Back in 2014, ISIS assaulted into Iraq and gained ground so fast that to this infantry officer, it made the German blitzkrieg look like amateur hour. Within a matter of months, the terrorist group took control of several key cities and began a series of massacres that even Al Qaeda deemed, “too extreme.”
As the Iraqi Army and Police fell back towards Baghdad, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.
I was on my way to class when I got a call from a man I knew as “Captain.” I could hear gunshots in the background and he was asking me, “Brother, can you help?”
Now, I’m a former Marine officer and served three combat tours in Iraq from 2006-2009. In 2014 I had moved on with life and was well on my way to growing the nasty beard and long hair of a graduate student.
But I couldn’t forget the Marine Corps motto that lived inside me: Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. And now I had a good reason.
The Iraqi soldier we’ll call “Captain” to conceal his identity, saved my life in 2006.
I’ll never forget that as a boot platoon commander on my first deployment when the Captain shielded me from an incoming shot by pushing me down and charging a sniper. So when I got that call from Captain in 2014, I knew he was in some serious trouble, and I had to help.
That’s when I began a frantic effort to call my former commanders and write congressional leaders to do something…anything. But before Captain could get the massive airstrike that he needed to quell the ISIS assault, he received an ultimatum from the ISIS commander on the other side of the battlefield.
“We know who you are, and we’ll kill your kids if you don’t leave,” the ISIS commander told Captain.
With a credible threat against his life, the Captain and his family quickly fled to Turkey where they hoped to eventually resettle in the United States as refugees. With Captain out of Iraq and on a path to the U.S., I thought all was well.
But the Captain’s case got stuck in the backlog of millions fleeing the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He was quickly told that his case wouldn’t be processed for years which, when you are on the run from ISIS, might as well be a death sentence.
Let me put it this way, this was a dude that had fought with us for years and now there were people who never served telling me that they couldn’t process his paperwork. I thought WTF?
So, I did the one thing Marines always do. I took action and went to Turkey myself, filming the trip along the way. My journey to help the Captain eventually was released by National Geographic as a short documentary called “The Captain’s Story.”
Nearly three years later, I continue to advocate for other refugees like the Captain as a member of Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan “group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.”
Though the work is far from over, we’re starting to make a difference in doing right by our wartime allies and bring them the protection and safety they deserve.
Chase Millsap joined the WATM team earlier this year as Director of Impact Strategy which allows him to keep fighting for veterans and our allies. We’re glad he’s on our team… just don’t piss him off.
One of the most effective hand-to-hand combat techniques taught today — and one that has become closely identified with the Jewish state that embraced it — Krav Maga was a product of the Nazi-era streets of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.
The martial art’s inventor, Imi Lichtenfeld was quite the athlete. Born in Budapest in 1910, he spent his early years training to be a boxer, wrestler, and gymnast with his father. The elder Lichtenfeld was also a policeman who taught self-defense. Under his father’s tutelage, Imi won championships in all his athletic disciplines. But fighting in a ring required both people to follow certain rules. Street fights don’t have rules, Imi Lichtenfeld thought, and he wanted to be prepared for that.
At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitic riots struck Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where Imi and his family were then living. Like many large cities in the region, the rise of National Socialism, or Nazism, created an anti-Jewish fervor that took young men to the streets to assault innocent and often unsuspecting Jews.
When the streets of his neighborhood became increasingly violent, Lichtenfeld decided to teach a group of his Jewish neighbors some self-defense moves. It came in the form of a technique that would help them protect themselves while attacking their opponent – a method that showed no mercy for those trying to kill the Chosen People.
Young Imi taught his friends what would later be called “Krav Maga.”
Translated as “contact-combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is designed to prepare the user for real-world situations. The martial art efficiently attacks an opponent’s most vulnerable areas to neutralize him as quickly as possible, uses everything in arm’s reach as a weapon, and teaches the user to be aware of every potential threat in the area. It developed into one of the most effective hand-to-hand techniques ever devised.
