US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter - We Are The Mighty
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US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

Articles

SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command said Wednesday that the so-called Iron Man suit being developed for elite commandos may not end up being the exoskeleton armored ensemble popular in adventure movies.


It’s been four years since SOCOM leaders challenged the defense industry to come up with ideas for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS — an ensemble that would provide operators with “more-efficient, full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance” as well as embedded sensors and communications tech for heightened situational awareness.

Related: 5 awesome new technologies coming to the US military

Program officials are about “a year and a half” away from having a TALOS prototype that’s ready to put in the hands of operators for testing, James “Hondo” Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF ATl at USSOCOM, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Photo: Youtube.com

When the program began, it captured the public’s imagination and conjured images of high-tech ensembles worn in movies such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “Starship Troopers.”

“We are on our fifth prototype,” Geurts said. “Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent.”

SOCOM officials envisioned TALOS would feature integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature inside the suit. Embedded sensors would monitor the operator’s core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels. In the event that the operator is wounded, the suit could feasibly start administering the first life-saving oxygen or hemorrhage controls.

This is not the first time the U.S. military has embarked on an effort to perfect smart-soldier technology. The Army is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone-based kit — known as Nett Warrior — that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and send text messages.

The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.

But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
US Army photo

When TALOS began, SOCOM said it planned to funnel $80 million into research and development over a four-year timeline. Geurts did not say how much money SOCOM has spent so far on TALOS.

One of the biggest challenges is powering the suit, but also a type of control theory and deep learning, Geurts said.

In just walking, “we take for granted that when we put our arm out, that our foot is behind us to balance it,” he said.

Geurts said the program has had “tremendous hurdles” working with these technologies, but said the effort will likely result in spin-off technologies that can be fielded to operators before TALOS is operationally ready.

“So in TALOS, don’t just think exoskeleton and armor — think of the whole equation,” he said. “Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying, but it’s also a big part of whatever information you have, what is your situational awareness, how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British Museum will return these war trophies to Afghanistan

Over the years, the British have taken a good many significant artifacts back to England with them. To its credit, the British Empire did an excellent job of preserving those relics. Still, plundering any country’s cultural treasures is kind of an a-hole thing to do. But there is one set of priceless antiquities that the British can feel good about rescuing and returning.

This one isn’t their fault.


One of the most troublesome incidents of the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years was the theft and complete loss of priceless cultural treasures from the distant fields and local museums around these two countries. Many of the things looted in the chaos of these two conflicts may never be seen again. Not so for nine sculpted heads from the Fourth Century AD. These were intercepted at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2002 on a flight from Pakistan. The British Museum took control of the sculptures and restored them – but how did they get there?

It’s because the Taliban are the a-holes in this situation.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

They usually are the a-holes in any situation.

These statue heads would have been atop artworks in the Buddhist temples of the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra some 1,500 years ago. The kingdom of Gandhāra straddled parts of what is today India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan at the time. As for what happened to the temples and the statues, the Taliban blew them up with dynamite. The terror group’s biggest destructive act was the use of anti-tank mines on Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Temples, which destroyed the beautiful pre-Islamic statues along the temple walls. The heads that were found in London were probably smuggled through Pakistan and on their way to the black market.

After their discovery, the British Museum was called in to document and catalog the priceless ancient sculptures. The heads will be on display in the museum for a short time, but will then be returned to the people of Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis has tough words for China: ‘We will not be intimidated’

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called on America’s allies to combat Chinese efforts to dominate the contested South China Sea during a trilateral meeting in Singapore Oct. 19, 2018.

“I think that all of us joining hands together, ASEAN allies and partners, and we affirm as we do so that no single nation can rewrite the international rule to the road and expect all nations large and small to respect those rules,” Mattis said during a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, according to The Hill.


“The United States, alongside our allies and partners, will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down, for we cannot accept the PRC’s militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region,” he added.

Mattis doubled down on statements made by Vice President Mike Pence in a forceful speech at the Hudson Foundation in October 2018 that came immediately in the wake of a showdown between US and Chinese warships.

“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Pence explained. He called attention to the recent showdown in the South China Sea as evidence of “China’s aggression.”

