Iran has tested an advanced high-speed torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. The test is not only a provocation, but the torpedo is also a new threat to vessels in the international choke point.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the torpedo in question is called the Hoot, and appears to be a variant of the Russian Shkval, a rocket-powered torpedo capable of reaching speeds of 250 miles per hour, with a range of six miles. This torpedo could cover that distance in about a minute and a half.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, Russia designed the Shkval as a “revenge weapon” for use by submarines to take out a ship or submarine that fired on them. The original Shkval was tipped with a nuclear warhead. The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that an export version has about a 450-pound high-explosive warhead. Combat Fleets reported Iran was developing a variant of the Shkval known as the Dalaam.
The torpedo is a particular threat given the confined nature of the Strait of Hormuz, which is as narrow as 21 nautical miles.
The Shkval can be fired from any 21-inch torpedo tube — which means that the entire Iranian submarine force, three Kilo-class submarines and at least 16 Ghadir-class minsubs based on a North Korean design, plus another class of minisub called the Qa’em, can use this weapon.
Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.
Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.
Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.
“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”
Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.
May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.
The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.
The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.
(London Metropolitan Police)
Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.
Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.
Poison in a perfume bottle
A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.
Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.
The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.
Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.
“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.
The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.
Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The suspects’ whereabouts
The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:
March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.
Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The day before Thanksgiving is a time many people spend with family and friends. This year, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division decided to spend their time giving back to the local community.
Approximately 200 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Recon and their families participated in a charity ruck march Nov. 27, 2019. The Battalion loaded up their packs with non-perishable food donations and hiked approximately six miles from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Main Gate to the United Way CHEW! House in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to support this program. In Jacksonville, Marines are the biggest part of our community and for them to be able to give back to the community is huge.” Shelly Kiewge, the community impact director for United Way
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Mendez, the 2nd Recon Sergeant Major. “As Marines, we are guaranteed the basic things like housing and food. It’s important that we realize that not everyone in our local community has that opportunity.”
The event was organized by 2nd Recon to build unit camaraderie through physical training, and donate much needed food items to the Onslow County United Way’s Children Healthy Eating on Weekends program.
“It’s always important to help out the local community,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph DeBlaay the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Recon training command. “For us, it lets the community know we’re here and easy to approach when needed.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Ford the assistant training chief with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division reads off the total donations after a charity ruck march.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Solak)
The CHEW! Program was created to provide bags packed with healthy food for children in need over the weekend who wouldn’t be fed otherwise. The program helps over 700 school-aged children.
The Marines donated over 3,800 pounds of food to the CHEW! program.
“I want my Marines to understand the importance of this. Not that it’s just a battalion mandated event,” said Staff Sgt. DeBlaay. “I want them to see the importance of why we’re doing this to help out the community and help out those in need.”
This is the second year the battalion has organized this event and plans to continue the tradition in years to come.
“When you join the Marine Corps you do it as a means to help people who traditionally can’t help themselves,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Hoey, battalion commander of 2nd Recon. “Whether it’s people in a different country or helping people here at home who don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s inherent to what Marines do — we help people in need.”
This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps hit the wall, with a string of deadly accidents on the sea and in the air. In 2018, we’ll see whether the overstressed sea services start saying “no” to missions.
That means battles both in the Pentagon and on the Hill. The newly named Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, seems to be charting a collision course with joint commanders, who he says have run the services ragged with too many missions, and with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which gave joint headquarters preeminence over the four armed services in many areas. In recent years Congress and the Pentagon have restored some of the service chiefs’ authority over weapons acquisitions, but they haven’t questioned the basic balance of power set in law some 31 years ago. Now the Strategic Readiness Review which Spencer commissioned has put changing Goldwater-Nichols on the table.
How to make the case for change? “We’ll start every conversation with 17 dead sailors,” Spencer pledged in September. But 17 deaths is just the beginning. While Spencer was talking specifically about two deadly surface ship collisions this summer, transport aircraft crashes killed 19 Marines in July and August. In response, the Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered rolling safety stand-downs at all Marine aviation units.
This summer was just a particularly lethal spike in a long-running trend. Crashes of a C-2 transport and a T-45 trainer killed five more Navy personnel just since fiscal year 2018 began on October 1st. Three naval aircraft have been lost in accidents since Oct. 1, another three damaged.
In fiscal 2017, Navy aircraft suffered 10 Class A Mishaps involving permanent disability, loss of life, or more than $2 million in damage. The Marines, with a much smaller air fleet, suffered another 10. Long-term, both services have seen rising accident rates ever since 2013, when the Budget Control Act abruptly cut funds for training and maintenance. The Marines in particular have seen their accident rate — which has long been higher than the Navy’s — more than double over the last two years.
As costly as these accidents are, and as devastating as these deaths have been, the biggest potential catastrophe is a force unready for combat. Early in 2017, the sea services admitted that 53 percent of all naval aircraft were grounded for maintenance, rising to 62 percent for strike fighters and 74 percent of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. As for surface ships, both a former deputy secretary of defense and a panel of retired captains have publicly argued that the recent series of accidents — not just the two fatal ones — shows a force struggling with basic seamanship, let alone the complex skills required to fight an enemy fleet. Meanwhile the third pillar of the Navy, the submarine branch, has avoided deadly accidents but still has an unprecedented proportion of its boats idled awaiting maintenance: Ready submarines are consumed by day-to-day missions for the joint commanders, leaving few boats in reserve to “surge” in a major war.
