North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks - We Are The Mighty
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North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks

In a shocking new revelation, a former computer expert from North Korea has exposed the role played by Pyongyang’s spy agency in some of the most successful cyber attacks.


In the wake of the WannaCry attack that rattled the world, affecting over 150 countries, security experts had raised doubts about North Korea’s intelligence agency Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) being behind the attack.

Now, Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea has stated in an interview with Reuters that the cyber attacks allegedly by North Korea were masterminded by Unit 180.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
A large scale cyber-attack was launched in waves against Dyn, an infrastructure company who monitors 150 companies, 77 of which were impacted.

Unit 180 is a special cell that is part of North Korea’s elite cyber warfare group, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

The attacks, Heung-kwang believes, were aimed at raising money as dozens of countries impose sanctions on North Korea due to its ever-expanding nuclear weapons program, which has not only threatened peace on the Korean peninsula but has become a global threat.

According to Heung-kwang, “Unit 180 is engaged in hacking financial institutions (by) breaching and withdrawing money out of bank accounts.”

He further added, “The hackers go overseas to find somewhere with better internet services than North Korea so as not to leave a trace.”

He explained that the hackers might be heading to other countries as employees of trading firms or overseas branches of North Korean companies or joint ventures in China and Southeast Asia.

Also read: The US is amping up its cyber war force

Meanwhile, James Lewis, an expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has said that Pyongyang has previously used hacking for espionage and political harassment against South Korea and U.S.

Lewis explained, “They changed after Sony by using hacking to support criminal activities to generate hard currency for the regime. So far, it’s worked as well or better as drugs, counterfeiting, smuggling — all their usual tricks.”

Further, in a report submitted to Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense said that North Korea likely “views cyber as a cost-effective, asymmetric, deniable tool that it can employ with little risk from reprisal attacks, in part because its networks are largely separated from the internet.”

The report added, “It is likely to use internet infrastructure from third-party nations.”

Some officials in South Korea even claim to have considerable evidence of North Korea’s cyber attacks.

Ahn Chong-ghee, South Korea’s vice foreign minister said in a statement, “North Korea is carrying out cyber attacks through third countries to cover up the origin of the attacks and use their information and communication technology infrastructure.”

According to a former South Korean police researcher, Yoo Dong-ryul, Malaysia has been a base for North Korean cyber operations.

Further, Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership, said Unit 180 was one among several elite cyber warfare groups in the North Korean intelligence community.

In June 2016, law enforcement officials in Seoul accused North Korea of hacking over 140,000 computers at 160 South Korean companies and government agencies and planting malicious code as part of a long-term plan to lay the groundwork for a massive cyber attack.

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New Civic Health Index details what vets bring to communities

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks


Sociological examination of veterans confirms higher rates of voting, volunteering, and civic engagement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The veteran empowerment campaign Got Your 6 today unveiled the latest findings of its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, a major study that confirms significant and positive trends in levels of civic engagement among veterans. As the nation approaches Election Day, Got Your 6’s findings provide tangible evidence that veterans volunteer, engage with local governments and community organizations, vote, and help neighbors, all at rates higher than their non-veteran counterparts.

Findings from the report were highlighted this morning at an event titled “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” at SiriusXM’s Washington, D.C. studios. The event featured panels moderated by SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 host Jared Rizzi and included Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, co-chairs of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch, among others.

Among other data points, the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index found:

  • Voting – 73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections, versus 57 percent of non-veterans.
  • Service – Veteran volunteers serve an average of 169 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25 percent fewer hours annually.
  • Civic Involvement – 11 percent of veterans attended a public meeting in the last year, versus 8.2 percent of non-veterans.

    Community Engagement – 10.7 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.6 percent of non-veterans.

The full report is available here.

“This report shows that by investing in our country’s veterans we’re really investing in our communities,” said Rausch. “The Veterans Civic Health Index continues to be shared as a tool to increase understanding, eliminate misconceptions, and empower veterans as they return home. Now, as our nation prepares to vote in November, this report serves as an indispensable annual metric for evaluating the veteran empowerment movement.”

