.

That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.

“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”

Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.

Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.

“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”

Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine awarded for courageously rescuing four people from riptide

A Marine was awarded the nation’s highest medal for non-combat heroism during a ceremony on Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 8, 2018, for courageous actions off duty.


1st Lt. Aaron Cranford, a supply officer with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving three divers and a local Okinawan who were caught in a rip current during a recreational dive at Onna Point, Okinawa, Japan on April 23, 2017.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
1st Lt. Aaron Cranford (left) speaks in an interview with Justin Kinjo and Yusuke Teruya, divers who almost lost their lives at the hands of a rip current, after the he receives the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. (Image Lance Cpl. Josue Marquez)

Cranford surfaced from a 35-minute dive and noticed three distressed divers caught in a surf zone about to be swept out to sea by a rip current.

After he ensured his dive group had reached a safe point to exit the water, Cranford returned to the surf zone at risk to his own life to begin rescuing the divers one by one.

“I could definitely tell that the divers were in distress,” said Cranford, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “Their gear was not the way it should have been and they were waving their arms back and forth trying to get people’s attention.”

One local Okinawan said he believes he wouldn’t be alive today without Cranford’s help.

Also Read: When train derailed, medic proves troops never stop being heroes

“I just knew I was going to die,” said Okinawa City, Okinawa native, Justin Kinjo. “My leg was stuck, I couldn’t get any air and as soon as I reached the surface, the waves pushed me back in – knocking my [air] regulator out of my mouth.”

For his courageous actions, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller awarded Cranford the highest non-combat decoration for heroism.

“1st Lt. Cranford is a superb representative of the United States Marine Corps,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Q. Timberlake, the commanding general for 3rd Marine Division. “His actions took a lot of guts and a lot of courage. He reflects a United States Marine doing what a United States Marine does.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis again accuses Russia of violating a key nuclear treaty

The U.S. defense secretary has again accused Russia of violating a key Cold War arms control treaty, calling the unresolved and increasingly tense dispute with Moscow “untenable.”

Jim Mattis’s remarks on Oct. 4, 2018 after a meeting of NATO military leaders were the latest in a series of increasingly blunt statements by U.S. officials regarding the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. assertions, first made publicly in 2014, that a ground-launched cruise missile Moscow has developed, and reportedly deployed, is in violation of the agreement, known as the INF treaty.


After years of public criticism of Moscow, U.S. officials in 2017 started becoming more aggressive in their approach. And Russia acknowledged the existence of a missile identified by Washington, but denied that it had violated the treaty.

In early October 2018, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said U.S. forces might have to “take out” the Russian missiles if the dispute continues. She later clarified that she wasn’t referring to an actual U.S. military attack.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018.

(NATO photo)

“Russia must return to compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard for the treaty’s specific limits,” Mattis said in Brussels.

“The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable,” he said.

Congress has backed funding for a new missile program to counter the Russian weapon, and Mattis said in early 2018 that defense planners were working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to force Russia back into compliance.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Mattis’s comments, saying Russia was imperiling the treaty, which is widely considered a “cornerstone” of European security.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Blimps, elephants, and 8 other ridiculous and expensive military programs

At some point in their military careers, all servicemembers have said: “I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”


Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Full Disclosure: The author was once sent TDY to Disneyland. That’s not a joke.

From 1975 to 1984, a division of government contractor Litton Industries and two of its executives were accused of defrauding the government of $15 million through grossly inflated prices in its contracts. A 1986 book titled “The Pentagon Catalog” documented some of the Pentagon’s worst buys and the contractor who charged the government for them. It included a claw hammer sold by Gould Simulation Systems to the Navy for $435, McDonnell Douglas’ $2,043 nut, and the same McDonnell Douglas’ $37 screw.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Insert double entendre here.

Other items offered in the catalog include a $285 screwdriver, a $7,622 coffee maker, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, and a $659 ashtray. And those examples listed above aren’t the only expensive military programs. Those aren’t even the most ridiculous programs the U.S. military implemented lately. Here are a few more things the Pentagon saw fit to buy without shopping around.

