ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.


Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.

SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.

The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.

An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.

Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.

On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.

After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.

ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.

“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.

“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.

But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.

“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

11 sure-fire gifts military dads will actually love

It’s June! Soon we will be honoring our dads and reminding them how much we care this Father’s Day. While it can be tricky to get the perfect gift for your spouse “from your kids,” we have put together some sure-fire, military-themed gift ideas for the military dad in your life. AND they are SUPER reasonably priced for as awesome as they are… Order now and get them delivered in time for June 21st. Check it out!


ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

1. Grenade Cufflinks

Yes, these really are as bad@$ as they look…class up any outfit. Grenades.

Made in the USA.
Best. Gift. Ever.

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

2. Engraved Ammo Box

Who says gifts have to be serious?! This pistol is so detailed no one would ever guess it’s made out of soap! Whether it’s used as decoration at a party or gathering or in the shower, these are sure to be a great conversation starter (maybe not in the shower…) Be sure to check out this entire store of military replicated soaps and candles!

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

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This is by far one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. These are CAT scan images of actual weapons. After two years of effort and tweaking, they were finally able to take high-res, detailed images of over 40 different guns. With statements assuring you no one else in the world has perfected this technology, you can be positive this will be a one-of-a-kind man cave gift!

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6. 50 BMG Bullet Bottle Opener

This is a bottle opener is handmade from a real expended .50 caliber round. They measure 5.5 inches long and 0.75 inches in diameter. It is guaranteed to look good while opening the service member’s beverage of choice. Made in the good ol’ US of A. Be sure to check out the different shell options!

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

7. Shotgun Shell Pocket Knife

It seems pocket knives are a dime a dozen these days. But pocket knives shaped like Beretta shotgun shells? Now those are a rarity. With a 2-inch stainless steel blade, it’s just as functional as it is esthetic.

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8. Paracord Bracelet with Metal Fish Hook Rope

“The paracord cord bracelet is made with 550 rope and one fish hook closure. The bracelet is also accented with customizable wrapped bands that secure the bracelet on your wrist. Leather (Leather available in black and brown only). The picture shows black leather accent wrap near the fish hook and near the opposite end of the loop.”

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9. Custom Cornhole Set

This company offers customization to the max! They have every branch to choose from in addition to branch neutral/American themes as well. Handmade from the best materials out there, these cornhole sets are perfect for a little RR in the backyard! Contact them today to customize names, logos, colors, bags, etc…they have every add-on imaginable!

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These custom made, personalized lighters are available to be engraved with the military rank insignia of your choice. Each lighter comes in a case which can be laser engraved on the lid or even the bottom. Whatever satisfies your desires.

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

11. Engraved Whiskey Stones

Service members lead strong, full-bodied lives…they don’t need watered down whiskey. These stones are made out of cubes of solid soapstone. They retain their temperature much longer than ice, so they will cool the whiskey or liquor of choice and provide a more sustained chill.

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This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

This amazing use of nuclear technology will blow your mind

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Image: Lockheed Martin


Imagine a plane that could stay aloft with unlimited range and endurance without refueling. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division claims it could develop within ten years.

The makers of some of the most famous military aircraft—the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 spy plane, and F-117 Nighthawk—are developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.

Related: These re the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.

Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.

In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:

LockheedMartinVideos, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Art of the Deal’ author makes the world a nuclear offer

President Donald Trump has pushed for the rebuilding of American military capabilities across the board, whether it’s the selection of James Mattis as Secretary of Defense or the seeking a larger Navy — or trying to restore the nuclear arsenal. All of this hasn’t stopped him, though, from pursuing the art of the deal. According to a report by Politico, Trump told a gathering of governors and mayors,


“We’re modernizing and creating a brand-new nuclear force. And, frankly, we have to do because others are doing it.”

