Just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since Biden won the Oval Office in 2020, Russian ships conducted the country’s largest military exercises since it was called the Soviet Union – off the coast of Hawaii.
The exercises were so large, it sent the U.S. Air Force scrambling to intercept fighters off the U.S. West Coast.
The Russian Navy was operating in the Pacific Ocean some 300-500 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, in an exercise that included Tupolev long-range bombers, surface vessels and anti-submarine forces. If there were submarines in the area, their presence wasn’t apparent.
From Hawaii, the USAF scrambled F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, though the Air Force says the long-range bombers did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and weren’t intercepted by the stealth fighters.
This all took place just before the two world leaders were scheduled to meet for the first time in Geneva, a dozen or so time zones away. Word of the exercises was released by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Tensions between the Russian Federation and the United States have been high in recent days, mostly over the buildup of Russian forces along its border with Ukraine, where Russia has been fueling an extended insurgency in the Western area of the country.
In 2014, the Russia military suddenly seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, an action that caused its expulsion from the G-7 nations and force the United States to place economic sanctions on the country and some of its leadership
Most recently, President Biden was asked if he considered Vladimir Putin, the de facto ruler of Russia and a former KGB agent a “killer,” to which the President replied, “I do.”
“I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — that there were certain things that he would do or did do,” Biden told a group of reporters on June 14, 2021. “But it’s not — I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”
Putin recalled Russia’s ambassador to the United States in response. The U.S. recalled its ambassador the next month.
Biden attempted to send two U.S. warships to the Black Sea in a gesture of support for Ukraine, but called it off in April 2021. Instead, he put more economic sanctions on Russian officials, more than 36 in all. He also expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the United States.
Putin and Biden met for three hours on June 16, 2021, their first meeting as leaders of their respective countries. They agreed to restart nuclear arms reduction talks and exchange ambassadors once more, though no timeline was agreed to. Biden did warn Putin that there would be consequences for cyberattacks, human rights violations and election meddling, according to The Hill.
That same report noted that although the two leaders disagreed on many points, the tensions between the two sides never boiled over to outright aggression.
Putin is unlikely to concede anything to the United States. The Russian government is still expected to jail opponents and dissidents like Alexei Navalny. It will also likely continue its campaign of cyberattacks, political interference and the routine executions of former Soviet agents abroad.
Featured photo: An F-22 fighter intercepted a Russian “Bear” Tu-95 bomber off Alaska in 2019. Citing U.S. defense officials, CBS said the United States scrambled the F-22s from Hawaii on Sunday in response to Russian bomber flights, but the aircraft did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and were not intercepted.NORAD photo
There’s a lot about the Song-class Chinese submarine that’s special. It was the first submarine developed entirely by the People’s Republic of China and the first to use the modern teardrop hull shape. It’s also the only Chinese submarine ever to pop up in the middle of an American aircraft carrier group.
In November of 2006, one of China’s Song-class diesel electric submarines surfaced just five miles away from the USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Okinawa. At the time, the carrier group was in a protective formation, using anti-submarine defenses and aircraft. The appearance of a Chinese submarine no doubt surprised everyone in the fleet.
The surprise was not just because the submarine surfaced so close to the Kitty Hawk. No one knows exactly how long the submarine had been there, how long it had tailed the fleet, or even why it decided to pop up above the surface.
What the Navy did know is that their anti-submarine efforts had grown extremely lax in the wake of the end of the Cold War. If the submarine had been hostile to the United States, the damage it might have caused could have been on a scale the U.S. hasn’t seen since World War II.
Song-class submarines aren’t particularly special, but they do carry an armament of Russian-made homing torpedoes and cruise missiles designed to take down ships just like the ones escorting the Kitty Hawk that day in November 2006. The USS Kitty Hawk was first launched in 1961, so the extent of the damage it could do to the aircraft carrier is up for debate, but it would have done some kind of damage.
The saving grace for the US Navy is that the battle group wasn’t actively doing any kind of anti-submarine operation. The sudden appearance of a Chinese submarine might have been catastrophic to U.S.-Chinese relations, which were already strained at the time, but are ven more so today.
The Chinese claim to the South China Sea has caused Chinese aggression in the region to amp up exponentially in the past few years. China has also ramped up its homegrown ship building since 2006, including the construction of an aircraft carrier, its first-ever domestically produced carrier, and the beginning of its second.
China has also built up its military presence to support its claim to the Spratly Islands and the Paracel islands, even increasing their size and installing military units on them to support their claims to them.
The Spratleys are the biggest point of concern. The islands are also claimed by Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Vietnam. They sit in the middle of the South China Sea and would extend China’s territorial waters to cover most of the waterway, which is also a major shipping lane.
