How 'Game of Thrones'-style family drama triggered a World War - We Are The Mighty
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How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

Every high school student knows that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo helped spark World War I. But did you know that he wasn’t the only one killed that day? The other victim was his wife, Sophie, whom he married against everyone’s wishes. Their wedding pretty much cost Franzi everything – including his throne and his life.


How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Public Domain by Henry Guttman

What an Heir-Head

Franz Ferdinand was the greatest catch in Europe at the time of his coming of age, especially for the heir to Austria-Hungary (downgraded from the Holy Roman Empire in 1867). As nephew and heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I – husband of the tragically beautiful Empress Elisabeth, a.k.a. “Sisi” – Franzi could have his pick of any eligible woman in Europe. He couldn’t marry just any woman! According to aHabsburg family statute of 1839, archdukes and archduchess could only marry with the consent of the head of their house (i.e., the emperor). But the marriage market of late nineteenth century Europe was a small place. No matter which way he went, an archduke would end up wedding a relative; since she had to be Catholic, the bride-to-be would probably end up being a French, Bavarian, Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish princess, or even an Austrian archduchess cousin.

In 1915, Polish noblewoman, Princess Catherine Radziwill, wrote a fabulously gossipy memoir calledThe Royal Marriage Market of Europe, detailing the available royals of Europe and their family foibles. She snarked about Empress Sisi and her family, but actually had nice things to say about Franz Ferdinand and his marital choices – which went against the grain and wrought havoc in his family. Who was his choice? Not a royal princess, but a lady-in-waiting named Sophie Chotek.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Public Domain

By modern standards, no one would blink at a royal marrying a noblewoman – in fact, the bride would probably be of higher rank than many other princely wives-to-be. But for the tottering Habsburg-Lorraine family and its weakening empire, it was imperative to maintain a “pure” bloodline, one worthy of the perhaps oldest and most prestigious Catholic clan on the Continent. Only the bluest of blood would do for an empress consort! Which led to a hell of a family squabble…especially after Franz Joseph’s only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, committed suicide and didn’t leave behind a son.

I Keep on Fallin’…

Franz Ferdinand first met Sophie Chotek when she was a lady-in-waiting to the wife of his distant cousin, Archduke Friedrich of Teschen. The snobby, upwardly mobile wife of Friedrich – Isabella of Croÿ – was barely good enough to make it as an imperial wife. Gushed Princess Radziwill, “The young man — he was barely twenty-two at the time — fell in love with the Princess Isabella of Croÿ, whose father, the Duke of Croÿ, though belonging to the higher order of the German aristocracy, was still looked upon as a simple gentleman, in possession of large means and an old title.” Scandalous!

Isabella was “a clever, ambitious woman, who at once understood the immense advantages of such an un-hoped-for marriage,” and the imperial family tried to prove that her family wasn’t good enough, stating that Friedrich and Izzy’s wedding should be morganatic (a union between people of unequal rank, when any resulting kids usually can’t inherit any thrones involved). Isabella came up with enough evidence to prove her house was sufficiently ancient and high-ranking, so the Habsburgs begrudgingly allowed her into their family.

After Isabella got her long-awaited title of archduchess, she popped out eight daughters before giving birth to her golden ticket, a son. With so many marriageable girls, Isabella had a ton of matchmaking to do, and what better match could be made than with the heir of the empire? One of her daughters marrying the future emperor would also finally silence any detractors who complained about her own lineage. So ambitious Izzy, always playing up her family because of her own insecurities about it, set out to snag Franzi for one of her baby girls, bringing him over to her country house time and again. During this courting process – sometime in the 1890s, although the exact date is unknown – Franz Ferdinand met Sophie.

Sophie-Chotek-Franz-Ferdinand Photo: Unknown photographer

One Less Problem?

Each time he was invited to court his cousins, the more he fell for the one woman he wanted – and the one he couldn’t have. To be fair, Sophie’s background wasn’t exactly dirt-poor; it was just not up to imperial standards. Her grandfather was an Austrian count, while her diplomat dad worked all over Eastern Europe. Her clan wasn’t rich, but it was often in the wings of major imperial events, so Sophie would’ve known Franzi by sight. She was young, pretty, and refreshingly un-stuffy, compared to the rest of his family. In other words, perfect for the archduke. Princess Radziwill had fairly nice things to say about her, but admitted, “Her sway over the mind of her husband was unlimited, and, perhaps, even in excess of the love which he undoubtedly bore her.”

When Isabella found out by discovering a lost locket with Sophie’s picture in it, she was irate.According to Austrian noblewoman Marie Louise von Wallersee-Larisch‘s memoirs, “the archduchess immediately dismissed” Sophie and threw her out of her home. Emperor Franz Josef was opposed to their union, too, but Franz Ferdinand dug in his heels – it was Sophie or no wife at all. In a time of empires toppling left and right, the heir had to have a bride! Eventually, the emperor acquiesced, but added a harsh proviso.