“I’m thankful to Got Your 6 for putting this study together which proves what many of us inherently know to be true: that veterans are engaged members of their communities. To them, service does not end when the uniform comes off; it often means being a leader in their community, a dutiful employee, a coveted neighbor and a civic asset,” said Sec. McDonald. “A sense of purpose lasts a lifetime. Our nation is stronger because of its veterans.”

“Contrary to the misguided stereotype that veterans have difficulty coping when they re-enter civilian life, this report confirms what many veterans already know: veterans continue to impact their communities in positive and significant ways after leaving the military. Veterans are not a population that requires services, but a population that continues to serve our nation,” said Rep. Perry, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.

“This report underscores what so many of us see and experience every day: when our veterans return to civilian life, their mission of service doesn’t end. Whether it’s running for local office, volunteering in their communities, exercising their right and responsibility to vote, and so much more, our veterans continue to give back and serve our communities long after they leave the military. With roughly 500 veterans reentering civilian life every day, this report highlights the many ways our veterans continue to serve, and the responsibility we have to support and empower them,” said Rep. Gabbard, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.

“It is important to recognize how civic health is entwined with many of the social and political issues that are top of mind for Americans today,” said VCHI author and Got Your 6 Director of Strategy Julia Tivald. “As the VCHI reports, civic engagement is vital for strong communities, and veterans – through their consistently high engagement – are strengthening communities at higher rates than their non-veteran peers. As we search for solutions to some of our country’s most pressing issues, we should look to veterans who are continuing to lead in their communities, and also follow their example by engaging alongside them.”

Listen to “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 Friday, Sept. 30 at 2pm ET and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1pm and 9pm ET.

The report also features a detailed examination of the city of Baltimore, Md., demonstrating that local veterans volunteer more than local nonveterans (30.7 percent versus 27.2 percent), participate in civic organizations (20.7 percent versus 7.3 percent), and vote at higher rates in local elections (75.8 percent v 61.2 percent).

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America’s most patriotic pin-ups are back for 2017

Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s “pin-up” outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America’s wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the “Greatest Generation” fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they’d do the same for the post-9/11 military.


Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Gina Elise on the cover of Pin-Ups for Vets’ 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

And she has.

Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.

This year, she’s back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Army veteran Carmen with WATM’s own Marine Corps veteran Weston Scott (photo by Mike Davello)

“We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds,” Elise says. “The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It’s going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it.”

The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Army veteran Kaleah Jones (photo by Mike Davello)

“We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition,” says Elise. “Their total combined service is 162 years.”

Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Deployed troops sporting Pin-Ups for Vets t-shirts.

A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise’s vision and is enthusiastic about the organization’s cause.

“I’m comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail,” Bell says. “To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who’s that girl they managed to uncover?”

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
The veterans of Pin-Ups for Vets. Vana Bell is pictured Top Row, Left (photo by Mike Davello)

The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of “Terminal Lance” fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Dulce Candy in the 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

“She’s really this incredible Army veteran that’s doing some pretty big time things, so we’re very lucky to have her,” Elise says. “She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger.”

Veterans interested in being part of Pin-Ups for Vets should start with the organization’s website. Any veterans interested in being part of the 2018 calendar should follow Pin-Ups for Vets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for the casting call.

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Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
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The 7 Coolest Air Force Unit Mottos (And What They Mean)

Unit mottos are usually written in Latin and framed by the core values of the group.


The motto is like a mission statement and a battle cry in one. It also serves to boost morale and in some cases, to initiate fear in the enemy. To some, like Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, a motto is more than just a catchy phrase, it represents a unit’s work. In short, these are the words a unit lives by.

