If the Baltics are a flashpoint where a war between Russia and NATO breaks out, it might be the Baltic Sea where those first shots are fired.
Things are so tense that during his Senate confirmation hearings, retired Marine General James Mattis indicated he supported a permanent U.S. military presence in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Tensions in that region have been high. This past April, the Daily Caller reported that Su-24 Fencers buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). A closer look at that event, though, can give a sense as to what America could be facing.
Like it or not, in the event of war, American forces will have to get to the Baltic States. With their membership in NATO, defending them is a solemn obligation due to the provisions of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty.
So, America has an obligation to defend them. That means getting reinforcements there in a hurry.
For armored brigade combat teams, like the one on rotation to Europe, this means a seaborne convoy. That probably means using at least a couple dozen military sealift ships and escorts to move a division of troops and supplies.
How might Russia take down such a convoy? Part of it would be using the geography of the Baltic Sea. It is a very narrow, confined body of water. Furthermore, the short distances involved mean that any convoy could have only a few minutes’ warning of an air attack.
As the Daily Caller notes, the Donald Cook was buzzed largely because she had very little warning of the Fencers’ approach.
The Baltic is also full of places where diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class or Lada-class could hide and carry out ambushes. The submarines would likely sit at chokepoints like the Kattegat or Skagerrak – targeting escorts like Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Once some of the escorts are taken out, Russia would then send Su-24s at low level to attack the sealift vessels and surviving escorts, likely using missiles like the AS-20 “Kayak” – the Russian equivalent to the AGM-84 Harpoon.
Destroying the convoy may be the Russians’ best chance to defeat NATO in a war over the Baltic States. That said, if the United States were to bring back the old POMCUS (Prepositioning Of Materiel Configured in Unit Sets) system, that would greatly reduce the time it took to reinforce any force initially in the Baltic States.
The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.
The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.
But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.
The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds unveiled their new “Super Delta” formation during a joint training session over the Imperial Valley in California on Tuesday. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are the two services’ flight demonstration squads, known the world over for their spectacular shows and incredible aircraft control.
“The formation grew out of a series of joint training opportunities held in 2020 and 2021, and serves as a symbol of the teamwork, discipline, and skill of the men and women of our United States military forces deployed around the globe,” read the Blue Angels’ Instagram post.
The “Super Delta” formation consists of six U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets operated by the Blue Angels flying in their standard delta formation while flanked on either side by six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds. Three F-16s flank the Delta formation on either side, forming a massive flying wing made up of some of America’s top-tier 4th generation fighters.
This unveiling is of particular import for the Navy’s Blue Angels, who are entering their 75th performance season. 2021 also marks the first year the Blue Angels operate with Super Hornets, as opposed to the team’s previous legacy F/A-18 Hornets.
Over the past year, with many of each team’s performances cut due to Covid, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels traveled around the country performing complex maneuvers over communities and hospitals struggling to control the spread of the virus. The high-performance jets gave the folks below a small morale boost, while also allowing the pilots to continue honing their skills behind the stick.
However, even amid working together for these morale flights, the two teams have never formed a single formation like the “super delta” before. According to the Thunderbirds Twitter account, the teams plan to unveil this new formation during a nation-wide broadcast of the National Memorial Day Parade later this year.
Jordanian F-16s launched 20 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in 2015 following King Abdullah II’s declaration to wage a “harsh” war against militants from the group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or ISIS, after the brutal execution of captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbe.
Abdullah participating in a military special operations training exercises as Jump-Master.
A New Zealand-based startup that works on regenerating human tissue has signed a development agreement with the U.S. Army to help treat troops who’ve sustained severe burns.
The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between Upside Technologies and the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command includes the company’s engineered skin product to treat wounds from IEDs and explosions.
“This U.S. Army input will be hugely valuable to Upside and will fully assist us in successfully progressing our product to the benefit of all burn sufferers, including U.S. warriors,” said Upside Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Feldman.
A graphic showing the new lab-made skin next to true human skin. (Photo from Upside Technologies)
Upside’s technology enables a small sample of unburnt patient skin to be grown in the laboratory into large areas of full-thickness skin. The lab-grown skin can be used as skin grafts in patients.
The Upside skin is said to be produced faster than that of any competitive product and has handling characteristics preferred by surgeons.
The Army “is pleased to provide guidance to Upside Biotechnologies as it navigates the U.S. FDA approval process for a novel skin replacement product,” said Susan Taylor, product manager for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.
Burn wounds from explosions and IEDs continue to plague troops in war zones and account for a large portion of America’s casualties, statistics show.