Being the natural negotiator he is, he then offered a deal, adding, “If they stop, we’ll stop.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
A LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launching. (USAF photo)

This is not a new position for the President. In December 2016, he tweeted similar sentiments saying, “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

In modernizing their nuclear arsenal, the United States Military has been trying to develop a new version of the B61 tactical nuclear bomb. The B61 Mod 12 is slated to add a precision-strike capability to this weapon by using GPS guidance to get the bomb within 30 feet of the target point. Depending on the version, the new B61’s yield could range from .3 kilotons to 340 kilotons.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
The B-2 Spirit, which entered operational service in 1997, is one of only two American strategic nuclear systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)

There’s still a lot to do. The ICBM force uses ancient computers that use eight-inch floppy disks for receiving launch orders from the President. Only two of the strategic systems in the United States’ inventory, the B-2 Spirit and the UGM-133 Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile, are younger than pop superstar Taylor Swift, who was born in December 1989.

The state of the American nuclear arsenal has been a point of concern. Russian cheating on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, has prompted the United States to develop a new ground-launched cruise missile to match Russian systems, like the SS-26 Stone.

Articles

Service branches and elite units are testing a 60-round drum

LAS VEGAS — A compact polymer drum magazine from Magpul that can hold 60 rounds is being tested for potential use by several U.S. military service branches, as well as elite units, the company’s director of government and international affairs said.


Tray Ardese would not specify which branches and commands are testing the PMAG D-60 drum, but said range testing by the services so far appears to be going well.

Related: The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

“We’re under kind of a handshake [non-disclosure agreement] right now to let them get their tests in so we don’t put a lot of pressure on them,” Ardese told Military.com at SHOT Shot on Tuesday. “But each branch of the service has at least a few of them. It is a solution right now that could save lives.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Image via Magpul

Magpul appears at the show after a major coup: The Marine Corps’ decision in December to approve the company’s high-performing Generation M3 PMAG as the only magazine authorized for use in combat, replacing the legacy metal magazine.

Ardese said Magpul hopes the ruggedness, balance and reliability of the drum will also win over military users.

“I was one of the biggest drum haters in the world until I saw this one,” said Ardese, a retired Marine colonel. “Because … they’d work great when you treated them with care, but the second you got them dirty or beat them around, they would stop on you. This one hasn’t stopped on me yet and I’ve shot a lot of rounds through it, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds shot through it. It runs flawlessly.”

The drum, at 7.4 inches in length, is designed to be no longer than a traditional 30-round magazine, so shooters in the prone position don’t have to adjust their positioning to fire. And it’s compatible with all the weapons that can accept the PMAG, although Ardese said the drum is particularly well suited to the Marines’ M27 infantry automatic rifle.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Magpul’s 60-round drum is currently undergoing range tests by the U.S. military. | Image via Magpul

The Corps is currently undergoing experimentation to determine whether more infantrymen should be issued the IAR in place of the M4 as their standard service rifle. The weapon has a slightly longer effective range than the M4 carbine and has features including a free-floating barrel that make it more accurate. And unlike the standard M4, it includes a fully automatic mode. Currently, each Marine infantry fire team is equipped with one IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.

“M27 is the perfect platform for this magazine. This magazine gives the IAR gunner, the automatic rifleman an advantage in volume of fire right off the bat if they were ambushed or they were hit,” Ardese said. “They immediately have two magazines’ worth of ammunition in a flawlessly feeding drum that is very well balanced. It is a must for the IAR gunner.”

The drum, he said, lends itself to any situation where a warfighter needs to have a lot of ammunition at the ready.

“It would be great for vehicle interdiction, any place you would need a large volume of firepower right now,” he said.

It’s not clear when the services currently testing the drum will make a decision on whether to field it, and for what weapons, Ardese said.

He has received only positive feedback from those in charge of range testing, he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

U.S. airstrikes, in response to what it called an “unprovoked attack,” killed around 100 people in Syria in February according to the Pentagon, but a new report from Bloomberg says that number may be as many as 300, and that they were Russian mercenaries.


If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.

While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.

If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Syrian Arab trainees await commands from an instructor at a Syrian Democratic Forces’ rifle marksmanship range in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Small arms and ammunition represent the majority of support from Coalition Forces to the SDF, the most capable and reliable force in Syria currently making daily gains to reclaim Raqqah from the hold of ISIS. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.

Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.

“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.

The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.

Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.

Also Read: US troops make pro-Assad forces pay for attack on American allies

Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some U.S. troops were embedded, according to Pentagon press secretary Dana W. White.

The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.

The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier.  Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.

