The next time you venture into the dark netherworld of rants about Obama or Osama bin Laden conspiracy theories that is the internet comments section, you may be viewing the work of a professional “troll” in Moscow.
In The New York Times Magazine, journalist Adrian Chen writes a fascinating story about a pro-Kremlin company called The Internet Research Agency headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s mission: Spread propaganda far and wide, from the discussion sections of news websites to Facebook comment threads.
Inside the nondescript building, twenty-something-aged employees work 12-hour shifts for great pay, while managers obsess over employees meeting their daily quotas of writing political and nonpolitical posts, and hundreds of comments.
Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic. Last year, after a financial crisis hit Russia and the ruble collapsed, the professional trolls left optimistic posts about the pace of recovery. Savchuk also says that in March, after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, she and her entire team were moved to the department that left comments on the websites of Russian news outlets and ordered to suggest that the opposition itself had set up the murder.
It’s a fascinating story that should make anyone weary of reading anonymous comments on the internet. Though as BoingBoing notes, these types of organizations are not just a Russian product. China — and yes, even the United States — also employ people to do essentially the same thing.
But Russia’s Internet Research Agency certainly takes it to the next level, as Chen writes that it had “industrialized the art of trolling.”
“It’s definitely made me more paranoid about, you know, what’s on Twitter, what’s on Facebook,” Chen told NPR’s Audie Cornish in an interview. “One thing that really struck me was how big of an impact, you know, a relatively small number of people who are working in a determined manner to shape the dialogue on the Internet can have.”
A new book by a former SEAL dives into the gritty detail one of the most vicious fights of the 10-year Iraq War and helps fill in the blanks of the story about the legendary sniper who’s heroism propelled his memory into a blockbuster film.
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz is a former Navy SEAL whose career saw time in some of the most violent and contentious battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the 2006 Battle of Ramadi. Lacz’ SEAL Team Three included names that are now familiar (and famous) in American popular culture, including “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, Mike Monsoor, Ryan Job and Mark Lee.
While Lacz was deployed to Ramadi with SEAL Team Three, he kept track of the accomplishments of his unit — not just the Chris Kyles of the war, but the Marines and Soldiers who fought alongside him and the officers who lead them. The book does a lot more than highlight the stories of SEAL door-kickers, but instead describes how the entire U.S. military team battled the enemy in the darkest days of the Iraq insurgency.
“We started doing some cool stuff I wanted to remember,” Lacz says. “There were a ton of heroes from the SEAL teams to the support manual to help us. I felt it was necessary to go into detail because a lot of people don’t hear about the supporting cast. That was the pulse of this narrative.”
Grossman proposes that 2 percent of the male population is able to participate in combat without psychological consequences – that this 2 percent can kill without the psychological trauma usually associated with taking a life. That theory made sense to Lacz, an admitted 2-percenter.
“People talk about Chris [Kyle] and Mike [Monsoor],” says Lacz, “but to talk about a gentleman who came back after being in the reserves, in his late forties, and acting like a 26-year-old lethal badass when the platoon needed him most? It’s stuff like that that makes storytelling unique.”
Chris Kyle asked Lacz to help with his book “American Sniper,” and Lacz was also involved in the film — helping write the screenplay and portraying himself on screen.
One of the things that struck Lacz most was the portrayal of post-traumatic stress in the Clint Eastwood film.
“When I saw the PTSD cues that it had, I felt it was necessary to write about the 2 percent of people that go to war, fight in combat and come back normal,” Lacz remarks. “I wanted to try and get away from the perception that everybody who goes to war and sees combat has PTSD.”
That’s one of the driving themes of “The Last Punisher.” Lacz gives detailed accounts of sniper overwatch missions all over Ramadi. He doesn’t skip the grimy, bloody details, either. He tells the story of how one SEAL teammate had to move a dead enemy, tactically, toward a hospital while wearing his full kit. Lacz describes in detail how pulling the trigger on his Mk 11 – how the shots crumple the enemy’s body after creating the telltale “pink mist” of a good kill.