“This product may provide a critical solution in the treatment of service members who have sustained severe burns,” Taylor added. “Our goal is to help Upside move this product as quickly and as safely as possible through the regulatory process, so it is available to our wounded service members.”
When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.
A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.
Military brochures are colorful and glossy, full of awesome pictures showing service members doing some really cool stuff. These pictures usually feature troops flying in helicopters, firing weapons, riding in amphibious assault vehicles, jumping from aircraft, and traveling the world.
There is no question a military career can be very exciting. However, just like any other profession, there can be some mundane tasks that seem unusual and flat-out odd. This is especially true in the military. Here are 7 pictures you won’t see in a military recruiting brochure.
1. Area Beautification (Operation Clean Sweep)
This detail is very common throughout U.S. military bases around the world. One of the most well-known area beatification events happens in the home of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations at Fort Bragg, N.C. Each May, thousands of personnel take part in “Operation Clean Sweep,” an extravagant term simply meaning a post-wide clean-up effort in preparation for the 82nd’s Airborne All-American Week, a week-long celebration of the famed division.
During Clean Sweep, Soldiers don their PT belts, grab their rakes, and gas up the lawn mowers to bring the “fight” to overgrown weeds, nasty cigarette butts, spit bottles and other items that would make your grandma blush. You can see why these images don’t make for exciting marketing products.
2. Cleaning the Barracks (GI Party)
This is one party you don’t want to be invited to. Service members living in the barracks are used to hearing the expression “G.I. party,” a term originally used during World War II to clean up the living quarters.
This detail has service members cleaning the hell out of the barracks in preparation for an inspection. So grab the buffer, gather the Simple Green, and get the trash bags, it’s party time!
3. Painting Things
Put a paint brush in the hands of a military member and they will paint anything. Whether it is painting rocks, trees, the walls at the barracks, or curbs on the road, military commands always have tons of paint cans around, keeping the good folks at DuPont very happy.
4. Chute Shake
Remember all the fun you had as a child, shaking the rainbow colored parachute during gym class. While this is not that kind of parachute shake, “shaking chutes” is one of the worst details in the Airborne community. It can sometimes take an entire night, where personnel spend their time in a tower hanging hundreds of chutes, untangling lines that are in massive knots, and taking out weeds and debris caught on the parachute after dragging a Paratrooper across the drop zone. This detail makes you appreciate your childhood.
5. Swabbing the Deck
Arrr matey! This detail is straight up old-school going back hundreds of years. This is probably not what new Sailors had in mind when they were told the Navy would “accelerate their life.”
6. Kitchen Patrol or KP
KP duty at the mess hall or galley consists of duties such as food preparation, dish washing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line, or anything else that needs to get done.
Just make it get done or the mess sergeant will go all Gordon Ramsay on you!
Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.
While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States. The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.
Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”
The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.
The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.
The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.
Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.
Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.
1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.
Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.
2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.
When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.
As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.
3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.
Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.
To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.
4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.
Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.
During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.
5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.
“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.
She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.
6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.
Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.
Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.
When American forces stormed ashore at Saipan on June 15, 1944, they knew they were in for a fight. Saipan was strategically important to both the Americans and the Japanese. It is the largest island in the Marianas chain and close enough to the Japanese mainland for American B-29’s to launch bombing missions.
Though it is often overshadowed by other battles, the battle of Saipan was the most costly operation for the Americans in the Pacific up to that point. 31,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island from some 71,000 Americans of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division.
Through June and into July, American forces made slow but steady progress across the island. Brutal fighting occurred in places that earned names such as “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge.”
By July 6, the situation was desperate for the Japanese. With the defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, there was no hope of rescue or reinforcement for the remaining defenders on Saipan.
Gen. Saito, the Japanese commander on Saipan, ordered all remaining defenders, wounded or not, and even civilians on the island to conduct a massive banzai charge against the American positions. “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops,” Saito said. “It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than to be captured.”
Saito would not join his troops in the attack, though. After transmitting an apology to Tokyo for his failure, he committed ritual suicide.
Leading the way were soldiers carrying a massive red flag, followed by sword-wielding officers and the rest of the infantry. Behind them came the wounded and what civilians decided to join the attack. There was an insufficient number of rifles for all, so many wounded came with bamboo spears, rocks, or anything else they hoped could do damage.
As some 4,000 Japanese swarmed over the American lines, intense close quarters combat broke out.
Leading the 1st Battalion was Lt. Col. William O’Brien. Since the first days his unit had landed on Saipan, he had shown his bravery and skill as a commander. O’Brien had personally led several assaults to reduce Japanese strongpoints while continually exposing himself to enemy fire.