The U.S. Navy regularly conducts freedom of navigation cruises in the area to maintain the islands’ disputed status. This regularly means U.S. military forces are staring down Chinese military forces for long periods of time. As tensions mount, the area becomes an overwhelming powderkeg for potential conflicts.
As time goes on, events like the sudden appearance of a Chinese submarine in the middle of a carrier battle group could be a spark that turns an already tense situation into a full-scale war.
That said, the Brits will find that the U.S. Marines will do things a bit differently than Her Majesty’s lads. Here are a few things the Brits will need to do to make life “Oorah!” for American Leathernecks.
1. Schedule regular beer runs
The Brits may need to borrow a Supply-class replenishment ship just to have enough beer on hand for the Marines. You see, no thanks to Josephus Daniels the U.S. Navy doesn’t allow alcohol on board its vessels.
Royal Navy ships, on the other hand, are “wet,” and with the heat on carrier decks, Marines will get thirsty. The Brits will need sufficient supplies of Coors Lite to keep the Marines happy.
Oh, yeah, and when it comes to the harder stuff – figure that it might not hurt to have extras on stock. But they can leave the brandy and sherry ashore.
2. Ditch the tea and pile up the energy drinks
Earl Gray is not what most Marines will drink around 5:00pm. Forget even offering it.
Energy drinks on the other hand, are popular amongst all American service members. To fully understand how popular they are, keep in mind that according to a 2016 DOD release, Monster was the most popular cold beverage sold in the exchanges. In 2009, one exchange store reported selling 1,000 cans a week, according to an Army release.
Come to think of it… you may need a second replenishment ship for all the Monster that will be consumed. We’re sure Military Sealift Command will give a discount for leasing two Supply-class ships.
3. Stock coffee … and lots of it
While we’re talking about pick-me-ups, it may not be a bad idea to remember that the Marines will also drink coffee — and lots of it.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs from “NCIS” is not an aberration. The grouchiness if he doesn’t have his coffee – that’s not an aberration, either.
And the Marines have to have it.
That photo above was taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Trust me, if Leathernecks had their coffee during Iwo Jima — and did what they did there — you don’t want to see what Marines do without their coffee.
That might take a third Supply-class replenishment ship, by the way. MSC has to have a discount for leasing three, wethinks.
4. Add a rifle range
The Marines’ motto is, “Every Marine a Rifleman.” Even the jet jockeys.
So, you’re gonna need a range so the Marines can qualify on the M16A4 rifle and the M9 pistol. That means you’ll need a good backstop, plenty of ammo, and plenty of spare magazines for both (luckily the British L85 rifle uses the same magazines as the M16).
5. Brush up on what real football is
Also, depending on the time of year, you will be in football season.
No, we’re not talking the game with the black-and-white round ball. That’s soccer.
We’re talking real football. Eleven on a team, yes, but beyond that, the Brits will need to know the intricacies of the 46 defense, what “Cover 2” means, and just who Tom Brady, DeMarcus Ware, and Ezekiel Elliot are — among others.
Also, don’t even think of mentioning Manchester United in the same breath as the Chicago Bears. Just don’t.
The Air Force is now testing new, high-tech sensors, software, electronics and other enemy radar-evading upgrades for its B-2 stealth bomber to preserve its stealth advantages and enable the aircraft to operate more effectively against increasingly capable modern air defenses.
The massive upgrade, designed to improve what’s called the bomber’s Defensive Management System, is described by Air Force developers as “the most extensive modification effort that the B-2 has attempted.”
The Defensive Management System is a technology designed to help the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defenses, using various antennas, receivers and display processors to detect signals or “signatures” emitting from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force Spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog said in a written statement.
The modernized system, called a B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a replacement of legacy DMS subsystems so that the aircraft can be effective against the newest and most lethal enemy air defenses.
“This system picks up where mission planning ends by integrating a suite of antennas, receivers, and displays that provide real-time situational awareness to aircrew. The DMS-Modernization program addresses shortcomings within the current DMS system,” Hertzog added.
Upgrades consist of improved antennas with advanced digital electronic support measures, or ESMs along with software components designed to integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an Operational Test Evaluation report from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform B-2 crews about the location of enemy air defenses so that they can avoid or maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to be detected or targeted. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions from air defenses and provide B-2 air crews with faster mission planning information – while in-flight.
Air Force officials explain that while many of the details of the upgraded DMS-M unit are not available for security reasons, the improved system does allow the stealthy B-2 to operate more successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments – referred to by Air Force strategists as highly “contested environments.”