None of the violence is gratuitous. The consequences of an illegal kill are grave. Lacz talks about the confirmation necessary for a sniper to take a shot, the rules of engagement to kill an insurgent.
“As a professional warrior – a steward of the American flag – you operate under a strict set of guidelines. My rules of engagement were clear. Hostile action or hostile intent were the behaviors for which I could kill an insurgent. The presentation of the artillery round left no doubt. I felt the switch as my breathing deepened and my heart slowed even more. I felt every muscle in my body relax as I tightened the slack in the match-grade trigger of my Mk 11. The muj [mujahideen, or enemy combatant] stood, looking up in my direction and, from behind a pair of binoculars, Chris [Kyle] said, ‘Dump him.'”
“I wanted to give a visceral feeling of war,” Lacz says. “I wanted them to get an intense feeling of what camaraderie is. It’s a simple story, but it’s a powerful story and it shows why the teams were important to me. I want to tell stories like that.”
His stories are powerful and Lacz does not paint himself to be a superhuman operator. He writes about his first run as a new guy SEAL, clearing an entire house in Iraq without a magazine in his weapon.
He gives the same treatment to his teammates. Ralphie misses a shot. The Legend can’t pick a lock. Dauber (Lacz) leaves for a mission without hydrating.
This is war. This is special operations. This is reality.
And while it would be difficult to put ourselves in the mindset of a recruit going through BUD/S (the SEALs’ basic underwater demolition course) we can all relate to being the FNG — no matter the unit.
“I think people are enthralled with Navy SEALs, from their training down to their operations,” says Lacz. “You don’t know what qualities guarantee you’ll make it through training. I wanted to pull all that together and say the best I can, ‘These are the type of people I worked with and these are the qualities, this is why they made it.’ ”
“People want to hear that,” he adds. “We always look towards SEALs in one way or another, and I think giving them a better background and writing it more like a non-fiction novel helped do that.”
Don’t be put off by the human side of Naval Special Warfare portrayed in Lacz’ book. He includes many of the anecdotes loved by veterans and military history buffs. He describes his own anger and desire for revenge against the enemy every time he loses anyone in uniform — whether SEALs or Marines. He (and other SEALs) feel a deep, intense rage seeing Americans in uniform make the ultimate sacrifice.
The muj opened up on the patrol with what sounded like an insane amount of fire. I heard AKs, PKCs, and RPGs going off like Armageddon a few blocks to the southeast.
“Jesus Christ,” Tony said. “Anybody got a line of sight on that contact?” Nobody did. We couldn’t engage.
“Well, sh*t,” Chris said. “What do we do now?”
“I’ve got a flag in my body armor,” I said.
“Well, sh*t yes, let’s run it up. Draw some attention away from that patrol.” Chris got off his gun and crawled over to my position. I took the flag out of my body armor while Chris found a big aluminum pole. He grabbed the flag and tied it to the pole.
“Let’s f*cking hoist it,” he said.
Marc pulled out his little video camera and started filming the historic event while Jeremy joined Chris and me as we hoisted the flag up, flying it high on the rooftop in the middle of Muj country. We all crouched there, beaming at what had to be one of the most America-f*ck-yeah moves in the entire war.
Lacz wrote “The Last Punisher” with the help of his wife Lindsay and journalist and Marine Corps veteran Ethan Rocke. Lacz acknowledges the 10-year gap between the book and his deployments, saying he delayed writing the book to make sure it was as accurate as possible. If he couldn’t remember the details, he didn’t include it in the book.
“Each chapter has a specific theme,” Lacz says. “I think it’s more of a literary work than just a memoir of some guy putting a tape recorder down and just spewing everything he can remember about deployment. That’s what I want people to take away.”
Lacz believes doing this project with his wife was integral to the quality of the work. He believes all warriors should write about their experiences, from SEALs to Rangers to Marines.
“I wanted all veterans to write their stories, especially for their spouses,” he says. “It answers questions for them. The spouse will never know 100% of what they did or what they’ve gone through, but I think it’s important for more people to tell their stories. Lindsay didn’t pry, she just needed to find the details out. She has a better pulse about who I am.”