Here’s our list of the seven coolest unit mottos in the Air Force:

Motto: Kiai O Ka Lewa (Hawaiian for “Guardians of the Upper Realm”)

5th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, it’s one of the only two B-52H Stratofortress wings in the Air Force.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: Mors Ab Alto (Latin for “Death from Above”)

7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: Aut Vincere Aut Mors (Latin for “Conquer or Die”)

1st Fighter Wing: Stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, it’s the first operational wing flying the F-22A Raptor.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: Attaquez et Conquerez (Latin for “Attack and Conquer”)

8th Fighter Wing: Stationed at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, the wing flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: Tutor et Ultor (Latin for “Protector and Defender”)

49th Fighter Wing: Stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the wing flies the F-22 Raptor.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: “Seek, Attack, Destroy”

52nd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, the unit is flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

Motto: “Fire From The Clouds”

33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Image: Wikimedia

NOW: 9 Movies Every Airman Needs to Watch

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This was what it took to fly the world’s first stealth attack jet

The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.


During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.

According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
An F-117 on display at MCAS Miramar, in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.

Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.

Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.

The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.

The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
An A-7D Corsair II, similar to the ones prospective Bandits trained on prior to being told what they were actually training to fly (Photo US Air Force)

If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.

The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.

All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
An F-117 in-flight, as seen from the boom operator’s station in a USAF tanker (Photo US Air Force)

After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.

By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.

Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.

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SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

When America sends its super-secret warriors behind enemy lines, remaining camouflaged can mean the difference between nabbing the bad guy and causing a major international incident if discovered.


But staying in the shadows means more to those types of commandos than Ghillie suits and MultiCam combat uniforms. Instead, for special operators like SEAL Team 6 commandos and Delta Force soldiers, it’s cultural camouflage that keeps them alive and on mission. When they’re on a clandestine op, that means mingling with the population unseen.

While SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force can easily get their operators looking like the natives, it’s proven to be a lot harder to get them sounding like a local in the country they’re deployed to. Learning a language is very difficult skill, and the military has been at pains to get its operators up to speed quickly.

According to most experts, it takes at least six months for Special Forces soldiers to get proficient in one of the European languages like Spanish or French, and up to a year for proficiency in languages like Arabic and Chinese.

With smaller units like those in Joint Special Operations Command, taking operators off the line for that long makes it tough to keep units fully manned.

So SEAL Team 6 has been experimenting using sensory deprivation tanks to cut language learning to a fraction of the time used in traditional methods.

“They’re able to steer operators into a state of optimum physiological and neurological relaxation and then introducing new content. … And one of the examples is learning foreign languages,” says John Wheal, the Executive Director of the Flow Genome Project which works to increase the performance of top-end athletes and business executives.

“By combining these sensory deprivation tanks with next-generation biofeedback they’ve been able to reduce a six-month cycle time for learning foreign languages down to six weeks.”

Basically, sensory deprivation tanks are pod-shaped beds filled with lukewarm salt water that delivers neutral buoyancy. An operator will float in the chamber in pitch dark to remove any distractions and wear a set of specialized sensors that measure various physical readings like heart rate and brain wave activity.

Once the SEAL has gotten into the right state of mind, then the learning starts, Wheal says.

Previously the exclusive purview of rich show business types with money to burn, the nation’s top commandos are now using cutting-edge tools like sensory deprivation tanks to get better at their jobs quicker.

 

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3 things to know about Sig Sauer and the future of Army handguns

For nearly 10 years, the Army has been on the search for a replacement to the Beretta M9, which has been in the hands of soldiers since 1985.


In a press release, the Army announced they had awarded a $580 million contract to Sig Sauer for the Modular Handgun System, “including handguns, accessories and ammunition.”

1. The military already uses Sig Sauer weapons

The new contract is not the first time Sig Sauer has outfitted members of the armed forces. After losing the Army bid to the Beretta M9 in 1984, the SIG-Sauer P226 was adapted by the Navy SEALs as the MK25 to replace the 9 mm SW M39 pistols. The MK25 was built with corrosion-resistant parts, a necessary requirement when serving a SEAL.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
A Coast Guard member is seen firing a Sig Sauer P229R DAK pistol at an indoor range located on Joint Base Cape Cod, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

Related: This suppressed pistol was custom made for Navy SEALs

Additionally, though the Army has widely issued the M9 to most soldiers, Military Police and members of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) often use the SIG-Sauer P228, a smaller version of the P226, known for its compact style and designated as the M11.