 

1. Giant, unmanned surveillance blimps

A live symbol of military spending run amok, in October 2015, a surveillance blimp escaped from its mooring in Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The balloon took out power lines as it floated 100 miles over Pennsylvania.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

Its technical name is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (or JLENS). It’s part of a $2.7 billion test to see if it can detect all the cruise missiles and aircraft that are constantly bombarding Maryland.

2. Luxury villas in Afghanistan

Complete with private security, the Defense Department spent $150 million on these Afghan McMansions between 2010 and 2014. The villas were built for 5-10 Pentagon employees from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a group whose mission includes rebuilding Afghanistan.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Or at least a very small part of Afghanistan. These are the actual Afghan villas built by the TFBSO. (SIGAR Photo)

The $150 million they spent was approximately one-fifth of their operating budget. The villas included queen-size beds, mini refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. All meals had to come with at least two entree options and three side order options. The TFBSO spent $800 million before it was disbanded in March 2015.

3. What should have been the world’s most amazing gas station

The same IG who uncovered the lush Afghan villas, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), found the same task force – the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) – awarded a $3 million contract for a gas station in Afghanistan. The final price tag ballooned to $42.7 million.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
The actual $43 million gas station… At least it’s clean natural gas. (SIGAR photo)

While War on the Rocks disputes the idea that the funds were a waste or overspend, no one in the Pentagon seemed to know about what the Fiscal Times dubbed the Pentagon’s “slush fund.” The discovery of the TFBSO prompted Congress to mandate DoD to be ready for a full audit of its budget by 2017.

4. Hospitals we can’t find

While not part of a DoD program, the locations of hospitals and health centers funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan is very important. In October 2105, a U.S. Air Force AC-130 attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Hospital corpsman assigned to Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, cleans a local Afghan elder’s foot to check for infection at a patrol base near Sangin, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. William J. Faffler)

USAID’s $259.6 million program is a dangerous one, considering all the harm that could come to the health facilities. The SIGAR report that documented the missing hospitals noted the attack on the Kunduz hospital highlighted the need for the military to have GPS coordinates of hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

5. An 80-year supply of V-22 Osprey parts

The Defense Logistics Agency recently purchased spare parts for the V-22 from Bell Helicopter and Boeing at a total cost of $9.7 million. The U.S. military goes through roughly two aircraft frames per year. The DLA purchased 166.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jerry Lowe directs an MV-22 Osprey in for landing on the flight deck of the USS Essex (LHD 2) off the coast of Southern California on Feb. 26, 2000. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason A. Pylarinos, U.S. Navy)

This probably means that when the rest of the military is flying hovercraft and Iron Man suits in 2097, the Marine Corps will still be running off of Ospreys. To make matters worse, the IG reports the markup on some of those parts was a whopping $8,123.50, up from $445.60 – as much as eighteen times what the military should have paid.

6. Bomb-sniffing elephants

This one may sound like a crazy Cold-War era scheme that was somehow going to bring down the Iron Curtain, but no. In 2015, Sen. John McCain slammed the DoD for a study trying to find if elephants were more useful than dogs in sniffing bombs. The surprise is that they are but – to no one’s astonishment – they are not as practical.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
At least Hannibal crossed the Alps. What did YOU do, elephant? (Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Army Research Office paid an untold sum of money for this program, even though it’s been well documented that giant rats are more effective and efficient.

7. The Road to Nowhere

Another Afghan boondoggle, Afghanistan’s Highway 1 was funded jointly with American and Saudi money. The 1677-mile stretch of road whose shoddy construction means high maintenance costs on top of construction costs. The $4 billion project also costs $5 million per mile to rebuild or maintain.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Trucks wait to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border in Zaranj, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011. The crossing is part of a busy trade route between Central Asia and the Middle East. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

Designed to link Afghanistan’s major cities, the highway was of no real use to Afghan civilians and is primarily used by foreign militaries. This last fact means it’s also a bomb magnet, only adding to its deterioration. On top of that, billions of dollars tagged for the project just disappeared.

