The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during one of the most dangerous stretches of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985, a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years and 21 meetings with CIA case officers in Moscow, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics the revealed the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev struggled to convince the CIA he was trustwory: He spent two years attempting to contact US intelligence officers and diplomats, semi-randomly approaching cars with diplomatic license plates with a US embassy prefix.

When the CIA finally decided to trust him, Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities, something that informed the next decade of US military and strategic development.

Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could engineer its fighter aircraft — and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles — to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection and to exploit gaps in the enemy’s radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. He’s also part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Photo: U.S. Navy

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David E. Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive account of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose.

It’s also about how espionage can go wrong: In 1985, a disgruntled ex-CIA trainee named Edward Lee Howard defected to the Soviet Union after the agency fired him over a series of failed polygraph tests. Howard was supposed to serve as Tolkachev’s case officer. Instead, he handed him to the KGB.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Adolf Tolkachev in KGB custody. Photo: CIA

Business Insider recently spoke with Hoffman, who won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for The Dead Hand, an acclaimed history of the final decade of the Cold War arms race.

Hoffman talked about some of the lessons of the Tolkachev case. Successful espionage, he said, is like a “moonshot,” an enormous effort that only works when cascades of unpredictable variables are meticulously kept in check.

And as Hoffman notes, his book is a unique glimpse into how such an incredibly complex undertaking unfolds on a day to day basis.

“You can read a lot of literature about espionage but rarely do you get to coast along on the granular details of a real operation,” Hoffman says, in reference to the over 900 CIA cables relating to the Tolkachev case that he was able to access. “That’s what I had.”

The archive, along with the scores of interviews Hoffman conducted in researching the book, yielded unexpected insights into the realities of spycraft: “I was really surprised by both the sort of quest for perfectionism” among the agents who handled the Tolkachev case, says Hoffman, “but also by the enormous number of things that can and did go wrong.”

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

BI: Your book the story of a CIA triumph: They run this source in the heart of Moscow for 5 or 6 years and get this bonanza of intelligence. But it’s also a story of organizational failure — about how this asset was eventually betrayed from within the CIA’s own ranks.

Is there a message in these two interrelated stories about the nature of intelligence collection and the challenges that US intelligence agencies face?

David E. Hoffman: On the first point, I think the big message, which is still very valid today, is the absolutely irreplaceable value of human source intelligence.

We live in an era when people are romanced by technology, the CIA included. Between what you scoop up from people’s emails and what satellites can see and signals intelligence, there always seems to be a new technological way to get various kinds of intelligence.

But this book reminded me that there is one category of espionage that is irreplaceable, and that is looking a guy in the eye and finding out what the hell is going on that isn’t in the technology — that can’t be captured by satellites. Satellites cannot see into the minds of people. They can’t even see into a file cabinet.

Even in the cyber age, it seems to me that you still have to get that particular human source, that spy that will do what nobody else will do: to let you sort of bridge the air gap, plug in the USB thumb drive if that’s necessary, to tell you something that nobody has written down …

Tolkachev was that kind of human source, an absolutely sterling example of someone who could bring stuff that you couldn’t get any other way.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Photo: Wikipedia/NVO

The second point is, you called it institutional dysfunction but I think there’s a larger factor here which is counterintelligence …

[Intelligence] cannot simply be a matter of collection. You also have to have defenses against being penetrated by the other guys.

We live in a world where the forces of offense and defense are in perpetual motion. Counterintelligence is part of that. And counterintelligence is what really failed here.

I think it was also institutional dysfunction in the way they treated Howard. That wasn’t a counterintelligence problem so much it was a sort of incompetence: They fired a guy, they said get lost, and he was vengeful.

But I also think that — maybe not particularly in this case but just generally — the CIA did not value counterintelligence highly enough for a long time. Really the events that followed Tolkachev — [Aldrich] Ames [see here], [Robert] Hanssen [see here], that whole period of the 1985-86 losses [see here] — were a failure of counterintelligence …

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Aldrich Ames spied for the Russian for nine years before being arrested on February 24, 1994.

There were really some big vulnerabilities there. In the end Tolkachev was exposed and betrayed by a disgruntled, vengeful fired trainee. But there were other losses soon to follow that were caused by essentially not having strong enough counterintelligence in place.

BI: It’s interesting how much the success of the operation had to do with these agents understanding Tolkachev’s state of mind based on these very short meetings that would be spaced months and months apart.

And from that they would have to build out some kind of sense of who this guy was. From the looks of it they did so fairly successfully for awhile.

DEH: That’s my toughest question. Espionage at its real core is psychology. You’re a case officer, you’re running an agent — what is in the soul of that man? What’s in his heart, what motivates him?

These are all questions that you have to try to answer for headquarters but also for yourself, in trying to play on his desires and understand them. Sometimes it can be a real test of will as you saw in this particular narrative. This psychological business can be very difficult …

A couple of times early in the operation Tolkachev revealed his deep antipathy towards the Soviet system. He said I’m a dissident at heart, he describes how fed up he is with the way things were in the Soviet Union.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Joseph Stalin. Photo: YouTube/ITN

He gives only a very very skimpy factual account of his wife’s parents travails, but I was able to research them in Moscow and discovered that his wife grew up without her parents. Her mother was executed and her father was imprisoned for many years during Stalin’s purges. And Tolkachev was bitter about that.

