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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off on the first day of Red Flag 16-2 Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis AFB, Nev.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 2, 2016. During the high-altitude, low-opening airdrop, Jonas jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and parachuted to the base.

U.S. Air Force photo bySenior Airman David Owsianka

Tech. Sgt. Allan Habel, a tactical aircraft maintainer, performs preflight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a practice demonstration Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, returns fire with an M240L machine gun during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn

Paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Spanish army soldier from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), work together to secure the perimeter of a building complex during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn

NAVY:

WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2016) President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. during a ceremony Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the White House. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a hostage rescue operation in December 2012.

U.S. Navy photo by Oscar Sosa

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 29, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199). Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Flewellyn

MARINE CORPS:

Four EA-6B Prowlers belonging to each Prowler squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point conducted a “Final Four” division flight aboard the air station March 1, 2016. The “Final Four” flight is the last time the Prowler squadrons will be flying together before the official retirement of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 at the end of Fiscal Year 16 and the eventual transition to “MAGTF EW”. MAGTF EW is a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes to the EW mission, enabling relevant tactical information to move throughout the electromagnetic spectrum and across the battlefield faster than ever before.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa fly enroute from Pozo La Higueara drop zone to La Felipe drop zone after insertion of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers during exercise Sky Soldier, Spain, Feb. 27, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-AF participated in exercise Sky Soldier which promotes interoperability between Marine Corps Aviation assets and American and Spanish Airborne and Air Mobile forces.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kassie L. McDole

Pfc. Bradley Brandes, a mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an 81mm mortar system during the supporting arms coordination exercise (SACCEX) portion of Exercise Iron Fist 2016 on San Clemente Island, Feb. 21, 2016.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

COAST GUARD:

Members of Station Burlington, Vermont’s ice rescue team adjust straps on their rescue board during training in Burlington Bay, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The ice rescue board uses a system of pulleys to make it easier for rescuers to pull a survivor out of the freezing water. Another method for getting a survivor out of the water is the self-help technique. This technique involves a team member walking the survivors through how to get themselves out of the water. The team member instructs the survivor to kick their legs until they are parallel with the ice ledge and use their arms to crawl forward.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City train together, ensuring they’re “Always Ready” when someone needs them.

USCG photo by Fireman Burcher

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5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.


Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:

1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.

On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson reported that at least two of the enemy boats were sunk, and American media outlets backed up that story in numerous articles. But conspiracy theorists thought it looked a lot like a “false flag” attack. They were right, according to the National Security Agency’s own declassified documents.

Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:

“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”

Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”

When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.

Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.

From the book “The United States of Paranoia” by Jesse Walker:

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.

It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.

3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.

Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.

From ABC News:

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:

“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.

CIA headquarters

4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.

Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.

From journalist Carl Bernstein, writing in Rolling Stone in 1977:

Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”

5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.

Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):

  • which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
  • which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
  • which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
  • which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
  • [which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
  • which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.

During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.

Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.

NOW: Here’s a video of soldiers trying to march after getting stoned on LSD

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This Army Unit Is Responsible For Blasting Crucial Gear For Soldiers Through The Pentagon Bureaucracy

Minotaur prototype on display in the Pentagon center courtyard. Photo: US Army


The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) accepts orders to make and deliver custom gear that will help soldiers do their job better.

Anyone from a private to the Chief of Staff of the Army can place a “10-liner,” the shorthand for the unit’s request form. The REF will then evaluate the request and use existing gear or emerging technologies and concepts to build what you need. They will even work with soldiers through the entire process to make sure they get it right; they call this process co-creation.

From submission to completion, the REF can have a solution on the field within weeks instead of years by avoiding the usual Pentagon bureaucracy. They can field as quickly as 90 days according to the official Army website.

To speed up the process, the REF has strategic units around the world near combat zones to be closer to soldiers. For example, at the height of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the REF had teams in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait according to the REF’s website.