8. The HQ no one needed…

… to the tune of $25 million, no less. This headquarters office is 64,000 square feet of prime Afghan real estate that three generals tried to kill before it could be built. No dice, though. The new HQ features a 125-person auditorium, special entrance for VIPs, and $2 million worth of furniture.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
(ProPublica photo)

The HQ is in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with an additional $20 million of infrastructure built around the base to support it, even though U.S. troops left Helmand after the temporary surge in 2010.

9. Warlord Truckers

This should be a reality show, except it’s not a show; it was a program that hired local truckers in Afghanistan to move material with their own trucks.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria
Afghan truckers make their way towards Friendship Gate, the border crossing in Wesh, Afghanistan, on their way to Pakistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Juan Valdes)

Except twenty percent of that money went to local warlords for protection, which fueled unrest, corruption, and warlordism. It’s kinda like that $37 million bridge from Afghanistan to Tajikistan built by the Army Corps of Engineers, which really just helped drug runners run drugs. Unfortunately, that’s not the first time the military helped spur on an illegal trade.

10. Paying stoners from Florida to be their arms traffickers

It must have been a huge surprise to everyone involved when the Pentagon awarded an actual lowest-bid contract to a few unknown stoners from Miami Beach. These guys were awarded a $300 million contract to deliver arms to U.S. allies in Afghanistan. Instead of shiny new weapons, the guys run old Communist guns from the Balkans and repackage Chinese ammo. It’s the subject of the new Jonah Hill-Miles Teller movie “War Dogs.”

 

“War Dogs” is in theaters August 19th. The U.S. military will be throwing money around like an Afghan warlord long after that.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump approves cash for missile upgrades aimed at China

President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed into law a $717 billion defense spending bill that puts China in the crosshairs of a host of new US Navy missiles and tactics.

Beijing heavily protested it and may have scored some small concessions, but the bill puts nearly $1 trillion behind the idea that great power strategic competition has returned and that the US seeks to win it.


The increase in spending comes as China has increasingly edged out the US Navy’s competitive advantage in open waters. The US suffers a missile gap with both Russia and China, meaning those countries have longer-range missiles designed to sink massively valuable platforms like aircraft carriers before they can get close.

The US drifted from a focus on fighting near-peer adversaries like China and Russia after the Cold War, as military planners banked on continued US supremacy to limit potential adversaries to non-state actors and rogue states.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson and USS Pinkney, and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz operating in formation in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo)

But with the new defense bill comes a renewed focus on producing as many new missiles as possible to counter the high-end threats from those countries.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles while meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12 — also supersonic — approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boost into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles.

Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

US Navy submariners loading a Tomahawk cruise missile onto a sub.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Return to ship-sinking

To regain its status as the world’s premier ship-sinking force, the US has planned a few upgrades and set aside cash for them in the defense bill. It would pay for new long-range missiles for the Air Force and some Navy planes while bringing back a missile abandoned by the Navy after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, Tomahawk missiles have a massive range, of about 1,000 miles, but can hit only land targets, as they have in Syria recently. At the height of the Cold War, Tomahawks could strike moving ships, and now the Navy seeks to get that power back.

A modification in the works at Raytheon seeks to deliver 32 maritime versions of the Tomahawks by 2021 that would healthily out-range any Russian or Chinese missiles.

After a successful test of the upgraded Tomahawk in 2015, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, Bob Work, said (according to USNI News): “This is a potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile.”

“It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.

Full-court press

But not only will the Navy get increased power to fight adversaries like China — it’s scheduling in some more patrols that could lead to run-ins, as have become increasingly frequent.

With Beijing building up its military presence in the South China Sea and rolling out new warships at a dizzying rate, the US’s return to great power competition will also include training neighboring navies in India and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, it says Beijing will remain excluded from Rimpac, the world’s largest naval exercise, until it stops its efforts to take control of the South China Sea.

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