Many experts have explained that 1980s stealth technology is known to be less effective against the best-made current and emerging air defenses – newer, more integrated systems use faster processors, digital networking and a wider-range of detection frequencies.
Upon its inception, the B-2 was engineered to go against and defeat Soviet air-defenses during the Cold War; the idea was to operate above enemy airspace, conduct attack missions and then return without the adversary even knowing the aircraft was there. This mission, designed to destroy enemy air defenses, was designed to open up a safety zone or “air corridor” for other, less stealthy aircraft to conduct attacks.
In order to accomplish this, B-2 stealth technology was designed to elude lower-frequency “surveillance” radar – which can detect the presence of an aircraft – as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar precise enough to allow air defenses to track, target and destroy attacking aircraft, developers explained.
It is widely believed that modern air defenses such as these are now able to detect many stealth aircraft, therefore complicating the operational equation for bombers such as the B-2, senior Air Force officials have acknowledged.
These newer air defense technologies are exhibited in some of the most advanced Russian-built systems such as the S-300 and S-400. In fact, according to a report from Dave Majumdar in The National Interest and reports in the Russian media, the Russians are now engineering a new, more effective S-500 system able to hit some stealthy targets out to 125 miles or further.
In fact, The National Interest once cited a Russian media report claiming that “stealth” technology was no longer useful or relevant – a claim that is not believed to be true at all, or is at least unambiguously disputed by many experts and developers familiar with stealth technology.
For this reason, many senior Air Force developers have explained that – moving into the future – stealth technology is merely one arrow in a metaphorical “quiver” of offensive attack capabilities used by the B-2.
Nonetheless, Hertzog explained that upgraded B-2 stealth technology will have a much-improved operating ability and “strategic advantage” against a vastly wider range of air defenses.
“With necessary upgrades, the B-2 can perform its mission regardless of location, return to base safely, and permit freedom of movement for follow-on forces, including other long range strike platforms. Modifications such as the DMS-M are necessary to preserve this strategic advantage against 21st century threats,” Hertzog added.
The DMS-M upgrade does not in any way diminish the stealth properties of the aircraft, meaning it does not alter the contours of the fuselage or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.
Many advanced air defenses use X-band radar, a high-frequency, short-wavelength signal able to deliver a high-resolution imaging radar such as that for targeting. S-band frequency, which operates from 2 to 4 GHz, is another is also used by many air defenses, among other frequencies.
X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, sends forward and electromagnetic “ping” before analyzing the return signal to determine shape, speed, size and location of an enemy threat. SAR paints a rendering of sorts of a given target area. X-band provides both precision tracking as well as horizon scans or searches. Stealth technology, therefore, uses certain contour configurations and radar-absorbing coating materials to confuse or thwart electromagnetic signals from air defenses.
These techniques are, in many cases, engineered to work in tandem with IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a “heat” signature detectable by air defenses’ IR radar sensors. Heat coming from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense systems with indication that an aircraft is operating overhead. These stealth technologies are intended to allow a stealth bomber to generate little or no return radar signal, giving air dense operators an incomplete, non-existent or inaccurate representation of an object flying overhead.
Also, the B-2 is slated to fly alongside the services’ emerging B-21 Raider next-generation stealth bomber; this platform, to be ready in the mid-2020s, is said by many Air Force developers to include a new generation of stealth technologies vastly expanding the current operational ranges and abilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact, Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to hold any target in the world at risk, anytime.
While many senior Air Force officials have made this point in recent years, the ability of the B-21 to strike anywhere in the world, was something emphasized by Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior last year in an exclusive interview.
Naturally, many of the details of these stealth innovations are, by design, not available for public discussion – according to Air Force and Northrop Grumman developers.
The DMS-M program achieved a key acquisition milestone last year, authorizing the program to enter what’s called the Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase.
“Major efforts during the EMD phase include the system Critical Design Review, completion of hardware and software development efforts, Integrated Test, and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. Three aircraft will be modified during EMD to support the successful completion of this phase,” Hertzog explained.
The program plans on achieving 2019 Full Rate Production following this phase in 2019.
The total Research Development, Test and Evaluation funding for B-2 DMS-M is $1.837B to develop four units, Hertzog added.
The B-2 is engineered and built by Northrop Grumman; the major subcontractors on the program are BAE (receivers), Ball Aerospace and L-3 Randtron (antennas), and Lockheed Martin (display processors).
Total procurement funding for the B-2 DMS-M program is $832M to procure 16 additional units.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
Forget what you read in the news, America is still the leader of freedom in the world. There’s no shortage of allies that have our back, either. Whether the President of the United States is Joe Biden, Donald Trump or Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, countries will still be lining up to be on the right side of history.
