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US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.


Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.

Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.

“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.

Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.

“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.

The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
North Korean anti-air missile on parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.

Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.

In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.

The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.

Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Volio)

While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.

Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.

“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”

The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

United Airlines allegedly denied benefits to an Air Force reservist

If you’ve ever hoped United Airlines would get what it deserves, you may be in luck — courtesy of the U.S. government.


United is an airline renowned for its terrible customer service and its awful passenger experiences. It’s so bad, journalists write think pieces about it, and the company CEO talks about how awful they are every six months, while promising to improve.

The company even has its own Twitter parody account.

Awhile ago, United may have taken it one step too far – at the expense of one of its own.

 

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
We’re actually surprised it took this long. (Photo by Kiefer)

Daniel Fandrei is a United Airlines pilot who says he was not credited with his employee benefits – his accrued sick leave – while he was deployed to Southwest Asia as Air Force Reserve pilot Lt. Col. Fandrei. He reportedly filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

An effort by the airline and Fandrei to resolve the situation failed. This is the airline who lost a 10-year-old girl, after all.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Fandrei is a KC-10 Extender pilot who spent December 2012 to March 2013 conducting mid-air refuelings in support of combat operations in the CENTCOM theater. According to the Justice Department, United did not give him the same benefits as other employees during that time.

The Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ensures military reserve and guard members called to active duty do not experience penalties as a result of their service.

Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said Lt. Col. Fandrei’s civil rights are “violated” by United’s behavior, Consumerist’s Chris Morran reported. The DOJ filed a lawsuit with a federal court in Chicago to recoup what the department calls “wrongfully denied employment benefits.”

Under the USERRA, the federal government will file legal actions against things like car repossessions and home foreclosures for activated servicemembers. Fandrei joined the Air Force as an officer in 1990 and started working for United in 2000.

“Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family,” U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. “When our servicemembers are deployed in the service of our country, they are entitled to retain their civilian employment and benefits, and to the protections of federal law that prevent them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrifying video shows air force pilots flying through haze of smoke

Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.

Australia is currently battling its worst bushfire season in history, and over the last few months bushfires have razed over 6.3 million hectares (15.5 million acres) of land nationally as of Saturday. At least 24 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and nearly 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the flames.


And while bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.

As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.

“This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota #Merimbula,” Iervasi wrote, referring to the coastal holiday towns of Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in New South Wales, which have been completed ravaged by the fires.

Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.

But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.

“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.

On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.

“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.

Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.

Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.

Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.

Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.

“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Also read:

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a fast-attack jet of the Royal Navy designed to kill Russian cruisers from just above the waves with conventional and nuclear weapons in engagements lasting only a minute or so. Now, a retired oil company CEO has bought a retired Buccaneer and flies it around South Africa.


Blackburn Buccaneer – British Nuclear Bomber

www.youtube.com

The plane was sent to the fleet in 1962 and served for over 30 years. The need for the jet came in 1952 when Russia introduced the Sverdlov-class cruisers. These were a class of cruisers valuable for defending the Russian coasts and attacking British and other carriers at night when the British would be unable to launch planes.

Britain could either build a new fleet of its own to counter Russia’s new fleets and the Sverdlov cruisers or, it could find a way to negate the new Russian assets. The British decided to build a new plane that could launch day or night, and that could quickly attack enemy ships and get away before the ship could retaliate.

This was a tall order against the Sverdlov which had cutting-edge radar and anti-aircraft weapons. British designers got around this by making the Buccaneer capable of flying just over the waves, below the radar of the enemy ships. And when they reached the target, the Buccaneers would launch their weapons in less than a minute and make their escape.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

A Blackburn Buccaneer with its wings folded.

(Paul Lucas, CC BY 2.0)

The Buccaneer was supposed to eventually receive a custom-made nuclear air-to-surface missile, but actually spent most of its career carrying conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Despite the failure to create the nuclear air-to-surface missile, the Buccaneer was equipped with nuclear free-fall bombs.

The aircraft performed plenty of training in the Cold War and were used for a number of missions, including extensive duties in Iraq during the Gulf War, but was retired in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And that was where Ian Pringle came in. A successful oil businessman, Pringle had the money to scoop up a Buccaneer when it went up for sale. He had the plane transported to Thunder City, South Africa, where civilians are allowed to fly nuclear-capable aircraft.