REF Expeditionary Lab. Photo: US Army

They also have mobile labs that can pack up in a single day and ship it anywhere in the world called REF Expeditionary Labs. According to the REF website, these labs give soldiers access to expert scientists, engineers, and equipment like:

  • 3D printers
  • Global communications suites
  • Fabrication tools
  • Microscopy
  • and more

Some of the REF projects include:

  • Ironman – a 500 round backpack for machine guns
  • Raven – a hand-launched remote control drone for field surveillance
  • Minotaur – robot technology that helps troops safely deal with explosive devices
  • PILAR – a system that locates sniper fire location on an LCD screen
  • and more

RQ-11 Raven. Photo: Wikipedia

The REF was founded in 2002 when the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Col. Bruce Jette was looking for a solution to prevent soldiers in Afghanistan from sustaining casualties from booby traps while searching and clearing caves. He asked the Army:

  • Can robots help Soldiers clear caves?
  • Can a robotic capability be deployed within 90-days?
  • Is there an existing Army unit that can accomplish the task?

Shortly after, Jette was authorized to form the Rapid Integration of Robot Systems (RIRS) to find a solution to his questions. In less than 30 days, they found the answer and deployed it to Afghanistan. Riding on the team’s success, Jette recommended to the Army that the REF should be formed. For the past 12 years, the REF has continued to provide solutions for soldiers, and on January 30, 2014 the Army declared the REF an enduring capability according to the REF site.

The following video is an overview of the REF’s capabilities:

USArmyREF, YouTube

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Can Russia make its missiles invisible?

С-400_«Триумф»


Russia wants to hide its most sophisticated air defense missiles from U.S. spy satellites and spy planes by using containers that block the emission of electromagnetic pulses caused when operating electronic equipment, a Russian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Citing an anonymous Ministry of Defense source, the Russian newspaper Izvestia said the S-400 Triumf (NATO designation: SA-21 Growler) and the newly developed S-500 Promethey will receive special containers designed to the block side electromagnetic interference (EMI). The missiles, their launchers, radar units, command vehicles, and other vehicles essential to the weapons systems will be placed in the containers.

The article also described “booths” that could house personnel. All of the containers would be in different lengths and weights sufficient to hold vehicles and men.

They could be installed on the launcher’s chassis or transported by trucks and trains. Some of the containers have already entered mass production, while other types are currently being tested, according to the article.

“This year we plan to obtain containers intended particularly for the latest anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems including the S-500,” the anonymous source said. Izvestia described him as a Ministry of Defense specialist involved in creating electronic warfare systems.

Russian officials say that once deployed, the S-500 will be capable destroying aerial targets including hypersonic cruise missiles as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles and near-space targets such as nuclear warheads.

The S-400 is currently one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air missiles in the world, capable of targeting multiple threats hundreds of miles away. The Russian military first deployed S-400 in 2007; last year in November, the Russian government sent S-400 batteries to Khmeimim Air Base in Syria in response to the shoot-down of a Su-24M bomber by a Turkish F-16 fighter.

Russian propaganda sources such as the on-line magazine Sputnik and the Kremlin’s Instagram newsfeed tout the news as a way for the missiles to become “invisible.”

The article is vague about the technical details behind the containers. It says the containers have special coatings and sophisticated equipment that prevents the escape of EMI.

If it works, the containers could thwart the five super-secret Orion spy satellites which are designed to collect signals intelligence for the U.S. government from geosynchronous orbits above the Earth. Also, the U-2 spy plane is known to carry highly sensitive SIGINT gear capable of detecting EMI.

But “invisible”? That’s a stretch.

Both missile systems are big and they require support vehicles and personnel. Even in containers, it might still be possible for drones, spy planes, and satellites to photograph them –  even if the containers are disguised in some way – because they’ll stand out like a sore thumb because of sheer size alone.

Heat from the containers might also give their presence and contents away to the right equipment.

That said, there is historical precedent for concern about this development at Pentagon and in the intelligence community.

