The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017 - We Are The Mighty
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The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Everyone wants to know who’s carrying the biggest stick. While everyone has their own measurements for how to judge the size of a nation’s military, these 10 militaries are easily some of the best equipped and trained in the modern world:


10. United Kingdom

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
A British sniper sights down his L115A3 sniper rifle. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

The United Kingdom has one of the world’s newest aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. It also has nearly 900 aircraft and an active duty military of over 150,000 people. But it has a small overall navy for an island nation at 76 total ships and its total armored vehicles, counting its 250 tanks, is just a hair over 6,000.

9. Germany

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery)

With almost 700 aircraft and over 6,000 armored vehicles as well as 180,000 well-trained active troops, Germany is well-positioned for a defensive war. Why only defensive? Because it lacks most significant power projection platforms like carriers and has few troop transports and submarines.

8. Italy

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan, during Eager Lion 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

Italy has two smaller aircraft carriers, lots of helicopters, and almost 250,000 active troops, allowing it to push significant force around the world. Those service members are equipped with over 800 aircraft and 7,000 armored vehicles. Unfortunately, a shortage of tanks (about 200) and ships (less than 150 for a peninsular nation) hurts its ranking.

7. France

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
A French paratrooper watches other airborne soldiers descend from a C-130. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Lloyd Villanueva)

The French military has 204,000 active military personnel and 183,000 in reserve. Those are relatively small numbers, but its forces are equipped with capable equipment produced by a homegrown defense industry — think of the Mirage fighter and the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

It relies more heavily than most on armored fighting vehicles as opposed to tanks with almost 7,000 of the former and just over 400 of the latter. The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American nuclear carrier in the world. Its foreign legion is one of the most famous combat forces in the world.

6. South Korea

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment and Republic Of Korea Soldiers (ROK) with 8th Division,137th Battalion conducts an urban breaching at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, March 9, 2016. (Photo: U.S Army Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong)

With over 624,000 troops; 2,381 tanks; and 1,412 aircraft ready to go, South Korea is anything but weak. It also boasts over 5 million reserve service members. Most of its equipment is on the newer side and some of it is homegrown. But, it’s important to remember why Korea keeps so much firepower at hand.

It’s most likely enemy is North Korea, which has one of the largest artillery stockpiles in the world stacked within range of the South Korean capital. And while the huge North Korean military is too badly equipped, trained, and prepared to make this list, it’s still likely that an invasion from the north would cripple South Korea and level its capital before the aggressors could be beat back.

5. Japan

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Japan’s JS Atago, a guided-missile destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

Japan maintains a “Self-Defense Force” that is very capable on both offense and defense. With the fourth largest submarine force and four small aircraft carriers — often called “helicopter carriers” — as well as homegrown tanks and aircraft and imported weapons like the U.S. Apache, Japan has a varied and capable collection of military hardware.

Still, the country suffers from a significant size issue. It has less than 1,600 aircraft, 4,000 armored vehicles, and only about 130 ships. All of that is manned by a little over 300,000 troops. In a protracted war, Japan will keenly feel every loss of a submarine or other high-value asset.

4. India

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

India has a large number of troops, but those are largely reserve personnel (2.8 million reserve vs. almost 1.4 million active). It boasts a large number of armored vehicles at over 11,000, but has a relatively small air force and navy and relies on more prosperous allies for much of its defense development.

But some of those joint ventures are paying off. While India’s Sukhoi planes purchased from Russia have repeatedly ran into problems, the country is also working with Russia to perfect a fifth-generation fighter and a supersonic cruise missile that could be carried by submarines, planes, and vehicles.

3. China

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

China has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion and its largest military population at 3.7 million with 2.2 million of those being active troops. Those millions of men and women are equipped with almost 3,000 aircraft, 13,000 armored vehicles, and 714 ships.

But China struggles with modernization and organization problems as decades of power struggles between the army and navy hollowed out sections of the force. But with increased military spending that puts it behind only the U.S., it’s quickly closing the technological and equipment gaps, especially in strategically important areas like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Africa.