FF and Sophie could get married – and they were, wed by a mere deacon – but she could never have imperial rank and their kids couldn’t inherit. As von Wallersee-Larisch noted, “the Emperor soon realized the marriage was a complete success,” so he bumped up Sophie’s rank to countess, then duchess. She still trailed behind every royal woman of the court and was probably shunned by all the archduchess. A shame no one realized that Sophie and FF made a popular couple that might have improved the imperial public image…especially with their three kids – Little Sophie, Maximilian, and Ernst.

In June 1914, Sophie and Ferdinand went on a diplomatic trip to an already uneasy area: Sarajevo. Only here, when  Franzi was on military duty, could the two unequally married lovebirds ride together in a car, so she accompanied him on the journey. The portents weren’t good – when the car overheated,Franzi quipped, “Our journey starts with an extremely promising omen. Here our car burns, and down there they will throw bombs at us.” While out and about in an open motorcade on June 28, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were both shot by Gavrilo Princip, a nationalist terrorist. This was after a failed bombing attempt occurred that same day, and FF decided to keep on trekking.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Public Domain by Henry Guttman

Sadly, these later shots were fatal. When Sophie slumped over her husband in the car, an already mortally wounded Franz Ferdinand shouted, “Sophie, Sophie, don’t die, stay alive for our children!” Both were later declared dead at the Konak palace. And, of course, Vienna took a hard line at the assassination of its heir and his wife. They declared war, and the rest of Europe chose sides…starting World War I.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

WWII and the Total Misrepresentation of Japan’s Surrender

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These Snake Oil Scammers Treated Addiction by Encouraging Patients to Drink Gold

The Bloodiest Thanksgiving Ever

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10 tips for dating on a forward operating base

Sure, it was against the rules for years but we all know dating, and more, happened regularly on the forward operating bases. Here are some tips for your next deployment.


1. Don’t talk about dating on the FOB

Remember, dating deployed is still highly discouraged and can affect perceptions of your professionalism. Keep a tight lid on it or expect your next evaluation report or monthly counseling to be harsh.

2. Conduct hygiene like you’re in garrison.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by US Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

Yeah, the long hours of work and the limited laundry and shower facilities are going to take a toll, but you owe the person who is letting you see them naked. At least invest in extra baby wipes or something.

3. Do some favors for the motor pool.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by US Army Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson

Make out sessions, and more, in vehicles are just as much fun deployed as they were in high school. Help the mechanics out and they’ll help you out.

4. Don’t date outside your pay scale.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by US Army Spc. Kim Browne

This is still illegal and a potential career ender. Officers with officers, enlisted with enlisted.

5. No partners from your company or your chain of command.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by US Army Sgt. Joseph Morris

The chain of command thing is still illegal while dating within your company is just a bad idea. Try to find a partner in another battalion or a completely separate command.

6. Don’t make it obvious.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by US Army

Googly eyes, shy smiles, shared meals, inside jokes. Secrets are hard enough to keep on a FOB without you dropping hints everywhere.

7. Practice weapons safety.

Literally and figuratively. If you get romantic, keep your literal weapon away from the bump zone and keep your figurative weapon in a case. Practice muzzle awareness with both.

8. Keep the drama discreet.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by USMC Staff Sgt. J.L. Wright Jr.

Fighting between yourselves will most likely be noticed, probably even faster than the googly eyes when you started dating were. Keep it limited to emails and texts. If you can stand at attention while getting reamed by the drill instructor, you can keep a poker face while having an email fight.

9. Don’t let it affect the mission.

This is why it was outlawed in the first place. Don’t miss a recall or show up late to duty because you were busy in a CONNEX container.

10. Be careful who you tell stories to.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

While you may want to brag about your forbidden love, one of those stories may get you in trouble if word gets around. Make sure you only tell buddies who can keep a secret.

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MATTIS: The Iraq war was a ‘strategic mistake’

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.


In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.

But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”

Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.

Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.

He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”

He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”

Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”

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US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition (SDF) launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa, the SDF commander announced on Twitter today:


 

The SDF is comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters and Syrian militia groups and is the primary partner for the U.S. effort against ISIS. This new offensive has taken them within 40 miles of the ISIS stronghold. U.S. and coalition aircraft are supporting the effort with airstrikes in and around Raqqa.

SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), will not advance on the capital city itself. The Kurdish leadership believes Raqqa should be captured by Arab militias. Thirty thousand SDF troops moved to retake vast areas northwest of the city, but the assault on Raqqa will have to wait until the Arab militias have the strength.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports ISIS fighters are literally digging in for Raqqa’s defense. Earthworks and defensive structures are going up around the area. There are even rumors of an extensive network of tunnels.