In 1962, the Soviets deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and approximately 80 nuclear warheads to Cuba during Operation Anadyr. The discovery of the launch sites for some of those weapons led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the Cold War superpowers ever came to actual nuclear war.

One of the methods employed by the Soviets was the use of shipping containers and metal sheeting to mask the weapons transfer from the Soviet Union to Cuba while on board cargo vessels. The containers blocked the missiles from view; the metal sheets blocked infra-red surveillance that could have revealed the missiles.

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Mattis wants to see a body before he’ll believe ISIS leader is dead

Amid ISIS’ defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and ongoing fighting in its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, the fate of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains unknown.


Russia said in late June that it believed he had been killed in a bombing raid on Raqqa, but earlier this week Moscow admitted that it was unable to confirm the death and said it was getting contradictory information.

Despite an observer group saying Baghdadi has been killed, Defense Secretary James Mattis and other US commanders are skeptical.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“I think Baghdadi’s alive,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon July 21, according to Military Times. Mattis has made similar statements before, and he told reporters that absent evidence Baghdadi was still commanding ISIS, it was possible he was acting in a religious or propaganda role for the terrorist group.

“Until I see his body, I am going to assume he is alive,” Mattis said. The US intelligence community has also seen no evidence Baghdadi is dead.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the leader of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, hasn’t confirmed the death either, but earlier this week he said he had no “reason to believe he’s alive. I don’t have proof of life.”

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

While Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain unclear, the group he led appears to be on the wane. Iraqi forces have recaptured Mosul — after ISIS fighters there destroyed the mosque where Baghdadi declared ISIS’ “caliphate” in summer 2014 — and US-backed fighters have advanced into Raqqa, though much hard fighting remains there.

Like Baghdadi’s fate, who will succeed him is also unclear. Experts believe that two lieutenants, ISIS war minister Iyad al-Obaidi and the group’s security agency chief, Ayad al-Jumaili, are the most likely candidates. Both served in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein and then joined the Sunni Salafist insurgency in Iraq in 2003, after Hussein was deposed by the US invasion.

Leadership questions aside, the group looks to remain present in some form. In June, US officials were quick to note that ISIS remained a threat in both Iraq and Syria after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the group was at its end. And even with ISIS eroding, the tensions that fostered or accompanied its rise and other drivers of conflict are likely to endure.

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Taking the fight to ISIS? Here’s a free rifle

M600 screenshot from http://tracking-point.com


If you’re headed overseas to fight against Islamic State and Al Qaeda, then one company may have a cutting-edge rifle for you – at the cost of zero dollars.

Pflugerville, Texas-based TrackingPoint is offering 10 free M600 Service Rifles or M800 Designated Marksman Rifles to any U.S. organization that can legally bring them to the Middle East for the fight against terrorism.

“It’s hard to sit back and watch what is happening over there. We want to do our part,” explained the company’s CEO John McHale, in a press release. “Ten guns doesn’t sound like a lot but the dramatic leap in lethality is a great force multiplier. Those ten guns will feel like two hundred to the enemy.”

“We firmly believe that the M600 SR and M800 DMR will save countless lives and enable our soldiers to dominate enemy combatants including terrorists,” he added.

Precision Guided Rifles are designed to help overcome factors that can impact precision for shooters like recoil, direction and speed of wind, inclination, and temperature. They also work to help counteract common human errors like miscalculating range.

The M600 SR

TrackingPoint designed the M600 SR Squad Level Precision Guided NATO 5.56 Service Rifle to replace the M4A1.

The full length is 36.25 inches including the 16-inch barrel. The M600 weighs 12 pounds and has an operating time of two-and-a-half hours.

Whether you are an inexperienced or accomplished shooter, the rifle has an 87 percent first shot success rate out to 600 yards – a percentage 40 times higher than the first shot kill rate for an average warfighter, according to the company.

The rifle is also designed to eliminate targets moving as fast as 15 mph.

The M800 DMR

TrackingPoint describes this rifle as the “nuclear bomb of small arms.”

