How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US? - We Are The Mighty
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How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?


Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.

Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A T-90A battle tank in Moscow | Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.

Also, Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outermost borders are sizeably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, yet the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers.  The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.

For instance, Russia has apparently conducted a successful test launch of its Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile, according to The National Interest.

“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.

In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M  tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.

Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons

Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

Rand Wargame

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
NATO military forces

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union, the study maintains.

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.

However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

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That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.


On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.

Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
An F-8 Crusader on the deck of the USS Midway.

The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.

But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:

I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.

During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.

But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.

Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:

There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?

Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.

Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.

In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Here’s a video about his harrowing ordeal:

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That time Jimmy Carter saved Canada from nuclear destruction

In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor.  When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.


How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Jimmy Carter in his 1947 class portrait from the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook.

The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.

Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The Chalk River Labs site.

Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.

Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.

In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.

Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.

By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The USS Jimmy Carter (U.S. Navy photo)

It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.

The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.

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This stunning video reveals what it’s like to serve in the Indian Army

Much of the world knows how visually stunning films from India can be, especially since Bollywood produces an incredible number of colorful and evocative films every year. So it makes sense their recruiting videos would be just as visually appealing.


From the Indian Army’s YouTube page, comes a video titled “Indian Army: A Life Less Ordinary,” and it’s quite stunning.

The video gives an interesting look inside a foreign military, showing everything from troops marching, physical training, operating in the mountains, and special operations forces jumping out of airplanes.

YouTube comments, notorious for being so bad they sap people’s faith in humanity (they’re so bad Forbes wrote about them), are overwhelmingly positive, especially among those who appear to be the target age range for joining. Another win for the Indian Army.

It even starts with a little hat tip to famed Revolutionary War patriot captain John Paul Jones.

Check out the Indian Army’s full page of videos. They have some interesting recreations of the ADGPI’s win at the Battle of Haji Pir

NOW: The 15 Best Foreign War Movies

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This is what happened when the Navy banned alcohol on its ships

On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99:


“The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.”

Daniels was a supporter of the Temperance Movement, a turn-of-the-century social movement which supported a nationwide alcohol ban and actively worked to pass legislation against the beverage. Some of those laws are still in effect.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Hampering Sunday Funday for a century.

The U.S. Navy used to honor the grand tradition of giving their sailors a daily portion of grog, which started out as a half-pint of rum and then later, good ol’ American whiskey. If a sailor didn’t drink, they earned an extra per diem for it, the 2016 equivalent of around $1.44. The ration was reduced to a gill (quarter-pint) in 1842 and then eliminated during the Civil War (but the Confederate Navy kept the tradition in an effort to recruit sailors from other countries).

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Coffee is almost the same… right?

American sailors were allowed to keep their own stores of liquor and beer on board until 1899 when their sale was restricted. The new rules barred “enlisted men, either on board ship, or within the limits of navy yards, naval stations, or Marine barracks, except in the medical department.” When Daniels issued General Order No. 99, the only alcohol aboard U.S. ships was reserved for the officers of the wardroom and the Captain’s Mess.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
You think Ray Mabus is persona non grata? Sailors used to boo this guy on the street.

A creative reader can probably imagine what happened when the sailors learned about the ban. Daniels was not a popular guy but commanders rushed to sell what they had left – and they had a lot left. The Navy decided each ship should hold one last blowout to say fair winds and following seas to their beloved drink.

U.S. ships the world over moved to comply with the order. Many ships held banquets with food, others had theme parties, and some held funeral processions for their departing friend. A few ships just poured whatever they had left into a giant bowl. Pictures of these parties are hard to find– not only because cameras were rare in 1914. Presumably, the sailors didn’t want to make every American party for the next 60 years seem lame by comparison.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
And Cher wouldn’t board the Battleship Missouri for another 75 years.