Once there, he took lessons in how to fly the aircraft, a dangerous process. His plane was an operational one, and so it only has controls in the front seat, so his trainer had to sit in the back seat and coach him from there. If Pringle had panicked in flight, there was no way for the instructor to take over.

But Pringle figured it out, and now he races the plane low over the grass of South Africa when he can. The plane was made to allow pilots to fly just above the water, and so he can take it pretty low to the grass.

He’s one of only two civilians ever to fly the plane, though he obviously can’t fly it with missiles or bombs on board.

Articles

Trump’s CIA pick: Russia ‘threatening Europe,’ failing to destroy ISIS

WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely satisfied with the political furor in the United States over what U.S. intelligence calls a Russian hacking campaign to meddle in the presidential election.


Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas) said during the January 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would not be surprising if Russia’s leadership sees the uproar “as something that might well rebound to their benefit.”

Also read: The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

“I have no doubt that the discourse that’s been taking place is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say: ‘Wow, that was among the objectives that I had, to sow doubt among the American political community, to suggest somehow that American democracy was not unique,'” Pompeo said.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
U.S. Congresman Mike Pompeo speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. | Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore

Trump has publicly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian involvement, though a day earlier he acknowledged that Moscow was likely behind the cyberattacks targeting the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump insists, however, that the meddling had no impact on the outcome of the election.

Pompeo was responding to a question by Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) about the hacking campaign, in which Russia denies its involvement, and unsubstantiated claims that surfaced recently alleging that Russia possesses compromising information on Trump.

Pompeo said he accepts the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.

Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he attended last week’s meeting at which top U.S. officials briefed Trump on the matter.

“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound,” Pompeo said.

Russia denies it was behind the cyberattacks.

Pompeo also said he believes Russia is “threatening Europe” while “doing nearly nothing” to destroy Islamic State (IS) militants.

“Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction of ISIS,” Pompeo said in his written testimony submitted to the committee, using an alternate acronym for IS.

Trump has said he wants better relations with Russia, including greater bilateral cooperation in fighting IS militants in Syria.

Pompeo also said he would drop his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal if confirmed for the post and focus on “aggressive” verification that Tehran is complying with the terms of the accord.

A fierce critic of the deal between Iran and world powers during his time in Congress, Pompeo said in his confirmation hearing that he would have a different role if the Senate confirms his nomination.

“While I opposed the Iran deal as a member of Congress, if confirmed, my role would change — I’ll lead the [Central Intelligence] Agency to aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts have the time, political space, and resources to make objective and sound judgments,” Pompeo said.

Trump has previously said he could scrap or renegotiate the deal.

Pompeo has said that the CIA must be “rigorously fair and objective” in assessing the accord.

In his testimony, he called Iran “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and said the Islamic republic “has become an even more emboldened and disruptive player in the Middle East.”

Watch a video from the hearing below:

MIGHTY MOVIES

11 classic banned books written by veterans

Every year a coalition of organizations, from pro-library groups to anti-censorship associations, come together to celebrate “Banned Books Week.” It’s a celebration of the right to read and the right of access to information. At the same time, it’s a challenge to libraries and schools to re-examine the titles they try to keep off the shelves.


US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Maybe Henry Jones said it best.

The list of frequently banned books is surprising, especially considering the effect some of these books had on American history, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harrier Beecher Stowe, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

We can celebrate Banned Books Week by catching these legendary titles, written by combat veterans and banned by people who wouldn’t understand them anyway.

1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was an ambulance driver for the Allied Powers during World War I, working on the Italian Front. He tried to enlist as a regular infantry troop, but was turned down due to poor eyesight. He was wounded in action by shrapnel from an Austrian mortar round – but never stopped his front line duties.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Fact: Jody got to Hemingway’s love back home.

Related: 10 ways Ernest Hemingway was a next-level American warrior

A Farewell to Arms is the author’s book about his experiences in the Great War. The novel, first released serialized in 1929, was considered overly violent and borderline pornographic at the time. If anything, read this book because F. Scott Fitzgerald sent Hemingway 10 pages of notes on it and Hemingway told Fitzgerald to kiss his ass.

2. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Then-Private First Class Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the WWII Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work in the city – until it was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become the PTSD flashback story and one of the most banned books of all-time.