He also came of age in the time when [Nobel-prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn] and [Nobel Peace Prize-winning physicist and activist Andrei Sakharov] were also sort of coming of age as dissidents.

All of that rumbled around behind these impassive eyes. It’s not as if he handed over a book saying, I’m a dissident and here’s my complaint. Instead he handed over secret plans and said, I’m a dissident and I want to destroy the Soviet Union.

This psychological war and test of nerves of constantly trying to read a guy is really the most unpredictable and most difficult part of espionage. In this case, I’m not sure it was always successful.

The case officers did grasp that Tolkachev was determined. He expressed this sort of incredible determination, banging on the car doors and windows for 2 years to get noticed.

And when he’s working for the CIA he gives them his own espionage plan that takes years and multiple stages that he had mapped out. He’s a very, very determined guy. But what’s driving that isn’t always clear to the case officers.

BI: How does Tolkachev’s story fit in to the larger story of the end of the Cold War arms race?

I don’t think you could make the extravagant claim that he ended the Cold War or that he ended the arms race. But that’s not to minimize what Tolkachev did do. One of the things I discovered was how uncertain we were about Soviet air defenses in that period at the end of the Cold War …

There was always a funny thing going on with the Soviet Union. They had a lot of resources and were a very large country and the state and the military industrial complex was a big part of it. They always built a lot of hardware.

In fact they had a huge number of air-defense fighters and bases positioned all around their borders. [Air defense] wasn’t such a big deal for us but for them, the enemy was at their doorstop, right in Europe. They also had the world’s longest land borders. They had a lot to defend.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Thanks to Tolkachev, the US knew all about the radar capabilities of the Soviet-built MiG-29, the advanced interceptor introduced in the mid-1980s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Tolkachev, the US knew all about the radar capabilities of the Soviet-built MiG-29, the advanced interceptor introduced in the mid-1980s.

The US saw all the deployments but there was also evidence that Soviet training was poor, that the personnel who manned all these things were not up to it, [and] that there was a goofy system where pilots were told exactly what to do by ground controllers and had very little autonomy.

The intelligence about whether the Soviets had look-down shoot-down radar was very uncertain. Some people said no, they don’t have it, some said yeah. And here’s were Tolkachev stepped into the breach.

Within a few years of his work, we knew exactly what they had and what they were working on. Tolkachev was also bringing us not only what ws happening now but what would be happening 10 years from now. A

nd if you think about it in real time, if you were in the Air Force and thinking about how you were going to deal with Soviet air defenses, getting a glimpse of their research and development 10 years ahead was invaluable …

There was also a fine line between [air defenses] and the nuclear issue. There were two aspects to strategic nuclear weapons that depended on air defenses and the kind of stuff Tolkachev brought us.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of the USS Shiloh (CG 67) to attack selected air defense targets south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq on on Sept. 3, 1996, as part of Operation Desert Strike.

One was obviously bombers. In the early days of the Cold War [the US had] a high altitude strategy. B-52s would fly at a very high altitude and bomb from 50,000 or so feet.

Then we made a switch and we decided that the Soviets’ real vulnerability was at low altitudes. And it’s true. They did not have good radars at low altitude …

The strategic cruise missile scared the living daylights out of the Kremlin, because they knew they could fly right under their radars.

BI: Much of this book consists of reconstructions of scenes that were top-secret for many years but that you put together through researching the cable traffic and conducting interviews.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of writing about these dark spaces in American national security?

There are all kinds of missing jigsaw pieces in these narratives that we think we know, say, about terrorism, or about WMD. One of the things you find out if you’re one of those people who go with a pick and shovel at history and try to unearth rocks and tell stories is that pieces are missing — tiny little pieces, and also important things.

In this story there were a bunch of gaps that I had to report. I had enough to tell the story, but you never feel at the end that you know the whole story …

I still think there are big parts of what Tolkachev meant that are still in use and that are legitimately still classified. Even though this case is three decades old, it’s quite likely that some of that stuff is still considered pretty valuable intelligence.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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11 things I learned about Star Trek after enlisting in the military

Watching Star Trek as a kid was awesome. Space battles, morality plays, explosions… everything about it was what a budding young nerd needs to ensure he doesn’t get a date until after high school.


The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
We are all Martin Prince.

But when you grow up and enlist in the real military, you start to notice a few things you never considered when you watched the shows for the first time.

1. Almost everyone is an officer. And enlisted people don’t fare well.

Only in the old Star Trek movies did we ever see enlisted Starfleet personnel.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
The guy hanging on for dear life? Enlisted. The people who save the day? Officers.

When we do see enlisted people, they’re usually running away or struggling to survive.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Sick call is not gonna be packed with enlisted people tomorrow.

2. There was only one main character who was enlisted.

Chief Miles O’Brien was the only main character – who was also enlisted – in any series that warranted a spot in the credits. It still didn’t get him his due respect. Captain Sisko once told him to do something that would take two weeks. He ordered O’Brien to do it in three days.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
No complaints. Just Jameson. Sounds like a maintainer to me.

As a matter of fact, the chief is always working, even when others are just hanging around. He doesn’t even get credit, recognition, or even a thank you. It’s so egregious, there’s even a Tumblr cartoon about it.

