The real purpose behind China's mysterious J-20 combat jet - We Are The Mighty
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The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”


Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.

One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
China’s Chengdu J-20. | CDD

In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.

Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at Australia Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the “J-20 is [a] fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35.”

Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.

Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Without tanker planes to refuel, US jets like the F-35 have a severely limited range. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.

“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”

What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.

Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.

“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.

In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”

Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.

“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.

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Nigerian Air Force takes out Boko Haram leaders

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet loaded up for a strike mission. (Photo: Nigerian Air Force)


The Nigerian Air Force carried out an air strike on Friday that bagged some of the top leaders of Boko Haram. The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed.

The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed. The military statement confirmed that Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman were among the dead in the “most unprecedented and spectacular air raid” on the village of Taye in the Sambisa forest. The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.

The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.

A photo released by the Nigerian military with their statement on the air strike showed pilots in a briefing in front of a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet of the 75th Strike Group. This multi-role aircraft serves in both the light attack and training roles, and can carry up to 5,500 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the BL755 cluster bomb and the AGM-65 Maverick. It has a top speed of 540 knots, and a range of roughly 380 miles. The plane also serves in the air forces of France, Thailand, Belgium, Cameroon, Togo, Qatar, Portugal, and Morocco. The plane has been retired by Germany and the Ivory Coast.

Nigerian Alpha Jets have been the primary strike weapon against Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Nigeria also has Chengdu J-7 Fishbed interceptors and Areo L-39 Albatross trainers in service, but the former are primarily used for air defense (replacing Russian-build MiG-21 Fishbeds in 2009) and the latter planes have a very limited bomb load (roughly 600 pounds).

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70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a single photograph allowed the Japanese emperor to stay in power

On September 2nd, 1945, the foreign affairs delegation of the Japanese Empire boarded the USS Missouri and signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender under the guidance of Emperor Hirohito, finally putting an end to bloodiest war mankind has ever seen. From that moment on, the world and Japan could start to rebuild.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan into an unconditional surrender, accepting all terms stated by the Potsdam Declaration. Among other stipulations, the terms of surrender meant that Japan must give up all lands outside of the mainland unless allowed by the Allied Forces, disarm their military, remove all obstacles to building a democratic society, and eliminate, for all time, “the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.”

Despite those terms, it was Emperor Hirohito who vowed to maintain the peace — which was met with much disdain by many Americans and Japanese alike, with the exception of General Douglas MacArthur.


The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

This photo.

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Gaetano Faillace)

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was set up and those responsible for the many war crimes committed were brought to justice. Prime Ministers Tojo, Hirota, Koiso, and twenty-three others were all found guilty of Class-A war crimes and sentenced to execution. Another 5,700 would be tried for Class-B and -C war crimes. Hirohito and the other members of the Japanese Imperial family were simply exonerated at the request of Gen. MacArthur.

Gen. MacArthur knew that Japanese culture was very intertwined with the throne. Since the Japanese throne was willing to cooperate fully, America was able to turn its eyes to the burgeoning communist threat lurking in Asia. This plan could only work, however, if the people of Japan believed the Emperor when he said that peace between the two nations had been achieved.

With the announcement of that newly struck peace came a photo that was taken by Gen. MacArthur’s personal photographer, Lt. Gaetano Faillace that captured the General and the Emperor’s first meeting on September 27th, 1945.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

As devastating as the nuclear bombs were, the firebombings of Tokyo and the rest of Japan were just as bad.

The Japanese press was reluctant to run the photo, but the Americans insisted. At this point in Japanese history, the people had just fought and died for the Emperor because they saw him as having incarnate divinity. Suddenly, some occupying force stepped in and showed the people a picture of their 5′ 5″ Emperor next to a 6-foot-tall American general.

General MacArthur knew the significance of the photo. The Japanese people knew the significance of the photo. And yetEmperor Hirohito gave his blessing for it to be published — affirming his commitment to bringing peace and rebuilding Japan at the expense of the height comparison.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

It humanized him and would allow him to stay as head of state well into the 80s.

Calls for Hirohito’s abdication were growing among the Imperial family. While most would call for Hirohito’s son (and current Emperor), Akihito, to assume the throne when of age, other family members scrambled to make cases sit on the throne themselves. Their claim was that Hirohito was, in fact, not divine if he drove the Empire into the ground. Many of those claimants could have spelled ruin for MacArthur’s rebuilding process as some harbored a strong hatred for America.