Once called “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian,” the Indianapolis-based Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library sends dozens of free copies to districts which ban the book.

3. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer was from an affluent family. He was drafter after graduating from Harvard and drafted into the Army as a typist in 1943. He did many things, including communications, cooking, and even recon. He saw a lot of action doing recon patrols in the Philippines and his experience became The Naked and the Dead.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Mailer at 21.

Mailer’s book follows an infantry platoon fighting the Japanese in the Philippine island of Anopopei. The book was deemed so obscene, it was banned in Canada. CANADA. Though popular, the book is really long and detailed.

4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

At age 19, Heller enlisted in the Army Air Corps. It was 1942 and WWII was in full swing. Heller actually enjoyed his military service as a bombardier on a B-25. He  flew the required 60 missions over Europe on the Italian Front, just like John Yossarian, the main character.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Heller flying in a B-25 Mitchell Bomber during WWII.

Catch-22 became so popular for lampooning the bureaucracy of the military, the term stuck and is now in common parlance. It was the other language in the book that caught the ire of towns and districts in the United States for being obscene – as if fighting in WWII was supposed to be clean.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Orwell didn’t just write books against Fascism, he went out and did something about it. During the Spanish Civil War, he twice traveled to Barcelona to join the fight against the Franco regime. He was shot in the throat by a sniper and barely survived. This made him unfit to fight for Britain in WWII.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
George Orwell with his Fascist-hunting gun.

Orwell, despite fighting with Communists in Spain, saw the Soviet Union as a tyrannical dictatorship and wrote Animal Farm to criticize Stalin and his regime. The book also closely follows the events of WWII and predicted the coming Cold War. Animal Farm was banned in the Eastern Bloc until 1989.

6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Of course A Clockwork Orange was written by a veteran, and of course someone tried to ban it. Burgess was a veteran of the UK’s Royal Army Medical Corps and spent much of the war in Gibraltar. Even though he disliked authority and regularly pranked his fellow orderlies and made a general mockery of the rules, he was often promoted.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
I couldn’t find a photo of Burgess in uniform.

His book is set in a dystopian England, and is the violent story of a teen named Alex and his gang. The book’s true focus is about free will and how much humans are born prone to destruction versus how much they’re taught. This book is violent even by today’s standards.

7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien served in World War I France as a member of the Lancashire Fusiliers. His experiences at the WWI Battle of the Somme would not only come to color his descriptions of combat in The Lord of the Rings, it would also come to describe the worlds he created in Middle Earth.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
More than a million people died at the Somme and you can read about it in The Lord of the Rings.

Related: How Tolkien’s war experience shaped ‘The Lord of the Rings’

While the descriptions of war were from personal experience, he went out of his way to inform people that there was no real-world analogy to his work. Sauron did not represent any world leader and there was no ring to rule them all. The book was banned for being anti-Christian and anti-religious – despite the idea of a King returning being foremost in Tolkien’s mind.

8. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Author William Styron was once a United States Marine, serving much of World War II stateside. In 1944, he was sent to the Pacific for the planned invasion of mainland Japan – but the Atomic Bombs ended that idea. His book The Long March is reflective of his time training as a U.S. Marine, especially being called up to fight the Korean War.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
The author as a United States Marine.

Sophie’s Choice was banned in a number of countries, including Poland, the Soviet Union, South Africa, and a number of localities in the U.S. for explicit sexuality and drug use.

9. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh was 36 years old at the outbreak of World War II, but used his connections to get a commission in the Royal Marines. He fought in West Africa, North Africa, and the evacuation of Crete from advancing Axis forces, among other missions, inluding escorting Winston Churchill to a meeting with Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Lieutenant Waugh in WWII.

Though set in WWII England, the book doesn’t have much to do with the war. The principal reason for it being banned is because of the matter-of-fact depiction of homosexual characters. The book makes no judgement on whether it’s right or wrong, just that it exists.

10. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Golding joined the Royal Navy in 1940, spending much of World War II at sea, attacking submarines and battleships, even taking part in the sinking of the German ship Bismarck.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Golding with an epic Navy beard.

His experience prompted him to say, “I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.”

