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Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Russian T-50 Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Russia’s air force has problems.

Although Moscow has the world’s second-largest air force, which includes strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons thousands of miles around the world, its fleet is old. Constructed almost entirely during the Soviet era, the aircraft fleet is now largely aging and dwindling in numbers, reports Reuters.

To compensate, Russia is rapidly attempting to modernize its air force. Dmitry Gorenberg, a research scientist writing for the blog Russian Military Reform, notes that the Kremlin is allocating $130 billion for modernization efforts through 2020.

As part of this multi-billion modernization plan, Gorenberg notes Russia will acquire “more than 600 modern aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters, as well as more than 1,000 helicopters and a range of air defence systems.”

According to Gorenberg, Russia has been successful so far in terms of replacing its combat aircraft with newer variants. As of January, Moscow has introduced 28 Su-35S, 34 Su-30, and 20 Su-34 aircraft. In addition, the Kremlin hopes to acquire a new fleet of MiG-35 fighters as well as its own T-50 PAK FA fifth-generation jet.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Su-35 Super Flanker (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The T-50, also known as the Su-50, is being produced by Russian manufacturer Sukhoi. The final version of the T-50 is expected to be introduced by 2016. Upon completion, the Kremlin envisions creating a string of Su-50 variants for both export and domestic use.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Russian T-50 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

These variants include two models designed in conjunction with the Indian Air Force, as well as variants for Iran and South Korea.

Russia’s drive to modernize its air force is in keeping with the country’s overall goal of overhauling its armed forces. Russia’s total military budget for fiscal year 2015 stands at approximately $29.5 billion (1.8 trillion rubles). This budget is 20% higher than in 2014, when it stood at 1.7 trillion rubles.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Russian Air Force Su-30 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Russian Su-35 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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

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Air Force loosens flight suit sleeve rules

The Air Force is allowing its pilots, navigators and airmen who wear flight suits to roll up their sleeves whenever they’re not on in-flight duty, according to a new memo.


The latest policy, first published on the popular Air Force blog John Q. Public, mimics what airmen who wear the Airman Battle Uniform are already allowed to do when they’re not performing official duties, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis.

Also read: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“The flight suit sleeve policy was updated to align with the Airman Battle Uniform coat [shirt] wear policy,” Lewis said in an email Monday.

The change amends Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” which already states in the case of the ABU that “commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle.”

“Regardless as to whether the sleeves are rolled up or unrolled, the cuffs will remain visible at all times,” the AFI says.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force

Similarly, airmen who wear a Flight Duty Uniform or Desert Flight Duty Uniform can roll or tuck their suit sleeves under, Lewis said, and “are now approved to pull the sleeves up to within 1 inch of the elbow using the Velcro, already incorporated in the suit, to hold them in place.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, enacted the change — effective immediately — on Jan. 23, according to the memo.

Airmen “will still be required to have sleeves rolled down to the wrist when performing aircrew duties in-flight,” Lewis said — for example, while flying or on the flight line.

The previous policy for flight suits stated airmen could have their sleeves rolled under “if not performing in-flight duties.” However, the rolled-under sleeve “will not end above the natural bend of the wrist when the wearer’s arms are hanging naturally at their side.”

Lewis could not say if similar provisions for flight suits were made in the past.

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Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

The Air Force is increasing computer simulations and virtual testing for its laser-weapons program to accelerate development and prepare plans to arm fighter jets and other platforms by the early 2020s.


To help model the effects of such technologies, the service has awarded Stellar Science a five-year, $7 million contract for advanced laser modeling and simulation.

Also read: How to bring down a Star Wars AT-AT with an A-10

The Albuquerque-based company is expected to continue the work started in 2014, when the Air Force tapped the group to develop computer simulations and virtual testing of directed energy weapons.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Image via General Atomics

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion,  and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, took place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Artist’s rendering from Air Force Research Lab

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force officials said.

Service scientists, such as Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias, have told Scout Warrior that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power source small enough to integrate into a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

According to Stellar Science, “The goal of this research project was to compute the three-dimensional (3D) shape and orientation of a satellite from two-dimensional (2D) images of it.”

Stellar Science possesses expertise in scientific, computer-aided modeling and 3D-shape reconstruction, as well as radio-frequency manipulation and laser physics.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
The US Navy’s prototype ship-mounted laser weapon. | US Navy photo

Officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy recently announced that their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with lasers

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These are the events that led to the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’

The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.