So, the Humanity Declaration was given on New Year’s Day, 1946. In it, the Emperor stated in front of his entire people that the emperor was not divine and that the Japanese people were no more superior than any other people. MacArthur was pleased because it meant that Japan would move more towards more democratization.

The declaration, in essence, meant that Emperor Hirohito went from being a divine imperial sovereign to a regular constitutional monarch.

Emperor Hirohito formalized the 1947 Constitution of Japan — officially an amendment to the Meiji Constitution — and stripped himself almost entirely of political control. In the following years, Hirohito’s commitment to Japan led to restructuring and the entering of an era called the Japanese Economic Miracle. Japan became the world’s second largest economy by the time of Hirohito’s death on January 7th, 1989.

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Intel from Yemen raid prompted latest TSA electronics ban

Intelligence gathered during the Jan. 28 raid on an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula complex in Yemen prompted a new restriction on electronic devices on flights arriving to the U.S. from certain countries.


According to a report by The Daily Beast, the information gathered in the aftermath of the raid — which resulted in the death Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens and injured several other troops — indicated that al-Qaeda had developed bombs that could fit inside laptop computers. An explosion on a Somali airliner last year was seen as a “proof of concept” for the new bombs, failing due to the low altitude of the plane.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
A Navy SEAL fires an M-60 from the shoulder, because that’s how SEALs roll. (Photographer’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Mussi)

The Daily Beast reported that the bombs must be manually triggered, prompting their ban from the aircraft cabins and carry-on luggage, but not from checked baggage. Wired.com reports that the American ban applies to inbound flights from eight predominately Muslim countries. The Daily Beast reported that the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban in the wake of the American one.

The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that airliner attack, which reportedly used PETN, the same explosive used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2002. As little as three and a haf ounces of PETN could bring down an airplane.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Columbia Pictures’ hyper-realistic new action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY.

The Jan. 28 raid was controversial, not only for the death of Owens, but also due to civilian casualties, the unexpected heavy opposition, and the loss of a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, labeled the operation a failure. President Donald Trump, though, called the operation a success, and also claimed that substantial intelligence had been gathered.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has targeted airliners in the past. In 2009, the terrorist group was involved in the plot to use an underwear bomb to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The device malfunctioned, injuring the terrorist.

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Why the Black Army of Hungary was the most elite fighting force of its time

There are a few things the United States military does to maintain its global supremacy. First and foremost, it maintains a standing, professional force where every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine has a function that keeps the force moving – and is paid well to do it. 

It also constantly innovates, keeping abreast of the latest developments in military technology from almost every point of view. Once equipped with the latest and greatest tech, the United States places able commanders among those troops and trains them on how to operate. 

The Black Army of Hungary operated on the same principles more than 300 years before the United States won its independence from Great Britain. 

King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary reigned supreme in Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the mid-1400s and the Black Army is one of the reasons why. A visionary leader, Matthias recognized the importance of securing his national borders, returning order and making the locals realize who’s boss. 

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Standard of the Black Legion (Wikimedia Commons)

He managed to kick Czech mercenaries out of Hungary, fight the Holy Roman Emperor to a draw, and would have kicked the Ottoman Turks out of Europe except he saw Christian Europe do nothing to help him – so he let them stay. 

Matthias’ Black Army was the secret to his success. They were well-paid mercenaries whose sole job was training for, fighting and winning battles for the Hungarian king. They were making some four to five times more money than the average peasant paid in taxes and were equipped with gunpowder weapons long before they were adopted by other armies. 

When Matthias rose to power, Hungary was using the same means of raising troops as every other principality in Europe, which was drafting peasants from noble lands. At best, the King could force every nobleman and his personal guard to field their full army, but could only do it for 15 days at a time and could not leave Hungary. 

Eventually, Matthias told the wealthy kingdom of Venice that he would wage a holy war against the Ottomans if they would cover the costs. They agreed and the mercenaries he purchased formed the core of the Black Army.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Saint George and Saint Florian, depicted in the armour suits of Black Army knights. Fresco of the Roman Catholic church of Pónik (Now Póniky Slovakia), 1478 (Wikimedia Commons)

Matthias reformed the Hungarian tax code and currency policies to increase his income and make it easier to levy more taxes to fund his professional army. When the lords revolted against the higher taxes, the Black Army just kicked the crap out of them, and they were uniquely positioned to do that. 