2. Russia

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Russian special forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When it comes to countries punching above their weight, it’s hard to find an example better than Russia. Despite a relatively small economy (data differs, but it’s typically ranked 10th or lower in the world), it manufactures a large amount of military hardware and is the second largest exporter in the world after the U.S.

This allows it to field about 3,800 planes, 5,600 armored vehicles including tanks, and 282 warships (counting everything from its aircraft carrier to small logistics vessels). It’s currently trying to develop the T-14 Armata. If successful, that would be the world’s most advanced tank, boasting active protection systems, an auto-loader, and nearly unbeatable armor.

1. United States

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If you were surprised, you shouldn’t be. The U.S. spends the most on its military, both per capita and total. Its Navy has the largest and most aircraft carriers in the world with 11 full-sized carriers (counting the new USS Gerald R. Ford) and 8 “helicopter carriers” in service. Its Air Force flies the largest and most technologically advanced air fleet in the world which is just a little larger than the U.S. Navy’s air fleet.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps aren’t the largest of their respective groups worldwide, but they are some of the most capable. Both forces enjoy very high spending per service member compared to rival forces, and that allows them to bring their artillery and aircraft to the fight.

All four U.S. Department of Defense branches are trained to work together on a battlefield, combining their powers into one joint team.

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Tuskegee Airman and MLK bodyguard Dabney Montgomery dies at age 93

A legendary airman and World War II veteran who upheld his oath by fighting enemies both foreign and domestic recently passed away after weeks in hospice care.


The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Bill Johnson, Dabney Montgomery, Julius Freeman and Richard Braithwaite at the Great Hall. (Photo by Michael DiVito)

Dabney Montgomery was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and later a bodyguard for civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He was with Dr. King from his hometown of Selma, Alabama on the famous March to Montgomery.

He was born in Selma in 1923 and was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. He served as an aircraft mechanic in Southern Italy during the war.

The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of African-American servicemen in the WWII-era Army Air Corps, officially known as the 332d Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. While the nickname commonly refers to the pilots, everyone in the units are considered original Tuskegee Airmen – including cooks, mechanics, instructors, nurses, and other support personnel.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Tuskegee Airmen in 1945 (Library of Congress)

During WWII, the U.S. military was still racially segregated and remained so until 1948. The Tuskegee Airmen faced discrimination both in the Army and as civilians afterwards. All  black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Airfield, and were educated at Tuskegee University.

“When I saw guys who looked like me flying airplanes, I was filled with hope that segregation would soon end,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2015.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(Twitter photo)

After the war, Montgomery tried to live the south but found the racial discrimination to be too much. He moved to New York for a time until he found he was needed elsewhere. He joined the Civil Rights Movement after seeing marchers gassed and beaten on the Pettus Bridge in Selma. He joined the protests in his hometown and protected Dr. King during the march.

The heels of Montgomery’s shoes and the tie he wore on the famous Selma to Montgomery March will be in the permanent collection at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. when it opens on September 24.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
The Congressional Gold Medal for the Tuskegee Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo)

President George W. Bush all of the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

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This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

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Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

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4 Asian-American heroes you should know about

From battling the enemy on the front lines to steering massive naval ships, Asian-Americans have proudly served in our country’s military since the War of 1812.


Although they’ve been a vital part of our growing military culture, we don’t often hear the stories about how they positively impacted our history.

These under-appreciated brave men did just that.

Related: This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

1. José B. Nísperos

A private in the Army’s 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts, he became severely wounded while fighting off rebel forces in the Philippine Islands in 1911. With only one hand, he fought the enemy until they retreated, saving the many lives of those with whom he served.

Nísperos was the first Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroics in battle.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Pvt. Jose B. Nisperos. (Source: VFW Post 9876)

2. Telesforo Trinidad

In January 1915, a boiler exploded aboard the USS San Diego, violently knocking Trinidad backward and forcing him to abandon the ship. He gathered himself and returned to save two of his fellow men, despite suffering from his own burns.

The Navy awarded Trinidad the Medal of Honor and a $100 gratuity.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

3. Kurt Chew-Een Lee

Lt. Lee was the first Asian-American Marine Officer in American military history and a freaking hero.