The Coast Guard adapted the SIG-Sauer P229R DAK after their M9’s bit the dust in 2004. As many Coast Guardsmen carry and use weapons on a daily basis while policing the nation’s borders, the wear and tear on the handgun took a toll quicker than the other branches. Because the USCG falls under the Department of Homeland Security, the branch was able to use non-Geneva compliant JHP ammunition with a non-NATO standard caliber (40SW).

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
A soldier fires an M9 pistol. | U.S. Army photo

2. The P320 was named ‘Handgun of the Year’ by an NRA magazine

The P320 is rumored to be the handgun the Army will model their version after. One of the biggest complaints by soldiers about the M9 is its grip size, which is a significant problem for small-handed users. The P320 handgun can be ordered with changeable grips, which would accommodate all soldiers and can changed without incident in the field.

The Sig Sauer P320 was recognized in June 2016 as the Handgun of the Year by the National Rifle Association publication ‘American Rifleman.’ If the Army has chosen to model its next signature weapon after the SIG-Sauer P320 handgun, the upgrades, accessories, and features are numerous, and will provide soldiers a much more modern and up-to-date feel than the current M9.

3. Sig Sauer beat out nine other bids for the lucrative contract

The Army is poised to expand its numbers as the incoming presidential administration has indicated a larger military is on the horizon, a good sign for the pistol company. The $580 million contract extends through 2027 and includes the cost of weapons, ammunition, and accessories. The win showed Sig Sauer coming out ahead of other prestigious gun makers, including Glock, Beretta and Smith Wesson.

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The fear is yuuuge: Russians hold nationwide civil defense drill

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
(Photo: RT.com)


The Russian government is holding a nationwide emergency drill that mobilizes civil defense forces on a massive scale, a move prompted by rising tensions between Russia and the United States regarding Syria – tensions some in the Kremlin believe could start a nuclear war.

The exercise, which started Tuesday and involves more than 200,000 emergency services workers, comes on the heels of news that Russia began last week deploying a battery of Russian S-300 air defense missile launchers in Syria. The NATO code name for the system is SA-10 Grumble. Capable of striking both manned aircraft and cruise missiles, it is the first time the Russians have ever deployed the advanced weapons system outside of their borders.

The pro-Kremlin Interfax news service says EMERCOM, the Russian emergency services ministry, is performing the drill through October 7.  Quoting civil defense chief Oleg Manuilov, the article says the drill will affect up to 40 million Russians – about a quarter of the nation’s population – as well as use 50,000 pieces of unspecified emergency equipment.

“In practice, the (emergency) notification will be issued and we will gather the governing federal departments and agencies, Russian Federation authorities, and local governments,” said Manuilov.

Among other things, the drill will practice issuing protective gear, distributing sanitary supplies, and establishing casualty collection points, he said. Civil defense officials will also inspect local hospitals and clinics to determine their readiness and “quality of care” offered during an emergency.

The article called the drill and the training it offers a “reality check.”

Recent pro-Kremlin media reports have claimed in shrill tones that the United States wants to use its nuclear arsenal to punish Russia for its hand in the Syrian conflict.

For example, Channel Zvezda has repeatedly broadcast shows claiming events in the Middle East will prompt a “big war” between the U.S. and Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense operates the nationwide television channel and frequently uses it as a medium to disseminate propaganda and programming-friendly to the Russian military.

Talks between the U.S. and Russia in an effort to broker a Syrian cease-fire ended Monday. The U.S. ended negotiations after accusing the Kremlin of joining with the Syrian Air Force in carrying out a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged city of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Russian officials confirmed the placement of the S-300 battery at a Syrian naval base soon after FOX News broke the story, according to RT News.

“This system is designed to ensure the safety of the naval base in Tartus and ships located in the coastal area,” said Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. “The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat.”

However, anti-Syrian rebels battling Russian forces such as the Al-Nusra Front possess no air power, raising the question of whether the air defense missiles are there to threaten U.S. aircraft patrolling the area or knock out a potential U.S. cruise missile strike.