3. There are definitely Starfleet hair regs.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

4. The entire crew of the 2009 movie were grossly unqualified.

They pretty much went from Starfleet Academy to being the ranking officers on the Enterprise. This is like an entire crew of O-1s being tasked to command an aircraft carrier. And Captain Kirk made it into the academy because he lost a barfight. If that’s the criteria, there’s a fleet of Marines ready to go to Annapolis.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Pictured: Starfleet Entrance Exam

Everyone in Starfleet should be dead.

5. Captain Kirk was probably not the best captain ever.

Someone actually calculated how many people die under Kirk’s command in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk lost 12 percent of the crewmen who served with him. If the USS Gerald Ford lost 12 percent of its crew in five years, that would be almost 600 sailors.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

That captain would likely not be eligible for promotion. This still doesn’t settle one of the Internet’s first controversies: the Picard vs. Kirk debate. Captain Picard lost two ships (almost a third), and Kirk only lost the one, but he took out a bunch of Klingons in the process. Picard also rammed his into another ship, without giving the crew time to escape.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

It’s okay. Those yeomen knew what could happen when they enlisted.

6. Starfleet ships explode really easily.

Every space battle will toss around a few crewmen.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
It’s okay, he was probably enlisted.

7. Federation ships are really easy to fly.

Literally anyone can fly these ships. Imagine a random Marine taking control of the USS Gerald Ford. You’d probably just abandon ship right away to save time. On Star Trek, if a helmsman goes down, just a few buttons will keep the Enterprise flying.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
For the uninitiated, that’s the ship’s counselor taking the helm.

8. At least there are some PT standards.

The only overweight officer was Scotty, played by James Doohan – who is a national hero, so shut your mouth.

See Also: The actor who played Scotty on Star Trek was shot six times on D-Day

Besides, he didn’t put on weight until he was much older, so those Federation PT standards must also be adjusted by age. It should be noted that he and Uhura are the only living red shirts.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Tough Scotsman.

9. Hand to hand combat is much slower in the future.

Sure, I was in the Air Force, but anyone who’s seen a bar fight knows the stuff hits the fan pretty fast. Much faster than they fight on Star Trek.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Has this ever worked in real life?

It’s also much slower in the past. Every time a Star Trek crew goes back in time the fighting never seems to get any more intense. When Kirk went back to the 1960s, it took longer for an Air Force officer to pass out than it took to punch him in the face.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

10. Klingon warriors are also not that good at fighting.

Every time the Klingons attack the Enterprise (or any Star Trek crew) they really come up short. In “Generations” they attacked the Enterprise and made the ship’s shields useless. And they STILL lost. Also, they tend to be disposable.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Running into the laser. Good idea.

Dunning-Kruger in full effect in this barfight.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

11. OPSEC is OPtional.

The captain of the Enterprise routinely goes to the ship’s bartender for advice on the latest missions.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

Forget that she’s 500 years old, she’s never been in Starfleet and her biggest enemy is an immortal who is not restricted to the limits of space and time. It just seems like a bad idea to tell her everything.

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5 military perks that will help you win at service life


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

We did not join the military for the fabulous pay — if money were the only motivator, we’d all go somewhere else.

Related: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:

“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.

Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

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These are the 5 most powerful Navies in the world

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of


It’s a universal truth handed down since antiquity: a country with a coastline has a navy. Big or small, navies worldwide have the same basic mission—to project military might into neighboring waters and beyond.

The peacetime role of navies has been more or less the same for thousands of years. Navies protect the homeland, keep shipping routes and lines of communication open, show the flag and deter adversaries. In wartime, a navy projects naval power in order to deny the enemy the ability to do the same. This is achieved by attacking enemy naval forces, conducting amphibious landings, and seizing control of strategic bodies of water and landmasses.

Also read: How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

The role of navies worldwide has expanded in the past several decades to include new missions and challenges. Navies are now responsible for a nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent, defense against ballistic missiles, space operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. With that in mind, here are the five most powerful navies in the world.

This story was sourced HERE by the National Interest

United States

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Photo: US Navy Airman Robert Baker

First place on the list is no surprise: the United States Navy. The U.S. Navy has the most ships by far of any navy worldwide. It also has the greatest diversity of missions and the largest area of responsibility.

No other navy has the global reach of the U.S. Navy, which regularly operates in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Navy also forward deploys ships to Japan, Europe and the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. Navy has 288 battle force ships, of which typically a third are underway at any given time. The U.S. Navy has 10 aircraft carriers, nine amphibious assault ships, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, 17 frigates and 72 submarines. In addition to ships, the U.S. Navy has 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world. At 323,000 active and 109,000 personnel, it is also the largest navy in terms of manpower.

What makes the U.S. Navy stand out the most is its 10 aircraft carriers—more than the rest of the world put together. Not only are there more of them, they’re also much bigger: a single Nimitz-class aircraft carrier can carry twice as many planes (72) as the next largest foreign carrier. Unlike the air wings of other countries, which typically concentrate on fighters, a typical U.S. carrier air wing is a balanced package capable of air superiority, strike, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions.