So a book about children exposed to the worst of human nature is hardly a surprise coming from a man of such experience. The book is banned for its violence and language (even though it’s necessary for the theme of the book) – and is often accused of racism.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Salinger joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and stayed through the end of the second world war. He was on Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day, drank with Hemingway in Paris, was at Hürtgen Forest, and it was his unit that first encountered the Dachau Concentration Camp.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Salinger landed at Utah with the second wave.

The whole time, he carried a typewriter with him. When he couldn’t type, he wrote. And what he was writing was the Catcher in the Rye, a book that saw more military action than most of the guys on this list. And like other entries on the list, it was banned or challenged for vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, undermining of family values and moral codes, and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force revokes bomb contract linked to Russian oligarch

The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.

The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.

Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.


However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.

By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Viktor Vekselberg.

Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)

Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.

Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”

“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.

In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.

(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.

US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.

That provision has worried US partners in countries like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, who still use Russian weaponry and need to make future purchases to maintain their arsenals. India’s looming purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system has been a particular sticking point.

The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.

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

Articles

The time the U.S. Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface battle since WWII

No love affair ever ended with more animosity than that of Iran and the United States. To this day, the two countries are constantly antagonizing each other.

Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that led to the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days, nearly a dozen incidents painted the relationship between the two countries. None was more violent than Operation Praying Mantis, the U.S. response to the USS Samuel B. Roberts striking an Iranian mine.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Samuel B. Roberts deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, ordered by President Reagan to protect freedom of movement and international shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.


When the ship hit the mine, it became the catalyst for one of the largest American surface confrontations since WWII. At 105 km east of Bahrain, it was close to Iran’s maritime boundary but still well outside. The mine blew a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull, injuring ten sailors. Luckily, the crew saved the Samuel B. Roberts, and it was towed to Dubai two days later.

For four years leading up to this event, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned to bring the U.S. into the ongoing Iran-Iraq War – on his side. In 1984, Iraq started attacking Iranian oil tankers and platforms to provoke the Iranians into taking extreme measures to protect its interests.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Iranians responded as Hussein hoped, attacking Kuwaiti-flagged oil tankers moving Iraqi oil. Kuwait, though officially Iraq’s ally, was also a non-combatant and a key U.S. ally in the region. The Iranians were also illegally mining the Gulf’s international shipping lanes. Laying mines was an extreme measure Hussein hoped the Iranians would take and a move the United States didn’t take lightly.

In April 1988, Iran was caught mining international waters when U.S. Army Night Stalker MH-6 and AH-6 helicopters forced the crew of the minelayer Iran Ajr by to abandon ship. Navy SEALs then captured the Iran Ajr, finding mines and a log book on the ship’s mine placements. The Navy scuttled the ship the next day.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

That’s when the Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine. The U.S. response was overwhelming. Aircraft from the USS Enterprise, along with two Surface Action Groups (SAG), moved on the Iranians on April 18, 1988.

The first SAG attacked the Sassan oil platform with two destroyers, an amphibious transport, and multiple helicopter detachments. Cobra helicopters cleared all resistance. Marines captured the platform and destroyed it as they left.

The other SAG, consisting of a guided missile cruiser and two frigates attacked the Sirri oil platform. The plan called for SEALs to capture the platform, but the pre-attack naval bombardment was so intense the SEAL mission wasn’t necessary.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Iran responded by sending speedboats to attack shipping in the region. American A-6E Intruders sank one and chased the rest back into Iranian territory.

One Iranian fast attack ship, Joshan, challenged the entire second SAG by itself. It got one harpoon missile off before the other ships, the USS Wainwright, the USS Bagley and the USS Simpson hit it with four Standard missiles, then finishing it off with their guns. Chaff countermeasures diverted the Iranian harpoon missile. It did no damage.

An Iranian frigate, Sahand, attacked the USS Joseph Strauss and its A-6E overwatch, who all returned fire with missiles of their own. The American missiles started a fire aboard the Sahand, which reached her munitions magazine. The frigate exploded and sank.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

Another frigate, the Sabalan, moved to attack A-6Es from the Enterprise. One naval aviator dropped a Mark 82 laser-guided bomb on the Sabalan’s deck, crippling her and leaving her burning. As the Sabalan was towed away, the A-6Es were ordered to cut off the attack in an effort to keep the situation from escalating. The U.S. cut off all attacks in the region and offered Iran a way out of the situation, which it promptly took.