The S-300 system is considered one of the most capable air defense systems in the world. First deployed in 1979, it has gone through recent upgrades and modifications which allow it to target multiple threats quickly and accurately.

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Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.


(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).

That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.

It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).

Also Read: The Marines want robotic boats and mortars for beach assaults

“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”

Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Assault amphibious vehicles with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.

“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”

“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”

So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.

The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:

Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”

Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.

Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.

Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.

Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.

Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.

Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.

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Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.

“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.

“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.

“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”

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This was the secret war off the US coast during World War II

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks


At a little after two o’clock in the morning on Monday, January 19, 1942, an earthquake-like rumble tossed fifteen-year-old Gibb Gray from his bed. Furniture shook, glass and knickknacks rattled, and books fell from shelves as a thundering roar vibrated through the walls of the houses in Gibb’s Outer Banks village of Avon. Surprised and concerned, Gibb’s father rushed to the windows on the house’s east side and looked toward the ocean.

“There’s a fire out there!” he shouted to his family.

Clearly visible on the horizon, a great orange fireball had erupted. A towering column of black smoke blotted out the stars and further darkened the night sky.

Only seven miles away, a German U-boat had just torpedoed the 337-foot-long U.S. freighter, City of Atlanta, sinking the ship and killing all but three of the 47 men aboard. The same U-boat attacked two more ships just hours later.

Less than six weeks after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the hostilities of the Second World War had arrived on America’s East Coast and North Carolina’s beaches. This was not the first time that German U-boats had come to United States waters. During World War I, three U-boats sank ten ships off the Tar Heel coast in what primarily was considered a demonstration of German naval power. But by 1942, U-boats had become bigger, faster, and more deadly. Their presence in American waters was not intended for “show” but to help win World War II for Germany.

The abbreviated name “U-boat” comes from the German wordunterseeboot, meaning submarine or undersea boat. However, U-boats were not true submarines. They were warships that spent most of their time on the surface. They could submerge only for limited periods — mostly to attack or evade detection by enemy ships, and to avoid bad weather.

U-boats could only travel about sixty miles underwater before having to surface for fresh air. They often attacked ships while on the surface using deck-mounted guns. Typically, about 50 men operated a U-boat. The boats carried fifteen torpedoes, or self-propelled “bombs,” which ranged up to twenty-two feet long and could travel thirty miles per hour. Experts have described German U-boats as among the most effective and seaworthy warships ever designed.

Within hours of the U-boat attack near Avon, debris and oil began washing up on the beaches. This scene seemed to be repeated constantly. For the next six months, along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, at least sixty-five different German U-boats attacked American and British merchant ships carrying vital supplies to the Allies in Europe — cargos of oil, gasoline, raw vegetables and citrus products, lumber and steel, aluminum for aircraft construction, rubber for tires, and cotton for clothing. By July of 1942, 397 ships had been sunk or damaged. More than 5,000 people had been killed.

The greatest concentration of U-boat attacks happened off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where dozens of ships passed daily. So many ships were attacked that, in time, the waters near Cape Hatteras earned a nickname: “Torpedo Junction.” U.S. military and government authorities didn’t want people to worry, so news reports of enemy U-boats near the coast were classified, or held back from the public for national security reasons. For many years, most people had no idea how bad things really were. But families living on the Outer Banks knew—they were practically in the war.

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“We’d hear these explosions most any time of the day or night and it would shake the houses and sometimes crack the walls,” remembered Blanche Jolliff, of Ocracoke village. Even though ships were being torpedoed by enemy U-boats almost every day, just a few miles away, coastal residents had no choice but to live as normally as possible.

“We sort of got used to hearing it,” Gibb Gray said. “The explosions were mostly in the distance, so we weren’t too scared. I remember we were walking to school one day, and the whole ground shook. We looked toward the ocean, just beyond the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, and there was another huge cloud of smoke. That was the oil tanker, Dixie Arrow.”

Some Outer Bankers came closer to the war than they would have preferred. Teenager Charles Stowe, of Hatteras, and his father were headed out to sea aboard their fishing boat one day when they nearly rammed a U-boat, which was rising to the surface directly in front of them. The elder Stowe’s eyesight was not very good. He told his son, who was steering their boat, to keep on going—he thought the vessel ahead was just another fishing boat.