The U.S. Navy’s 31 amphibious ships make it the largest “gator” fleet in the world, capable of transporting and landing on hostile beaches. The nine amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and Wasp classes can carry helicopters to ferry troops or act as miniature aircraft carriers, equipped with AV-8B Harrier attack jets and soon F-35B fighter-bombers.

The U.S. Navy has 54 nuclear attack submarines, a mix of the Los Angeles,Seawolf, and Virginia classes. The U.S. Navy is also responsible for the United States’ strategic nuclear deterrent at sea, with 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines equipped with a total of 336 Trident nuclear missiles. The USN also has four Ohio-class submarines stripped of nuclear missiles and modified to carry 154 Tomahawk land attack missiles.

The U.S. Navy has the additional roles of ballistic missile defense, space operations and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief. As of October 2013, 29 cruisers and destroyers were capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, with several forward deployed to Europe and Japan. It also monitors space in support of U.S. military forces, tracking the satellites of potential adversaries. Finally, the U.S. Navy’s existing aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels, plus the dedicated hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, constitute a disaster relief capability that has been deployed in recent years to Indonesia, Haiti, Japan and the Philippines.

China

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has come a long way in the last 25 years. The spectacular growth of the Chinese economy, which fueled a tenfold defense-budget increase since 1989, has funded a modern navy. From a green-water navy consisting of obsolete destroyers and fast attack boats, the PLAN has grown into a true blue-water fleet.

The PLAN currently has one aircraft carrier, three amphibious transports, 25 destroyers, 42 frigates, eight nuclear attack submarines and approximately 50 conventional attack submarines. The PLAN is manned by 133,000 personnel, including the Chinese Marine Corps, which consists of two brigades of 6,000 marines each.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force provides fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for China’s new aircraft carrier, helicopters for surface ships, and shore-based fighter, attack and patrol aircraft. The PLANAF has 650 aircraft, including J-15 carrier-based fighters, J-10 multirole fighters, Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and Z-9 antisubmarine warfare aircraft.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, deserves special attention. It was commissioned into service in 2012. Originally built for the Soviet Navy, after the end of the Cold War, Liaoning’s unfinished hull languished in a Ukrainian shipyard. Purchased by a PLA front company, the ship was towed back to China where it spent nearly a decade being refitted. Liaoning is expected to function as a training carrier as China grows accustomed to the complex world of carrier operations.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy is well into the process of modernizing its amphibious capability, having commissioned three Type 071 amphibious platform dock ships. Each Type 071 LPD can carry from 500 to 800 Chinese marines and 15 to 18 vehicles, and can get troops ashore via hovercraft patterned on the American LCAC and Z-8 medium transport helicopters. China is also reportedly planning on building amphibious assault ships with full-length flight decks along the lines of the American Wasp-class. A total of six Type 071s and six of the new amphibious assault ships are rumored to be planned.

The PLAN continues to grow and learn. At least two more aircraft carriers are planned, and China’s carriers could eventually number up to five. In addition to carrier operations, the PLAN is also learning how to conduct extended voyages through its contribution to the international antipiracy effort off the Horn of Africa. China has sent 17 naval task forces to the region, rotating in ships and crews to learn long-distance ship-handling skills.

Russia

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

Third on our list is the Russian Navy. Although traditionally a land power, Russia inherited the bulk of the Soviet Navy at the end of the Cold War. This aging force is at the core of the current Russian Navy, with more ships and fleet-wide improvements slowly being introduced. The Russian Navy has proven useful to show the flag and shore up flagging Russian power worldwide.

The Russian Navy has 79 ships of frigate size and larger, including one aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 13 destroyers, and 52 submarines. With the exception of a handful of attack and cruise missile submarines, virtually all of the Russian Navy’s combatants were built during the Cold War. Underfunded for decades, the Russian Navy faces chronic readiness problems. Large Russian ships such as the carrier Admiral Kuznetzov and the Pacific Fleet flagship Varyag are frequently accompanied by tugboats on extended voyages. It is unknown how many of the aging ships are actually seaworthy, and of those, how many are combat effective.

Russia also acquired the bulk of the Soviet Union’s amphibious capability. The fleet, a mixture of nearly two dozen Alligator and Ropucha landing ships, was constructed as far back as the 1960s, and is obsolete by modern standards. The purchase of two Mistral-class landing helicopter dock ships from France was meant to address that shortcoming, but the deal could be in peril due to Russia’s intervention in Crimea. However, at the present time, Paris seems to be holding to its commitment on the sale, a contract worth $1.6 Billion.

Like the Soviet Union before it, Russia’s naval strength is in its submarine force. Russia theoretically has 15 nuclear attack submarines, 16 conventionally powered attack submarines, six cruise missile submarines, and nine ballistic missile subs. Although some have been overhauled, nearly all of the submarines are of Cold War vintage and are of unknown readiness. The nine ballistic missile submarines represent Russia’s valuable second-strike nuclear capability and are probably at the highest readiness of any ships in the fleet.

Russia has big plans for its naval forces, but for the most part they remain just that—plans. Russia plans to acquire at least one more aircraft carrier, a new, unnamed class of guided missile destroyers, the Borey II ballistic missile submarines, Yasen II nuclear attack submarines, and the Improved Kilo andLada conventional attack submarines. While the submarines are under construction, the aircraft carrier and destroyers are unfunded and exist only as blueprints.