The U.S. retaliation operation, called Praying Mantis, cost the lives of three service members, Marines whose AH-1T Sea Cobra helicopter gunship crashed in the dark during a recon mission.

Articles

Why the US confronted Iranian-backed militants in Yemen, and the risks that lie ahead

In the early-morning hours of October 12, the USS Nitze fired a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen and thereby marked the US’s official entry into the conflict in Yemen that has raged for 18 months.


The US fired in retaliation to previous incidents where missiles fired from Iranian-backed Houthi territory had threatened US Navy ships: the destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

Also read: Here’s what would happen if U.S. tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

After more than two decades of peaceful service, this was likely the first time the US fired these defensive missiles in combat.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze underway in the Atlantic | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith

“These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “Our actions overnight were a response to hostile action.”

But instead of responding to the attack with the full force of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the Navy’s response was measured, limited, and in self-defense.

Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Yemen and Iran at the Foundation for Defending Democracies, said the US’s response fell “far short of what an appropriate response would be.”

“Basically, the US took out part of the system that would allow for targeting, protecting themselves but not going after those who fired upon them,” Schanzer told Business Insider.

Even the limited strike places the US in a tricky situation internationally and legally. TheObama administration has desperately tried to preserve relations with Iran since negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure Iran doesn’t become a nuclear state.

But the pivot toward Iran, a Shia power, has ruffled feathers in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally and the premier Sunni power in the Middle East.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett launches a Tomahawk missile. | U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen J. Zeller

By taking direct military action against the Houthi rebels, a Shia group battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, the US has entered into — even in a limited capacity — another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.

Iran and the Houthis

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Fighters from the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah.

Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as “integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen.

According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.

These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.

For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis,” Iran’s regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.

“The Iranians are looking at this from a very, very strategic angle, not just bleeding Saudis and other Gulf States, but how can they expand their ideological and military influence,” Smyth said.

Yemen presents an extremely attractive goal for enterprising Iran. Yemen’s situation on the Bab-al-Mandab Strait means that control of that waterway — which they may have been trying to establish with the missile strikes — would give them control over the Red Sea, a massive waterway and choke point for commerce.

The risk of picking a side

The US officially became a combatant in Yemen on Wednesday night. In doing so, it has tacitly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition that has been tied to a brutal air blockade.

The Saudis stand accused of war crimes in connection with bombing schools, hospitals, markets, and even a packed funeral hall.

Internal communications show the US has been very concerned about entering into the conflict for fear that it may be considered “co-belligerents” and thereby liable for prosecution for war crimes, Reuters reported.

Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and a US Navy veteran, told Business Insider the “limited context in which these strikes occurred was to protect freedom of navigation and neutral ships” and likely doesn’t “rise to the legal state of belligerence.”

Yet Russian and Shia sources are quick to lump the US and Saudi Arabia together, Smyth added. Just as the US and international community look to hold Russia and Syria accountable for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, the indiscriminate Saudi air campaign in Yemen makes it “very easy to offer a response” to the cries of war crimes against them, he said.

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Yemeni soldiers during a parade in 2011.

Indeed, now Russian propagandists can offer up a narrative that suggests a dangerous quid pro quo narrative, suggesting that the US and Russia are trading war crimes in the region, and to “throw out chaff” and muddy the waters should the international community looks to prosecute Russia and Syria, Smyth added.

Gone too far — or not far enough?

So, while the US has now entered the murky waters of the conflict in Yemen — where 14 million people lack food and thousands of civilians have been murdered — Schanzer says the US may not have done enough.

The Navy “didn’t hit the people who struck them,” Schanzer said. “They’re not looking for caches of missiles, not looking for youth hideouts, not looking to engage directly.”

For Schanzer, this half-measure “seems like it’s not even mowing the lawn.”

But with the US already involved in bombing campaigns in six countries, it is “loathe” to get mired in another Middle Eastern conflict and equally concerned about fighting against Iran’s proxies, whom it sees as extensions of Iran’s own IRGC.

For now, the Pentagon remains committed to the idea that the strike on Houthi infrastructure was a “limited” strike, and that it’s strictly acting in self-defense, which Schanzer said is “not really the way to achieve victory.”