The M800 Designated Marksman Rifle Squad-Level Precision guided 7.62 was designed to replace the M110 and M14.

This rifle weighs a bit more at 14 and-a-half pounds. The full length is 39 inches with the 18-inch barrel. The M800 also has an operating time of two and-a-half hours before needing to switch out the dual lithium-ion batteries.

With the very first shot, the success rate on this rifle is 89 percent at out to 800 yards- based on the company’s evaluation.

Extrapolating from the Army’s 1999 White Feather study, TrackingPoint says this 89 percent success rate is about 33 times the success rate of first shots as kill shots by professional snipers.

The M800 DMR can hit targets moving as fast as 20 mph.

Targets

Both rifles incorporate the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity.  Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger squeeze is completely.

Both rifles also feature tech that enables accurate off-hand shots. The image is stabilized to the sort of image you would get with a supported gun rest.

Each rifle comes with a case that includes a charger, bi-pod, 20 round mag, bore guide and link pin. It also comes ready with two batteries.

The M600 SR retails for $9995, while the M800 DMR will be available for $15,995. If you’re an interested civilian, TrackingPoint says the weapons are available to “select non-military U.S. individuals.”

On Dec. 5, the company will begin shipping the free rifles to the chosen qualified U.S, citizens who can bring the guns into the fight against terrorism legally.

Articles

Russia Is Modernizing Its Increasingly Aggressive Air Force

Russian T-50 Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Russia’s air force has problems.

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

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

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

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

Su-35 Super Flanker (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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

Russian T-50 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Russian Air Force Su-30 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Russian Su-35 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

More From Business Insider:

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

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These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

For the last several years, the world’s most powerful militaries have been hard at work developing the next generation of long-range missile technology.


The main objective is to reach farther, faster.

That’s prompted weapons designers to push the boundaries of physics and hit speeds in the “hypersonic” realm, which is typically considered atmospheric travel faster than Mach 5

Imagine a missile fired from the Chinese mainland that could strike anywhere in the South China Sea in 20 minutes. That could be a massive game changer for such a turbulent region, many strategists believe.

There’s an international arms race in progress to develop hypersonic weapons. Four countries, including China, Russia, India, and the U.S., are in various phases of research, testing, or otherwise developing hypersonic weapons systems — planes, warheads, and cruise missiles capable of sustaining speeds well above Mach 5.

1. DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle – China

The most promising Chinese hypersonic vehicle was successfully tested as recently as April. Beijing’s “Dong Feng” DF-41 ICBM carried two nuclear-capable warheads from the mainland into the South China Sea. To underline the tension in the South China’s Sea, Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami noted that this was the first time China tested its weaponry in the area.

The DF-ZF concept, previously referred to by the Pentagon as the WU-14.

The DF-41 booster rocket has a reported maximum operational range of 9,300 kilometers – not only covering the South China Sea, but also the mainland United States. It also has the ability to launch the hypersonic DF-ZF glide vehicle, which can reach speeds of 7,000 miles per hour – the speed of sound is just 768 mph.

2. Tactical Boost Glide Aircraft – United States

DARPA is developing technology similar to the Chinese DF-ZF they say is, “an air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost-glide system.” An ICBM boosts the glider to hypersonic speeds, then it separates from the rocket and coasts unpowered to its target. The project became known as the Falcon project — a test bed for projects that will enable the U.S. to hit any target in the world within one hour using unmanned hypersonic bombers.

The Hypersonic Technology Vehicle – 2 (DARPA concept)

The Falcon HTV-2’s top speed of Mach 20 would allow the United States to strike a target in Syria from the American East Coast in around 27 minutes, analysts say.

3. BrahMos II Missile – Russia and India

The BrahMos II is a cruise missile in joint development between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. The BrahMos II is expected to have a range of about 180 miles and a top speed of Mach 7. During the cruise stage, the missile will be propelled by an air-breathing scramjet engine using a classified fuel formula to help sustain its top speed.