No matter what the obstacle or threat to freedom the world over, the United States can count on a slew of allies to have its back. They may not all be world or even regional powers, but they are there; ready and willing to do whatever it takes.
It’s a lot more helpful if they’re militarily capable, however, so when these five countries say they’re in, victory comes a lot smoother and faster.
1. The United Kingdom
The UK is America’s ride-or-die, and vice versa. There’s a reason we all call our alliance a “special relationship.” Some people will say the United Kingdom is a shadow of its former imperial glory, but those people are fools. If you mess with the queen’s possessions, she’s coming for you, whether you’re fighting in Europe, the Pacific, or – God help you – the Falkland Islands.
The UK was there for America in Afghanistan because they were obligated by article five of the NATO treaty. But you know they would have been there, treaty or no treaty. Even when the intelligence on Iraq was dubious at best, Britain didn’t even hesitate to smoke out Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in Basra. The UK ensured the “Coalition of the Willing” sent a message to America’s enemies: all your base are belong to us.
France gets a lot of undeserved flak for losing World War II (at first). Anyone who goes toe-to-toe with the French these days is fighting an army trying to shake off the perception of being cheese eating surrender monkeys. God help anyone who gets on the wrong side of a Franco-American alliance, because this usually means an empire is about to fall.
There’s a reason France and the United States rarely join forces, because there’s no stopping the pain train the two can inflict on literally any country or alliance. Our two countries don’t often see eye-to-eye on many issues, so teaming up against a common foe is rare these days. When it does happen, however, an alliance between France and the United States means some serious threats to democracy are about to be put in their place.
India is constantly preparing to fight a war on two fronts, most likely between perennial arch-nemesis Pakistan and crouching tiger China. Although the United States maintains an uneasy alliance with Pakistan, the term “frenemies” is much more apt. If stuff hits the fan and the U.S. has to choose sides, the world’s largest democracy is going to be our ally.
And that just makes sense. India lives in a tough neighborhood but is ready to come out swinging, as they’ve shown time and again. In an all-out war with China, there will be no ally more crucial or more capable than that of India and its billion-plus people, massive submarine force, and mountaineering Gurkhas that are bound to show China what real pain feels like.
The United States has had its geopolitical differences with Israel – and who hasn’t? If we’re talking about living in a tough neighborhood, America’s Jewish best friend has had the hardest time living in one, historically. Israel is the U.S.’ foothold in the Middle East. Israelis can sleep comfortably at night knowing that if, somehow, the Israel Defense Forces gets overrun by all its Arab neighbors, there will be a fleet of United States Marines in Tel Aviv and Haifa in 24 hours.
The United States doesn’t often need the help of outside nations, but if it did, Israel would be the first in line to send troops, doctors, aircraft and whatever else was required for victory. This has nothing to do with America’s unending support for the Jewish state since it won independence in 1948, that’s just how the IDF rolls: no better friend, no worse enemy.
Although it may not seem like a close ally lately, buying Russian S-300 missile batteries and giving up on the NATO alliance’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Turkey has long been a friend to the United States and its interests in a complex area of the world. Ankara allows the U.S. to operate its most devastating air-to-ground support weapon from its shores: the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which helped topple ISIS in Syria.
Most importantly, Turkey is the crossroads of the global east to the global west. It bridges a number of worlds. It’s not only the strategic gateway from Europe to Asia. It’s also the key entry point from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea, and its place in the world allows the U.S. to position key ships, aircraft, and nuclear weapons where they’re most needed.
In order to win, militaries try to beef up their own numbers, acquire better technology, or in some cases: totally bullsh*t the other side into thinking they are going to do something they aren’t really doing.
It’s called a feint. In a nutshell, a military feint is a tactic employed in order to deceive the other side. A military might feint that it’s going to attack Town A so the enemy shifts all its forces there, only to later attack Town B.
Here are four times the U.S. military pulled it off to great effect:
1. Both sides made fake guns out of painted logs in the Civil War.
Since photography wasn’t as widespread and there weren’t any reconnaissance planes, feints were arguably easier to pull off during the Civil War. That was definitely the case for the both sides, which sometimes used fake guns to trick each other into thinking they were going to attack somewhere else, or the place they were defending was heavily-fortified.
Known as “Quaker Guns,” soldiers would take wooden logs, paint them black, and then prop them up on a fence or in a mount, making them look like artillery pieces from a distance. From the official US Army magazine:
When Confederate forces advanced on Munson’s Hill after the first Battle of Manassas, they held the hill for three months, but when Federal troops gained the hill in October of 1861, they discovered they had been tricked. There was nothing on the hill except Quaker guns.