Another unusual thing that occurred was the capture of what initially was assumed to be a Japanese soldier in a German uniform by American paratroopers.
As it turns out, this soldier was neither Japanese nor German and was in fact a young Korean man who, through a bizarre series of incidents, had been conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans during WW2. This is the story of Yang Kyoungjong.
Little is known about Yang’s life prior to his service in WW2 other than that he was a native Korean who happened to be living in Japanese controlled Manchuria at the start of WW2. Due to this, Yang found himself conscripted against his will in 1938 and forced to serve in the Kwantung Army at just 18 years old.
After basic training, Yang was sent to take part in what has since become known as the Battles of Khalkha Gol, along the borders of Manchuria.
These battles were mostly fought between the Kwantung Army and a combined force consisting of Mongolian and Soviet troops (the two countries were allies at the time) around the Khalkha River, which the Japanese insisted fell within the borders of Manchuria, despite claims to the contrary from Mongolia.
During one particularly heated battle, Yang was captured by the Soviets in 1939 and sent to a labor camp. If the Soviet Union hadn’t suffered intense casualties fighting Nazi Germany on the Eastern front in the latter half of the war, this is probably where Yang would have stayed for the duration of WW2.
But as its pool of able bodied men had been severely depleted by extensive engagements against the Nazis, Soviet military officials made the decision in 1942 to replenish their fighting force by “drafting” thousands of POWs. Among the soldiers drafted was Yang who was once again forcibly made to join the fight in WW2- this time under the Soviet Flag.
Yang’s service with the Soviets lasted about a year, during which time he took place in numerous engagements along the Eastern Front, most notably the Third Battle of Kharkov. It was in this battle that he found himself once again a prisoner of war for yet another nation.
The Germans were apparently unconcerned with how a Korean had come to end up fighting in Ukraine for the Soviets and simply took him prisoner along with hundreds of other soldiers. Again, the interesting part about Yang’s story would likely have ended here if the Nazis weren’t in the habit of allowing prisoners they didn’t execute to “volunteer” to serve with the Wehrmacht following their capture.
As a result of this practise, Yang was conscripted to fight in a German Ostbataillone (literally: East Battalion) in the 709 Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht.
For the curious, Ostbataillones were small battalions of men comprised of “volunteers” from the numerous regions of Europe Nazi Germany controlled. These were folded into larger units of German soldiers to serve as shock troops and backup to more experienced Wehrmacht battalions.
After being conscripted to fight for the Third Reich, Yang was sent to help defend the Cotentin peninsula in France shortly before D-Day. When D-Day arrived and Allied troops successfully stormed the beaches, Yang was among a handful of soldiers captured by the United States’ 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Initially it was reported by Lieutenant Robert Brewer of the 506th that they’d captured “four Asians in German uniform”. While this was technically true, the 506th mistakenly believed the four men (Yang included) were Japanese. In reality, three of the men hailed from Turkestan while Yang, as already noted, was of Korean heritage.
Unable to communicate with Yang due to him not being fluent in either English or German, Yang was sent to yet another POW camp, this time in Britain, where he mercifully remained until the end of the war.
When WW2 ended, Yang chose not to return home, but instead immigrated to the United States where once again his story becomes hazy. The only thing we can find for sure about Yang’s life after WW2 is that he eventually ended up settling in Cook County, Illinois where he quietly passed away in 1992.
Very unfortunately for those of us who like all the little details of a story, such as Yang’s thoughts on his experiences in WW2 and how he got through it all, after the war, Yang never talked publicly about his WW2 misadventure. In fact, according to a December of 2002 article on Yang that appeared in Weekly Korea, he didn’t even discuss
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.
On Tuesday, the lone pilot out of Naval Air Station Lemoore flew over the University of California campus at at an altitude of roughly 2,500 to 3,000 feet during a training flight, according to a spokesman. On local news site Berkeleyside however, Caleb Linden told the site the jet looked like it “was flying about 300-500 feet off the ground.”