But with just three months left in President Obama’s second term, there is good reason to question if the US’s objective is to help the people of Yemen and end the war, or to simply sit out the festering conflict as it balances delicate regional alliances.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

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


AIR FORCE:

Oklahoma Air National Guard Airmen from the 138th Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 6, 2016, in Tulsa, Okla.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft after finishing end of runway checks Oct. 10, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A simulates the first 10 combat sorties of an initial surge during a conflict, enabling pilots to better understand the stresses of the environment.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

 

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier attending Ranger School simulates being wounded and yells for help while lying in the river during a mass casualty exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Sept. 28, 2016.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Florida National Guard Soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, cross a rope bridge during a mountain obstacle course, part of the final day of the French Marines Desert Survival Course at Arta Plage, Djibouti, Oct. 10, 2016.

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United States Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany DeNault

NAVY:

CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

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U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines and Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces stage their vehicles in preparation for the final exercise of Exercise Valiant Mark 2016 Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California Oct. 11, 2016.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

Marines with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (2d ANGLICO) prepare for tactical beach landing drills with 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery, as part of exercise Joint Warrior on Cape Wrath, Scotland, Oct. 13, 2016. Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise which increases 2d ANGLICO’s capacity to operate and integrate with Joint, International, Interagency, and Multinational (JIIM) partnerships.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

COAST GUARD:

A U.S. Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk departs Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 10, 2016, following a a damage assessment of North Carolina. Coast Guard personnel have been working with numerous state and local agencies in response to the storm damage.

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U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Coast Guard Aux. Trey Clifton

USCG Cutter Thetis crewmembers assisted the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and American Red Cross with loading supplies for the World Food Program USA at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes, Haiti, this week.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

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The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

27 nations and over 30,000 troops to participate in DEFENDER Europe 21

U.S. Army Europe and Africa will organize and host the most significant military exercise in Europe this year. Last year’s pandemic restrictions might have caught most militaries off guard, and certainly had an enormous impact on the DEFENDER Europe 20. However, this year’s exercise includes a COVID prevention and mitigation strategy. DEFENDER Europe 21 kicked off in March and will last until June in an activity that consists of 27 nations and over 30,000 troops from Europe and North America.

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space
Over 70 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, received their second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 24 in Wiesbaden, Germany as part of the preparations for DEFENDER Europe 21.

DEFENDER Europe is a yearly exercise planned and led by U.S. Army’s Europe and Africa Service Component Command. It is a joint and multinational exercise designed to strategic and interoperability readiness between NATO, U.S. and partner militaries. Although last year was a success, this year’s increased participation and widened geographical posture will further test the integration of air, land, sea and cyber capabilities. 

The infographic for DEFENDER Europe 21. See the full infographic here.

The multi-domain nature of modern warfare will be tested by significant participation of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force as air and sea routes will be utilized and tested to connect allies across Europe, Asia and Africa. Existing and new sophisticated assets such as air and missile defense equipment will be tested to ensure partner interoperability. The recent merger of United States Army Europe and the United States Army Africa into one service component command aims to increase the capability to conduct joint, large-scale and multi-domain operations. 

The recently reactivated V Corps will also lead the charge in readiness and interoperability both at the operational and tactical level. The Forward Command Post is located in Poland, and it will control the rotational forces in Fortress Europe and operational command and mission control. The exercise will include U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance teams who provide training and assistance to partner nations at lower echelons.

Logistically, it will be one of the most challenging exercises conducted with five logistic centers located in four countries. The use of naval routes will be done through five ports with over 1200 pieces of equipment transferred from the U.S, while the only Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation will be conducted in Albania. The U.S. Army will have three Prepositioned Stock sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, with over 1000 pieces of equipment being drawn. 

defender europe 2020
A stevedore drives a military vehicle onto the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command’s USNS Bob Hope at the Port of Jacksonville, bound for DEFENDER-Europe 21 linked exercise, Immediate Response. Photo by Kimberly Spinner

What makes this year’s exercise complex and challenging is the fact that it consists of five other exercises:

  • Immediate Response
  • Saber Guardian
  • Swift Response
  • African Lion
  • Steadfast Defender

A combination of different exercises in size and nature, with some of the events co-occurring in over 31 training areas around Europe, sends a clear message to any threat. While DEFENDER Europe 21 is defensive in nature, it can quickly shift to any other type of operation in response to any crisis in Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa. Although Russia remains the most significant threat in Europe and around Europe, the exercise also aims to provide strategic security partnerships to the Western Balkans and the Black Sea regions.

