ISIS is currently facing one of its greatest military challenges since the group proclaimed a caliphate following the seizure of Mosul and much of western Iraq and eastern Syria last summer.
According to an intelligence brief from The Soufan Group, ISIS is experiencing losses around its “capital” of Raqqa, representing both an operational and symbolic setback for the group.
Although ISIS has continued to expand and hold onto territory in Iraq, the militants have come under increasing pressure in Syria.
ISIS has lost territory in a number of key battles. Most notably, Kurdish YPG forces have dealt ISIS defeats at the towns of Tal Abyad and Ayn Issa.
ISIS once hoped to cut off major Syrian Kurdish regions from one another by holding these towns near the Turkish border. Now, the Kurds have foreclosed on that strategy, beating back the jihadists’ momentum and even moving into some of ISIS’s most important territory.
“With the most recent YPG moves against the town of Ayn Issa, the Islamic State is facing perhaps its most serious symbolic and meaningful threat since it declared itself a caliphate almost one year ago,” The Soufan Group notes. “Its capital, Raqqa, the center of the group’s authority and image, is under threat.”
By seizing and securing Ayn Issa, the YPG, in conjunction with US-led coalition airstrikes, have embedded themselves only 31 miles away from ISIS’ de facto capital. The YPG also seized the Syrian military base Liwa-93 from ISIS in the surrounding region. The rapid advance of the Kurdish forces, which ISIS nearly overwhelmed during a crucial battle in the border city of Kobane last summer, has dealt a blow to the militant group, which promoted itself through a doctrine of “remaining and expanding” on multiple simultaneous battlefronts.
Following the YPG’s gains, ISIS forces began digging trenches around Raqqa in an attempt to fortify their capital, Reuters reports. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani also addressed the losses in a Ramadan audio broadcast stating that “God never gave the mujahideen a promise of victory every time.”
Although the Kurds do not have immediate plans to attack ISIS in Raqqa, the seizure of territory around the city could deal a significant blow to the militant organization. Tal Abyad, located by the Turkish border, functioned as a key smuggling point through which fighters and supplies could reach the jihadists.
With its opponents taking control of the territory north of Raqqa, ISIS could experience significant logistical disruptions — and face the crisis of enemy forces advancing closer to the heart of the group’s power.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson for the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, said that “should anti-ISIL forces continue to hold the city, there is the potential for a significant disruption of ISIL’s flow of foreign fighters, illicit goods, and other illegal activity from Turkey into northern Syria and Iraq.”
Five days into the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit women, one female Marine has washed out and one remains.
Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for the command, told Military.com that two women, a staff sergeant and a corporal checked in Aug. 9 at the command’s headquarters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and began the first 19-day phase of assessment and selection on Aug. 11.
The staff sergeant washed out of the course the following day during a timed ruck march, Mannweiler said. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
Both the corporal and the staff sergeant came from administrative military occupational specialties, Mannweiler said. He did not disclose their identities or ages.
Mannweiler said he couldn’t say how many started the AS class for operational security reasons, but noted that 32 Marines, including the female staff sergeant, have departed the course so far.
The first phase of assessment and selection tests physical fitness and a range of aptitudes to ensure Marines are physically and mentally prepared for what will be 10 months of intensive follow-on training to become Marine Raiders. Alongside physical training, Marines receive classroom instruction in land navigation skills, MARSOC and special operations history, and nutrition and fitness.
In January, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, called AS Phase 1 a holistic profile for the Marines who qualify to enter the training pipeline.
Military.com broke the news in March that a female staff sergeant had been accepted for AS, just months after a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter had required all military services to open special operations jobs and other previously closed fields to women.
Osterman said then that MARSOC leadership had leaned into the new reality, reaching out to all eligible female Marines through the command’s recruiting arm to give them the opportunity to apply.
The current AS phase is set to conclude Aug. 22. If the female corporal in AS can make it through this phase, she will enter a second, more secretive three-week AS phase. Following that is MARSOC’s individual training course, which covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and more over the course of nine intensive months.
Those who wash out of AS have up to two chances to re-enter the pipeline, Mannweiler said, as long as they have enough time left on their contracts and until their next promotion, and the command has enough boat spaces to accommodate them.
While MARSOC recruiters have received interest from other female Marines, the command is not currently processing any other applications from women, Mannweiler said.