Fox News reported a state of emergency was declared by ISIS in Raqqa. The city’s defenders number anywhere from three to five thousand fighters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian forces are ready to coordinate with the SDF and the U.S. coalition to provide any support necessary to capture the ISIS capital.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. Drawing on thousands of fighters from Syria’s mix of religious and ethnic groups, a U.S.-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces is the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group in Syria. (Kurdish YPG photo)

SDF forces celebrated a string of victories against ISIS in recent months, including liberating a number of villages and 4,000 square miles of territory under ISIS control, capturing militants, and cutting off ISIS supply lines into neighboring Iraq. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2013, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to forces in open rebellion against the Asad regime in Damascus.

 

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ISIS is running for the hills — literally — as its Afghan leader is killed in strike

The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.


Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.

ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.

Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS  “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”

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13 tips for dating on a US Navy ship

Aside from the doom and gloom, sometimes the hormones act up, your sailor goggles come on, and the natural thing happens when you’re cooped up for months at a time with members of the opposite sex. It just happens. Yes, it’s stupid, and yes, you should know better. But, if you know better, and you’re still doing it, the following tips will help you and your “boat boo” from visiting the goat locker:


1. Forget about dating on a small ship.

 

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photos: US Navy

It’s easier to conceal your well deck escapades on larger ships, such as carriers and amphibious vessels.

2. Keep your distance

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Cassatt/US Navy

Keep it professional, don’t make it obvious. No flirting in your shop. Avoid eye contact altogether.

3. Never date in your division.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Schumaker/US Navy

Keep it secret from your division buddies. One thing is for sure, as soon the wrong person catches wind, prepare to be teased or worse.

4. If the person you’re seeing is in the same division, volunteer for TAD (Temporary Additional Duty).

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bradley J. Gee/US Navy

Yes, everyone hates it, but volunteering to crank in the galley might save you from getting caught. Once you’re called back to your division, it’s your partner’s turn to reciprocate.

5. Share no more than one meal per day.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Giovanni Squadrito/US Navy

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

6. Pass notes like you’re freakin’ teenagers.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

You’ve been there before, so take a page from your high school days. Also, if you have a network of trusted friends to pass along your letters, seal your notes with candle wax for an extra layer of protection. It sounds medieval, but it’s effective.

NOTE: Don’t be stupid; don’t save your notes. The goats – Navy speak for chiefs – will use them as evidence if you get caught.

7. Visit common spaces together.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: YouTube

The library is a great common space to meet and pass notes.

8. Have a buddy in supply or any division with access to storage spaces.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Wikimedia

This one is extra risky, but if you feel the urge to take it to the “next level,” your best friend is your buddy in supply. Supply personnel have access to storage spaces, which could be used to lock you in for an hour or two. Beware, you risk not showing up for emergency musters, such as GQ or man overboard. You’re at the mercy of your supply buddy since storage spaces are locked from the outside.

9. Wait for “darken ship” to meet at the bottom of ladder wells and corners.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Capt. Lee Apsley/US Navy

10. Volunteer for roving watch and rendezvous on the fantail.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner/US Navy

… or a dark catwalk.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dylan McCord/US Navy

 

11. Find another couple to provide you with a shore-buddy alibi.

 

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USAF photo

12. Go out in groups.

13. Have an open relationship. (And good luck with keeping that from getting messy.)

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

Acronym cheat sheet:

  • HM1: Hospital Corpsman, E6 pay grade
  • HM3: Hospital Corpsman, E4 pay grade
  • DRB: Disciplinary Review Board
  • CMC: Command Master Chief

WATM editor’s note: Let’s be clear, you should never date on a Navy ship. There’s too much to risk, such as being demoted, or even worse: getting the boot. For clarification, read the Navy’s Fraternization Policy.

Thanks to all the members of the Royal Order Of The Shellbacks and Shipmates Who Served Aboard The U.S.S. The Kitty Hawk CV 63 Facebook groups for helping us put together this post.

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Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

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Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.


Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.

Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.

The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.

The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.

Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:

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Why the F-22 Raptor is using its eyes instead of its guns in the skies over Syria

The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.


With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.

Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.

“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth.

“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”

The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.

The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.

The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”

Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb

Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.

The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
An F-22A Raptor fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.

“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.

Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’

The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.

“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Araiza

In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”

Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”

‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’

During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.

After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USAF photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier

Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.

“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.

‘We Can Bring More’

Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.

“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz

Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”

When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”

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China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.

“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”

Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.

The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.'”

The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.

The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.

The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.

China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.

U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.

Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.

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Why George Takei loves the country that betrayed him

These days, the general public knows George Takei for two things: his role as one of the most hilarious people on social media, and his role as Starfleet veteran Hikaru Sulu.