The commanding general of the V Corps, Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, is excited for his corps’ opportunity to cooperate with European allies in deterring NATO’s threat. “DEFENDER Europe 21 is a critical exercise that will provide V corps with another great opportunity to build readiness in our march towards full operational capability and promote interoperability as we work alongside allies and partners,” he said.

defender europe 2020
Florida National Guard’s 53d infantry Brigade Combat Team equipment and vehicles are prepositioned March 25, 2021 to be loaded on a ship at the Port of Jacksonville. The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is moving around 750 vehicles from this port in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21. Photo by Kimberly Spinner

The Russian annexation of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine back in 2014 was a wake-up call to Western Allies and its NATO-chartered grouping. The increased U.S. posture of forces and U.S.-led exercises are seen as the mechanisms to deter and prevent any additional attempt by Russia to destabilize the Old Continent. This year’s exercise will reaffirm the determination of the U.S. and its European NATO allies after a turbulent year marked by the global health crisis.

As expected, this year’s exercise will include strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures consisting of pre-deployment virus testing and quarantining. Such insistence only reaffirms the U.S.’s resolve to provide strategic support and interoperability to NATO and partner militaries, regardless of the widespread infections. Such an approach will undoubtedly give much-needed reassurances after an absent NATO summit in 2020. One thing is for sure, without long-term stability and peace in Europe, the U.S. cannot even begin to battle the military threats posed by Russia and China.

Articles

Here’s the Army’s awesome new gear to protect soldiers

The Army has announced new body armor, helmets, combat shirts, and pelvic protectors that weigh less, allow soldiers to move more easily, and provide better protection from blasts and bullets than the current kit.


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Photo: Program Executive Office Soldier courtesy photo

The Army’s current body armor, the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, was originally fielded in 2007 and many vests are reaching the end of their service life. Rather than replace them with identical units, the soldiers who oversee procurement for the Army at the Program Executive Office Soldier wanted new vest designs that would provide better protection.

What they came up with is the Torso and Extremities Protection system, which is expected to reach soldiers in 2019. The TEP armor features greater protection for soldiers’ torsos while reducing weight from an average of 31 pounds to only 23. The armor can be further lightened by removing certain elements when greater mobility is essential, like for troops scouting enemy positions or sneaking through dangerous areas.

An effort to develop new ballistic plates could reduce the weight even further. The new materials being tested perform at the same level or higher than IOTV plates and weigh 7 percent less.

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The Pelvic Protection system is more comfortable than the system it replaces. Photo: Program Executive Office Soldier courtesy photo

Soldiers will also be getting new protection for the pelvic areas. IEDs greatly increased the threat to soldiers from wounds to the genitals and femoral arteries, and the Army developed ballistic undergarments and overgarments, often jokingly referred to as “combat diapers,” to protect troops.

“Combat diapers” reduce injuries to soldiers but are uncomfortable on long patrols and chafe the skin in sensitive areas. The new Blast Pelvic Protector is a sleeker outer garment that connects directly to the body armor does not rub as badly against troops.

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The Army’s new Ballistic Combat Shirt provides greater protection. Photo: Program Executive Office Soldier courtesy photo

One of the biggest changes for soldiers is the Army’s new Ballistic Combat Shirt. The current combat shirt is basically a relatively comfortable T-shirt for wear under the IOTV. The new BCS provides ballistic protection to troops’ arms, necks, and upper torsos without sacrificing mobility. It also eliminates the need for the bulky and uncomfortable DAPS and ballistic collars that made it hard to shoot and move.

The Army’s helmet is also undergoing redesign, though the program is still in the research and development stage. The new helmet aims to increase protection and reduce weight, and may include add-ons like jaw protection, incorporated eye protection, and improved night vision setups.

Col. Dean Hoffman IV at PEO Soldier told Military.com that the new helmet may even include armor add-ons like special protection for turret gunners exposed to sniper fire or a facemask to stop sharpnel.

(h/t Military.com and Army Times)

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