The Navy banned alcohol entirely for a total of six years. Selling booze on shore and in clubs was reinstated after Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition. President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo (himself a WWII-era Navy veteran) changed the rules to allow the sailors two beers a day to sailors at sea for 45 days or more.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
If there’s a direct opposite of a Blue Falcon, this shipmate is it.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 25

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II taxies down the flightline during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12, 2017. During the course, aircrews practiced ground and flight training to enable civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and Air Force pilots of current fighter aircraft to fly safely in formations together.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski

An F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief assigned to Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing squeezes into the intake of on an F-16 during a preflight inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Feb. 2, 2017. The 180th FW brought their F-16s and about 150 maintainers, pilots, and operations specialists to MacDill AFB for a two-week training exercise.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer

ARMY:

Ukrainian combat training center engineers detonate an explosive charge to breach a door before entering a mock building as part of training with Canadian and U.S. engineers to build the Ukrainian’s breaching skills, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, near Yavoriv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, enabling them to teach those skills to Ukrainian army units who will rotate through the IPSC.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

A Royal Thai Army Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry demonstrates how to quickly dress a chicken for cooking in Korat, Thailand, Feb. 20. Exercise Cobra Gold is the largest Theater Security Cooperation exercise in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and is an integral part of the U.S. commitment to strengthen engagement in the region.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Army photo by Major Kelly S Haux

NAVY:

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 13, 2017) Steelworker 1st Class William Peacey, left, and Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Steven Fenske, both assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, conduct pre-dive checks during diver qualification training at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. UCT-1 provides a capability for construction, inspection, repair and maintenance of ocean facilities in support of Naval operations.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Simmons

RAMSUND, Norway (Feb. 14, 2017) Sailors assigned to Platoon 802, the mine countermeasure platoon of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, conduct dismounted counter-improvised explosive device operations. EODMU-8 is participating in Exercise Arctic Specialist 2017, a multinational explosive ordnance disposal exercise conducted in the austere environments of northern Norway.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Seth Wartak

MARINE CORPS:

Recruits with 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, spar during Marine Corps Martial Arts training at Leatherneck Square at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program helps to create the warrior ethos by utilizing armed and unarmed techniques from various styles of martial arts.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier

A Marine with the Maritime Raid Force climbs a caving ladder attached to an MH-60 Seahawk during a helocast training evolution near the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) afloat in the Indian Ocean, Nov. 28, 2016. The training consisted of Marines jumping out of CH-53 Super Stallions with a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, which simulated the MRF team traveling a long distance before being dropped in the ocean to continue their mission using a CRRC.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

COAST GUARD:

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Richey, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, mans an M240B machine gun on the bow of a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat during a security escort into Portsmouth Harbor the morning of, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The Motor Lifeboat crew escorted the Gibraltar-flagged LNG tanker Polar into a terminal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Richey, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, mans an M240B machine gun on the bow of a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat during a security escort into Portsmouth Harbor the morning of, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The Motor Lifeboat crew escorted the Gibraltar-flagged LNG tanker Polar into a terminal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

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7 things you actually miss from deployment

Vets know the feeling. You get back to civilian life or maybe just get a cushy posting stateside where all you have to do is show up from 9 to 5. At first, you love waking up late, working out when you want, and driving a vehicle with an AM/FM/XM radio instead of VHF/UHF.


Then, you get too many notes from the homeowners’ association about the exact distance of the mailbox from the curb. Or maybe a low-level supervisor at work won’t stop calling you into the office to talk about your use of “adult language.”

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

Deployed life isn’t easy, but there are some things about life in the sandbox that really is better than life in the U.S. Here are 7 things you probably miss from deployment:

1. Your buddies are always around

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Photo: New York Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Want to see a movie with your friends? Just kick their cots to wake them up. Have to go on a long patrol? At least your buds are going to be in the wedge with you.

Of course, it sucks waking up to the one guy who farts in his sleep every two hours. And listening to the pitch-deaf dude who always sings is annoying. Especially when he does it on the radio. During guard shift.

2.  There’s a constant routine

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
So, we’re patrolling this road again, huh? Alright. Photo: US Army Spc. Elisha Dawkins

While troops complain about the “Groundhog’s Day” effect, it’s sometimes nice to know where you need to be every morning without having to worry about schedules and commutes. You just wake up, slip on a fresh-ish uniform, and walk from the sleeping tent to the office of briefing tent.

Speaking of which …

3. There’s no traffic

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Photo: US Army Sgt. Terrance Payton

Don’t act like you don’t sit in traffic and miss the days you could just walk to and from work. Well, except those of you who were drivers on deployment. There isn’t a city in America with traffic as uncomfortable as a slow convoy conducted through a dust storm while wearing body armor in the desert heat.