The United Kingdom

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

This list catches the Royal Navy at a historic ebb in firepower. Like much of the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy has seen successive waves of equipment and personnel cuts. The recent retirement of two Invincible-class aircraft carriers and the Sea Harriers of the Fleet Air Arm have greatly reduced the Royal Navy’s abilities. Nuclear firepower, as well as future aircraft-carrier plans earn it fourth place on the list.

The core of the Royal Navy’s surface force is its six Type 45 guided missile destroyers. Each destroyer of the Daring class is equipped with an advanced SAMPSON air tracking radar, similar to the SPY-1D radar of the U.S. Navy’s radar Aegis system. Paired with up to 48 Aster surface-to-air missiles, the destroyers can handle a wide spectrum of aerial threats, including ballistic missiles.

The Royal Navy’s submarine force has dwindled to less than a dozen submarines. The force of seven nuclear attack submarines is being upgraded by the introduction of the HMS Astute class. Astute and her sister ships carry Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles, and are among the most advanced submarines in the world. Four Vanguard-class ballistic-missile submarines constitute the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent. Each Vanguard weighs up to 15,900 tons submerged and is equipped with 16 Trident D II long-range ballistic missiles.

 

Japan

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The fifth navy on this list is unusual, because technically, it is not really a navy. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) is not a military force; its personnel are civil servants, not sailors. Largely under the radar, Japan has built up one of the largest, most-advanced and professionally manned naval forces in the world.

The MSDF has a total of 114 ships and 45,800 personnel. The core of the force is its large fleet of destroyers, designed to keep the sea-lanes to and from Japan from being cut as they were in the Second World War. This fleet of 46 destroyers—more than the British and French navies combined—has been expanded in recent years to accommodate new missions. Since the mid-2000s, the MSDF’s force of Aegis destroyers has been tasked with providing a defense umbrella against North Korean ballistic missiles.

Even more recently, Japan has constructed three so-called “helicopter destroyers“, each twice as large as the average destroyer with a strong external (and internal) resemblance to aircraft carriers. Indeed, these helicopter destroyers are carriers in all but name, designed to embark helicopters and—possibly in the future—F-35B fighter-bombers.

Japan has a modest, but growing amphibious capability. It has three tank landing ships of 9,000 tons that can move 300 troops and a dozen vehicles off-ship via helicopter and hovercraft. The helicopter destroyers can embark up to a battalion’s worth of marines from the new marine brigade to be based at Nagasaki, transport helicopters to carry them, and transport Apache attack helicopters to give them air support.

Japan’s submarine force is—ship-for-ship—one of the best in the world. There are 16 submarines in the JMSDF, the latest of the Soryu-class. Featuring an advanced air independent propulsion system, the Soryu submarines can remain submerged longer than other conventional submarines. The Japanese submarine fleet is young, with submarines retired at the average age of eighteen to twenty years. Japan has recently announced that the fleet would be increased to 22 submarines in response to the growing might of the PLAN.

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15 of the most expensive projects abandoned by the US military

The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.


But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.

The abandoned projects are largely the result of a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.

Sequestration, indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is currently the greatest threat to the US military, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.

Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially because of a lack of funds:

Future Combat Systems

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle program, which was also ultimately canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

RAH-66 Comanche Armed Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $7.9 billion

Follow-On: The helicopter was superseded by the later canceled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter project.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
An artist’s concept drawing. | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Branch: Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sunk-Costs: $5.8 billion

Follow-On: The program was replaced by the now canceled Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). The DWSS is slated to be restarted as the Weather Satellite Follow-on.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Airborne Laser

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
U.S. Missile Defense Agency

The Airborne Laser in flight with the mirror unstowed.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $5.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was canceled without an identified replacement.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

VH-71 Presidential Helicopter

A conceptual drawing.

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.7 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

US Marine Corps

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.3 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

XM2001 Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $2.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, which was also canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

E-10 Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
An E-8, which was intended to be replaced by the E-10. | U.S. Air Force photo

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.9 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Joint Surveillance Target and Attack Radar System program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Space Based Infrared Systems-Low

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An artist’s rendition. | U.S. Air Force

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.5 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Advanced SEAL Delivery System

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An SDV is docked into place by Navy SEALs. | U.S. Navy Photo

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.6 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the later canceled Joint Multi-Mission Submersible.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter

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U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $0.5 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred following the US Army’s decision to field a mix of drones and AH-64Es instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Aerial Common Sensor

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U.S. Navy

The Aerial Common Sensor was replaced with the P-8 (above).

Branch: Army and Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.4 billion

Follow-On: The project deferred in favor of the US Navy’s P-8 program and upgrades to Army aircraft.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CG(X) Next Generation Cruiser

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
A DDG 51 destroyer, which was bought instead of the CG(X). | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred, and the Navy bought additional DDG 51 destroyers instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CSAR-X Combat Rescue Helicopter

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
The HH60 Pave Hawk, produced as part of the Critical Rescue Helicopter program. | Airwolfhound/Flickr

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately restarted as the Combat Rescue Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Next-Generation Bomber

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The B-2 Spirit, the project that replaced the Next Generation Bomber. | Photo by U.S. Air Force

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $0.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the Long Range Strike Bomber.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes, safety briefs, and release formation. It’s Friday!