Quaker Guns were used before and after the Civil War. But the tactic saw extensive use by the Confederates, to make up for their lack of actually artillery.
2. The Allies misled the Germans so well in World War II, Nazi leaders thought the real D-Day invasion was a feint.
In what is perhaps the best feint ever, Allied forces during World War II confused the Nazis so well that they didn’t even know what was happening when the real D-Day landings began.
The deceit goes back to a plan developed prior to the June 6, 1944 landings called Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts — North and South — Fortitude had the goal of convincing the Nazis that the Allies wanted to invade occupied Norway, and Pas de Calais in France. They really wanted to invade Normandy, but the Germans had no clue.
The Allies literally created a fake army consisting of inflatable tanks and trucks, and broadcast hours-long transmissions about troop movements that the Germans would intercept.
When the landings finally came at Normandy, German commanders thought it was a smaller force, and the much larger attack was happening later.
“North of Seine quiet so far. No landings from sea. Pas de Calais sector: nothing to report,” a German message on June 6 reads. Then about a day after invasion, forces were warned: “Further enemy landings are to be expected in the entire coastal area. Enemy landings for a thrust toward Belgium to be expected.”
The Allies were pretty awesome at this deception game. Just one year prior, they fooled the Germans using a uniformed corpse with “top secret” documents into preparing for an invasion in the wrong place, when the Allies instead invaded Sicily.
3. The US Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein, and it worked.
The ground war of the Persian Gulf War was over pretty quickly, thanks to Gen. Schwarzkopf’s extensive planning and leadership. Schwarzkopf wanted to use a “left hook” or “Hail Mary” play of his forces, effectively cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait by going behind their lines.
But in order to achieve it, Schwarzkopf needed to trick the Iraqi Army. Instead of Iraq thinking they would get hit with a “left hook,” Army planners wanted them to think the U.S. would invade near Kuwait’s “boot heel.” FOB Weasel was how they did it.
It was eerily similar to Operation Fortitude. From a previous article by our own Blake Stilwell:
FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.
The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.
As Stilwell notes, even well after the Iraqi Army was expelled from Kuwait on Feb. 21 1991, Iraqi intelligence still thought American forces were near the “boot heel.”
4. The insurgents knew US troops were coming before the Second Battle of Fallujah, but they had no idea of when or where.
Before the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents were well aware that an attack was on the horizon. The city had become completely lawless, swept up by a large number of insurgents, who were spending their time building up defenses in the city.
On the outskirts, Fallujah was completely cut off by U.S. troops surrounding it. Insurgents inside the city knew they would eventually be attacked, but a series of feint attacks made it hard to pinpoint from where or when. And beyond deceit, the feints allowed troops to test out enemy capabilities before the main effort.
From the Marine Corps Gazette:
Marine battalions manning vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) or participating in feints were extremely successful in targeting fixed enemy defenses and degrading insurgent command and control capabilities. A series of feints conducted by 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv) deceived the insurgents as to the time and location of our main attack. They knew we were coming, but they didn’t know when or from where. The feints also allowed us to develop actionable intelligence on their positions for targeting in Phase II. The Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, whose Marines manned the southern VCPs around Fallujah, described this period as a real-world fire support coordination exercise that provided a valuable opportunity for his fire support coordinator and company fire support teams to work tactics, techniques, and procedures and to practice coordinating surface and air-delivered fires.
In an interesting example from a grunt on the ground, a feint attack from Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines tested enemy defenses and helped planners realize the spot they feint attacked wasn’t the best for the real thing.
“Had we decided to attack from the south, the battle would have been hellacious from day one,” one Marine recalls in the book “We Were One.” “The thing we discovered after the battle was they oriented a lot of their defenses to the south.”
These are just some of the labels put on retired Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher by the news media before and after his highly publicized criminal trial. Following his acquittal of almost all war crime charges in 2019, Gallagher is finally ready and able to share his side of the story.
“What people don’t see is what goes on because of those articles and what that does to a family. We aren’t the only ones who’ve gone through it, either — it happens throughout the military,” he shared. The constant, negative media coverage wasn’t just a headache; Gallagher and his family were targeted with death threats.
It wasn’t an easy decision to write a book and share his experience, Gallagher admitted. He was clear in explaining the SEAL community’s opinion of operators going on to tell-all books and it wasn’t good. His brother, Sean Gallagher and Eddie’s wife, Andrea, were the ones to finally convince him he should do it.
In the beginning of the book, Gallagher addresses his feelings about making the decision.