One observer reported the jet as low as 300-500 feet. While radar indicated the plane only dipped to 2500 feet, it should be noted that the Berkeley Hills rise 1754 feet –which could put the pilot closer to the ground than first reported depending on when he began his ascent out of Berkeley’s airspace. UC Berkeley’s campus is mostly below 500 feet, with some buildings higher up on the hill.
While the altitude of the plane was a point of debate, the Navy told CBS the pilot was on a “familiarization flight” that required looking outside the plane, rather than relying on instruments. That didn’t stop some witnesses from losing their minds on social media and elsewhere.
What in the heck was that roaring jet noise over Berkeley just now? Did Dick Cheney just do a flyover? @berkeleyside
Actor and karate king Chuck Norris is adding himself to the list of skeptics questioning whether a U.S. Special Forces exercise is a government ruse to impose martial law over several states including Texas.
“The U.S. government says, ‘It’s just a training exercise.’ But I’m not sure the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it,” said Norris, who said Texas Gov. Greg Abbot was right to order his state National Guard monitor the exercise in Texas to ensure civil rights are protected.
This is the second time Norris has weighed in on controversial national security debates. Norris threw his support behind the A-10 Thunderbolt and criticized the Air Force for pushing to retire the aircraft.
Norris gained his celebrity status after leveraging his championship karate skills into an acting career when Hollywood jumped into the Kung Fu craze of the 1970s and ’80s. Norris had previously served in the Air Force. He took up martial arts as an airman stationed in South Korea.
He made numerous movies in which he played a soldier, including the “Missing in Action” trilogy, about an Army colonel who returns to Vietnam to rescue American prisoners of war who had been left behind.
In 2007, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway made Norris an honorary Marine. A few years later, after several seasons playing the lead role on the TV series, “Walker: Texas Ranger,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry made Norris an Honorary Texas Ranger.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command said there is nothing unusual about Jade Helm, though the scope of the event sets it apart for skeptics.
“To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states,” officials wrote on the exercise’s website. “However, Army Special Operations Forces will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.”
Abbot’s ordering the Guard to monitor the exercise has fanned the flames of citizens who believe the operation is part of a plan to impose martial law on the country.
Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, poked fun at the spreading rumor with quick TV clips of newscasters throwing about the term “Texas Takeover.”
“You know who calls it a ‘Texas Takeover?’ Lone Star lunatics,” he quipped.
Stewart also noted that when the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force held Operation Roaming Sands in Texas in 2005 — at the time the largest exercise in the state’s history — there were no concerns about the event being a move to impose martial law.
“I don’t’ know what’s changed since then,” he said, as a picture of President Obama appeared on screen. “Oh, right…”
Norris, in his column for World Net Daily, said “Concerned Texans and Americans are in no way calling into question our brave and courageous men and women in uniform. They are merely following orders. What’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington.,” he wrote.
On the eve of the November 2012 elections Norris and his wife, Gena, went on television to tell voters that “Our great country and freedom are under attack … [and] could be lost forever if we don’t change the course our country is headed.”
Obama’s re-election, Gena Norris added, will be “the first step into 1,000 years of darkness.”
— Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.
A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.
The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.
Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.
Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.
Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.
It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs, according to an article in Esquire. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.
Here are nine examples of dark humor in the military:
This is when inter-service rivalry goes right out the window. A downed naval aviator who had to eject from a F-5N Tiger II tactical fighter aircraft during a training exercise is rescued by the puddle pirates off the coast of Key West. The cause of the crash is still unknown.
“The watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to conduct a search,” read a statement from the Coast Guard. “The helicopter crew arrived on scene at 1:15 p.m. The rescue crew hoisted the pilot from the water and brought him back to Lower Keys Medical Center in good condition.”
An MH-65 Dolphin based at Coast Guard Air Station Miami was diverted from a patrol on Aug. 9 after the Coast Guard picked up the pilot’s emergency smoke signal.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 (VFC-111) Sundowners based at Naval Air Station Key West. The unit is a reserve squadron that simulates the enemy in combat training exercises.