Articles

How The Screenwriter Behind ‘American Sniper’ Got It Right

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces


The first time screenwriter Jason Hall met Chris Kyle and his posse – Hall’s first-ever visit to Texas – he was the only one in the room wearing tennis shoes instead of cowboy boots.

“I could feel the war on him when I shook his hand,” Hall recounted. “It was a visceral reaction.”

Also Read: ‘American Sniper’ Just Got Nominated For 6 Oscars — Here’s Why It’s A Must-See War Film 

Hall had heard about the legendary sniper – the man with a record number of kills and a 2,100-yard shot to his name – from another SEAL friend based on the west coast. He read Kyle’s autobiography and found it written in the “blustery, chippy voice of a guy just back from the war.”

But once the screenwriter met the SEAL in person he knew that a straight reading of the autobiography would result in a movie that didn’t tell the whole story. There was a lot more to the man than a guy who knew his way around a rifle.

“He was 37, but he looked 57,” Hall said. “The war had taken a toll.” Hall noted how Kyle had trouble crawling around with his kids because his knees were shot.

Kyle’s wife Taya – who’d weathered four war deployments on the home front – added another dimension. Hall studied her reactions to her husband, her concerns when his mood went south and how her face lit up when he was with their children.

“It was the idea of war at home and a marriage reeling in the wake of prolonged war,” Hall said. “In that I saw a film.”

So Hall came up with a proposal that he pitched to a few studios. In time he landed a deal with Warner Brothers that included Bradley Cooper in the lead role. Upon their first meeting, Kyle said to Cooper, “I need to drag you behind my truck and knock the pretty off of you.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Bradley Cooper with Jason Hall. (Photo: Jason Hall)

For his part Cooper said he was willing to do whatever it took to get it right. The actor started working on his Texas drawl, learning the weapons of a SEAL sniper, and gaining weight, ultimately putting on 44 pounds for the movie.

Hall worked on the screenplay for over two years, closely communicating with Kyle as he honed the various elements. Over that time the two developed a close friendship.

“I’d call him on his cell phone, but being the special operator he was he’d never answer the first time,” Hall said. “He’d text back: ‘What’s up?’ and then we’d talk for hours.”

Hall discovered an Iraqi sniper named “Mustafa” while reading The Sheriff of Ramadi, and after a series of discussions with Kyle he added the enemy shooter to the plot. “Mustafa was Chris’ doppelganger,” Hall said. “He’s an integral part of the story.”

Kyle’s state of mind was also an integral part of the story, but Hall was very guarded about falling into the trap that Hollywood’s clichéd portrayal of post traumatic stress over the last 10 years or so has become.

“Chris saw a lot of combat and took a lot lives and lost brothers,” Hall said. “He felt strongly that he should still be over there, even after his fourth tour. It haunted him.”

Eventually Hall had a script Kyle and he were happy with. The day after he delivered it to the studio he received a phone call from one of Kyle’s teammates, a fellow SEAL. The teammate’s words will forever be burned into Hall’s memory: “Chris was just murdered by another vet.”

Hall attended Kyle’s funeral unsure of the future of “American Sniper,” the film. He felt out of place. The SEALs in attendance treated him as an interloper. He described his presence at the reception following the memorial as “showing up to a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ party in a white Izod.”

Later Hall found himself sitting around a pool with a group of SEALs. None of them seemed interested in talking to him, so he kept his distance, fearing that whatever trust he’d built over the previous two years with Kyle was gone. Finally one of them looked over and said, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here.”

But Hall didn’t leave, sensing he was at a crossroads of sorts. Instead he challenged the guy who’d told him to leave to a wrestling match. The SEAL took him up on it, and the two grappled on the concrete pool deck, drawing blood on knees and elbows in the process. Hall, who’d wrestled in college, wound up winning the scrap.

The ice was broken; trust was reestablished. “I realized the guys were hurting,” Hall said. “They’d lost a brother.”

During those sad days Hall also got an ultimatum from Taya Kyle, who knew that a major motion picture would play a big part in how her children remembered their father: “If you’re going to do this you need to get it right.”