On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, Lee saved thousands of men during an attack while serving in the Korean War. He ventured out on a single man reconnaissance mission to locate the enemy and eventually confused them using a weapon none of his other Marines possessed — the ability to speak Mandarin.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Lt. Chew-Een Lee was in charge of a machine-gun platoon.

Also Read: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

4. Joe Hayashi

Born in Salinas, California, Hayashi joined the Army and volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In April 1945, Hayashi exposed himself so he could direct mortar fire onto an enemy position and single-handedly destroyed three machine gun posts. Sadly, he was killed soon after.

Hayashi was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(Source: Home of heroes)

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5 crazy ways recruit training has changed

Veterans pride themselves on their accomplishments after spending some of the best years of their lives serving. But that path to greatness starts when recruits first enter boot camp — all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.


The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Recruits arriving at MCRD  San Diego — (Photo By: Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

As the world changes, so do the expectations of our future Marines, sailors, airmen, and soldiers as basic training gets revised based on new technology and evolving social norms.

But no matter how much things change, most of us we want our sons and daughters to have the same “in your face” training experience that we once endured.

Here are few ways boot camp has changed over the last several years.

1. Rifle Combat Optic

Back in the day, Marine recruits had to train and qualify on a rifle with their M-16s using precise breathing control, unsound vision and iron sights.

A few years ago, the Marine Corps decided to switch from the traditional iron sights to Rifle Combat Optics, or “red dot sights,” to help recruits better hit their targets.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
BANG! Center mass, baby.

From personal experience, the ability to home in and snipe out the enemy from far away is badass, but the downfall is if the optic takes a hard hit, the sight can be thrown off, limiting its effectiveness and you need to go back to the range to “zero” it back in.

With a set of iron sights, most damage isn’t severe enough to completely take you out of the fight.

2. Gender Integrated Training

In the mid-2000s, I marched into Naval Training Command Great Lakes to begin my path to become a corpsman. Little did we know that our division would get integrated with a female class. There’s nothing wrong with it generally speaking.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Being integrated means you’re going to train to fight on a ship alongside female recruits and might have a female Recruit Division Commander yelling at you to tie a bow knot faster.

Not saying women can’t be tough, but images like the one below suggest they may be too relaxed.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Nothing says hardcore discipline like a recruit smiling and shaking hands with the higher-ups during a photo op.

3. Weapons Training

In this day and age, Navy boot camp isn’t much more than eating three meals a day, memorizing your recruit handbook, some physical training here and there and eventually spending a long night going through battle stations.

My division spent a half of day snapping in, then firing approximately 30 rounds at a patched up target. That was it.

No wonder service members accidentally shoot themselves.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
These Navy recruits put on their serious faces while snapping in.

Back in the day, heading to the rifle range was a major event conducted as a massive outdoor range.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Navy Bootcamp during the 60’s in San Diego, Ca.  “Look Ma, iron sights.”

4.  Hard Training

The stress cards have been debunked awhile ago — they don’t exist.

What does exist is the fine line recruit trainers have to walk to avoid rules barring hazing. There have been quite a few reports of drill instructors being charged with hazing recruits in Parris Island. True or not, it’s a problem.

Not only do these reports shine a bright light on the way recruits are trained, it could also undermine the drill instructor’s authority.

In every branch of the military, there are going to have a few bad apples in charge who go overboard, but as one former Marine drill instructor stated: “you have to train for war to be effective in war.”

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Gunny Hartman is hard, but he is fair. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

Having known many Marines who went through recruit training during the Vietnam War era, Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is a pretty accurate depiction of boot camp life back then. (Just the first act. The second and third acts aren’t known for their accuracy).

In some aspects, hazing is considered a right of passage, but punching or slamming recruits down isn’t cool.

5. Cellphone usage

I told you number five would shock you.

Remember when you showed up to boot camp and you got one phone call home to inform your family you arrived safely. Well, that still exists, but now in some Army boot camps you can call them on your personal cell phone at your drill sergeant’s discretion.