Unlike many other armies, the Black Army promoted its troops based on merit and their military experience translated to increased real-world training. They would effectively use this experience and training to succeed where so many other amies had failed, capturing Vienna from the Holy Roman Empire, the only time the city would fall until the Second World War almost 500 years later. 

The audacity of a well-paid, well-equipped, and well-trained standing army with good leadership. Who would have thought?

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Wikimedia Commons

The Black Army made no distinction about nationality. At its height, its ranks were filled with 28,000 troops, coming from across Europe to fight for cold, hard florins. Czechs, Germans, Serbs, and Poles joined Hungarians in defending and securing Matthias’ reign and Hungary’s borders. Taxes were high, but peace and stability reigned with Matthias. 

The only other army in Europe not made up of peasants carrying sticks was the French Army of Louis XI, and even it was no match for the Black Army and its storied leadership. Unfortunately, the leadership was the life and death of the Black Army. When Matthias died in 1490, his successor allowed for tax reforms that forced the army to disband. 

Hungary’s defenses, its army, and borders eventually fell into disrepair. The Kingdom of Hungary’s golden age was over. In 1526, the Ottomans completely destroyed the Hungarian Army. 

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Air Force approves incentive pay for airmen in Turkey

The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.


According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.

Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”

Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.

All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.

The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.

The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.

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The Pentagon can’t seem to explain why the cost of moving military families is going up

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Airman Michael Butler, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron receiving technician, uses a forklift to retrieve a crate at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.


Permanent Change of Station has gotten more expensive, and the Department of Defense doesn’t know why. That’s the general findings of a report released by the Government Accountability Office last year.

Military.com reported earlier this week that the Defense Department would begin a review of the system that oversees military moves as a result of the report.

Accounting for inflation, the cost of a PCS was up by 28 percent between 2001 and 2014, capping at around $4 billion that year, or 3.7 percent of the overall military personnel budget.

The study found that “the services have not reported complete and consistent PCS data, thereby limiting the extent to which DoD can identify and evaluate” the current PCS system. It went on to explain that the Pentagon had not maintained required data nor required the services to independently maintain data that would help the DoD in determining how to reduce the cost of PCS.

PCS moves ranged on average from $2,289 to $13,336, with the Air Force spending the most on average per move and the Marine Corps spending the least.

In a review between services, the Marine Corps was most likely to accurately and consistently report PCS data outside of the direct cost of moving, i.e. the cost of temporary storage, lodging expenses, and tour extension incentive payments. The Air Force and the Army were least likely to report the data.

Because of the lack of proper reporting by the services and the DoD, the report found, it is impossible to determine exactly how to address the rising costs of PCS.

In addition to a lack of complete data on the cost of PCS, the report found that the DoD was not able to explain why personnel were not meeting “time-on-station requirements” because it had not required any of the services to maintain that data themselves.

Of the services who could provide any data on time-on-station requirements, the Air Force was most likely to have some data, and the Marine Corps was least likely to have any data.

The Government Accountability Office described four recommendations to improve the issue of rising PCS costs:

  • Improve the completeness and consistency of PCS data
  • Complete periodic evaluations of whether the PCS program is efficiently supporting DoD’s requirements for assigning military personnel… [and] identify changes in PCS per-move costs
  • Improve the completeness and consistency of data on exceptions
  • Improve the completeness and consistency of data on waivers

The Pentagon agreed most of the recommendations in the report, writing in its response, “We recognize the importance of improving the availability of information needed for effective management of the PCS program.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

An Israeli company made this double-barrel AR-15 for the US

In following the grand tradition of “if one is good, then two must be great” thinking, Israel’s Silver Shadow firearms manufacturer is marketing this double-barreled AR-15 for sale in the United States. Check out this double-barrel rifle no one asked for that the military will never, ever use.


But just because the military won’t ever use it doesn’t mean civilians won’t try to have fun with it. After all, this isn’t the first time someone thought two barrels was better than one.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
That kind of thinking goes all the way back to the Civil War.

Besides, it works for shotguns, right? Why not AR-15s?