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

An EA-18G Growler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VFA) 141 lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

“A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision,” he said, describing a dangerous encounter that the US military characterized as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

The Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance against China, targeting Beijing for perceived violations of the rules-based international order. In the South China Sea, tensions have been running high as the US challenges China through freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and joint drills with regional partners — all aimed to counter China’s expansive but discredited territorial claims.

A pair of B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew through the disputed South China Sea Oct. 16, 2018, in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which is notably intended to send a deterrence message to potential adversaries.

Mattis met with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe Oct. 18, 2018, for an hour and a half on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore. The talks, described as “straightforward and candid,” focused heavily on the South China Sea, but it is unclear if the two sides made any real progress on the issue.

“That’s an area where we will continue to have differences,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said after the meeting concluded.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy prepared to counter favorite Russian tactic

The Russian military and its NATO counterparts have been increasingly active in Eastern Europe, as the West moves to counter what they view as Russian aggression in the region.

One facet of Russian military activity that has been well noted by Western military planners is the expansion of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, capability in strategically valuable areas.

Assets like the S-400 air-defense system — believed to be able to target aircraft from as far as 250 miles away, even the latest stealth aircraft — have been set up around Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s exclave on the Baltic Sea, further south on the Crimean Peninsula and around the Black Sea, and on the Syrian coast, which provides a base from which to reach into the eastern Mediterranean.


Surface-to-air missile systems deployed around Kaliningrad, which is tucked between Poland and Lithuania, were “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” retired Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc told The New York Times in January 2016, when he was head of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa.

Those systems could affect NATO operations in Poland and the Baltic States, Gorenc said. (Russian forces using Kaliningrad to block the Suwalki Gap and cut the Baltic States off from the rest of NATO is a particular concern for the alliance.)

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

“But the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force, Hodges said. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

Russian state media said another battalion of S-400 missiles had assumed combat duty in Crimea at the end of November 2018, amid a state of increased tension with Ukraine over a violent encounter between their navies in the Black Sea.

Other air-defense systems, including the less advanced but highly capable S-300, are deployed in the region, including in the Black and Baltic seas. Other deployed A2/AD assets include coastal missile batteries firing anti-ship missiles.

When those systems — long embraced by Moscow to counter NATO’s technical and numerical superiority at sea and in the air — are paired with electronic-warfare and radar systems, the concern is they could limit NATO’s freedom of movement, especially in situations short of all-out war, when offensive options are restrained.

But “the alliance is alive to these challenges” and would “be prepared to use all the different things that would be required” in response to them, Hodges said, without elaborating.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Russian S-400 Triumph launch vehicle.

Navy Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who recently took over the Navy’s newly reestablished Second Fleet, which oversees the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean, echoed Hodges during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.

“Without going into things I shouldn’t talk about, I’m confident that we can operate in an A2/AD environment, in a contested environment,” Lewis said when asked about Kaliningrad and A2/AD. “In fact, I know we can.”

“I know we can with our carrier force. I know we can with our surface force. We have a very clear way of doing that. It is based upon maneuver,” he added. “It’s based upon physical maneuver. It’s based upon maneuver in the spectrum, and it’s based upon our ability to keep quiet when it’s time to keep quiet and talk when it’s time to talk.”

There was still room for improvement, Lewis said, but he was confident US forces could get there.

“That’s something that we’re really, really focused on, and we have been focused on for a number of years now, and we’re getting a lot better.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How airmen prepare for the Army’s legendary Ranger School

Imagine signing up to be starved, sleep deprived and trying to fight for survival during a 19-day combat leadership course in the mosquito-, rattlesnake- and wild boar-infested hilly terrain north of San Antonio with 28 other Airmen.

This was the scenario for 29 Airmen who took part in the Ranger Assessment Course at Camp Bullis, Texas, Oct. 29 – Nov. 16. Upon successful completion of RAC, the Airmen would have a chance to enroll in the coveted, yet even more grueling, Army Ranger Course.