“I wish I didn’t have to write this book. I wish no one knew my name or knew what I did for a living. For 19 years, I strove to be a quiet professional. Didn’t advertise the nature of my work. Kept my head down and did my job. I’d give anything to still be able to do that.”
The Man in The Arena: From Fighting ISIS to Fighting for My Freedom takes readers through Gallagher’s earlier years, the deployment which changed everything and his entire military criminal trial experience. Both he and Andrea wrote chapters in the book. But so did his brother, their children and other individuals involved. Gallagher was candid in sharing how before his own criminal justice experience, news headlines like his would have even had him believing the person accused must have been doing something wrong.
“It was a crash course for both [Andrea and me] as soon as we got thrown into it. You realize real quick that you have no rights especially as the active duty member,” he said. “Once you are accused of something you are told you are not allowed to say anything in your defense.” Gallagher referenced being told things like “trust the system” or “it’s better for you if you don’t say anything.” He said it wasn’t long before he realized everything he was told was wrong.
“They use our loyalty to whatever branch we are serving or institution we belong to against us,” he explained. “Once I was in there, they started denying me my legal visits, phone calls, certain stuff civilians are afforded. I was like, this is nuts and that’s when she [Andrea] stood up and said ‘this isn’t happening.'”
After watching what she called inadequate defense and stonewalling from the military, Andrea said she decided to take control. Her mission quickly became educating the American public, she said.
It was through her and Sean’s numerous media appearances that attorney Tim Parlatore eventually took over defense. Under Parlatore’s leadership, the initial military-led prosecution was sanctioned for violating Eddie’s constitutional rights, and one prosecutor was removed for illegally tapping Eddie’s attorney’s emails. Eventually, another SEAL would admit under oath he killed the Iraqi terrorist Eddie had been accused of murdering.
Andrea said, “It was a daunting undertaking but it was my honor to fight for him because he was fighting for our country all of those years.”
Gallagher enlisted in the United States Navy in 1999. He was attached to a Marine Corps unit until becoming a SEAL in 2005. He was a trained medic and sniper with combat experience in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In the book, Gallagher wrote about his fateful deployment to Mosul, Iraq in 2017 as a chief of SEAL Team 7 and how it was actually safer than previous deployments. But it was still just as gruesome.
“Some days we’d watch ISIS gun down crowds of women and children as they tried to escape the city. The terrorists sent them running toward us and then opened fire in an attempt to draw us out. There wasn’t much we or the partner force could do except return fire from a distance.”
Scenes like the one above and worse are described often throughout the pages of the book, a stark reality for troops deployed to these regions. For Gallagher, who’d been deployed eight times, it wasn’t anything new. A bombing later on in that same deployment would lead to the apprehension of an ISIS terrorist as a prisoner of war and start a chain of events which changed the trajectory of Eddie’s life.
As readers comb through the book, they may wonder why Gallagher was charged with killing a verified ISIS terrorist in the first place. There were other charges against him that were also dropped but the accusation of murdering a terrorist stands out. Where and what is the line for our troops who deploy to defend? Rules of engagement tend to determine this line, but those rules can and do change. In the book, Gallagher addresses his issue with the inconsistency.
“War was war, and each of us accepted that there was a chance we might die, but handcuffing the warfighter made the possibility more likely.”
Gallagher also writes about his role as a SEAL and doesn’t hold back on explaining what it entails.
“We exist to eliminate the enemy, and everything else is just details toward achieving that goal. It’s not pretty, and I don’t expect the average American to understand what we do. But we relish being sent into combat, staging from the shittiest locations on earth, and completing the most dangerous missions. We’re not Boy Scouts.”
Despite everything he and his family publicly went through, Gallagher said he wouldn’t change anything. “I’m grateful I got to go overseas and fight for my country. No regrets; I got to work with the best men and women this country has to offer…my friends I’ve lost, those were giants among men. I am grateful,” he said.
Andrea echoed his sentiment. “We love our service members and military and just want to see it continue to go in a good direction,” she said. “We hope this book sparks an after-action report for the Navy and makes them say, ‘Maybe there are things we can do better.’”
Both said without the support of various nonprofit organizations, congressional members and fundraising events, it could have gone a very different way for Gallagher. Most military members aren’t typically able to afford the kind of legal defense he ended up needing. It is with this in mind the couple created The Pipe Hitter Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting military members, veterans and first responders in fighting for their legal rights.
As for the book, Gallagher and Andrea were committed to sharing everything, which is what led to putting QR codes at the beginning of many of the chapters, they said. Each code brings the reader to actual court recordings, NCIS interviews and what the prosecution deemed as evidence against Gallagher. He was clear in stating their goal was to be transparent in writing the book by giving readers the whole picture rather than just what was initially reported in the media. Both wanted readers to have the ability to do their own research to find the truth.