In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.

1. The Brits arrive on the continent

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
British troops from the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, march through Cherbourg, France, in late 1939. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The seeds of Dunkirk were laid on Sep. 3, 1939, when the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France following Germany’s invasion of Poland and amidst the obvious German military buildup of the late 1930s. Eight first and second-line infantry divisions as well as a number of support troops had arrived by May 1940, spending most of their time training and preparing defenses.

The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.

2. The Germans invade

On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.

3. Allied countries collapse

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium was thought to be one of the strongest forts in the world in 1940. German paratroopers exploited weaknesses to capture it in hours. (Photo: Public Domain)

The German blitzkrieg advanced faster and harder than most Allied leaders could believe, and countries quickly collapsed. One of the world’s greatest forts was captured in Belgium in only hours. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and others surrendered within weeks.

4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches

As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.

5. The Panzers stop

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
German panzers invade western Belgium in May 1940. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.

The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.

6. The evacuation begins

On May 26, Operation Dynamo was launched with the goal of evacuating 45,000 troops within 48 hours before the beaches fell. British defenders helping to hold Calais sent their own evacuation ships to Dover to help evacuate those troops at Dunkirk. Calais fell that evening; all British and French forces there were killed or captured.

7. The evacuation runs for 10 days

The pace of the evacuation started slow on May 26 with 8,000 men removed, but increased in efficiency quickly result in more men getting off.

Within the first few days, Royal Navy officers working the “Mole,” a pier-like breakwater that protected the harbor from ocean currents, turned it into an improvised dock that evacuated 1,000 troops an hour at its peak. Additional men embarked from improvised piers and the beaches themselves.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force

One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.

The crews of the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” grew on May 29 when the BBC broadcasted an appeal “for men with experience of motorboats and coastal navigation.”

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Public Domain)

The fleets of navy and civilian vessels crossed back and forth across the English Channel, rescuing about 338,000 troops, mostly British and French, by June 4 when Operation Dynamo ended.

Learn more about the events of May and June 1940 in the video below:

YouTube, World of Tanks North America

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Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Simone Askew. Remember her name.


She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the US Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.

That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.

The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.

And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
West Point Academy. Photo courtesy of US Army.

For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.

One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of US Forces Korea.

“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks. Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Salcido.

Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Geneneral Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.

On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.

Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.

They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.

Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Simone Askew. (Photo from Ken Kraetzer via YouTube)

Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.

She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.

The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.

Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.

“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”

As I said, remember the name Simone Askew.

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Chinese fighters buzz US patrol plane off Hong Kong

A United States Navy P-3 Orion was buzzed by Chinese fighters while in international airspace off Hong Kong. This is the second time that an American plane has had a close encounter in the last two weeks.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
A P-3 Orion flies over Japan. (US Navy photo)

“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.

Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.

The day after the incident involving the J-10s and the P-3, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) passed within six miles of Mischief Reef, one of the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. The United States has been asserting freedom of navigation in the disputed waters, even in the face of Chinese threats to impose fines on American ships that don’t comply with their edicts in the maritime flashpoint.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.

The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.

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Three Warthog squadrons could be on the chopping block

Even though President Donald Trump’s defense budget is committed to keeping the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, as many as three squadrons could still be shut down.


According to a report in DefenseNews.com, the Air Force says that unless funding to produce more new wings for the A-10 is provided, three of the nine squadrons currently in service will have to be shut down due to fatigue issues in their wings. Re-winged A-10s have a projected service life into the 2030s.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
A U.S. Air Force A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II from the 355th Fighter Squadron is surrounded by a cloud of gun smoke as it fires a 30mm GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Alaska on May 29, 2007. (DoD photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

“We’re working on a long-term beddown plan for how we can replace older airplanes as the F-35 comes on, and we’ll work through to figure out how we’re going to address those A-10s that will run out of service life on their wings,” Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command told DefenseNews.com.

Presently, only 173 wing kits have been ordered by the Air Force, with an option for 69 more. The Air Force currently had 283 A-10s in service, but some may need to be retired when the wings end their service lives.

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride

The A-10 has a number of supporters in Congress, notably Rep. Martha McSally, who piloted that plane during her career in the Air Force. In the defense authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress mandated that at least 171 A-10s be kept in service to maintain a close-air-support capability.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the A-10 was originally designed to bust enemy tanks, and was given the 30mm GAU-8 gatling gun with 1,174 rounds. It can also carry up to eight tons of bombs, rockets, missiles and external fuel tanks.