The widow and the screenwriter established a line of communication much like he had maintained with the her husband during the writing of the screenplay, which proved to be invaluable in actress Sienna Miller’s performance in the film and how the couple’s relationship is portrayed.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Actress Sienna Miller plays Taya Kyle, the sniper’s wife. (Photo: Warner Brothers)

Taya Kyle’s input also informs how Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle. “If you want to know a man ask his wife,” Hall said.

The last element in “getting in right” in Hall’s opinion was having Clint Eastwood as the director of “American Sniper.” After he signed on Taya related that Chris had said that if he had his pick, Eastwood was the guy he wanted to direct the movie.

“Clint is a jazz musician who brings musicality to the imagery as he tells stories,” Hall said. “And he also has the western mythology down. He’s part of it in America.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

That sensibility was important in bringing art out of the otherwise barren and unpopular landscape of the Iraq War, according to Hall.  “Iraq wasn’t a pretty war,” he said. “It’s ass-hot; you’re thirsty and dirty. Clint found beauty in the truth of that.”

The movie crew also underwrote the movie’s realism by involving veterans in the production, most notably Navy SEAL vet Kevin Lace who started out as a stuntman and wound up playing himself and the wounded vets who appear in the target practice scene toward the end.

“American Sniper” had a limited run in theaters during the holidays, and the box office results were very encouraging and quelled studio execs’ fears surrounding the track record of movies about the Iraq War. (Even the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” didn’t do that well, money-wise.)

But Hall feels that the journey he’s been on with “American Sniper” – shaped by having to deal with the loss of his friend Chris Kyle – created something distinct and more universal than others have managed on the topic.

“‘American Sniper’ started as a war movie,” he said. “But it wound up being a movie about war.”

Watch WATM’s exclusive one-on-one interview with “American Sniper” screenwriter Jason Hall:

More on this topic: ‘American Sniper’ Is A Must-See Film That Brilliantly Honors The Memory Of Chris Kyle

And this: Can You Name The Weapons Used In ‘American Sniper’?

Articles

The 19 most important years in the history of military drones

We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:


1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.

1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.

1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)

1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.

1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
(Official U.S. Navy photo)

1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.

1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”

1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.

1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”

1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.

2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.

2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.

2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.

Now: 7 ways drones are ruining everything

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This critical anti-submarine tool may soon be in short supply

ERAPSCO, a joint venture between US company Sparton Corp. and a subsidiary of British firm Ultra Electronics, was awarded a US defense contract worth $1.041 billion on July 18, 2019, to produce sonobuoys used in anti-submarine warfare.

“Sonobuoys are air-launched, expendable, electro-mechanical, anti-submarine warfare acoustic sensors designed to relay underwater sounds associated with ships and submarines,” the Pentagon said in the contract listing.


The id=”listicle-2639331070″,041,042,690 award was for the manufacture and delivery of a maximum of 37,500 AN/SSQ-36B, 685,000 AN/SSQ-53G, 120,000 AN/SSQ-62F, and 90,000 AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys for fiscal years 2019-2023.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Aviation ordnancemen load sonobuoys on a P-3C Orion before flight operations in Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2011.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Julian R. Moorefield)

The AN/SSQ series of sonobuoys are the principal sensors used by the US Navy to detect, classify, and localize adversary subs during peacetime and combat operations.

Active sonobuoys send pings through the water to bounce off potential targets. Passive sonobuoys just listen for subs or other vessels. There are also special-purpose sonobuoys that collect other data for radar and intelligence analysts.

Sonobuoys are limited by their battery life, and, if tracking a moving target, can become useless soon after being dropped. They’re mainly launched from MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and when hunting without a target in its sights, the P-8A can expend its full supply in one mission.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

A US sailor launches a sonobuoy into the Atlantic Ocean from guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, Oct. 27, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

More subs means more buoys

Increasing submarine activity around the world has led to more interest in anti-submarine warfare, especially among the US and its partners, which are concerned about Russian and Chinese submarines.

In a July 2018 funding request, the Pentagon asked Congress to reprogram million to buy more air-dropped sonobuoys, saying that “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017 … resulted in unexpected high expenditure rate of all type/model/series.”

A 2015 study predicted global demand for sonobuoys would grow by 40% through 2020, with most of the interest in passive sonobuoys.