US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Airmen from different career fields challenge themselves in the Ranger Assessment course which is a combat leadership course which can lead to attending Army Ranger School. The 29 Airmen who began the course came from six major commands and represented security forces, tactical air control party, airfield management and battlefield Airmen specialties.

One of the 12 instructors, Tech. Sgt. Gavin Saiz from the 435th Security Forces Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said RAC is a combat leadership course emphasizing doctrine that uses a host of tactical and technical procedures to instruct the students, who have to learn and apply a firehose of information in a short period.

Qualified Airmen from any career field can attend the course, which is held twice a year. Efforts are underway to see if the course can be expanded to four times a year in order to conduct them in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa and Pacific Air Forces. If the applicant is physically and mentally qualified, they can enroll in the course, but not everyone makes it to the finish line. The course has a 66-percent fail rate.

Since 1955 when the Army began accepting Airmen into its school, nearly 300 Airmen have earned the Ranger tab. The Army Ranger Course is one of the Army’s toughest leadership courses, with a concentration on small-unit tactics and combat leadership. The course seeks to develop proficiency in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in an around-the-clock, all-climates and terrain atmosphere. RAC is based on the first two weeks of the Army Ranger Course.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

The RAC instructors provide this stress-oriented battle school for airmen to develop better leadership and command tools under the mental, emotional and physical strain. They push the students to improve their resiliency and coping mechanisms.

Capt. Nicholas Cunningham, 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, was one of five students selected for the Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC) which is a dynamic two-week spin up to acclimate Army and sometimes joint or partner service members to the rigors of Ranger School. If he successfully completes that course, he may be referred to Army Ranger School. “The course taught us tons of lessons about working as a team, pushing past mental limits and mostly leadership,” he said. “Where we as Ranger students at first were acting as individuals, we had to shift toward operating together as a single unit. The more we acted by ourselves, the worse we did as a team. To meet the objective, whether it was packing our clothes within a certain amount of time or assaulting an enemy force, required every Ranger to do their part of the task and then some.”

After the first week of classroom and hands-on training, Sloat said they select students for various leadership positions for the missions and then challenge them to plan, prepare and conduct missions, whether it is a recon or ambush mission. They plan backwards based on a higher headquarters Operation Order.

On the last day of missions, ten tired, hungry and cold Airmen made it to the finish line, having tested their mettle to the extremes. The 29 Airmen who began the course came from six major commands and represented security forces, tactical air control party, airfield management and battlefield Airmen specialties.

The first female to finish the course, 2nd Lt. Chelsey Hibsch from Yokota Air Base, Japan, has also been selected for RTAC. She said she saw more individuals fail as a follower because they didn’t want to go out of their way to help their partners succeed. “Those who were good followers tended to have others follow them with more enthusiasm because they had each other’s backs,” she said. “You learn how you react when everything is against you. Some individuals pressed on and others froze.”

The Air Force Security Forces Center, one of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s subordinate units, hosted the course. The instructors, all having been through the course and graduated Army Ranger School, put the students through the mind-numbing days and nights. The instructors provide this stress-oriented battle school for Airmen to develop better leadership and command tools under the mental, emotional and physical strain and improve their resiliency and coping mechanisms.

Below are the names of those who successfully met the challenge in the 19-01 Ranger Assessment Course and will be recommended to attend the Army Ranger Course:
Staff Sgt. Paul Cdebaca/TACP/3 Air Support Operations Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson, Alaska
Staff Sgt. Mark Bunkley/TACP/350 SWTS – Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas
Senior Airman Troy Hicks/TACP/ 7 Air Support Operations Squadron– Ft. Bliss, Texas
Senior Airman Aaron Lee/SF/9 Security Forces Squadron, Beale AFB, California
Senior Airman Zachary Scott/SF/802 Security Forces Squadron, JBSA – Lackland, Texas

A second group of Airmen recommended for RTAC along with Cunningham and Hibsch:
Senior Airman Sage Featherstone/TACP/7 Air Support Operations Squadron, Ft. Bliss, Texas
Senior Airman Austin Flores/SF/75 Security Forces Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
Staff Sgt. Brayden Morrow/SF/341 Security Support Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana

Articles

One of America’s oldest vets just turned 111

One of the nation’s oldest veterans has been celebrated by his Texas hometown on his 111th birthday.


Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared Thursday Richard Overton Day in the city and also gave the street he has lived on for the past 45 years the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue.

While Overton concedes that 111 is “pretty old,” he tells KVUE-TV he still feels good. Overton mentioned that the secret to a long life is smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, two things he continues to indulge in today.

Overton was already in his 30s when he volunteered and served in the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Articles

These are the secret tunnels ISIS uses to launch sneak attacks in Syria

The Kurdish YPG, a contingent of the US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria, released a video Aug. 29 showing the underground tunnels that ISIS digs to launch sneak attacks.


The video shows two rather large tunnels inside a captured, bombed-out mosque, from which the YPG claim that ISIS had been using.

“The barbaric group, aware of the YPG’s sensitivity towards people’s places of worship and other historic sites, has been using [mosques] as bases to delay the liberation of Raqqa,” text in the YPG video reads.

ISIS has been known to use such tunnels in Iraq and Syria not only for sneak attacks, which the militants reportedly paid civilians $2 per day to dig, are also used for moving supplies, housing ISIS fighters, and laying booby traps.

 

(YPG PRESS OFFICE | YouTube)

 

Former ISIS fighters have reportedly said that some of the tunnels are extremely complex, some even containing rooms, toilets, and medical facilities.

A YPG commander recently said there are about 700 to 1,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa, and that the battle should be over in about 2 months.

This older Fox News video shows how intricate the tunnels can get:

 

Articles

9 things you didn’t know about General George S. Patton

Some of the lore around “Old Blood n’ Guts” Patton is common knowledge: He carried distinctive ivory-handled revolvers, he believed in reincarnation, and he infamously slapped two of his soldiers who were suffering from “battle fatigue.” But here are a few things you might not have known about “Old Blood n’ Guts.”


1. He was a terrible student at West Point

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Patton in the West Point yearbook, 1909.

The man who would become one of America’s greatest fighting generals struggled during his first year at the U.S. Military Academy. He had to repeat his plebe year because he failed mathematics. He worked with a tutor for the rest of his time there, graduating 46th in a class of 103.

2. He predicted the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor

Patton served in Hawaii before World War II as the G-2 (intelligence) on the General Staff. He watched the rise of Japanese militancy in the Pacific, especially their aggression against the Chinese. In 1935, he wrote a paper called “Surprise” that predicted the Japanese attack on the U.S. islands with what one biographer called “chilling accuracy.”

3. He was an Olympic athlete

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Patton (at Right) in the 1912 Olympics.

The first-ever modern pentathlon was held at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The event is comprised of fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, and cross-country running. Patton placed fifth in the competition and was the only non-Swede to place.

4. He designed the sword his cavalry troops would use

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

After the Olympics, he studied fencing in France at the French Cavalry School near Saumur. Based on his training there, he not only redesigned the saber fighting style for the U.S. Army, he also designed a new sword to fit the doctrine. His new sword was built for thrusting over slashing attacks and was designated the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber.

5. He awarded a chaplain a Bronze Star for composing a prayer

During the Battle of the Bulge, Patton’s Third Army was tasked to relieve the 101st Airborne, who were surrounded in Bastogne. He asked chaplain James Hugh O’Neill to compose a prayer for good weather that would help the Third Army get to Bastogne and to air cover while en route. Here’s the prayer:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”

When the weather did clear, Patton pinned the Bronze Star on O’Neill personally.

6. He was sickened by the sight of a concentration camp

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton inspect a cremation pyre at the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945. (Army photo)

The Ohrdruf concentration camp was one in the string of Buchenwald camps. It was also the first such camp liberated by U.S. troops, on April 4, 1945. Eight days later, Eisenhower toured the camp with Patton and General Omar Bradley. Ike wrote in his diary:

The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so.

Patton described it as “one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen.”

7. He was the first general to integrate his riflemen

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Patton pins a Silver Star Medal on Private Ernest A. Jenkins, a soldier under his command, October 1944 (Army photo)

The general’s main source of inspiration for his men came from his ability to address them in speech. He demanded a lot from his soldiers, no matter what color they were. Addressing on tank battalion he said the following:

“Men, you are the first Negro tankers ever to fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good. I have nothing but the best in my army. I don’t care what color you are, so long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches! Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don’t let them down and, damn you, don’t let me down!”