The recruits need to been in good standings to use their most prized possession on the weekends.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Note: Erase any sensitive photos you might have beforehand.

Can you think of any other changes not listed? Comment below.

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The Lightning will take concealed carry to a whole new level of lethal

Stealth is becoming more and more common — but just because you designed an invisible (to radar) plane doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it, to be very blunt. In fact, the job’s only half done.


You see, the plane isn’t the only thing that the radar waves bounce off of. They also will reflect very well off of the missiles your F-35 carries. All the stealth tech does no good if the stuff you intend to drop on the bad guys is seen on radar while you’re still minutes — or even an hour — away.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. Note that the F-35 is carrying missiles externally, rendering it more visible to radar. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

At SeaAirSpace 2017, mock-ups of a number of new missiles in development were displayed, so more can be carried internally on the F-35 and other stealthy jets (like the B-21 and B-2, for instance). In essence, this is taking concealed carry to a whole new level.

For instance, one such weapon being displayed was the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range. The AARGM-ER is a development of the AGM-88E AARGM, in essence: a vastly upgraded HARM. AARGM is already in service with the Navy, with more being produced, and it is used on the F/A-18C/D/E/F Hornet and Super Hornet airframes on their pylons, easily the most capable anti-radar missile they have ever carried.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
The AGM-88E AARGM on display at a 2007 air show. Note the huge fins, which limit it to external carriage on the F-35. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But with the F-35, there is a problem — those big-ass fins on the AARGM. That means AARGM has to be carried externally, which means the F-35 will be seen. If the F-35 is seen, an enemy will shoot at it. And when the enemy shoots at a F-35, they could hit it — and if the plane is hit, it could be shot down. That’ll ruin everyone’s day.

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A mock-up of the AARGM-ER at SeaAirSpace 2017. Note the absence of the huge fins at the middle of the missile, and the clipped fins at the rear. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Where AARGM-ER, though, seeing the F-35 becomes much, much harder. Why? The answer is what you don’t see. The big fins in the middle of the AARGM aren’t there. The tail fins have also been pared back. This means the missile can now fit in the internal weapons bay.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
In this photo from a handout at ATK’s booth at SeaAirSpace2017, the AARGM-ER mock-up fits into the F-35’s weapons bay. (Scanned from ATK handout)

In other words, the F-35 now can get closer — and the AARGM-ER will not only fit in the weapons bay, it can also be fired from twice as far as the current AARGM. It’s as if this missile has been designed to put down the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-21 Gargoyle.

AARGM-ER isn’t the only missile at SeaAirSpace 2017 designed for internal carriage. Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile is also being designed for internal carry on the F-35. In short, the F-35 will be practicing a very potent form of concealed carry.

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That time a bugler led the charge by scaling the walls of Peking

At the turn of the 20th Century, all of the great powers had converged on China seeking to curry favor and carve up the country for trade. This led a secret Chinese organization, the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (known as the Boxers to the foreigners), to rise up in rebellion.


At the end of 1899, the Boxers rose up against the foreigners and Christians they felt were invading their country. Coming from the countryside, they met in Peking (now Beijing) with the intention of turning the Chinese imperial government to their cause and destroying the foreign presence.

As the situation deteriorated, foreign nationals and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter of Peking. The increased presence of the Boxers led the international community to send a force of 435 men to guard their respective legations.

The American contingent joined the Marines already stationed there, including one Pvt. Dan Daly.

Throughout the spring, the Boxers gained strength and were actively burning churches, killing Christians, and intimidating Chinese officials who opposed them.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Russian cannons firing at Beijing gates during the night. August, 14, 1900.

As the international community stepped up efforts to maintain their positions in China, they put the Imperial Chinese government and Empress Dowager Cixi in a bind. The Empress was being pressured to take the side of the Boxers by officials who felt exploited by foreign nations.

Finally, in June 1900, the Empress’ hand was forced by international attacks on Chinese forts as well as the presence of the Seymour Expedition sent to reinforce the Legation Quarter.

On June 19, she sent word for the international community to leave. The next day the Chinese military, along with Boxer supporters, laid siege to the Legation Quarter.