When the Japanese came at the 1st Battalion that morning, O’Brien was once again in the thick of the fighting and leading from the front.
As the enemy swept over his lines, O’Brien steadfastly held his ground and rallied his men. Like a modern-day Call of Duty character, he dual-wielded two .45 caliber pistols and shouted encouragement to his men as he blasted the onrushing attackers.
As the attack continued, O’Brien received a painful wound to his shoulder but refused to quit. When his pistol ammunition was exhausted, he picked up a discarded rifle and continued to fight. When he again ran out of ammunition, he manned a .50 caliber machine gun and poured fire into the advancing Japanese.
O’Brien was last seen alivesurrounded by sword-wielding Japanese, blasting the .50 caliber machine gun and yelling at his men, “Don’t give them a damn inch!”
Elsewhere on the 1st Battalion line, one Thomas Baker, a private in A Company, was also giving the Japanese hell. Like O’Brien, from the early days of his unit’s involvement on Saipan he had exhibited tremendous bravery in fighting the Japanese.
As the Japanese rushed his position, Baker delivered deadly fire with his rifle. When he was wounded he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on. With his ammunition exhausted, Baker turned his rifle into club and desperately fought off the Japanese attackers until his weapon was battered beyond use.
At this point, a fellow soldier withdrew him from the line, but in carrying him from the field was himself wounded. Baker refused to be taken any further due to the risk to his friends. He made a simple last request — to be left propped against a tree, facing the Japanese, with a .45 pistol with eight shots.
When friendly forces retook the position in the following days, they discovered Baker’s body, just as they had left it, with eight dead Japanese laying in front of him — each killed with a single shot from his .45.
Further down the line from the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was having problems of its own. Japanese forces had breached the perimeter and were attacking the battalion aid station just behind the front lines.
As Japanese continued to infiltrate his aid station, Salomon, with the help of wounded soldiers, expertly dispatched them until he realized the situation was untenable. Ordering the wounded to make their way back to the regimental aid station, Salomon joined the defenses and manned a machine gun.
Salomon was later found slumped over the machine gun, his body riddled with bullet and bayonet wounds, with scores of Japanese dead in front of his position. It was later determined that he had been wounded over 20 times and had moved the machine gun four times in order to get a clear field of fire around the bodies before he was overcome.
The battle for Saipan would be declared over two days later. Afterwards, O’Brien, Baker, and Salomon would all be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.
Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.
ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.
ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.
Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”
Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.
South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.
Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.
Another bullet slammed into the rocky slope beside journalist Mike Boettcher. The Taliban sniper fired again, sending another large-caliber bullet whizzing between the Americans who were scattered among the boulders. Boettcher kept his camera rolling but worried his son Carlos might have been hit. The father-and-son team was embedded with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, but getting good footage was now the last thing on his mind.
Eventually the paratroopers forced the sniper to displace, and Mike and Carlos Boettcher were reunited, both unscathed.
“I told you don’t leave my side! This is a damn war zone, Carlos,” Mike can be heard screaming off-camera.
When it comes to documentaries about the war in Afghanistan, Restrepo still reigns supreme. But while the award-winning documentary from Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington is the most acclaimed film of its kind, The Hornet’s Nest is a must-watch for anyone seeking a closer look into America’s longest war.
Mike Boettcher describes the documentary as a “real-life narrative feature.” The feeling that his film is more than a documentary comes from the added drama of Mike and Carlos’ strained relationship. Their final attempt to bond amid the war that surrounds them provides an additional storyline that unfolds like a scripted feature film.
Between 2010 and 2011, the duo embedded with three Army brigades and one Marine battalion on their deployments to Afghanistan. While the filmmakers survived their extended stay in Afghanistan, 44 members of the units they embedded with did not. The combat footage they recorded is as intense as any existing documentary, but the audio surpasses them all. The sounds of bullets snapping and whizzing overhead are so clear it’s hard to believe they weren’t created in a studio and added during editing.
While the combat footage is jarring and the Boettchers’ relationship is compelling, it’s the documentary’s ending that transforms The Hornet’s Nest from an average film to a must-watch. The Boettchers were present at the Battle of Barawala Kalay Valley: a two-day mission that devolved into nine days of heavy fighting. Before the Americans prevailed, six US soldiers were killed in action.
The entire battle unfolds in the film’s final act, concluding with an emotionally devastating battlefield memorial service. The final scene provides a rare glimpse into one of the most sacred military traditions. As the final roll call is read and the surviving soldiers fight to keep their bearings, it becomes difficult to watch. The heart-wrenching conclusion serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the steep cost of the war in Afghanistan.