Indian Defence Ministry

As of March the BrahMos II has been undergoing tests in Russia. Military planners say it is intended as a conventional missile without a nuclear payload and is expected to be aboard Russian ships as early as 2019.

4. X-51 Waverider – United States

Jointly developed by Boeing and the Air Force, the X-51 WaveRider project is another research vehicle designed to test technology for the so-called “High-Speed Strike Weapon,” which is intended to be in military service by 2020.

Unlike the Falcon HTV-2, the HSSW is intended to cruise at only Mach 5, have a maximum range of 600 nautical miles, and be launched by F-35 or B-2 aircraft.

Powered by a Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet engine, the X-51 is designed to ride on its own shockwave. Here, the X-51A was uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base on July 17, 2009.

The most successful WaveRider test so far hit Mach 5.1 for 210 seconds (short of the 300-second goal). It was enough to consider that phase of testing a success and advance to the next stages of development.

5. DF-21D – China

The DF-21D is a medium-range ballistic missile — sometimes referred to in defense industry circles as China’s “Carrier Killer.” The Dong-Feng 21 is considered an anti-ship missile, and a critical component to China’s plans to control the South China Sea. It’s a land-based, nuclear-capable missile that can fly at speeds of Mach 10, and uses a drone to help acquire its targets. Many think the DF-21 is designed to weaken the U.S. ability to project power with aircraft carriers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Iem6AQA9M
Writing for the National Interest, Harry J. Kazianis wrote that the missiles are likely already deployed around China, and have been since at least 2010. As for their ability to knock out an aircraft carrier, Kazianis quoted defense expert Roger Cliff, who remarked that while the U.S. Navy has never had to defend itself against such a weapon, China has no experience using one, either.
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This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).


But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”

Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.

A Marine performs pushups with a pack during the 2nd Annual Tactical Athlete Championship aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Aug. 17. The competition was a part of the Marine Corps’ High Intensity Tactical Training program and tested the strengths and abilities of Marines from different installations around the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Liah Kitchen/Released)

Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”

Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.

Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”

HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.

“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”

Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.

Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.

“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.

The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.

Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.

This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.

Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.

“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”

At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”

Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”

And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.

She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”

Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.

It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”

The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.

Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.

A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.

The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”

The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.

The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.

East Coast units this year even raced off in a cardboard boat regatta.

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Wounded Warrior Project reportedly accused of wasting donor money

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden | U.S. Army


The charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, is facing accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to a CBS News report.

Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.

According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.

Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.

“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.

About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.

Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News’ interview requests for Nardizzi, but instead sent Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules, who denied there was excessive spending on conferences.

“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.

Kules added the charity did not spend $3 million on the Colorado conference, but he was not there and was unable to say what it did cost. He also told CBS News that the charity does not spend money on alcohol or engage in any other kind of excessive spending.

 

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Watch this modern-day Samurai slice a BB pellet traveling at 217 miles per hour

42-year-old Isao Machii is a Japanese Iaidoka, master of Iaido. Iaido is martial art focused on controlled movements in drawing a sword, striking an opponent, cleaning the blood from the blade, and then re-sheathing the sword. Iaido started during the Japanese feudal system and is the foundation of modern Japanese swordsmanship.


Machii holds Guinness World Records for the most martial arts sword cuts to one mat (suegiri), the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts, the most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes, and the fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword.

“This is about processing it at an entirely different sensory level because he is not visually processing it,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was on hand for the BB pellet event. “This is a different level of anticipatory processing. Something so procedural, something so fluid for him.” Machii agreed, saying he doesn’t use his eyes, but can instantly visualize the trajectory of the object in his mind.

He is now headmaster of his own samurai school. See more of his swordsmanship, and enjoy the reactions of people watching him:

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This is one of the largest indoor oceans ever built

Holding over 12-million gallons of water, the “MASK” — which stands for “maneuvering and seakeeping” — is one of the largest man-made indoor oceans in the world. It is located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.