Krav Maga’s widespread use began in the Israel Defence Force, who still train in the martial art. These days, Krav Maga is a go-to fighting style widely used by various military and law enforcement agencies. In 1930s Europe, it was a godsend. Lichtenfeld’s technique taught Bratislava’s Jews how to simultaneously attack and defend themselves while delivering maximum pain and punishment on their attackers.
Imi Lichtenfeld escaped Europe in 1940 after the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1942 (after considerable struggles along the way) and was quickly inducted into the Free Czech Legion of the British Army in North Africa. He served admirably and the Haganah and Palmach – Jewish paramilitary organizations that were forerunners of what we call today the Israel Defence Forces – noticed his combat skill right away.
After Israel won its independence, Lichtenfeld gave his now-perfected martial art of Krav Maga to the IDF and became the Israeli Army’s chief hand-to-hand combat instructor. He even modified it for law enforcement and civilians.
Lichtenfeld taught Krav Maga until 1987 when he retired from the IDF. He died in 1998, after essentially teaching the world’s Jewish population how to defend themselves when no one would do it for them.
For the first time, a soldier is being brought up on real-world charges for battlefield offenses committed during a video game. A UK troop stationed in Edinburgh, frustrated at the lack of real training took that frustration out in the combat simulator in which he and his squad were training.
He wasn’t charged with murder, according to the Telegraph, he was charged with disobeying a direct order and reprimanded. The infantry rifleman told members of his unit he just wanted to be training outside and was fed up with being on a laptop. He will spend the coming weekend on guard duty as part of his punishment.
“Guys, take this seriously, okay??”
Members of his unit told the Telegraph they had been training on the laptop computers for at least three weeks and were anxious to go outside and do real-world training. They also challenged anyone else to do the same thing for that long without needing to vent some kind of frustration.
“All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we’d rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there’s less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.”
Like training for, say, World War III.
The unit was training on what to do in an armored convoy in a hostile environment, filled with enemy forces. That’s when the soldier in question “lost his rag” and went on a Grand Theft Auto-level virtual spree, which started with killing the soldier next to him. He then stole one of the armored vehicles and drove it down the street to deliberately smash into local nationals’ cars.
His comrades thought the behavior was extremely funny, his superior officers did not.
Pictured: British Army convoy training.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence defended the reprimand, saying “We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action..
Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.
Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.
The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.
“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.
In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.
“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.
Opportunity to Go Viral
Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.
“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”
Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.
“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.
“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”
Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.
The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.
Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.
More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.
For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”
“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”
Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.
“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.
“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.
Not Backing Down
Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.
“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.
“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”
Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.
Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.
“There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on,” the U.S. official said.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over “what the long-term U.S. presence would look like,” the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and “nothing has been finalized.”
U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq’s border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.
He said al-Abadi is looking to install a “modest” Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.
The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be “several thousand … similar to what we have now, maybe a little more.”
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.
The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.
Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.
At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces’ need for support.
During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.
“I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other,” Mattis said.
Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq.
But, he said, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul.” He added, “I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they’re going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul.”
The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq’s Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.
“Iraq’s security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect ( Iraq’s) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?” al-Hussein asked.
Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq’s dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.
Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq’s military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Klapper reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
So, the American warfighter is one of the most technologically advantaged warriors in history.
But we could still make it better, right? No one wants a fair fight in war, and nature is full of animal superpowers that would give the U.S. a greater advantage.
Here are four that might be on the way:
1. Snow fox rangefinder
Snow foxes have achieved internet fame recently for their “built-in compass” that makes them more successful in hunting mice under the snow or dirt when they strike at a small range of compass directions to the northeast of their position.
But it’s not exactly a built-in compass, it’s more of a range finder. This Discovery Blog article does a good job of explaining it, but the snow fox can basically sense disturbances at a fixed distance from them along a fixed direction. This allows them to much more accurately sense the exact range of the mouse from their position and attack with precision.
As for targeting enemy forces that aren’t actively engaging them, soldiers still have to spot the enemy and either guess, hit them with a laser rangefinder, or compare the enemy positions to their position on a map and do the math. No magic hunting powers are on the table yet.
There are still software limits, though. Someone will have to teach the mechanical noses what elements are present one, two, or eight days after an enemy infantry patrol passes a given point or a fuel point has been disbanded.