The Navy’s sonobuoy budget grew from 4 million in 2018 to 6 million in 2019 to 4 million in the 2020 budget, which asked for 204,000 of the devices. But there is concern about the Navy’s ability replenish its supply in the future.

The Pentagon believes it may no longer have a reliable supplier without government investment in the sonobuoy market, officials told Defense News in March 2019.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

A US sailor unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon to prepare it for use, April 10, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

Right now, the Pentagon has just one supplier: ERAPSCO, a joint venture between the Illinois-based Sparton Corp. and the UK firm Ultra Electronics. But ERAPSCO will dissolve by 2024, and there’s no assurance either company can make the necessary investments to produce them independently.

The US is not the only buyer, but it is one of the largest, and the loss of US domestic production could lead to sonobuoy shortages around the world.

In March 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo declaring that “domestic production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys is essential to the national defense” and authorizing the Defense Department to pursue increased production.

Without action under the Defense Production Act, the memo said, “United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys adequately and in a timely manner.”

Trump, the Pentagon, and the Navy believe money from the Defense Production Act and industry investment “to be the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical approach to meet critical AN/SSQ-series sonobuoy capability requirements,” a Defense Department spokesman told Defense News earlier this year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 4 biggest new expenses you face when leaving the service

Leaving military life is a challenging transition for anyone, whether your service member is getting out after four years or retiring from the military after twenty years of service.

Even the most prepared may have a difficult time moving on to the civilian world when they decide leaving the military is right.

One of the biggest issues of transitioning out of the military is finances.

Ideally, military families should begin saving for life after the military long before their service member separates; but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible.


Either way, the impact on your bank account will be felt for sure. The bottom line is, we all need to start preparing for military to civilian transition no matter where we are on our military journey. If we don’t, we could be in for one heck of a case of sticker shock. Here are a few things you should start thinking about sooner rather than later.

1. Military salary vs civilian salary

If you break out your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), you’ll notice several different types of pay and allowances. Their “main” pay is their “base” pay, but stacked on to that are other entitlements, such as basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), as well as other special pay and allowances. All of these different types of pay ultimately make up your service member’s salary.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

In order to keep the same exact lifestyle you’re accustomed to now, start taking a look at the job market and looking at the salary ranges for civilian positions with your service member’s skill set. Sometimes it can be a significant bump in salary to find a civilian job doing pretty much what they’re doing now. Other times, you may find that civilian salaries hover around your service member’s base pay…without the bells and whistles of other allowances. You’ll want to take this into account well before transition is on your radar.

2. No More BAH

As military families, we’re not often afforded the opportunity to decide where we live, but as civilians we can move wherever we choose. As previously mentioned, BAH is an entitlement that’s tacked on in addition to our service member’s base pay. Once our service members exit the military, that money will cease to exist (unless we take that income loss into account when negotiating future salaries with civilian employers). Even if your family is retiring from military service, the lack of BAH might be a hard pill to swallow the first few months, so it’s best to start saving up for a transition buffer now. You’ll ideally want to add a 6-12 month buffer of savings to your exit strategy, which could take a while to accrue.

3. Taxes

Right now, our tax liability as military families is truly not a lot. But once we enter the civilian world, that tax bill will come to roost, so be prepared. You may not be subject to state taxes now, but if you decide to stay in the state you’re currently stationed in, you’ll need to crunch some numbers to see just how high your tax bill will rise. When leaving the military, you may want to consider moving to a state that doesn’t have income taxes. If your service member plans to retire, be sure to look at whether or not your state will tax their retirement pay. Wherever you plan to live after the military, you’ll want to decide where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

4. Medical costs

Medical costs are yet another expense you’ll have on the “outside.” Say what you will about TRICARE; the fact is that we’ll all be paying more for our healthcare once our service member takes off their uniform. If your spouse isn’t retiring from the military, your family will need to secure healthcare through other means, whether that’s a civilian employer or the healthcare exchange. If your service member ever served in combat, they have the option to receive VA healthcare for up to five yearsafter leaving the military, even if they don’t have a service-connected disability. But the VA only covers the family so you will need to talk with your spouse about finding a civilian insurance plan.