When naval aviators eject over water, a few things happen. First, the parachute is separated from the pilot, because the sea currents can grab the chute and pull the pilot under. Then, there is an automatic flotation device that inflates to keep the aviator above water. Then the mask on the ejection seat, which provides oxygen and protects the pilot’s face during ejection, is separated. The pilot then deploys either signal mirrors, smoke, flares, or all three.
One more Squid safely pulled from the deep by our amazing Puddle Pirates.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force’s top civilian leader didn’t mince words Sept. 20 when she doubted Moscow’s ability to make good on potential military cooperation with the United States in targeting Islamic State forces in Syria, saying Russia likely can’t be counted on to stick to the deal.
“This would be a ‘transactional’ situation, it’s not a situation where there’s a great deal of trust,” Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said during a briefing with reporters at the 2016 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference here.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a deal with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in mid-September, saying that coalition and Russian aircraft would work together to target terrorist forces in Syria after a week-long cease-fire. It is unclear whether the deal will stick after reports that an aid convoy was targeted during the lull in fighting, with both sides pointing fingers at the other for breaking the terms of the short truce.
Wading into diplomatic waters, James also warned that allying with Russia could anger U.S. partners in the ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria, hinting that countries like Turkey and Baltic state partners would balk at cooperating on strikes if Russians are in the room.
“Coalition cohesion will be important,” James said. “We have more than 60 countries participating in this — we wouldn’t want to lose coalition members.”
But James offered her starkest critique of the Russian military on an issue that has increasingly plagued American military efforts overseas in the court of public opinion. Top U.S. military officials are worried that if Russia and the U.S. are jointly running air strikes, America will share the blame for bombs that go astray.
“We are extremely precise with our weaponry, Russia is not,” James said. “So we would want to have some form of accountability for the dropping of these weapons to ensure that if there are civilian casualties, clearly it’s not us.”
Military officials have been increasingly pressed on how the U.S. and its allies would work alongside Russian forces in Syria on everything from coordinating air strikes to sharing intelligence on enemy positions. Most military leaders, particularly in the Air Force, have taken a wait and see attitude, wondering whether the diplomatic rapprochement will ever result in a military alliance.
“Once the decisions are made on how this cooperation will occur … and we see that the cease-fire holds for the time that the secretary of state has laid out, then we’re going to step very carefully to make sure that what is said in terms of the intent actually results in actions,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
The Air Force is buying a new bomber, dubbed the B-21 Raider, which has generated a lot of headlines and is considered one of the biggest priorities for the service. However, another program may be just as important – even if it doesn’t get the press.
According to an interview that TheCipherBrief.com had with retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who was one of the primary planners of the Desert Storm air campaign, that program is the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO. In plain terms, it is a new cruise missile.
While the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile is perhaps the most famous – and perhaps the most widely-used cruise missile since Operation Desert Storm – the Air Force has had a pair of cruise missiles it launched from its bombers for about four decades. They were the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile.
While some might argue that the B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers make cruise missiles unnecessary, Deptula said that was not the case. In fact, they make the stealth bombers more potent.
“The LRSO, when carried by B-21s, will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft, with multiple cruise missiles making defense against this combination highly problematical,” he said. “This combination strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.”
One of the biggest factors in making that challenge intractable is that the bombers are able to attack from just about any point on the compass. In essence, the cruise missiles would enable a B-21 to hit multiple targets from unexpected directions.
Older bombers like the B-52 and B-1B will also be able to use LRSO as well, with Deptula explaining that they would thus “add mass to an attack” against an adversary. The missile is planned to enter service in 2030 according to FlightGlobal.com, and will feature both nuclear and conventional warheads.
When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.
A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.
The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.
But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.
The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.
Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)
As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.
The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.
A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.
“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.
The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”
The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.
The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.
Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.
In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.
“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.
Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.
During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.
UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.
Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)
During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.
The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.
RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.
The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.
Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.