The massive water containment measures 240-feet wide and 360-feet long and houses the ability to recreate real oceanic-like characteristics to help design future Naval vessels.

The facility can custom manufacture mini-ships for on-site testing. (Images via Giphy) 

Related: This is how Naval officers conduct a man overboard drill on a ‘killer tomato’

With the ability to create a variety of ocean waves, the researchers can conduct numerous tests on new ship designs at the facility before the larger version is eventually produced.

“We can do a lot of different types of testing here, everything ranging from energy efficient testing to operability,” Dr. Christopher Kent explains.
A depiction of testing video compared to operational. (Images via Giphy)
“As long as we’ve been building ships and boats, we really only started to understand how they work about the last 100 years,” naval engineer Jon Etxegoian states. “And we’re still not there yet.”

The center’s design experts work directly with Naval officials to produce the most advanced ships known to man before the blueprint is sent to the manufacturers.

Also Read: Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

Check out Department of Defense‘s video below to watch this man-made ocean test the Navy’s newest technologies.

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This martial art was originally developed to beat up Nazis

One of the most effective hand-to-hand combat techniques taught today — and one that has become closely identified with the Jewish state that embraced it — Krav Maga was a product of the Nazi-era streets of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.


The martial art’s inventor, Imi Lichtenfeld was quite the athlete. Born in Budapest in 1910, he spent his early years training to be a boxer, wrestler, and gymnast with his father. The elder Lichtenfeld was also a policeman who taught self-defense. Under his father’s tutelage, Imi won championships in all his athletic disciplines. But fighting in a ring required both people to follow certain rules. Street fights don’t have rules, Imi Lichtenfeld thought, and he wanted to be prepared for that.

These guys are just sparring. Now think about a real Krav Maga street fight.

At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitic riots struck Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where Imi and his family were then living. Like many large cities in the region, the rise of National Socialism, or Nazism, created an anti-Jewish fervor that took young men to the streets to assault innocent and often unsuspecting Jews.

When the streets of his neighborhood became increasingly violent, Lichtenfeld decided to teach a group of his Jewish neighbors some self-defense moves. It came in the form of a technique that would help them protect themselves while attacking their opponent – a method that showed no mercy for those trying to kill the Chosen People.

Young Imi taught his friends what would later be called “Krav Maga.”

For the record, this is what happens when you attack an Israeli nowadays.

Translated as “contact-combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is designed to prepare the user for real-world situations. The martial art efficiently attacks an opponent’s most vulnerable areas to neutralize him as quickly as possible, uses everything in arm’s reach as a weapon, and teaches the user to be aware of every potential threat in the area. It developed into one of the most effective hand-to-hand techniques ever devised.

Krav Maga’s widespread use began in the Israel Defence Force, who still train in the martial art. These days, Krav Maga is a go-to fighting style widely used by various military and law enforcement agencies. In 1930s Europe, it was a godsend. Lichtenfeld’s technique taught Bratislava’s Jews how to simultaneously attack and defend themselves while delivering maximum pain and punishment on their attackers.

A Krav Maga lesson in the IDF. One of these two is Imi Lichtenfeld. Guess which one. (IDF photo)

Imi Lichtenfeld escaped Europe in 1940 after the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1942 (after considerable struggles along the way) and was quickly inducted into the Free Czech Legion of the British Army in North Africa. He served admirably and the Haganah and Palmach – Jewish paramilitary organizations that were forerunners of what we call today the Israel Defence Forces – noticed his combat skill right away.

After Israel won its independence, Lichtenfeld gave his now-perfected martial art of Krav Maga to the IDF and became the Israeli Army’s chief hand-to-hand combat instructor. He even modified it for law enforcement and civilians.

A Krav Maga lesson at the IDF’s paratrooper school in Israel. (IDF photo)

Lichtenfeld taught Krav Maga until 1987 when he retired from the IDF. He died in 1998, after essentially teaching the world’s Jewish population how to defend themselves when no one would do it for them.