The short answer is maybe. Troops currently can see infrared energy through bulky optics, but there’s a possibility for contact lenses that sense infrared radiation. Because it’s tied to ultraviolet detection, it’s explained at the end of entry 4, below.
4. Jumping spider and bat eyes that see four primary colors
Yes. Four of them. We are told that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. But that’s not exactly true. Red, yellow, and blue correspond with specific wavelengths of light that stimulate humans’ three kinds of color receptors. Human corneas filter out light in another, otherwise visible band, ultraviolet. Some bats and spiders can see this band.
Soldiers who can see UV light would have much better night vision with none of the “tunneling” of most NV goggles. They would also be able to see insects better, helping troops avoid them, and fingerprints, helping with site exploitation.
Is it coming?
Maybe. The major technology breakthroughs have already come thanks to graphene, which can be used to make “ultra-broadband” photoreceptors. Basically, sensors that can detect infrared energy, visible light, and UV rays and combine them into one final image.
Best of all, graphene is thin enough that the possibility exists to make these receptors into contact lenses. But no one has currently commissioned graphene contact lenses for the troops. Still, fingers crossed.
Russia has unveiled images of a new super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile that media reports claim could wipe out France, Britain or the entire state of Texas.
Dubbed the “RS-28 Sarmat” but carrying the NATO codename SS-X-30 “Satan 2,” Russia is the only country to really deploy any type of super-heavy ICBM. The intention behind those missiles was to take out American ICBMs before the National Command Authority could order a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.
The first such missile Moscow had of this type was the R-36, known to NATO as the “SS-9 Scarp.” The Scarp had a range of up to 9,600 miles on land targets, and could also be used as the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, with a range of up to 24,850 miles. It carried a single nuclear warhead, but that warhead had a yield of 18 or 25 megatons, based on the version of the missile.
The next super-heavy Russian ICBM was the R-36M, known as the SS-18 “Satan.” Some versions of this missile carried the single 25 megaton warhead. Others carried up to 10 multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs. With a range of almost 10,000 miles, this missile was bad news for whoever it targeted.
The RS-28/SS-X-30 reportedly has a shorter range (about 6,200 miles), but it has the ability to carry as many as 15 MIRVs. It can swap out the MIRVs for a single 40-megaton warhead.
That would make it the most powerful warhead on an in-service missile. The Soviet Union did detonate a 50-megaton warhead, the Tsar Bomba, in 1961 on Novaya Zemlya. The Tsar Bomba was delivered by a modified Tu-95 “Bear” bomber, but was only an experimental system.
The closest an American missile came to the punch that these Soviet or Russian super-heavy ICBMs had was with the LGM-118 Peacekeeper missile. The Reagan-era Peacekeeper (also known as the MX) had a range of 8,700 miles, and could carry up to 10 MIRVs — usually equipped with W87 warheads capable of delivering a 475-kiloton yield. The Peacekeeper was deactivated in 2005 in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
The SS-X-30 is slated to enter service in 2020, replacing the SS-18.
Makes the NATO codename of “Satan 2” seem pretty appropriate, doesn’t it?
First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).
Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.
“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”
In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.
Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.
It’s a universal truth handed down since antiquity: a country with a coastline has a navy. Big or small, navies worldwide have the same basic mission—to project military might into neighboring waters and beyond.
The peacetime role of navies has been more or less the same for thousands of years. Navies protect the homeland, keep shipping routes and lines of communication open, show the flag and deter adversaries. In wartime, a navy projects naval power in order to deny the enemy the ability to do the same. This is achieved by attacking enemy naval forces, conducting amphibious landings, and seizing control of strategic bodies of water and landmasses.
The role of navies worldwide has expanded in the past several decades to include new missions and challenges. Navies are now responsible for a nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent, defense against ballistic missiles, space operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. With that in mind, here are the five most powerful navies in the world.
First place on the list is no surprise: the United States Navy. The U.S. Navy has the most ships by far of any navy worldwide. It also has the greatest diversity of missions and the largest area of responsibility.