Since 2010, The Warrior Games has allowed wounded warriors from each military branch to compete in Olympic style games each year. This year’s games are being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. from June 19-28. By utilizing the therapeutic power of sports, the games enable wounded, ill, and injured service members to showcase their athletic abilities.
Here are 25 photos that show why this event is one of the most inspiring in the world.
1. The Warrior Games are attended by senior government and military leadership such as former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta (center) and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.
2. There is an elaborate opening ceremony complete with the lighting of the cauldron to mark the beginning of the games.
3. Warrior athletes make up 6 teams including Army …
4. Air Force,
5. Marine Corps,
6. Navy / Coast Guard,
7. Special Operations Command (SOCOM),
8. And British Armed Forces.
9. The crowd is packed with family, friends, and caregivers of the competitors.
10. You are literally watching the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors taking place.
11. It’s also chance to see the long standing rivalry between military services.
12. Events include archery …
13. Wheelchair Basketball,
14. And Cycling.
15. Then there are Field events such as seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus, and standing discus.
16. There’s track and field …
18. Sitting Volleyball,
20. And Wheelchair Rugby.
21. There’s even exhibition games that dignitaries and Olympic champions will play in, like Prince Harry of Wales and 3 time Olympic gold medalist Misty May Treanor.
22. Beautiful medals are awarded to competitors.
23. Individual competitors can rack up medals.
24. And the team with the overall best performance is awarded the ‘Chairman’s Cup.’
25. No matter what the result, there is a powerful spirit of camaraderie.
To learn more about the games, visit the Warrior Games website here.
A short hike North of Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Boulevard in Will Rogers State Park will lead you to a seemingly out-of-place, abandoned WWII-era complex fit for a king. But this ranch wasn’t built for a king; it was built for a Führer.
What is today condemned and covered with graffiti was built by American Nazi sympathizers to be a world-class command center for Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” Left Coast Edition. Built with the intention of winning the hearts of the Hollywood Elite, the bunker was also supposed to regale Hitler with the luxury and symbolic power of wealth that only a bunker in LA could provide.
Or Scientology, but the Stephens weren’t asstrict as Scientologists, they were just Nazis. (Photo by Domas Mituzas)
We tend to forget the world of the 1920’s and 1930’s wasn’t so cut and dry as we like to imagine. While Fascism wasn’t as popular as other social movements, it hadn’t entirely slid off its rocker into the genocidal megalomania we associate it with today. That is to say a lot of people though Fascism was a good idea, including a number of Americans.
One such American was Jessie M. Murphy, a widower who purchased a 50-acre tract of land North of Los Angeles, the namesake of the Murphy Ranch. The only problem is Jessie Murphy never existed. Jessie Murphy was really a pseudonym created by Winona and Norman Stephens, who fancied themselves “Silvershirts.”
Silvershirts were members of the Silver Legion of America, an organization of Nazi sympathizers founded by a North Carolinian named William Pelley. The Silvershirts were a white supremacist, anti-Semitic group who wore campaign hats and blue trousers to go with their silver shirts, sort of like glittery drill sergeants with a red “L” over their hearts.
Kinda like that, but with more glitter, I think. (For the record, Laverne De Fazio was definitely not a Nazi)
Pelley even ran for President in 1936, but was trounced with everyone else who thought running against President Franklin Roosevelt was a good idea. Once elected, Pelley hoped to create a “Silver Revolution” and turn the U.S. into a Fascist state.
The Stephens built the Los Angeles compound sometime in the 1930s at the behest of a Nazi agent known only as “Herr Schmidt.” It was designed to be a long-term, self-sufficient base for Nazi activities in the United States. Complete with water storage tanks and a bomb shelter, it cost the Stephens the equivalent of $66 million in today’s U.S. dollars.
The Silvershirts there were rounded up the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Three days later, Hitler declared a state of war between Nazi Germany and the United States. The complex fell into a state of disrepair and is now property of Los Angeles County.
If the Axis powers had won World War II, it seems LA might have been the capital of the Western Reich.
The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.
On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.
From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.
The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.
And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.
An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.
Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.
Spoiling for a fight
The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.
The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.
What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.
Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.
But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.
During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.
We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”
The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent. The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.
I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.
Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation. The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience. And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.
To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.
Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.
We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.
The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.
The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against. In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).
As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.
These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.
A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.
We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns. We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.
Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.
When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.
Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said. “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”
I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.
I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.
Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah. Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.
The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.
Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)
Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.
Benjamin Holt was a proud industrialist creating tractors and other farming equipment when World War I broke out. While he prided himself on innovation, he stuck to creating better and better farming equipment rather than trying to create arms for the war effort.
That’s because Holt had developed a new tractor design in 1904, the “Caterpillar,” which used treads instead of wheels, allowing it to stay above the mud of the San Joaquin River Delta near Sacramento, California.
Holt replaced the steam engines of his original design with gasoline power ones in 1908, and the design took off. When World War I opened, horses butchered in front line fighting were slowly replaced with tractors, including Holt’s.
His design was actually a favorite on the front lines because the amazing grip of his caterpillar treads allowed the tractor to operate in heavy mud and to pull itself out of shell craters.
But when those same tractors rolled onto the battlefield, there was plenty of reason for German soldiers to sh-t their pants.
That’s because those tractors had undergone the “Mad Max” treatment courtesy of the Royal Navy, who covered them in thick metal plates, packed them with machine guns and cannon, and sent them crawling across the battlefield at a whopping 4 mph.
Behind them, infantrymen poured through the gaps created by the tanks and quickly seized German trenches and territory.
While the first attack at Flers Courcellette had its issues — mostly that the tanks broke down and were too slow to reposition themselves after the advance to prepare for the German counterattack — their rapid drive toward the objective served as their proof of concept.
British Gen. Douglas Haig, the commander of Allied forces at the Somme, requested hundreds more of the makeshift tanks, and armored warfare quickly became a new standard.
Better French and British tank designs soon followed the Mark 1, but it was an American tractor that carried the first tanks to fight in war.
The United States has increased its military posture in the region to back up the threat of force. A U.S. submarine designed to carry 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles entered a South Korean port on April 25. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group is also heading to the region and conducting naval exercises with Japan and South Korea. And the United States this week began to move part of the THAAD missile defense system to its deployment site 250 kilometers south of Seoul.
Rain of fire
However, analysts say an actual U.S. strike is a risky proposition. A surgical U.S. missile strike to take out one or multiple nuclear or missile sites would likely not be sufficient to destroy or degrade North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals, which are reportedly in numerous fortified underground sites across the country.
“It might involve artillery attacks on Seoul or elsewhere along the demilitarized zone (DMZ.) It might involve covert operations, but they have several levels of escalation to go before they get to nuclear or even chemical weapons,” said John Schilling, a missile technology specialist with 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.
North Korea has more than 21,000 artillery weapons, positioned mostly along the inter-Korean border, that could put in jeopardy the lives of 25 million people that live in and around Seoul, the South Korean capital located 56 kilometers south of the border.
An assessment of North Korean military capabilities by Strafor, an intelligence analysis organization in Texas, notes the North’s artillery arsenal includes 300mm multiple rocket launcher systems that can “rain fire across” Seoul and beyond. “A single volley,” a Strafor report said, “could deliver more than 350 metric tons of explosives across the South Korean capital, roughly the same amount of ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers.”
While the North has not yet demonstrated it can successfully mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, U.S. and South Korean officials have said they believe Pyongyang has a nuclear Nodong missile that can fire a one ton warhead a distance of up to two thousand kilometers, which would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.
“I think the majority of people now believe they can put a warhead on top of a missile that can hit targets in Northeast Asia. But when you get to the much longer range they need, such as hitting the United States, I think, we don’t know for sure. But most people would believe that it is a work in progress,” said Joel Wit, the co-founder of 38 North and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS.
In addition to the 10 to 20 nuclear warheads North Korea is believed to have, its missiles could also be armed with deadly chemical weapons from suspected stockpiles of sarin nerve gas.
A Nodong is a single stage liquid fuel rocket based on scud missiles developed by the former Soviet Union. Some of North Korea’s most recent tests were solid fuel Musudan missiles that have an estimated maximum range of three thousand kilometers, which could potentially reach targets in Japan and as far away as U.S. military bases in Guam.
The more than 28,000 U.S. forces in Korea and 50,000 troops in Japan would also be possible targets for any North Korea retaliatory strikes.
Analysts say any North Korean counter strike would draw a quick response from the United States, South Korea, and Japan that could further escalate the conflict, draw in China, and lead to a second Korean war.
On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.
“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.
That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.
While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.
“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.
One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.
“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.
Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.
He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.