As the situation was deteriorating, America began planning its response.

Also read: This Marine’s actions against the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion remain the stuff of legend

Known as the China Relief Expedition the force that assembled in China consisted of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 14th Infantry Regiment, 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F, 5th Field Artillery Regiment totaling some 2,500 men.

After brief fighting at Tientsin, in which Col. Liscum, commanding the 9th Infantry, was killed, the force marched on Peking to relieve the besieged Legation Quarter.

The pressure on the Legation Quarter had been steadily increasing. Through the night of Aug. 13 and into the morning of Aug. 14, Dan Daly was single-handedly holding off a determined assault by the Boxers. When Daly’s relief finally arrived, he inquired about the meaning of “Quon fay,” something the Chinese had been yelling at him all night.

He was amused to learn that it meant “very bad devil.”

For his actions that night Daly was awarded his first Medal of Honor.

Later in the day on Aug. 14, the first units of the Eight-nation Alliance reached the outer walls of Peking.

Leading the American units was the 14th Infantry Regiment.

When they arrived at their assigned gate, they found it already under attack by a Russian unit which was pinned down and taking heavy casualties.

The Americans moved south looking for an opening. The best they found was a lightly defended section of the Tartar Wall. The wall was some 30 feet high, and with no scaling ladders or grappling hooks, Col. Daggett, the regimental commander, asked for a volunteer to climb the wall.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
I’ll try, Sir,

Cpl. Calvin Pearl Titus, a bugler from Company E, stepped forward and said, “I’ll try, sir.”

With a rope slung over his shoulder Titus began to climb the wall. He grasped to the slightest of holds and he made his way up, undetected by the Chinese defenders.

“All below is breathless silence. The strain is intense.” Daggett would later write, “Will that embrasure blaze with fire as he attempts to enter it? Or will the butts of rifles smash his skull?” 

As Titus cleared the wall, he found it undefended. He called down to his comrades, “The coast is clear! Come on up!”

Following Titus’ lead and using the rope he threw down, more soldiers followed. As the number of Americans on the wall increased, they were finally discovered by the Chinese.

The Chinese opened fire but it was too late — the Americans held the wall.

Shortly after 11am, the 14th Infantry planted the American flag atop the wall.

They then fought their way back to the gate to relieve the beleaguered Russians.

With the Chinese driven back, the American artillery arrived and blasted down the inner gate leading to the Legation.

The Americans then cleared the way to the Legation Quarter only to find that the British had beat them to it. Thanks to the confusion caused by the Russians and Americans, British Indian soldiers had snuck through a water gate and directly into the Legation relieving the siege.

The Americans consolidated their position while the rest of the relief force conducted mopping up operations throughout Peking.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Calvin P. Titus, 1905.(Library of Congress photo)

For his heroism in breaking the siege, Cpl. Titus was awarded an appointment to West Point where, during his second semester in the spring of 1902, he was presented the Medal of Honor by president Theodore Roosevelt.

A fellow cadet approached Titus after he received his award exclaiming, “Mister, that’s something!” That cadet was Douglas MacArthur, who would receive his own Medal of Honor during World War II.

Titus went on to serve 32 years in the Army, rejoining his old unit, the 14th Infantry, before seeing action against Pancho Villa in 1916 and occupying Germany after WWI.

He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1930.

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Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong

Newly unveiled British intelligence documents detail how the National Security Agency worked with its British counterpart when carrying out drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and how they targeted terrorists, The New York Times reports.


The documents, released to the Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and shared with The New York Times, also detail how often those strikes go wrong.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

The documents also reveal that US forces conducted a strike in 2012 to kill a doctor, identified as Khadim Usamah, who the US believed was surgically inserting explosives into potential Al Qaeda operatives.

Britain’s military has carried out drone strikes in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but the documents suggest that British intelligence also helped guide strikes by the US outside of those zones.

Drone attacks carried out by the US have been heavily criticized in the past, and prompted thousands to protest against their use. Critiques say that drone attacks are not specific enough and often end up killing a lot of civilians.