No other navy has the global reach of the U.S. Navy, which regularly operates in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Navy also forward deploys ships to Japan, Europe and the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. Navy has 288 battle force ships, of which typically a third are underway at any given time. The U.S. Navy has 10 aircraft carriers, nine amphibious assault ships, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, 17 frigates and 72 submarines. In addition to ships, the U.S. Navy has 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world. At 323,000 active and 109,000 personnel, it is also the largest navy in terms of manpower.
What makes the U.S. Navy stand out the most is its 10 aircraft carriers—more than the rest of the world put together. Not only are there more of them, they’re also much bigger: a single Nimitz-class aircraft carrier can carry twice as many planes (72) as the next largest foreign carrier. Unlike the air wings of other countries, which typically concentrate on fighters, a typical U.S. carrier air wing is a balanced package capable of air superiority, strike, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions.
The U.S. Navy’s 31 amphibious ships make it the largest “gator” fleet in the world, capable of transporting and landing on hostile beaches. The nine amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and Wasp classes can carry helicopters to ferry troops or act as miniature aircraft carriers, equipped with AV-8B Harrier attack jets and soon F-35B fighter-bombers.
The U.S. Navy has 54 nuclear attack submarines, a mix of the Los Angeles,Seawolf, and Virginia classes. The U.S. Navy is also responsible for the United States’ strategic nuclear deterrent at sea, with 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines equipped with a total of 336 Trident nuclear missiles. The USN also has four Ohio-class submarines stripped of nuclear missiles and modified to carry 154 Tomahawk land attack missiles.
The U.S. Navy has the additional roles of ballistic missile defense, space operations and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief. As of October 2013, 29 cruisers and destroyers were capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, with several forward deployed to Europe and Japan. It also monitors space in support of U.S. military forces, tracking the satellites of potential adversaries. Finally, the U.S. Navy’s existing aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels, plus the dedicated hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, constitute a disaster relief capability that has been deployed in recent years to Indonesia, Haiti, Japan and the Philippines.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has come a long way in the last 25 years. The spectacular growth of the Chinese economy, which fueled a tenfold defense-budget increase since 1989, has funded a modern navy. From a green-water navy consisting of obsolete destroyers and fast attack boats, the PLAN has grown into a true blue-water fleet.
The PLAN currently has one aircraft carrier, three amphibious transports, 25 destroyers, 42 frigates, eight nuclear attack submarines and approximately 50 conventional attack submarines. The PLAN is manned by 133,000 personnel, including the Chinese Marine Corps, which consists of two brigades of 6,000 marines each.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force provides fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for China’s new aircraft carrier, helicopters for surface ships, and shore-based fighter, attack and patrol aircraft. The PLANAF has 650 aircraft, including J-15 carrier-based fighters, J-10 multirole fighters, Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and Z-9 antisubmarine warfare aircraft.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, deserves special attention. It was commissioned into service in 2012. Originally built for the Soviet Navy, after the end of the Cold War, Liaoning’s unfinished hull languished in a Ukrainian shipyard. Purchased by a PLA front company, the ship was towed back to China where it spent nearly a decade being refitted. Liaoning is expected to function as a training carrier as China grows accustomed to the complex world of carrier operations.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy is well into the process of modernizing its amphibious capability, having commissioned three Type 071 amphibious platform dock ships. Each Type 071 LPD can carry from 500 to 800 Chinese marines and 15 to 18 vehicles, and can get troops ashore via hovercraft patterned on the American LCAC and Z-8 medium transport helicopters. China is also reportedly planning on building amphibious assault ships with full-length flight decks along the lines of the American Wasp-class. A total of six Type 071s and six of the new amphibious assault ships are rumored to be planned.
China’s submarine force is a decidedly mixed bag, with up to 60 submarines of varying quality. The core of the force consists of three Shang-class nuclear attack submarines, nine Yuan, 14 Songand 10 Improved Kilo submarines imported from Russia. China’s ballistic-missile submarine fleet is made up of three Jin-class missile submarines with a fourth (and possibly fifth) under construction. It is thought the South China Sea will eventually be used as a bastion for China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent.