“I said, ‘Dad, that is a German submarine!’ And it sure was,” Stowe recalled. “He finally listened to me, and we turned around and got out of there just in time.”

The war cut back on one favorite summer pastime for Outer Banks young people. “That summer we had to almost give up swimming in the ocean — it was just full of oil, you’d get it all over you,” Mrs. Ormond Fuller recalled of the oil spilled by torpedoed tankers.

Gibb Gray remembered the oil, too: “We’d step in it before we knew it, and we’d be five or six inches deep. We’d have to scrub our feet and legs with rags soaked in kerosene. It’s hard to get off, that oil.” It is estimated that 150 million gallons of oil spilled into the sea and on the beaches along the Outer Banks during 1942.

Some local residents thought Germans might try to sneak ashore. Others suspected strangers of being spies for the enemy.

“We were frightened to death. We locked our doors at night for the first time ever,” said Ocracoke’s Blanche Styron. Calvin O’Neal remembered strangers with unusual accents who stayed at an Ocracoke hotel during the war: “The rumor was they were spies, and the hotel owner’s daughter and I decided to be counterspies, and we tried our best to follow them around, but we never caught them doing anything suspicious.”

At Buxton, Maude White was the village postmistress and a secret coast watcher for the U.S. Navy. She was responsible for observing unusual activities and reporting them to the local Coast Guard. In 1942 one couple with German accents attracted attention by drawing maps and taking notes about the island. White became suspicious, and so did her daughter, who would follow the pair from a distance — riding her beach pony.

After being reported by White, the strangers were apprehended when they crossed Oregon Inlet on the ferry. Records fail to indicate whether or not the strangers really were spies, but White’s daughter became the inspiration for the heroine in author Nell Wise Wechter’s book Taffy of Torpedo Junction.

Slowly but surely, increased patrols by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, and planes of the Army Air Corps, began to prevent the U-boat attacks. Blimps from a station at Elizabeth City searched for U-boats from high above, while private yachts and sailboats with two-way radios were sent out into the ocean to patrol and harass German warships. The military set up top-secret submarine listening and tracking facilities at places like Ocracoke to detect passing U-boats.

Many people who lived along the coast during World War II remember having to turn off their house lights at night and having to put black tape over their car headlights, so that lights on shore would not help the Germans find their way in the darkness. Even so, the government did not order a general blackout until August 1942. By then, most of the attacks had ended.

On April 14, 1942, the first German U-boat fought by the American navy in U.S. waters was sunk sixteen miles southeast of Nags Head. Within the next couple of months, three more U-boats were sunk along the North Carolina coast: one by a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber, one by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol ship, and one by a U.S. Navy destroyer. North Carolina’s total of four sunken U-boats represents the most of any state.

By that July, the commander of Germany’s U-boats became discouraged. He redirected his remaining warships to the northern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless, Germany considered its attacks against the United States a success, even if they failed to win the war. Gerhard Weinberg, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has since called the war zone off the U.S. coast in 1942 “the greatest single defeat ever suffered by American naval power.”

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
The wreck of U-701 rests on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off of the east coast of North Carolina. (Photo: NOAA)

As the years have passed, most of the physical evidence of World War II U-boat encounters off North Carolina’s coast has vanished. Submerged off the state’s beaches are the remains of at least 60 ships and countless unexploded torpedoes, depth charges, and contact mines. Even today, small patches of blackened sand offer reminders of the massive oil spills of 1942. On Ocracoke Island and at Cape Hatteras, cemeteries contain the graves of six British sailors who perished in North Carolina’s waters.

In spite of those stats, most Americans don’t know about the time when war came so close.

Kevin P. Duffus is an author and documentary filmmaker specializing in North Carolina maritime history. He has lectured for the North Carolina Humanities Council on topics that included World War II along the state’s coast.

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Navy sends McCain to challenge Beijing in South China Sea

The US Navy challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea on August 10, Navy officials revealed.