Outcries against the use of drones were renewed when President Barack Obama disclosed in April that two Western aid workers who were held hostage by Al Qaeda had been killed after a strike against the terrorist group in Pakistan.

Instances in which civilians have been killed and uncertainty about drones’ accuracy in hitting their target has led to increased public scrutiny of the use of drones. In the case of the hostages who were killed, intelligence officers were unaware they were present at the time of the strike.

Meanwhile, an Algerian terrorist who had been reported dead by the Pentagon after a strike appears to still be alive, according to the Times. And American officials only learned a few days after an attack in Yemen that they had killed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials argue that missiles fired from unmanned aircrafts are the most precise way to target terrorists. But for the shots to be as precise as possible, the documents highlight the importance of surveillance and eavesdropping in order to determine not only the exact location, but also whether everyone in a strike zone poses a threat. The documents also detail how that use of technology is flawed.

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The British Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) guide to targeting outlines the importance of identifying whether a phone is used by one or more people, as tracking smartphones is often used to identify a target. Because of the obvious flaw in targeting people only by the location of their smartphones, the agencies also try to identify terrorists by voice and physical appearance.

The guide also says that whether a call was terminated right after a strike is a good way of knowing whether it hit its target.

Amid a parliamentary investigation into whether the UK was part of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes (UAV) in Yemen, British defense minister Mark Francois said “UAV strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen are a matter for the Yemeni and US governments,” according to the Times.

But the new documents suggest that the country provided intelligence for different American strikes, including one in Yemen.

The NSA and CIA both declined to comment to the Times. But the GCHQ said in a statement that it expects “all states concerned to act in accordance with international law and take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties when conducting any form of military or counterterrorist operations.”

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

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Those times former US Presidents had to free Americans held by North Korea

The U.S. government warns Americans against traveling to North Korea, specifically stating that travel to the Hermit Kingdom risks “arrest and long-term detention.” There have actually been many Americans held by North Korea, most were subsequently sentenced to a fine and years of hard labor. It happened most recently in January 2016, when 21-year-old Otto Warmbier was arrested for stealing a political banner from a hotel. Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years “for crimes against the state.”


The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(photo: Korean Central News Agency)

Warmbier will likely not be the last American detained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North’s full, ironic moniker). He’s actually the thirteenth American to be arrested there since 1996. Most are detained for a number of days but less than a full year. The only exception being Kenneth Bae, who held for nearly two years on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

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Bae in his DPRK work camp garb (photo: Korean Central News Agency)

Three of those Americans were released only after the interventions of former American presidents acting as diplomats. Since the U.S. does not have official relations with the DPRK (and are still technically at war), the governments cannot speak directly, so when the former presidents flew to Pyongyang, the U.S. government considered their trips “private, humanitarian, and unofficial.”

In March 2009, Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were caught and detained for illegally entering North Korea. They were held for 140 days before former President Bill Clinton made an unannounced trip to the North Korean capital to meet with then-President Kim Jong-Il. The two were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor but were released within hours of President Clinton’s arrival. The journalists flew back to the U.S. with Clinton.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(photo: Korean Central News Agency)

In 2010, Aijalon Gomes was held for 213 days for illegally entering the country. After Gomes attempted suicide in captivity, an American consular envoy flew to Pyongyang to request the release of Gomes but was unsuccessful. That’s when former President Jimmy Carter hopped on a plane and met with Kim Jong-Il in August 2010. Gomes was freed the next day and left the DPRK with Carter.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
(photo: Korean Central News Agency)

In addition to Warmbier, North Korea is currently holding Kim Dong-Chul, a naturalized American citizen, for espionage. He has been held for 153 days at this writing.

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This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

 

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

 

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

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This crazy-looking scooter can actually blow up a tank

In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.


The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).

The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.

Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.

The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.

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Photo: Youtube.com

Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.

About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.

However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.

Here’s a video of a TAP being driven.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07GXqdsdE6M

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

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How the Battle of the Bulge would have gone if GIs had the Javelin

Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”


Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?

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U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.

The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.

But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.

According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.

The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017
Photo: Wikimedia

Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.

But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.

That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.

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