The PLAN continues to grow and learn. At least two more aircraft carriers are planned, and China’s carriers could eventually number up to five. In addition to carrier operations, the PLAN is also learning how to conduct extended voyages through its contribution to the international antipiracy effort off the Horn of Africa. China has sent 17 naval task forces to the region, rotating in ships and crews to learn long-distance ship-handling skills.
Third on our list is the Russian Navy. Although traditionally a land power, Russia inherited the bulk of the Soviet Navy at the end of the Cold War. This aging force is at the core of the current Russian Navy, with more ships and fleet-wide improvements slowly being introduced. The Russian Navy has proven useful to show the flag and shore up flagging Russian power worldwide.
The Russian Navy has 79 ships of frigate size and larger, including one aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 13 destroyers, and 52 submarines. With the exception of a handful of attack and cruise missile submarines, virtually all of the Russian Navy’s combatants were built during the Cold War. Underfunded for decades, the Russian Navy faces chronic readiness problems. Large Russian ships such as the carrier Admiral Kuznetzov and the Pacific Fleet flagship Varyag are frequently accompanied by tugboats on extended voyages. It is unknown how many of the aging ships are actually seaworthy, and of those, how many are combat effective.
Like the Soviet Union before it, Russia’s naval strength is in its submarine force. Russia theoretically has 15 nuclear attack submarines, 16 conventionally powered attack submarines, six cruise missile submarines, and nine ballistic missile subs. Although some have been overhauled, nearly all of the submarines are of Cold War vintage and are of unknown readiness. The nine ballistic missile submarines represent Russia’s valuable second-strike nuclear capability and are probably at the highest readiness of any ships in the fleet.
Russia has big plans for its naval forces, but for the most part they remain just that—plans. Russia plans to acquire at least one more aircraft carrier, a new, unnamed class of guided missile destroyers, the Borey II ballistic missile submarines, Yasen II nuclear attack submarines, and the Improved Kilo andLada conventional attack submarines. While the submarines are under construction, the aircraft carrier and destroyers are unfunded and exist only as blueprints.
The United Kingdom
This list catches the Royal Navy at a historic ebb in firepower. Like much of the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy has seen successive waves of equipment and personnel cuts. The recent retirement of two Invincible-class aircraft carriers and the Sea Harriers of the Fleet Air Arm have greatly reduced the Royal Navy’s abilities. Nuclear firepower, as well as future aircraft-carrier plans earn it fourth place on the list.
The Royal Navy is the smallest on this list, with only 33,400 personnel on active duty and 2,600 in the reserves. The Royal Navy currently fields three large amphibious assault ships, 19 frigates and destroyers, seven nuclear attack submarines, and four nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines. The Royal Navy’s aviation force, the Fleet Air Arm, fields 149 aircraft, primarily helicopters.
The core of the Royal Navy’s surface force is its six Type 45 guided missile destroyers. Each destroyer of the Daring class is equipped with an advanced SAMPSON air tracking radar, similar to the SPY-1D radar of the U.S. Navy’s radar Aegis system. Paired with up to 48 Aster surface-to-air missiles, the destroyers can handle a wide spectrum of aerial threats, including ballistic missiles.
The Royal Navy’s submarine force has dwindled to less than a dozen submarines. The force of seven nuclear attack submarines is being upgraded by the introduction of the HMS Astute class. Astute and her sister ships carry Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles, and are among the most advanced submarines in the world. Four Vanguard-class ballistic-missile submarines constitute the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent. Each Vanguard weighs up to 15,900 tons submerged and is equipped with 16 Trident D II long-range ballistic missiles.
The fifth navy on this list is unusual, because technically, it is not really a navy. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) is not a military force; its personnel are civil servants, not sailors. Largely under the radar, Japan has built up one of the largest, most-advanced and professionally manned naval forces in the world.
The MSDF has a total of 114 ships and 45,800 personnel. The core of the force is its large fleet of destroyers, designed to keep the sea-lanes to and from Japan from being cut as they were in the Second World War. This fleet of 46 destroyers—more than the British and French navies combined—has been expanded in recent years to accommodate new missions. Since the mid-2000s, the MSDF’s force of Aegis destroyers has been tasked with providing a defense umbrella against North Korean ballistic missiles.