For those service members retiring from military service, you’ll still have access to TRICARE…but you’ll still have expenses. In addition to premiums, you’ll now have the added expense of co-pays. Thanks to the recent TRICARE reform, retirees using TRICARE now have higher co-pays. While $30 per specialty visit doesn’t seem like a whole lot, imagine having physical therapy twice a week, to the tune of $240 a month.

Whether your service member ends up getting out after four years or retires after serving twenty, you need to start preparing financially NOW. Even if they just re-enlisted for another tour, plan as if you’re leaving the military next year. Pay down your debt, start a transition savings account, and start researching where your family will set down their roots once military life is over.

I’m not telling you all of this to scare you. I’m telling you all of this because transition is NO JOKE and we all need to be prepared. These are the realities and how your family prepares for these realities will ultimately determine how positive or negative the impact of your transition to civilian life will be.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

A ceasefire begins in Syria as WH eyes anti-ISIS cooperation with Russia

US President Donald Trump called for expanded cooperation with Russia on July 9, as a cease-fire brokered by the two powers and Jordan for southern Syria came into effect.


The cease-fire covering three war-torn provinces in southern Syria is the first tangible outcome following months of strategy and diplomacy between the new Trump administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Moscow.

Trump tweeted that the cease-fire, which came into effect at noon July 9, “will save lives.”

“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he posted on Twitter shortly after the agreement came into effect.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

A resident and local opposition activist in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, reported an uneasy calm hours into the truce.

“There’s still a lot of anxiety,” said Ahmad al-Masalmeh. “We’ve entered the cease-fire but there are no mechanisms to enforce it. That’s what concerns people.”

Six years of fighting and siege have devastated Daraa, one of the first cities to see large protests against President Bashar Assad in 2011.

It remains contested by US-backed rebels and Syrian government forces supported by Russia and Iran. Large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble by government artillery and Russian air power.

The truce also covers the Quneitra and Sweida provinces, where the government and the rebels are also fighting Islamic State militants, who are not included in the agreement.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Anti-Asaad protests in Daraa. Photo from Freedom House on Flickr.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of on-the-ground activists, reported calm across the three provinces as dusk fell July 9.

The cease-fire agreement followed weeks of secretive talks between the US, Russia, and Jordan in Amman to address the buildup of Iranian-backed forces, in support of the Syrian government, near the Jordanian and Israeli borders.

Israel has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran, which is a close ally of the Syrian government, to set up a permanent presence in Syria. It has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound forHezbollah in Lebanon.

It has also struck Syrian military installations on several occasions this year after shells landed inside the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said July 9 that Israel would welcome a “genuine cease-fire” in southern Syria so long as it doesn’t enable Iran and its proxies to develop a military presence along the border.

The Trump administration also ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government and Iranian-backed militias, in a break with Obama administration policy. The strikes, including one on a government air base in central Syria, drew only muted responses from Moscow.

No cease-fire has lasted long in the six-year-old Syrian war, and no mechanisms have been publicly set out to monitor or enforce this latest endeavor.

It was announced July 6 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg after a meeting between Trump, Putin, and their top diplomats.

The Syrian government maintains it is fighting a war against terrorist groups. The Al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee is one of the most effective factions fighting alongside rebels in Daraa.

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7 things ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember

There are only two recruit depots where U.S. Marines are made, and one of them has a reputation for being “Hollywood.”


Due to their close proximity to Tinseltown, Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego are usually called “Hollywood Marines” by their MCRD Parris Island, S.C. counterparts and often ridiculed as having an easier training and lifestyle.

Regardless of who you think has the tougher training, here are some things only ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember about their initial training.

1. The Yellow Hell

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Photo: Marine Corps

While standing on the yellow footprints is a tradition at both locations, MCRD San Diego takes it much further. The base is a sprawling 388 acres and every building on base is yellow. The renowned architect Bertram Goodhue designed the buildings in a Spanish colonial revival style, and while there are currently 28 of those buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the only history recruits will remember is that they are in yellow hell.