“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”
Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:
Running operations to maintain this tax base, however, may prove unsustainable for ISIS in the long run.
The militants are quickly racking up more expenses than they can cover, and their oil revenues have been cut by nearly two-thirds due to US airstrikes on oil refineries and the low price of crude, Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg reported.
The US has tried to cut off ISIS’ sources of revenue with little success, however: The group has compensated by levying hefty taxes on salaries and businesses, in some cases demanding residents and companies pay them as much as 20% of their income or revenue — 50% if they are employed by the Iraqi government, the New York Times reported.
And after conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS imposed a “protection” tax on every Iraqi Christian who refused to convert to Islam. Christians who refused to pay would not receive the protection of ISIS gunmen and could either leave or be killed.
“ISIS makes most of its money from plunder,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in May. “We’re seeing that over and over again. They go from one town to the next and knock over a bank or several banks and go house to house and extract whatever is of value.”
“It’s a racket,” Schanzer said. “And that’s how ISIS continues to survive and thrive.
ISIS can continue to tax its captive population for as long as it holds territory, but the militants’ wealth is bound to dwindle as holding this territory is in itself an expensive endeavor. Paying soldiers to rampage across the Middle East is not cheap, either — salaries cost ISIS between $3 million and $10 million every month, and the money the group steals from banks is not being replenished, according to Bloomberg.
“It is important to note that as the sources of ISIL’s wealth — notably the money stolen from banks and revenues from oil sales — are either no longer replenished or will diminish over time,” Jennifer Fowler, deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“There are already signs that ISIL is unable to provide fundamental services to the people under its control, which Baghdad previously provided or subsidized,” she added.
“While it’s true they’re the best-financed terror group we’ve seen, they’re still an insurgent group, and they have a lot of expenses.”
With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)
The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.
The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.
Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.
So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?
In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.
The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.
So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?
The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)
Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.
The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.
Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.
The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.
Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.
In the 1980s, the U.S. Army needed to be able to rapidly deploy a sizable force to face off against heavy forces. But that requirement created two problems: Most light forces were little more than speed bumps against tanks, and it took a long time to deliver a heavy force – and their supplies – to a likely theater outside of Europe or South Korea. So the Army began to explore ways to create a light force that could hold its own.
Enter the 9th Motorized, a force that proved it’s utility in several big exercises during the mid-1980s, most notably in Border Star 85 when the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment lost badly to the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Motorized. The Army’s strategy seemed to be playing out in a good way.
But a change at the top of the Army detoured the promise of the 9th. The new Army Chief of Staff favored the light infantry division concept over the motorized division. Ultimately, four active light infantry divisions (the 6th, 7th, 10th Mountain, and 25th) were formed, with one more, the 29th, in the National Guard. Later, the 9th, as well as the 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions, were deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the budget ax fell.
The 9th Infantry Division first made use of Fast Attack Vehicles; basically, souped-up dune buggies that special operations units had used during Desert Storm. The Army later went with the M1114 High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV.
The signature tool used in the front-line battalions was the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. With a range of almost 2500 yards, the Mk 19 could send one grenade a second onto a target. The grenade blasted lethal fragments 50 feet from the point of impact. The Mk 19 was also able to take out light armored vehicles. While it might not have been enough to take out a BMP or T-72, the Mk 19 could wreak havoc on supply convoys or rear-area headquarters units. Depending on the table of organization and equipment, a front-line battalion with the 9th Motorized could have had almost 100 of these powerful weapons.
The 9th Motorized also made heavy use of the BGM-71 TOW missile to deal with the threat posed by tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The TOW had a reputation as a reliable tank-killer, with a range of almost two and half miles and a 13-pound warhead. The TOW provided a heavy punch when the Army decided not to use a ground-launched version of the AGM-114 Hellfire. Infantry assigned to the 9th Motorized also made use of the FGM-77 Dragon anti-tank missile. With a range of just under a mile, the Dragon added to the firepower of the division, despite its drawbacks.
Would something like the 9th Motorized Division’s organization work today? With the FGM-148 Javelin, and the development of lightweight UAVs, it may be worth bringing back the concept – particularly in the fight against ISIS.
We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.
If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.
1. Get in shape.
Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.
In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.
First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.
3. Work on our relationships.
Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.
Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.
We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.
From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.
4. Finally finish our education.
We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…
It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.
5. Spend more time with family.
Because together everyone achieves more!
Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.