Even more recently, Japan has constructed three so-called “helicopter destroyers“, each twice as large as the average destroyer with a strong external (and internal) resemblance to aircraft carriers. Indeed, these helicopter destroyers are carriers in all but name, designed to embark helicopters and—possibly in the future—F-35B fighter-bombers.
Japan has a modest, but growing amphibious capability. It has three tank landing ships of 9,000 tons that can move 300 troops and a dozen vehicles off-ship via helicopter and hovercraft. The helicopter destroyers can embark up to a battalion’s worth of marines from the new marine brigade to be based at Nagasaki, transport helicopters to carry them, and transport Apache attack helicopters to give them air support.
Japan’s submarine force is—ship-for-ship—one of the best in the world. There are 16 submarines in the JMSDF, the latest of the Soryu-class. Featuring an advanced air independent propulsion system, the Soryu submarines can remain submerged longer than other conventional submarines. The Japanese submarine fleet is young, with submarines retired at the average age of eighteen to twenty years. Japan has recently announced that the fleet would be increased to 22 submarines in response to the growing might of the PLAN.
During World War II there were numerous ways in which American citizens at home could help the war effort. Victory gardens, rationing, recycling (then known as scrap collection), and most importantly war bonds were all a part of daily life.
But some Americans wanted to do more – a lot more. The employees of the Union Pacific Railroad and the citizens of Sparks, Nevada held war bond drives to buy planes that would fly against the Nazis.
By 1943, the American war effort was in full swing on both fronts. The railroads were busy carrying men and materiel coast to coast to be shipped off to the war abroad. Despite their hard work supporting the cause, the railroad men of the Union Pacific still wanted to do more. So, driven by their patriotism, 65,000 employees voluntarily increased their payroll deductions for war bonds during the months of May and June to the tune of $379,000. For their efforts they were rewarded with being the first railroad group to be honored with a named heavy bomber, a B-17 F called The Spirit of the Union Pacific, in August 1943.
The following spring, inspired by what the Union Pacific Railroad had done, the city of Sparks, Nevada took up an effort to ‘buy a bomber,’ as their rallying cry became. The 6,200 residents of Sparks raised $600,000 in the effort to purchase a bomber, the equivalent of nearly $8 million today. With their nearly $10,000 per resident effort, the citizens of Sparks were honored with a B-25J Mitchell bomber named The Spirit of Sparks.
The Spirit of the Union Pacific arrived in England for combat on September 9, 1943 and was assigned to the 571st Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. Between that time and October 10 the plane flew four successful missions before being taken over by Capt. Robert Short and his crew as a replacement for their usual plane Short Stuff. Unfortunately this would be the last mission of the war for The Spirit of the Union Pacific as well as Capt. Short and his crew. On October 10 The Spirit of the Union Pacific and her crew were on a mission to bomb Munster, Germany as part of a larger effort later known as ‘Black Week’ due to the high losses of American bombers. Just short of the target the formation encountered heavy flak and German fighters. The Spirit of the Union Pacific was hit in the #3 engine causing a fire that consumed the plane. Upon realizing the severity of the hit Capt. Short ordered the crew to bail out. Two other crew members bailed out but did not survive and one was likely fatally injured and crashed with the plane. The remaining seven crewmen landed safely but were immediately captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as POW’s.
The Spirit of Sparks arrived in Italy in late 1944 and was assigned to the 321st Bomb Squadron located at Fano, Italy. During its tour The Spirit of Sparks flew over 150 successful missions against Axis positions in Italy and Southern Europe. Lt. Jack Kenyon and his crew flew 30 missions in The Spirit of Sparks in early 1945 taking no casualties before rotating out. Command next passed to Capt. McEldery who despite losing two wingmen in one mission also completed his missions without casualties. Capt. McEldery would be the final commander of the plane though as during transition training for the next crew the new pilot came in for a hard landing that crumpled the wings of the plane ending a very successful career. The plane was scrapped in Italy and used to repair other damaged bombers.