2. Planes, planes, and more planes!

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Photo: Flickr

No matter how long or short your flight is from your home to MCRD, the drive from the airport to base is a mere five minutes. By checking out this Google satellite view you can see that the base is literally on the opposite side of the runway fence. At first the constant deafening noise of airplanes taking off and landing every few minutes is annoying, but recruits get used to it real quick. In fact, some use it to their advantage, by counting the planes as if they were sheep to go to sleep at night dreaming about their next flight home. Recruits endure the mental kick in the stomach while running along side the runway fence watching planes take off with happy newly graduated Marines and their families.

The planes also provide a symbolic sense of comfort. I went to MCRD in August 2001 and one month later the 9/11 attacks occurred. When first told of the attacks by our drill instructors, we felt it may have been some sort of trick. However, once they pointed out the airport was shut down and no planes were taking off, the sky all of a sudden seemed desolate with an eery silence. When the planes were allowed to fly again days later, a sense of relief was felt by all.

3. Perfect Weather

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Katalynn M. Rodgers

San Diego enjoys gorgeous weather year-round with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees and minimal humidity. However, recruits don’t go there for a vacation, they go to become Marines. Drill instructors are quick to remind recruits of the many beautiful women in bikinis sunbathing at one of the several beaches within a short distance from the base. No matter how difficult things may get, recruits can find comfort in knowing tomorrow will be another beautiful day with clear skies to train.

4. Bus Trips

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua Young

Not all recruit training takes place at MCRD San Diego. To complete the second of three phases, they are moved 45 minutes north to Camp Pendleton. The ride takes recruits through San Diego’s beautiful north county and it’s the first time recruits are off base since arrival. They are supposed to keep their heads down but it’s common to sneak a glimpse at the beautiful landscape around them and think about home or what’s in store for them at Camp Pendleton. Similarly, on the way back to MCRD to finish the last phase, it gives recruits a time of reflection on completing the demanding training they just endured during second phase and realize they are that much closer to graduation.

5. Mountains, hills, and ridges

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

 

Second phase recruit training takes place at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton and includes marksmanship, rifle qualification, close combat, field training, and the gas chamber. But ask any recruit and the one memory that first comes to mind are the many hills they had to hike creating many feet blisters. Camp Pendleton is notorious for its mountains, hills, and ridges that are perfect for grueling hikes. The most famous of which is known as ‘The Reaper’, or ‘Grim Reaper’. With full packs on, it is the last and final monumental hill to climb during the 54 hour exercise known as The Crucible in which they have already climbed several with only eight hrs of sleep.

6. Padres Baseball

Although not every platoon or company at MCRD gets this luxury, those who do get a chance to be recognized by the local community for their newly committed service to this great nation. Although the seats are in the highest sections of the stadium and they are strictly guarded by their drill instructors, it’s a welcome change of pace from the intense and stressful daily training.

7. The San Diego Skyline

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Photo: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that just outside the gates of MCRD sits beautiful downtown San Diego. For three months, recruits have dreamt of exploring all the reasons why San Diego is called “America’s Finest City.” Now that they have graduated, it’s common for the nation’s newest Marines to proudly wear their dress uniforms as they eat and celebrate with friends and family throughout the city.

Articles

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Bob Hope entertained troops on USO tours from 1941 to 1991 — fifty years of laughter and fun. From World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm, Bob Hope was there for our nation’s heroes.


“He brought such enthusiasm, brought your life back to you. You felt like you were renewed,” said Seabee Ron Ronning, who saw Hope perform during his final USO show of the Vietnam War. “That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

A true patriot who traveled to more war zones than even some of the highest-ranking military leaders of all time, Bob Hope brought laughs to the front lines for the better half of the 21st Century.

As a tribute to his lasting impact on our country, President George W. Bush ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings be lowered to half-mast on the day of Hope’s funeral.

“Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. “We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.”

Hope’s legacy endures, continuing to impact service members through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which provides one-on-one employment services and referrals to other resources to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business, or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and helping 83 pursue degrees. Free to all veterans (the program is not exclusive to those with a disability), the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring hope to those in need.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Bob Hope on stage with Miss World 1969, Eva Rueber-Staier, during a Christmas show for servicemen held on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in Formia Bay, Italy, Dec. 22, 1969.

(U.S. Navy)

During a week-long campaign this year (May 23-29) in observation of Memorial Day, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers. 100 percent of the donations go directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

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