So what do the Navy and Marine Corps need? The most precious commodity is time: time to catch up on training, time to clear up the maintenance backlog. But time is finite, and every day spent getting ready is one less day out doing missions. The services’ concern for readiness — particularly for major wars — conflicts directly with the theater commanders‘ need for naval presence. The current Pentagon process effectively gives the joint commanders a blank check for how heavily forces are committed around the world, with little provision for the services to throw a yellow flag and say “too much.” That’s the system Sec. Spencer seems ready to challenge.
Money would help too, of course. More money for maintenance and training would help readiness, but, less obviously, so would more money for modernization. Buying new ships and aircraft could let the Navy and Marines retire aging, unreliable equipment, which drags down readiness because it’s down for maintenance too often.
Or you could use the new ships and planes to increase the size of the force. Growth improves readiness by spreading the workload over more units, giving each more time for training and maintenance. (Of course, that assumes that the workload doesn’t go up too, and that training and maintenance funds go up proportionately instead of being spread thinner over the larger force). The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. John Richardson, said that building more ships would help prevent future accidents, because with more ships at work, none of them would be worked as hard.
For now, then, the Navy and Marine Corps have to improve readiness without a larger force or even additional training and maintenance money. That means their only option is to take on fewer missions — which is why Sec. Spencer has to challenge Goldwater-Nichols.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 6, 2019, claimed that melting sea ice — which scientists warn is a sign of potentially catastrophic climate change — is set to open up new “opportunities for trade” by shortening the length of sea voyages from Asia to the West by as much as three weeks.
Speaking at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland on May 6, 2019, Pompeo described the Arctic as the “forefront of opportunity and abundance.”
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” he continued. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days,” he said.
“Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals,” Pompeo said.
As well as shortening journey times, Pompeo stressed the “abundance” of natural resources in the region which are yet to be fully exploited. “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore.”
Pompeo made the remarks May 6, 2019, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, which comprises nations with territory in the Arctic Circle: The United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. He warned Russia and China against attempting to exert control over the region.
“Do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims? Do we want the fragile Arctic environment exposed to the same ecological devastation caused by China’s fishing fleet in the seas off its coast, or unregulated industrial activity in its own country? I think the answers are pretty clear,” he said.
Pompeo’s upbeat remarks on the economic opportunities offered by melting sea ice come as federal government agencies report that the amount of sea ice in the Arctic region is rapidly shrinking.
Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.
Last week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said in its monthly report that in April 2019, Arctic sea ice levels reached a record low for that time of year. The sea ice contracted by 479,000 square miles from its average extent between 1981 and 2010 to 5.19 million square miles, the center said.
In a study published in the scientific journal Nature last year, scientists said that not only were coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels caused by melting ice, but shrinking ice sheets could accelerate climate change, causing extreme weather and disrupting ocean currents.
Pompeo’s remarks come on the same day that the United Nations in a report warned that climate change caused by humans had played a a role in placing one million animal plant and animal species at risk of extinction in the next decade.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.
“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.
The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.
North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.
U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”
“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.
The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.
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President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.
California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.
Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”
The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.
The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.
Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.
Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.
He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.
“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”
By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.
That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.
When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.
It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.
The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.
The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.
It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.
Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.
Fisher Houses were born.
The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.
“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”
Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.
Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.
Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.
Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.
Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.
The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.
This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.
The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.
On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.
The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).
VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.
Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).
During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.
Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.
Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.
But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…
Yeah, he became an actor.
And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.
Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.
“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”
To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.
Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.
Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.
“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.
That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.
“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”
Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)
An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.
“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.
For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.
“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.
Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.
“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.
Robinson echoed his sentiments.
“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.
Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”
That capability means filling a variety of roles.
“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”
Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.
“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.
“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”
Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.
“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”
The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.
Those partnerships are important.
“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”
For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.
Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.
That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.
“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.
The result was a total redo of network systems.
“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”
It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.
“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.
“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.
The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.
“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”
Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.
“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.
“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”
A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.
During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.
As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.
When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.
Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.
Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.
For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.
Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.
At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.
During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.
“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.
According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.
Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.
The Free Beacon broke the news of the sub – code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon – and the Kremlin confirmed its existence two months later. The Russians call it “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6,’ ” and Gertz’ sources in U.S. intelligence say the drone sub is designed to carry the largest nuclear weapons in existence.
It could render any blast site uninhabitable for a century or more.
The Pentagon also confirmed the weapon’s existence.
“Status-6 is designed to kill civilians by massive blast and fallout,” Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider told The Beacon, noting that such targeting violates the law of armed conflict. “[The sub] is the most irresponsible nuclear weapons program that Putin’s Russia has come up with.”
The Russian superweapon is launched from a Sarov submarine and controlled by ships on the surface. It is self-propelled and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 6,200 miles. The vehicle can submerge to a depth of 3,280 feet and travel at speeds of up to 56 knots – meaning it can outrun American homing torpedoes.
At the time of its initial disclosure, operational testing for the weapon was due to begin in 2019 or 2020. A test of the system was conducted in November 2016, which shows the Russians are way ahead of their own development schedule.