8. He was No. 3 when Eisenhower ranked his generals

In February 1945, Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander and the war was going well. Taking stock of the best military minds he had under his command, he wrote out a list, ranking the capabilities of his American generals in Europe. Omar Bradley and Carl Spaatz were tied for first with Walter B. Smith in second place. Patton was a solid three.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Patton in a Welcome Home Parade in Los Angeles, June 1945 (Army photo)

To Ike, Bradley was a planner of the success in Europe, Patton simply executed that plan.

9. The Germans admired him more than the British

The nicest thing most generals from Britain had to say about Patton was that he was good for operations requiring lighting thrusts but at a loss in any operation requiring skill and judgment.

Conversely, the German High Command (as well as the Free French) thought Patton one of the ablest generals of the American Army. German Generals Erwin Rommel, Albert Kesselring, and Alfred Jodl are all known to have remarked to other on Patton’s brilliance on the battlefield.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is Russia trying to hide its massive military exercise from NATO?

Russia has been accused by the head of NATO of blocking the alliance from properly observing next week’s “Zapad” military exercises, when about 100,000 Russian troops are expected to mobilize on the EU’s eastern borders.


Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said an offer from Russia and Belarus for three of their experts to attend some aspects of the huge exercise fell short of the Kremlin’s international obligations.

“Briefings on the exercise scenario and progress; opportunities to talk to individual soldiers; and overflights over the exercise. This is something that is part of the Vienna document, an agreement regulating transparency and predictability relating to military exercises,” said Stoltenberg, during a visit to an Estonian military base, where British troops have been stationed since March.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“So we call on Russia to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna document. Transparency and predictability are even more important when tensions are high to reduce the risks of misunderstandings and incidents. NATO remains calm and vigilant and we are going to keep Estonia and our allies safe.”

Under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules in the Vienna document, nations conducting exercises involving more than 13,000 troops must notify other countries in advance and be open to observers.

Russia and Belarus claim the Zapad (“west”) exercises, which will be held in Belarus and parts of western Russia between Sept. 14-20 will involve about 12,700 troops.

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Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

NATO, however, believes many more troops are set to be involved. The prime minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, who joined Stoltenberg at the base in Tapa, about 75 miles (120km) from the Russian border, confirmed that his government believed about 100,000 Russian soldiers would be mobilized during the exercise.

He said, “I would like to say that we are concerned about the nature and lack of transparency of the exercise. Our attitude remains cool and confident. Along with our allies, we will monitor the exercise very closely and remain ready for every situation.”

There has been speculation that Russia could use the upcoming exercises as a cover for the permanent movement of troops and equipment into Belarus or even an offensive against NATO states, something Moscow has adamantly denied.

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Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia claims that that western concerns about Zapad are unfounded, saying the war games will be purely defensive and are designed to help practice dealing with a terrorist threat in the future. The country holds the Zapad exercises every four years.

Tensions following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 have, however, seen the establishment of four multinational battle groups in three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – as well as Poland, amounting to approximately 4,500 troops, including those from the UK.

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, told reporters in Estonia, “We are not changing our military posture because of the Zapad exercise, but NATO has only implemented important changes in our military posture in response to a more assertive Russia as seen developing in recent years, with more Russian troops close to our borders, more Russian equipment, and more exercises. And not least, of course, the use of military force against a neighbor, Ukraine.”

He added that while he saw no imminent threat to NATO states, that the battle groups’ presence sent a strong message “that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia appears to be lying about size of military exercises

In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”

That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.

2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.


Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.

The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.

The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.

A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.

The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.

Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.

The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.

“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.

Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)

Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America

Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.

Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.

Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.

Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.

Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.

Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.

“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”

China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.

Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.

Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.

“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An alligator snuck onto the flight line at MacDill Air Force Base (and how to wrangle an alligator)

Officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, Florida reported an unusual obstruction on the airstrip this past Tuesday preventing military aircraft from taking off: a laid back alligator seemingly perfectly content to catch some sun on the warm blacktop of the runway.