This is especially true when the mechanics are having trouble keeping the air conditioners working with all the dust.

4. Common services are free

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright

When deployed soldiers need to hit the gym, grab some energy drinks or food, or do laundry, that’s all free on the base. On larger bases, there may even be third-country nationals contracted to do the laundry for them.

Of course, the gym is equipped like a prison and the food sucks, but still. You get it for free.

5. You can carry your weapon everywhere and no one thinks it’s weird

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr

Troops, especially soldiers and Marines, are taught early and often that they are supposed to be carrying their weapon. Sure, it’s something else to clean and carry, but it’s also a comforting presence.

You only need it because of the dudes who want to kill you, but it’s nice to walk around strapped without getting odd looks.

6. You never have to worry about what to wear

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Photo: US Marine Corps

If you’re headed to do cardio or hanging out after hitting the showers, wear PTs. Anything else calls for cammies. And that’s the entire wardrobe.

7. Everything is simpler

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
Photo: US Army Spc. Olanrewaju Akinwunmi

Outside of work and making sure to call home on Skype every once in a while, there’s really not much to worry about on deployment. There are no electrical or water bills, no parking tickets, and no homeowners’ associations.

Granted, the work stress is horrible; constant and bone-crushingly horrible. Also, it’s dangerous. And there is the constant drone of the generator and yells of the sergeants major.

Meh, maybe being stateside isn’t so bad after all.

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Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.


How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Keelan, a Patrol Squadron 46 pilot, operates a P-3 Orion aircraft during a sinking exercise Sept. 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Valiant Shield 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin Fisher)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the incident occurred Nov. 8 off Scarborough Shoal, a reef about 120 miles off the west coast of Luzon. Chinese forces have interfered with Filipino fishermen in the vicinity of the reefs, an action condemned by an international arbitration panel.

China has been constructing island airbases in the region, despite the adverse ruling, and recently conducted joint exercises with Russia in the maritime flash point.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 takes off from Naval Air Facility Misawa. VP-10 recently started a six-month deployment to NAF Misawa in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kenneth G. Takada/Released)

The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.

Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.

Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

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How SAS commandos avoided ISIS capture in a vicious hand-to-hand fight

A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.


Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.

“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”

The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.

One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.

“[The  warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”

The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.

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US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.


Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.

Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.

“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.

Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.

“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.

The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
North Korean anti-air missile on parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.

Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.

In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.

The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.

Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Volio)

While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.

Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.

“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”

The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.

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An adversary pilot was rescued after ejecting off San Diego coast

A Navy helicopter crew rescued a civilian pilot who ejected from a contracted fighter jet off the coast near Point Loma August 22, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.


The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat Hawker Hunter jet, for unknown reasons, roughly 115 miles off the coast, Navy officials said. No information about the pilot’s condition was available.

The Navy-contracted plane had participated in a pre-deployment training exercise for the ships of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Navy officials said. The Composite Training Unit Exercise, which tests the strike group’s deployment readiness, began earlier this month, according to the Navy.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Arabian Gulf. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar.

The Coast Guard was summoned about 4:30 p.m. to assist in the pilot’s rescue, but a helicopter crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt hoisted the pilot out of the ocean before a Coast Guard helicopter crew responded, officials said.

The pilot was taken to Naval Medical Center San Diego for a medical evaluation.

In the past, Hawker Hunter jets have been contracted by the Navy to play the role of an enemy aircraft in offshore training.

In two instances, in October 2014 and May 2012, the pilots who assisted in the training exercises crashed in a field near Naval Station Ventura County as they prepared to land. Both pilots died.

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These are the 5 most lethal weapons in the Japanese military

Japan has been making a comeback as a carrier navy, but they’re small compared to those of other Western powers. Overall, Japan had perhaps the most modern navy in East Asia during the Cold War, and did so while mostly respecting its constitution that renounced war.