The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.
In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.
On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.
Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.
As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.
When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.
By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.
What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.
After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.
Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.
Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.
As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.
But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.
The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
China and Japan are redefining the nature and purpose of the Coast Guard. Americans still think in terms of air-sea rescue or chasing drug smugglers when they think about their Coast Guard. China and Japan think about their Coast Guards in terms of realpolitik.
The two nominally civilian services are on the front lines of territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Both countries are adding to their coast guard fleets at a breakneck pace. One could almost call it a Coast Guard arms race, except that the vessels are lightly armed if armed at all.
Japan is reinforcing its Coast Guard contingent in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with 10 new 1,500-ton patrol craft and two new helicopter- equipped vessels. This is in addition to six other cutters already in the region. Tokyo will no longer have to borrow vessels from other Coast Guard districts allowing them to concentrate on routine Coast Guard duties such as rescuing ships in distress.
Tokyo is also overhauling its main operational base on the island of Ishikagi, the closest Japanese island to the Senkakus, with enlarged port facilities to handle the new vessels. It is close to another small island where Japan recently opened an army garrison to protect a new radar base (a well as asserting sovereignty in case China expands its designs on other islands in the Ryukyu chain.)
Both Japan and China assert their claims to the uninhabited Senkaku islands with coast guard cutters rather than ships of their regular navies. On an average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese Coast Guard vessels enter Japanese territorial waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard vessels regularly patrol the disputed waters ordering anyone inside the territorial zone to leave.
China is also expanding its fleet and building ports of call to maintain them. The growing fleet allows Beijing to assert its claim and support its interests over the entire South China Sea. At present, Coast Guard ships are stationed near the Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines; another routinely patrols the Laconia Reefs off the coast of Malaysia.
While it once depended on former naval frigates, China is now commissioning purpose-built cutters. It is currently commissioning two of the world’s largest Coast Guard cutters, ships that could alter the balance of power in the South and East China Seas (one ship is to be stationed in each sea).
Known only by their hull numbers, in this case Haijing 2901 and Haijing 3901 (the first digit denotes which sea it is to patrol). They displace 10,000 tons, possibly more when fully outfitted. That makes them larger than the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga- class cruisers and Japan’s 6,500-ton Shikishima- class Coast Guard cutters previously the largest in the world.
The U.S.S. Forth Worth, a Littoral Combat ship based in Singapore, which has undertaken Freedom of Navigation patrols in the Spratly islands, displaces a mere 1,200 tons. A warship like the Fort Worth could, of course, defend itself from a Chinese maritime enforcement vessel on a collision course, but it would mean firing the first shot.
This may be a coast guard “arms race” except that the competing vessels are not heavily armed. The new Japanese cutters are armed with 20 mm cannons and water cannons. The new Chinese super cutters are not necessarily heavily armed either. Pictures that have been published so far show that they lack gun turrets. It is not armaments that make these two Coast Guard Dreadnaughts so formidable; it is their sheer size.
The military version of the People’s Daily, the press organ of the Chinese Communist Party, boasted that these powerful new ships could ram and possibly sink a 9,000-ton vessel without damaging itself. That makes them a potential threat to regular naval vessels of the U.S. and Japanese navies.
Ramming has been a tactic in territorial disputes in both the East and South China Seas, harkening back to the days of the Romans and Carthaginians. A large Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter near the Senkakus in 2011. Earlier this year another Chinese Coast Guard vessel rammed one of its own fishing trawlers that had been taken into custody by Indonesian authorities for allegedly illegally fishing in Jakarta’s 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
Retired USN Captain James Fanell, formerly chief of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, calls the Chinese Coast Guard, “A fulltime marine harassment organization. Unlike the U.S, Coast Guard, the Chinese service has no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s extravagant claims,” he says.
Fanell notes that China is building new Coast Guard vessels, like the two super cutters, at “an astonishing rate.”
The regular navies of Japan and China generally stay in the background, but Tokyo is also suspicious about the recent activities of the regular Chinese Navy in waters near the disputed islands. A contingent of Chinese frigates now hovers about 70 km away from the Senkaku, close enough to come to the aid of any of its coast guard vessels that gets in trouble.
For its part, the Japanese government recently made public what the cabinet had decided earlier in the year, that Japanese naval vessels might intervene should the Coast Guard be unable to do its normal “policing” duties. “If it becomes difficult for the police and the Japan Coast Guard, then the Maritime Self Defense Force (navy) could respond,” said defense minister Gen Nakatani. That could happen if Chinese navy ships actually entered Senkaku waters.