1. Got stuck on staff duty this weekend?

(via Ranger Up)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Print out this meme and tape it over the sergeant major’s photo.

2. Air Force sick call:

(via Military Memes)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

SEE ALSO: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s ‘Archer’

3. Sorry about getting this song stuck in your head (via MARS Special Operations Group).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

4. Someone doesn’t know the power of the knifehand (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Pretty sure he could part the waves if he would line up his thumb properly.

5. It’s not the size of the closet, it’s the work clothes inside.

(via Military Memes)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Keep your Rolexes and Armani. It’s time for IR chemlights and Skilcraft.

6. The Army finally named combat gear in honor of noncombat soldiers.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Probably not the POGs’ first choice of honors, but they’ll get over it.

7. “Sweet, I only have to hold it for five more miles.”

(via Marine Corps Memes)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

8. Apparently, the uniform is a fashion statement.

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
A really, really dumb fashion statement.

9. Not the most covert operation, but then you only have to trick the Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

10. The Air Force is where “glamping” started (via Marine Corps Memes).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Day one of every operation is making sure the couches don’t clash with the drapes.

11. Not the most convincing acting, but maybe chief won’t look closely (via Air Force Nation).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
He’ll probably just be mad you’re on his grass.

12. Good luck, buddy (via Air Force Memes Humor).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
This will be especially fun when dress uniforms are involved.

13. This is why people join the Air Force:

(via Air Force Nation)

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Sure, you get made fun of, but you also get to be happy sometimes.

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The Nazi’s (implausible) plan to invade the American mainland

In March 1942, the U.S. was fully engaged in the second World War, fighting against Japan and Germany. The Pearl Harbor attack had happened just months prior, and now there was a U-boat war happening right off the eastern seaboard of the United States.


Americans were understandably nervous. Then Life Magazine scared the heck out of its readers with an article about what would happen if the Nazis and the Japanese decided to invade.

In an article titled “Now the US must fight for its life,” Life shared maps of a potential invasion that must have been pretty terrifying to John Q. Public in the early days of the war.

The magazine, fortunately, was way, way off. The Germans did investigate a potential invasion of the U.S., aided by the the long-range Amerika bomber, but they eventually found such an endeavor too costly, especially as the war continued to go poorly for them.

Though German U-boats were sinking some ships off the American coast, fielding a long-range bomber against the U.S. needed a nuclear bomb underneath it to be truly effective, which the Germans never figured out. And Berlin simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to stage a feasible land invasion — a point nailed home by the fact that Germany had previously scrapped an invasion plan for England in 1941.

Regardless, it was a scary time for Americans in March 1942, and it was the heyday of military propaganda. So here is how Life imagined such an operation:

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

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Today in military history: Iraq invades Kuwait

On Aug. 2 1990, Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, gaining control of 20% of the world’s oil reserves and a significant portion of the Persian Gulf coastline.

In response, the UN Security Council imposed a global ban on trade with Iraq and on Aug. 9, the United States launched Operation Desert Shield to defend Saudi Arabia. 

By January, Hussein’s occupying army was 300,000 strong, prompting the UN Security Council to authorize force against Iraq if it refused to withdraw. 

Iraq refused.

On Jan. 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began and would become one of the most one-sided conflicts in history as U.S. and coalition forces rapidly overwhelmed the Iraqi army and liberated Kuwait within weeks. 

Nearly 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians died or were wounded as a result of the Persian Gulf War, with fewer than 800 American and allied casualties.

In the post-9/11 world, the events leading up to and after the conflict came to lasting importance. Today, U.S. troops have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone from Iraq. The country has become America’s enduring sidepiece. Then Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch gave way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and with it Bayonet Lightning, Red Dawn, and countless others who themselves gave way to Operation Inherent Resolve. There are troops in Iraq today who weren’t yet born when Saddam first captured the Kuwaiti oil fields, and Saddam himself didn’t live to see this day.

The invasion of Kuwait probably seemed like a quick victory, one unlikely to have lasting effects in the annals of history, but little did we know it was just setting the stage for the region’s next 30 years.

Featured Image: Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

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How long should you stay in your defense contractor position?

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Image: Wikimedia


Gone are the days that company loyalty is valued above all other aspects of the employer/employee relationship. Mega corporations and fast-changing needs have created an atmosphere of turnover, especially among some of the leading defense contractors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can lead to active employee involvement in creating their own opportunities for success and advancement. It can essentially put you in the driver’s seat of your career in a way that didn’t exist in the past. We see many pros and cons of defense contracting, but it always boils down to what is most important for you.

Defense contractors rank high in this field of expectation. I’m not saying that the executives exit stage left quickly, but technical in-the-weeds employees don’t come with lifetime assignment labels, and they shouldn’t. The very nature of contracting involves short- and long-term work. Now defense contractors often maintain a set of continuously renewed contract work, but this does not necessarily mean definitive eternal employment. If you read our post about defense contractor positions for veterans the following information should help you decide on your length of contracting.

With all that said, how long you should stay in your position depends on a couple of things.

  1. What are your goals?

Did you take a defense contract position because it was a dream to work with X employer? Perhaps you want to work on aircraft and the contractor gets you closer. Or was it the pay?