But now, with China getting aggressive around the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea, Japan is stepping up its preparations. What are their best weapons? Here’s a listing from one video.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
JS Izumo underway in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

1. Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers”

Japan’s most modern “carriers” are among the biggest game-changers in the region. Vessels similar to this have operated small detachments of AV-8B Harriers but mostly deploy helicopters. And this isn’t the first time Japan has set its sights on bantam-weight carriers — its powerful Kido Butai dominated the seas during the initial stages of World War II.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A Soryu-class submarine arrives at Pearl Harbor for a visit. (US Navy photo)

2. Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines

Even more quiet than the carrier comeback has been Japan’s submarine force. In this case, Japan has perhaps the most modern diesel-electric submarines in East Asia. The Soryu-class vessels could also be getting new batteries that would greatly increase submerged performance.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
JS Atago in 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

3. Atago-class guided-missile destroyers

This is Japan’s version of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIA guided-missile destroyers. They’re about the same size, both have 96 vertical launch cells in two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems, and both can carry a couple of Seahawk helicopters. Two-to-four modified versions are planned to be added to the fleet in the coming years.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

4. V-22 Osprey

A planned purchase of the hight-tech tiltrotor aircraft is more rumor than fact. It should be noted that Japanese troops have been training on the Osprey since 2013. The Hyuga, a “helicopter destroyer” that is slightly smaller than the aforementioned Izumo, has operated this tilt-rotor aircraft. This could be a game-changer in a Senkaku Islands conflict.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

5. F-35 Lightning

This is a future purchase for Japan and will likely replace some of Japan’s F-4EJ and F-15J fighters. The F-35A is definitely headed over to Japan, but don’t count out a F-35B purchase, especially with reports Japan is considering purchasing the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship design. That could make the Wasps a match for the Liaoning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3G5lQ-GkFM
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How you too can look like a sci-fi robot with the Maximus headlamp

SureFire has released a number of shiny shining products recently, and one of them is the Maximus Headlamp. The Maximus (not to be confused with any of the brutal killers from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator or a concert in São Paulo) pushes out one thousand (1,000) lumens of light from an organic lithium-ion battery. It also features a “long-running” SOS beacon for exigent circumstances. (“Long-Running” was SureFire’s phrase; we’re not sure how many hours that actually is).


Grunts: exigent.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The SureFire Maximus Headlamp in all its glory.

It’s rechargeable and directional with a variable-outfit LED headlamp. This will allow you to go full potato like Gort, or to dial it back down to just enough lumens sufficient to navigate a campsite or shady bordello…or any level in between. This will also of course affect the runtime, though it’s important to note this thing comes with a gas gauge (which we reckon is a welcome feature). Its readout gives you the battery charge status.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
We bow before Gort, the humanoid robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

The Maxiumus features a large, knurled dial to make those adjustments, which you can do with one hand. This should help you get it where you want it under stress, in inclement weather, or when wearing gloves. You can also aim it with one hand, as the light assembly rotates up and down 90 degrees.

The LED is backed by one of SureFire’s proprietary reflectors, which enables it to throw out a wide, diffused beam they describe as “optimized for your natural field of vision.”

Also Read: This is all of the coolest stuff from this year’s SHOT Show Convention

As for what it does to your noggin, SureFire says this:

“Built from tough, lightweight magnesium, the SureFire Maximus thrives in harsh conditions. It’s also comfortable to wear, thanks to its no-chafe fine-weave headband and moisture-wicking Breathe-O-Prene forehead pad.”

Grab one right here if you’d like.

Be forewarened, the MSRP is $275. SureFire lights ain’t cheap, and neither is their performance. If you want a task light you can afford to lose in a drunken stupor or something to just look around your tent with, this might not be for you. If you’re doing serious work where serious gear is important, the Maximums might be worth a look.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?
The Maximus may not have the same lethal power as The Destroyer, but it’s the next best thing for non-Asgardians.

Here are the specs:

  • Virtually indestructible LED emitter regulated to maximize output and runtime
  • One-hand output adjustment from 1 to 1,000 lumens
  • Precision reflector produces a wide, smooth beam optimized for your field of vision
  • Light assembly rotates up and down 90 degrees
  • Built-in SOS beacon can run for days on end
  • Tough, lightweight magnesium body with durable black finish
  • IPX4 Water Resistant
  • Built-in fuel gauge indicates battery charge level
  • Comfortable no-chafe headband with moisture-wicking Breath-O-Prene® forehead pad
  • Includes long-life lithium-ion rechargeable battery with wall (AC) and car (DC) chargers

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?