Originally marketed as an AR variant under a company named Gilboa, Silver Shadow makes this line of double-barreled weapons here in the U.S., where the 16-inch barrel, twin-trigger rifle is legal for civilian use. The twin trigger is how the company avoids the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ definition of a machine gun.

Each barrel of the Gilboa Snake has its own independent gas block and tube, meaning it can fire multiple rounds with each trigger without the delay and recoil of the weapon cycling between trigger pulls. It also has two separate ejection ports, so hot brass can go down the shirt of the person laying prone to your left and right.

Everything else about the rifle is made with standard AR-15 parts and it still fires the 5.56mm NATO round. Most importantly (in the unlikely event someone were to use the rifle in combat), the weapon also utilizes two standard magazines, one feeding into each barrel.

How to zero the Gilboa Snake

Zeroing the weapon requires zeroing both barrels independently of each other and then zeroing them relative to one another. Then you need to zero them together, as shown in the video below.

Firing a double-barrel AR

The guys over at Guns and Ammo got their hands on an early version of the rifle a few years back and demonstrated firing it at a range.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A simmering crisis between 2 allies could create a new headache for the US in a volatile region

In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.


Background

The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).

Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense

Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.

Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.

Although the US acknowledges the validity of the Greek position, it will not take sides in the dispute because of its close relationship with both countries.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps

The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.

Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense

Geopolitical situation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.

First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.

Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.

Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.

Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.

Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.

The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)

Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.

The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.

Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.

Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.

Implications for the US

The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.

US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.

Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.

Adding insult to injury, Erdogan recently hosted two senior Hamas leaders the US has branded Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa

The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.

Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.

Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.

If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.


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The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War

One of the most prominent Confederate spies of the Civil War was none other than Belle Boyd. Credited for reshaping the Rebel’s war efforts, Maria Isabella Boyd AKA Belle, was born in modern-day West Virginia to a Southern family. Her father fought as a Confederate soldier and at least three additional family members were listed as spies for the South. 

At just 17, she got a rocky start into the profession when she gunned down a drunk Union soldier. The man had spoken unkindly to her and her mother, and in anger, she grabbed a pistol and fatally wounded him. She was not reprimanded for the shooting, and instead, used the event to become a “rebel spy” in 1861. However, after the event, she was watched by soldiers, which taught her not only how to live under surveillance but how to charm enemy forces. She soon made friends with one of her first guards, who is said to have provided her with flowers and key war secrets. 

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Belle Boyd. Wikimedia Commons

From there on, Boyd was hooked. She began passing information and finding new ways to get secrets from soldiers. Her biggest tool was flirtation, using her beauty and flattering wardrobe choices in her favor. However, she was caught during one of her first spy missions, causing her to find more secretive ways to pass data. She then began using her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who traveled with information in a hollowed watch case. Hopewell would deliver the secrets, allowing Boyd to continue in the shadows. 

Over the next two years, Boyd traveled between battles, earning the trust of Union soldiers through flirtation and friendship. Her efforts were so prolific she was soon known by the Union forces, with descriptions of her attire published so leaders could be on the lookout. 

Her biggest claim to fame is passing along key info to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, just before he went into battle. She told him the Union force was small and to forge ahead toward triumph. It’s said Jackson wrote to her and thanked her personally for helping the cause. The event also earned her the Southern Cross of Honor. 

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Stonewall Jackson. Wikimedia Commons

Boyd was arrested six times before she was finally put into prison in 1862. She served a month before being released, then was imprisoned again the following year. This time she was imprisoned for five months, where, behind bars she sang Dixie — the de facto national anthem of the South, waved Confederate flags from her window, and continued to pass messages. By receiving a rubber ball via bow and arrow, she would sew messages inside the ball that was then received by other spies. 

By the end of the year, Boyd was released from prison after coming down with typhoid fever. A stipulation of her release remained that she not return into Union territory. However, she, with the help of her future husband, a Union soldier, traveled to Canada, then to England where the two were married. 

While in England, Boyd wrote her memoirs, which are seen as highly sensationalized to this day, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. The stories were performed on stage and listed as The Perils of a Spy, starring Cleopatra of the Secession. 

After the death of her first husband, she returned to the United States where she married twice more and traveled the country giving dramatic performances of her involvement within the Civil War. 

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Boyd’s grave. Wikimedia commons.