All and any of these reasons are completely reasonable. You have to consider what term of employment with the defense contractor gets you closer to your goals.

  1. Have you used or do you plan to use company education benefits?

Many companies, especially defense contractors, have wonderful education benefits. However, usually these require a specific amount of time with the company following the completion of the class. This varies from six months to two years. If you are working on a degree and plan to take continuous classes using the company benefits, pay close attention to these policies. If you leave before the policy tenure is completed, you may find yourself owing the company for any expenses they paid on your behalf.

  1. Has another opportunity opened up?

Perhaps you’ve received an offer from another company or a government position has opened up and you are wondering, “Is it in bad taste to leave now?” Whatever amount of time you have under your belt, I recommend pursuing discretely any opportunity that gets you closer to your goals or interests. Remember, opportunities are just that, and can fail to actualize. Considering them and giving them your professional due diligence is never a bad thing. If it does actualize and you find yourself with an offer on the table, it may have taken a considerable amount of time to get that far and you’ll already be in a respectable position of tenure.

As a general rule, I suggest committing to at least two years to any employer, one year if the position wasn’t quite what you thought it would be and six months in difficult situations (problematic team integrations for example). In any situation, a hostile work environment is never worth your time and only you can be the one to make that sort of determination.

Take a close look at your goals, consider the pros and cons of defense contracting positions, but most of all trust your gut instinct. Any employer should value you and the work you do just as much as you value them.

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The last US troops killed in the Vietnam War actually died two years after it ended

Most Americans know the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C, displays the names of every servicemember who died in the war or remain missing in action. But what many may not know is that the last names on the wall were killed in an operation launched two years after the conflict officially ended.


In a hastily thrown together mission to save civilians captured in Cambodia, three Marines were left behind to die at the hands of a Khmer Rouge executioner. And though the mission occurred well after American combat forces withdrew from Vietnam, the names of those Marines were still given their place on the Vietnam Memorial wall.

The 1973 Paris Peace Accords ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and two months later the last U.S. combat troops left along with prisoners of war held by the Vietnamese.

But in May, 1975, Communist Khmer Rouge troops from Democratic Kampuchea (modern-day Cambodia), captured an American-flagged merchant ship, the SS Mayaguez, off its coast. And though America was trying to distance itself from the war, President Gerald Ford vowed a response, and historians acknowledge the attempted rescue by U.S. troops as the last official battle of the Vietnam war.

Mayaguez Aerial surveillance showing two Khmer Rough gunboats during the initial seizing of the SS Mayaguez. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, the destroyer Harold E. Holt, and the guided missile destroyer Henry B. Wilson into the area. He also put the Seventh Air Force and contingents of Marines in the region on alert.

P-3 Orion aircraft dropped flares on the Mayaguez’ last known position, which drew small arms fire from the attackers. The Air Force continued to harass the captured ship. So the Khmer troops took the crew prisoner on fishing boats close to the nearby island of Koh Tang.

The Air Force then loaded 75 Security Forces airmen onto five HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters and seven Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions to retake the Mayaguez. This plan was aborted when one of the helos, call sign Knife 13, crashed on its way to Thailand, killing all 18 airmen and its five-man crew.

These twenty-three USAF Airmen en route to the Mayaguez died when their HH-53C helicopter crashed due to a mechanical malfunction. (U.S. Air Force photo) These 23 airmen died en route to the Mayaguez when their HH-53C helicopter crashed due to a mechanical malfunction. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The next plan called for the Air Force to stop all ships between Koh Tang and the Cambodian mainland.

Meanwhile, Marines staged for a simultaneous assault on the Mayaguez and Koh Tang Island. Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines moved to capture the ship, while 600 troops from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines rescued the crew from the island. The plan called for two helicopters to make a diversionary attack on the eastern beach while the rest of the Marines landed via helicopter on the western side.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
BIT 2/9 command group, with Lt. Col. Austin, disembarks from Jolly Green 43 on the west coast of Koh Tang, south of the perimeter of Company G.

Unfortunately, the ship’s crew wasn’t on Koh Tang; they were on nearby Rong Sang Lem. Koh Tang had 100 defenders who were dug in and armed to the teeth, prepared for an attack from Vietnam, not the United States. And they had enough firepower to give the Marines a real fight.

At 0613 on May 15, the Air Force saturated the decks of the Mayaguez with tear gas as the Holt came alongside. Marines wearing gas masks boarded the vessel in one of the first hostile ship-to-ship takeovers since the Civil War but found the Mayaguez empty.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Members of Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines board the Mayaguez. Gas masks were worn because the ship was bombed with tear-gas canisters by the Air Force. (U.S. Navy photo)

At the same time, eight helicopters began the assault on Koh Tang and immediately came under heavy automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire. One of the CH-53s was hit and ignited, killing six Marines, the pilot, and two Navy corpsmen. Three more Marines died from the defending machine guns. The landing troops had to calling in an AC-130 Spectre Gunship to break out of the beachhead.

Just a few minutes before the attack began, the Khmer Rouge Propaganda Minister issued a radio broadcast announcing the release of the Mayaguez crew. The Wilson intercepted the boat carrying the crew and brought them aboard. In the morning in the U.S., President Ford announced the release of the Mayaguez crew to the American public, but not that the Khmer government had released them.