A scale model of The Spirit of Sparks along with a painting done by a crew member who survived 69 missions onboard can be found at the Sparks Heritage Museum in Nevada. Numerous other cities, organizations, companies also purchased planes that served in World War II though little is known about them.
After moving into an apartment here only a week earlier, Leifheit wasn’t yet familiar with the neighborhood. Marine Corps Sgt. Cody Leifheit checked the time: 2 a.m. Sunday, June 7, 2015. Probably people filtering in from the bars, he thought.
But the hysterical, incoherent screaming continued. Was it a cry for help?
Running down the street, the 28-year-old recruiter found a cluster of silhouettes milling beneath a tree, desperate and terrified. Their friend, 19-year-old Travis Kent, was hanging from a branch 25 feet above them.
No one had a knife to cut Kent down, so Leifheit ran home for one and sprinted back to the tree. The stocky Marine jumped up, grabbed a branch and strong-armed his way upward, recounted Austin Tow, Kent’s roommate. Tow had scaled the tree in an attempt to save him.
‘Like Hercules Climbing the Tree’
“Sergeant Leifheit was like Hercules climbing the tree,” recalled Tow, adding that Leifheit reacted without hesitation and ascended the tree “as easily as if he were climbing stairs.”
Tow said he and Kent’s 14-year-old brother, Dartanian, “saw warning signs.” Kent’s life hadn’t been easy. When Kent was a child, his father committed suicide after losing a son to cancer. His mother was a drug addict. At 19 years old, Kent had a legal dependent in his brother Dartanian.
Kent had talked about killing himself, Tow said, but they didn’t think he would actually do it.
Perched on a branch above his friend, Tow panicked. Worried that Kent had a spinal injury, Tow didn’t want to cut him loose and send him falling to the ground. As Tow wrestled with his options, a “completely calm” Leifheit climbed up to him.
“I’m sure it was just another day for him,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff Decker, who served under Leifheit from 2012-2015. He described Leifheit as a respected leader devoted to caring for and training his Marines.
“If we gave 100 percent, he gave us 110 percent back,” Decker said of Leifheit.
Leifheit’s proficiency in combat lifesaver training enabled his men to build confidence with casualty care, Decker said. He described Leifheit as “the guy for the job.”
Tow recalled: “Once Sergeant Leifheit climbed up to where I was in the tree, he said, ‘Hey, I’m a Marine and I’m here to help your friend.’ I instantly felt at ease.”
This was the first time Leifheit met Tow, Kent and their friends.
Leifheit — once a football and wrestling star at Ferndale High School in his hometown of Ferndale, Washington — took action. He hugged the tree with his right arm and wrapped his left arm around Kent, relieving pressure on the rope so Tow could cut it and release the noose. Leifheit checked Kent’s pulse and found nothing. Kent wasn’t breathing.
Leifheit yelled for onlookers to call 911.
Using the tree as a makeshift backboard, Leifheit began performing chest compressions on Kent from 25 feet off the ground. A few compressions in, Kent began breathing. Twice more he lost and regained his heartbeat as Leifheit worked to bring him back.
First responders arrived. An emergency medical technician used a ladder to climb up to them. He checked Kent’s pulse and presumed he was dead, but Leifheit disagreed.
“No, he just had a heartbeat!” Leifheit exclaimed, as he resumed chest compressions. As Kent’s heartbeat and breathing were restored, Leifheit rubbed his sternum to check responsiveness.
A firefighter assisted Leifheit in safely moving Kent down the ladder. Amid a flurry of first responders, Kent was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma.
Life-Saving Skills Played Paramount Role
Marine Corps Maj. Sung Kim, Leifheit’s commanding officer at Marine Corps Recruiting Station Seattle, said Leifheit’s actions personified traits instilled in all Marines, “from his initiative to take charge of the situation to his knowledge of basic life-saving skills.”
Leifheit spoke briefly with the gathered crowd before returning home to sleep. While they were in awe of what he had done, he was quick to downplay his response. Eight years of training and experience as a Marine brought him into the situation with only one option, he said.