Fully 356 Thunderbolts were upgraded to the A-10C version, which has been equipped with modern precision-guided bombs like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. A total of 713 A-10s were built between 1975 and 1984.

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19 awesome images of the massive RIMPAC exercise going on right now

Countries that border the Pacific are taking part in a massive exercise called “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC.” Dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of people are practicing their warfighting skills in RIMPAC.


Military photographers and videographers have been sending out hundreds of excellent photos and videos from the exercise this year, and here are 19 of the best of what they’d captured:

1. Marines and U.S. allies attacked the beaches of Hawaii in a simulated amphibious assault

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
US Marines conduct an amphibious assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

2. Once the Marines hit the sand, they flooded out of their vehicles and got to work

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
US Marines land on the sands of Hawaii during a joint exercise beach assault with the Japan Self Defense Force. (GIF: US Marine Corps Cpl. Natalie Dillon)

3. Marine attack helicopters flew overhead and provided support to the guys on the ground

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367 protects US Marines during a beach assault as part of Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

5. Ashore, infantry Marines prepped for the hard fight to the island’s interior

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
US Marines move their mortars forward during a beach assault in Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)

6. At training areas past the sand, the Marines practiced assaulting buildings and bunkers

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
US Marines participate in an amphibious assault on Bellows Beach, Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Royal New Zealand Navy Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn)

7. They even went to firing ranges to practice making stuff blow up

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
US Marines operate in Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii July 20, 2016. (GIF: US Marine Corps Cpl. Isaac Ibarra)

8. Out at sea, the Navy got in the action with a large formation of 40 ships that included some surprising participants …

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Forty ships and submarines sail in close formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

BTW, if you want to see hundreds of photos of these 40 ships sailing next to each other, just click on this link. Literally hundreds. There are different angles and close-ups on dozens of the ships available.

9. … like the Coast Guard’s USCGC Stratton …

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
USCGC Stratton steams through the Pacific (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

10. … and a Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark got in on the action of Pacific Rim. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

11. Onboard the Peace Ark, doctors and other medical personnel practiced treating patients and responding to humanitarian crises

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Chinese medical personnel aboard the hospital ship Peace Ark treat simulated injuries during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy)

12. Another Chinese ship, the multirole frigate Hengshui, fired on targets to display its proficiency

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
The Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui fires its main gun at a towed target during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Senior Capt. Liu Wenping)

13. Under the waves, a New Zealand dive unit had to locate an 18-foot shipping container and assist in its recovery

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Photo: New Zealand Defence Force Photographer Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn

14. A Canadian team found and interrogated an underwater wreck during their training

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Canadian divers held their training at an underwater range on July 17, 2016, as part of Rim of the Pacific. (GIF: Canadian Forces Combat Camera Master Corporal Christopher Ward)

15. Forces from four allied countries land on a “captured” beach on a Royal Australian Navy landing craft

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
A Royal Australian Navy landing craft transports Australian, New Zealand, Tongan, and US forces to a Hawaii beach on Jul. 30. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

16. Military vehicles laid down beach matting to prevent other vehicles from slipping on the loose sand. The matting can be laid down in combat to allow tanks and other heavy vehicles to assault towards their objectives quickly

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
An LX-120 front end loader lays down beach matting during Rim of the Pacific 2016. The matting makes it easier for follow-on vehicles to cross the loose sand. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

17. Royal Australian combat engineers cleared the way inland for allied forces by searching out mines and other simulated explosives

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Royal Australian Army Sgt. Connor Chamney syncs his mine calibration equipment Jul. 30. (Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. William Holdaway)

18. Air Force F-22 Raptors and a tanker aircraft assisted with the exercise, allowing the Air Force to improve its interoperability with the U.S. Navy and foreign militaries

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Three US Air Force F-22 Raptors refuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory A. Harden II)

19. The Mexican Navy sent small craft to southern California to practice working with U.S. Navy riverine craft, the small boats that patrol rivers and other tight waterways

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
A Mexican Navy coastal patrol boat practices tactical maneuvers during a mission with the US Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 in Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan A. Nelson)

RIMPAC takes place on most even-numbered years and has been held 25 times since 1971. America’s traditional allies in the Pacific usually attend, but some rivals like Russia and China are common guests as well.