While alligators are no stranger to Florida, they are an uncommon sight in places like a military flight line, where perimeter fences and frequent traffic tend to make for an unwelcoming area for wildlife–especially the sort that tends to move at a leisurely pace outside of the water. Alligators are, of course, capable of achieving downright terrifying speeds in short bursts on land, but this gator didn’t seem to have speed on its mind as it was approached by MacDill officials.


MacDill Air Force Base

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MacDill Air Force Base

As luck would have it, wrangling wayward alligators happens to be one of the unusual skill sets I’ve gathered over the years, cutting my gator wrestling teeth in a large animal preserve in Colorado some time ago.

The preserve maintained a sizeable population of wild and rescued alligators, many of which sometimes require medical care for the small wounds they tend to give one another in their sporadic alligator squabbles. Some of the worst gator-on-gator injuries, I came to find, often involved long-term mating pairs going through bad breakups. Despite having the size advantage, it’s often the males that require medical attention after a breakup–and I’ll leave any jokes about the fury of a woman scorned for you to make for yourself.

At MacDill, they were able to get their alligator intruder off the flight line by coaxing it into the bucket of a front loader using a bucket of food, which was probably the safest and most expedient method of dinosaur removal you could come up with on short notice. My experience wrangling alligators was slightly different… as the gators I was after were submerged under waist-deep opaque water and often injured.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Although you can’t see it, there’s an alligator right beneath me here.

Despite the terror associated with wading around in water you know is chock-full of apex predators, alligators can be a surprisingly docile species when approached by humans. Don’t let that fool you. It isn’t a friendly demeanor that keeps them still, but rather a supreme confidence in their ability to manage the threat posed by your squishy, meat-filled body.

Getting a submerged alligator out of the water for treatment is a nerve-racking but surprisingly simple endeavor: you walk barefoot through the water very slowly, being careful not to lift your feet, as a submerged alligator might mistake a raised foot for a swimming fish. As you slowly push your feet forward, you feel for the leathery hide of an alligator resting on the river bed. Maybe it’s their thick skin, maybe it’s their confidence, but alligators rarely react when you nudge them with a toe.

From there, the stress begins: you need to determine which way the head is pointing and step over the alligator’s back, so you’re standing with the submerged gator between your legs, with its head pointing in the same direction as yours. Then it’s as simple as reaching down under the water and carefully looping your rope around the alligator’s neck. Once the rope is secured, you once more very gingerly, step away from the gator with the other end of the rope in hand. Once you’re a few feet away, you’ve got a gator on a leash, and you need to get it to shore: there’s only one way to do that. With one tug of the rope, hell breaks loose. An explosion of water fills the area as the alligator tries to attack with both teeth and tail. There’s nothing left to do now but play tug of war with a dinosaur.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Just like taking your giant, tooth-filled dog for a walk that he really doesn’t want to go on.

Once on shore, the fight has just begun. You pass the rope to your partner to put some tension on it to redirect the alligator’s focus while you circle around. Once you’re sure the alligator has lost sight of you, you move as quickly as you can to get onto the alligator’s back with your feet beneath you, sticking your fingers into its mouth at the rear near the jaw joint and heaving your weight backward as you pull to subdue the monster.

With small alligators, this is a challenge. With big alligators, it’s exactly as scary as you imagine. If the gator bucks you off (as they sometimes do) your partner will need to move quickly to save your life. Alligators attack at angles and with lightning quickness, making their aggressive movements difficult to predict and even more difficult to evade.

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

Believe it or not, this was still a “small” alligator during training classes.

Once subdued, we used good old fashioned triple antibiotic ointment on small wounds and antibiotic injections for larger injuries before releasing the alligators back into the water.

Fortunately for MacDill, a bucket of food and a bit of heavy equipment did the trick just fine this time… but if these sightings keep up, alligator wrestling could become one heck of a B-billet.

Articles

A Navy SEAL describes what it’s like to receive the MoH

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.


US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter
Senior Chief Edward Byers, a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.

He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.

In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.