The Marines were still fighting on Koh Tang when the order from stateside came to break off and withdraw. The fighting lasted 14 hours.

Two hours after the evacuation, a Marine Corps company commander discovered three of his men missing — a machine gun team who protected a helicopter evacuation from the island. The abandoned Marines included Lance Cpl. Joseph N. Hargrove, Pvt. 1st Class Gary L. Hall, and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall.

Rear Adm. R.T. Coogan would only green light a rescue if the Marines were still alive. The Navy signaled the island in English, French, and Khmer that they wanted to search the island with Cambodian permission if they received a signal.

No signal came.

Mayaguez A picture from an OV-10 over two helicopters shot down on the East Beach of Koh Tang Island (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ten years later, an eyewitness report told the story of Cambodian troops on patrol under fire from an M-16 the very next day. They encircled and captured an American in the incident and were ordered not to discuss the event. That American was Lance Cpl. Hargrove. He was captured and subsequently executed.

One week later, Cambodian troops noticed their food stores were raided at night with strange boot prints left in the mud. They left a trap which captured Hall and Marshall. The two were taken to the mainland and beaten to death with a B-40 rocket launcher, their remains never conclusively found.

A total of 15 men were killed during the Mayaguez rescue mission, with another three missing and presumed dead. That’s on top of the 23 airmen lost in the helicopter crash preceding the assault on Koh Tang.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division on the eastern LZ evacuate aboard Jolly Green 11 (U.S. Navy photo)

The names of the dead and missing at Koh Tang were the last names to be included on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall bearing the names of all Americans killed or missing in the war.

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Watch how many rounds it takes to melt a suppressor

The U.S. Armed Forces widely uses the M249 SAW light machine gun, as it’s tried and tested on the battlefield — but all weapons have limitations, as a new video from West Coast Armory shows.


To test the durability of a suppressor, a device used to mask muzzle flash and muffle sound from firearms, the guys at West Coast Armory, a Washington state-based gun range, set up the M249 on a bipod and fed a belt of 700 rounds through it.

To be clear, this qualifies as ridiculously overdoing it and is not advisable in any but the most controlled scenarios.

In the clip below, watch the suppressor get utterly destroyed and the M249’s barrel become red hot.

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10 entertaining military podcasts you need to know about

iTunes pulled together some of the most riveting and inspiring podcasts hosted by military veterans and put them all on one landing page.


These military podcasts cover a variety of topics such as, self improvement, fitness, comedy, personal war stories, and more. There’s a show for every listener.

Here are 10 shows we found impossible to turn off once we tuned in:

1. Eagle Nation Podcast

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Eagle Nation Podcast, iTunes

The Eagle Nation Podcast by Team RWB explores veterans, community, nonprofits, fitness, and leadership.

2. Jocko Podcast

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Jocko Podcast, iTunes

The show is hosted by retired Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, and Echo Charles. They focus on discipline and how to win in business, war, relationships and everyday life.

3. SOFREP Radio

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
SOFREP Radio, iTunes

The show is hosted by former Navy SEAL Sniper Brandon Webb and Army Ranger/Green Beret Jack Murphy. They discuss foreign policy, modern warfare, terrorism, politics, and more. The podcast also features guests from the military, intelligence, and special operations communities.

4. Team Never Quit 

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Team Never Quit, iTunes

The show is hosted my “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and David Rutherford. These two retired Navy SEALs are committed to teaching the “never quit” mindset by helping people face their greatest challenges.

5. War On The Rocks

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
War On The Rocks, iTunes

A show about security and defense hosted by foreign policy experts over drinks.

6. Mind Of The Warrior

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Mind Of A Warrior, iTunes

A self-improvement podcast that explores the warrior mindset to win on the battlefield, sports arena, or in the boardroom. Hosted by former Special Forces Operator and MMA fight doctor Mike Simpson.

7. Veteran Café Podcast

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Veteran Café, iTunes

A light-hearted approach to veteran and active service member issues. The show is hosted by Wes and Tracy, a husband and wife duo who both served.

8. Drinkin’ Bros.

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Drinkin’ Bros, iTunes

Grab a beer and enjoy the witty banter from the boys who brought you the Range-15 movie: Ross Patterson, Mat Best, Jarred Taylor and Vincent Vargas.

9. Veteran Artist Program

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Veteran Artist Program, iTunes

BR McDonald talks about the artists, leaders and organizations making a difference in the veteran artist community.

10. Mandatory Fun

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
Mandatory Fun, iTunes

This one is a shameless plug. It’s our weekly show about the military and pop culture that focuses on breaking cultural tropes and bridging the military-civilian divide through storytelling and entertainment. The show is hosted by the We Are The Mighty’s editorial team: Air Force veteran Blake Stilwell, Army veteran Logan Nye, benevolent smartass Tracy Woodward, and myself, Navy veteran Orvelin Valle.

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’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ captures courage while avoiding politics

When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.


“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”

The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.

“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
(Paramount Pictures)

The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.

“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
(Paramount Pictures)

The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.

“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of

“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”

The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).

The story of the most important Cold War spy most people have never heard of
(Paramount Pictures)

The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).

“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”

 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters today. Follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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