The use of “white hulls,” mostly unarmed or lightly armed Coast Guard cutters, rather than “gray hulls,” has been a stabilizing element in the numerous territorial encounters of the past few years. But the recent remarks suggest that Tokyo expects to see more gray hulls than white hulls in the coming year.
Iraqi security forces liberating Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have made a gruesome discovery that clearly show what the coalition is fighting against.
That discovery: Two mass graves, with a total of at least 250 bodies.
According to a report by CNN.com, the graves were created by ISIS thugs near the town of Hammam al-Alil — close to where another grave was found on Nov. 7 — with roughly 100 victims of ISIS atrocities.
One of the mass graves was in a well, and contained over 200 bodies.
“Some of the victims were thrown alive by ISIS into this well and some others were left there to die from their injuries,” Ninevah Province Council member Abdulrahamn al Wagga told CNN.
Coalition spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian noted that ISIS was putting up fierce resistance in and around Mosul.
“This is neighborhood-to-neighborhood fighting, particularly in the east, and the Iraqi security forces have moved deliberately and exercised a laudable level of restraint … to protect civilian life,” a DoD News article quoted him as saying.
The terrorist group has been known to carry out shocking killings of hostages and prisoners, including the use of beheading in the case of at least two Americans, and burning a captured Jordanian pilot alive.
Civilians caught under ISIS occupation have also been facing horrific treatment. Yazidi women and girls have been forced into sexual slavery, while members homosexuals have been thrown off rooftops.
In other news, the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve reported that a strike in Raqqa, Syria killed a senior leader of the terrorist group. Col. Dorrian made specific mention of this during a press briefing, saying, “His death degrades and delays ISIL’s current plots against regional targets and deprives them of a capable senior manager who provided oversight over many external attacks.”
The Combined Joint Task Force also reported carrying out 60 airstrikes over the last three days, of which 17 were around Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged a number of targets, including 11 mortar systems, nine tunnels, four watercraft, six vehicles, while also “suppressing” four tactical units, a tank, and a rocket-propelled grenade system.
In the 1982 film “First Blood,” a disaffected Special Forces veteran who served in Vietnam is harassed and detained by local authorities. After giving him flashbacks to his captivity by the Viet Cong, he fights his way out of the sheriff’s office and flees into the woods.
The cops give chase, and it doesn’t go well for them. John Rambo systematically takes them down, one by one. Now, there may be a real-world Rambo hiding in a European park in Belgium at this very moment.
This time, the enemy isn’t the treatment of Vietnam veterans, it’s COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on people to control the virus.
Jurgen Conings is a 46-year old Belgian air force special operations commando who served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He went missing in a national park near Belgium’s border with the Netherlands on May 18, 2021. He is alleged to have stolen a cache of weapons that he is presumed to still be carrying.
Before he went missing, Conings penned a letter that threatened a number of government officials, especially those associated with the state’s coronavirus response.The Belgian was already on a government watch list for his far-right political views.
Authorities were alerted to the disappearance and weapons theft after Conings girlfriend hounda letter that stated he “ could no longer live in a society where politicians and virologists have taken everything away from us.”
No matter what his political views or threats, there appears to be a large vocal voice of support for Conings on the internet, a voice that Belgian officials call “disturbing.”
Conings was still serving the Belgian military as a weapons instructor when he went missing in the national park. So far the only trace authorities have managed to find of the soldier is an abandoned campsite and his abandoned car, which carried four rocket launchers inside it – and was booby-trapped with a grenade.
Before becoming the target of the manhunt, Conings is believed to have reconnoitered the town and home of one of Belgium’s top virologists, a man Conings seems to hold responsible for the country’s continued coronavirus restrictions.
Special police search units from four countries have joined the hunt for Conings, using everything from helicopters to armored cars. The search team includes 400 soldiers along with German and Dutch Special Forces units with thermal cameras.
He is known to be armed with at least a FN P90 machine gun and a sidearm. Shots were heard ringing throughout the wooded park, but no one could confirm its source or what type of weapon was fired. It’s not known what other weapons he may have.
Conings also stated that he “would join the resistance and would not surrender.” He has two children from a previous relationship and his girlfriend has a daughter of her own. She said that she just wanted Conings to return, calling him a “loving father.” She also said she had no indication of his anti-lockdown beliefs or that he would take the beliefs this far.
If Conings is using John Rambo in “First Blood” as a model, it would do everyone involved some good to remember that Rambo didn’t directly kill anyone in the film and the only death came after an overzealous police officer fell from a helicopter.