But there’s a lot more to the man. Born in 1937, he grew up at an interesting time for Japanese-Americans.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

“When Pearl Harbor was bombed,” Takei said in a recent TED talk, “young Japanese-Americans, like all young Americans, rushed to their draft board to volunteer to fight for our country. That act of patriotism was answered with a slap in the face. We were denied service, and categorized as enemy non-alien.”

His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Japan. His mother and father met in Los Angeles, where Takei was born. Now 78, he was four years old on December 7, 1941, when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and took the U.S. into World War II. 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were rounded up and put into ten internment camps for the duration of the war. This was by all counts an unlawful imprisonment of American citizens. No one was excluded, including the Japanese-American being imprisoned in the Life photo below.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

Takei goes on to describe the Japanese-Americans conscripted from the internment camps and their two-pronged fight in the war – the fight against the enemy and their fight for recognition as proud American citizens.

“…the astounding thing,” Takei says, “is that thousands of young Japanese-American men and women again went from behind those barbed-wire fences, put on the same uniform as that of our guards, leaving their families in imprisonment, to fight for this country… They said that they were going to fight not only to get their families out from behind those barbed-wire fences, but because they cherished the very ideal of what our government stands for.”

He refers to the U.S. Army’s 442d Regimental Combat Team. Sent to Europe in 1944, the 442d boasted over 9,000 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, and 21 Medals of Honor. For a unit of just over 3,000 troops, they also had the extremely high casualty rate of 93%. They are best known for their actions against Nazi General Albert Kesselring’s Gothic Line in Italy, which Takei describes in his talk.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War

“They are my heroes and my father is my hero, who understood democracy and guided me through it. They gave me a legacy, and with that legacy comes a responsibility, and I am dedicated to making my country an even better America, to making our government an even truer democracy, and because of the heroes that I have and the struggles that we’ve gone through, I can stand before you as a gay Japanese-American, but even more than that, I am a proud American.”

Now: This Vietnam-era wounder warrior heads ‘the most unique memorial ever built’ 

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White House considering direct military action to counter North Korea

In a dramatic shift from traditional policy, an internal White House review on North Korea strategy revealed that the option to use military force or a regime change to curb the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons was on the table, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.


This review comes at the heels of a report claiming President Donald Trump believed the “greatest immediate threat” to the US was North Korea’s nuclear program.

Also read: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

Recent provocations from the Hermit Kingdom, including the ballistic missile launch in the Sea of Japan and the killing of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother in Malaysia, may have provoked this shift in the policy that have many officials and US allies worried.

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Trump tweeted in January. Several weeks later, North Korea conducted its missile test.

How ‘Game of Thrones’-style family drama triggered a World War
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Since then, Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland consulted with other officials to address North Korea’s fresh series of provocations. In the meeting, held about two weeks ago, the officials discussed the possibility of a plan “outside the mainstream,” The Journal reported.

According to The Journal, McFarland requested for all options to overhaul American policy toward North Korea — including for the US to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state and the possibility of a direct military conflict.

Related: Experts say missile defense alone won’t stop growing North Korea nuke threat

The proposals, which are being vetted before Trump’s review, would certainly be met with worry from China, a longtime ally of North Korea that recently responded with an export ban against North Korea’s coal industry. Additionally, many experts fear that a direct military conflict would spark all-out warfare, including artillery barrages directed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital.

Even more worrisome is the possibility for further North Korean provocations, which may influence the recent policy shift, as early as this month. As the US and its ally South Korea conduct “Foal Eagle” and “Key Resolve,” their annual military exercises that involve 17,000 US troops and Terminal High Altitude Air Defense systems, experts say provocations from North Korea will be likely.

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These Fidel Castro assassination attempts are crazier than your Saturday morning cartoon plots

Fidel Castro famously held onto power through 10 U.S. presidents — from 1959 to 2008 — as Cuba’s ruler before finally calling it quits for health issues.


Related: The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

Surviving as a communist leader for half a century just 90 miles from the U.S. is a surprising achievement considering the estimated 638 CIA assassination attempts, according to Cuba’s chief of counterintelligence Fabian Escalante in the video below.

Castro was on the naughty list from the very beginning for overthrowing President Fulgencio Batista and converting Cuba into the first socialist state under Communist Party rule in the Western Hemisphere. He stood for everything the U.S. was fighting during the Cold War, and his friendly relationship with the Soviet Union only made things worse — especially after allowing Moscow to place its nukes pointed at the U.S. there during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It was a no-brainer; Castro had to go. And the U.S. attempted his removal by economic blockade, counter-revolution, and by assassination. This short animated History Channel video explores some of the most outlandish Fidel Castro assassination plots by the CIA.

Watch:

History Channel, YouTube
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