“We can mess up a lot of things in life where there are no immediate consequences,” Leifheit said. “One thing you can never fail at twice is saving a person’s life.”
Kent spent 48 hours in a coma before waking up. On June 11, he walked out of the hospital, lifting a tremendous weight off his brother Dartanian’s shoulders.
“My brother is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a dad,” Dartanian said. “By saving his life, Sergeant Leifheit practically saved mine.”
(Editor’s Note: The name of the individual who attempted suicide has been changed to protect his privacy.)
“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. “We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how.”
Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.
Reports of Baghdadi’s death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.
Watching Star Trek as a kid was awesome. Space battles, morality plays, explosions… everything about it was what a budding young nerd needs to ensure he doesn’t get a date until after high school.
But when you grow up and enlist in the real military, you start to notice a few things you never considered when you watched the shows for the first time.
1. Almost everyone is an officer. And enlisted people don’t fare well.
Only in the old Star Trek movies did we ever see enlisted Starfleet personnel.
When we do see enlisted people, they’re usually running away or struggling to survive.
2. There was only one main character who was enlisted.
Chief Miles O’Brien was the only main character – who was also enlisted – in any series that warranted a spot in the credits. It still didn’t get him his due respect. Captain Sisko once told him to do something that would take two weeks. He ordered O’Brien to do it in three days.
As a matter of fact, the chief is always working, even when others are just hanging around. He doesn’t even get credit, recognition, or even a thank you. It’s so egregious, there’s even a Tumblr cartoon about it.
3. There are definitely Starfleet hair regs.
4. The entire crew of the 2009 movie were grossly unqualified.
They pretty much went from Starfleet Academy to being the ranking officers on the Enterprise. This is like an entire crew of O-1s being tasked to command an aircraft carrier. And Captain Kirk made it into the academy because he lost a barfight. If that’s the criteria, there’s a fleet of Marines ready to go to Annapolis.
Everyone in Starfleet should be dead.
5. Captain Kirk was probably not the best captain ever.
Someone actually calculated how many people die under Kirk’s command in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk lost 12 percent of the crewmen who served with him. If the USS Gerald Ford lost 12 percent of its crew in five years, that would be almost 600 sailors.
That captain would likely not be eligible for promotion. This still doesn’t settle one of the Internet’s first controversies: the Picard vs. Kirk debate. Captain Picard lost two ships (almost a third), and Kirk only lost the one, but he took out a bunch of Klingons in the process. Picard also rammed his into another ship, without giving the crew time to escape.
It’s okay. Those yeomen knew what could happen when they enlisted.
6. Starfleet ships explode really easily.
Every space battle will toss around a few crewmen.
7. Federation ships are really easy to fly.
Literally anyone can fly these ships. Imagine a random Marine taking control of the USS Gerald Ford. You’d probably just abandon ship right away to save time. On Star Trek, if a helmsman goes down, just a few buttons will keep the Enterprise flying.
8. At least there are some PT standards.
The only overweight officer was Scotty, played by James Doohan – who is a national hero, so shut your mouth.
Besides, he didn’t put on weight until he was much older, so those Federation PT standards must also be adjusted by age. It should be noted that he and Uhura are the only living red shirts.
9. Hand to hand combat is much slower in the future.
Sure, I was in the Air Force, but anyone who’s seen a bar fight knows the stuff hits the fan pretty fast. Much faster than they fight on Star Trek.
It’s also much slower in the past. Every time a Star Trek crew goes back in time the fighting never seems to get any more intense. When Kirk went back to the 1960s, it took longer for an Air Force officer to pass out than it took to punch him in the face.
10. Klingon warriors are also not that good at fighting.
Every time the Klingons attack the Enterprise (or any Star Trek crew) they really come up short. In “Generations” they attacked the Enterprise and made the ship’s shields useless. And they STILL lost. Also, they tend to be disposable.
The captain of the Enterprise routinely goes to the ship’s bartender for advice on the latest missions.
Forget that she’s 500 years old, she’s never been in Starfleet and her biggest enemy is an immortal who is not restricted to the limits of space and time. It just seems like a bad idea to tell her everything.