The US Navy conducted the third freedom-of-navigation operation under President Donald Trump in the South China Sea on August 10. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (DDG-56) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island chain, according to Fox News.

A Navy P-8 reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft reportedly flew nearby.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed past Mischief Reef in late May. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands, in July.

Over the past year, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea. China has been constructing military outposts in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and equipping them with armaments to protect its claims to the region, discredited by an international tribunal last year, through force.

China has constructed airstrips and hangars and protected harbors for the air and naval units in the Paracel Islands. The military has even deployed surface-to-air missiles. In the Spratly Islands, China has built airstrips and reinforced hangars, possible missile silos, and point defense systems.

North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese military has actually armed all seven of its military outposts in the Spratlys, strengthening its stranglehold on the disputed territories.

While the Trump administration was initially hesitant to rile China, which the president believed was an essential ally in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis, Beijing’s hesitancy to act on the Korean Peninsula has led the administration to target China’s strategic interests.

In addition to freedom-of-navigation operations, the US has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea.

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9 of the most memorable pop songs from war movies

Nothing makes a war movie pop like its soundtrack. Films that are scored by famous composers stay with us forever. Hans Zimmer did “Black Hawk Down,” “Saving Private Ryan,” was scored by John Williams, and of course, the most famous war film score ever, Maurice Jarre’s work for the WWI epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”


But not every war movie needs to be scored. There are a few movies where a well-placed pop song is an epic use of screen time. When a director uses a “needle drop,” it can push the scene into something unforgettable.

1. “What A Wonderful World” from “Good Morning Vietnam”

In a movie full of great music and memorable scenes, how do you even choose the most poignant? Barry Levinson’s 1987 film juxtaposes Louis Armstrong’s classic song with imagery of the men fighting the war, the civilians caught in the middle, and the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime.

2. “Danger Zone” from “Top Gun”

No opening sequence starts a movie better than the song that keeps Kenny Loggins in the money to this day. The Navy even used this movie as recruiting tool, with a full 90 percent of applicants reporting that they’d seen “Top Gun” the year it came out.

3. “The End” from “Apocalypse Now”

Did I say “Top Gun” has the best opening scene song? It has to compete with the first shots of “Apocalypse Now,” featuring the Doors’ “The End”.

4. “Tracks of My Tears” from “Platoon”

Charlie Sheen gives us a stark vision of his future, jamming with his friends to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1965 hit, smoking all manner of things while knocking back a few beers. This scene is just as iconic as the Sgt. Elias death scene or the end of the movie, where Sheen’s character looks back on his tour.

5. “Surfin’ Bird” from “Full Metal Jacket”

Sure there are many great musical moments in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic Vietnam War film. “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs playing when Joker and Rafterman meet Animal Mother is the start of something beautiful, not to mention the other iconic music scene that bridges the basic training and war sequences.

The Trashmen’s 1963 song “Surfin’ Bird” dominates as the Americans push the NVA back from Hué City.

6. “Do Wah Diddy” from “Stripes”

I think the YouTube commenter Brian Buchanan said it best about this scene from the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis comedy “Stripes” — “Funny scene, but these two morons would be doing push up ’til they died.”

7. “Dream Lover” from “Hot Shots”

Yeah, “Hot Shots” isn’t a real war movie in the sense that anything really happened but you can say that about “The Hurt Locker” too. Even so, I’ll never forget when Topper Harley sees Ramada Rodham Hayman for the first time.

“I was really impressed with the way you handled that stallion. You know, when I saw you dig your heels into his sides, tighten up the reigns, and break his spirit, I never wanted to be a horse so much in my life.”

8. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” from “Top Gun”

If this movie and Kenny Loggins prompted a bunch of people to join the Navy, I wonder how many late-80s women had to put up with guys singing to them in bars until the fall of Communism.

9. “Sgt. Mackenzie” from “We Were Soldiers”

While not technically a pop song, this song was written about the singer’s grandfather’s service in WWI and is undeniably awesome. Awesome. Awesome.