Boyd died June 11, 1900 in Wisconsin.

Featured photo: Civil War illustration/Canva; inset Belle Boyd/Library of Congress – Public Domain

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These cheap Chinese combat drones are headed to Europe

Chinese combat drones are reportedly headed to Europe for the first time, highlighting China’s growing presence in an important part of the international arms market as countries around the world look more closely at unmanned systems for warfighting.

Serbia is expected to take delivery of nine Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 (Wing Loong) drones within the next six months, and there may be a follow-up order of 15 more, Stars and Stripes reported Sep. 10, 2019, citing local media reports and officials.

The outlet said that this move “marks Beijing’s most significant foray into a continent where armed forces have traditionally relied on US and European weapon-makers.”


Serbia expressed interest in acquiring Chinese drones for its military last year, Defense News reported last September. Serbia has said that it intends to purchase weapons and military equipment from multiple suppliers, to include China.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

Chinese multi-role UAV Wing Loong.

“This (sale) will greatly strengthen the Serbian military, which will gain capabilities it has not had in the past,” Serbian Defense Minister Aleksander Vulin said in an interview with state media Sep. 10, 2019, Stars and Stripes reported. A military analyst in Belgrade explained that “the Chinese have very good pilot-less aircraft, probably second only to the United States,” adding that “they obviously copied some American systems (but) Chinese drones are very effective and very cheap.”

The Wing Loong combat drones look a lot like the US military’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. They have been sold to several countries across the Middle East, as well as parts of Central and South Asia, and have even seen combat.

Sam Brannen, an expert with the Risk and Foresight Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense One last year that the Chinese have essentially “given the world a ‘Huawei option’ when it comes to next-gen drones.”

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

“It’s a far cry from what the US or Europeans would offer, but it’s going to be on the market for sale,” he added.

And, many countries, especially those which have faced challenges acquiring this technology from the US due to tough export restrictions, are buying Chinese drones. China has sold a number of drones across the Middle East, to include not just the Wing Loong, but also other models like the Caihong (Rainbow) series which the producer calls “the most popular military drones in the world.”

By exporting unmanned systems, even if the Chinese drones offer only technological similarity rather than parity to US systems, China moves up the ladder in the international arms market, potentially opening the door to new transactions on other systems, defense deals, and possibly even greater global influence.

China, according to Chinese state media reports, has already signaled a keen interest in exporting some of the stealth drones it is developing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of July 1st

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Middleton, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads .50 caliber rounds into a machinegun aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, June 27, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The HH-60G flies with two pilots and two SMAs, who are responsible for pre-flight aircraft inspections, passengers, cargo and operating the aircraft’s weapons.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. The training enables firefighters to hone the skills needed to combat aircraft fires, structural fires and vehicle extractions.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado

Army:

A convoy consisting of vehicles from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuvers out of the National Training Center’s “Colorado Pass” to engage armored elements of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, June 26, 2017. This phase of NTC Rotation 17-07.5 challenged the Raider Brigade’s ability to conduct zone reconnaissance and prepare the area of operations for follow on forces.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Company A, 4th battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, practice clearing rooms during Military in Urban Terrain training at Tellinda-Har Village June 28, 2017 at Fort Bliss, Tx.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
Photo by Staff Sgt. Killo Gibson

Navy:

Kenneth Kallen of the Fire Department at Stewart Air National Guard Base uses a hose to wash down number 7 aircraft of the Blue Angels, June 26, 2017. The Blue angels were performing as part of an airshow here at Stewart.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Schwarzler

Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean. Nimitz is on an underway period in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Kinkead

Marine Corps:

Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa exit a MV-22B Osprey aircraft during assault training at Sierra Del Retan, Spain, June 26, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) fly in formation above Sydney, Australia. VMM-265 is part of the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). The 31st MEU partners with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 to form the amphibious component of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach approaches a capsized vessel near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, June 28, 2017. A 22-foot boat with four adults and one 4 year old aboard capsized about three miles off Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and the Wrightsville Beach boat crew rescued all five people from the water.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Bob Sylverstein

U.S. Naval Sea Cadets board a 25-foot Response Boat-Small at Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 26, 2017. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a Navy-based organization, which serves to teach teens about sea-going military services, U.S. naval operations and training, community service, discipline and teamwork.

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

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