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This former Army officer celebrates July 4 by competing in hot dog eating contests

A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.


“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.

“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Members of the Airman and Family Readiness Center prepare hot dogs April 9, 2016, during the Month of the Military Child Carnival at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chuck Broadway)

Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.

The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.

Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.

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Keanu brings the pain in the newest trailer for ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel, and once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


But if this trailer is any indication, they don’t stand a chance.

The star made waves online earlier this year when a video was released showing Reeves practicing his three-gun skills with tactical shooting master Taran Butler. The hard work appears to have paid off, as the trailer shows Wick aerating assailants in a variety of creative styles.

Reeves’ is joined by fellow Matrix star Laurence Fishburne, as well as Common, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ hits theaters everywhere on February 10th, 2017.

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Two U.S. troops killed in 2 days of war operations

Two U.S. troops have been killed in two days of fighting, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, according to press releases from the Department of Defense.


Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
(U.S. Army photo by Spc.Christopher Brecht)

The Pentagon has not released the names of the casualties. It is standard policy to not release names until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.

On Oct. 19, a military service member was killed in Kabul when an attacker fired on an entry control point at Camp Morehead, according to a U.S. Central Command Press release. The incident is currently under investigation.

“Anytime we lose a member of our team, it is deeply painful,” said Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support. “Our sympathies go out to the families, loved ones and the units of those involved in this incident.

Then, on Oct. 20, another U.S. service member died from wounds sustained in Northern Iraq. The Operation Inherent Resolve press office released the following tweet:

Reuters has reported that an anonymous official said that the wounds were sustained near Mosul where the U.S. is supporting a massive offensive by the Iraqis, the Kurds, and other local forces. Most U.S. troops there are staying away from the front lines, but ISIS has attempted to take the fight to Americans in artillery and logistics camps according to notes in the Operation Inherent Resolve strike releases.

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4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.


1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force
Photo: concordatwatch.eu

In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.

One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.

Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.

Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”

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Pope Pius XII looking pretty displeased with this plan. Photo: paxtv.org

So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.

At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”

The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.

2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success

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Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.

Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.

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The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.

Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.

Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.

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And here we have yet another sculpture of the perfect Aryan woman. Photo:

This did not go well.

Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to —  you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.

3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish

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When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.

Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.

You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.

Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.

Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.

Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.

So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.

“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.

So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.

Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”

And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.

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Werner Goldberg: Half-Jewish soldier turned Nazi poster boy. Photo:

And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.

4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory

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Two nurses weigh children at a Lebensborn house.

The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.

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Nazi nurses wear goggles as they administer the light treatment. Photo: Daily Mail

Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.

Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.

Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.

When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.

NOW: The Nazis had insane ‘superweapon’ ideas that were way ahead of their time

OR: Amazing insight into what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

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The real defenders of Benghazi want you to know “13 Hours” is the truth

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(Paramount Pictures)


We Are The Mighty recently had the opportunity to sit down with the principals behind “13 Hours” and chat with them about the film, including their sense of how accurate it is. And while the past three years have been full of rumor and innuendo around what happened that fateful night in 2012 in Benghazi, the CIA security contractors who rescued the the Americans and defended the annex want the world to know what’s in the movie “13 Hours” is what really happened on the ground.

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Director Michael Bay has always been more than a vocal supporter of the military. No matter what his detractors might say, on his film sets, he always makes a concerted effort to get the reality of modern-day U.S. military personnel right. He believes this might be his most realistic movie ever.

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The film stars John Krasinski as Jack Silva, a CIA contractor and former Navy SEAL who joins a security team already based in Benghazi.

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Other members of the team include James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”). To a man, each one told We Are The Mighty how important the realism of the movie was to their performance.

Dale, who has portrayed military personnel before in HBO’s World War II epic miniseries The Pacific, found his preparation for this film different than anything he’s done before. (This time he’s also portraying a former Navy SEAL.)

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Pablo Schreiber and David Denman play a Marine veteran and Army Ranger veteran who assist with the rescue. Their experiences getting to know the real operators they play onscreen gave them a deep appreciation of the men and what happened there.

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Max Martini and Dominic Fumusa trained with former Navy SEALs and contractors throughout the filming of the movie. The real defenders of Benghazi watched them as they brought the events of that day back to life.

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

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